Posts tagged ‘environment’

July 3, 2011

Plastic Ocean

On the eve of our country’s birthday celebration it seems fitting to make my 100th post about the revolting mess of plastic floating in our oceans now called the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. I am a avid surfer and lover of the beaches around the world especially southern california beaches where I grew up. Over the years I have noticed many times floating plastic in the waters as I paddled around. Specially plastic that holds beer cans together. Look I don’t mind if you want to drink beer at the beach but throw your trash away! Plastic in the water is ingested by sea life and it kills them and as a source of food for we humans it becomes uneatable. Ok so here’s an article I’ve picked up to repost. People it’s up to us to stop all this. The next time you see some jerk tossing plastic garage on the beach or in the water “school the fool” let them know this is unacceptable!

Fish in the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000- to 24,000 tons per year, according to researchers from the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX).

That’s news that should give all of us a bellyache.

Peter Davison and Rebecca Asch, two graduate students from SEAPLEX, traveled more than more than 1,000 miles west of California to the eastern sector of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre on the Scripps research vessel New Horizon, says Science Daily. They collected numerous samples of fish specimens, water samples and marine debris at both surface level and thousands of feet below the surface.

Of the 141 fishes spanning 27 species dissected in the study, Davison and Asch found that 9.2 percent of the stomach contents of mid-water fishes contained plastic debris, primarily broken-down bits smaller than a human fingernail. The researchers say the majority of the stomach plastic pieces were so small their origin could not be determined.

“About nine percent of examined fishes contained plastic in their stomach. That is an underestimate of the true ingestion rate because a fish may regurgitate or pass a plastic item, or even die from eating it. We didn’t measure those rates, so our nine percent figure is too low by an unknown amount,” said Davison.

You can see photos of the SEAPLEX expedition via Flickr. To get an idea of what the plastic bits found in the fishes’ stomachs look like, here’s a photo of the hundreds of shards of plastic found in the stomach of a sea turtle off the coast of Argentina.

The study was published in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

The SEAPLEX team mostly studied lanternfish, who have luminescent tissue; they play a key role in the food chain as they connect plankton with higher levels. As Asch notes, “We have estimated the incidence at which plastic is entering the food chain and I think there are potential impacts, but what those impacts are will take more research.”

The SEAPLEX researchers were specifically focusing on plastic ingestion and studying such effects as the “toxicological impacts on fish and composition of the plastic” were not part of the study, but would certainly be areas of study to pursue, especially as far the effects of plastic pollution on both fish and the ocean. Who knows what the fish we sit down to eat have themselves ingested?

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April 10, 2011

Our Most Important Concern

The fabulous lake in Big Bear

How quickly we can forget what’s happening to our environment. This article I found covers it so well. My only comment is read the article and think about it a moment. If enough people pause a moment and take stock of what is happening outside of their own sphere of influence then change for the better may occur quicker than it is happening now.

written by Matthew McDermott, a Treehugger blogger

So much of environmentalism is about looking forward. Looking forward to the more socially and ecologically sustainable world we’re trying to create. Looking forward via climate modeling, projections of energy use, resource consumption, and population growth, to attempt to foretell the type of world we, our children and grandchildren will have to deal with, adapt to, and live in.

That’s important stuff, no doubt. But how much of that looking forward is constrained by our seeming inability to remember the past? Is our collective cultural memory (or sometimes lack thereof and oftentimes quickly diminishing) a critically important and neglected factor in environmental thinking?

If you’ve gleaned where I’m going with this, that I do think we ought to be doing some more self-reflection, both personally and collectively, about what we remember, what our parents remember and what our societies remember, you’re right.

What brings this to front of mind today is an interesting factoid that Andy Revkin highlights in his column over in the New York Times.

Revkin points out a study that talks about ‘disaster memory’ and relates it to the massive infrastructural expansion and concurrent energy use explosion that has occurred in so-called developed nations since World War 2 and continues at breakneck pace in China, India and elsewhere, in far too unquestioning mimicry today.

The point of relation is that it’s taken decades of building nuclear power plants in places at risk of both tsunami and earthquake for the very word tsunami to appear in planning guidelines. It wasn’t until 2006 that it appeared.

Could it be a lack of historically relevant disaster memory that caused the lapse in judgement?

Revkin writes,

One clue to the lack of concern might simply be the roughly 40-year period of relative seismic calm (in terms of a lack of great quakes in populous places) from the 1960s into the 2000s, as shown in the chart [below] from Bilham’s report. (And note the remote locations of nearly all the great earthquakes from the middle of the 20th century–Alaska, southern Chile, far eastern Russia).
In the original there are links galore supporting this theory, but the thing that strikes me is that this lack of disaster memory could just as easily and aptly apply to many other pressing environmental issues as well–inasmuch as what we consider normal levels of energy use, gadget use, clothing purchases, car usage, flying, et cetera etc etc in the really not so distant past were lower.

Just one example, air conditioning use. What once was considering a luxury is unquestioningly now called a necessity in more and more places–in the process ignoring entirely the fact that 1) air conditioning is a historically modern invention, 2) places used to be built with natural cooling in mind, 3) it simply isn’t a necessity for the vast majority of people, however cooler we might feel on a scorching day ducking into an air conditioned building. Our collective memory of how to exist without air conditioning has been erased in the span of just a couple of decades.

the incredible sabertooth tiger now extinct

Extinct Saber Tooth Tiger

Other examples: How often people used to eat meat (hint, it’s way lower than is done now, at least in the US and Europe), how many gadgets you need to be entertained, how to build communities not centered around de facto mandatory automobile ownership, how many fish used to swim in streams and the oceans, how many birds used to fly in the skies, how many bigger animals used to be in our forests.

I could go on and on. Be clear that what I’m not advocating is just a rosy-glassed version of the past, ignoring those things that are better today than a half century, century or more past. There have undoubtedly been changes that are positive for human development. But in continuing to support those positive changes in human development, maintaining them today and in the future, equitably expanding them where possible, let’s remember to turn around and remember how things used to be done where appropriate. Doing so can only help that effort.

This post was originally published by Treehugger.

December 8, 2010

Should We Be Concerned?

Planet green, treehouser, Limbaugh, O'reilly, environment
Every now and then I come across something so powerful and true I need to include it in the blog. Personally I find Limbaugh and O’Reilly entertaining. Most of the time their opinions and reportage is silly and not truthful but I look at them like I do Lewis Black or Seinfeld for that matter. They make me laugh and think. So I’m reblogging this article By Mickey Z., Planet Green

Imagine for a minute if corporate-sponsored mouthpieces like Limbaugh and O’Reilly were correct on either of these points:

Global warming is a hoax
Humans are not responsible for climate change
Well, guess what? It wouldn’t change the green movement’s primary mission. Because while some waste valuable time debating deniers, every 24 hours:

13 million tons of toxic chemicals are released across the globe
Over 100 plant or animal species go extinct
200,000 acres of rainforest are destroyed
45,000 humans die of starvation
And that’s just the tip of the melting iceberg…

Climate change, of course, connects to many of the pressing green issues but our eco-system would be in peril even if the deniers are right. We’d still have 80 percent of the world’s forests gone. We’d still have 90 percent of the large fish in the ocean gone. In other words, we’d still have an urgent need to dismantle industrial civilization and work towards a greener future.

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