A DAY TO CELEBRATE

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Guess what, folks! Today is AMERICA RECYCLES DAY! Woo-hoo! Did you get the day off? Me neither. Rip-off, right?

Let’s hope we get the day off next year. In the meantime, let’s show our America-Recycles-Day spirit by clicking on the following links.

For information about:

So come on, America! CELEBRATE THE DAY! There won’t be another America Recycles Day for an entire year!

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Another Series of Presidential Debates with No Climate-Change Qs

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Did you notice? None of the debate moderators asked a single question about climate change. Isn’t that odd? As President Obama recently said: “No challenge  poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” So why didn’t this existential threat merit even one question? Are all of the moderators climate-change deniers?
Probably not. My guess is that each of them asked questions on topics the American people find most pressing, and poll after poll shows that only about 1% of Americans name “the environment” (much less “climate change”) as one of the most important issues facing the U.S. today. The Big Q, then, is: Why do so few Americans express concern to pollsters about the environment? One of the reasons, no doubt, is that the news media under-report environmental problems relative to their importance. People discount environmental issues, because the media rarely bring the issues to their attention. Completing the vicious circle, the news media under-report environmental problems because the public seems not to care about those problems.
Here’s a link to a relevant article, which contains links to a number of other relevant articles.

What the Frack?

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Below, I’ve pasted introductory quotes and links to several articles about the environmental impacts of natural-gas production and storage. The first article discusses some of the arguments among environmentalists over the costs and benefits of fracking; the second looks at the impact of fracking on Florida’s drinking water; the third covers fracking-induced earthquakes; the fourth calls the leak from a natural-gas storage facility in Los Angeles “the worst accidental discharge of greenhouse gases in U.S. history”; while the fifth says, hold on a minute, the massive methane leaks from Texas’s fracking sites are worse than California’s.

Between the lines, the articles hint at why fracking is likely to continue despite the high environmental costs.

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Fracking Is Killing Coal. So Why Do So Many Environmentalists Hate It?

By Brad Plumer, April 8, 2015

Few things have inspired angst among green groups and climate advocates like the question of how to deal with fracking…. Here’s a very rough breakdown of the debate: Supporters of fracking point out that the US natural-gas boom, driven by hydraulic fracturing, has actually been one of the big environmental success stories of the past decade. Electric utilities are now using more cheap gas and less dirty coal to generate power. Since gas burns more cleanly, that curbs air pollution…. On the “anti” side, meanwhile, are a large and growing set of environmentalists who now argue that the problems with fracking outweigh the benefits…. They don’t see gas as helping us move away from coal. They see cheap gas as hampering the transition to renewable sources like wind and solar.

http://www.vox.com/2015/4/8/8370401/fracking-debate-environmentalists

 

Unlikely Battle Over Fracking Intensifies in Florida

By Lizette Alvarez, Feb 23, 2016

With geology akin to a wet sponge and fragile underground aquifers that supply almost all its drinking water, Florida has never been considered part of the agitated battle over fracking as a technology for extracting oil and gas. But that began to change two years ago when a Texas-based oil and gas company was found to have been using hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and matrix acidizing, a fracking-like method that dissolves rocks with acid instead of fracturing them with pressurized liquid. Neither residents nor local governments knew about it because well stimulation, the catch-all term for both techniques, does not require a separate permit and is not regulated.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/24/us/in-florida-an-unlikely-battle-over-fracking-intensifies.html?partner=IFTTT

 

Erin Brockovich on Oklahoma Earthquakes: ‘It’s Fracking, Let’s Just be Honest’

By Lorraine Chow, February 24, 2016

Oklahoma experiences more earthquakes than anywhere in the world. Before 2009, Oklahoma had two earthquakes of magnitude 3.0 or greater each year, but now there are two a day…. Despite mounting scientific consensus against the oil and gas sector, certain politicians such as pro-business state Gov. Mary Fallin have been slow to change their tune about the link between fracking wastewater disposal and earthquakes. State scientists and regulators have also been reportedly silenced by industry-linked state officials.

 

http://ecowatch.com/2016/02/24/erin-brockovich-oklahoma-earthquakes/

 

California Gas Leak Was the Worst Man-Made Greenhouse-Gas Disaster in U.S. History, Study Says

By Joby Warrick, February 25, 2016

The massive leak that vented millions of pounds of natural gas from a Los Angeles storage facility now appears to have been the worst accidental discharge of greenhouse gases in U.S. history, scientists concluded in an analysis released Thursday…. “The climate impact is the largest on a record” for any single incident in the United States, said Stephen Conley, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Davis and one of six scientists involved in the study.

 

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2016/02/25/california-gas-leak-was-the-worst-man-made-greenhouse-gas-disaster-in-u-s-history-study-says/?wpmm=1&wpisrc=nl_green

 

Massive Methane Leaks From Texas Fracking Sites Even More Significant Than Infamous Porter Ranch Gas Leak

By Claire Bernish,  February 23, 2016

Texas is dealing with a comparable disaster [to the one in L.A.] that has been overlooked by officials and the media, in part, because the state’s methane emanates from a powerful industry’s infrastructure…. “Every hour, natural gas facilities in North Texas’ Barnett Shale region emit thousands of tons of methane—a greenhouse gas at least 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide—and a slate of noxious pollutants such as nitrogen oxides and benzene.The [Los Angeles] leak was big. The Barnett leaks, combined, are even bigger.”

http://ecowatch.com/2016/02/23/methane-leaks-texas/

 

 

A Fun Stuff Sandwich

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Top Bread Layer

When we underfund regulators, making it impossible for them to do their jobs effectively, what we get is a whole lot of Flints.

America Is Flint

By Nicholas Kristof, February 6, 2016

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/opinion/sunday/america-is-flint.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

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Fun Inside Layer #1

A stunning map shows how living on America’s coasts really is so different

By Ana Swanson, January 12, 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/01/12/a-stunning-map-shows-how-living-on-americas-coasts-really-is-so-different/?tid=hybrid_experimentrandom_3_na

Fun Inside Layer #2

12 fascinating optical illusions show how color can trick the eye

December 29, 2015

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/29/12-fascinating-optical-illusions-show-how-color-can-trick-the-eye-2/?tid=a_inl

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Bottom Boring Bread Layer

This final article is almost too wonky to share!

I, Termite?

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If climate change were the only environmental crisis we face, we could switch to wind, solar, and other non-fossil forms of energy, and go on depending on economic growth to solve our enviro-politico-socio-economic problems forever. But while climate change is arguably the worst environmental crisis we face, it is not the only environmental crisis we face.

My last post included links to several articles about the species-extinction crisis. This time, my post includes a single link to a series of articles that ran in USA Today a few weeks ago on the groundwater-depletion crisis.

Did I hear a groan, Dear Reader? I think I did. So, let me just say, yeah, I know that reading about environmental degradation isn’t fun. At times, in fact, it’s downright depressing. Perhaps it’s comparable to reading reports about the condition of your home. While you probably don’t want to know that the entire back wall of your house is infested with termites, that the plumbing is corroded and needs to be replaced, that the roof is springing leaks, or that the foundation is cracked, you need to know the unpleasant facts so you can fix what’s wrong before the whole place caves in on you.

I regret putting it this way, but the sad fact is that humans have begun to feed on the Earth like termites feed on the wood in houses. But unlike termites that can move on to another house or a decaying tree to sustain them after they’ve consumed all the wood in one house, we have no other Earth that we can infest (so to speak), so we’d better take care of this one.

And now, without further ado, here’s the link to the article:

http://www.usatoday.com/pages/interactives/groundwater/

 

 

On species extinctions

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Do you ever assume that other people know a fair amount about a subject that you know quite a bit about? I ask because a friend told me today that she’d read an interview with Leonardo di Caprio, and he said a mass extinction is occurring on Earth, and most people don’t know it.

I was surprised. Until a few hours ago, I assumed that the current wave of extinctions was common knowledge. Well, that was silly. If I hadn’t specialized in environmental policy, I probably wouldn’t have known about the extinctions, so why did I assume that people in other fields would know?

Who knows? In any case, below you’ll find a few lines from some recent articles about extinctions, along with links to those articles. I hope you’ll take a look.

Thanks!

 

http://edition.cnn.com/2016/01/19/travel/gallery/penguin-awareness-day-2016/index.html

From Antarctica to Africa, Penguins Are Facing Extinction

By Ben Adkison, for CNN

January 20, 2016

January 20 is Penguin Awareness Day.

As with most polar species, penguins are feeling the effects of climate change. Ice melt is changing their breeding grounds and overfishing and ocean acidification is affecting their food sources of fish, squid and krill.”

 

http://www.theecologist.org/essays/2986743/a_wild_liberty.html

A Wild Liberty

By Grant A. Mincy, for The Ecologist

January 18, 2016

Of all the complex, wicked problems addressed by the current environmental movement, perhaps the most urgent is the rarely discussed mass extinction. We are currently experiencing Earth’s sixth great mass extinction crisis – on par with the rate that ended the reign of the dinosaurs….

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3131891/The-sixth-mass-extinction-officially-begun-threaten-humanity-s-existence-scientists-warn.html

The Sixth Mass Extinction on Earth Has Officially Begun and Could Threaten Humanity’s Existence, Scientists Warn (and This Time We’re to Blame)

By Mark Prigg, for The Daily Mail

June 19, 201

Species are disappearing about 100 times faster than normal rate.

Experts warn it could take Earth millions of years to recover.

They say humanity would likely disappear early on in the process.

Previous extinctions caused by natural disasters, but this is man-made.

And such a catastrophic loss of animal species presents a real threat to human existence, the experts warn, as crucial ecosystem ‘services’ such as crop pollination by insects and water purification in wetlands is also put at risk.

 

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/whats_causing_deadly_outbreaks_of_fungal_diseases_in_worlds_wildlife/2949/

What’s Causing Deadly Outbreaks of Fungal Diseases in World’s Wildlife?

By Elizabeth Kolbert, for e360

January 18, 2016

Why are we seeing a growing number of fungal diseases of wildlife? Experts offer two possible explanations, both of which may be valid.

The first is the increase in global trade and global travel…. As the sheer volume of global trade and global travel rises, so, too, do the number of opportunities for pathogens of all sorts to disperse. Because fungi don’t need a host to survive, they may be particularly well-suited to intercontinental travel. And when a pathogen is let loose in a new place, the results can be spectacularly deadly.

[There’s] another possible answer to the question “why now.” Fungal diseases tend to be opportunistic…. Climate change, habitat loss, heavy metal pollution, competition from invasives — these are just a few of the forces that may be lowering animals’ resistance.

“I think it’s very likely that habitat in general is degraded, and so you have greater problems with disease,” [said] Tim James, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “Everything is more stressed.”

 

https://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/whales-are-full-toxic-chemicalshttps://www.sciencenews.org/blog/wild-things/whales-are-full-toxic-chemicals

Whales Are Full of Toxic Chemicals

By Sarah Zielinski, for Science News

January 19, 2016

European whales and dolphins may be at risk of extinction from the effects of polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs, a team of researchers recently reported in Scientific Reports. Concentrations of PCBs in killer whales and bottlenose and striped dolphins, they found, were high enough to cause health damage.

Persistent organic pollutants are not even the only problem when it comes to toxic chemicals. Mercury — from anthropogenic sources such as power generation — also works its way into whales and dolphins. Tests of whale meat for sale online in Japan last year revealed mercury levels as high as 47.5 times what is considered safe for human consumption.

They Paved Paradise

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Climate change is a gargantuan environmental problem, but it’s not our only environmental problem. By focusing obsessively on it, we blind ourselves to problems occurring in the periphery.

That point came to mind as I read an article in today’s New York Times, entitled: “Despite Push for Cleaner Cars, Sheer Numbers Could Work Against Climate Benefits.” If you’d like to read the article, you can find it at: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/08/business/energy-environment/despite-push-for-cleaner-cars-sheer-numbers-could-work-against-climate-benefits.html?partner=IFTTT&_r=0

The article notes that the number of cars “on the world’s roads is on pace to double — to more than two billion — by the year 2030. And more likely than not, most of those cars will be burning carbon-emitting gasoline or diesel fuels.” Why? Because many of those cars will be sold in places like India and China that lack “the ubiquitous electric grid required for recharging electric vehicles.”

So all those additional cars on the road will be spewing billions of additional tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year, making it harder to reduce global greenhouse-gas emissions, and that’s a problem — no doubt about it. But it’s a problem that can be fixed. All we have to do is phase out the production of fossil-fuel powered vehicles and create a ubiquitous green-energy electric grid. Of course, doing those things will be difficult, but not theoretically impossible.

But there is at least one related problem that an electric grid and electric cars can’t solve: species extinctions due to paved-over habitats. A higher rate of extinctions is inevitable, because with more cars, we must have more roads. Twice as many cars will mean twice as many roads. And we’ll also need to devote more space to parking lots and garages and gas stations and salvage yards and auto parts stores, and on and on.

So, when we’re looking for ways to cope with climate change, we need to remember that environmental problems are interrelated. While we’re working on one issue, we should take a step back and ask ourselves if our proposed solutions will paper over flaws that are more intrinsic.