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October 25, 2005

snow fleas

The article on the snow fleas has grabbed my attention. It is a subject that affects us as human, but especially people living in the cold parts of the world. It is an effective way to use a common a fungus and to establish it in a particular way to help the population. This shows what our book described as a benefit to help and at the same time it shows communalism between humans and animals. Also it uses peticide to get rid of the common pesticite but at the same, it benefits us in the long run. These proteins that the researchers have found can also help us in the long run with the frozen foods and the ability to store them without caring an appliance everywhere we go. Another factor is agriculture and land degreadion. We see that our land is use constantly and everyday is being degraded. With the help with this new discovery, it can help out in the arigculture by keeping the crops fresh and ripe for a longer period of time. This shows that any new discovery can benefit for the population and that this small creature(snow flakes-fleas) can sometimes be benefactors to us humans and not make our lives messerable. We should look at each creature as a benefit and resource and that each of them in some way or other they have a small "ounce of resource" maybe their juices or their bodies or even them as a whole are going to be a cure for the many diseases that humans carry.

Posted by at 11:16 AM

October 22, 2005

Snow Fleas

Snow fleas are wingless, six-legged fleas that are between one and two millimeters long. They contain a unique antifreeze that allows them to survive on fungus underneath blankets of snow. This antifreeze is a protein that limit the growth of ice by lowering the freezing point of fluids by eleven degrees Fahrenheit. Researchers have found that these antifreeze in proteins found in the snow fleas are different than those found in beetles and moths, causing them to believe that these antifreeze proteins evolved independently in the snow fleas.
Laurie Graham, one of the two researchers from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada who carried out the study, commented on the many technolical possibilities that this discovery has on our world. These proteins could be used to allow the storage of transplant organs so they can be preserved at cooler temperatures for longer amounts of time, thereby increasing the shelf life of organs. They could also be used in frozen foods to inhibit freezer burn, as well as in crops so that fruit trees could survive cooler temperatures.
This discovery is very important as it will make the transplant of organs easier and help the people who desperately need them. It is helpful to people in the agricultural business as they will not use their crops due to an early freeze.

Posted by at 11:06 PM

October 20, 2005

Invasive Species

With the most reason warm days, there has been a large inclrease in the number of Asian Lady Beatles. This made me think about the other invasive species in the area, and the need to control such species in order to preserve the natural ecology of this area. One of the biggest concerns of Minnesota invasive species is earthworms, because originally we had no terrestial worms, but now because of fishing we have 15 non-native varieties. A study done by the University of Minnesota has shown that at least 7 species of worms have invaded our hardwood forests and causing the loss of tree seedlings, wildflowers, and ferns. This in turn has reduced habitat for ground dwelling animals that rely on ferns for cover. Minnesota has many other species that are widespread throught the state, and are working to control the populations.

However, we are not limited to the invasive species already in Minnesota, and are looking for ways in order to prevent others from entering the state. An example of this is the Asain Carp, and the Minnesota DNR, Wisconsin DNR, and the "USFWS" have helped fund the research. Through this research they have developed a few different techniques that may slow or stop the movement of the carp into Minnesota waters. The methods devised include creating material barriers to stop movement northwards, use electronic pulses to deter fish from swimming up river, and using bubbles and audio to deter fish from moving north. The USFWS believes that these methods will at least slow the carp, and hopes that we can solve the problem in the time bought by this method.

Posted by at 8:01 PM

Natural Attenuation: Strategies for managing urban pollution

There is a great article from the EOS, Transactions, American Geophysical Union journal titled Natural Attenuation Strategy for Groundwater Cleanup Focuses on Demonstrating Cause and Effect.(Vol. 82 number 5 Jan. 30, 2001). This article discusses the use of natural attenuation for cleaning up ground water.
The EPA’s definition of natural attenuation is “a variety of physical, chemical, or biological processes that, under favorable conditions, act without human intervention to reduce the mass, toxicity, mobility, volume, or concentration of contaminants in soil or groundwater.” This is further discussed in the article on how there needs to be a direct cause and effect relationship with the pollutant the natural process, which will cause remediation. This process is then cited in multiple case studies through the article.
One very interesting factor in the cause and effect scheme is the nature of remediation required and its affect on the process proposed. For example, if there is a water treatment plant down stream of a sewage outtake, the need for water suitable to be treated for human consumption is the effect which must be considered. The process then would be tailored to meet those specifications. A very important factor in meeting those specifications regardless of the exact situation is that continual monitoring must be done to ensure that the natural processes are, in fact, working towards meeting the goal.
The article discusses the processes involved in natural attenuation to be: “biodegradation, dispersion, dilution, sorption, volatilization, radioactive decay, and chemical or biological stabilization.” These processes are quite general and broad in scope so I want to discuss one method or process and how I think it’s importance is key to utilizing natural attenuation while facilitating ecological support.
This method is the use of wetland biodegradation, sorption, and biological stabilization to create naturally replicated, self sustaining systems, to counter some of the effects of urban pollution. There is actually a company right now in the Minneapolis area utilizing this method. So it can and is being done, but mostly in an aesthetic sense, with attenuation being a secondary factor. I feel this should shift and be incorporated into urban water shed management.
The current trends of urban sprawl have seen an alteration of viewpoint about the positive properties of wetlands already existing in suburban communities. These wetlands previously were seen as smelly and undesirable. The current trend though has been to appreciate the biodiversity which wetlands tend to support. These newly developed communities have left the wetlands intact, to some degree and I feel that they can be utilized to purposefully channel wastewater and other runoff which has a high potential to transport contaminants into larger watershed areas. Waste water treatment output could also be designed to flow through these monitored wetlands creating a buffer zone for the current receptacle where the waste water is being deposited.
The secondary benefit to utilizing these wetlands and newly designed wetlands, is that biodiversity would be supported, the aesthetics of the area would be greatly increased compared to impervious layouts, and a buffer zone would be created between urban sprawl and the sanctity of our current bounty of water resources.
Either way you look at it, the cost for utilizing pre-existing wetlands would include water transport shifting for waste water and point sources, and monitoring of the effectiveness of the natural attenuation from the wetlands. This could save large amounts of money in the future on water treatment and contamination removal. This hopefully will become a bigger issue as we realize that natural is sometimes best when solving our problems.

Posted by at 12:18 PM

The Problem With Agriculture

Human societies have been farming for thousands of years now, but it may have been the biggest mistake we have ever made. You are prabably saying to yourself, "what is he talking about?" I understand your confusion. You have been taught that this is the best way to live and surely we are much better off than people living as hunter gatherers. Well maybe not, along with agriculture we have gotten many of our deseases from the animals we use to sustain ourself. People in hunter gathering societies often don't have these types of diseases and are much better off meantally. As an example, when Europeans came over seas to the new world they brought many diseases that go along with years of high popoulation and living close with animals. Diseases like small pox swept through the new world killing most of the native american population. They all died because they hadn't been exposed to these types of microbes before.

You might then say well what about free time? Don't we have more time to ourself to create art and entertainment? Well we certainly do have more time in the U.S. but in poorer countries like Ethiopia they are much worse off. In Africa a bantu hunter only speds 14-15 hours a week trying to get food the rest of his time is spent to himself. Which situation would you rather be in? I would be a Bantu hunter in a heartbeat.

It may not be possible to go back to a hunter gatherer type way anymore becasue of the high population of people that would all the sudden be competeing for the same resources. The only way to stop the problem would be to quit producing a surplus of food. Do you think we would keep producing as many ofspring if there wasn't always food to be eaten? The fundamental problem with agricuture is that it produces a posibility for humans to endlesslly proper. This in turn allows for destruction of land, pollution, diseases to be spread easily, and for less and less time to your self. Just think about how peaceful it would be to work only 15 hour a week and be disease free.

Posted by at 11:30 AM

Minneasota Mercury Solutions

In the Land of 10,000 Lakes most of us know we can't eat the fish. The bioaccumulation of excess mercury in our aquatic ecosystems has been a focus of environmental concern for some time. However, according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's most recent report, we must step up our efforts if we hope to improve the health of our lakes and fish.

Six years ago, Minnesota's Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) adopted a voluntary system to reduce artificial mercury contributions to the environment. The system requested industries and agencies to lower levels by 70%.

The good news is that the state has met that goal, but unfortunatly it is less due to bussiness willingness to reduce mercury emmisions and more of a result from legislation banning mercury in certain products like paints, fungicides, and batteries. In fact, one of the biggest contributors to mercury, electric utilities, are actually dumping more mercury into the environment than they were in 1999 when the system was adopted.

Thus far there have been no laws regulating power plants' mercury emmision. However, in June of this year a "Cap and Trade" program was implemented through the Clean Air Mercury Rule issued by the EPA. This is a new way to further regulate and restrict mercury by setting limits to emmisions. Plants unwilling or unable to remove mercury may purchase allowances from plants that do.

Ned Brooks, Mercury Reduction Corrdinator for the MPCA, explains that the EPA understands the reduction in Minnesota would be less than that of other states. But thats not all bad, claims Brooks. Much of the mercury contamination in Minnesota comes from other parts of the country.

It seems to me that this is an example of how we must think of our environment in a global sence verses a local situation.

In reference to this connection the MPCA is trying an additional approch called TMDA. The Total Maximum Daily Allowance is a calculation representing the amount of mercury a system can handle before becoming toxic. Through the use of these techniques the MPCA hopes to reduce mercury by 93%.

However not everyone likes the new plans. In accordance with monay other environmental agencies, I do not believe that these plans alone will successfully reduce emmisions by 93%. After meeting with industry officials, the MPCA altered the plans and its claculations. But even they agree that it will most likely take legislation down the road in order to meet the goal. That could be a year or more and many don't believe they should wait that long including Nancy Lange of the Izaak Walton League.

In my opinion these plans and calculations are an improvement but the are not yet the force needed to thrust bussinesses concerned with their bottom line to care about the environment. Much like the voluntary system, I believe that indusrties will not openly spend the money to implement mercury reducing equipment unless there is no other option.

There is one thing everone can agree upon, the mercury emission in Minnesota is too high and must be reduced. But just how should that be done? To what lengths is the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency willing to go in order to recognize the urgency of the problem. Perhaps the recent improvements are capable of leading businesses to reduce mercury. However, I do not think that the health of our aquatic systems should be left up to such an incertainty.

Posted by at 10:12 AM

Buying Local

I admit that I have fallen into the convenience and afforability of buying from big chains that ship in products from all over the world, and of which the money I'm spending at their store will most likely end up somewhere far away from the community. Through specks of knowledge here and there, and definetly this class along with the reading in the book, I have been enlightened on the subject. Minnesota Public Radio has several articles on the subject, the first is about a family owned timber company in Deer River, Minnesota.

The family has been running the bussiness since around 1900, and is now being run by the forth generation of that family. In the 1970's the family decided to expand their bussiness from just raw lumber to refined furniture, they thought is was good timing, but it coincided with the globalization of such products. They would send their lumber to American funiture companies, but all of the funiture factories got moved to China or other Asian countries.

Now the family has to ship their hardwood to Asia, and their basswood to China. In light of this, the company is trying to bring back the local market, where they can ensure environmental protection, decent wages and laws to protect worker safety, something lacking in many global markets.

Right now buying local is more expensive, and usually less conveinient. There is a movement in the twin cities to really promote local buying, to support the community. Not only will this support the community economically, but environmentally it is the responsible thing to do.

Thinking of the energy it takes to ship products half way around the world, when the same product could be gotten locally, it makes sense. Also globally there might not be the same restrictions and procedures that we are used to here. The book said that the food we buy at the grocery store travels an average of 2000km before it reaches us. As well as mention of pesticide use, and how in America, we decided certian pesticides were too dangerous to use, then we find traces of those same pesticides on our produce we are getting from overseas.

Buying locally not only boosts our economy, it gives a sense of community where the places you are buying from are more intimate, whether it be at a farmers market, or a local mom and pop store, you can acutally meet and interact with the people that made or grew what you are buying. Also environmentally not only are you saving a ton of energy costs, but you can choose who you buy from based on their practices. Ask an employee at Target where some of their merchandise came from and how it was made and I doubt they would be able to tell you. Ask a local merchant, and they might invite you out to their farm to see for yourself.

It is a decision that we all have to make individually, but as individuals, coming together to better ourselves and our community, we can make a huge difference.

Posted by at 10:10 AM

Conserving Energy at UMN

The Minnesota Daily published an article on Tuesday, Oct. 18th titled "Under Heat" by Emily Kaiser. Basically, the UMN SouthEast Steam Plant is looking into alternative energy resources. During the winter, UMN is normally heated with natural gas. However, not only is the price of natural gas increasing, it also emits a lot of greenhouse gases, especially Sulfur Dioxide. The current alternative being looked at is burning oat hulls along with coal. Now, this doesn't get rid of pollution, but the article did make it sound as if the chemicals released will significantly decrease. Realistically, the type of pollution will shift from carbon dioxide to nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. Is this better than carbon dioxide? Not necessarily, but consider that we will be eliminating the .455 pounds/million BTU of sulfur dioxide burned annually by natural gas. Furthermore, the oat hulls would come from the general mills cereal company since the hulls are a waste left from making cereal. There is evidence of the success of this system at the University of Iowa, and Ferman Milster who is the associate director of Utilities and Energy at U of Iowa states, "'We are reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our costs are significantly reduced,' he said. 'We are also able to support local business so this is a win for the company and the University.'" (page 6 MN Daily). Something to watch out for is the fact that coal needs to burned along with the hulls. According to the Daily, coal emits .171 lbs/pmm BTU Nitrogen oxides annually which is much lower than natural gas. A good thing to compare would be the effects of SO2 vs Nitrogen oxides on the environment, air, and humans. It is important that the change in greenhouse gases are carefully evaluated before a switch is made, but from the info I have been able to gather, using oat hulls seems like a very economical and efficient alternative form of Energy.

Posted by at 9:45 AM

Pesticides

Introduction

There have been great debates over the usage of pesticides on crops. Its earliest use according to the text book entitled Environmental Science: A Global Concern, states that even before the advanced technology we have today, various cultures have been using methods such as salt and smoke to alleviate pest issues. Similar to today, various cultures also used animals or biological control of pests. Should we be concerned about the pesticides and their side effects?

Benefits

Pesticides are used to control pests. Many insects carry diseases that can be transferred to humans from biting insects. Through the usage of pesticides the amount of pests can be significantly decrease and prevent these diseases. Pesticides are also important and beneficial to farmers and crop growers. Using pesticides, farmers and crop growers can eliminate pests and prevent loss of crops.

Pesticide Issues

Although there are some benefits to the usage of pesticides, there are also disadvantages. Pesticides affect non-targeted species. The species that are eliminated in many cases are beneficial to the ecological system. In some cases, the targeted species are not eliminated in the process. Although this elimination of beneficial organism may not be intentional, there is still an effect on the ecological system. Another concern is that pests will become resistant to pesticides and resulting in a need for a higher amount of pesticides to be used in the future. Evidence also shows that pesticides could create new pests, and cause human health (i.e. poisoning, cancer, birth defects) and environmental issues (i.e. run-off in the soil and killing species).

My Concern

After reading the chapter 10 in our book, I noticed that based on the chemical make-up of many of these pesticides, they can be very harmful to different species. The pesticide with the chemical Organophosphates stood out to me the most. The reason is because it is so toxic to the skin and can be very lethal to the individual handling it. Although, we have learned that nearly all pesticides have a negative effect to the environment and health of humans, we continue to use pesticides. Why do we continue to use pesticides and is there an alternate way effectively and safely eliminate pests? I don’t know if there is a safer way to eliminate pests but we have to think of something fast.
Another issue that I thought of was what if terrorist began thinking of ways to use pesticides that would destroy several states. I don’t know about you but I wouldn’t want pesticides to fall into the wrong hands if they are indeed this toxic.

Posted by at 9:45 AM

Urban Sprawl

Since our classroom discussion reguarding land use and urban sprawl on Thursday, October 13, I have been quite interested in this issue. I am from Albertville, Minnesota, which is part of Wright country. Wright county is not part of the seven-county Twin-Cities metropolitan area, so it was not included in the statistics that we looked at in class.

I was curious, so I looked up demographics of Wright County and found that population went from 68,710 residents in 1990 to 89,986 residents in 2000. This is a population growth of 21, 276 and a 31 percentage change over ten years. In comparison, the average population change over this ten year period for the seven-county Metro area was 15.44. Also, when compared to the top 10 growth communities in the metro area in 2000, Albertville fell just below Woodbury(#1).

Looking at these statistics, it concerns me how much Wright county has grown in the last ten years, especially considering that it is not technically part of the Twin Cities metro area. However, it is the next community past the Metro area to the northwest. I imagine that if our urban sprawl has already found its way past the metro area to the northwest, it is probably doing the same in other directions around the Twin Cities.

The communte to Albertville from the cities without rush hour takes about 45 minutes, and during rush hour, the communte is much longer. On a recent visit home, I was shocked to see how much of the two towns of St. Michael and Albertville have been developed. These are new, huge family homes, and I imagine that many of the new residents make some sort of commute to get to work each day. Thinking of just the environment alone, we now have more families living farther from the cities, more commuters driving further to work, more gas being used, and more emissions and pollution.

Another effect that I have also noticed is the use of land within my town. There are patches of wilderness/wetland/water bodies dispersed throughout the town, which have caused 'problems' for some deveopers. In a few cases, they built around the wetland, preserving only to increase the value of the houses being built. Our mall parking lot was actually built around a body of water. Although the mall has not had major problems yet, certain neighborhoods were flooded during a major storm a few summers ago. This was caused by the natural habitat of the water bodies and the natural drainage or the area being altered. Had the developer not changed the land terrain to build or if the developer had attempted to maintain more of the natural landscape, the flood probably wouldn't have destroyed so many residents' houses and property.

Altogether, looking at my town and those around mine, it doesn't look like development is going to slow down anytime soon. What is important for the environment with the continutation of sprawl is that residents consider closely their effect on the environment and the distance they drive to work. Carpooling will have to become more popular, and many may need to drive more efficient cars. Developers will also have to carefully consider the effects of changing and altering the areas surrounding biomes in the area.


www.metrocouncil.org
http://www.demography.state.mn.us/Cen2000redistricting/Cen00ctypopr.html

Posted by at 8:16 AM

Australia = nuclear waste dump of the world?!?

As I was reading through the chapters in our environmental science book, I began to question my number one factor concerning the world: pollution. I wondered; where does the pollution go? Although we learned in grade school that pollution is buried deep in a landmine, we never learn WHERE exactly these craters of pollution exist or if it is possible for humans to directly come in contact with the destructive mass of pollution. Searching for the answers to these questions, I found an article in the news (http://www.nature.com/news/2005/051003/full/437799b.html) closely related to my questions. According to the article, Robert Hawke, the former prime minister of Australia, believes Australia should become an "international repository for nuclear waste." Due to the high supply of uranium, Hawke believes Australia must aid in disposing the waste.

Those in agreement with Hawke argue that shipping waste to Australia would boost the economy in that overseas nuclear-power users would be forced to pay in order to ship waste to the "sparsely populated" areas of Western Australia. "It would be an enormous source of income that we could use to address our own environmental problems" states Hawke. Activists propose that the topography of Australia makes it a perfect area for waste disposal. However, the dumping of wastes in Australia is highly unlikely due to the lack of political support because the federal government is already in disagreement about where to place the small nuclear waste of their nation, much less the waste of the entire developing world.

Although it seems necessary to remove nuclear waste from populated, urban areas of the world, I do not think placing the entire world's nuclear waste in one continent will fix the problem. In addition to the danger of transporting the nuclear waste overseas, we must also worry about the livelihood of the citizens of Australia. Although the disposing of waste in Australia may "boost the economy," it seems that it would highly decrease the quality of life. We must also think about the habitat in which the government would be destroying in order to store the nuclear waste. Forests, grasslands and wetlands would all be sacrificed in order to discard the pollution of the modern world. I was both shocked and appalled by this article. Why should we sacrifice our natural habitats in order to get rid of nuclear waste? What is the environment really worth to us?!? With these questions in mind, I sincerely hope the government decides NOT to dispose of waste in Australia in order to save the natural habitat living there.

Posted by at 2:55 AM

Vegetarianism and the environment

While reading chapter 9 in our environmental science text book I came across a section that brought up the issue of the way pigs, chickens and cows were raised in order to increase productivity. Many animals were given hormones and steroids to increase rate of growth, animals were kept penned up to increase the amount of fat within the meat which is more desirable for consumers. As a meat eater myself it never crossed my mind how animals were raised before consumption. Regardless of the ethical treatment of animals I thought long and hard about the food and agricultural side of becoming a vegitarian. Would a reduction in meat consumption reduce my intake of harmful hormones and steroids given to the animals? Am I better off consuming pesticides that remain on fruits and vegetables? Scientists say that consuming fruits, vegetables and grains directly is more efficient to humans then feeding it to animals and consuming them. Using land for growing plants for consumption will leave the land far less harmed then if it was used for animal agriculture. In South America the main cause of deforestation is due to animal agriculture. After becoming more educated on the environmental externalities of animal agriculture it makes me think twice about the way our land is being used for raising animals for human consumption. I believe this land could be better used for growing highly nutritious fruits, vegetables and grains that are much better for the human body then animal products.

Posted by at 1:10 AM

Ravaging the Reefs

We are currently studying biodiversity and we know that the coral reefs are a hot spot. However coral reefs all along the Philippines, Taiwan, and Indonesia and quickly getting destroyed from fishermen. According to the Asian Development Bank, the South China Sea’s 30 year old fish trade brings in close to 1 billion each year. It sounds like it is a great economic market for china but the way the fish are being caught brings up problems. Illegal fishing techniques are rapidly destroying corals. Fish traders will pay local men to catch the fish illegally using unusual techniques, such as diving, nets, hooks, and use of chemicals. Besides the local fishermen destroying the reefs, larger operations and reducing the fish population. Large boats like find spawning areas so they can catch many adult fish before they release there sperm and eggs. This is a problem that needs to be solved. The fish market plays such a dominant role in china and so many people are involved. If the reefs and fish keep getting destroyed at the current rate the outcome will be devastating.

Posted by at 12:00 AM

International Stem Cell Consortium

Scientists in South Korea and America announced Wednesday, that the continuation of stem cell research will continue outside of the United States. Scientists in South Korea will create new stem cell lines that can then be researched by scientists all around the globe. There is a need for this of course, because the Bush administration has created many policies that hinder the continuation of stem cell research. Primarily, through the forbidding of the creation of new stem cell lines.

Personally, I think that this is a wonderful development. The benefits that can come from stem cell research could result in cures for many afflictions that harm human beings all around the globe. Stems cells could also be grown into vital organs for transplant.

The arguement against stem cell research is based on almost exclusively on moral grounds. The easiest way to obtain stem cells is within embryos. Of course, as everyone knows, embrios just happen to be what we are born of. Thus, the arguement is that by harvesting stem cells you are infact destroying life. Another method is by cloning embryos from skin cells. This is also morally objectionable because it is creating life just for research and then destroying it.

Personally I think these arguements are rediculous. Primarily because a wonderful source of embroys would be those that are left over after invitro fertilization. Guess what happens to the left over embryos after invitro fertilization, that's right, they go right into the garbage. I just don't see the point in blocking research that could save countless lives when we are throwing away these embryos anyway.

Posted by at 12:00 AM

October 19, 2005

Nuclear Waste

We all know that right now nuclear energy is being pushed as a clean power. It does not give off harmful emissions that cause many environmental problems. One might ask why would anybody be against nuclear power if it is environmentally friendly. The problem is that after the uranium rods have been spent they have no place to go. Its not like they can just be thrown away anywhere and be forgotten. The rods are radio active after they are done being used. But the real problem is that they are not radio active for a few years, they are radioactive for 10,000 years.
What place is proposed to store this substance that is toxic for 10,000 years? It is the Yucca Mountain nuclear repository site in Nevada. Some might be wondering why nuclear waste hasn't begun to be shipped there already. This is because officials are having trouble getting it approved. Things such as falsified scientific documents to government officials from workers at Yucca. There is also geologic evidence that Yucca is on a fault making it very dangerous to put massive amounts of nuclear waste there. Also the state of Nevada is sueing the national governent so that the nuclear waste repository will not be placed there. Other problems with putting this waste site anywhere is that to maintain something that is so toxic for 10,000 years is hard to imagine. No computer models can tell what is going to happen to this area in that many years.
The argument for having the site in Nevada is that this waste has to go somewhere. The nuclear power plants are not built to hold all of the nuclear waste they produce. If a site is not decided on the power plants will become filled with their own waste. This would be even more dangerous than having a site dedicated solely to holding nuclear waste for long periods of time. Yucca has been tested rigeriously and due to its remote location it seems to be the best solution to this problem.
Looking at these options it seems that there is no best option. But at the moment the only logical choice is to send the waste from the presant nuclear power sites to Yucca Mountain. Even though we can't plan 10,000 years in advance we have made a site that is suited to house radioactive materials for a long period of time which is Yucca mountain. The material is much safer in a facility in which it was designed for instead of being stored in the site it was just used that is filling up to the point in which there is no more room. It seems that sending the waste to Yucca is the best option right now and unless we find an alternative there doesn't seem like there is any reason for delay.

Posted by at 11:59 PM

Landfills

After doing some research on recycling, I went on a tangent towards landfills and decided to explore and explain the some of the interesting facts about how they operate. We all have a general concept of what a landfills does, but I don’t believe many understand all that goes into it. It’s not the best amenity that a city has to offer, but it serves a vital purpose. To begin with, let’s get an idea of how much garbage we accumulate here in America. We generate trash at a rate of four pounds per day per person, which translates to 600,000 tons per day or 210 million tons per year. (http://www.epa.gov/). That’s almost twice as much trash per person as most other major countries. Of the 210 million tons of trash generated in the United States annually about 56 million tons (27%) is either recycled or composted, 16% gets burned and 57% is buried in landfills(http://www.epa.gov/). Now the steps involve in the development of a landfill is quite complicated, and much is dedicated to protecting the environment, of course. In a nutshell, an environmental impact study must be done which helps to determine: the area of land necessary for the landfill, the composition of the underlying soil and bedrock, the flow of surface water over the site, the impact it will have on local environment and wildlife and the historical or archaeological value of the proposed site. (http://www.aigenvironmental.com/). On top of all that, once the environmental impact study has been completed, permits must be obtained and money collected. Upon construction, a landfill consists of these basic parts:

a bottom liner system - separates trash and subsequent leachate from groundwater
cells - where old and new the trash is stored within the landfill
storm water drainage system - collects rain water that falls on the landfill
leachate collection system - collects water that has percolated through the landfill itself and contains contaminating substances (leachate)
methane collection system - collects methane gas that is formed during the breakdown of trash
covering or cap - seals off the top of the landfill (http://jced.jocogov.org/solid_waste).

After reading all that takes place in a landfill, there’s still a part of me that believes that burying garbage will have detrimental effects soon or later. Even though a landfill is carefully structured with each part designed to address specific problems, what happens to the materials that don’t degrade quickly, if at all. Trash in a landfill stays for a very long time. With little oxygen and moisture under these conditions, it doesn’t allow trash break down very rapidly ( www.energyjustice.net/lfg/). Many old landfills which have been excavated have found 40-year-old newspapers which still had easily readable print (http://www.enviroalternatives.com/landfill.html). Landfills are not designed to break down trash, instead, they merely bury it. And when a landfill closes, what happens to the groundwater? It either seaps into our drinking water or gets carried into a bigger body of water which will have an affect on the organisms living within it. And as for recycling, only 27% of all trash gets recycled while 16% gets burned and 57% gets buried. It’s great that we make the effort to recycle, but 27% out of 210 million tons of trash means we’re still relying on raw materials which only causes further depletion of our natural resources. I know the system is not perfect, and without it I’m sure our society world be quite a mess, but as our world continues to expand, trash will only accumulate more rapidly. In general, we must find better alternatives than to burying our waste.

Posted by at 11:57 PM

HFRA healthy or not healthy?

I was thoroughly disappointed in the confidence I initially had in the Healthy Forest Restoration Act President Bush signed on Dec. of 2003. This act was introduced to provide, "improved statutory processes for hazardous fuel reduction projects on at risk National Forest System, and Bureau of Land Management lands.". I sadely understated some of the underlying conflicts involved in this act. I don't disagree with the basis of this act highlighting the changes that need to be made to the "leave the woods alone" forest magement policy that has been in place for years. Reducing small natural forest fires due to human habitation moving into or near national forests, has caused forest to become as much as 15 times as dense (according to Gale A. Norton: secretary of U.S department of the Interior) and the growth of thick fireprone undergrowth. What I don't feel comfortable with, is along with the signing of this act during his term as president, George Bush has also enforced major changes in forest management such as, removing protection of wilderness areas in regards to the building of roads through them, less examination of old-growth logging in the Pacific Northwest, and Bush's all in all support of the logging industry in America (info from class textbook). This makes me wonder if the Healthy Restoration Act is altogether just another way of promoting logging in the U.S, but make to sound 'responsible' by supposedly decreasing terrible wildfires. Such terminology as "hazardous waste removal" and "forest thinning" are also kept quiet vague as to what they exactly mean in context to real action in the forest. The Fire Science Laboratory in Montana projected that clearing just 200 ft. around areas habited with humans will essenually protect the areas from wildfires, and the idea of going into the forest and "thinning" is by most regards "irrelevent." Even the idea of delays and statutory barriers for hazardous waste removal and thinning seemingly just provides loopholes for logging companies. As exemplified in section 104 of the act: "Gives the Secretary discretionary authority to limit analysis ordinarily required unter the National Environmental Policy Act to the proposed agency action... " this act gives full authority to one individual, and in most regards is just "greenwashing" the majority of Americans by giving this act and environmentally friendly title.

Posted by at 11:08 PM

Hurricane Katrina and Global Warming?

I recently read an article from Rolling Stone magazine called "Was it Global Warming?" While reading I started to realize how poorly written this article is and how it was basically written to install fear in those who read it. The author basically took two major topics from the news and put then together to create something that SOME people might believe. But those who actually read the article could hardly be expected to believe the general “headline” message that the author is trying to send: Hurricane Katrina was caused by global warming. In actuality when one reads the article, the author is not saying this at all. He is simply stating that since hurricanes are caused by heat, this could be a sign of what is to come in the next couple decades if global warming persists. He is asking if people are ready and also relaying the different points of view skeptics have about the topic.
To give a summary of the article, the author starts off explaining how much peril the world is in right now: disease in Africa, droughts in northern Europe and the U.S., and war all over the place. He goes on to say that there are theories that this might all be indirectly caused by global warming. This assumption is so naïve and clearly stated in this article as an attention-getter to scare people and make them believe that there is one thing to blame for all of these events. People like to have something to blame things on so…why not pick global warming, especially if there are a few feeble facts that may vaguely suggest this? Anyway, he goes on to inform readers that recent studies have shown that our overall climate is getting warmer and because of these facts some of the critics against global warming are starting to change their viewpoints. He states that even though these people are changing their viewpoints, they are stating that the solution to this problem is that the world should simply adapt to the warmer climates. People (Fred Singer, the dean of global warming skeptics) believe that when global warming comes into full affect we will just have to adapt. (“Less winter sports? Better beach weather?”) A good point this article makes about these kinds of views is that the author looked at the damage and chaos created by hurricane Katrina and how people responded to that. He then stated that if this is how people are going to act, when change in weather causes destruction, then it will be almost impossible for the world to “adapt” to global warming. So, if we can’t adapt to global warming then what do we do? According to this author, to cut emissions could mean a full-fledged energy boom creating more jobs and maybe a boost to the economy… Anyway the point is that this article brings up many theories, assumptions, and viewpoints that I believe are just put in to create controversy and entertain people, while making a tie to current events.

Posted by at 11:05 PM

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act: pro or con?

As I was doing my research for the debate for the Healthy Forests Restoration Act, it was difficult to only take one side on the issue. The Bush Administration poses a good argument in their basis on why the act was formed. It's obvious action needed to be taken because forest fires were devastating parts of the country very heavily, such as California, Arizona, Colorado, Montana and Oregon. Over the two years prior to the signing of the act, 147,049 fires burned nearly 11 million acres, causing deaths of firefighters and civilians, as well as devasting many structures in these states. The act states that it is "to reduce the threat of destructive wildfires whil upholding environmental standards and encouraging early public input during review and planning processes." It is to reduce the undergrowth that fuelds catastrophic fires through thinning and prescribed burns, but focuses on projects that are on Federal lands. These alnds meet strict criteria that have risk of wildfire damage to communities, water supply systems and the environment.
As much as it is a positive step for the administration to put an act into place and take action in helping prevent such damaging fires, there are many loopholes this act does not cover. First of all, the only source I was able to find with much positive information was the White House page itself. Most sources analyzed the bill and showed flaws in it. It is “seriously flawed and poses a major threat to environmental protection and public involvement in federal land management,” which is quite the opposite of the administration’s view. Represenatives McInnis and Walden introduced this bill about 6 months before it came into law and does virtually nothing to protect homes and communities from wildfire. It basically allows the Forest Service to conduct more large-scale and environmentally damaging logging projects without having to consider any alternatives or evaluate the impacts they would be making on the environment. Also, it eliminates the statutory right of citizens to appeal logging projects of the Forest Service. Unfortunately, the geographic scope of this bill is very wide, and this could potentially apply to most National Forest and BLM lands. It generally allow expedited logging projects anywhere in the “proximity” of intermix and wildland-urban interface areas, instead of specifying a distance limitation away from communities. This allows agencies to log various amounts of miles away from communities as long as the Forest Service thought there was a “significant risk” that a forest fire could spread far enough to endanger human property and life. In addition, the definition of projects in this bill is very broad and could potentially cover most commercial timber sales.
This bill also abolishes citizens’ rights to appeal hazardous fuels projects by the Forest Service and only allows the Forest Service itself to establish an undefined “administrative process that will serve as the sole means by which a person…can seek administrative redress of such projects.” The Bush Administration clearly designed the law to benefit those with timber interests and their Congressional allies as it means to open our public forests to more logging under false coercion with “community fire protection,” “fuels reduction,” “forest health,” and “restoration.” This is basically diverting the agenda and is known as greenwashing. The Administration argued that:
“the intent of the law was to protect lives, homes and the environment from the threat of ‘catastrophic’ fire by thinning underbrush. Meanwhile, the Administration and the timber industry blocked attempts in Congress to focus fuels reduction work and funding around homes and communities, and instead pushed a bill loaded with incentives to log large, commercially valuable trees far away from communities.”
The main question I am wondering from this is if the act is able to be productive and beneficial to us, the citizens, who are directly affected. There are pros and cons to this, but I feel the cons highly outweigh the pros and the Administration tries to pull the wool over our eyes on this logging issue. It just depends what you believe when it comes to how we utilize our timber resources, but in my opinion I feel as if our country’s situation and what we do with our forests could be handled more efficiently. All in all, it is positive the Administration chose to take action on this important issue, but if our country’s natural resources are to last, we need to make the most of what we have and be sure to take intelligent action.

Posted by at 10:52 PM

Pesticides

After listening to the speaker which we had in one of our previous classes I got to thinking. She spoke about polyethlene mulch and copper hydroxide, and the affects these two can have on the environment. She told us about how many tomoato farmers use polyethylene mulch along with the copper hydroxide. And that much of the copper hydroxide does not reach the tomoato plants and makes its way to water sources. She told us that the pesticide has a negitive affect on the ecological systems inwhich its touches. Then she went on to say that in tests she had help preform showed that the use of certain grasses planted in between the tomatos instead of the polyethylene mulch helped to reduce the amount of pesticide runoff. It also helped in reducing the amount of erosion in the tomato fields. So my question is why woulnt farmers see this and not use it knowing that it is less expensive, less harmful to the environment, and easier to maintain and use it? To me this makes no sense. I heard what she said and it made me want to use the grasses instead of the polyethylene mulch.

Posted by at 10:42 PM

Earthquakes in the Midwest

Most people in the Midwest feel that the only real natural disaster that can occur is a tornado or sever thunderstorm. Missourians and other Midwesterners should beware however of the ground beneath their feet. The New Madrid fault located in Missouri has the capability to produce massive earthquakes. However few people know that it exists because it produces earthquakes far less frequently than the infamous San Andreas Fault in California. The strongest earthquake to ever rattle the lower 48 states came from the New Madrid fault line and devastated an enormous area. In the winter of 1811 to 1812 three huge earthquake weeks apart shook the Midwest the largest measuring an 8.1 on the Richter scale was 10 times as powerful as the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The size of the quakes, geography of the Midwest and the long periods between activity make a potentially catastrophic situation. The quakes in 1811-1812 were felt as far away as Charleston Sc and Washington DC where damage was reported in each. At the time of the sever earthquakes the Midwest was sparsely populated and thus the loss of human life was small. The long periods between quakes makes it easy to forget that the fault exists and that it can go off. Only recently have some new buildings been built earthquake resistant in the Midwest. Only a handful of structures are built this way. In the event of a major earthquake occurring damage would be extensive across the Midwest from Chicago to Memphis and St Louis. Parts of the eastern seaboard would see damage as well. The geography of the Midwest is such that an earthquake would be felt over an area much larger than an earthquake of equal magnitude in California. The threat of an earthquake is real and geologists predict that with in the next fifty years there is a 9/10 chance that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake will affect the new Madrid fault line. If people are not informed of proper earthquake procedures and buildings not reinforced the quake could be catastrophic. This will however cost an enormous amount of money and take several years to implement. There is the possibility that we will not see a huge earthquake in the near future and the money would have been spent in vain. However this is a risk that could cause an enormous amount of destruction and cost billions of dollars to clean up and countless human lives could be lost.

Posted by at 10:40 PM

Ban On Fishing

In a recent article I found on the Environmental News Network's website, a research group in Copenhagen, Denmark is trying to put a ban on certain deep-sea fish species. These fish include the Portuguese dogfish, the orange roughy, the roundnose grenadier, the leafscale gulper shark, as well as a ban on cod found in the North and Irish Sea. These fish are being over harvested and are at risk of being at a level too low for re-population. The current pressure on these fish are way to high for sustainable management. As we have learned, we must practice these sustainable processes if we want a species to remain in a healthy population. With out informing the fishermen as well as informing the public, problems like these can easily be over looked. Thanks to research groups like this one, once problems arise and are published, being shown to the public, an awareness can begin and ultimately a solution. http://www.enn.com/today.html

Posted by at 10:20 PM

Dead in the Water

I recently watched a documentary on FSTV called Dead in the Water it concentrated on the problems associated with the privatization of water. The documentary focused on: South Africa, a city in Canada called Monckton, Argentina, California and Atlanta, Georgia. The basic premise was that private companies primary concern is making profit. Corporations’ first responsibilities are to their shareholders and to the bottom line. A moral dilemma is presented when a corporation comes into a community of poverty stricken people and tries to provide them with water in an effort to make money. This begs the question, should corporations be able to profit off something that people need to survive? There are several examples of corporations conceding morals to make profit. In World War II Dupont made money by selling products to Germany, our enemy. Recently Enron, World Com and Wal-Mart have made the news for their questionable ethics.
The big push for privatization of public works started in the 1980’s with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan. In the United States the Washington Consensus was formed, this was a combination of public money and private companies that intended among other things, to solve the world’s water problems.
The World Bank and the I.M.F. (International Monetary Fund) were in on the ground floor of the privatization of public services around the world and helped to push the ideology of free market, they wanted to minimize government and reduce poverty.
Argentina was having major problems in 1989, inflation was at 5000 percent and the country’s monetary system was failing. The government at the time with pressure from I.M.F. decided to privatize water, gas and electricity. The I.M.F. was able to pressure Argentina by writing conditions into loans that called for privatization in order for the loans to be approved. This has led to many problems for Argentina such as clean water being mixed with waste and sewage flowing in the streets. This stems from the fact that the water company takes in more money by making water connections than they do making sewage connections. By maximizing profit they let the sewage system get out of control. The documentary showed many children who are often the victims of water born diseases.
The other places, Atlanta, South Africa and Monckton all had problems with their water systems that were fixed by privatization briefly. In the long run though the problems were only exacerbated. The story that particularly touched me was one from our own country; in California Enron decided that water was going to be the next big thing. They built a storage facility that was able to hold 480 billion liters of water right in the middle of the San Juan Valley. Right next to the storage facility there was an agricultural community spanning 9 million acres of irrigated desert. The farmers there paid .13 cents a ton for water while a regular citizen would have had to pay $1.30 a ton. In 1998 an Enron subsidiary, Azurix, started a web site called water2water.com a as way to trade water like it was any common commodity. They offered the farmers of San Juan Valley contracts lasting up to 25 years. If these farmers would have accepted they could have made more money by just selling their water than they could have ever hoped to make farming. The farmers wisely distrusted the water traders and would not give in. This ended up costing Azurix one billion dollars and contributed to the downfall of Enron. It also stopped the selling of water as a commodity in the United States.
The water corporations made the argument that when the public utilities were failing to provide communities with safe water and sewage they would to come to the rescue by providing a much needed service. To paraphrase an official from Veolia water, people who are opposed to globalization believe that water should be a gift form god but what private companies offer is not just water, its purity and convenience. If people don’t pay for water in places where it is now part of the infrastructure, including places where people are trying to live on one U.S. dollar a day, then people who do not have water infrastructure now will never be able to get it.
On one side there are people who believe that essential needs must not be privatized. How long will it be before corporations are selling oxygen to breathe? Providing a service is one thing but making a profit from something that if denied could kill people is unjust. The corporations would have us believe that a free market economy will provide where need necessitates and that nothing is free. I don’t believe that a place with no jobs or money will be able to create a market out of thin air. The privatization of water seems to be another example of companies taking advantage of a situation to make a profit.

Posted by at 9:52 PM

another hurricane..

Last Wednesday there was another hurricanedown south that tore through the caribbean coastlines, hurricane wilma. the wind speed of the hurricane was 175 mph then weaken alittle to 160 mph, thousands evacuated as it threatened to move into cancun and southern florida. they estimated that at least 13 people died.

the white house promised that they would take every precautions unlike what they did for katrina.

the strongest atlantic storm based on pressure readings was hurricane gilbert which was recorded at 888 millibars, but according to the hurricane center wilmas pressure reading was measured at 900 millibars. when it hit land, it was recorded to 882 millibars. lower pressure means higher wind speed.

forecasters said wilma was stronger than the labor day hurricane that hit the florida keys in 1935, the most powerful atlantic hurricane to make landfall on record. also wilma should avoid the central gulf coast damaged by katrina and rita, which killed over 1200 people.

-im not from the southeastern part of the US nor i have family there.. but that area had been ravaged by hurricane after hurricane. according to my friend who used to live in tampa said that it was normal to have hurricanes but not as strong as katrina, rita, and now wilma. i guess im more thankful that i dont live there but my prayers go out to them.

well.. the six-month hurricane season ends Nov. 30. and any new storms would be named with letters from the greek alphabet, starting with alpha..

National Hurricane Center: http://www.nhc.noaa.gov

Posted by at 8:48 PM

Why the flu shot is not for everybody

Every year in Minnesota people get the flu shot to prevent other serious illness when they do get the flu or just to prevent themselfs from getting too sick. The federal government recommends high risk people, like order People 65 years, older pregnant women and children younger than 6 months etc to get the shot. "State health officials warn that a quarter-million Minnesotans could become sick with the avian flu, and of that number, 20,000 could die." (St. Paul Pioneer Press Oct. 17) If the avian flu can cause this may death, why is the federal government recommending people to get the shot. I understand these people who may be at risk believe the best thing for them to do is get the avian to prevent them from serious illness or death, but the avian can cause them death also, how could something that suppose to help them also kill them. According to health officials besides high risk people everyone should go get a flu shot, but what if you like me and believe that if it can cause you harm then forget it. I know people who get flu shot and still get the flu really bad, what is the shot for in that case. I understand people at high risk what to prevent themself, but are they really preventing themself or hurting themself with a flu shot. It up to the individual to decide what's good for them.

Posted by at 8:41 PM

The Latest Threat to the Endangered Species Act

Most of the writing below is from a letter I sent to Minnesota senator Norm Coleman recently concerning the possible revisions to the Endangered Species Act, which would give more power to the landowners of endangered species' habitats in deciding how they are managed and protected. The House has already approved these revisions and details about them can be found at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4930486


Hello Mr. Coleman,

My name is Joe Norcross and I am a student attending the University of Minnesota. I am currently a journalism and environmental science major, so it is probably not surprising that I write to you out of concern for the changes being made to the Endangered Species Act. I am strongly opposed to any changes to the ESA that would weaken it. I believe that many of the places being considered for a removal or weakening of their protection status are instrumental to the survival of many species of birds, mammals, fish, and even insects that are not only needed for aesthetic reasons, but for economic reasons as well. As the changes to the ESA are being pushed for economic reasons, I will argue for the latter, even though I believe the aesthetic value provided by the ESA match the economic needs the ESA prevents.

I can understand why some would ask for a weakening of the policies set by the ESA. Many landowners do suffer as a result of a local species being declared endangered, and often lose their ability to do what they wish with their own land. Many of these landowners, however, are being compensated or receiving compromises in the form of HCPs (Habitat Conservation Plans), which even allow them to destroy part of an endangered species habitat along with a limited number of the species itself (Environmental Science, Cunningham, pg. 233). I also believe many landowners protest the ESA out of ignorance of how much the species protected benefit them. For example, many species of birds will be threatened with extinction should the changes be made to the ESA, 2,123 of which are currently on the list. Many of the bird species' primary food sources are insects that are known to feed off the crops of farmers. Should these bird populations decimate from the loss of their habitats, these insect populations will thrive and, in turn, ravage the crops of farmers. Bee populations will also suffer without habitat protection, also causing harm to America's agriculture; for, without bees, pollination of many farmer's plants will become more difficult. In some cases, increasing the land area may only decrease the plant yield as a result of habitat-loss for bees.

The ecological significance of many insect and fish species are also not well-understood, affecting us in many small to perhaps profound ways. The loss of fish species on the higher part of the food-chain will allow fish species on the lower part to thrive. If these types of fish experience a population boom, plankton and aquatic plant species will suffer--organisms that are among the most productive in photosynthesis. If these organisms decrease in numbers, their oxygen products will decrease as well as their ability to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. So when we discuss the issue of biodiversity, we are not only discussing the future success of our economy dependent on nature recreation/tourism and agriculture, but the future of our planet and the human species itself. Well, that is all I will you bother with and I thank you for reading.

Posted by at 8:41 PM

.OWNAGE.

The human is the most successful organism to evolve on this planet. Think about it, what other organism can we not defeat? What biome can we not conquer? We are the ultimate predator because of our vastly superior intelligence. Whatever we lack in physical prowess is easily made up for with our ingenuity. If a 550 pound lion comes charging out you, you make a spear and stab his stupid lion ass, or you build a trap with spikes, or you engineer a nuclear warhead and blow up its habitat. Seriously, we are the best. The only thing we can't completely control is the weather, and given that it only took us a few million years or so to climb to the top of the food web, there is a good chance that soon will control our very own environment. The only risk we seem to be running into is that of space and of resources. Yet, I am not worried at all! You know why? Because humans rock! If there is overcrowding, I am sure that a few well placed biologically hazardous warheads at the highly populated areas, or massive organized war will thin out our numbers, because after all, humans are the best, and we will even kill each other to further our evolution. Resources? Don't sweat it! We got plenty, and through our intelligence we will find new sources and methods on this planet, not to mention that there is a whole universe of atoms combining out there. So you know what? Screw this planet and it's "biodiversity" and "ecology" and "beauty." These have no place in the scheme of evolution, of survival of the fittest, of dog eat dog. The earth spawned us, and if it can't take us out, then too bad for the earth. Now, after all of these obvious facts are stated, who could ever question the fact that HUMANS ROCK!?!?!?!?!

Posted by at 8:10 PM

who cares about the ozone anyway?

Who cares about the ozone anyway?

Thought that everyone was for replenishing the ozone layer was a worldwide goal? Think again. The world at large used to have that goal, but now some developed countries say that they need to use ozone damaging chemicals to aid with critical problems. The item that banned the use of these ozone damaging chemicals (CFC’s) was the Montreal Protocol, and it applied to the countries in the United Nations, saying that they could only use the ozone destroying chemicals if there was a critical need for them. The protocol was highly successful, and the damage to the ozone is expected to be repaired by around 2050. I think that each side has a valid argument in this issue. On one hand, CFC’s may damage the ozone, causing increased rates of cancer and blindness, and they contribute to global warming. But on the other hand, they are useful, non-toxic gases used in refrigeration, packaging, insulation, or as solvents and aerosol propellants. So for the environment and people in the long run they are bad, but for the economy and people in the short run, they are good. Countries are required to reduce the use of them, which can be expensive generating technology and materials to replace their function, so it is easy to see why developed countries, who use CFC’s the most, would want to be able to sue them more. The point is though, that if they are allowed to be used more, then their negative effects will become apparent again, and people will once again want to ban them. The negative effects of CFC’s outweigh their positive effects in my mind. So, it is my opinion that the United Nations should deny the requests of the countries who want the regulations to be eased up, and that the regulations against the CFC’s should be kept in place.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3569531.stm

http://www.usask.ca/agriculture/caedac/dbases/glossary.htm

Posted by at 8:05 PM

Ocean levels forcasted to rise 16-19 feet

The melting of ice in Antarctica has alarmed many scientists, including Dr. Payne, a geologist who spends most of his time in antarctica observing ice sheets and taking readings of temperatures and sea levels. He believes that the sea level will rise drastically in the decades to come because of three main contributing factors. One, the depletion of the ozone and consequential rise in global temperature will warm ocean waters and cause them to expand. Two, the warmer temperatures would cause ice sheets to melt, putting more water into the oceans. And three, large sheets of ice that fall into the water will displace water, causing the level of water to rise much like an ice cube falling into a glass of water.

With these concerns, there has been a large worldwide meeting of scientists in Moscow to discuss the problem. Payne believes that many new ideas will come up in the meeting on how to deal with this problem. The possibility of preventing the melt down is all but eliminated due to increase in human population and less interest of the public on preventing problems such as global warming. The problem is so overwhelming that scientists predict that the sea level around the world will go up 16-19 feet in coming centuries. That's enough water to displace almost the entire state of florida. Many coastal cities and states could be submerged by the expanding ocean. Although it will take many years for this to happen, the current trends suggest that the oceans are about to rise frighteningly fast. One of the main goals of the meeting in Moscow is to evaluate old forcasts, and hopefully predict more accurately how sea levels will change so policy makers can have a more accurate assesment of what needs to be done.

Posted by at 8:01 PM

Road Salts Affecting the Environment

I recently read an article talking about the effect of the runoff or road salt into lakes and ponds and killing animals and plants that live there. This article focused on this issue in Canada, but we can obviously relate to this situation here where we live. The article, “Road Salts an Environmental Concern” on the Science and Environmental Bulletin online, mainly focused on the results of the recent tests done on porewater, “the water that fills spaces between the solid sediment particles on the floor of the pond. (S&E)”

These tests revealed that an estimated “4,732 kilotonnes of road salt and calcium chloride are used to de-ice roads every year in Canada. (S&E)” The runoff from this is ending up in lakes and ponds, causing the porewater to be toxic, affecting the ecosystem at the bottom of these bodies of water. Concerns about this affecting fish have been addressed in the past, so this article focused more on the other species that may be damaged by this process. They took samples of the sediment and porewater at the bottom of these water bodies and analyized them. Their studies showed that the salt sediment at the bottom of these waters in some cases was preventing the plants to get the amount of oxygen they need to live healthily. This article argues that instead of salt, we need to find other ways to de-ice our roads and make them safer. One suggestion was that there should be an increase in sand use, or the roads should be better maintained by cities and people should be more cautious drivers.

Looking at the information I read I looked more into the affects and alternate ways to treat our roads. I found that the use of salt to treat the roads may not be the biggest concern, but the amount of salt is what is causing the problem. Some salt running off into the waters won’t cause much of a problem with the ecosystem, but the problem lies when we are using it in such a great volume. After reading this I felt that the correct way this should be handled would be a combination of the first article’s thoughts. I think the best solution would be to combine increased maintenance of roads and more careful drivers, with a reduced amount of salt used. That way, we can still take advantage of the best way to de-ice roads, but just in more moderation.

Posted by at 7:47 PM

U.S. Reaction to Bird Flu

One issue that is gaining global attention is the outbreak of bird flu. It has already been discovered in Asia and parts of Europe, and is considered to be a growing threat. As the concern and number of cases as of bird flu rises, scientists are looking to the source and what may be encouraging the spread of the virus. This most recent outbreak of bird flu isn’t an isolated incidence in which viruses have come from Asia, specifically Southern China.

There are a few reasons that Southern China is such a hot spot for flu pandemics. First, traditional cultures and practices are combined with more modern lifestyles. Open air markets can be found in a close proximity to airports and hotels. China is also the world’s most populated country. China has both busy cities with high concentrations of people, and also farmers who live in cramped quarters with their livestock (often chicken, ducks and pigs). In addition to simply the high amount of animals, there is also a large number of different species present. According to some accounts as many as 60 species can be contained in one market. These unique markets combine animals, people and microorganisms that would normally never exist in the same area. Furthermore, according to a CNN article by Marianne Bray “This is also a place where dietary staples and traditional Chinese medicine like turtle shell are in hot demand. Early on, a lack of regulations, record keeping and research between Hong Kong and China, and a suppression of information by Beijing stunted any efforts to clamp down on outbreaks.”

Scientists and virologists have found that all flu pandemics can be traced back to birds. Virologists suggest that the flu virus was able to jump from birds to people when birds became domesticated 3,000 years ago. With very weak immune systems, birds easily incubate the illness and can spread it to pigs; the virus then mutates and spreads to humans.
President George Bush has asked Congress to give him the power to use military in law enforcement roles if the bird flu reaches the United States. However this would require changing the law, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which bans the military from participating in law enforcement activity in the United States. President Bush argued that because there is currently no effective vaccine against bird flu, public health officials would want to hinder the disease’s spread by isolating and quarantining those who had been exposed or affected. According to the President, such action would require military involvement. The discussion to change the law banning military participation began during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Last month, Bush told reporters that he wanted “there to be a robust discussion about the best way for the federal government, in certain extreme circumstances, to be able to rally assets for the good of the people.”

Many are in opposition of Bush’s proposition. Dr. Irwin Redlener, an associate dean of Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and director of its National Center for Disaster Preparedness believes that the idea is dangerous. He feels that military law enforcement is a measure that is unnecessary if “the nation had built the capability for rapid vaccine production, ensured a large supply of anti-virals like Tamiflu and not allowed the degradation of the public health system” as summarized by CNN. Others feel that giving the military law enforcement power would be similar to introducing martial law. Gene Healy, of the Cato Institute feels that the President would risk undermining a “fundamental principle of American law.” Healy also expressed that shifting toward military power gives a signal that the American people are not comfortable with the set law enforcement currently in place. In addition, he points out that American soldiers are not trained to be police officers, and putting them in a position as such runs the risk of “damaging American life and liberty”

I agree with the President that the military should be involved in police type activity provided extreme circumstances. Looking back on the rescue effort of Hurricane Katrina, I think that more immediate military involvement would have improved the conditions for those in the areas hit. Police and local authority are best suited for just that, local issues. However, in circumstances that affect much more consuming areas, different resources need to be brought in to help. The police in the area hit by Hurricane Katrina had to deal with a disaster that they couldn’t possibly be equipped for on their own. In extreme circumstances like the natural disasters, or flu outbreaks, the United States should be able to utilize its assets. One detail of this proposed law change that I do not agree with is that the Department of Defense would assume responsibility for the situation. I think that the responsibility should belong to organizations such as FEMA that are specialized in dealing with specific disasters and circumstances.

Posted by at 5:10 PM

The Oil for Ape Scandal

I recently read an article on the Friends of the Earth website concerning the rapid disappearance of Orangutans. (http://www.foei.org/media/2005/0923.html)
The Orangutan is Asia’s only great ape and it is rapidly disappearing throughout the islands and peninsulas in South East Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia where Orangutans live. The main cause for the Orangutans decline is habitat destruction. There is a strong demand in the western world for palm oil. Palm oil is used as a base for many different items such as bread, margarine, lipstick, and soap and cannot grow outside of its native tropical climate. Indonesia and Malaysia are major exporters or palm oil and a large amount of forests have already been cleared to supply the increasing demand for this valuable oil. Orangutans, are already internationally recognized as an endangered species and according to a report titled “Oil for Ape Scandal” published by experts from Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) says that if current habitat destruction continues the great apes of Asia could be extinct in 12 years. Already 90 percent of the Orangutan habitat has been destroyed to make room for agriculture to feed the growing populations of South East Asia. Many of the fires that have ravaged the island of Sumatra in August were said to have been set by palm oil planters clearing land for crop use. In 1998 a string of terrible forest fires wiped out almost 1/3rd of all the Orangutans in Borneo. Currently Orangutan refuge shelters in Indonesia are swarming with orphaned baby Orangutans displaced by clearing of rainforests. Tanjung Puting National Park in Indonesia is widely recognized as a Orangutan sanctuary. Plans are being made by the Indonesian government to convert a large portion of the park for palm oil production.

What is really disturbing about this problem is that most grocery stores that sell products with palm oil in them don’t even know where the oil comes from. The European Union is the world’s biggest user of palm oil. “Corporate failure” as the article states is one of the biggest reasons why Orangutans are slowly slipping into extinction. As Ian Redmond of the Ape Alliance said “Governments that provide a market for palm oil must legislate to make their corporations responsible and accountable for their impacts. If not, it is we who will have to explain to our children that the Orangutan became extinct, not because of a lack of knowledge, but because of corporate greed and a lack of political will.”

Steps are being taken to attempt to save the Orangutan from extinction. On September 9th the United Nations issued the Kinshasa Declaration, which entails a plan to save Orangutans. The plan is backed by several European countries and so far has been signed by Indonesia but not by Malaysia. However, noble, the efforts may be too little too late.

I understand the need for palm oil, it is a valuable and rare commodity. However, I don’t think that clearing forests to create more oil plantations is a justified reason. Not only will Orangutan’s be affected by other wild animals and plants like the Rafflesia arnoldii, the largest flower in existence, which only grows in Malaysia and Indonesia. One of the most prized aspect in our world is biodiversity which not only sustains human but keeps the Earth habitable. If we abandon principals of conservation than more animals like the Orangutan will fall off the face of the Earth. Governments need to place stricter regulations on palm oil production and importing countries need to make sure that their products did not have any adverse environmental effects.

Posted by at 4:25 PM

Great Lakes Protection from Invasive Species

An article on www.msnbc.com states that legislation protecting the Great Lakes from invasive species has stalled in Congress. Currently, the Coast Guard requires entering ships to exchange fresh water ballast for salt water or vice versa as organisms have a hard time surviving in their non-native water environment. The effectiveness of this approach is being questioned and rightly so. Invasive species such as zebra mussels and Eurasian milfoil have invaded the Great Lakes area and are having a large effect on the area's ecosystem and native species.

The current requirement is that ships carrying ballast need to exchange their water, however a majority (80%) of the ships entering the Great Lakes do not carry ballast and thus they do not need to exchange water, according to the Government Accountability Office. They still can harbor invasive species which can enter the Great Lakes area. According to Andy Buchsbaum, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Natural Resource Center, a new invasive species enter the Great Lakes once every eight months.

A National Aquatic Invasive Species Act would actually eliminate ballast exchange and exchange it for technology that would kill the invasive species instead. This bill has sat in Congress for 3 years! A rival bill called the Ballast Water Management Act has been introduced in the meantime. This act has support from the shipping industry and calls for standards "100 times more stringent” than an agreement by the UN Internal Maritime Organization. However, attorney generals from the Great Lakes States requested the committee to not move forward, stating that this act would remove the EPA from have regulating authority on ballast water and also pre-empt state laws. Helen Brohl, director of the US Great Lakes Shipping Association states that the EPA should not have regulatory power, but rather the Coast Guard. Brohl also handles foreign ships in the Great Lakes ports. The shipping industry, itself supports the Ballast Water Management Act because it is claimed the bill is less restrictive on the industry.

Those living in the Great Lakes area already know the devastating effects of invasive species, such as the zebra mussel. According to Cunningham et. al. (2005), removal of zebra mussels costs $400 million per year and Eurasian milfoil removal coasts $5,000 per hectare per year. It is time that Congress increases the regulations on ships entering the Great Lakes. Currently only 20% of the incoming ships are regulated. It is no wonder that non native species have invaded the waterways. Without some kind of bill regulating incoming ships, who knows what kind of species will be invading the lakes next and what kind of damage it will cause to the lakes and waterways.

Reference
Associated Press. Congress slow to stop Great Lakes 'invaders'. Retrieved 10/19/05 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9728712/.

Cunningham, W.P., Cunningham, M.A., & Saigo, B. (2005). Environmental Science: A Global Concern (8th Ed.). McGraw-Hill: New York

Posted by at 2:16 PM

Hurricanes and Policy

The record setting hurricane season has left chaos and destruction in its wake, and producing questions as to why hurricanes are getting more frequent, more intense, and more devastating. In an article from the New York Times, the most recent hurricane, Wilma, shows how this season is tied for the most storms in1933, and most hurricanes in 1969. These storms have produced billions of dollars worth of damage and killed thousands of people in both the United States and other afflicted countries. With so much destruction people have to begin to ask why so many, why are hurricanes seemingly getting stronger, and what can our country do as a whole to prevent such destruction?

Possible reasons for the increased frequency of hurricanes include cyclical nature of the weather syste, it has been noted that there are a couple decades of high hurricane activity followed by a few decades of low. Another reason is Global warming, the increased temperature also allows for the formation of more storms. As to the reasons why they are getting more intesne, another article in the new york times, Gulf Currents that Turn Storms into Monsters, states that the increase in global temperature has shifted a warm eddy into the path of hurricanes allowing them to increase in strength and follow the warm currents into the Gulf where they will do optimal damage. As for what can the country do as a whole, for starters get better prepared for more intense storms. However I think the heart of this issue is global warming. If the US were to take a more aggressive approach to curbing global warming, it won't fix the problem immediately, but in the long run it would turn out to be better for everyone. The problem, as usual lies with the politics that govern our country and their inability to see that such actions are for the greater good and for the long haul.

Posted by at 1:55 PM

Urbanization

It seems to me that there is a definate correlation between the ever rising population of the United States and land use and management, or lack there of. In class we wee talking about urbanizing new parts of the country and in turn ruining natural habitats, and it is interesting to wonder how much longer this can go on until there are no more areas to urbanize. This past summer I was up north in Baudette, MN at my buddy's resort. His dad takes all of us out fishing for a few days, and after a few "sodas" we got to talking about the difference between the northern and southern parts of Minnesota. My buddy's dad was saying that in the last few years northern Minnesota has grown a lot in terms of popoulation and has turned some of the natural habitats into urban areas. He said that one of the rrasons that people move or live up hre is to get away from all of that stuff, but at the sdame time start doing those things themselves. He said that he expects much of northern Minnesota to look differently in the next five or ten years, which is terrible considering it is the nicest part of the state.

Posted by at 12:52 PM

It seems to me that there is a definate correlation between the ever rising population of the United States and land use and management, or lack there of. In class we wee talking about urbanizing new parts of the country and in turn ruining natural habitats, and it is interesting to wonder how much longer this can go on until there are no more areas to urbanize. This past summer I was up north in Baudette, MN at my buddy's resort. His dad takes all of us out fishing for a few days, and after a few "sodas" we got to talking about the difference between the northern and southern parts of Minnesota. My buddy's dad was saying that in the last few years northern Minnesota has grown a lot in terms of popoulation and has turned some of the natural habitats into urban areas. He said that one of the rrasons that people move or live up hre is to get away from all of that stuff, but at the sdame time start doing those things themselves. He said that he expects much of northern Minnesota to look differently in the next five or ten years, which is terrible considering it is the nicest part of the state.

Posted by at 12:52 PM

Wolves to take over Yellowstone?

Ten years ago, 14 wolves were re-introduced to Yellowstone National Park after a long absence from the park. Now there are about 130 wolves among 13 packs. The effects from the wolves presence has grabbed the attention of many scientists. The major changes noted are the return of the willow shoots near the river and changes among the elk population. The elk population in the park have eaten these plants for many years, but with the roaming wolf packs, the elk's have taken refuge on higher ground, where they have a 360 degree view to watch for their predators; the wolves. Douglas Smith, a wolf biologist says," Wolves have caused a trophic cascade...wolves are at the top of it all here. They change the conditions for everyone else, even the willows".
What does this mean for the elk population, and the other wildlife in the park? Yellowstone has one of the largest population of elk in the world. As of now, the population has dropped from 19,000 in 1994 to about 11,000 currently. Smith says that wolves can't be blamed for the dramatic decrease; there are other factord that have caused the elk population to decline. The United States Geological Survey and the University of Minnesota released a study showing that Grizzlies were responsible for 53% of all elk deaths, while only 13% were linked to wolves. William Ripple, a professor of botany at Oregon State University, calls the process the "ecology of fear," which has allowed the vegetation of the park to thrive where it once had because of the changes amongst the elk. Other scientists agree with the research but say it's incomplete. Robert Crabtree, a canid biologist says, "... the research has ignored climate change and flooding, which have also had an effect on vegetation."
The wolves in the park are not hunted, however diseases brought in by other dogs, and cars pose threats to their population. In the last ten years, 14 wolves have been killed by cars; 8 of them were killed at mile marker 30. The virus carried by dogs, parvovirus, has been attributed to killing 60-70% of the wolf pups over the last year. They are currently researching more about this virus, and how to protect the wolves from it.
I think this topic is very important, and also is an amazing opportunity to see how major changes in an ecosystem affect the balance of an ecosystem. There seems to be a ripple effect, and the wolves are at the center of this ripple. It will be interesting to see how Yellowstone's ecosystem continues to change and adapt to its new inhabitants.

Posted by at 12:19 PM

Reefs at Risk

The world's coral reefs are one of the most intricately balanced and largest sources of biodiversity on the planet. They are home to thousands of unique creatures that can only survive in the reef environment. Many peoples and animals depend on the reefs for their livelihood. However, their lifestyles may need to change if current trends remain intact.
To understand the reef's vital role, some basics are necessary. Coral reefs are some of the oldest living things on the planet. They have been around for 225 million years, and some living coral today can be dated back about 2.5 million years. At their most basic level, coral reefs are simply polyp cities. Coral polyps are actually the thin layer that covers all coral reefs and provides energy to fuel the entire reef community. Living coral polyps are animals that can be as small as an infant’s fingernail with a mouth and tentacles to capture plankton and organic matter floating in the sea. These animals contain algae called zooxanthellae, which convert sunlight to fuel by the process of photosynthesis, and derive nutrients from the polyp wastes in the process. The zooxanthellae are the life force of the polyp; if the zooxanthellae die, the polyp dies and the reef, once host of living creatures, will become a stony, lifeless structure. Reefs form when individual coral polyps reproduce and grow on the skeleton of the last layer. This process, over time, produces a reef, a more fantastic structure than man could ever create.
Coral reefs have an immense impact on the world. Not only do they house one out of every four sea creatures, but they also provide a great livelihood and intrinsic value for humans. The majority (>50%) of the world's population live along coastal regions, a third of which have coral reefs. Coral reefs provide these people with a buffer from storms and erosion, a source of medicines, building materials such as limestone, and most importantly, food. Worldwide, 30-40 million people depend upon coral reefs for food. This environment plays an enormous role in the everyday lives of these people.
Although these reefs seem to be a blessing to the planet, humans don't seem to treat them that way. According to www.globalissues.org, over 20% of the world's coral reefs have been completely destroyed and show little to no chance of recovering. An even more devastating figure from the world resources institute states that at least 60% of the world's coral reefs are threatened by human activity. This type of stress on such a delicate environment can and does have devastating results, not only effecting water-laden creatures, but the entire food chain.
There are many causes of the vast destruction of these coral reefs, all due to human activity. A few of the main concerns are as follows: dense coastal development, pollution, erosion, overexploitation and tourism, over fishing and a practice called blast fishing, weather pattern change possibly caused by global warming, and disease. All of these could be discussed at great length. However, in order to keep this brief, I just want to mention just a few things. In regards to coastal development, according to statistics most people are attracted to living along the ocean. As shoreline cities and towns grow, however, so does the threat to nearby reefs. To begin with, space on coastlines is often limited, which leads to airports and more being built on reefs. These structures attract business, which increases shipping, the risk of oil spills, and the dredging of harbors. Mining is also a problem. Sand and limestone, which are used to make glass and cement, are often mined for their use in these construction materials. Since the limestone is the very substance that holds the coral together, much of the reef being mined is destroyed for it. As if these things didn’t harm the coral enough, humans release mass amounts of pesticides, pollutants, and sewage into the water. These along with mammoth quantities of sediment, either from heavy land clearing and construction or erosion, tend to smother the coral, block the sunlight, and stop the growth of the coral. If this continues, the zooxanthellae are unable to photosynthesize and abandon the coral to their death. In addition to this, the human feces and agricultural runoff carry diseases that don't effect their human and plant carriers but can wipe out entire coral reefs. By dumping sewage and other wastes, entire reefs can be stricken with disease and die out.
As if this indirect destruction is not enough, there are also many direct destructive actions taken by man to annihilate entire spans of reef. As mentioned earlier, a practice called blast fishing. In blast fishing, a lethal mixture of fertilizer and diesel oil is put into sticks of dynamite, the same explosive favored by most terrorists. Fishermen then drop ignited sticks from their small fishing boats above the reefs, wait for them to detonate, and proceed to capture as many fish as possible. Usually, one fisherman dives into the reef to extract the fish caught in the rubble while another remains in the boat and snags the fish that float to the surface. The explosion causes the swim bladder of fish to rupture, which kills them. This causes them to float to the surface for easy retrieval. Another disgusting practice is called cyanide fishing. Fishermen execute this by first creating a solution of crushed cyanide tablets and seawater. Once on the reef, the solution is dumped into the water. This solution stuns any fish that come into contact with it. The fishermen waste no time getting into the water and capturing as many stunned fish as they can find. They also bring along a bottle of cyanide solution to “puff” at unaffected fish. As if clearing out all the fish in an entire span of reef isn’t enough, the fishermen will then use a crowbar to hammer the corals apart for any stunned fish that may have been hiding or caught in them. They then leave the broken, empty reef and proceed further down to do this again. The saddest part of this is that these animals are being stunned so that they can later be sold by the hundreds of thousands to restaurants or even pet stores for a straight profit. These practices are an ideal example of how steps need to be taken in order to stop these direct acts of malice towards the world's coral reefs.
Coral reefs are an extremely important part of the natural ecosystem. They provide for the marine environment as well as give humans abundant resources and enjoyment. Currently, 20% of the world's reefs are destroyed and over one-third are damaged. In fifty years, over 75% of the reefs are expected to be suffering from human activity. This is an unnacceptable situation. Humans must take action to reverse this course before it is too late. Biodiversity and the good of all the planet depends upon our actions. Humans need to step down and join the natural world as a part of it, another creature, living with the rest of nature, not against it.

Posted by at 10:39 AM

October 18, 2005

Shrinking Polar Cap

Recent discoveries have shown that the Arctic ice sheet shrunk to its smallest size ever recorded this summer. While this shrinking threatens wildlife and ancient cultures, it also brings the dark idea that global warming is a reality. Over the past fifty years, the air over the Arctic Ocean has experienced a raise in temperatures around 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The size of the sheet the sheet on the last day of summer was 2.05 million square miles, which may seem like a large expanse, but it lost a land size almost twice the area of Texas. Scientists say that at this rate, by the end of the century the ice sheet may disappear for entire summers. Also, ice reflects some of the sun's energy, so when there is less area of ice, there is more expanse of ocean which readily absorbs solar energy, raising the water temperature, surrounding air, and potentially the earth’s temperature. As the Arctic continues to shrink in area, new issues are going to arise, such as shifting breeding grounds for animals, loss of Inuit lifestyle and the opening waterway for trade, that will forever change our way of life. Whales and codfish use the Arctic waters for breeding grounds and will be benefited by the melting, according to Time. However, polar bears spend summers stranded on land during summers after the ice melts, relying on fat reserves until the ices comes back and they can return to fishing. If the ice continues to shrink, polar bears will have to spend more and more time on land, and more will die of hunger. Eventually, polar bears may become extinct due to the lack of ice and therefore food. According to the Arctic Research Commission, "Climate warming is likely to bring extensive fishing activity to the Arctic, particularly in the Barents Sea and Beaufort-Chukchi region where commercial operations have been minimal in the past." The commission has also shown that snow crabs are moving away from Alaska, towards Russia. These drastic changes in aquatic life patterns make me question how natural this melting could be. These animals have remained in generally the same area for many years, and all of sudden, all of them seem to be migrating. What happens if some of the aquatic life remains stationed while others move? The aquatic cycle will almost certainly become unbalanced, and who knows what changes that will bring. Experts say there are impending issues that need to be discussed including "the availability and potential for exploitation of energy, fisheries and other resources, access to new sea routes, new claims under Law of the Sea, national security, and others.'' Already a complex, the Shnohvit, is being built with the capacity to receive and liquefy natural gas from the Barent's Sea for shipping. According to the USGS, "one quarter of the world's undiscovered oil and gas resources lies in the Arctic." About 4 million, including 150,000 Inuit, live within the Arctic. It is surprising how little the average person hears, or even knows, about the Arctic, but as Sheila Watt-Cloutier, leader of a transnational Inuit group, says, "As long as it's ice nobody cares except us, because we hunt and fish and travel on that ice. However, the minute it starts to thaw and becomes water, then the whole world is interested." This impending future for the Arctic is worrisome. This expanse of ice is the home of several species that, if the ice disappears, will be unable to survive anywhere else. Not to mention the severe loss of culture and lifestyle of the Inuit people that has survived centuries. With the possibility of oil, this area will become severely trafficked, and the feuds between countries over fishing grounds and oil resources could end in wars. This discovery also brings about the question of whether this is purely a natural phenomenon, or whether the shrinking was brought about by global warming. Although there have been cycles in the climate of the world for years, a change of 5 degrees is hard to dismiss. This paired with the huge area change, and the fact that this year on August 28, Russia sent a research ship to the pole without the help of an icebreaker for the first time in history, makes it hard to dismiss this shrinkage as purely a climactic cycling. It is worrisome, though, because if effects like these are already showing, and it takes years for many atmospheric gasses to impact the greenhouse effect, even if the emission of greenhouse gasses could all of a sudden be stopped, there would still be a strong possibility of huge area change of the Arctic ice. Even if the melting of the ice and therefore the opening of the Arctic for natural gas and oil drilling would be beneficial for the depleted fossil fuel amounts, it is just not natural. The Arctic is a vital area for biodiversity, and for the maintenance of the earth’s climate. Who knows what negative impacts will present themselves once this ice is melted, and once it is, there is no way of refreezing it, or reversing the process.

Posted by at 7:55 PM

Biodiesel and common misconception

As I did research on my debt for Ethanol I came across a lot of articles and blogs that stated a lot of misconceptions about bio fuels. Such as in one article where One journalist stated that a vehicle would have to go though major mechanical changes to use high level of biodiesel. The diesel engine is probably the most flexible engine ever created and people are just now rediscovering this fact. Biodiesel being sold today is usually B20 20% biodiesel and 80% petroleum based diesel. There are two main reasons why B100 (100% biodiesel) isn’t being used. First people think that their diesel engine isn’t made to run off of vegetable oil based diesel. Second older diesel may use natural rubber in the areas of the vehicle that fuel runs through and bio diesel eats away natural rubber. Most new vehicles use artificial rubber components so they are already ready to use B100.
Now I know I basically said that the journalist was wrong in stating that there needed to be major modifications to the engine and it may look as if I am contradicting myself. But I am not. Changing out the real rubber in a vehicle with artificial rubber is considerably cheap and could be done in one day. Plus the biodiesel cleans out the deposits left behind by petroleum-based diesels, running your vehicle better and longer.
When Rudolph Diesel introduced the diesel engine at the Exhibition Fair in Paris, France in 1898 the only words he said before starting it was “Peanut oil” and then started it right up. The reason petroleum is use today was because producing it was much cheaper than producing vegetable oil. Today we are going back to that original concept of using vegetable oil as a fuel source; will at least as part of the fuel source.
On a side note, there are even companies that specialize in converting diesel engines to run off of vegetable oil alone. A conversion kit runs about $600 to $800 depending on what company you get it from and what type of kit you get. But don’t expect to get a conversion kit from here in the United States because it won’t happen. The US patent for a kit was bought off by an oil company and is not expected to show up as a product you can buy anytime soon. But there are two good companies outside the US, one in Canada and one in Germany. If you use waste oil from, say a local restaurant your fuel would be practically free and the restaurant would love to give it to you.
I believe once people are informed properly they will act and this would be a great thing to act on.
There is good information on http://www.biodiesel.org/resources/fuelfactsheets/default.shtm check it out!

Posted by at 5:23 PM

What areas of the world are worth conserving?

The article Dollars and Sense in Nature magazine raises the question we touched on in class. What areas of the world are worth conserving? As we learned, there are certain biological “hot spots”, originally proposed by Norman Myers. These areas cover roughly 2.3 % of Earth’s land surface, are relatively isolated, and contain a large number of species that do not exist anywhere else. Many of these ecosystems are under protection for this reason. However, there are some people who think money could be spent conserving more valuable areas. Scientists such as Hugh Possingham and Peter Kareiva instead stress the importance of focusing on preserving areas that are ecologically significant to the greater environment and to humans. For example, conservation movements should be implemented on the boreal forests of Russia and Canada. These forests act as a major carbon sink and acts as a natural break on the greenhouse effect. Along with being environmentally significant, there is a general consensus that the area should be economically significant.
The problem comes in determining what is significant. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment identifies 24 ecosystem services. Areas such as mangroves, which protect coastlines during hurricanes and tsunamis along with wetlands that filter and store water are environmentally significant. For example, it is estimated that coffee yields in Costa Rica could have increased by 20% if the surrounding forest had been preserved. These ecosystems that are determined to be significant don’t necessarily have a diverse population of animals, like the identified “hot spots”. Here another question comes up; is it better to save an individual species or an entire ecosystem?
In my opinion, it is better to save an entire ecosystem rather than focusing on an individual species. The functions of an entire ecological system are far greater than the effect of one species. In some cases, another species can take over if one becomes extinct. It may throw off the balance for a while, but extinction is a natural process. If an entire ecosystem is destroyed, there is nothing to take its place and do its job.
Yes there are a large number of species that are endangered of becoming extinct. They may have a huge impact on the environment. There are reasons to protect certain animals. However, when it comes down to whether we should save biological “hot spots” or ecosystems that serve a beneficial purpose to the greater environment, I favor the entire ecosystem.

Posted by at 2:23 PM

NNL of wetlands, is it actually working?

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act allowa the discharge or filling of wetlands to be allowed if the applicant has shown that all possible efforts to avoid the destruction of the wetland have been made. After that has been proved, the No Net Loss(NNL) goal requires that the applicant replace and wetlands lost by either restoring a pre-existing wetland or constructing a new wetland.

Obviously, wetlands are an important aspect of MN, and trying to keep the wetlands functioning is a good way to keep MN land sustainable, but it has been shown by the MN DNR that flaws are very common with the NNR reconstruction program. The first problem noticed was that the builders of the new wetlands seemed to be unskilled or unintrested in wetland ecocolgy, so the wetlands built are not functioning as a wetland. The second problem noticed was that wetlands built near to the site of draining or filling a wetland have been shown to be unsucessful over time even if they were constructed properly. This is because the devolopement done on the original wetland has altered the land form and the waterflow causing the wetlands to fail. It was noticed that very few constructed wetlands were constructed properly and working properly as a wetland. The inadequate construction can be linked to the expenses involved in constructing a wetland, but it shouldn't matter because the company agreed to reconstruct what they have damaged in the first place.
Research done by the MN DNR has shown that the quality of some wetlands is so poor that they don't even qualify as wetlands. That means that we are still loosing actual wetlands, even though the number of "wetlands" is slightly increasing, the number of sucessful functioning wetlands is decreasing.

That being said, i ask my self who is to blame? well, according to the MN DNR most of the problem is being caused not by farmers, but by contractors for construction, and housing devolopement. The next quiestion that poped into my head is why dosen't the goverment paying closer attention to what wetlands are being constructed. Because it's the sucessful wetlands that are important to MN habitat. I think that more strict guidelines need to be set for the construction of wetlands, and that there should be punishment for not following all of thoes guidelines.

Information found at wwww.choicemagizine.org, "The future of wetlands, Migitation banking" by lenord Shabman and Paul Scodari. And, www.dnr.state.mn, "How to recover ducks: key action for improving habitat", by Ray Norrgard.

Posted by at 12:49 PM

NNL of wetlands, is it actually working?

Section 404 of the Clean Water Act allowa the discharge or filling of wetlands to be allowed if the applicant has shown that all possible efforts to avoid the destruction of the wetland have been made. After that has been proved, the No Net Loss(NNL) goal requires that the applicant replace and wetlands lost by either restoring a pre-existing wetland or constructing a new wetland.

Obviously, wetlands are an important aspect of MN, and trying to keep the wetlands functioning is a good way to keep MN land sustainable, but it has been shown by the MN DNR that flaws are very common with the NNR reconstruction program. The first problem noticed was that the builders of the new wetlands seemed to be unskilled or unintrested in wetland ecocolgy, so the wetlands built are not functioning as a wetland. The second problem noticed was that wetlands built near to the site of draining or filling a wetland have been shown to be unsucessful over time even if they were constructed properly. This is because the devolopement done on the original wetland has altered the land form and the waterflow causing the wetlands to fail. It was noticed that very few constructed wetlands were constructed properly and working properly as a wetland. The inadequate construction can be linked to the expenses involved in constructing a wetland, but it shouldn't matter because the company agreed to reconstruct what they have damaged in the first place.
Research done by the MN DNR has shown that the quality of some wetlands is so poor that they don't even qualify as wetlands. That means that we are still loosing actual wetlands, even though the number of "wetlands" is slightly increasing, the number of sucessful functioning wetlands is decreasing.

That being said, i ask my self who is to blame? well, according to the MN DNR most of the problem is being caused not by farmers, but by contractors for construction, and housing devolopement. The next quiestion that poped into my head is why dosen't the goverment paying closer attention to what wetlands are being constructed. Because it's the sucessful wetlands that are important to MN habitat. I think that more strict guidelines need to be set for the construction of wetlands, and that there should be punishment for not following all of thoes guidelines.

Information found at wwww.choicemagizine.org, "The future of wetlands, Migitation banking" by lenord Shabman and Paul Scodari. And, www.dnr.state.mn, "How to recover ducks: key action for improving habitat", by Ray Norrgard.

Posted by at 12:49 PM

Logging and medicines

In another class I wrote a speech on the logging of rainforests and it effects on habitat and human health. While doing research I found amazing facts about bioprospecting. Basically bioprospecting is where the "U.S. pharmaceutical manufacturers are involved in research programs to discover new drugs or cures from plants," (http://www.rain-tree.com/facts.htm). One of the plants I found paticullarly interesting was the Madagascar periwinkle. The Madagascar periwinkle has completly changed the survival rate of childhood leukemia. Before this drug there were 8 out of 10 children with leukemia dying from the diesease and now 8 out of 10 children survive. I think that is amazing and I just cant help to wonder, how many cures or treatments that we have lost due to deforestation of rainforests with the loss of plants and animals.
The same website states that we lose 137 species everyday and that is a huge potential that we are losing as well, because over "25% of prescriptions are filled with drugs whose active ingredients are extracted or derived from plants."

Posted by at 12:04 PM

October 17, 2005

When to stop!

I recently read an article in the Minnesota Daily titled, "Rules would ease limits on pollution." The article discusses how the Bush administration is proposing new regulations that would allow power plants to emit even more pollutants into the air annually. The new regulations would deter even more the effect of the Clean Air Act that is now instated. The article especially highlighted the push towards furthering industry over valuing our precious resource of clean air! They further proved this with several quotes from EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson. He said, " We want to remove any unnecessary obstacles. We're focused on practical, achievable, results that don't get delayed by years of litigation." The regulations would mostly benefit coal burning industries which the EPA claims have been getting cleaner. Further research has shown that contrary to their claims many east coast power plants decised to not install the much needed newer controls, that help clean up sulfur dioxide. It closes in stating that the Clean Air Act was created to help insure our right to have clean air, but revisions are infringing on that right.

After reading the article one question remained in my mind. When do we stop? I was reminded of a postcard I received once that said, "Only when the last tree has been cut down...Only when the last river has been poisoned...Only when the last fish has been caught...Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten." If we continually loosen regulations on the Clean Air Act, than what is the point of it! It was created to protect the air and help create a cleaner future, adjustment of its regulations will contradict its purpose and impair its affectiveness.

I was especially interested in this article becuase the Clean Air Act is my topic for the upcoming debate. I realize that as a nation we need to concern ourselves with our economy and industry falls into that catagory, but in my opinion our environmental health is more important. We must all be aware of future generations that will be forced to live with the resources we have left them. Furthermore, effects or air pollution are severly effecting us now. Increased global warming due to high pollution levels are gradually raising the temperature of the ocean and hurting valuable ecosystems. Smog is making living in cities a health risk. People are developing asthma, and these are all just the effects we know about now, Who knows about what the long term affects will be! I do not think helping industry is worth this global loss.

Reflecting on this brought me to an even deeper issue, the overall overemphasis our nation make of immediate financial benefit over longterm global benefit. In my recent astronomy class we discussed global warming and the fight against it. All the nations of the world proposed that every country should sign an act that would commit to lowering levels of emissions to prevent further global warming. The only opposition to it cam from the only two countries who refused to sign it; Australia and the United States. This topic is far to broad to attack in one blog, but it does raise several questions that we should all personally address. Questions such as: "Do we support our government in loosening regulations on the Clean Air Act?", "How to voice out opinions for/against the proposals.", and "What do we as a nation value?". Hopefully, advancement in public awareness in this subject will lead to our country taking responsibilty to our affects on the environment and joining this century!

Posted by at 11:59 PM

The Carolina Bays

The Carolina Bays are shallow depressions that run along the coastal plains from Georgia to Maryland, although they are found mostly in the Carolinas. A small portion of a bay holds more biodiversity than acres of the surrounding areas, making them a mystery to researchers still, since their discovery in the 1930s. They are home to a variety of organisms, including bears, deer, bobcats, orchids, pitcher plants, wire grass, and venus flytraps. In fact, the bays are the only place that venus flytraps are found in the wild.

They are also home to reptiles and amphibians as the dry land that they thrive on is then conveniently close to the water they need to lay eggs. When the bays are undisturbed, their life cycle is driven by fire. The dry areas burn every two to three years from the water's edge to the thick marshy shrubs that mark their border. Jim Luken, a biology professor at Coastal Carolina University, has been studying the Carolina Bays for over four years. He commented that although he has been to the bays hundreds of times, everytime he's out there, he sees something new.
The Lewis Ocean Bay Heritage Preserve covers 6000 acres. It is currently surrounded by two highways and there are plans for a third which will cut through one of the greatest concentration of bays. A new subdivision is also being built off of these highways that will bring over 22,000 homes to the edges of the bays, threatening the survival of these depressions.
If we continue to build wherever we want, we may never find out why theses depressions are there and the importance of them. The venus flytraps bring many visitors and tourists to the preserves, but even the preserves could be threatened if we dont stop to think about what the consequences of our actions are.

Posted by at 2:44 PM

More and More is leading us to Less and Less

I think a lot of what we think of today as "enviornmenaly friendly" is really looking at short term problems in the United States. Today in class we just had a debate on Ethanol as a fuel used to replace fossil fuels like gasoline. Both sides of the argument did a wonderful job of arguing their facts and reason why is should or should not be used, but again, I think the argument was mainly focusing on our short term problem of how efficient and cost effective the new fuel would be. (Not even going into the topic of ethanol production itself merly bringing in new environmental problems insead of what we have now) I believe that this brings us to the typical U.S. believe that more and more for cheeper means better....which is entily wrong. To look at environmenatal issues effectivly you have to look at something long term and globaly. One of our biggest problems today is mearly the fact that our lifestyles are structured in a way that we NEED a car to fufill our everyday needs like work, school, shopping. America should be looking into ways of living where a car isn't needed in the first place. More efficient and cheeping fuel means Americans travel further to work and spend more time on the road rather than going the same amount of distance, just with better fuel. 3 billion dollars a year are lost by American's siting in traffic (Environmental Science, A Global Concern), and what do we do? We build more and more roads which in turn leads to people driving further and futher to where they need to go...encouraging urban sprawl because people don't need to live close to the cities anymore to work there. What we need to do is start seeing that we need to start living and building more sustainibly.

One of my favorite places to go is Milwaukee Ave. in Minneapolis. It is a neighborhood of smaller houses all linked together by not a road, but a sidewalk. I first visited this community of sustainable developed houses on a field trip at my old high school (School of Environmental Science at the Minnesota Zoo). Since then I have visited the neighborhood a number of times, and everytime I go I find myself in complete and utter awe. The since of community these people have is amazing, the people are friendly and watch out for each other. I remember on my fieldtrip when talking with a resident of Milwaukee Ave the women expressed how nice it was to have a commons between the houses instead of a roadway which made a nice safe area for the children to play.
The houses are put together closely with open space available in the community. The houses are set close to the sidewalks to encourage communication between people and make that community feeling. The sidewalks encourage walking and the land is mixed use. There are commercial shopping areas right around the corner from these houses where residents can walk to get groceries and do their day to day activities without the need or use of a car. The people also have easy access to the buss systems in Minneapolis by the buss stop right at the corner. The roadways that connect to these houses are in the back of the houses (along with the garages) making the garage less of an center focus on the house. Sustainable design and development really is a wonderful thing.
After growing up in the typical middle class suburb I can really see the benefits to this deign techniques as explained in the book "Suburban Nation." Suburban nation talks about having land that is mixed use instead of zoning large areas of land, enfisis on sidewalks instead of roadways, reducing suburban sprawl by putting houses closer together, leaving green space in communities, mixed income housing, and a variety of other topics related to sustainable design. While it takes much more in depth planning to create a community like that of Milwaukee ave it is well worth it. All communities are not planned this was due to uncontrollable growth and city limits way too big creating suburban sprawl along with developers trying to make the maximum amount of money they can. I believe that these design techniques are the first step to making our communities safer and more sustainable.

Posted by at 1:36 PM

October 16, 2005

Air pollution, vehicle reliance, and human health effects.

I have been thinking about the lecture on urbanization that we had on Thursday. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is our heavy reliance on vehicles and on the highway system. This reliance on vehicles causes extreme air pollution and as a result of this, eventual health effects.

A major source of air pollution is the exhaust from the tail pipes of trucks and cars. Dangerous pollutants are released on a daily basis from our extensive network of highways that often border neighborhoods and businesses. According to a recent report from The Sierra Club, these pollutants have been cited to cause numerous health effects including caner, asthma, and heart attacks. The National Health Institute reports that Asthma is the number one chronic illness among American children and in the past 20 years the number of children with Asthma has risen by 85%. It is also cited that children who live within 400 yards of a road that has more than 20,000 or more vehicles per day are 8 times more likely to get Leukemia.

These disturbing statistics are reason to examine our reliance on vehicles. According to our textbook, the average American spends 430 hours hours behind the wheel every year. Millions of people commute long distances to work every day. The American highway system is well used and well funded-- the US Department of Transportation cites that 80% percent of federal funding for transport goes towards highways.

There are solutions available. The first is to encourage citizens to live closer to their work place. This is a tricky issue as suburban and country real estate is attractive and comfortable, but if more people lived closer to their place of employment, the use of highways and vehicles would decrease, therefore helping the air pollution problem. On the other hand, people who live close to where they work should be encouraged to not use vehicles at all for commuting.

Another solution is the improvement of public transport. Making public transport wide reaching, efficient, and affordable could significantly decrease vehicle reliance. Currently there is a senate bill (HR 1071) that is proposing to cut funding for public transport. This is a problem as many cities (including our own) have inadequate transport systems to begin with. In many cases, citizen’s lifestyle choices prevail, but improving and promoting public transport could help our grave air pollution problem.

The children of this country are becoming ill because of air pollution. It’s important that we act now to decrease our reliance on gas guzzling vehicles and the highway system.

For more information check out www.sierraclub.org/sprawl and www.dot.gov (The Department of Transportation web site)

Posted by at 5:23 PM

Subdiving the North Country: 10/16 Article in the Star Tribune

Who wouldn’t want to own secluded lake-front property? This is exactly the problem that three northern Minnesota counties are facing. St Louis, Lake, and Cook counties all have acres and acres of heavily forested land that, until recently, was entirely inaccessible. But with more and more people interested in owning a cabin or retirement home, developers aren’t sitting around. Increasingly, land has become accessible by new roads or by boat. And prices are skyrocketing: one undeveloped 80-acre piece of land sold for $19,300 in 2000, resold in 2002 for $120,000, sold again for $299,000 in 2003 with the addition of a road, and is now on the market yet again. The asking price is $695,000.

Of course, the development of this land is also raising several problems. Those who have lived on a quiet lake for years are suddenly experiencing noisy construction and lakes overrun by huge motor boats. Habitat destruction and fragmentation are happening left and right. What were once serenely beautiful lakeshores now resemble high-price suburbs.

In my opinion, there is no reasonable way to keep these areas from being developed; I understand the need to escape from everyday life. But I think that dividing the land into smaller and smaller pieces will just lead to more suburb-like developments. This sacrifices the beauty and isolation of the area, devalues the land, and forces people to find other, more secluded, places to get away to. The best approach might be to create some limits and such on the development of this amazing resource. I guess my opinion is best summarized by what Fitz Fitzgerald, the conservation director of the Minnesota Land Trust in Ely, had to say on the subject in the Star Tribune article: “I can’t find fault with people who like the area, but that’s why we need some limitations and controls over how the areas are expanded and developed—so it doesn’t look just like the areas they’re trying to escape.”

Of course, there is opposition to this viewpoint. Many say that this would limit development and force prices so high that most people would not be able to afford the land. Cabins and houses built in clumps so as to leave as much shoreline untouched as possible is a good idea from an environmental perspective, but do not sell well because most people want secluded cabins and their own bit of shoreline, not some that they must share with ten or twenty other landowners.

The only thing that everyone really agrees on is that there is no easy answer to this problem. We must try to figure out a solution that works for the land owners, developers, and environmentalists.

If you’d like to read the article, go to: http://www.startribune.com/stories/110/5670338.html

Posted by at 2:55 PM

October 14, 2005

Risks are Important

I read the editorial titled Risks and Risks that Jennifer sent me in the email. The article basically talked about how every decision society makes has a benefit and a risk. For example there are medications that people can take for a head ache but that same medication may have a warrning on the side of the bottle. That warning could be concidered the risk for taking that medication. Everything that may help us could also be hurting us or our environment. The question to ask is Are the benefits greater than the cost or risks? I know that for me risks are bigger than benefit when it comes time to look at what is being harmed in the situation.

Posted by at 1:39 PM

October 13, 2005

Global Warming and Hurricanes

I recently read an article in Time magazine about the correlation of global warming and intensity of hurricanes. As of late there has been a lot of awareness of both hurricanes Rita and Katrina because of the immense amount of damage they have done. Both were absurdly destructive, reaching Category 5’s before becoming land locked. Is there really a correlation between global warming and the intensity of these storms? That’s exactly what I asked myself before I read this article.

There seems to be a direct correlation between the temperature in the waters and how strong the storm is. “When ocean temperatures rise, so does the mount of water vapor in the air. A moister atmosphere helps fuel storms by giving then more spit out in the form of rain and by helping drive the convection that gives them their lethal spin” (Kluger, 44). The number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has nearly doubled annually since the 1970s. Because of things like urbanization and chemical use, global warming is an extremely important issue.

If we could somehow slow down global warming, maybe the intensity of these storms would decrease as well. Population is always an issue; the world population is growing at an alarming rate and no one knows what the threshold is. The uses of things such as pesticides pollute the water thus increasing the temperature. Asking people to stop using pesticides and running factories immediately is impractical, but if we stop slowly will it really help?

Kluger, Jeffery. "Global Warming: The Culprit?." October 3 2005: 43-46.

Posted by at 11:12 PM

Ethanol Production

I have been doing a lot of research on ethanol production lately, and the more I am finding, I am seeing that it is a great alternative to gasoline. According to the National Conference of State Legislators, a governement organization, http://www.ncsl.org/programs/energy/ethinc.htm, in Minnesota there is a $.20 per gallon producer credit. This producer credit applies to the first 15 million gallons per plant per year. According to this site there is a $3 million annual cap per plant. The cap lasts for 10 years from the production of the plant's first start-up. There is no tax exemption on the 10% blend, however there is a $.058 tax exemption on E85.
Tens of millions of Americans' current usage of gasoline for cars does not meet at least one of our countries requirements for the Clean Air Act, according to the US Department of Energy, a government organization, http://www.eere.energy.gov/biomass/environmental.html. However, if we were to switch to using biofuels, such as ethanol, would reduce "visible smoke, odor, and toxic emissions." Some of the toxic emissions that would be reduced are: carbondioxide, hydrocarbons, particulates, nitrogen oxides, air toxins, and mutagencitity. We would also reduce the risk of groundwatercontamination from underground gasoline storage units. This would also reduce the runoff of vehicle engine oil and fuel.
I think that ethanol production should conitue to grow and we should start switching over to using more and more of it. It would help to clean up our air, and though the economic benefits do not seem large at first, they will add up fast. We would also be saving money on the programs we fund to help work towards cleaner air, becasue using ethanol is helping to make our air cleaner. This is not going to be an easy transition, however the process has already started to happen and it is improving our environment. It will take some sacrifices from everyone, such as having ethanol compatable parts put into their cars to update older cars, but the new cars are already being built to be compatible with E85. People are starting to make the change because they can see the rewards that it will bring for the environment, as well as the economy, I think we should all think about making the switch, the data shows us that it is worth it.

Posted by at 7:23 PM

October 12, 2005

Intense Drought in the Amazon

The world's largest rainforest, the Amazon Rainforest, is currently suffering from one of the worst droughts in the past 40 years. Because of this drought, there have been: wildfires, unsafe drinking water, and a depletion of fish in the area. I fisherman from the Amazon basin leaves of us with the image of, "Thousands of rotting fish line the dry banks."

Some scientists believe that high temperatures in the ocean (caused by global warming) are the causes of such drought. Other scientists feel that the rising air, which causes storms, may have caused the air in the Amazon to move down and therefore losing the precious cloud formations that bring rain. Another theory of the droughts is because of current deforestation the moisture in the air is lost without the supply of trees, then causing more intense sunlight.
People of the area now can drive where they once swam. Because of the increasing heat farmers now have to clear many pastures that are now susceptible of wildfires. About 100,000 hectares of forest have now been burned since the drought began and the smoke has even shut down local airports. Gilberto Barbosa, the secretary of public administration in Manaquiri said, "We closed 40 schools and canceled the school year because there's a lack of food, transport and potable water." This drought has affected many throughout the Amazon.
A current fear now is that the still water will produce possible outbreak of malaria, and medicine is now much harder to reach without water transportation. To settle these fears, the state government has distributed 5 tons of basic medicines to different villages.
This drought has become a serious economic problem for the people and environment of the Amazon. It has already affected their agriculture, transportation, health, education, as well as, the biodiversity in the rainforest.

Posted by at 12:01 AM

October 10, 2005

Facts re: Healthy Forest Restoration Act

The Healthy Forests Restoration Act was signed into law on Dec. 3 2003. The full text of the Act can be found on http://thomas.loc.gov/. Type in HR 1904 and then go to the enrolled bill and it's supporting documents. However, to summarize here is what the Act will do: Reduce dense undergrowth that fuels catastophic fires through thinning and prescribed burns; Improve public involvement, select projects on a collaborative basis, involving local and tribal and state governments. Focus projects on Federal lands that meet strict criteria for risk of wild fire damage to communities, water supply systems and the environment; Authorize the Healthy Forests Reserve Program, to protect, restore and enhance degraded forested ecosystems on private lands to promote the recovery of threatened and endangered species. "It will encourage biomass energy production through grants and assistance to local communities creating market incentives for removal of otherwise valueless forest material;" and it will develop an accelerated program on certain Federal lands to combat insect infestations.

For an easier read Doug MacCleery of the USDA/Forest Service wrote a summary of the Act Dec. 11, 2003 entitled Healthy Forest Restoration Act: What does it do? Three other articles that are essential reading for backround on forest management are " Effect of thinning and prescribed burning on Crown Fire Severity in Ponderosa Forests by Jolie Pollet and Phillip N. Omi, Hayman Fire Case Study: Summary by Russel T. Graham (Technical Editor) and Fire Fight by Paul Trachtman. Each will give a comprehensive perspective on what land managers have been dealing with for years. Oh, and don't forget to think about the Blue Skies Initiative and President Bush's Initiative to Stop Illegal Logging while you learn about the Healthy Forest Restoration Act.

Posted by at 12:06 PM

October 9, 2005

Badgers vs Cattle

An article titled, "Badger cull 'must be considered' " found on the BBC News website expresses controversy over the source of bovine tuberculosis found in cattle. The British Veterinary Association expresses concern w/ the amount of money lost in the farming industry due to the disease, so they are calling for a cull of badgers. The badgers are believed to be a transporter of the disease, however there is debate over the validity of this statement. The BVA is frusterated because it desires the government to take quicker action in controlling the badger population. Meanwhile, there is not yet enough scientific information to support the extent to which badgers contribute to bovine TB in cattle. Personally, I think funding should be directed towards more research in the area of badgers and bovine TB so that ultimately less money will be spent on treating cattle disease. Plus, it's important to the human population as well since this is the beef that people are eating.

Posted by at 2:09 PM

October 4, 2005

Evolution is a "Believed" Observation

What are we teaching about science in school these days? What will we be teaching in the near future? Teaching evolution is under attack in the state of Kansas. A school district in Dover Pennsylvania has been sued by parents of an high school student for requiring teachers to discuss "intelligent design". Apparently many schools around the country are considering it.

There are a lot of strong feelings out there and differing views. What is crucial is that revisionist science doesn't happen. In an article in the Indiana Daily Student (Sept 27, 2005) Hannah Schroder explained that the focus of arguments about Evolution versus "Intelligent Design" is on what the students should be taught in public schools not so much on how the world was created. This is quite telling. Eugenie Scott, executive director of the National Center for Science Education in her lecture at the IU auditorium, strongly stressed that Intellegent design is not a science, and did not belong in a science classroom. Mike Wade an IU biology professor, teaches an evolution and diversity course. He contends that the lack of answers in the intelligent design argument are one of the reasons critics argue that it's not science. "Intelligent design is not a scientific theory, science is made up of hypotheses and evidence supporting those hypotheses. I don't see science as an explanation for everything but as an explanation for taking apart the natural world and seeing how it works, it's the only way I know it". He shares that he is a man of faith.

Richard Miller, IU religious studies professor and director of the Poynter Center for the study of Ethics and American Institutions says he has concerns that non-scientific ideas are being voiced by political and cultural leaders who are unable to support them on scientific terms. "Many public policy decisions rely on sound science". Mr. Miller shares the same concerns I have, that faith-based politics or an agenda under the guise of faith failing to heed scientific evidence regarding our environment or biological, human or medical matters is putting us all in peril.

What is extremely worrisome is: if intelligent design is imposed on a classroom, won't that pose a risk to the student's interpretation and understanding of evolution and nature and how things work? This is exactly the question asked in the OP EX section in the Sunday Star Tribune October 2, 2005. And by dismissing evolution as just theory, what is this doing to the overall perception of science by the public. This is serious. The public needs to have a degree of knowlege to have realistic expectations, to care for it's habitat, to make public policy. The article, written by Kenneth Keller is titled Science at Risk and makes a great argument for educating the public, getting them to understand their world and themselves. He poignantly explains there is no need to discredit the integrity of science in order to defend a higher power (which in his view needs no defense). "Science is the discipline we depend on for a human and practical understanding of nature. To say that something is "only a theory" misses an important concept in science. We don't call something a theory to suggest that it's not yet proved." He then suggests that if you're ever thinking of jumping off a cliff, you might do well to remember the theory of gravity. He queries: are facts more reliable than theories? He gives us a few examples of "believed observations" and how if we don't understand the difference between facts, theories and interrelationships we could be duped by voo doo science. I really welcomed his comment that just because we don't know everything about a phenomena we do know some things. He says science is a process of narrowing uncertainties. I think he's right on the mark when he says that as we are more and more dependent on scientific knowledge the public needs to understand and deal with that reality.

Posted by at 10:07 PM

October 3, 2005

Chemical lures Great Lakes parasite to its death

October 3, 2005

Recall the sea lamprey -- that eel-like nemesis of the Great Lakes that literally sucks up trout and whitefish galore?

Researchers at the University of Minnesota have spent about $2 million and 15 years perfecting a chemical called a pheromone that attracts the fish to spawning grounds where they can be slaughtered. The news comes from a study in the November issue of Nature Chemical Biology magazine.

The lamprey attaches to other fish and sucks out the body juices. It can consume an average of 40 pounds of fish a year, the study said.

The Great Lakes Fishery Commission, which monitors and manages the lakes, has resorted to using a poison that kills lamprey larvae in streambeds, but it also can kill other animals, the researchers said.

Early tests in Michigan streams have increased the capture rate of lampreys because the synthetic pheromone has attracted them from miles away, the study said.

By Bloomberg News

Posted by at 9:28 AM

Species act backers pin hopes on Senate

BY JOHN DODGE

THE OLYMPIAN

Critics of the U.S. House- approved changes in the 1973 federal Endangered Species Act are counting on the Senate to derail the bill.

Left in place, the bill that passed the House 229-193 last week could unravel protections of old-growth forests in the Northwest that are home to the ESA-listed northern spotted owl, said Joe Scott, international programs director for Conservation Northwest, a Bellingham-based conservation group.

Scott based his comments on a provision in the bill championed by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif. It eliminates critical habitat designations for threatened and endangered species.

The bill calls for recovery plans for imperiled species and protection of areas of special value but does nothing to guarantee how much habitat would be protected, Scott said.

Most observers in Washington state and Washington, D.C., said the bill has little chance of passing the Senate and becoming law.

"This bill takes reform to an extreme," said Alex Glass, press secretary for U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. "The bill faces major challenges in the Senate."

"I don't even know if the Senate will take the bill up," said state Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Jeff Koenings. "We're cautiously optimistic that the Senate will be too busy."

Koenings said a provision in the bill, which requires landowners to be compensated if the presence of a threatened or endangered species limits what they can do with their land, would create havoc for the Puget Sound chinook recovery plan, which calls for major increases in habitat protection along rivers, streams and watersheds.

"Recovering Puget Sound chinook would become tremendously more expensive," he said.

It isn't clear how the federal government could afford to compensate landowners, but the provision does have appeal for property owners who have made sacrifices to preserve land for fish and wildlife, noted Sherry Fox, a Lewis County tree farmer who, along with her husband, Tom, last week were named National Tree Farmers of the Year by the American Forest Foundation.

'No surprises' clause

She said she supported another provision in the law, which says the federal government can't come back at a later date and tell a landowner who enters into a habitat conservation plan with the feds to do more to protect species. It's the so-called "no surprises" clause.

The Fox family's 144-acre farm is covered by a habitat conservation plan that includes the no surprises clause.

"Without it, there is no incentive for the property owner to grow the habitat," she said. "And we want to grow some old timber."

On Friday, officials at the Audubon Society's state office were calling the House bill "the extinction bill."

Since the landmark bill became law, only nine of 1,268 listed species have gone extinct, said Heath Packard, field director of Audubon's state office. "ESA is our safety net, and the Pombo bill cuts holes in that safety net."

Supporters of the Pombo legislation use numbers to tell a different story. Fewer than a dozen of those same species have recovered sufficiently to take them off the ESA list, noted David Wilson, president of the National Association of Home Builders. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials said 16 listed species have recovered enough to be taken off the list.

Some had the opinion Friday that Pombo's measure would have less effect on certain threatened and endangered species in this state because of existing state and local laws to protect habitat.

For instance, state and private timberland owners are required under the state Forests and Fish law to limit timber harvesting along rivers and streams to protect listed salmon species, said Cindy Mitchell, spokeswoman for the Washington Forest Protection Association.

"We're trying to make ESA work in its current form," she said. "But we're always looking for more incentives to create habitat, rather than heavy-handed regulatory approaches."

The 10-year, $1.5 billion plan to recover Puget Sound chinook that was crafted in the region and forwarded to the federal government this summer will rely in large part on habitat protection provided by city, county and state land-use ordinances, said Jim Kramer of Shared Strategies.

At the same time, the recovery plan assumes a major boost in habitat for salmon.

"It is confusing for the public," Kramer said. "We're saying we need to protect a lot more habitat than the feds call for in their critical habitat plan for Puget Sound salmon."

Billy Frank Jr.

In testimony last week before a Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission Chairman Billy Frank Jr. represented the Northwest tribal perspective on the Endangered Species Act.

"The goals and objectives of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 are more essential today than they have ever been," the American Indian leader and Nisqually tribal member said. "It has helped return the mighty (bald) eagle and the gray whale from the brink of extinction. It has helped bring attention to the plight of the salmon, and it has helped bring some badly needed funding to the effort to turn the tide on salmon decline."

Posted by at 9:25 AM