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

The Weather Outside is Frightful

Running errands in the cold November weather is normal for a typical Atlanta go-getter.

However, when the November weather has results like freezing your car overnight, which may hinder your schedule.

Okay, now it’s mid-November and it is normal for temperatures to dropping a little. But the winter solstice is a month away. So why am I seeing icicles now?

You’ve heard of global warming and the Atlanta heat being a scorching 100 degrees. But did you know global warming could also affect the winter seasons?

It’s called Arctic Oscillation. This technical term is used to describe the interaction of the jet stream and Arctic air during the winter.

What does that mean? That means ridiculous cold air can be swept over normal temperature latitudes. This causes severe winter weather throughout most of the U.S.

Surviving these crazy temperatures is a must. I’m not talking about the short-term effects like wearing a jacket or scarf or carrying around an ice scraper. I’m talking about the long-term effects. How can we make it a little more bearable?

The thinning of the ozone layer in the earth’s atmosphere causes global warming. Tips and tricks on how you can reduce the heat and the freeze:

Recycle. Recycling can save at least 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere annually.

Check your thermostat. Keeping the temperature in your house 2 degrees lower in the winter and higher in the summer can save 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Cooler showers. Using less hot water can save 500 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

Carpooling. This usual tip can reduce 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, and it saves you gas money.

 

OnAir says: You know we’re fans of the carpooling. What about the rest of the list? Have you thought about ways you can fight back against pollution? Or do you think it’s a bunch of hooey? Let us know in the comments!

 

Sources: http://www.weather.com/news/nasa-cold-snaps-global-warming-20130129
http://environment.about.com/od/globalwarming/tp/globalwarmtips.htm

The Government and The Environment… The Breakup

Hello OnAir readers!

After a long hiatus, I am so excited to be back! Hopefully you’ve all had a good start to the school year and you’re settling into your environmentally-conscious routines.

For this week I’d like to focus on something that I’m sure you’ve all read and heard about this week: the government shutdown. Now, you may be wondering how this coincides with the environment. The answer is simple: the government has basically everything to do with the environment, and this is the second major hit to the environment by the Federal Government this year alone (March 1st- EPA Budget was cut significantly). The EPA, which is of course a government agency, has also been shutdown; only 7% of EPA employees will continue to work as normal, at least until their contingency money runs out.

Due to this massive reduction, there will be no monitoring of water or air quality. This lack of monitoring will more than likely give many corporations a free pass when it comes to pollution production; after all, who’s to stop them now?

The other most obvious and instantaneous effect of this shutdown was the closure of every single national park and zoo. States’ local economies will lose $76 million per day in tourism revenue that would normally come from lodging and the sale/rental of recreational gear and services according to the National Park Service. This is doubly a shame since it was the anniversary of Yosemite this week.

The final major effect of this shutdown is that all those who have been working diligently on creating and passing laws and clean up efforts for the benefit of all necessary green sectors have been stopped short. Thus, the shutdown may not initially affect you, but the impact of reduced environmental protection and regulation definitely will in the not so distant future. We will reap the effects of our nation’s leaders choices.

 

OnAir says: What gets you fired up about the environment? What do you think the adults in your life–school, town, state–could do better? Let us know in the comments!

Ecological Footsteps

Here’s a small biology lesson that tied in with helping to reduce air pollution. While reading my biology textbook, I came across a peculiar term – ecological footsteps. Now what in the name is that and how does it involve us?

Ecological footstep is a measure of human demand on the Earth’s ecosystems. It represents the amount of biological productive land and sea area needed to supply resources for humans to consume. This includes areas that food is produced, land for buildings and roads and ecosystems for absorbing its waste emissions such as carbon dioxide.

Wait, did I read that right? Carbon dioxide? Yep! Carbon dioxide. Since the 1970s, humanity has been in ecological overshoot with annual demand on resources exceeding what Earth can regenerate each year. Overshoot is a vastly underestimated threat to human well-being and the health of the planet, and it not very adequately addressed.

We have to take care of what we exploit from the lands – because our ecological footsteps are on overdrive. So cut down on your consumption for needing energy and other resources – let’s make a a goal to slowly reduced our ecological footsteps!

(image from footprintnetwork.org)

New School Year? New Ways To Be Green!

Hey Guys!

Since most of you, like myself, will be starting school very soon I thought we could talk about ways to make this school year your greenest yet!

There are so many easy ways to do this, like bringing a reusable water bottle and lunchbox. Most of those things you already know about, so I thought that I should bring up some ways you may not already know!

Before we get to go to classes and see our friends we have to GET to school, right? Well, how we choose to do that makes a huge difference and has serious effects on the environment as well as one’s health. Here are some ways to make sure that your carbon footprint is lessened this year!

1) Of course the best way to avoid releasing fossil fuels is by either walking, riding a bike or skateboarding to school. Obviously, if you live really far away from school, these aren’t options for you. However, if you live pretty close to your school, this may well be a good option. Not only are these your greenest options for transportation, you will also be getting some exercise! If you choose one of these three options, make sure to be safe–watch traffic, wear safety gear, and practice the buddy system!

2) Another way to cut emission production is by riding a school or city bus. Although they may not be as “cool” as driving a car, you will have time to socialize with your peers and even potentially get some extra study time in the mornings/afternoons. Mass transit is also another way to cut your carbon emissions by two-thirds!

3) The third way to reduce your carbon emissions is by creating a carpool. Carpooling makes a lot of sense for a number of reasons. It is a time and money saver, reduces traffic congestion and pollution, and is a way to get to know your neighbors better!

So, there are several ways for you and your friends to make the most of this year by becoming more eco-friendly! Not only will the earth thank you, but you can also wrack up a bunch of points on this website by doing all of the above activities! Think about it… Why wouldn’t you want to make a positive change this year?

 

OnAir says: What’s another great reason to do all this stuff? Say it with us: AirCreds! Start earning points for your air-friendly acts today!

Eating like you mean it

We all know eating organic and local is the way to go when buying food because, as a teacher once told me, “every time you buy something, you’re voting for the kind of world you want to live in,” and making those decisions is choosing healthier plants, animals, workers, bodies, and planet. But do you know how you can supercede that decision to make even better eating and lifestyle choices? Stay tuned to find out.

Organic farming is designed to reduce pollution and conserve water without releasing harmful pesticides that harm health and wildlife. When buying organic, you also avoid the risks associated with pesticides, herbicides, additives, preservatives that come with conventional agriculture. By becoming an informed and aware consumer, you support practices that ensure your health and that of the world you live in. Here are some examples of how to start:

  • Look for the USDA Organic label on a product. It means that at least 95% of the food’s ingredients were organically produced or that the product was “made with organic ingredients,” which means the product contains at least 70 % organic ingredients.
  • Avoid the Dirty Dozen–and check out the “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” cheat sheet of fruits and vegetables to determine which produce items have the highest and lowest pesticide amount.
  • Buy local and get better food while also ensuring that the money you spend brings twice as much economic wealth to your community. Moreover, purchasing locally and organically raised meats and produce reduces oil consumption significantly as the food industry consumes nearly a fifth of all the petroleum used in the United States.
  • Find out about and combat factory farming. An animal raised on a farm has its weight increased through a daily ration of antibiotics. Such unsustainable and unethical methods are only about maximizing profit and deeply neglect the condition or cost of the food produced.
  • Try meatless Mondays. Think about how far the food on your plate has come and if you’re a major carnivore, take a day or more break off meat a week. The production of meat, especially beef, uses humongous amounts of water and energy.

Your food will surely taste better when you know it’s been treated well and you feel like you’re making a statement of health and care just by eating it.

Sources:
http://www.organic-center.org/
http://www.jamieoliver.com/foundation/
http://sustainableagriculture.net/

Break the ice

Did you know you can socialize and help the environment at the same time? Yeah, it’s possible! Spreading the word is one way to raise awareness. Like us green bloggers, make it a point to reach out to your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc. about environmental awareness. Make social gatherings at a park or volunteer area for environmental causes – extend party invitations in a green way.

One way that I reach out to raise awareness – besides blogging about it – is tweet a helpful tip every Friday to my followers. On other social media platforms, I hold a special day for raising concerns about anything that reaches my ear. Make it a new fad on Instagram where posting pictures of helping the environment is the coolest thing; it’s a great way to spice things up in your dashboard. You might even find that some of your friends hold the same interest as you.

Can social media save the world? Of course! The internet and social media provides individual donors and worthy organizations the ability to connect meaningfully on opposite sides of the world. Social media is effective in expanding eco awareness and introducing sustainability concepts to others – that’s why we’re blogging about it!

So what are you waiting for? Break the ice!

The Ultimate Summer Pest Gets Modified

As summer for many of you has already kicked off, you’re probably spending more time outside doing fun things; I know I am! However, perhaps like me, you’re adventures in nature include being munched on by mosquitoes. Ahh, the joys of summer!

After an escape into the woods by my house, I was covered in those annoying bites and sat down at my computer to catch up on the news. One article jumped out at me as I sat, scratching away. A team of HHMI researchers have just successfully genetically engineered mosquitoes by altering the way they respond to odors, like the smell of humans and the insect repellent DEET. These new findings pave the way to our understanding why the insect is so attracted to humans, and hopefully how to block that attraction so that they don’t bite us!

Yes, mosquito bites are annoying, so putting an end to the itchy welts would be great, but even more importantly, mosquitoes are disease-vector insects. Thus, in 2007, scientists began researching. They announced to the world later that year that they had completed the full genome sequence of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito that transmits dengue and yellow fever.

A year later, HHMI researchers took the sequence and shifted their focus from Drosophila flies to mosquitoes with the specific goal of genetically engineering the insects. They first looked toward something they found ten years previously in flies: a gene called the orco which affects how some insects interact with smell. They injected a genetic modification tool called zinc-finger nucleases into mosquito embryos, waited for them to mature, identified mutant individuals, and generated the newly mutant strains.

Amazingly enough, these new strains had significantly different reactions to smell! When regular mosquitoes were given a choice between a human and any other animal, they happily buzzed toward the human. But the mosquitoes with orco mutations showed hugely reduced preference for the smell of humans over guinea pigs, even in the presence of carbon dioxide, which is thought to help mosquitoes respond to human scent!

The next step was for the team to test whether the mosquitoes with orco mutations responded differently to DEET. When presented with two human arms (one covered in DEET and the other completely bare) the mosquitoes flew equally toward both arms, which suggested they couldn’t smell the DEET. However, once they landed on the arms, those on the DEET covered arm flew immediately away. This was unheard of data, and the team went back to work.

Today the HHMI team is still at work trying to provide insights into how existing repellants work against mosquiotes, then plan to start brainstorming ideas about what a next-generation, possibly genetic, repellant would look like. Until they figure this out however, we all will have to deal with the pesky insects and their bites.

Climate, Keystone, and Controversial Documentaries

Documentaries are extremely important in that they give us some back story on things we might only kind of know about. A new documentary, Elemental, targets some issues that affect the environment, such as the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, pollution in the Ganges River, and how a man faces the battles of a rapidly warming climate.

Pretty deep stuff.

Maybe you’ve heard about Keystone XL in the news, but you’re fuzzy on the details. If so, here are some of the facts:

  • TransCanada Keystone Pipeline, L.P. proposed to construct a 1,700 mile crude oil pipeline
  • The pipeline would run from Hardisty, Alberta to the Texas Gulf Coast, reducing the need for trains and trucks to get oil to the refineries. Canada to Texas. That’s a long pipeline.
  • The project has two phases: The first pipeline is the one under proposition, which runs from Alberta to Nebraska, while the second is under construction; it runs from Oklahoma to Texas. An existing pipeline will connect these two.

 

So it’s a project that covers a lot of ground and could possibly cause a good bit of disruption. Which means that there’s a pretty heated argument brewing between the the project’s supporters and its critics. Here’s where they stand:

The people FOR the pipeline claim that it will boost the economy, providing jobs for several people. Along with that, it is said that this cut America’s dependence on oil imported from Venezuela and the Middle East. This is because the oil will be imported from resources in Canada and other polar regions, and we will have easier access to it because of the pipeline.

The people AGAINST the pipeline claim that it will put the surrounding environment at risk of toxic spills and water pollution. Also, separating the crude oil from the sand, silt and clay it comes from requires huge amounts of water, a resource we can’t afford to waste. They also argue that we should be looking for ways to provide energy without oil, rather than making it easier for oil to get to us.

While Elemental tackles more issues than Keystone, the XL pipeline is such a complex issue that it helps to do a little extra reading.

Here’s a scene from Elemental which focuses on citizens speaking out against the pollution affecting their community:

And here’s a scene of a government official in India attempting to clean up the Ganges river.

What are your opinions on the pipeline controversy, the pollution in the Ganges, or just our ever-changing climate? Please leave a comment below and share your views with us!

For more info on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline, click here.

For some of the arguments for it, click here.

For some of the arguments against, click here.