About Peyton

Peyton Sammons loves to research and discuss the newest topics related to air quality, sustainability and living a "green life". She also loves spending time with friends, reading, writing, and volunteering throughout her community in multiple outreach programs. She is currently an International Affairs and Arabic major at UGA's School of Public and International Affairs.

How FIFA is scoring more than just goals on the soccer pitch

Ahh the World Cup… I can’t be the only one here who considers this the most exciting sporting event after the Olympics. I’ve watched every match so far this Cup. Yes, I admit it, I LOVE soccer. What I don’t love? How much pollution this year’s Cup has created.

It should be no surprise to any of us that between planes travelling across Brazil to get both teams and fans like myself to and from the 64 matches in 12 different stadiums and the building of said stadiums, that CO2 emissions have increased substantially. In fact, last year inhabitat.com published an article discussing the coming environmental damage, predicting (along with FIFA) that the Cup would increase the number of tons of CO2 by 2.7 MILLION; according to them, 80% of that would be coming from jet travel alone.

These numbers were, and still are troubling, but I do have some good news for you- all of the stadiums have been outfitted in environmentally conscious ways, including solar panels on their rooftops and designated recycling areas. Even more incredible, FIFA has vowed that they will do all in their power to offset 100% of the Cup’s carbon footprint through reforestation projects and investments in hydroelectricity as well as wind energy.

Looks like the “beautiful game” is finding ways to make the world beautiful too, and that- dear readers- is pretty cool.

 

Is pollution changing our brains?

I’m especially excited for this week’s story, so-to-speak, because I get to mention two of my favorite things at once- Criminal Minds and psychological studies; neither of these things I am usually able to incorporate into these bi-weekly blogs.

When doing my daily searches for interesting articles to read while I eat breakfast, I stumbled upon a new study that was recently published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal. As I was reading I was fascinated by their descriptions of how the study’s results with mice are consistent with others that involved human test subjects.

So here’s the deal: early exposure to air pollution causes really damaging changes in the brains of both young mice and children; these changes can manifest as autism, schizophrenia and other neurological-development disorders (which is of course where I began thinking of Criminal Minds…). In the study with mice, tests conducted for learning ability, short-term memory and impulsiveness were consistently failed.

The most incredible findings were those in a 2013 study from the University of Rochester’s JAMA Psychiatry which reported that the young children who lived in areas with high levels of traffic-related air pollution during their first year of life were 3 times (yes, you read that correctly THREE TIMES) more likely to develop neurological disorders later on in life. Why you may ask? It’s pretty simple- the first 6 weeks are a ridiculously critical time in the brain’s developmental process. So, when exposed to the amount of air pollution (which is mostly carbon particles from the fossil fuels) that is found in mid-sized cities across the USA during rush hour, the brain becomes inflamed to almost three times the normal and healthy size.  The amount of neurotransmitter glutamate (something that occurs in the brains of schizophrenic and autistic patients) also greatly increases  This means that the “white matter” doesn’t fully develop because the cells are too damaged. And just to be clear, once damaged, ALWAYS damaged.

These findings really raise new questions in my mind, and hopefully will do the same in yours.

Source: http://www.urmc.rochester.edu/news/story/index.cfm

New Technology, Less Pollution? Somebody Should Adverstise That!

And… someone has!

Hello lovely readers, I have something sweet and short for you today, but I hope it will blow your mind just as it did mine.

Billboards. We see them everywhere- on the side of highways, lit up like airfields 24/7 or in between towering skyscrapers, screaming in large, colorful letters “BUY THIS”, “LOOK LIKE THAT” and all sorts of other commercial related things. But what if these billboards did more than sell goods and make us feel small and insignificant in our socio-economic driven world? That is a question that some very creative air-lovers decided to tackle and solve in Peru.

The University of Technology and Engineering (UTEC) in Peru has become an aficionado when it comes to using every day technologies to do more than just advertise (See this link for info on their first project: http://www.designboom.com/technology/a-billboard-in-peru-creates-clean-drinking-water-from-the-air/) Recently, UTEC has also developed a billboard in the heart of Lima that works as an air purifier by removing pollution from the construction site next to it and expelling the same amount of oxygen as 1,200 trees – (that’s 3.5 MILLION cubic feet) per day! Let me repeat that- 1 billboard=1,200 trees. Now that’s what I call an efficient use of technology!

To learn more, here is a video link: http://youtu.be/-HaC5PQXrho

So what do you all think about this project? Do you think we should implement similar things here in the USA? Leave a comment below!

A New Genre Inspires A Generation to Act Now

Since Earth Day was last week on April 22nd, I (as per usual) did some research on new things happening in the world of environmentally-conscious people. Usually I find articles about new technologies; this year, however, I found an article on a budding genre of films/novels: “Cli-Fi.” Now, as a certified nerd, this has become one of my new favorite things.

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UN Gives Climate Change a Makeover

We all know that carbon fuel, which we all use, isn’t good for our planet. What you may not know is that the UN’s Panel on Climate Change has recently released a report from Berlin concerning the necessity of a “massive shift” toward clean energy that both scientists and government officials agree is the most forward thinking agreement of our generation.

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How the great painters of world recorded changes in the atmosphere for posterity

For all of you that love art as much as I do, this week’s blog is sure to interest you!

A team of German and Greek art and science researchers have recently published in the “Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal published by the European Geosciences Union (EGU for short) their findings of the correlation between the colors of painted sunsets and the estimable level of pollution. Specifically, the famous paintings that they studied show how much ash and gas had been released after volcanic eruptions. According to them, eruptions like the one that occurred in Indonesia’s Tambora volcano in 1815.

Artists all over Europe noticed the changes in sunset color as the volcanic ash and gas “spewed into the atmosphere.” The particles scattered the sunlight, causing sunsets to appear more red or orange than usual. Apparently this wasn’t a one time occurrence; rather, this phenomenon lasted up to 3 years.

One such nature artist was J. M. W. Turner. Scientists, along with art historians, are using his and other paintings to further understand how the composition of the atmosphere relates to the art of the time. In order to fully do so, the team analyzed hundreds of high-quality photographs of sunset paintings between the years of 1500 BCE and 2000. This period included over 50 volcanic eruptions in places all around the world. The result? The green-to-red ratio did in fact correlate with the amount of volcanically emitted aerosols within the atmosphere; this was across the board, no matter the school or location of the painters.

This study is already helping researchers to fully understand how aerosols of any type have affected and could continue to affect the Earth’s climate.

In order to read more about this fascinating study, click the link below!

Source:
http://www.egu.eu/news/106/famous-paintings-help-study-the-earths-past-atmosphere/

The Secret Life of The Sea

 

 

 

 

Hello all! Long time no see!

As spring break approaches, many of you, including myself, are probably headed somewhere warm, wet and sun-filled–that’s right, the beach. As you stare out to sea and empty your mind of the stress that school or work has put on you, I have an interesting article for you to contemplate.

Ahh the sea… It has many names and harbors un-imaginable life forms in it’s ever changing tides. What doesn’t seem to change is this: the ocean’s surface sucks up any nitrogen-oxides (which are produced by the burning of fossil fuels and is commonly found in photochemical smog) that are found in the polluted air above it. In California, research teams from UC San Diego have found in a recent study that the ocean water near the California coast line removes about 15 percent of these chemicals every single night.

Now you may be asking “how?” Well, dear reader, that is an excellent question, whose answer comes down to something incredibly basic: the ocean’s organically chemical composition. Everyone knows that the sea is salty, but few others than say, bio-chemists can truly appreciate how richly organic the ocean surface is. This of course leads to a “variety of chemical reactions” as Professor Tim Bertram stated in a recently published article by the University of California, San Diego’s research team.

In order to track the cycle of nitrogen in the atmosphere, Bertram and his team studied a specific molecule that is created whenever a nitrogen-oxide is oxidated: di-nitrogen pentoxide. This molecule reacts with the chloride in sea salt.

For all of you chemistry-buffs, this is where it really gets interesting with the formation of nitryl chloride and the way it regenerates nitrogen oxides when the sun rises the next morning. For those of you to whom that last statement means nothing, never fear; basically, the two molecules react as the sun rises and the result is a single chlorine atom attacks surrounding molecules like a rabid animal might… Well, on a molecular level of course. The result? Ozone formation. Ahh there’s a word we all know!

So, basically, the ocean is “a terminal sink for nocturnal nitrogen oxides, and not a source for nitryl chloride under these sampling conditions” – Michelle Kim. Scientists haven’t been able to determine this before however, due to the fact that their arsenal of tools was a little bare for this type of massive molecular-level study. Hopefully, this is just the tip of the iceberg so-to-speak, and more studies of micro-molecular/meteorological ecosystems in what Betram called their “native states.”

To read the actual article: http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/pressrelease/the_surface_of_the_sea_is_a_sink_for_nitrogen_oxides_at_night

Photo source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ocean

How does your hairspray affect coral across the world from you?

We all know that air pollution is bad for us and for the rest of the world. This isn’t news to any of us at this point; however, I think it pertinent to bring up yet another study that has proved the destructive nature of air pollution.

The air particles observed in this study were mainly the result of burning coal or volcanic eruptions, both of which can and do shade corals from sunlight. This cools down the surrounding water, which causes a rather massive reduction in growth rates.

Now, you may be thinking that coral reefs grow under water, so how can they be affected by AIR pollution? Well, it appears that they have respond to changes in the concentration of particulate pollution in the atmosphere, according to a group of climate scientists and coral ecologists from the UK, Australia and Panama, the two latter nations having two of the largest coral colonies in the world.

Coral reefs are considered the most diverse of all ocean ecosystems. They are made up of simple animal cells that rely specifically on photosynthetic algae for their energy and nutrients. These tiny animal cells affect 25% of ocean species, which depend on them for food and shelter, so any damage to them has a domino effect on many, many other ocean creatures.

All types of aerosols reflect the incoming sunlight, which makes the clouds appear brighter, and this reduces the light available for coral photosynthesis, as well as changes temperature of surrounding waters; both of these things seriously affect coral growth.The team’s analysis showed that coral growth rates in the Caribbean were negatively affected by both volcanic emissions in the early 20th century and by aerosol emissions caused by humans in the latter 20th and early 21st centuries.

With so much ecological diversity at risk, the team has called for global environmental change, mostly in terms of industrialization and decarbonization. The sensitivity of coral has to do with not simply our future global atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration but also the regional aerosol emissions; thus, you too play a major role in this long term project to protect these highly important ecosystems.

 

Photo credit: Wikipedia

Typhoons and Their Environmental Consequences

Hello OnAir Readers!

As I’m sure you’ve all heard by now, Typhoon Haiyan smashed into the Philippines a week ago, traveling from there to Vietnam and China. The damages and mortality rates are staggering: 10,000 people have been estimated for the minimum death number, and 600,000 more are homeless.

This catastrophe is not alone, as in the past 10 years we’ve witnessed destructive natural disasters over and over again. Recent studies have suggested that these events may very well be linked to environmental destruction such as deforestation, etc. The areas with such destruction seem to cause an increase in global warming (no surprise there) due to their release of extremely damaging amounts of carbon into our atmosphere.

This latest typhoon is more than likely just going to add to this pattern of carbon dumping, although the amount of carbon that Haiyan’s aftermath will release is yet unknown. We can, however, look to past events and their figures for more information.

In order to put this into some perspective for you guys, let’s turn to Hurricane Katrina here in the US. When Katrina hit in 2005, the amount of carbon released equaled 105 teragrams. To put it into clearer terms, that well is over half of the amount of carbon that ALL of the forests in the US absorb on an annual basis. In the case of the disaster in the Phillipines, the tree tally is already over the 320 million trees uprooted by Katrina. However, luckily for the Philippines, their average coverage of forest is much higher than that of Eastern US areas.

What is interesting to note is that the amount of carbon released does not absolutely correspond with the areas that received the most damage during a typhoon; in fact, the greatest carbon loss during Katrina was found on the very outer edges of the damaged regions. This would be good news if trees were able to regenerate rapidly enough to combat the carbon loss. Also, it is important to take into consideration is that a recent study of the northwest Pacific region has shown that the wind speeds and rainfall rates have been predicted to increase significantly over the next twenty years in reference to tropical storms. If this is true, then the damage from Typhoon Haiyan and those tropical storms to follow, may never fully recover and unfortunately even for those of us on the opposite side of the world will be negatively affected by them in one way or another.

 

OnAir says: What do you think? Do you agree with these climate conclusions? What sorts of things have you seen around the news? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below!

 

Source: www.newscientist.com/article.dn24558-typhoon-haiyan-may-have-created-carbon-burb.html#.UoaZeXm9Kc0