“Environmental Undermining Snap-Shot

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NASA Image

All environmental protections appear to be at risk now as our new administration and majority zealously pursue a pro-business agenda.  I am a business owner, but more importantly, I am a world citizen. I would never consider taking away from the environment; instead my moral compass is all about contributing to it.  We recently invested in solar panels at our place of business. We are now meeting the bulk of our energy needs and at times adding renewable energy to the grid. I take great comfort in knowing we are simultaneously creating electricity as our air conditioner cranks away on a hot summer sunny day.

We are living in unprecedented times.  As our population grows, environmental protections are especially critical as escalating pollution threatens our air, water, and soils. In such vitally important times, multiple anti-environmental executive orders are flowing and new agency appointees are all too willing to undermine the very missions their agency should be championing

Environmental Protection Agency – The EPA mission isn’t faring well, given the appointee, Scott Pruitt, sued the agency fourteen times while serving as the Oklahoma attorney general. With proposed budget cuts of 31%, 3200 jobs are at risk while scientists are already being fired and replaced with industry CEOs, clearly prioritizing business interests over public health and science, the EPAs basic core mission. Then again, they recently removed “science” from the mission statement. Future budget decisions aside, Pruitt is already quietly tearing this agency and many of our environmental protections apart.

Food and Drug Administration – Per executive order, requests are made to streamline processes, allowing less time for testing and safeguards. The approvals of more toxic pesticides are on the fast-track along with shorter drug reviews.

USDA – President Trump is trying to get Sam Clovis confirmed as “Chief Scientist” of the USDA, the agency responsible for our nation’s food safety, nutrition and agriculture. The USDA is also on the front lines of the climate crisis, as severe weather patterns (droughts and floods) impact our farmers and food supply in a major way. To be noted, Clovis isn’t a Scientist, he denies climate change and has no agricultural background.

Endangered Species Act – Attempts are being made to gut protections of our endangered species. Yes, the same tired argument is being made, those protections are hampering big business.

Oil Pipeline Escalation – Early in the year the Keystone XL was given the executive green light along with the Dakota Access Pipelines, halting all environmental studies.  Fortunately a simple signature didn’t seal the deal. A Nebraska Judge is delaying the Keystone XL protecting the Ogallala Aquifer, our nation’s largest aquifer under Nebraska expanding into surrounding states. As for the Dakota pipeline, within weeks, it was quickly finished and is already transporting oil. Recently a federal judge ruled the interrupted environmental study puts our waterways (Missouri River included), tribal land and food source at risk but the oil flow continues, at least for now.  Multiple suits are in motion attempting to stop both pipelines.

Attempts to Expand Off-Shore Drilling – Per executive order, now all bans on offshore oil and gas drilling are under review putting parts of the Arctic, Pacific and Atlantic Oceans at risk.

National Monuments – In an unprecedented move, attempts are being made to shrink or remove protective status of millions of acres set aside for our public to enjoy, undermining all designations made by past Presidents since 1996. As directed, “expedited” reviews were conducted and now our Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is recommending we drastically shrink our national monuments – names yet to be revealed. Our Secretary is also proposing we withdraw the safety rules established by the Bureau of Land Management that protect our water supply from toxic fracking chemicals.

Paris Agreement – Our President withdrew from the world agreement, saying he could get a “better deal”. Such verbiage misses the whole point of the cooperative agreement made by 196 countries promising to curb planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions by adopting clean energy and phasing out fossil fuels. To be noted, the United States is the second highest emitters in the world, after China; together emitting about 45% of the world’s carbon dioxide. We join only two other countries who aren’t onboard, Nicaragua requesting more ambitious world goals, and Syria. Fortunately other Champions are coming forward, leading from the bottom up. Michael Bloomberg has pledge to fill the United States funding gap to help other countries implement the agreement, contributing fifteen million dollars! Many cities are now creating their own Climate Action Plans; onboard in Missouri are St. Louis, Kansas City, O’Fallon, University City and Columbia. More states and cities are embracing renewables saving their citizens energy and healthcare costs, all the while reducing their greenhouse emissions

Hiding information about Climate Change – All information about climate change was removed from the EPA website, once considered the most comprehensive educational site on the subject. Fortunately, several cities – Boston, Chicago and San Francisco – have published replicas of the previous EPA site to preserve decades of work and to insure information is readily available to the public.

Energy Pursuits – The executive branch is out of step with the world, relaxing environmental regulations promoting oil and coal at a time when all other countries are pursuing healthier, more lucrative renewable.  It’s ironic as we hear all this rhetoric about regulations stifling our economy; our federal government isn’t promoting the most lucrative opportunity of our lifetime, clean tech jobs.  Other countries are jumping at the opportunity to fill the gap and emerge as industry leaders.  All the while we are creating more pollution build-up for our children’s generation to clean up.

Undermining Scientists – Scientists give us a better life by bring innovation and keeping us safe.  Enjoy your refrigerator…your car…your air-conditioner…more efficient appliances…cleaner skies and waterways…better health…life saving drugs?  When scientists share their expertise, those who have no qualms with exploiting our earth and health tell us our noble scientists have a hidden agenda.  Fortunately, there is now a movement across academia to back-up key databases for fear it will be buried or deleted.

While agency appointments and executive orders are causing great harm, it’s more difficult to change our environmental laws. While the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act are both under review, it’ll require the same rule-making process to change the original rule. Repealing rules takes time and Congressional approval. Encouragingly, the US Senate narrowly rejected the request to lift methane emissions levels on U.S. Bureau of Land Management lands. And when an executive order oversteps, complaints can be filed on the federal or state level and if the order is determined to be unconstitutional, it can be overturned.

Meanwhile, I will continue to give my representatives feedback requesting policies that prioritize clean water to drink, clean air to breathe and non-toxic soil to grow food, our very basic needs and rights. I hope you do the same!

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Our Environmental Champion is at Risk

Eliminating or reducing the influence of federal agencies can have wide range implications. When the Environmental Protection Agency is at risk, I take notice as they are our Champion. Their sole mission is to prioritize the health of our Earth and our well-being! Per their website, “The United States Environmental Protection Agency is an agency of the Federal government of the United States which was created for the purpose of protecting human health and the environment by writing and enforcing regulations based on laws passed by Congress.” Given the important role of the EPA, I was quite alarmed when Scott Pruitt was appointed to head the organization given his deep fossil-fuel ties and long history of suing the EPA, undermining its core mission.

Given this appointment, our president’s 2018 budget request came as no surprise. He proposes a 31 percent cut (2.6 billion) eliminating over 50 individual programs and nearly 4,000 full-time EPA employees, the lowest budget allocation for 40 years. Given the EPA’s wide spectrum of programs including Agriculture, Air Quality, Energy Efficiency and Global Climate Change, Pollution Prevention, Product Labeling, Technology, Transportation Programs, Waste Management, and Water, such a cut would diminish our quality of life.

Health – The EPA Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention and the Radon Program would both be threatened severely.  It would be virtually impossible to screen and test endocrine disruptors that threaten reproductive health and children’s growth and test for radon, a naturally occurring radioactive gas, believed to cause lung cancer.  Recently Pruitt chose to ignore the EPA’s agency chemical safety experts and lift the ban on chlorpyrifos, concluded to cause learning and memory declines among farm workers and young children, exposed through drinking water and other sources.

Air – The Clean Air Act of 1970 funding designed to control air pollution, would be cut in half.  According to the EPA, between 1970 and 2015 emissions have dropped an average of 70 percent.  This program has been hugely successful, projected to save trillions of dollars in 2020 alone.  Cleaner skies have enhanced our health and reduced suffering.

Water –The two largest budget slashes suggested are The Great Lakes Program and Chesapeake Bay Program, up to 90%. Given industrial pollution, close monitoring is critical. The Great Lakes are the largest surface of freshwater in the world, 84% of North America’s surface freshwater. This cut would impact millions as the Great Lakes provide drinking water to around 40 million people in the United States and Canada and serve as a major food source. The Chesapeake Bay also relies on close monitoring to assure good water quality and healthy fish supporting local economies in several states. Grants to help states monitor public water systems stand to lose almost one third; certainly bad news for reeling Flint, Michigan!

Enforcement – The budget proposal reduces spending on civil and criminal enforcement by almost 60 percent making it difficult for the EPA to implement the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, assuring public health.

Clean-up programs – Proposals are to eliminate assistance with regional clean-up efforts in all our major bodies of water. And the Superfund program in charge of cleaning up the most polluted sites in the country would also be compromised.  The EPA identifies the polluters and makes them pay for the clean-up, saving taxpayers money. Per the EPA website, on 5/9/17 there were 1180 National Priority Sites and 50 proposed sites.  The proposed budget reduces enforcement and remedial components by 45%. The Brownfields program which helps towns and cities redevelop former industrial sites is proposed to lose 30% of its funding.  Sadly, contaminated sites disproportionately impact the disadvantaged who tend to suffer silently. This program gives them the opportunity to clean up and revitalize contaminated sites, boost their local economy and enhance their public health.

Climate Protection Program – Plans are to eliminate this program which provides expertise on climate solutions including energy efficiency, renewable energy, and adaptation to climate impacts.  While communities are already struggling with climate change ocean-rise and destructive weather patterns, no funding is proposed to advise or help those displaced communities. As for not pursuing energy efficiencies and renewables, we are missing a huge economic opportunity being enjoyed world-wide.

Nonpoint Source Grant Program – These funds help states deal with pollutants from sources that aren’t regulated by the Clean Water Act; all funds would be eliminated.

Radiation Protection and Response Preparedness – The EPA’s RadNet system monitors fall-outs from nuclear accidents making science-based decisions on how to protect the public. Proposals are to defund the protection program and keep some funds for “essential preparedness work”.

Science – Funding would be cut for the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, and funding eliminated entirely for the EPAs Environmental Education and Regional Science and Technology programs. Programs to study environmental hazards including lead, poor indoor air quality and radiation would be eliminated, while programs in place to minimize the damage of pesticides would be nearly eliminated.  Five scientists have already been fired with plans to replace them by the heads of polluting industry the EPA should be monitoring.

All these proposals will have a direct impact on our lives and well-being, particularly low-income, and minorities. Plans are already in motion to reconfigure and restructure the EPA’s activities so they will no longer place a “burden” on industry.  When science is questioned, ignored, and slighted with under-funding, it’ll be difficult for the EPA to develop sound regulations that protect us. Without sound science and regulations, how can they possibly fulfill the mission of protecting human health and the environment? When the EPAs mission is undermined, we are the ones who suffer and in turn bear the burden of a polluted Earth. Profits over people in its worst form.

Sources include recent summaries from The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Union of Concerned Scientists.

 

The Power of One – Recycler

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http://www.earthtimes.org/environment/recycling/

While it’s easy to feel quite small in this huge world we live in, I try to be mindful, striving to live positively as I interact with people and the Earth.  I realize something as simple as a smile might lift someone’s spirits.  I also take great efforts to live and consume conservatively, as our environment is fragile and our natural resources limited. While it’s always important to Refuse, Reduce and Reuse first, when I look at the numbers I’m astounded by the positive influence of just One Recycler.

When I recycle a single aluminum can, I save enough energy to power a TV for three hours.  The average American has the opportunity to recycle more than 25,000 cans in a lifetime!  It takes 95% less energy to recycle aluminum than it does to make it from raw materials and a recycled can typically is back on the grocery shelves within 60 days.

By recycling one plastic bottle, you save enough energy to power a 60-watt bulb for six hours.   And if you recycle one glass jar, you could save enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for four hours.  Just one!  It takes 70% less energy to recycle plastic than to produce it from raw materials and 40% less energy for glass.

Now consider paper.  The average American use about 680 pounds of paper per year, over a ton in less than four years.  Each ton (2000 pounds) of recycled paper can save 17 thirty foot (pulp) trees, 380 gallons of oil, three cubic yards of landfill space, 4000 kilowatts of energy, and 7000 gallons of water.  This represents a 65% energy savings, a 58% water savings, and 60 pounds less of air pollution.

According to 2011 EPA figures, an average American generates 4.7 pounds per person per day and 75% of that is reusable or recyclable.  What a great opportunity to conserve energy, reduce air and water pollution, reduce greenhouse gases, and conserve our natural resources while creating jobs.

Once you start recycling and realize your positive contribution, you will likely teach your children and tell your friends.   From there your positive influence grows exponentially.  Never ever underestimate the Power of One!

(Statistics provided by the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Recycling Coalition.)

Backyard Trash Burning Dangers

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http://myairdistrict.com/index.php/burning-info/open-burning/

If your method of waste disposal is burning, it’s time to rethink those practices. Not only are you exposing yourself to pollutants, you are also putting family and neighbors at risk. Children, the elderly and those with preexisting respiratory conditions are especially vulnerable. Those airborne toxins also contaminate our environment and food sources.

Per the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), backyard burning produces significant quantities of dioxin, a major health concern. Dioxins are formed when the combination of carbon and trace amounts of chlorine are burned. Even when plastics are removed, dioxins are still created because nearly all household wastes contain trace amounts of chlorine. Through burning, dioxins are released into the air settling on plants. Plants are eaten by animals and dioxin settles in their fatty tissue; those toxins are then transferred to us when we eat meat and dairy products. Dioxin also settles on our soils and waterways contaminating the fish we consume. Dioxins can alter the cells resulting in “adverse effects upon reproduction and development, suppression of the immune system, disruption of hormonal systems, and cancer.”

The EPA classifies dioxins as “persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic pollutants (PBTs). PBTs are highly toxic, long-lasting substances that can build up in the food chain to levels that are harmful to human and ecosystem health. Persistent means they remain in the environment for extended periods of time. Bioaccumulative means their concentration levels increase as they move up the food chain.”

In addition to dioxin, backyard burning creates other pollutants including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and hexachlorobenzene. The EPA reports these pollutants can have immediate and long-term health effects including cancer, respiratory illnesses, and damage to liver, kidney, and central nervous system.  Remaining ash residues contaminate vegetables when scattered in gardens.

These practices also pollute the environment with toxic compounds including nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, and particle pollution. These compounds contribute to acid rain, greenhouse gases, global warming, ozone depletion, and the formation of smog.

Then what do we do with all this trash? For starters, when we practice the RRR principals, we create less waste.

Reduce –Use durable, long-lasting goods, avoid disposable single-use items, and purchase products with less packaging.

Reuse – Repair, sell, share, and donate; Compost –Yard trimmings and food scraps create natural fertilizer

Recycle – If it can’t be reused, recycle through Boonslick Industries.

Waste Disposal – Don’t litter or dump illegally. Take your waste to a transfer station or purchase a waste collection service.

With these practices, our bodies and the Earth will be healthier and happier!

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http://ecoevolution.ie/blog/burning-of-waste/

 

 

Styrofoam Be Gone!

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http://thebadinogden.blogspot.com/2005/09/garbage-at-beus-pond.html

Summer is finally here –time for picnics!  I can buy 170 Styrofoam plates for just $3.97.  What a bargain!  Or not.  Time to “Pause”.

In 1937, Dow Chemical introduced Styrofoam to the US, an expanded polystyrene foam petroleum based product.  A 1986 an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Report named the process of creating polystyrene as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste.  In 2000 the EPA determined styrene as a possible human carcinogen.

Many sources report, by volume Styrofoam uses 25-30 percent of the landfill space.  Once there, it never decomposes, breaking down into smaller pieces.  The wind carries these particles and other Styrofoam litter throughout the environment and into our waterways.  Styrofoam is disastrous for animals, birds, and marine life as they mistaken these toxic particles for food, choking them and clogging their digestive systems.  As Styrofoam accumulates, it also puts our health at risk when we eat fish.

Styrofoam is commonly used for egg cartons, beverage cups, plates, bowls, produce/meat trays, take-out food and packaging peanuts.  The Sierra Club reports each year Americans throw away 2.5 billion  Styrofoam coffee cups every year, enough to circle the earth 436 times – just One Styrofoam product!

While technology for recycling polystyrenes is available, the melt-down process is toxic, the market is very small, it is not cost effective and not available locally.

Progress is being made.  Some entities are outlawing polystyrene foam (Taiwan, Portland, New York City and several cities in California).  Scientists are developing alternatives.  Bagasse take-out containers made of crushed stalks of sugar cane and sturdy paper boxes are now available.

How can you help? Use your Consumer Purchasing Power and stop buying it and help me educate store and restaurant managers and your friends!  Instead of Styrofoam coffee cups, use reusable mugs or paper insulated cups.  Instead of Styrofoam plates and bowls, use reusable dishware, or paper plates.   Give UPS Styrofoam peanuts to reuse; instead use shredded newspaper or real popcorn.    Don’t buy take-out food unless they use bagasse, paper boxes/bags or aluminum foil – better yet, bring your own container.  Take your Styrofoam egg cartons to the Farmer’s Market for reuse and grab some goodies.  Avoid produce packaged in Styrofoam trays!  Throw big Styrofoam packaging blocks into your attic for insulation.  Event Organizers – Use paper insulated cups, #1 plastic cups (recyclable) & fiber or bagasse clamshells, paper bags or aluminum foil.  And pick up Styrofoam litter so it doesn’t have a chance to break-down and wreak havoc!  We need to tackle this menace!

 

10-5-13 Sugar Creek MRR effot
Styrofoam mess cleaned up on Sugar Creek, MO during event hosted by Missouri River Relief 2014