Change Could Come but We Have to Be Sure That it does by D.H.

If we had the technologies to travel and time no one would, we understand the amount of potential ripples that could be cause. Time is seen as a river, it flows and with every change the direction changes. Any altering of the causes unforeseen consequences, hundreds of stories come from this idea. Theoretically if you where to dam the river of time you damage the surrounding ecosystem, most people wouldn’t take the chance to mess with time and yet we take the chance to mess with our own physical rivers. Instead of destroying the riverbanks of time we are destroying our environment. Hydroelectric generation has doomed us. Sure it is a clean way to generate electricity but it does have its consequences. The best things about writing about an ecological apocalypse is that there is a way to fix it unlike extraterrestrial born disasters there is a way to fix it.

Long ago, before we used water to create power we used it to turn things, and now in China it’s been used again in that way, but this time it’s slowing the turning of the earth. Classic ways to create use from a moving stream was the vertical water wheel which didn’t require damming and destruction to be of use. I am not suggesting a radical use of explosive by the eco terrorists to destroy Hover and The Three Gorges Dam.

The Three Gorges Dam is the largest man made structure in recent time. This structure according to the Scientific America is a natural disaster waiting to happen. For as big as this dam is it only produces 10% of China’s needs, provided that is 20 times more than Hoover Dam produces in America. For perspective of how big this thing really is, it measures 1.4 miles long and 607 feet tall. To use school buses as an example of size it is 215 school buses long and 17 school buses tall. This dam is five times bigger than Hoover and produces 20 times  more energy. Another great benefit this dam provides is that it saves 15 million people in the Yangtze valley from deathly floods.  By these numbers The Three Gorges Dam seems a great thing until you look at the other numbers that include the death toll and the economic loss it cause to China’s economy. Also it displaced 1.3 million people, so were the possible benefits worth the cost?. This dam which is conveniently placed by 6 major fault lines, slows so much water it slows the Earth’s rotation. If this dam was to break at any moment which is entirely possible earthquakes would be started and the rest of the damage is unimaginable. Not only displacing people like all dams they damage the nearby ecosystem.

Damaging the nearby ecosystem is a serious problem when it comes to daming, like everything rivers are especially affected by the ripple effect. Shocking! By damming a river  or any moving body of water  you cause the area to flood destroying and non aquatic plant life which will cause the food chain to be disturbed, which is not a good thing. It is one of the ways that humanity could be killed off or a large mass of us killed. hydroelectric dams are not the devil. They are a great way of storing energy and are renewable. There is a way to produce hydroelectric power without damming but you do lose the ability to store the energy. This second way is a water wheel. Both a dam and a water wheel use gravity to create this energy but they work much differently. Old hydroelectric dams use to use turbines but with a horizontal orientation. These had a problem where you had to move the water to one side to allow the wheel to turn and not be snapped. Nikola Tesla’s saved notebooks store a vast amount of knowledge on this. Eventually we switched the dams to turbines which work like jet engine, but you’re letting the water move it instead of the turbines moving the air. Waterwheels on the other hand just get turned by the moving water and don’t require a dam for a long period of time. The only time a dam is needed is for the installation of the wheel. Although the amount of time that this temporary dam is in place, is significant it is not around long enough to cause permanent damage to the area.

This is the solution I want to work for. There is no problem with using all moving bodies of water for generation of electricity other than not doing it. We can not run around installing water wheels and dams willy nilly. We must take into consideration which one will be the most efficient and the safest for the environment.  

The Looming Landslide by B.W.

When a massive landslide struck Malin, India on July 30, 2014, and buried 44 houses, left 151 dead, and over 100 people missing, the question arose if basic environmental standards had been employed. In the LA times, a closer investigation of the causes of the landslide pointed to a blatant disregard of a government classification of the area being “ecologically sensitive” and an issue of a ¨no development” policy. The area was a reported lumber sight, that, officially 28,000 trees were cut, but unofficially the estimate is closer to 300,000.

The company that was doing the cutting didn’t just cut down the trees. They were ground leveling, a process where the entire tree, root system and all was being removed. According to the LA Times, the amount of rainfall the people inhabiting this area saw in the days that followed the landslide was above average.  This factor, along with the tree removal that allowed the soil to be loose, resulted in this tragic landslide. There are many other cases like this listed on Wikipedia: Guatemala, casualties 220, Japan, casualties 50+, the list goes on. Environmental disasters do not just pertain to places like Malin, India, because all around the globe, people unwittingly put themselves and other creatures in danger by damaging the environment because there seems to be no long term effect.

Environmentally speaking, oil is one of the least eco-friendly sources of fuel. This was clearly shown when an estimated 206 million gallons of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, reports Mother Nature Network (MNN), when an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 people, and allowed an oil well to leak into the ocean. To put in perspective, that is 2,575,000 days of water use for the average person. This oil spill caused the death of thousands and thousands of marine and bird life. The estimated cleanup cost was around 34 billion dollars. 34 billion.

BP, the company responsible for this disaster, clearly did not think that something like this could ever happen. To prove this, MNN reports it took them 85 days to seal the leak. If BP had been focused on the possibility of something like this happening, it wouldn’t have taken nearly that long.

   BP’s oil spill shows on a large and palpable scale the impact that we as humans can unintentionally have on the environment. However, there is another much smaller, more unnoticeable cause that impacts the environment, on that many people use every day.

It uses BP’s oil. It’s cars.

There are 258 million cars in the United States alone. According to the EPA(Environmental Protection Agency), Greenhouse gasses trap heat and make the planet warmer. Human activities are responsible for almost all of the increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere over the last 150 years. Transportation accounted for 26% of the total US greenhouse gasses released. The total emissions in 2014 in tons was 6,870 million.  That’s just the US.

This reliance on fossil fuels furthers the point that humans only are focused on the short-term effect of our actions. Why spend time investing into finding alternative energy sources when one can simply tap into the oil business?

However, this generalization is not all encompassing. There are those that have begun the long uphill battle to try and refocus efforts towards something far more sustainable. A company named Proton Power Inc. shines among them. Proton Power is a company that is researching the use of biomass to make inexpensive hydrogen, which can be converted into energy for uses such as: synthetic fuels, electricity and heat. Biomass is fuel that is developed from organic materials, and is a renewable and sustainable source of energy.

Sam Weaver, the founder of this company has been a successful entrepreneur for over four decades. When questioned to the reason that he founded this company his response was “only 20% of the world’s energy needs are being met” and that “we’ve got to go to a sustainable future.”

So all hope is not lost. With the movement for a better, cleaner tomorrow growing by the day, we can be hopeful that soon, a renewable source of energy will prevail over the shortsighted fossil fuels. However, if action is not taken soon, and we continue on our short-sighted track, a far more devastating global “landslide” is bound to occur, with far more catastrophe and casualties than that of the landslide in Malin, India.

The Smog Pit by D.S.

In a story on npr.org about Minhae Kim, a South Korean citizen and mother of a one year old, the young woman sits on a Yonghan family park bench. She is watching her young one play around happily while watching helplessly from the side. Her child has yet to find out about the dangerous environment she is and will be exposed to for her upbringing. It is spring now and the air pollution levels in Seoul have drastically increased to very unhealthy levels. Why not just stay inside and wait until the air is better? That’s the struggle that Minhae and her fellow countrymen face constantly. There is no better tomorrow. Sure there might be better days but in the big picture, everyday is a day of exposure no matter what. What most of the citizens of South Korea don’t take into account is the immense scale that their poor air quality is on and the dangers of this abundance. In fact, Yale University ranks South Korea near the very bottom of the list of 180 countries for air quality in the Environmental Performance Index. Normal do-good citizens like Minhae and their children are exposed extremely unhealthy levels of pollution every day of their lives. Children and elders are especially vulnerable because of their decreased ability to fight deadly diseases. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, myocardial infarction, lung cancer and asthma symptoms are just a few of the many side effects of long-term exposure to these harmful chemicals. Many South Koreans and their families-just like Minhae and her kid-will most likely experience one of these side effects sometime in their lives with constant exposure.

You might think that the most logical solution to this problem is to stop burning so many fossil fuels and cut down on car emissions but in fact, there might be no solution at all. This is because South Korea has practically no control over their excessive levels of harmful pollution. To get a better understanding of the situation threatening the peninsula, I decided to interview my dad who works as an atmospheric scientist for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), occasionally making trips to South Korean monitoring stations to take samples on air particles and pollution.

When asked about the origin of South Korea’s dangerous pollution levels, he said “The monitoring stations in Seoul have evidence to say that there is foreign pollution in the air. Due to the increased levels of human tracers such as combustion products (CO2, CO, black carbon particles) and sulfur and nitrogen species (eg., SO2, H2SO4, NOx gasses), it is assumed that manmade emissions from China have traveled eastward and have entered South Korea.”

This assumption has caused many South Koreans to point fingers at China for giving them the large burden they are continuously bearing. Of course China most likely has some contribution in the pollution found in South Korea, but a big issue that is utterly inevitable is a natural occurrence. A meteorological phenomenon called the “Asian Dust” (which is %100 confirmed) happens when desert sands from mainland deserts travel east across the sea and many of the particles settle in South Korea. With much experience and knowledge on this phenomenon, my dad had a some input to enhance the specifics of the whole situation.

“It has to do with meteorological conditions,’ he explained. ‘When heavy seasonal winds in the northern hemisphere pass west to east over asian deserts such as the Gobi and Taklamakan in northern and western china, the sand has nothing to hold itself in place and it gets entrained into the air stream which eventually takes it eastward, where some of the heavier particles are deposited in South Korea. When we measure the air particles in western Hawaii, we sometimes find very small asian dust particles that have traveled all the way across the Pacific Ocean.”

This is where the blunt of the problem comes from. During the spring and fall when seasonal winds are the strongest, not only do the man made emissions from big cities like Beijing and Shanghai travel east to South Korea but so do the desert sands from the greater asian deserts. A deadly mixture of pollution is a result of this that has confirmed side effects such as the ones I listed earlier.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Air Quality Index (AQI) there are 6 categories to separate air quality in given countries. It is measured in concentration of PM2.5 particles (particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in width) that are very dangerous to the health of the residents of the given area. The 6 groups are ranges of micrograms per cubic meter of air. Zero to 50 is considered “good”, 51-100 is considered “moderate”, 101-150 is considered “unhealthy for sensitive (elderly and children) groups”, 151-200 is considered “unhealthy”, 201-300 is considered “very unhealthy”, and 301-500 is considered “hazardous”.

According to the EPA Air Quality Index, the Yongsan district-the district holding residence to Mrs. Kim and her 1 year old child- had 6 months out of the year (March, April, May, August, October, and December) where the daily maximum micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic meter repeatedly reached the unhealthy level. According to the same AQI, the whole city of Seoul only had 44 days where PM2.5 concentration was in the “good” range. That is 224 less days in the “good” range than New York City, the most populated city in the United States.

The end to this problem is very complicated and the harsh reality will affect South Koreans and East Asian citizens in general who think the solution is feasible. A big group of South Koreans point fingers at China for their air quality issues and of course there is reasoning behind this given the devastating conditions in Beijing and Shanghai. However, you take Beijing, Shanghai, and any other Chinese cities out of the equation completely and there is still a major problem. As quoted by Dr. Jonathan Samet, an epidemiologist at the Institute for Global Health at the University of Southern California, “What you have is the combination of what is being generated within Seoul and within the broader, very industrial environment of Korea, added onto by transport of pollution from China.’ ‘So, yes, Koreans can point the finger at China — but you know it has to be pointed internally as well.”

The conclusion is that South Korea has a direct problem that will continue to face them for years to come, especially with the exponentially growing population; a problem that as of now is utterly unsolvable. One could only imagine what the rates of emigration from the smog ridden country will climb to in the coming future.

It is getting hot in here by M.M.

Dr Erik Meuleman is currently working for a small startup company that is based in Boulder Colorado. They employ 23 people  and are currently working on a Carbon capture project in Norway, a country that is world renowned for created new and better reusable energy sources that will make the planet healthier and survive longer. Dr Meuleman has been working in this field for several decades now and always for the government. He will now be continuing his work from the private sector. He believes that the work he is doing with this company is going to make a big difference in Carbon emissions projects around the world.  

Countries around the world have been polluting our atmosphere for decades but not many knew what greenhouse gasses were actually doing once they were emitted. These greenhouse gasses are being trapped in troposphere. This is the first layer of the atmosphere it extends 10 – 15km above the earth’s surface. It contains water vapor and Carbon Dioxide, the CO2 keep rises which creates a bigger cloud in the troposphere. Which is created the “greenhouse effect”. The “greenhouse effect” is the sun’s radiation being stopped by the water vapor and CO2 being reflected back to the earth’s surface instead of leaving our atmosphere.

Imagine that you are playing tennis and every ball that you hit another one is added. Every ball that you hit goes over the net but slowly over time a brick wall gets built behind the net and some balls come bouncing back. The more bricks that become part of the wall the more likely it is for for ball to come bouncing back at you.

It is widely believed that the majority of our CO2 emissions come from transportation and electricity and heat. This is true these two section make up a lot of our Carbon emissions but they are not to only big sectors that emit lots of Carbon Dioxide. The agricultural industry emits almost as much as the electricity and heat sector. This may come as a surprise because it is widely known that trees convert CO2 to O2 which we are capable of breathing. But livestock have to there daily judies and those are affecting global warming. Especially cows when they release on average 100 kg their bodily gases each year. These gases contain Methane a greenhouse gas similar to Carbon Dioxide. But the effects that it has on the atmosphere is 23 times worse. So releasing 100 kg of Methane is like releasing 2,300 kg of Carbon Dioxide. This value might mean nothing to you so let’s put it into other terms. 2,300kg of carbon dioxide is a 1,000 liters of petrol so with a car that drive 8 liters per 100km it could drive 12,500 km. The US food industry contributes nearly 20% of the carbon dioxide of the nation’s carbon footprint.

Every nation has a different Carbon footprint some are bigger than others this could be because of their population or they are just not carbon friendly.  China and the United States emit the most carbon dioxide by a big margin. China is releasing nearly 8000 tonnes of carbon per year and the United states is releasing 5000 tonnes of carbon per year. The country that emits the third most is india but they only release 1500 tonnes of carbon. The gap between second and third is way too big. The country’s GDP could have something to do with the amount of carbon they are releasing. China has a massive exportation market which is the big reason why their Carbon footprint is so high. America on the other high uses the car way too much taking it for little trips is carbon that doesn’t need to be emitted. There are countries that are working hard to become carbon neutral. This means is that all the carbon you emit into the air you can convert back to a better substance in most cases it will be O2. A country that is working hard is Denmark they are almost capable to live of the power they get from the wind turbines in the North sea.

A colleague of Dr Meuleman was in town from Denmark and was available to be asked a couple of questions about how Svalbard an island north of Norway near the arctic circle. Which has been affected by the results of climate change over the last few years. She told me that the glaciers have not been regrowing to their previous size and that part of the island has not been freezing which hinders residents from using their snowmobiles to get to hunting cabins or a quicker route to town. She also said that the Polar bears have been leaving their natural habitat in search for food. They have been seen eating the rubbish which surrounds the coast line. The polar bears are getting skinnier and when they have more than 3 young not all will survive the winter.

The Frackin’ Problem by E.K.

“It was so bad sometimes that my daughter would be in the shower in the morning, and she’d have to get out of the shower and lay on the floor,” recalls Craig Sautner in an interview with U.S. News. Chemical levels in the household water have skyrocketed since hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, started just a half mile from the Sautners’ home. Even with expensive filtration equipment the water is not safe for drinking and evidently bathing as well. Aside from the methane that allows people to light their tap water on fire there are other many dangerous chemicals that can cause cancer and other illnesses.  

Many places in the U.S. have oil underneath them that we have known about for many years but only within the last few decades has it become economically feasible to drill them. These places are known as Shale-gas deposits and generally exist in a thin layer of shale about a mile beneath the surface and can stretch for many miles. Hydraulic fracturing shoots a water, sand, and chemical combination at high pressure into the loose rock allowing oil companies to gather up the gas and refine it right there. The process for refining is just as bad, they gather all of the oil and burn the impurities off that include many of the dangerous chemicals that were in the fracking fluid.  A huge amount of harmful chemicals are released into the air when this is done. All waste is either left there or taken to a nearby river or stream where it is dumped and left to pollute hundreds of miles of stream. This runoff contains many radioactive elements among other chemicals. Activists have gotten hold of some samples of the fracking fluid and have brought them to labs to get analyzed. Water makes of the vast majority of the compound but some chemicals that are present are, benzene which is cancer causing , ethylbenzene and toluene which cause neurological harm, xylene and methanol which are possible causes of the Sautners’ dizziness nausea and vomiting (though it is more likely that methanol is the cause), formaldehyde is a preserving agent that can cause severe injury to the upper gastrointestinal tract, and hydrochloric acid which causes the skin and eye pain (In a congressional testimony, some drilling companies have confirmed the presence of these chemicals.). Theo Colborn, an expert in water issues and a panel member in the EPA, estimates that a third of the chemicals in fracking fluid remain unknown to the public. That’s a whole lot of danger to have around you in my opinion.

The depletion of easier-to-reach, “conventional” gas deposits, and increases in the price of natural gas have spurned this change to horizontal drilling instead of the standard vertical drilling. Fracking wells have sprung up closer and closer to homes around the country and we are seeing the impacts on the communities as more and more children are getting sick. The impacts on the Sautners’ is undeniable. The family first realized that the nearby fracking was bad when their water turned brown and was causing corrosion on their dishes. They complained to Cabot, the drilling company responsible, and got a water pump installed. This fixed most problems but when health agencies sampled their water they found that the methane levels were way higher than considered safe. The son often had sores on his arms and legs from the water and the entire family experienced headaches and dizziness. With the water so contaminated the family has to take showers away from home but they cannot afford to move because the property value was ruined by the nearby well.

Much closer to home is Clif Willmeng, an anti-fracking activist, who lives in Lafayette Colorado. He spent many days during the flood in 2013 documenting all the fracking wells in Boulder County. He visited hundreds of wells and he saw many that were overturned, cracked or washed away completely leaving behind pools of waste materials and radioactive elements (I don’t actually know how he knows it was radioactive as he didn’t say anything about bringing a geiger counter.).

As fracking is here to stay whether we like it or not we should probably make it safer. Engineers and scientists alike have been asked this question and there were three main points, fix the leaks, get more data, and build better wells. Natural gas is a much better form of fuel for our environment than burning coal but contains mostly methane. When released into the air without being burned methane is a big player in climate change. Cracked pipes allow much more methane to be released than is considered acceptable by the federal government. Some companies are ready to change. Allowing so much gas to escape hurts their profits in the long run as well as the environment.   

Data can also lead the way to a safer future. If extensive government tests were run on the water and soil prior to drilling then companies would be much safer with drill sites least they got shut down. According to the EPA, monitoring the levels of methane in water would also give data to show how bad fracking really is as we don’t have actual unbiased results at this time. Before-and-after air sampling could identify locations that release toxic compounds and surveys of community-health metrics could help identify ways in which concentrated drilling activity harms nearby residents—or dispel misconceptions and worries.

The third solution is simple, build better wells. Many wells have been deemed faulty because of bad cement. The greatest offshore environmental disaster in U.S. history, the Deepwater Horizon rig, was because of bad cement on the cap of the well. California set a possible precedent in 2013 by adding more regulations to fracking. Some of the biggest regulations were to ensure that the integrity of the well was sound, this included testing the cement used. With the U.S. drilling 100 new wells everyday it is important to make sure that they are all up to specifications.

With so many wells near our homes and families shouldn’t we be worried? We don’t want another disaster like Deepwater Horizon, this time on our doorstep.

The Elephant in the Room That Nobody Seems to Care About by D.H.

The population of Uganda in 2013 was around 37.5 million people. By 2050, it is projected that it will be around 102 million according to http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke. Do you see a problem with this? The populations of developing countries is increasing without bound, while the country itself struggles financially to sustain itself. People in these countries are already struggling to support their families as it is, with the population exploding, it’s only going to make matters worse. The cities won’t be able to support its population. Many families will be displaced into slums, many will be struggling to find employment, crime will rise, and overall there will not be enough food to properly feed the country’s people.

This problem with overpopulation is much larger than people give it credit for. As of 2016, the population of humans on our planet reached the 7.4 billion mark, and is expected to steadily increase. We are projected to hit the 10 billion mark by around 2050. I feel like a reality check is necessary before we can really start to fix this problem.

Our massive consumption of resources and production of greenhouse gases are the main causes of climate change, and to those that don’t believe that it exists… it does. While we are making efforts to reduce the amount of emissions, adding more and more people to the planet is only going to increase consumption. Do you think that we can reduce overall emissions if we are adding more and more people to the planet each year? The answer is no, unfortunately.

With more and more people on the planet, we are going to need to find more efficient ways to properly feed the growing population. At the same time we are struggling to even feed a large number of our 7.4 billion already. Do you think it’s plausible that we could feed up to 10 billion if we have trouble feeding our population today? The answer, yet again, is no.

There are many steps that can be taken to address this problem, yet this topic is one that nobody seems to want to talk about, as if it’s taboo to our society for the problem of overpopulation to be discussed. Not only do we, as humans, think it is morally and culturally wrong to make efforts to control overpopulation, but our own system of government also opposes taking the proper steps to control population.

An article that on http://www.populationelephant.com called The Problems with “The Problem” beautifully discusses the ideas of how our own system opposing the idea of controlling overpopulation. It can be broken down into three areas: Democracy, Capitalism, and Religion.

Religion: As humans, it is our biological instinct to reproduce and raise the next generation of humans so that our species can continue to exist grow. The same applies for most religions. Whether it is though converting others to a religion or by being born into one, most religions like the idea of growing in size and continually existing through generations.

What would happen to the Catholic Church if each Catholic couple only had one child? It would shrink dramatically – heaven forbid! That is why they continue with their completely irrational stand against birth control.”

This quote from the article that I mentioned above describes the problem perfectly. Making efforts to control overpopulation would have the side effect of lessening the power of religious organizations, as there would be less overall people in them.

Democracy: In our government, we have the luxury of being able to choose how we want to live our lives. This also applies to how much children we have. Why would a government whose main objective is to let its people choose how they live want to limit how many children they want to have?

Capitalism: This one is really simple. Our economy depends on consumption to grow. If consumption is high, then our economy is booming. The only problem is, making efforts to reduce the overall population would decrease the overall amount of consumption, which would cause negative growth. Our government cannot function properly with a net decrease in overall population.

I had the opportunity to talk to Dr. Strode, an accomplished high school biology teacher who has a P.H.D in Ecology and Environmental sciences. He stated as humans advance in technology, we are raising what we thought was the maximum carrying capacity for a maximum sustainable yield for humans through the use of more efficient food technology. We are making steps towards being able to feed the growing population on our planet, but there is only so much land available to grow food.

Take a piece of paper and draw a square. This square will represent the area of the USA, which is 9.834 million kilometers squared. Color in around 60% of the total area of the square with any color of your choosing. The 40% that is hasn’t been colored in represents the total amount of farm area that is currently used to grow crops in the U.S. Now take a different color and color in around 80% of the 40% that is still uncolored. The little bit of the square that is still uncolored represents the total amount of farmland that is dedicated to growing crops to feed HUMANS. 80% of the total farmland in the US is used to grow crops not to feed us humans, but rather used to feed animals that we then eat later.

The reason that I am mentioning this is that it’s a potential solution to being able to feed the growing population. Who knows how many more mouths we could feed if instead of using most of our farmland to feed animals, we instead use it to feed humans. According to Facts on Animal Farming and the Environment, an article on www.onegreenplanet.org, it takes 16 pounds of grain to produce one pound of meat. Let that sink in.

On the consumption side of the problem, our advancements in technology will allow us to help other countries “leapfrog” over excessive consumption. Countries in Africa don’t need to go through the industrial revolution again as they develop. Instead, we help them skip generations of technology in order to reduce overall future consumption. One big example of this would be through renewable energy. Where we would help developing countries set up wind turbines or solar panels, effectively reducing overall consumption as they develop.

Dr. Strode briefly talked about a time where he saw the effects of overpopulation first hand. He was in the Lome, a small country on the western side of Africa. He took a walk through the city and saw what exactly what happens when you have too many people and not enough resources. Trash was littering almost everywhere and there was sewage in the streets. People were living extremely close together in run down homes with tin roofs. There simply wasn’t enough resources to take care of the growing population of the city, there wasn’t proper waste disposal, and the overall quality of life is absolutely abysmal.

Maybe because we live in a highly developed country, we don’t properly see the devastating effects that uncontrolled population growth can cause. It’s fairly easy to get lost in our everyday lives and not really worry about the consequences that our rapid growth can cause. As of now, I would say that the best course of action to take is to simply spread the word. The beauty of our country is that it is run by the people and for the people, and this is a relevant problem that people need to know about.

Are You Fracking Serious? by Daniel Swanson

Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” is something that is easy to misunderstand. Those who don’t understand seem to think it does bad things to our environment… yes, they are all Prius owners. Fracking actually helps our economy, from lower oil and gas prices to opening up jobs for people. After reading this paper, fracking might not seem as bad anymore.

One misunderstanding is the most people think fracking causes earthquakes, but it does not. Steve Swanson, President of North Shore Energy, states, “earthquakes are typically not caused by oil and gas operations but, if they are, they are caused from produced water disposal and not fracking.” Earthquakes can be indirectly caused by this other oil and gas activity: “produced” water disposal at high pressures. Produced water is water that naturally flows to the surface when oil and gas is produced, which is then disposed of back in the earth. When the pressure builds up in that deeper disposal zone it can (sometimes) cause an earthquake. Although there are more than 180,000 of these water disposal wells in the U.S. (EPA 1) only a small fraction (<5%) are related to earthquake activity. However, this would occur regardless of fracking so fracking has no direct connection to earthquakes.

People also have the misconception that fracking automatically poisons drinking water. When asked about whether it could poison the water, Swanson stated, “It can but it would be very unusual. Fracking takes place very far below the surface (potentially miles below the aquifer) and drinking water is in aquifers that are relatively shallow.” Mr. Swanson drew a basic picture showing the great distance typically found between the oil zones (deep) and the drinking water zones (shallow) to make his point. People often use an out-of-scale picture as evidence of poison drinking water, but it is very unlikely. It is possible that fracking may contaminate drinking water when the wells drilled are too shallow and are drilled nearby an aquifer. Fracking may also affect drinking water when equipment used to produce the wells has a leak. However, just like with disposal wells, this occurs very infrequently.

Because the effects of contaminated drinking water are very serious, we should run tests to make sure wells are safe. This could be done by running simulations on a computer multiple times to figure out if drilling at a specific location is safe. If the tests show drilling is unlikely to cause contamination, wells can be drilled but still have penalties in place if something goes wrong. If the tests show it’s likely to cause contamination, then no drilling permits should be issued.

Now that I have cleared up some misconceptions, it is time to look at the benefits of fracking that are also overlooked. Fracking generates significant amounts of oil and gas which would not be produced using other methods. Fracking breaks up the rocks that hold oil and gas and allows both to move more freely. More oil and gas supply means lower prices, which benefit all the people who use it for driving and heating their homes.

It is still important to produce oil and gas because it provides a constant supply, whereas wind and solar are only intermittent (produced only when the wind blows or it’s sunny). Also, the cost of oil and gas is less. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) compared the cost of generating electricity using various sources in 2014 and found that natural gas was the second least expensive option, after geothermal, and considerably cheaper than wind and solar. Oil and gas is versatile because it can be used for heating and driving and it is storable and portable – it’s hard to live without it because it is so versatile.

Fracking also generates more jobs because oil companies need more people to work on drilling the wells and maintaining their facilities. These are professional types of jobs that pay well (not like flipping burgers!) and help grow the economy. These workers spend their money on other things, like supporting a family and buyings goods and services, so that other businesses are supported as well.

It is important that we develop all types of energy, including renewables (like wind and solar) and oil and gas, so that America can become energy independent – that means we don’t have to rely on Saudi Arabia and other OPEC countries to provide our energy. For now, oil and gas remains the least expensive energy source available. It also means we can spend more of our money here and not send it overseas, which will also help our economy.

In summary, there are many factors that affect whether people think fracking is good or bad. As a result, it is confusing and people then base their opinions on only the factors they like the most. There are real concerns about fracking, like earthquakes and polluting drinking water, and real benefits, like jobs and cheaper energy costs and energy independence. If you look at all the facts there should be some concern about fracking, but not as much as there is now. It is a safe process with minimal chance of error if done correctly.

Advocacy for the Preservation of Honeybees: Why Bee Health Should Be Viewed as a Personal Responsibility by E.M.

If you don’t believe it is important to advocate for the health of the honeybee populations around the world, take a good look at the dinner fork in your hand. Did you know it is estimated that bees are “responsible for about one in every three bites of food in the United States” (Bergeron 1)? Because of their integral role in pollinating our agricultural products, honeybees are indispensable in helping us to produce our food. As the Back Yard Beekeepers Association states, “Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables” (Back Yard Beekeepers 1). The Nature Conservancy also notes the bees’ importance as it states unequivocally, “the honey bee is the greatest pollinating machine when it comes to agriculture.” According to some estimates, the precious bees account for $15 to $18 billion annually as our commercial pollinators in the United States by “doing almost 80% of all crop pollination” ( Bergeron 1). Furthermore, the U.S. Agricultural Statistics Service reports the honey produced by bees in the United States adds upwards of $365 million dollars annually to the U.S. economy (USDA 1). On a worldwide basis, estimates of economic loss are even higher. One study concludes “if left unchecked, CCD has the potential to cause a $15 billion direct loss of crop production and $75 billion in indirect losses” (Rucker & Thurman 3). Because of their important role in both the production of our food and in the health in our overall economy, bees are essential players in the health and well being of all people, and therefore their worldwide preservation is a responsibility we all need to seriously address. Despite these critical issues, there is reluctance to support the necessary steps to help our honeybee populations to thrive. As this paper will argue, this reluctance is due in part to a general population that is uninformed and/or disinterested in how they can help to promote bee health, as well as due partly to commercial and governmental entities who fight the reduction of certain pesticides that are believed to contribute to the overall decline in bee populations worldwide. Finally, this paper will argue that individuals can advocate for bees in five important ways: by planting flowering plants, providing water sources, and keeping bees in their own backyards and communities; by registering their green space on the Pollinator Partnerships’ database to provide data to protect and promote pollinators like bees; by reducing the amount and type of pesticides in their own gardens; by buying local honey to support local beekeepers; and perhaps most importantly, they can advocate for safer use of pesticides used in commercial agriculture around the world.

The primary reason honeybee advocacy is so important is because of the drastic reduction in the numbers of honeybees worldwide. According to the Nature Conservancy, it is estimated that the number of honeybee colonies has “dropped to about 2.5 million from more than 4 million in the 1970’s.”  Bergeron’s CNN report also indicates that this number is down from 5 million honeybees that were in existence in the 1940’s. This reduction is primarily realized through a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder, or CCD, characterized by honeybees in managed colonies that have “abandoned their colonies in masse, leaving behind the queen, young bees, and large stores of honey and pollen” (Suryanarayanan & Kleinman 2). These researchers report that the collapsing colonies result in an “insufficient amount of bees [that] are available to handle the brood” even though the queen bee is still present, resulting in “losses [that] have occurred rapidly and in large numbers.” Other sources acknowledge that the reason that the losses are occurring is technically unknown, however, it is noted that current thinking points to a cocktail of issues that are at fault such as disease, parasites, lack of nectar source diversity, and mites in addition to the more widespread use of pesticides (Merchant  2). The importance of bee preservation was not lost on Albert Einstein who once speculated that, ”If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live” (Benefits of Honey 1). Although Einstein was neither a beekeeper nor an entomologist, he grasped the critical importance of the issue. This grand statement from one of the world’s brightest minds acts as a wake-up call to urgently address issues of protection for the world’s bee population. As a result, it is crucial that as many individuals as possible must immediately advocate for a number of solutions in order to fully address the crisis of rampant CCD.

Arguing for lay individuals to promote bee health first requires the dispelling of certain myths that stand in the way of people’s actions to be effective advocates. First of all, some individuals do not advocate for bees because issues of allergies and/or bee stings frighten them. However, it is important to note that most stings in people are due wasps instead of bees. Wasps can sting repeatedly out of anger without dying, but bees sting very rarely and only out of fear of death, as they will die after they sting only once. Consequently, most stings in people occur from wasps rather than from bees. Thus, people should not fear a honeybee colony that is near their home, as the bees are relatively docile unless stepped on directly. In addition, a hive in your community should not put more people at risk since any individual who actually is allergic to bees should carry an Epi Pin at all times for immediate medical assistance if they are stung, whether there is a hive in the area or not (Triplett). It should also be noted that a nearby beehive does not necessarily increase one’s exposure to stings, since bees are known to travel up to five miles on their daily expeditions to gather pollen (Triplett), therefore bees in your environment may not necessarily come from the beehive next door.

Once individuals understand the behaviors and relatively calm nature of bees they are more likely to support the planting of flowering plants as well as adding bee hives and water sources to their immediate surroundings, both actions that help to promote the healthy lifestyles of bees (Chadwick et al. 77-111). Planting for bee health, aims to provide simple flowering plants as much as possible throughout the year, planting varieties that have not had all of the nectar and pollen bred out of them. Look for “bee friendly” labeling on seed packets to insure that you are planting the correct varieties. Under planting fruit trees with flowering plants, and increasing diversity in agricultural landscapes can also add to the habitat for wild bees, that also are very efficient pollinators in our ecosystems (Chadwick, et al. 77). In backyards, look also to reduce the mulch around the flowerbeds that prevent bees that nest in the ground from reaching the soil, thus increasing the bee’s habitats in your garden. Habitats can also be increased in your yard by providing dedicated bee “hotels” that are inexpensive and easy to make, without the commitment demands of a full-blown beehive. Inspired individuals can go into intensive beekeeping, but this demands a thorough education in beekeeping in order to manage the hive responsibly (Chadwick, et al. 86-87).

If individuals do undertake the commitment to become full-blown beekeepers, they should keep detailed notes about the behaviors discovered during their hive inspections in order to insure the health of their bee colony. These details should then be shared with the nonprofit group known as the Pollinator Partnership, whose sole mission is “to promote the health of pollinators, critical to food and ecosystems through conservation, education, and research,” so that they can keep accurate details about the health of hives around the world (Gardeners 1).

If individuals are seeking a less time-intensive way to help support the health of bees, they can simply buy local honey which supports the efforts of those keeping bees in the local community. Although not as effective as a more comprehensive approach to bee advocacy, it is important to welcome every effort no matter how small, to help with the preservation of the worldwide bee population. Individuals can also reduce the amount of pesticides used in their gardens and fields, as certain types of pesticides have been indicated, although not proven, to have significant impacts on the bee populations around the world (McFarland and McFarland 15-19).

Pesticide use, in fact, is the most controversial aspect of arguing the need to address CCD all over the world, as many scientists, lay people, and beekeepers are at odds about how certain pesticides actually affect the overall health of honeybees. However, it is critical to understand this major issue in order to help explain this major decline that has affected our bee populations so drastically in the past few decades. Although, individual efforts are helpful to build awareness, it is impossible to help build back the significant numbers of bees that have been lost over time by disjointed, small scale efforts. It is also impossible to explain the major losses of bees without addressing large-scale shifts in our environment that can account for such a drastic change in the overall bee population. Evidence of these disturbing declines shows up in Steinheur’s comprehensive analysis entitled Colony Loss 2014-2015, a report that indicates 28.7% of the honeybee colonies managed in the United States were lost over a nine-year period. In another article from Yale University researcher Elizabeth Grossman, quotes an even higher loss as she states, “For much of the past 10 years, beekeepers, primarily in the United States and Europe, have been reporting annual hive losses of 30 percent or higher, substantially more than is considered normal.” One major change in our agricultural environments that could account for such drastic increases in CCD is the use of certain pesticides known as neonicotinoids (also referred to as “neonics” for short) that were originally used to replace DDT as a pesticide because DDT was proven to be harmful to humans. However, neonics have been shown in some studies to lead to sharp declines in queen bees and also “interfere with the ability of bees to navigate back to their hives” (Grossman 4). Since neonics have been shown in the U.S. to be used on about “95 percent of corn and canola crops; the majority of cotton, sorghum, and sugar beets; and about half of all soybeans” their impact on our environment is enormous and very widespread (Grossman 3). The Yale researcher later continues, “They are also used on the vast majority of fruit and vegetable crops, including apples, cherries, peaches, oranges, berries, leafy greens, tomatoes, and potatoes [as well as] cereal grains, rice, nuts, and wine grapes.” All of these products are grown in many different regions of the world, including right here in Colorado (Triplett). With this wide of a reach, the pervasive use of this pesticide could easily have far reaching effects that could account for such massive declines in the bee populations. Although some studies, particularly those funded by the pesticide companies, refute the connection (Jolly 2), other studies as well as data from actual beekeepers insist that neonics are harmful if not deadly to the bee colonies around the world. Researchers such as Suryanarayanan and Kleinman in the article Disappearing Bees and Reluctant Regulators, also stated,

Several beekeepers observed CCD unfolding in the fields of commercial growers with occurrence of CCD and the proximity of their hives to fields treated with relatively new systemic insecticides such as neonicotinoid \

imidacloprid. Affected beekeepers reported that CCD occurred in colonies several months after initial exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides…

This, the beekeepers surmised, had long-term progressive effects on developing bees that were chronically exposed to accumulating insecticidal stores. (Suryanarayanan & Kleinman 5)

The authors then go on to recommend that there is significant justification for regulators to insist on limiting bee exposure to these pesticides as a precautionary approach. Controversy continues as the pesticide industry fights against the banning of neonics because they risk major financial losses, however, independent researchers and beekeepers contend that the negative effects on the bee population are significant and real. As Steve Ellis, a Minnesota-based beekeeper, states “These compounds are a nightmare scenario for pollinators. There is no way to prevent exposure to these chemicals,” he continues, “The only question is exposure level, whether that is a problem or not. The pesticide industry claims not. The beekeeping industry says yes” (Grossman 4). Although the pesticide industry claims the pesticide “reduces by orders of magnitude the amount present in the plant when it flowers,” (Benbrook 1) the U.S. Geological Survey has recorded the presence of neonics in rivers and streams. In addition, data from Washington State documents residues in numerous foods. Thus, there is significant data that suggests these chemicals do not disappear from our environment once they are applied on the fields (Benbrook 1). Penn State researchers also confirm the detrimental effects of the continued use of this pesticide, stating “There’s going to be a shortage of bees in this entire growing season…Whether we’ve reached a point of no return, we don’t know” (qtd. In Grossman 5).

Therefore, it is in our best interest to follow the example of the European Union, as their European Commission recently voted to impose a temporary ban the use of neonics until the actual effects of the pesticide can be fully understood. This cautionary legislation is the only way to avoid the potentially irreversible effects of neonics on the world’s food supply as well as on the bee population as a whole. As a nation, and as individuals it is all of our best interests to do whatever we can to influence our stale, local, and national officials to follow the  lead of the EU and ban neonics from use in our agriculture. The future of our bee populations and in turn, the future of the entire human race depends on our careful stewardship of the natural world, so it is firmly in all of our hands to do the most we can to insure we, and all of God’s creatures, can all live long, happy, and healthy lives.

In conclusion, it is up to us as individuals to do whatever we can to insure the health and safety of our honeybee populations. Whether it is planting flowers, building habitats, buying local honey, hanging bee hotels, raising our own bee colonies, or fighting commerce to regulate the pesticide industry, every effort is a step forward toward ensuring the health and safety of the world’s honeybees. It is all of our responsibilities to do whatever we can to help maintain the delicate balance of nature. If we fail do so, future generations will pay the price for our shortcomings, not just in the health of the bee population, but because of our interdependence on the bee’s role in our food supply, we consequently affect the health, wellbeing and longevity of the entire human race.

 

 

Works Cited

Back Yard Beekeepers Association. “Honeybee Facts.” Back Yard Beekeepers Association.com. Web. 13 March 2016. <http://backyardbeekeepers.com/wp/honeybee-facts/.

Benbrook, Charles. “Pesticide Residues in Organic Food – Delivering on a Promise.” Washington State University College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences.3 June 2014. Web. 15 March 2016. <http://Csanr.wsu.edu/pesticide-residues-in-organic-food.

Benefits of Honey. “Did Albert Einstein Ever Link Doom of Human Race to Bees?” Benefits of Honey.com. Web. 17 March 2016. <http://http://www.benefits-of-honey.com/albert-einstein.html.

Bergeron, Ryan. “5 Ways to Help Save the Bees.” CNN.com. 12 March 2015. Web. 14 March 2016.< http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/04/living/lyw-5-ways-to-help-bees.

Chadwick, Fergus, et al. The Bee Book. 1st American ed. New York: DK Publishing, 2016. Print.

Gardeners.com. “Attracting Beneficial Bees: Gardeners Can Help Counter the Decline in Pollinator Populations.” Gardeners.com. Web. 17 March 2016. <http://www.gardeners.com/how-to/attracting-beneficial-bees/bees/5024.html.

Goulson D.  “Neonicotinoids Impact Bumblebee Colony Fitness in the Field: A Reanalysis of the UK’s Food & Environment Research Agency 2012 Experiment.” PeerJ, 3 2012: 854. Web. 15 March 2016. <https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.854.

Grossman, Elizabeth. “Declining Bee Populations Pose a Threat to Global Agriculture.” Environment 360: Yale University, 30 April 2013. Web. 14 March 2016 <http://e360.yale.edu/feature/declining-bee-populations-pose-a-threat-to-global-agriculture/2645/.

Jolly, David. “Europe Bans Pesticides Thought Harmful to Bees.” New York Times. 29 April 2013. Web. 16 March 2016. <http://nyti.ms/188fVAc.

McFarland, Rob and McFarland, Chelsea. Save the Bees with Natural Backyard Hives: The Easy and Treatment Free Way to Attract and Keep Healthy Bees. Salem, MA: Page Street, 2015. Print.

Merchant, Mike. “Honey Bees at Center of Controversy.” Texas A & M Agrilife Extension., 22 May 2013. Web. 15 March 2016. <http://citybugs.tamu.edu/2013/05/22/honey-bees-at-center-of-controversy/.

Mussen, Eric C. “Don’t Underestimate the Value of Honey Bees!” UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, 8 March 2007. Web. 15 March 2016. <http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/ Faculty/Eric C. Mussen/.

Pollinator Partnership. “Get to Know Us.” Pollinator Partnership.org. Web. 16 March 2016.< http://www.pollinator.org/about.htm.

Rucker, Randal R. and Thurman, Walter N. “Colony Collapse Disorder: The Market Response to Bee Disease.” Perc Policy Series No. 50 2012: Print.

Steinheur, Natalie, et al. “Colony Loss 2014-2015: Preliminary Results.” Bee Informed Partnership, 13 May 2015. Web. 16 March 2016. <http://beeinformed.org./results/colony-loss-2014-2015-preliminary-results/.

Suryanarayanan, Sainath & Kleinman, Daniel L. “Disappearing Bees and Reluctant Regulators.” Issues in Science and Technology 27, no.4. Summer 2011. Web. 15 March 2016. <http://issues.org/27-4/p_suryanarayanan/.

The Nature Conservancy. “Journey with Nature Bees & Agriculture.Nature.org. Web. 16 March 2016.<http://www.nature.org/ourintititives/regions/northamerica/unitedstates/indiana/journeywithnature/bees-agriculture.xml.

Triplett, Sarah. Personal interview with Lead Zookeeper at the Westminster Butterfly Pavilion. 24 March 2016.

U.S. Department of Agriculture. Federal Market News Service. National Honey Report. No.36-2, Washington D.C.:GPO, 18 March 2016. Web. 20 March 2016. <https://usda.mannlib.cornell.edu/usda/ ams/FVMHONEY.pdf.

The Side Effects by W.D.

As a butterfly flaps its wings

A snowflake falls

A raindrop shimmers the pacific northwest

A gust of wind grazes over the main of a male stallion sprinting through an open field

A wave rolls onto the shore

An acre of the forest disappears

The hole in the ozone layer doubles in size

The trash island grows to the trash country

Another animal dies from pollution

The sea level rises 1 inch

A flood sweeps out an entire city

A bird pollinates a flower, sparking the next generation of the daisy

A mother lion gives birth

A peaceful summer storm rolls over the country side

A lot can happen

When a butterfly flaps its wings