Recent Blog Entries

  • MargaretThibo
    Pining Away for Forest Protection
    Entry posted October 19, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    Pining Away for Forest Protection
    Entry:

    The culinary world my soon be without pine nuts if deforestation continues. Unlike most produce, pine nuts are not grown on a farm or orchard, but rather continue to be gathered in a natural forest setting. Pine nuts are essentially the seeds inside of the cones of many species of pine trees. The majority of the world’s pin nut supply comes from China, as well as Russia, Portugal, and the United States. The majority of U.S. pine nuts can be found in Western states like Nevada and New Mexico where they have been harvested on for centuries. As a result the pine nut has deep roots in local culture.

    Over the past twenty years about have of the pine forests have been destroyed. In many cases, pine trees have been clear cut to create more grassland for the cattle industry.  In total, about three million acres were destroyed and converted for agricultural use. Historically, little was done to oppose the destruction as the trees since they were portrayed as an invasive species. Residents were warned that replacing the trees with grassland could prevent wildfires and make the area safer. Later research has revealed that pine nut trees are not invasive, but rather an important part of the local forest’s environmental safety.  The destruction of pine forest in the Western United States has also led to the shrinking of several species of animals, including the pinyon jay. This bird is vital to the spreading of pine nuts so that future trees can be grown.

    Climate change has also changed the environment that the trees grown in, which has resulted in many issues. For instance, the change in climate may be linked to an increase of insect populations. These bugs are consuming more and more of the pine nuts, leaving less for harvesting. Warmer temperatures have also changed the gathering season since the pine cones fall from the trees at different times now.

    Pine nuts are already a relatively expensive culinary delicacy due to their rarity and that they come from the wild and not a farm where that can be grown in mass quantities. The continued destruction of their habitat due to clear cutting forests and climate change promises to endanger their future. The only solution is for the remaining pine nut forests to be protected by environmental regulations.

    Keywords:
    environmental safety, environmental regulationsP
  • MargaretThibo
    Texas Faces Big Choices in Energy Future
    Entry posted October 18, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    Texas Faces Big Choices in Energy Future
    Entry:

    They say that everything is bigger in Texas, and that is unfortunately the case when it comes to carbon pollution created by the state’s power plants. Based on 2012 air quality testing Texas created as much pollution as the entire nation of Egypt. If that isn’t impressive enough, the state’s carbon emissions is the equivalent to about 47 million cars. These comparisons are quite shocking and will help encourage the passage of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Clean Power Plan.

    The Clean Power Plan would limit the amount of carbon that can be emitted by a power plant. Currently there are only limitations on heavy metals like mercury and arsenic. The EPA promises that the Plan and its goals are flexible in order for each state to adapt and make the most out of it.

    Ultimately, the Clean Power Plan should reduce the carbon pollution from power plants by as much as 30% which is about the amount that the entire nation of Canada produces. The reduction of carbon pollution will not only help slow down climate change, but it will directly benefit the health of the community. Less carbon pollution in the form of smog and dangerous haze means less breathing problems. According to the EPA’s website: “The Clean Power Plan will lead to climate and health benefits worth an estimated $55 billion to $93 billion in 2030, including avoiding 2,700 to 6,600 premature deaths and 140,000 to 150,000 asthma attacks in children.”

    Texas supporters of the Clean Power Plan, including Governor Rick Perry, believe that this is the opportunity that the state has been waiting for to transition toward sustainable energy.  Becoming leaders in clean energy would set an excellent precedent for other states in the nation. It would also benefit the state of Texas economically. There would be more than the obvious environmental benefits, the state could see over 100,000 new jobs created. Residents would also see their electric bill, water bill, and healthcare costs go down as an indirect result.

    Keywords:
    air quality testing, sustainable energy
  • MargaretThibo
    To Log or Not to Log? That is the Question
    Entry posted October 12, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    To Log or Not to Log? That is the Question
    Entry:

    Alaskan conservationists are now doing everything they can to help protect some of the last virgin trees in the Tongass National Forest. The Tongass is the largest national forest in the U.S. and spans thousands of islands off Alaska’s Southeastern Pacific Coast.  In 2010 President Obama vowed that the timber industry would be forced to phase out the logging of previously undistributed forest. Despite the national efforts, Forest Service’s plans to auction of almost 20 square miles in the near future.

    Environmentalists believe that Forest Services are in clear violation of environmental regulations. They may be able to use several protected or endangered animals that call the Tongass home to stop the auction. In particular they hope to use the Alaskan wolf and the Alexander Archipelago wolf in court cases against Forest Service.  Since the 1950’s the timber industry has clear cut approximately 700 square miles of the Tongass National Forest, destroying important habitats and creating even more conflict with environmental groups. Aside from the clear cutting of trees, over 4,500 miles of road have been created to transport the logs. Roads are created by simply bulldozing an area, no matter what may have called it home.

    Supporters of the Alaska’s Timber industry, including many politicians, feel that the auction of the Tongass is essential to saving the state’s vulnerable economy.  Supporters do not deny that here has been a massive decline in the number of milling jobs, from 4,500 down to only 200 in 2013. The drop in jobs comes as no surprise since; almost all of the logs are shipped overseas in a raw state to be milled more cheaply. Despite the decline, many officials feel it is vital to save what few jobs remain.  They note that a job in Alaska is not merely a job, but could be what makes or breaks a community. In many remote Alaskan towns a school must have at least ten students to receive state funding, if a parent becomes unemployed a school could have to shut down.  That parent would most likely have to move their family to town miles away just to gain new employment.

    Conversationalists also acknowledge that it is important to develop Alaska into a more prosperous state, but they feel as though other, potentially more lucrative, options must be explored. For example fisheries have become a very successful industry. Tourism has become an even bigger success, boasting almost 11,000 employees and growing by about 700 jobs annually. In order for tourism to be even more lucrative, natural sites like the Tongass National Forest must be preserved so that they can be enjoyed. Tourists travel to Alaska for the majesty of the nature and its exotic wildlife, not to see a clear-cut area void of life.

    Another option is for timber companies to explore is to begin logging young forests that were already clear-cut years ago. These second-growth areas are almost like tree farms and are not as environmentally devastating when cut down, since they lack a rich underbrush for animals to call home. The logging industry feels as though it is the unique properties of the older trees that result in a more expensive, higher quality wood. Young trees would have less quality and put them in a cheaper market. Alaska’s remoteness makes shipping and exporting more expensive so entering a cheaper market is not ideal.

    Keywords:
    environmental regulations
  • MargaretThibo
    Food for Thought
    Entry posted October 12, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    Food for Thought
    Entry:

    When we think of all the land pollution in the form of waste in the landfill we tend to think of wrappers, containers, and packaging material.  While those items are there, the food that those items contained is also being disposed of in massive quantities. Approximately 133 million pounds of food ends up in the landfill each year. This issue of food waste is twofold. First our society treats food as if it is an entirely renewable resource, so wasting it seems like no big deal. Secondly there is a genuine misunderstanding of packaging.

    While shopping for produce we have become quite spoiled, tossing any imperfect fruits or veggies to the side. Think of the last time you intentionally purchased a bruised apple of brown banana. Like most people you examine each piece of produce and purchase the ones you see fit, not giving what happens to all the produce that didn’t pass your inspection. Supermarkets have as a result begun to toss any of this “undesirable” produce in the trash.  The same applies to readymade food that is prepared for customer convenience. Once it is no longer hot and fresh it is tossed.

    The other issue lies in that the average customer usually confuses the “sell by” dates with an expiration date. One food safety specialist’s claims that sell by dates are merely to let the consumer know how long the food has been sitting around on store shelves. It is estimated that 20% of food is thrown away due to this confusion. This does not include everything we avoid buying because we think it is expired.

    Cutting down on the amount of food wasted not only lessons what goes into the landfill, it also has a dramatic positive ripple effect on the environment. For instance, less pesticides & nitrates will be used on crops since there will be less of a demand. Nitrates and pesticides have been linked to many serious instances of water contamination, so lessening their use is important. The need to transport food as frequently may also be decreased, reducing the carbon emitted by delivery trucks.

    There are ways that we can reduce the amount of food that ends up in the landfill. Obviously a change in society’s attitude towards food would be ideal, but that is not an easy goal to accomplish.  A more attainable goal is to rely on advances in technology that will predict the demand. New software can keep track of historical data and help ensure that excess is not purchased form wholesalers. Another technique is for supermarkets to compost all of the organic matter that would normally be trashed. One grocery store in Missouri has experimented with this idea and has gone from having its trash picked up three times a week to three times a month. The compost that they create is used to enrich soils. Another solution is to allow food waste to be consumed by livestock, especially pigs. Many European nations have banned this practice, while many other nations have laws requiring it.

    Keywords:
    land pollution, water contamination,
  • MargaretThibo
    Maryland Court Case Reminds Us of the Importance of Lead...
    Entry posted October 8, 2014 by MargaretThiboContributor 
    Title:
    Maryland Court Case Reminds Us of the Importance of Lead Safety
    Entry:

    A Baltimore court case regarding the financial compensations for a young child being poisoned by lead paint has just settled nearly fifteen years after the initial exposure. Now teenage Daquantay Robinson has been awarded $2.1 million in damages for his exposure to lead paint as a child. The case set an important precedence for similar cases across the nation, but also demonstrates the importance of environmental regulations to protect individuals from hazardous waste materials.

    Robinson’s family and health professionals have stated that the child has suffered permanent damages due to lead poisoning. Daquantay, now 17 suffered serious and permanent brain damage from the lead poisoning. These damages resulted in both learning and behavioral issues throughout the boy’s life. His grandmother went on to discuss her grandson’s difficulties in keeping up with other students. There is research to substantiate the Robinson’s medical claims. Studies have shown that lead paint can create serious health problems, especially when exposed to children younger than age six.

    This case demonstrates the need for environmental regulations that will monitor the cleanup of lead as well as other hazardous waste materials in homes. The state of Maryland did not officially pass laws that helped regulate lead paint in older homes until 1994. Unfortunately, by this time, scores of children like the young Mr. Robinson had been exposed to the paint for decades. Older Baltimore homes regularly contained lead paint & were required to be registered by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) if built before 1950. The MDE also conducted a risk assessment of the property in 1996 before the Robinson’s moved in and passed the property. The property passed the assessment mainly due to the fact that in the 1990s a visual test for lead paint or powder was all that was required. An actual test of the dust in a home has been required since 2012.

    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has also changed the scale of lead poisoning levels in children, so cases like Daquantay’s would be considered more severe in the medical realm. Maryland is taking many steps to tighten the regulation of lead paint in old homes as well as ensure environmental compliance. As a result, lead poisoning has decreased significantly, but cases like the Robinson’s serve as an important reminder to keep efforts strong.

    Keywords:
    environmental regulations, hazardous waste materials, environmental compliance

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