Fighting Climate Change

http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/09/opinions/sutter-oregon-kids-lawsuit-climate/

As we all know, our climate is changing rapidly, and more action needs to be taken immediately. This article talks about a group of students from 8 ½ to 19 are taking action against the Obama administration and other Environmental agencies to see changes take place faster. The Obama administration has started to support climate change by cleaning coal-fired power plants, but it is not enough to prevent global warming. These children are worried because they are watching the changes take place right in front of them. Droughts, hurricanes, and floods are all affecting them. It is hurting them more because if nothing is done, they lose the land that has been in their family for generations and will watch the organisms that live there disappear.

According to the article, the government knows that the burning of fossil fuels and chopping down rainforests is increasing the amount of CO2 in the environment and is making the Earth hotter, which is contributing to global warming. With the help of a NASA Scientist, the children have taken their complaint to court. They have started by trying to do something about the fossil fuels that are extracted in the United States because they are more dangerous than people realize.

Another issue is that the Constitution talks about the rights given to U.S. citizens, but does not mention anything about the environment, which is why this battle is much harder for students. Also, the lawyers that are fighting this case seem to care more about their business and their money according to one of the children taking part.

I believe that one way to start getting the government on-board with taking action towards climate change would be to take action ourselves. Taking action towards something that we care about can show people that there are little changes that they can do to help our environment. Also, I believe that the right lawyers and companies need to get involved. For example, that may mean reaching out to professors here at Mason, or other universities and even professionals. I believe that if we come up with a plan and receive feedback, we can take it to court and show them the concrete evidence and that this is not about the money, it is about the environment and something needs to be done. Lastly, I think that if we can find a way to reach them on a personal level, it could make them realize that action needs to be taken because the climate change is affecting us all.

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More Than Politics

In the political chaos of the Middle East, cultural warfare and societal conflict immediately over-shadow any environmental impacts. However, it is important to keep ecological casualties in mind when tallying the costs of international conflict and internal uncertainty.

Human intervention has made a great impact on the survival of marshes in both destruction and restoration. The region of former Mesopotamia (present day Iraq) surrounding the Euphrates and Tigris rivers was spotted with healthy marshes prior to the 1950s. As dams and the popularity of hydroelectricity boomed, many of these wetlands disappeared. The areas once covered with thriving marshes were dammed for flood control, canals, and agricultural reservoirs used for irrigation. These marshes sustained further damage in the 1990s at the hands of Saddam Hussein (former President of Iraq, 1979-2003). Upon his orders, vast areas of wetlands were drained to impede upon anti-government rebellions against his political leadership.

In the political turmoil following the end of Hussein’s rule, numerous dykes were destroyed and marshes re-flooded. Although these marshes were not originally healthy (as many of them lacked aquatic vegetation), the wetlands showed significant progress between 2004 and 2005 as signs of algae growth appeared. However, by 2008 the marshes still failed to thrive in comparison to healthy wetlands. Muddy, reddish water plagued the region, showing the ecological consistency of puddles rather than wetland ecosystems. The political and social conflict surrounding Iraq during this time can be evidenced even in the region’s water sources today.

Field research conducted by the United Nations with the collaboration of Iraqi and American scientists showed a “remarkable rate of reestablishment’ within the marshes, though their gradual restoration will continue for decades. Officials report that the affected wetlands are ecologically isolated, susceptible to local extinctions, and at risk due to low diversity. Although the discovery of algae formation presents researchers with hopes of recovery, the marshes will continue to struggle and remain unhealthy for several decades.

Help Yourself, Serve Others

In my Introduction to Environmental Policy class, we watched a documentary titled Burning the Future: Coal in America. And I have seen documentaries touching this issue before but it basically talks about the coal mining industry in West Virginia, its huge influence, and the impact it brings to the communities that have been living there for generations. I have known about the problem of mountaintop removal for many years now but it was another wake-up call to see this documentary of people who don’t live that far away from us and to see how they suffer every day because of the coal companies. They are destroying natural landscapes that have been there for thousands of years, all to contaminate the drinking water sources of these rural populations. And it brought the thought of the fear that I would feel if I had to live somewhere like that. Their homes that have been passed down through generations are nearly under attack. It comes in the form of coal ash that intrudes their breathing air and surrounds their homes. It comes in the form of the contaminated water flowing out of their faucet, forcing them to haul water from safer sources, most likely paying premiums on them. It even comes in the form of blasts heard from the destruction of their homeland. Their livelihoods are changing because of these coal companies that don’t even provide much employment to the residents in those areas.

If there is one environmental issue to ever focus on, it has to be this one. We always hear about how developing nations are in need of clean drinking water and they need our HELP. But actually, living right next to the state in where the same injustice is occurring, we have no excuse in turning the other way. Cleaner technologies need to be invested in now to drive these old coal industries to bankruptcy. Our government must not allow these companies to set their agenda for them and not address these citizens’ concerns. Our closest neighbors are suffering and each and every person should be making their grievances to be heard about it. However in the world of environmental justice, or any social justice, we must not act as their saviors. We don’t know what it is like to have water inaccessible to us, to have our simplest form of sustenance to be taken from us. We don’t know what it is like to wake up from the blasts of our backyard landscape, or find your home covered in ash. This is why we must have a mindset of SERVING a community, not helping. We serve them because they know what is best for their home, not us. And as an environmental advocate, it is not about job security for this field. You want to see a day where you no longer have to serve this community because they brought themselves up thanks to their hard work and dedication. From the documentary, we see how strong these justice leaders are in these rural areas and they are not giving up. We can all bring awareness, we have nothing to lose. This is how these issues can be set on the political agenda.

Burning the Future: Coal in America- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQPYKD4WGew

 

The Solution to Pollution

This coming weekend I will be helping Zach with his second cigarette butt cleanup. I know campus but be filthy and filled with them, but I have no idea how many people smoke, or how much. This is just one part of the pollution problem on campus and Nationwide. I think Zach and his group are doing a great thing that people will remember. By showing the impact of cigarettes by pilling them in the North Plaza later this month, Zach’s group will demonstrate how one seemingly small thing can add up, hopefully making people more aware of their actions, and the consequences of those actions.

The cigarette butt cleanup could be the beginning of something great, what if the Mason community could be invigorated to stop pollution in their every day lives? Fairfax, not only George Mason University, would be a much cleaner place. If the project was continued and expanded to include all trash, how shocked would Mason students be to learn the full impact George Mason has as a whole on the local environmental scale? Enough to pick up a cup or bottle and put it in the trash or recycling? What if we showed them how much of their trash could be recycled? It could make just one more person recycle every day. Just one more person over their lifetime can make a difference. Statistics could be shown on the estimated impacts of one person. The impact on the local plant and wildlife could also be shown through statistics. For example, how many animals are found dead on campus due to pollution.

One person can inspire many to do better. I hope Zach’s project goes well, and I am looking forward to helping him. If his event can alter the view of just one person and make them more aware, then something will have changed to make the future just a little brighter.

 

Gratuity of Public Transport

In Paris, the threshold for air pollution has been exceeded for the fifth consecutive day and still could be increasing this weekend … or even next week. Over thirty departments around the capital were affected Thursday by maximum alerts to air pollution. To reduce the rate of pollution, measures more or less pleasant, exist. The “Nouvel Observateur” highlights the main one, which I read and thought was interesting.
There is talk to make public transport on days when the pollution is high..It is the flagship measure put forward by the Minister of Ecology, Philippe Martin. The objective is simple. Pushing, when pollution peaks, the inhabitants of French cities to choose public transport instead of the car.
Paris, Caen, Rouen, Reims, Lyon and Grenoble (major French cities) offer free transport some weekends. The President of the Ile-de-France region Jean-Paul Huchon, head of the transport authority in the region, said that this gratuity would be ensured in the Ile-de-France “throughout the duration of the expected peaks of pollution. ” There will not, however, discount on weekly or monthly passes. In some cities, free should only expected for Fridays unless otherwise specified.
The challenge is to be able to absorb these additional users who have agreed to leave their cars at home. Another challenge would be getting the companies managing public transport to agree to make public transport free throughout certain weeks when pollution is high. Public transport is mostly used during the week to access work and so it would minimize pollution on those days.
In America, the use of cars is more frequent because of the lack of accessibility to public transport in some states. I think it would definitely encourage people to use the metro and the bus if there were some days when it was free to ride.

Fish- Will We Run Out?

The oceans seem so vast, most people will wonder, how could anybody fish out the ocean? Unfortunately, over 90% of the large fish we eat are gone. Millions upon millions of fish are killed for dinner tables each year. This statistic is over a span of at least 200 species, not including invertebrate species such as crab, lobster, and krill, or bycatch such as marine mammals, reptiles and inedible fish species. Adding Invertebrates and bycatch to the statistic would double the species and the individual count. Several of the fish that we eat are keystone species, such as the European Anchovy, Striped Marlin, all species of Freshwater Eel that are commercially farmed or fished, all subspecies of Bluefin Tuna, at least a dozen Shark species, and more. These particular examples are all heavily overfished, and will be extinct by 2040 at the very latest.  If (keep in mind, IF) we don’t watch what we eat when it comes to this, the entire ocean will be out of edible fish between 2070 and 2100. Following this will be the collapse of food chains of habitats that rely on animals such as anchovies and top predators such as Tuna or sharks. This will result in even more extinctions.

How can we fix this? We can start by eating fish that are not overfished. Examples include Yellowtail Amberjack, Striped Bass, farmed Carp, Channel Catfish, Atlantic and Pacific Cod, Lionfish (highly recommend this one, as it is an invasive species in many areas, is inexpensive, and very delicious and nutritious), any kind of Mackerel, any kind of farmed (and wild-caught) Salmon, and the Spiny Dogfish Shark (note: this is the only shark species commercially eaten that is not overfished). One recommendation is to also boycott certain types of fishing techniques, such as longline, and also areas of the world (such as most asian countries) that are not careful of bycatch or waste products.

World Water Day

Today is World Water Day! I wonder if Professor Wingfield scheduled the Water Wars peer teaching group to present today on purpose. World Water day started in 1993 and is meant to focus on the importance of fresh water and sustainable management of fresh water resources. Each year there is a different theme; the theme for 2016 is Water and Jobs (“Better water, better jobs”). This theme focuses on jobs that are created directly or somehow indirectly to water sources around the world. Many people around the world have jobs that depend on a continual water source. With out this water they would not be able to support themselves. I feel that these people have a greater respect for the need of fresh, healthy water. It seems that many people in the culture that surrounds us today do not realize just how important water is in our every day lives. I fear that water has become an expendable resource in the eyes of a lot of people. It seems that the attitude is that water will always be around so why worry about using too much of it? The fact is that fresh water resources are being used up every day, and the sources of fresh water that we do still have are being contaminated with pollutants. In a first world country it is easy to think that water is just a basic thing that will always be available when we need it, but there are people struggling with water availability even in this country. Even so, when water is needed in one part of this country it is usually redirected from another area of the country to fill the need. In other countries it is not so easy for people who don’t have water to suddenly get it from somewhere else. That is why people can become extremely protective of the fresh water that is available to them, no matter how small the supply is. I am excited to learn more about this topic when we hear from the peer teaching group in class today. Water is not something anyone should take for granted.

The Tides will be Turning

With the world being covered in 70 percent water, there are so many possibilities to use the oceans currents and tides for some source of energy. In my high school biology ecology class, I did a project about tidal energy and I learned about these things that are underwater windmills. How they work is they are put underwater and they rotate from the tides and currents moving. This is a really good way to create energy because the tides and currents are predictable so people will know where to place said underwater windmills. With tides and currents so easy to predict you can make sure each underwater windmill is perfectly placed for maximum energy output.

There are some downsides to these windmills though which is why they are not widely accepted around the world. One reason is that they are so expensive to build and place which is a major factor why they are not everywhere. Another reason is that the windmills will be constantly bombarded with salt water which can cause damage to the windmill which would cost money in upkeep. The last thing that is a downside is it could kill sea wildlife while they are spinning because windmills on land can kill geese so I would expect the same for windmills underwater.

Like I said before it is a great idea they just need to find a way to make it safer for animals and less expensive before it is widely used around the world.

Climate Change for the Non-Believers

I am a Cornerstones student here at George Mason. Some of you may not be aware of what this program is…if you need a thorough explanation just ask me. But where I’m going with this is really about the segment of the class I’ve just started.

For this last quarter of the school year my class is about Science and Arts. Specifically right now we are discussing climate change. I feel it is wonderful that this topic is being tied into my program because not every general ed. course even talks about the environment. I am noticing so many students have a very limited interest in the environment and are more unaware then we realize. This makes me feel outreach needs to intensify even more but also makes me realize that they’re in for a bumpy and slightly depressing ride.

What I’ve noticed is that when we talk about what we, as a human race, have done to the environment it sounds extremely helpless. In a way it is if we do nothing, but we don’t want to destroy the hope we do have of helping our Earth! Since there is so much info of what we’ve done wrong we need to blast the world with all of the ways we can help. I mean ALL of them.

I’m hoping that with this section of corner stones I can help make students aware of opportunities on campus to help make the world more Green. Many jobs in the future will require people to have knowledge of the environment, so hopefully as this class unwinds I will get to see others become more aware of the world and how every move counts. Perhaps they’ll discover they want to pursue a Sustainability minor.

Climate change specifically has been seen as taboo, and my class has specifically discussed politicians disregarding this issue. It is not something you can believe in, it just exists. Climate change is not a concept you can disregard, the longer those remain ignorant the more damage will be done.

By informing students you create more voices, educate all on this matter and the amount of “believers” of change will flourish.

Seabin Project

The Seabin project was started by two Australian surfers who want to help clean the ocean. They want to start using the seabin in controlled environments like marines, ports, and yacht clubs. As there aren’t usually any huge storms in these areas and they can be relatively easy to control. Also the seabins are less likely to be damaged in these areas.

The Seabin is situated at the surface of the water and is plumbed into a shore based water pump. The water gets sucked into the bucket pulling floating trash and floating liquids into the bucket. The trash stays in the bucket while the water and other liquids get pumped into an oil/water separator. Allowing clean water to flow back through a pipe into the ocean. The seabin can work at all hours of the day and can easily be maintained by one marina worker. It is a cost effective way to help the overall health of the oceans. This may be the future of cleaning our oceans.