Climate Change, Plastics and social responsibility, more lessons from my trip to Fiji

wp-image--652601504

Plastic debris litters a shoreline in the capitol city of Suva, Fiji.

As the world gathers to take account of the ways humanity has made an impact on the global climate, and the ways we can work together to reduce our impacts on the world I want to look back into more of the lessons and experiences I had while in Fiji.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the activities I participated in was Climate Week events in Levuka, Fiji.  These events were in preparation for the ongoing climate talks happening in Bonn, Germany.  the purpose of this meeting, “under the Presidency of the Republic Fiji to negotiate the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.”

Impacts from climate change are affecting Fiji in many ways.  As the temperatures change along with the frequency of rainfall, concerns about water and food security are a real and active issue being faced by villagers in the 106 inhabited islands of Fiji.  Throughout my 2 year tour in the South Pacific I was overwhelmed by the dependence on imported food and the quantities of plastic that were consumed in remote areas of the world.  Much of this plastic is from water transported to the various islands on a one way trip of wasteful consumption and environmental pollution.   For most of the world, consuming plastic water is one of the greatest way individuals collectively pollute the world.  Additionally, due to the great awakening brought on by the Standing Rock Sioux, the indigenous people of the world are awakening their great and united voice, declaring that now is the time we must tend to the needs of Mother Earth.

While I was with the delegation members of the COP23 climate change week activities in September 2017, I engaged in a variety of conversations with village leaders and government staff.  Many were shocked at how the pieces of plastic water combine.  We talked about life on the islands, where for most needs, villagers are often required to grow their own foods, to work the land by hand and through a relationship with the Earth, eek out their livings.  We talked about plastic and it’s roles in global climate change.
I began by showing them how a bottle of water damages the environment through carbon pollution.  I explained how essentially, drinking plastic bottles of water burns oil into the atmosphere.  According to the Pacific Institute, the combined energy of creation and transportation of plastic is equivalent to 25% of the volume of the bottle in oil burned into the atmosphere.  Essentially for every 4 liters of Fiji bottled water one consumes, one liter of oil is burned into the atmosphere.  For a case of plastic water consumed in the United States that’s 2.25 quarts of oil per case of 12 oz (500 ml) bottles.

wp-image--1492840788

There are no Target stores in Fiji, where both of these items were cleaned off a beach next to Votualalai Village off the Coral Coast where a key reef protection zone exists.

Through my time in working with those across the islands, many islanders will recognize their plastic water consumption as unnecessary.  I continuously asked people on the islands, what do they do with the plastics after they use them?    Please remember that left on the island, they will take up quantities plastics that left in the ocean will take up to 500 years to degrade into micro-plastics the size of grains of sand.

The reality is that across the islands of the South Pacific, including the island of Ovalau, Fiji – and the old capitol city of Levuka (a World Heritage Sitea World Heritage Site) plastic waste is often burned into the atmosphere.  Burning plastic has some impacts both global climate change as well as emissions that the ozone hole.  Unfortunately, every island nation that has people on it, consumes plastics in one form or another.  Many, like Fiji are phasing in plastic bag bans, generally with a fee or are introducing biodegradable plastic bags.

Sitting around a bowl of grog on a Wednesday evening in September, I was blessed to sit with people facing this issue first hand, where the problem is a daily part of life.  They have mixed water quality issues because some piping is starting to rust.  The infrastructure, laid in the ground 50-60 years ago; is beginning to deteriorate.  Many villagers are concerned that the replacement pipe is plastic and not metal.   Additionally, Ovalau was hit by a hurricane in February- 2016 and is still recovering from the storm. There are houses and buildings in every village that are not repaired.  By my observations I would estimate that less than one in twenty houses have rain water storage.

How do we solve this problem?  In most villages people don’t understand that carcinogens and heavy metals are released when they burn plastic trash. For two months I have been pondering this question.  If you’ve read my waste management paper on converting plastic to fuel, you know that there are many ways we can repurpose the waste from our consumption practices.  Currently I’m working on a feasibility study regarding a specific way to utilize post consumer plastics to create new molded or printed plastic containers.  This concept would allow local consumers to transform their waste into environmental preparedness and protect themselves from water scarcity as well and divert from the developing  practice of drinking water purchased from another place in the world.

As we look at what processes and ideas we can come up with to reduce our carbon footprint and the stresses upon mother earth, I for one am paying close attention to the conversations coming as Fiji leads COP23 in Bonn, Germany.

Advertisements

Fiji – Climate Change, COP23 and Sustainable Practices – A Firsthand Experience ( Part 1 of a Series)

COP 23 trash cleanup

Teaching children to clean rubbish provides lifelong experience to prevent the creation of litter.

I love Fiji!!!!   As a people the life and community mindset of people is a step away from the major concerns of the world.  “Bula”, the common greeting which is often responded with “Bula Bula” or “Bula Vinaca”;  is hard to express without a smile on your face.  In fact, in 2014 Fiji was determined to be the Happiest Place on Earth. Climate change is a daily and real life issue for many who live among Fiji’s 300 islands.  Here, in 2016 Hurricane Winston had a real life impact for many.  Homes, food sources and shorelines experienced catastrophic changes, changes that impact the daily life of villagers. In continued response to Winston as well as addressing the concerns for immediate and long term impacts of climate change and in support of their hosting COP23 in Bonn, Germany; Fiji engaged in a week long direct community engagement program the week of September 22-29, 2017.

In the town of , Levuka, Eastern Division, Fiji; I was blessed to find myself in the midst of an amazing group of people who were hosting a series of meetings in different villages on this island.  This was the Western Division meeting and there were several different meetings throughout the community.  Leveuka, a World Heritage Site, was one of 6 community sites throughout the country.

Members of this team included staff from Ministry of Health and Medical Services, Ministry of Fisheries,d Ministry of Taukei Affairs, Offices of the Provincial Administrator, Corrections and more.   This community had been working together for 4 or 5 days when I arrived on Tuesday night.  They opened the event with a parade on Friday, as can been seen in the local Fiji Sun article.  My two day adventure with this team consisted of meeting in the morning at the community meeting room, located just across the street from the village police compound.  We would load up and travel to a neighboring village. At the village, members of the community would meet with members of the team.  This happened in several segments.

mangrove planting cop 23

Children in Draiba, Fiji participate in replanting important mangroves which were destroyed by  Cyclone Winston in Feb, 2016

The first of these was the formal Kava Ceremony which is cultural to the South Pacific Islands.  During the Kava Ceremony, a cup of Kava grog is presented to the elders and leaders of the meeting.  While this occurs, these people have a chance to speak to the meeting at large.  Then, members of the working team would have opportunities to present key aspects of their programs and key important details of the Ministry’s working programs.  These programs focus on the realities of climate change and the ways that members of the village have responsibilities to take action both individually and collectively to help protect their families and to prepare for the continued changes that their village will experience as the conditions of the local climate continue to change.

Focusing on surviving the conditions of climate change is important to Fiji.  Simply looking at it’s makeup of over 300 islands allows for an easy understanding of why.  Under traditional and preparedness conditions, each island – even each village, should be self sustaining.  This means that food production, water cleanliness and storage; as well as secure housing and protection from water surges are all responsibilities of the local government.  Through the COP23 program relationships, village elders are able to address concerns about the future needs of the villages and to build relationships with the employees from various agencies who will have the responsibility to address the needs.  Some of the needs addressed include: adequate long term planning for food resources, protecting against erosion, infrastructure to keep clean water available, and ensuring that adequate mangrove protections exist.

This leads directly to the secondary part of each day’s programming, hands on mitigation!!!!  It’s in this time-frame that members of the team, working together with the members of the loImage may contain: 1 person, sitting, child, outdoor and naturecal village community – get their hands dirty doing the work to prevent or mitigate against the impacts of Global Climate Change.  This time presented opportunities to learn how to set up nurseries to plant coconut fields and mangroves, protect against erosion by planting deep root grasses, cleaning up litter to protect the water supply as well as fisheries, and planting climate change resistant crops.

cop 23 coconut planting

Ministry of Agriculture representative, Irene Singh (left) explains the importance of planting traditional Fijian Coconut Trees as  Provincial Administrator Ropait Rakadi (right) and members of the community participate in planting a new field of trees.

Through these important hands on activities, both young and old were able to take some active role in supporting their village.  Recent events, especially recovering from the impacts from Cyclone Winston, bring understanding and urgency to active preparations and rebuilding efforts.  This practice aligns with the time tested phrase, “It takes a Village”, which well look at further in my next article.

Image may contain: 5 people, grass, outdoor and natureImage may contain: 1 person, sitting, child, outdoor and nature

Littering and pesticides damage your food and drinking water

To top off my journey of the islands known as Samoa, I was blessed to have a chance to speak to about 40 Robert Lewis Stevenson College (years 10-12) students about the work and passions of being a water protector and environmental scientist. 

The presentation started by showing how much rubbish I gathered just walking on the sidewalk of the campus. Really just a handful of bottle caps and a few pieces of plastic. These students were quite sharp when I asked how long does plastic last in the environment. “500 years!!”

The majority of these young minds wish to be doctors and scientists.  Big goals indeed! So I figured this would a good platform to explain for them the methods of animal and human toxic contamination from plastics discarded into the environment.

My presentation began with explaining how plastics are made from the same oil we harvest to make gasoline, kerosene and jet fuel; adding chemicals in the same way one might bake a cake.

We then carried through to how these pieces of plastic break down leaking chemicals into the water as the sun beats down on them. The most known toxic chemical is BPA which impacts both humans and fish because it acts like estrogen in our bodies.  For spawning fish, high quantities of BPA in the water can cause a minimum amount of male fish to be born.

The chain of contamination goes even further than just leaking chemicals from the plastic into the water on land and the ocean.  As plastics are leaching chemicals into the water, they are also collecting these chemicals on their surface. These tiny plastics also begin to grow alge, which causes fish to eat them.  As the fish eat these tiny plastics, often less than 5mm in size, the chemicals on their surface are absorbed into the fish.  As small fish get eaten by bigger fish, or grow into big fish themselves; a process called bioaccumulation occurs.  This means that larger quantities of toxins will be found in the food we eat.  We see this already in salmon found in Washington State, USA.
In addition to contamination from plastics, other forms of human consumption are adding toxicity into our food and water.  Medicines like antibiotics and birth control join chemicals like pesticides from farming; niccotine and formaldehyde from discarded cigarette filters and a whole host of items that pass through drinking water systems.  While many of these are part of life in large urban areas, much of the contamination is preventable.  

One of the most important ways to prevent this from happening is by cleaning up the rubbish polluting the Earth and by keeping trash in it’s place. Without managing the way we eat and consume ; chemicals from plastics, medicines and poisons will continue to spread through our water and  food supply.  In just a few generations we’ll have made this planet into a wasteland as seen in science fiction, including the popular Pixar movie –Wall-E.

But much of this is preventable, by doing your part you can become part of the change this and future generations need to have a beautiful healthy planet. Learn to shop and eat organic foods, practice sustainable consumption, avoid plastic bottled water and always tell your friends to clean it up when they litter and pollute the Earth. 

Sou’a – the mysterious red banana

16252398_10208364097956575_5087459033383985999_oLike any good explorer, I am working hard at and enjoying learning about the local food here in America Samoa.  Here on this island there are a wide variety of fruit bearing trees.  The most common of these are Esi or papaya, Coconut and Fai or Banana.  Additionally Starfruit,  passion fruit, limes and lemons are quite plentiful.

One of the most intestesting of these is the Sou’a. This banana stand apart in many ways. When I first saw these at the market, it was their red-orange skins that stood out to me. I had to know more! 

In American Samoa, not everybody knows about this special fai. Many people whom I show this too are taken aback. There are two common bananas here on the island of Tutuila. The first is fai palagi or white banana. These are green bananas that you boil or cook in an umu (rock oven covered with leaves). The second is the yellow banana. Most people are likely to be familiar as these are the types most commonly found in grocery stores and are eastern right out of the skin. In the category of yellow two special types, Masuluki and Samoa are much sweeter varieties.

However nothing (in my opinion) beats the Sou’a! 

First thing, the sou’a grow straight up from the banana tree, where most varieties dangle.  When you harvest these, generally you have to cut the whole tree down. Not to worry, this signals the plant and it quickly grows again to produce another stalk of fruit!

These fai are considered a super food. The levels of nutritional quality were hard for me to link in this post but consumers more that the quantity from just a few dried chips will cause the color of their urea to change, showing a neon yellow of excess nutrients being discharged.

There are several ways to prepare this wonderful plantain. Many love it just as any other banana. It’s a wonderful year warmed in a hot car, left in the sun or microwaved and covered in honey and some lime juice. It can be sauteed and prepared with a wide variety of meals,  andprepared like sweet potatoes with marshmallows. For the wise traveler, dried chips are a great nutritional snack by themselves or with your favorite ingredients for a trail mix. 

Don’t let the color throw you off, if you ever have a chance, Sou’a are a great treat!

Mosquitoes, Litter and Disease – American Samoa has a litter problem that’s breeding and spreading disease

In October of this year the 7th annual Bilateral Health Summit of the Samoa’s. This health summit is held between the Samoa nations of Western Samoa and American Samoa were held in Utulei, American Samoa for 2016. The event covered a variety of topics over the three days of gathering. Some of the focuses being mental health, mosquito spread diseases, alcohol and woman abuse.  As an outsider growing up in the United States, is surprised at the apparent aloofness regarding addictions and abuse.

Image result for mosquito in american samoaThe event itself, while open to the public, did not have a large community participation of non medical personnel. Overall between the two delegations there appeared to be about one hundred people participating consistently over the week. Participating agencies were primarily government bodies and the attitude in general seemed to lack value toward NGO’s.  Catering provided dozens of waste plastics from water bottles, Styrofoam packaging, plastic containers and non compostable sandwich bags.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting, people eating, table, food and indoor

The consumption of single use plastics is an epidemic as seen in this photo at a local church gathering.

For me, day two provided some of the most interesting material. The afternoon’s discussions surrounded Dengue, Zikia and other mosquito spread diseases. I leaned a wide spectrum about these diseases. The most important being that most diseases are not from the mosquitoes but spread diseases by going from human to human drawing blood. Over the last decade, both countries have endeavored to study and understand the impacts and causes of these diseases. This unfortunately is where the similarities seem to end.

What presents a stark difference is the responses to this issue by county. Overall the response to managing mosquito spread diseases is to manage the mosquitoes. To manage this problem in Western Samoa, agencies have taken drastic steps in several key areas. The biggest of these is trash management. Steps that were taken were to clean up the island by cleaning all trash throughout all villages. This included tire cleanup, fines for litterbugs and instituting a recycling program. Additionally the press has stayed involved, pressing the importance of litter control in this article. One of the ways villages were motivated to clean up their pollution was to open up tourism in villages by having visitors stay with families throughout the island, invoking island pride by having beautiful surroundings for their guests. Through instituting a recycling program, waste management practices became standardized and the understanding of individual responsibility became widespread.  Additional measures included the spraying of airplanes at the airport to reduce the chances of transferring mosquitoes from island to island, thus spreading more diseases to various islands.

Conversely, while American Samoan Heath Department officials recognize the importance of these programs but gathering inter-agency support appears to be an insurmountable task. Less than 16 hours after these presentations this example was seen in the attitude of American Samoa’s EPA director, Mr. Ameko Pato, who stated that recycling want a priority of the agency’s agenda. This is in direct contrast to both the stated needs of the Health Department and a planning meeting held with Region 9 EPA Director in July 2015.  Litter and trash reduction are important in some areas of the islands government agencies.  Radio advertizing can often be heard, ” I ain’t your momma; pick it up!”.  Additionally there are efforts by the American Samoa EPA  who are focused on a strictly voluntary program called “Keep American Samoa Beautiful” or KASB for short.  While this program was started in 2013, efforts to expand this program and enhance it’s efficiency are definitely needed.  Various attempts to join members of the community to clean up litter in American Samoa will leave one wanting…

Image may contain: plant

A Snail crawls over a littered Gatorade bottle – an example of mosquito breeding grounds in the jungle.  This plastic bottle could take more than 300 years to decompose.

 

 

Efforts to work with the Corral Reef Advisory Group, another community entity focused on cleaning beaches and preventing pollution from getting into the ocean – have provided little to no results, with email responses taking months at a time to be responded to; turning efforts from at least two faith based efforts away from this valuable community effort over the last 6 months of 2016.  Additional efforts, like charging fines for littering constantly face an uphill battle.  In 2016 legislature finally came out with plans to charge fines for littering – yes in 2016!!!! The responsibility falls among a variety of groups including EPA and other government officials as well as local village aumaga ( a group of men with no title who serve the village chief), but largely is NOT A POLICE RESPONSIBILITY.

Why is it important to work together to clean up trash, especially litter on an island?  The answers are quite simple.  First of all, in tropical environments there is only one season.  It’s nice out.  That nice can mean rain and sunshine or just sunshine all day long, with spritzes of rain.  Rain brings water, water – STANDING WATER – provides the breeding ground for mosquitoes.

“Trash. All manner of trash, with rain water collecting in it, can be home to mosquitoes. This can be the case in many places you didn’t think of, such as a pile of lumber scraps, old mop buckets, hub caps, and tires. Patrol your property after every period of rain and dump out anything that collects water – and you might want to keep anything that collects water overturned or in the garage so that it doesn’t become a problem in the first place.” – from the website SkeeterBite

Mosquitoes suck.  Currently there are 12 different species of mosquitoes in American Samoa according to this press relase by the American Samoa Community College. Mosquito spread diseases are on the rise in American Samoa and according to the speakers at the conference, the majority of those infected are never tested due to a lack of capacity to test for the disease.  These diseases include Zikia, Dengue, filariasis and chikungunya.  With growing levels of pollution, there are growing levels of mosquitoes.  The only way to solve this growing problem is to clean up the trash and prevent it from accumulating around your home.   The most important space, to protect your home – is to ensure the removal of trash from about 300 feet in any direction, and to lead by example.

 

 

Recycling household items: the fan – is it really worth it?

 

Since metals were first molded and forged, there have been people that have collected the broken parts and pieces to salvage the metals within.  Since WWII engineers have been incorporating plastics into machines.  Three reasons for this are: a)to reduce the cost of manufacturing  b) reduce the shipping weight and c) ease and speed of manufacture.  With the increase of plastics into all forms of consumer life, the value of breaking machines into their base materials becomes a time consuming practice into fined tuned materials organization.

In looking at the common household fan, there are 4 basic composition of materials. Most upright and box fans have a mixture of plastic and pot metal in the base, fan casing and outer housing. These are fairly easy to separate and generally require nothing more than a simple Phillips screwdriver. The plastics are generally injection molded and may be stamped with recycling codes, but are not always. This is especially true fit the gears in the motor housing.

The motor of an standard household fan – made of copper and steel this should never go to a landfill.

Depending on manufacturer, the fan housing may be made of plastic, tin or zinc.  The same goes for fan blades which may be Plastic, Steele or Aluminum.  By removing the protective housing and blades we come to the main motor assembly.  This is where we’ll get our majority of metal parts as there are generally a dozen screws, 4 bolts and 4 nuts for those bolts.

The various parts can be separated into containers by type. In many areas of the world,recycling bin iron metals is not a revenue generating option. Causes may be a lack of access to materials collectors, as well as shipping or transportation costs. Unlike most cities in the United States, many island nations face daunting shipping costs and regulations that make low value iron blends, often referred to as pot metal, to expensive to gather and ship. Items like screw’s may be saved for use in other projects but own end up as waste when storage space is at a minimum. Business like e waste recycling will have different methodologies for these items.  One key is that separated items with can add significant metal weight when collected in bulk. This is also true for the metal housing, and the permanent magnet. The real bread and butter piece you will see is the copper from the motor itself and the electrical wires.

When it comes to metals, non ferrous materials are the most important within this unit. Individually, one fan will contain about one lb of copper. The average price of clean copper is still above above$ 2.00 lb., down from $4.00 about five years ago.  One of the most important rules to remember is that the cleaner the metal, the greater the financial yield.  For most this will require getting out an electrical saw and in the case of our fan, cutting the motor core to separate the copper and plate steel.  Most DIY electronics recyclers will save up a quantity of several dozen motor assemblies before cutting the copper from the pressed steel core.  This will save time and energy by setting up task oriented jobs to be done concurrently.  This work will require an electronic saw, and a reciprocating saw is generally considered the best tool for this job.

The payout? It depends on the size of the fan.  For most people the answer is:  Maybe $1.00 in copper $0.02 in steel and $.001 in tin ( waste steel).  This of course depends on if you live somewhere that all of these metals are purchased.  If not, then the end result is a about $1.00 for your copper.  Stripping the wires will add no more than another $0.25 to the pile.

The problem for most of us is very simple – who wants to go through all that work?  In the end is it really worth it?  Most people would agree that they would never take the time to take apart their fan for recycling.  Most of us are content to just put it at the curb and forget about it.  However, the realities of life don’t work like this.  While many people don’t understand the intricacies of waste management, including the efforts of ‘garbage companies’ to reduce the quantities of human consumption finding their ways into burial sites (also known as landfills).   The mental thought processes regarding our waste streams must continue, as must our dialogue.  Every time we make a consumption decision, there is a long term impact on our planet.   For more reading enjoy this article by Waste Drive on why “Zero Waste” isn’t everything people think it is.

Time consuming or not, every time I see a piece of electronics in the waste,  I think about this village in Chili who’s water was poisoned by mining operations.  Then I have no doubt that every piece of metal, every piece of copper – it needs to be recycled regardless of the time that is consumed in disassembling it.

The Ocean Cleanup (Project)- Why are so many scientists skeptical?

Beach-polluted-with-plastic-bottles-Cap-Haitian-Haiti

Plastic pollution can be found on beaches globally.

Three years ago, I began writing and sharing about the problems of plastic pollution in our planets waterways.  Personally, I first heard about the problems of plastic in our ocean as part of a Biology class at my community college. The Midway Atoll – an example of Plastic’s Destructive Power was inspired by the information I began studying.  As I was in the process of continuing my education, I focused my studies on Environmental Science,Waste Management, Water and the processes of laws and environmental protection.  Additionally I began utilizing Social Media like Facebook and Twitter to begin watching the active efforts of those in the field.  These activists have stood united in several areas.  The first area is that consuming less plastic means less plastic waste.  The second is that capture at consumption points is the key to eliminating the growth of plastic in the ocean.  Then a few years ago, comes this Ted Talk and the resulting Clean Oceans Project – convincing many people that we have a solution to the problem of ocean plastics.

This prototype image uses a small station to collect captured surface plastic but will not capture sub surface plastics (Image: The Ocean Cleanup)

What I found out through these efforts to network with activists and scientists in the field, as well as through my own cleanup efforts is that there is not one single solution but a bounty of solutions that combined will make a global effort more realistic.  The needs to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are laid out in this order for a reason.

In my adventures I have been able to meet fantastic people like Marcus Erickson of 5 Gyres and Stiv Wilson, now of The Story of Stuff .  Additionally, I follow many scientist’s work online.  In conjunction to my readings, I took to the field, leading a student group which I was president of my senior year partnered with Denver Park District to begin student led efforts to mitigate plastic and other forms of human consumption from our local waterway in downtown Denver, Colorado.  This last year they participated in a local contest to attempt to design ways to mitigate trash from the water.

These efforts have led me to learn a few things.  The first is that humans are messy destructive forces on nature.  Our consumption practices have deteriorated with time and the impact is everywhere.  Fortunately we have 1000’s of community groups fighting the problem.  Awareness campaigns like those held by 5 Gyres, Plastic Pollution Coalition, Activist Abby , Earth Guardians, and more show the simple fact that plastic pollution is everywhere.  Education and active practices with others in our community are the keys to eliminating wasteful habits that wreak havoc on our planet.

Defending Our Oceans Tour - Hawaii Trash (Hawaii: 2006)

Photo of a Greenpeace cleanup

 

I want to talk about  The Ocean Cleanup project.  Somewhere over the last 4 years as I began my campaign to do my part to educate about and eliminate wasteful plastic consumption this young man from Greece, Boyan Slat who in 2012 had a TedX talk that went viral.  After this effort, dozens of my friends sent me links to his work.  Some even made reference that this guy has solved the problem and my own little efforts are no longer necessary.  But lets not move on that belief to fast.  Fast forward 4 years, this month – a prototype of Boyan’s concept to clean plastics directly out of the ocean is being deployed.  Four years of recruiting, press, research and development have occurred.  According to the website, over 40 people have joined this team.  In terms of effort I say good for them, some people doing some good for the world.

Unfortunately, this is the part where truth begins to take an important role over fiction.  From the beginning, many people have asked questions.  Key scientific experts have offered their assistance, technical know how and experience.  For the average reader, much of this may be to technical so I’ll try to keep it simple.   Many groups are saying that their technical and scientific commentary has been ignored or rejected.  Whats worse is that the common person often perceives that this project, still in development mind you, means that the problem is solved and personal behavior practices don’t matter.

Why are there problems with cleaning garbage in the middle of the ocean, I mean isn’t cleaning trash a big deal?  Yes it’s a big deal, and eliminating pollution in the first place is one of the key aspects to a cleanup as noted in this 2013 blog.  Regardless of how much you pick up, humans keep making more.  This is the primary argument of both cleanup and sustainable living entities.  One of the biggest answers is LIFE.  There are 1000’s of forms of life that exist in the ocean and any time you build a new structure, it impacts the local lifeforms.  Impacts such as attracting new ‘life zones’, leaching of chemicals from introduced manufactured goods and localized collection.  But wait for it there’s more.

The key thing to understand is that only a portion of plastic floats.  Many plastics, as they break down due to photo-degradation, combined with surface layering of contaminants – can cause plastic to sink into various depths.  In all recent photos of the new prototype including video from the groups website, floating plastic is used.  However, this important PDF from Precious Plastic (Floating properties plastic ) we see that only 1/2 of plastics actually float!  So the key concept of this device to remove plastic from the ocean is starting out with a 50% loss ratio right off the bat!

There are many scientist and environmental groups who have tried to offer additional input on the project- as outside sources with no bias.  According to many, this outreach has been ignored and the concerns passed over when relating the project to the general public.  One of the biggest concerns for many is that this idea of cleaning plastic from the ocean ignores both the need to reduce consumption and the impacts of plastic particles like those consumed by aquatic life and found in the bellies of many animals.

Understand that the ocean is a huge place, 70% of our planet is ocean.  Utilizing the ocean currents to collect trash is a cool idea.  But if you’re in the middle of the ocean constructing a foreign structure, there are other logical items to consider, like visibility and location.  While the Oceans Cleanup project seems to be targeting location, unfortunately, according to this picture – visibility wasn’t as important of an idea.

Image from The Ocean Cleanup Media Department

Oil Spill booms with logo printed on them are being utilized in a trial setup.   Again note – these will only collect surface plastics.

The most important aspect of cleaning ocean plastics are preventing them from getting there in the first place.  By refusing to consume single use plastics, or not purchasing them in the first place, we all can have a direct impact on the amount of plastic in the ocean. Recycling and up cycling are the second part of the solution.  Supporting enhanced manufactures responsibilities like deposit programs and bottle bills helps ensure that the manufacturing loop is closed.  This type of deposit should apply to everything from beverage containers to televisions and automobiles.   Other ways you can reduce pollution are saying no to plastic straws, carrying your own beverage containers – even filling up at a soda fountain instead of taking the to-go container, and always carrying your own shopping bag(s) when you leave the house.

If you find that the amount of pollution on the ground and in the water in your neighborhood is a problem, you can always start your own community clean up group.  There are some excellent tips found here.

Partial list of Sources / Further reading:

http://www.theoceancleanup.com/updates/show/item/engineering-an-ocean-cleanup-barrier-from-scratch/

http://www.deepseanews.com/2013/03/the-ocean-cleanup-the-newest-of-the-new-plans-to-remove-marine-plastic/

http://www.deepseanews.com/2014/07/the-ocean-cleanup-part-2-technical-review-of-the-feasibility-study/

http://www.deepseanews.com/2016/06/the-ocean-cleanup-deployed-a-prototype-and-i-honestly-have-a-lot-of-questions/comment-page-1/#comment-19075

Three facts (and a lot of questions) about The Ocean Cleanup

http://inhabitat.com/the-fallacy-of-cleaning-the-gyres-of-plastic-with-a-floating-ocean-cleanup-array/

http://www.theoceancleanup.com/milestones/north-sea-prototype/

 

Employees Describe Slipping Into Homelessness While Working at REI

Is this the response to $15.00 an hour minimum wage and mandatory medical benefits for employees? Maybe one sign of a coming trend. Unfortunately, this comes from a company I love the most, for what I believed to be supportive of values I hold near and dear.

South Seattle Emerald

by Kelsey Hamlin

(Updated 7/14/16 12:21am)

REI is known as a place of good-heartedness and quality, so it might come as a shock to hear that many of its employees are either on food stamps, working multiple jobs, or both.

When it comes down to it, REI may have bucked their principles as a co-op for a large corporate trend: Expansion at the expense of its workers — the co-op itself is creating a $2.3 billion campus in Bellevue, according the Puget Sound Business Journal. This came to light at a public forum for REI workplace rights yesterday evening, hosted by Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. In an email to the Emerald, a representative for REI  said the company has not disclosed how much the campus will cost, but that the amount will not be in the billions.

View original post 1,493 more words

The Roberts-Stabenow Dark Act – an effort to hide clarity in food labeling

July 1st has come and gone, and the specifics of this date are extremely important for food labeling activists around the united states.  Specifically, this date has induced the first national Genetic Engineering Labeling Law in the United States.  This law is plan and simple, and it requires companies to put in plain English if the food product within the packaging has ingredients that use Genetic Engineering.   Much more can be read at Vermont’s Right to Know GMO site.

Like California laws regulating emissions and toxicity of fibers or chemicals that can cause cancer,  Vermont’s Label law is significant in a federal way.  The specific reason is that it fills gaps in regulations and laws that congress has not preempted or superseded.  However, on the heels of this victory – there is trouble brewing in the air.  This trouble is the “Roberts-Stabenow ‘Dark Act'”.  What is this act, why is congress so intent on making their own regulations and what could happen if they don’t make their own food labeling laws – are the 3 things I want to look at today.

To begin with, the Roberts-Stabenow act is a food labeling act attempted to be implemented by congress.  This would be the first labeling of Genetically Engineered foods at this level.  Currently there are no existing regulations on this type of food product at the national level.  There are roughly 50 state led efforts of varying degree.  The most successful of these is the Vermont law, which went into effect on July 1, 2016.  This law, simply put, requires all companies to put a simple statement if any of the ingredients are genetically engineered.

In the Federal system that we Americans live under, there are essentially 50 plus governments that create a standard of rules for the entire federal system.  This is because each state has sovereignty within it’s own borders.  Due to this sovereignty, there are existing situations where, either for the methods of prosecution or based on the will or need for safety of the people, individualized regulations have been created.  Such laws such as Cannabis regulation are an example of such sovereignty.  Truth in Food Labeling is another.  While states have rights to create their own regulations within their borders, these can not be in direct negation or conflict with the federal regulations.  States can for example, enhance requirements on air pollution locally that are stronger than say – EPA regulations.

This is especially true where Federal regulations have not set up regulations in their place.  When a state does come up with regulations that are more stringent or fill gaps that congress has not, it is possible for the states to step in and fill the role on a localized or even national level.    Have you ever seen on games shows like The Price is Right or Wheel of Fortune where they give away cars and the announcer says “this automobile meets or exceeds California Emissions Standards”?  As we can see in this New York State Government Website, California Emissions Standards are being adopted by multiple states around the nation as they were more stringent that those enacted by the federal government.  In order to sell their cars to the largest single US market, manufacturers had to meet the California Standards.  Instead of making separate autos for the rest of the states, these standards have become part of national automobile sales by default.

Why is this important?  According to the American Jurisprudence 2d – Constitutional Law ( available at most libraries by signing in through their web systems):

Continue reading