Some tips to running a successful community litter cleanup

 

 

finding things in the water

Students from the Auraria Campus in Denver, Colorado having fun cleaning the Cherry Creek in Downtown Denver as part of 2015 Earth Week Activities.(www.facebook.com/wassup)

Participating in a community based litter clean up group has many great benefits.  In addition to making an impact on the visible trash in the environment; cleanups are great ways to enjoy some sunshine, teach your children about littering, and to make or strengthen friendships.  If you aren’t already participating in a community cleanup, they are easy to start and a great way to meet new people or build upon the relationships between those in community organizations you are already involved in.  Here are some tips to making  your own community clean up teams experience a successful one that will last for years to come.

Partnerships

When it comes to the issues of pollution, there are already a wide number of agencies in your community who are fighting the problem and they are just waiting for you to reach out and contact them.  The first place you contact will probably be the only one you have to reach out to.  Start with your towns park district office or other natural spaces office.  These government entities are dependent on volunteers to assist with many community tasks like maintaining parks, bike paths and trails.  Without the hundreds of thousands of hours volunteers give annually across the country, guests and frequent users would find these areas in a significantly different condition.  One added bonus of working with these groups is that there are often volunteer appreciation events on an annual basis or other perks like passes into zoo’s or museums based on the number of volunteer hours.  More importantly, your local park district is likely to have the materials you will need to organize a monthly cleaning event, thing like garbage bags and trash grabbers, to be used free of charge.  Many organized administrators may also have their district mapped out by area so that no one group is cleaning an area that was just cleaned the day before by a different group.  They will also likely send paid staff out to collect the bags of debris collected so that your efforts are not wasted by animals opening bags searching for food.  Many agencies will also ask for a total of hours volunteered for statistical purposes.

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Small quantities of litter have become a big problem all over the world.

Organization

When it comes to planning a clean up, being organized is very important.  If partnering with an agency like the EPA, they may have scientific data to be gathered to assist in their continuing efforts to identify areas which need greater oversight and assistance.  Such scientific data often includes specifics like, how many aluminum cans, cigarette butts or plastic particles of debris were collected.  Plan on separating the debris by recyclable and non recyclable materials. Also make sure your partner organization knows when you are having your clean up so that they can come and remove the debris that is collected. Having a plan in advance of a team gathering will be especially important.  Identifying how many persons will be needed and their roles can help in recruiting to ensure that there are plenty of people to make the work load light.  Additionally, individuals who may not be able to physically bend and pick up human debris may be encouraged to come if they understand that there are different roles like data collection or event photographer to be filled.  Photographing your cleanups is always a great way to share the wonderful work your group is doing and at some annual volunteer gatherings photos of groups in action may be shared before or during the thank you ceremonies.

Other areas of organization should include – verifying the location, having adequate gloves, waste bags and garbage grabbers for those who will need them; having a map of the area to be cleaned and setting time limits.  If your group is going for monthly cleanups, setting a limit – generally 2 hours – will encourage repeat volunteers.  It can be easy to focus on the total amount of waste in an area, by setting time limits you help minimize the risk of burnout.  By sticking to your planned area and knowing that your group has done it’s part a sense of pride will be felt by all.  If there is more than your group can manage within it’s set time, there is always the opportunity to invite friends join in and cover more ground at future events.  It is also important to remember to provide an option for post clean up fraternization.  Finding a monthly community event like an art walk, or grabbing refreshments at a local favorite provides time for both talking about the action ( cleanup ) and strengthening bonds between participants.  This will be a reinforcement that builds repeat volunteers and often encourages them to bring a friend next time.

Social Media
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Besides likes and loves of photographs, social media can be a powerful tool in many ways.  Social media allows for volunteers to find and share pictures of their wonderful experience so that friends and family will consider both the act of cleaning up after others and thinking twice about littering in the first place.  Additionally, tech savvy volunteers will not only register for clean ups, but they can also take advantage of such features such as sharing and saving the event in their personal calendars so that they get a reminder on the day of that they have something important to do like help protect the planet they love so much!  Making a page for your group can also be a fun way to stay in touch about the global issue and solutions others are creating to fight the problem.  Make sure one of your volunteers is dedicated to catching people in the act of cleaning up, as well as taking photographs of the total amount of waste being collected.  Group photo’s are also an important way to show how much effort goes into keeping protecting the nature we love.  In time you may be able to use your groups photos to generate business support such as free or discounted food at your local gathering place or to ensure important grant funding for agencies like your park district who need it very much or placing infrastructure like recycling bins where they can do the most good.

I hope these three tips will be helpful in getting your group started in this important community responsibility, taking care of the world around us!  Pride in picking up is a great way to build community, get some exercise and make a difference in the world around you.

You can learn more about the need to clean plastic and other trash from these great websites:

http://www.earthguardians.org

http://www.5gyres.org/

http://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org/

 

 

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Don’t believe the Trump – water shortages are a reality in California

Don’t Believe the Trump!

Despite recent comments by the filthy rich and egotistical Donald Trump indicating that there is no drought in California, scientific data is here to save the day.  The truth is that there has been severe shortages in California’s water supply for a decade, and the problem isn’t going to go away anytime soon.

To begin with, let’s take a moment to look at where California stands today.  This is a map
shows the conditions of the water supply in California from 5.24.2016 as reported by U.S. Drought Monitor.  As you might guess, the darker the color, the more severe the need for water is.

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drought california 5-24

This data shows also shows how the trend over the last year is not going away!  There are a combination of reasons that shows why California has a water shortage.  One of these is the overall precipitation that occurs each year.  An important source of precipitation in the western part of the United States is snowfall.  Water content stored in mountain ranges provides long term water supplies through snow melt in both surface and ground water flows that have historically provided fresh water through the summer months when water is needed the most. As temperatures have continued to have a general trend of increasing over the last two decades, snowfall in the mountains has decreased.  According to this podcast, from the California Department of Water Resources (Ca. DWR)- the water content stored on April 1st is important because it’s the general indicator for how much water content will be available for that year from snow melt.  While the Ca. DWR executive report shows that currently water quantities are currently above average and greater than last years levels, this does not mean that everything is back to normal.  Temporary water surplus availability is needed to recharge reservoirs and groundwater tables which have been at historic lows.

In his speech Donald Trump also indicated that one way to solve this problem is to stop allowing fresh water to flow into the ocean.  This has been a hypothesis held by many over the years.  The main reasons this thought process doesn’t work is call Salt Water subsidence and ground water recharge.  When farmers, communities and private corporations like Nestle use wells to pump water out of the ground, replacement water is needed to replenish the supply of water.  The primary way this water is replenished is by water that leaks into the ground from nearby rivers and streams.  Without this source of water water sources would simply dry up.  In areas where these wells are near the ocean, drying up the ground water  allows for salt water intrusion, where the water from the sea literaly takes the place of the fresh water supplies that are no longer there.  This often happens because wells cause a cone of depression that brings the water levels in lower than the water table around it.  This map also shows how depleted ground water supplies can cause many wells to go dry, not having access to the water below them anymore.  In this image by the United States Geologic Survey we can see how salt water can intrude inland.  You can follow this link to read more.

gwdepletiondiagram

While farmers are often given a bad reputation for overusing the local water supply to grow their crops, the opposite is often true.  Farmers, dependent on a constant supply of water for food production often at the forefront of research and responsibility in water conservation techniques.  While it is true that open air irrigation has significant losses of water to evaporation, techniques and technology are improving these numbers.  Additionally there are many reasons for irrigation, including the recharging of the local water tables, as this wonderful powerpoint by Blaine Hanson Department of Land, Air and Water Resources University of California, Davis shows.  This powerpoint covers a wide variety of positive ways that agriculture is making strides in water conservation and brings up one very good point.  Urban communities and farms cannot compete for water.  However, it is important to recognize they are dependent on one another.  Without people to eat the food the farmer doesn’t have a reason to grow food, and without the farmer the community cannot exist.

This being said there is one major culprit of water consumption that can be avoided and eliminated completely.  The plastic water bottle industry.  In 2015 Californians learned that corporate giant Nestle was pumping millions of gallons of water out of a highly impacted aquifer virtually for free, while making millions on the water they sold!  While the International Bottle Water Association claim in this CNN Money report that it’s 3.1 Billion gallons of water placed in plastic bottles is a drop in the bucket compared to overall water use in the state, many agree that it’s 3.1 billion gallons of water that should never leave the state in the first place.  Additionally, the Pacific Institute indicates that 3 liters of water are used to make a singe one liter water bottle!   One of the best ways to eliminate the impact of plastic water in drought ridden states is to avoid buying water bottled in California.  However knowing about the global problem with plastic pollution, it’s much easier to just buy a sustainable stainless steel bottle from a reliable company like Kleen Canteen who contribute to organizations like 5 Gyres who are actively fighting issues with pollution in the oceans.

So, now you know the facts.  There is a water crisis in California.  You can enjoy the quality foods that come from this wonderful state, but understand that the drought is real.  Avoiding plastic water bottles is one way to help with drought conditions.  Cutting off water from streams and rivers from flowing into the ocean is not.

 

6 Truths to ponder

#1  The Constitution of the United States of America stands for each individual in all of the 50 states and the territories.  General American Govt classes teach us that the Supreme Court upholds these rights as part of a checks and balances system.  The Constitution is a very important document that impacts the daily lives of millions of Citizens without their attention to this fact.

#2  Water is possibly the most important resource you have.  When you don’t have clean water anymore, you become indentured to provide for the most basic needs.  Consider what it would be like to have a minimum wage of $3.80 per hour and a case of imported plastic water costing $7.00.  All of a sudden instead of tithing to God you are sending that tithe to Nestle.

#3  Each one of us has a calling in this world, a place where God would have us if we listened to all that she seeks to impart upon us.  While you might think your friends crazy for honoring the Sabbath on Saturday, planting gardens to provide healthy nutritious food for their family, or standing on a street corner in your community sending out a message of protest against the reality of the world around them, just remember that we are all given different gifts, and different callings.  There was a time when saying “the world is round not flat” could get you executed by the church.

#4  Monsanto Company is a poison company.  Yet they own the patent rights to over 90% of all corn and soybean plants grown in the world today.  These patents are to changes in the DNA of the seeds so that they don’t die from the poison sprayed on them.  This poison ends up in the processed foods we eat, it doesn’t evaporate out of the plant’s pores.

#5  Plants, including fruits and vegetables, are best known for their medical properties.  In every nation of the world natural plants exist that have been used as medicines by the elders, medicine person, Dr, and even parents in the community.  Plants are what fend off cancer, heart disease, diabetes (even though sugar also comes from a plant).  Responsible use of these plants is the individual responsibility.  Ignore your bodies need for them and illness will follow, over indulge in one or the other and another sickness or ailment will appear.  According to the the United Nations, it is necessary to retain indigenous knowledge of plants and their nutritional or medical values as our world faces continued changes in the environment based on human impact.

#6  Global Climate Change is Real.  Currently, the most significant cause of this change is consumption habits.  These habits include a dependence on oil.  Oil comes in many forms.  In addition to the obvious gasoline we burn in our automobiles, plastics for our drinks and food, floating bags in the air formerly used to transport store purchases and of course there’s a different type of oil that we use for cooking many foods.  Transportation from mine, field or manufacturer consumes even more.  At all stages in this process we emit CO2 into the atmosphere.  This CO2 also is absorbed into the ocean changing both the acidity of the ocean and the temperature.  See what’s happening in the Asia Pacific.

Online Petitions – Do They Really Bring Change?

If you use the internet, you have seen them – online petitions.  Generally they come with a form letter of some kind, laying out the standardized logo or pitch on why this thing or that is wrong with the world.  Most of the time, the authors and hosting web sites are truly passionate and desire to create real change within the system they are focused on, as well as having a real need or concern to fix a system that appears to be broken.  In most cases, as a compassionate individual who believes in the process of teaching love and fair treatment of all people, I tend to agree with the cause to bring awareness and light to the topic.  At one point in my life I signed up and shared these petitions with my friends and family, thinking that in the long haul they would bring real change that would someday impact my life.

Boy was I right, and I didn’t have to wait a very long time for that change to come into my life!  Under the current system of politics in the United States, the practice of lobbying is bigger than it has ever been in the past 300 years of colonized control of North America.  Major corporations spend billions of dollars annually on lobby efforts.  According to this article from about.com

 “Lobbyists are people who are (often) paid to influence policy-makers at the local, state and federal levels. They represent special interests in the decision-making process in the legislative and executive branches of government.  There are more than 11,000 lobbyists registered at the federal level.”

Which explains to me why – within hours, if not moments later, the flow of email begins.  The system in and of itself is a burdensome beast that may feel requires fighting fire with more fire.  This online method of saying, ” Yes, I also agree that this circumstance is not appropriate and I would like to see this issue addressed as well.”  So we  sign on, feeling good about ourselves for taking 30 seconds of action to pay attention to something that is important in our lives.   Then it comes – that first email.  Often its a simple thank you and don’t forget to check out our website.  Then comes day 2 and a new email or letter from a director asking me to share this valuable information with my friends or to donate to their cause because, lets be honest – this work isn’t cheap and if it’s important to you then maybe helping kick in against the multi-billion dollar evil corporate giants isn’t such a bad thing is it?

One email, one group – eh not so bad.  If you are like me however, deleting that email isn’t top priority #1 in my life today.  What generally happens is that my phone or tablet beep saying that I have a new email and I see it, swipe the notice off my screen and move on with life.  Then one day I notice that I have over 8,000 emails in my mailbox.  Each organization that I signed a petition for is now sending me one or two or three emails a week and quite honestly – I don’t read them.  I saw the tag line, I know they want me to care more – but I’M A BUSY PERSON!  I already signed your petition to say I cared, now let me pay attention to the _____________ [insert your favorite gladiator style activity that detracts from the stresses of the job and the problems with the world that allows you to forget about the problems of the world (while receiving advertizing from the corporations most responsible for the problems in the world that I told you I cared about ), all the time spending your hard earned money that you have been programed to believe that mindless consumption is the solution – when really it’s the problem].

And that’s when it hit me, I am the problem.  The way I consume is the problem here.  With 8,000 unread emails in my email box and over 10k  total emails just sitting there; I’m consuming data storage space, which requires electricity – and I live in a coal burning nation where my carbon footprint is increased every day just because I agreed that I believe that things need to change – so now I’m causing more damage than good.  The use of data storage for all those emails means that I’m contributing to: plastic waste, water pollution, the destruction of natural and pristine environments, carbon pollution and the overall destruction of the planet.  The sites have to be built – causing greater human sprawl.  Equipment needs to be made, so natural resources have to be mined.  Electricity has to be used, contributing to water and air pollution.  Here’s the kicker – I gave my permission for this to happen.  I signed that online petition, through a third party who I know is all about marketing and collecting my information so they can send me updates, ask for money and bring new issues to my email box so that I might consider being concerned about them too!

Let me be honest, I am by a lobbyist.  I am not paid by some major corporation, or even a minor one.  I have taken on jobs in the past to acquire such work, but I never kept those jobs more than 3 days.  They have left a major annoyance in my spirit that I could not ignore.  I write blogs to engage people in discussion, hoping we will think about both the actions, decisions and financial contributions we make on a daily basis.  Also, I am a consumer.  I like to go out and spend money too, I like to feel good and the physical and chemical changes that happen for you when ‘going out’ are not unique.

So, what is to be done?  Are we to be expected to go backwards in time and live like cavemen with minimal comforts or pleasures in life? No, no we should not.  It is important to note however that the individual actions we take, explaining to another person face to face why we are choosing the decisions we make.  With so much noise out there in the world today – including this very blog – it’s important to understand the factors of internalization and the living of behaviors, including shopping habits, that create the greatest of changes.

How can this be done?  It’s a great question.  Supporting change in all levels of the planet is important.  So, here are some simple suggestions.

1.  Contact the business directly.  Begin by having a conversation.  Ask the person you speak with if they are aware of the circumstances in which you are concerned and if they have heard about this problem before.  Remember that you are speaking to a person too!  This person in most cases is not going to be the person directly responsible and may not even know there is a problem.  In the movie GMO OMG, Jeremy

Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor

Siefert uses the telephone and personal visits to engage in a conversation, if not with Monsanto Corporation, with viewers of his movie on the topic of Genetically Modified Foods.  While I don’t remember the number he quotes; in one part of the movie he notes how many receptionists have left the company.  When people know that there is something wrong with the company they represent, or the products they make – they are usually willing to hear the concerns of their customers.

2.  Spend your money where your values lie.  In a world of technology many great tools like Buycott, an online application for smartphones allows you to indicate what kind of values you have.  Are you against human trafficking or slavery, do you support veterans or gender/orientation issues, maybe pesticide use or diseases like cancer or autism are of concern for your.  This easy to use app allows you to scan the barcodes of anything you purchase and learn if the manufacture of that product is an active supporter or partner celebrating the concerns you have about making the world a better place.  This app will also tell you if there is a conflict like the company is known to use child labor, use or create demand for deforested lands or use products that are scientifically known to cause issues like Cancer or Autism in their products.

3.  Use the tools provided by government agencies to communicate with them effectively.  Did you know that there is a whole process of approval for most every government activity that occurs. For example, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) permits a company like Bayer Chemical to produce and use agents like Neonicanitoids on American Soil, it’s because the company provided requests  clearly stating what the chemical was, what it was most likely intended to be used for, how it was likely to be used and expected outcomes of that product.  This is a requirement of law.  The corporation is a for profit entity and it is likely that a full suite of disclosures outlining the worst possible scenarios will not occur.  It is the responsibility of the EPA, by law, to provide an open public comment period where people can provide examples of reasonable information that would guide the process.  The site regulations.gov to provide public input on decisions being made by government agencies.  The processes of using pesticides, building projects on government land, the approval of chemicals for use in the USA and a lot more are all open to public opinion periods where citizens can provide their insights or concerns regarding practices and products before they are approved.

4.  Be effective in incorporating the tools of social media to inform and educate others.  Write your own blog, share factual articles, scientific reports and engage in conversation.  Liking and sharing doesn’t create change by itself.  It requires the both the aspects of understanding the information and creating dialogue where insight and enlightenment occur though dialogue.  Where many people miss the boat is that they don’t incorporate the action of changing their personal habits to align with the issues they are signing up to speak out against.

At the end of the day, you may find that online petitions are a way to speak out against an issue, however if you don’t align your practices with the issues you speak out against – are you just creating more of the same?

Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor
Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor
Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor
Jeremy Seifert Director / Writer / Editor

The Midway Atoll – an example of Plastic’s Destructive Power

The oceans make up 70% of the surface area of our planet and support a wide array of life on our planet.  The beauty and splendor of this life has drawn the adventures of the world to seek the areas of greatest beauty.  One type of this beauty is known around the world as corral reefs, the most famous of these is the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.  The dangers and damage of human impact has often been a topic of great discussion for many, especially for those in Australia that have watched these changes over their lifetime.  However, not all our corral reefs get such attention.  One example is the Midway Atoll, a circular corral reef that circles Midway Island.  After the end of WWII, where Midway Island was the scene of a week long battle to secure this ‘Midway point’ between Hawaii and Japan, the area was turned into a natural wildlife preserve.  For the Albatross that call this island home, the assurances that man would not be a regular interference must have been a nice change.  According to a recent NPR Article, Albatross are one of the most faithful animals on Earth, taking up to 15 years to decide on a mate and stay mated for life.  According to the same article, these birds also raise young for many years, one of note was raising young at 62 years old!  While this is an amazing statistic, there are some scary things to be concerned about when we examine what this far away location look like up close. https://i2.wp.com/farm7.staticflickr.com/6088/6128493158_24904ca3f3_z.jpg

From afar, the Midway atoll can generate images of beauty and relaxation, the idea of clear waters and sandy beaches could generate images of rest and relation for many.  Unfortunately, things aren’t as beautiful up close as one would prefer – the culprit is of course man made materials that have been carelessly discarded to have a second life as the materials of death for many forms of life.  These materials are of course – PLASTICS.

Plastics, first created in the 1850’s, quickly became a manufactured good that when discarded; entered the waste stream with little concern or flair.  These materials entered, as did much poorly managed waste over the last 150 years, landfills and garbage barges.  These landfill barges, like the ones discussed in this previous blog, took garbage out to sea, sometimes as close as 3 miles out to sea.  What happened next is that these wastes began to travel the world’s oceanic currents.  These gyres, mechanically broke down many of the materials, especially those that were of organic material like food wastes and paper.  Unfortunately, many of the items could not break down in the currents.  These materials travel the currents and travel around the globe.  Some of the plastics break down by photo degradion, the sun and salt water breaking down the chemical bonds.  At the same time these plastics return the favor, releasing chemicals like formaldehyde, asbestos, BPA and DDT into the water.  Additionally, the plastics don’t really go away, they just break down into smaller pieces of themselves much in the way rocks break into particles of sand.  The plastics that don’t break down, they float around the world until landing on a beach somewhere.   This is the case for the Midway Atoll.

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Images like the one above, are often far from the mind of the common consumer as we purchase an ice cold bottle of soda on a sweltering day, leaving the lid of the bottle where it lands in the parking lot.  What we don’t realize is that the sudden rains that come in overnight pick up that bottle cap and deposit it into the storm-water system where it’s carried directly to an outbound water system.  Eventually, it is likely that this plastic will find it’s way into a major river system where it will then travel into the ocean.    The problem is so common that earlier this month an article was written about a theoretical boat being designed by the Dyson family, that would vacuum plastic and other pollutants out of river waters before they enter the ocean.

 

Why would someone want to clean the rivers of plastic?  It is estimated that tens of thousands of pieces of plastic enter our oceans as former land based pieces of pollution or consumer goods on a daily basis.  We know that these estimates are true by viewing studies of both the gyres themselves, and looking at pictures like those here.  Each of these pieces of plastic, containing unknown internal contaminants is bringing its own forms of destruction on the planet.  In far away places like the Midway Atoll, these plastics bring real damage.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) have found that of 1/2 million albatross born in the Atoll- 200,000 die annually due to plastic consumption.  Adult birds may know how to stay in a committed relationship, but the introduction of plastics into the environment did not come with a clear cut instructions not to eat.  What happens is that from the point of hatching, plastic enters the food stream.  All to often this means full bellies with no room for healthy nutrients to develop strong bodies and bones structures.  Photographs like this one from Chris Jordan bring the starteling truth to light.  Unfortunately, the Midway Atoll has been littered wiht such carcases for over a decade.

 

On a recent study of Freshwater Seafarers off the mainland near Tazmania, Australia – Dr. Jennifer Lavers discovered that 16% of hatchlings were fed plastic.  She also hypothesis that these plastics are poisoning the birds with heavy metals and other contaminates.  She also highlights in this blog how she pulls over 400 pieces of plastic out of one Albatross on Midway.  Because these areas of contamination are far from human existence, they are often forgotten about.  Fortunately, there are those who are interested in keeping this, and many other formerly pristine areas of the planet in the best condition possible.  Once such crew pulled over 14 tons of plastic from the Midway Atoll in 2013. You can read more about their efforts here. Upon seeing this much plastic pollution, maybe you will consider making significant changes in your consumption patterns today.  While the average reader will not believe it to be the case, just one refillable water bottle can reduce plastic and oil consumption by as much as one barrell per year!  Other things that you can do to help eliminate this pollution is to learn about your communities recycling regulatons and become an effective recycler of post consumed items and always, always carry a bag with you so you can say no to a plastc one, each and everytime you go shopping!

James Morioka, Kerrie Krosky, Kristen Kelly, Tomoko Acoba, Kevin O’Brien, Kerry Reardon, Edmund Coccagna, Joao Garriques, and Russell Reardon (clockwise from upper right) pose on April 18 atop the large, 13,795-kg pile of derelict fishing gear and plastic debris collected during their 21-day mission at Midway Atoll. NOAA photo by Edmund Coccagna

 

How the Philippines disaster from Hurricane Haiyan will highlight problems with material recycling.

Hurricane Haiyan was hitting the interwebs as it’s oceanic pathways and expected approach to land predicted the one of the worst environmental events in modern history.  Now that it has hit and global communications are exposing the real damage of this storm, the world is witnessing one of the worst events in modern history.    According to a blog by Dr. Jeff Masters, this hurricane is  the strongest hurricane to hit land in recorded history and the worst in over 50 years.  In the coming days the news will cover nothing but this hurricane, and the world will unite to support the  100’s of thousands that will have a catastrophic change of life having survived the event.  In reality this support is needed.  The spread of disease due to dead bodies, the need to clean debris, to sort natural resources and waste, to reestablish an infrastructure and provide food sources, machinery, medical care and most importantly consumable water.  Agencies like the Red Cross, who have already sent support teams, are fundraising and the world is looking at this disaster with compassion and heartache.

This is a good thing, for people in our world to tend to the needs of those that don’t have – especially in times of dire troubles.  The sad thing is that as our populations continue to grow, the impact of weather events will continue to worsen.  There are several simple truths to be examined that will help put this into perspective.  First of all, it is proven that people are drawn to live in areas of mild climates, with fresh water and bountiful food sources.  According to a newscast by CNN, Florida is a perfect example of this fact.  Some data from the video – if a storm the size of Hurricane Haiyan hit the state of Florida, over 11 Million people would be displaced due to flooding in a state that produces over 1 billion dollars worth of food each year.

It puts things into an interesting scope for me because I have been on the teeter-toter lately with the feasibility in instilling change in humanity’s capacity to react to the environmental remains of such a tragedy.  News casts are already reporting the ‘need to take care of the living’; which is a true and necessary component of surviving a tragedy.  Having been in and out of New Orleans before and after Hurricane Katrina I know how slow the recover process is.  The mass scope and level of reclaiming the ability to reuse land effectively continues to be a struggle in Haiti as this Nation still struggles to rebuild amid the lessons of ‘effective humanitarian aid’ do’s and don’ts.  If you are unaware, this blog from Jezebel.com provides some great insight to the real tragedy as Americans have unintentionally polluted and caused more harm in the inability to process excess waste products, primarily due to over consumption, but also out of good will.  It was the Haiti event that most recently pulled so many together, seeing such devastation so close to home.  This is I believe, the biggest event with loss of life in a single day in my lifetime.  I say that very specifically because, with the waste of humanity strewn about everywhere, diseases- especially waterborne, are going to be a prevalent issue of concern in the weeks to come.
In addition, the timeline of cleanup must be prompt and swift.  Our military will be moving in to assist,  and one of the fist and most necessary requirements is that the bodies be removed.  In such a temperate zone, decay is rapid and will cause the spread of human and waste borne diseases rapidly.  To complicate these matters, metal, plastic, wood  debris will be mixed within making these areas necessary for quick remediation or habitats for mosquitoes will quickly increase and the spread of disease like Malaria will spread.  In addition to insects, the debris poses a special problem – a mass amount of it is not made of natural materials.  In this island nation, where will all the garbage go?
My opinion is that many of these masses of materials will end up as ocean pollution.  Besides the masses of material that washed out to sea, much of the material currently clogging streets, all the stuff of society – will be stuffed in a landfill, maybe even have a new one created in the middle of the jungle.  Either way, the one thing that you won’t see happening on a grand scale – recycling.   As we globally prepare to handle circumstances of the environment, humanity needs to find or create greater ways to manage cleaning up the messes we make through consumption.

5 reasons Denver’s proposed plastic bag fee has potential

According to a report on CBS-Denver, “Denver City Councilwoman Deborah Ortega has proposed a five-cent fee for every disposable bag used at grocery and convenience stores in the city limits.”  Under the current proposal 60% of this fee would go to the city while 40% would go to vendors.  The estimates of combined generated revenues according to CBS-Denver is in excess of 6  million of dollars!  While many will consider 2 million dollars in handling fees an excessive cost, and a potential ‘tax on the poor’; I would like to propose that there are at minimum five reasons why ‘Plastic user fees’ are of value.

1.  Plastic pollution is a real and present danger to our environment.  Researchers at the 5 Gyres Institute have found significant evidence that plastic pollution is a global issue polluting the natural homes off both land, sea and air animals around the globe.  In a lab project for 7th to 12th graders indicates that some bird colonies have as much as 80% of their populations that have consumed plastic in their diet.

2. User fees are proven to change consumption patterns. According to an interview by NPR’s Michel Martin, Michael Bolinder of Anacostia Riverkeeper indicates that plastic bag consumption went from over 22 million bags on a monthly basis to about 3 million.  Community governments around the country are seeing the reduction of single use plastic as additional fees encourage citizens to modify consumption patterns and incorporate more conservation minded practices into their daily lives.

3. Single Use plastic bags have low plastic recycling demand.  Consider that while many grocery and chain retail locations provide recycling collection of single use bags, curbside recycling does not.  Because the plastic density and composition of these bags there is little demand for this grade of plastic.  This limited demand means little to no profit margin, and can actually be a financial burden to waste management which is why these plastics are restricted from community recycling programs.

4. Plastic does not decompose.  Instead it behaves like rock in that it breaks down into smaller portions of itself.  Plastic is made through a chemical manufacturing process called polymerization, and is designed to be a lightweight alternative for manufacturing, storage and transportation costs.  Unfortunately, the only way to convert plastic back to natural materials is to reverse manufacture them via a process called depolymerization.  Studies by the 5 Gyres  Institue show how plastics of all sizes are contaminating oceans and beaches around the planet as well as all five great lakes.

5. Plastic is made up of oil, a primary source of single use consumption on the planet.  A report by Friends of the Earth states, “Humans today extract and use around 50% more natural resources than only 30 years ago, at about 60 billion tonnes of raw materials a year”.  This includes increasing levels of oil consumption globally that has pushed for the expansion of environmentally dangerous sources of gas and oil collection like Bitumen Tar Sands and Hydraulic Fracturing.

So while the current proposal before Denver’s City Council may not be the version that gets a final vote, I hope that you will agree that the prospect of such an action is a timely and responsible course in environmental responsibility.  If you are not already in the habit of bringing reusable shopping bags, your family and friends may  thank you, plus think of all the money you will be saving once the fee’s begin!

Civil Non-violent Disobedience

This past weekend I spent time in training to recruit and lead Civil Non-violent Disobedience in the State of Colorado.  I am really excited for the opportunity to be part of a large group of American’s who are standing up to protect the future of our planet.  This type of activity, while not something new to the American scene; is something I have not participated in before.   For me, it’s a bit overwhelming to think that I will be joining the ranks of American Citizens who, because of conscience, chose to take a stand in a nonviolent fashion to stand up for injustices actively occurring on American soil.   Most Americans know the story of Rosa Parks, a woman of African descent, who sat on a bus in a seat in 1955 that she  wasn’t authorized to sit on because of the color of her skin.  Her story is part of the history of the Civil Rights Movement, a time period in American history where many took to the streets to participate in making a statement.  The focus was to bring focus to unjust laws in a way that was considered dignified, and worthy of media attention.

Fast forward 50 years.  The same media that represented the values of America as wholesome and pure, has changed the focal point  to one where active discussion of violence has become a part of daily life.  Instead of positive news stories about the good things people are doing in their lives – stories about the worst of humanity’s behaviors unto one another take precedence.  These stories are distractions which often do not include the ways in which private corporations, focusing on profit margins, continue to promote or participate in devastating actions upon our planet.   These actions range from maintaining unhealthy manufacturing processes that have increased our atmospheric CO2 levels to dangerous planetary levels,  to encouraging consumption patterns that are killing our oceans with plastic pollution.  Environmentally, humanity has been extremely careless about our methods of progress and have, in many ways, developed methods of extracting and utilizing natural resources that are permanently scarring our planet.

I mourn frequently for this one Earth that I get to live on.  I feel like people look at me like a lunatic as I take oil created plastic and move it from garbage cans to recycling bins.  People are often offended as I communicate with them their thoughtless methods of consumption, feeling no need to take ownership of the state of Planetary Affairs they are actively contributing to the destruction of.  This is why I took the Pledge of Resistance against the Keystone XL pipeline.  This pipeline is designed to take some of the dirtiest sand on our planet, know as Tar Sand, and convert it into a fluid product to be pumped across our nation as an international export.  The goal is to access this product in Canada, ship it across the United States, then refine it in Texas and export it to Asia – that is they want to export the excess product.  Truth is that Tar Sand gasoline is already being consumed in states like Colorado without much knowledge by the average consumer.
And this is why I went to the Action Leader training for these upcoming nonviolent resistance.   I am grateful these organizations: The other 98%, Rainforest Action Network, and Credo Action Network  banded together to provide a wide variety of training exercises to help prepare me to lead active resistance against the KXL Pipeline.  Please take some time to learn more about this important topic, sign the Pledge of Resistance and become one of the many that will tell President Obama that this isn’t the type of change we signed up for!

How do voices get lost in the crowd?

Sometimes, as a mid-lifer I enjoy taking the time to sit back and evaluate things… it’s much different than in my youth where I just moved and maybe if an adult was lucky, I’d actually consider the consequences of my actions sometime in the near future.  There are a lot of things to think about these days.  Science and progress are moving at rates that are unchecked and many predictions I remember from the classroom, my family and all the reading I did in magazines like National Geographic, Popular Science, Field and Stream is coming back to me.  Stories about how human expansion and development would cause problems, how changes were necessary to curb the damage the usage of fossil fuels, accelerate the development of renewable energy, protect the environment and remember the lessons of generations past.  My fathers stacks of magazines from the 60’s and 70’s showed wildlife in nature like I would never have a chance to see and they stressed the importance of conservation, on taking care of nature as we enjoy it so that it will sustain us for years to come.  I’ve become more and more aware of how much these warnings are coming true.  The concepts within Science fiction from 100 years ago is part of modern life, and many modern day science fiction movies are predicting a sad future for us.  On example is including the popular children’s cartoon by Pixar Studios – Wall-E where the main character has been cleaning up Planet Earth’s garbage for over 700 years with no shortage of work in site.

Recently, I had the amazing opportunity to get involved in a newer grassroots movement that continues to bring me amazement in the efforts of altruistic humanity vs the reality of greed and power.  While I know the history of the human effort to rise up against the oppressor is always a story of the one that does not have against the one that has; today’s oppressors are not the Kings and Queens or a murderous barbarian with his legions but instead are the face of private corporations with visions of Global domination in their marketplace.  Not all companies are ‘oppressors’ mind you.  There are many who’s leadership and the culture developed within them are intended to be beneficial not only as a company who’s services are useful to their customer base, but also have a moral and ethical guiding within them to provide products and services that are intended to benefit the world around them.

So many times this can happen where the consequences of such actions over time become a beast that turns the public against the company.  We don’t always know how the change has gone from a good idea to a bad one – but when a good idea has gone bad, it becomes clear to all of those who look at the problem in an unbiased way.  In the 70’s it was a good idea to open up trade on a global level – expose 2nd and 3rd world countries to manufacturing opportunities – until companies like Wal-Mart went to American businesses and said, “If you don’t take these manufacturing positions out of the country, we’re going to stop doing business with your company because we demand you lower the core cost of these items.”

Have you ever had a packaged beverage?  If you are reading this blog the obvious answer is of course: you have.  Virtually every very form of consumable product manufactured today has some form of plastic used as part of the system you pay for to have relatively safe, fresh, and consumable food to eat when you are ready for it.  While the manufacture of plastic polymer’s has been occurring for over 150 years, the active efforts of creating efficient ‘depolymerization’  efforts are so new that most people don’t even know the technology exists. Instead, we live in a world where plastic is considered ‘trash’ or ‘garbage’ as if the item has found the end of it’s useful purposes and is now devoid of value.  Instead, pristine locations around the world are becoming trash dumps.

Instead of having a unified voice of discontent forcing effective change on the wheels of corporate responsibility, large corporations have little to worry about as 1000’s of environmental organizations, fight for your attention to achieve aligned results.  The focus on education, raising funds to stay solvent, and achieve the stated objectives has each individual group swimming upstream while the flood of environmental toxins continues to be manufactured without thought to the reclamation process.  Big companies are safe from lots of little voices  talking at one time creating a din of noise.  The size and scope of lobbies and political action organizations in the United States has become what it is, because some of the little voices, and many of the big ones have come to understand that the impact of the unified voice.  Unions created at the turn of the 20th century were looked upon an unamerican and a danger to our country and way of life, yet they only wanted to have fair and equal treatment, and only by gathering in a unified voice were they able to achieve it.  Today companies like Wal-Mart, continue to teach disadvantaged Americans the ‘harms of the union’

Earlier this year, some people with inside information helped inspire, develop and legislate a measure commonly known as the, “Monsanto Protection Act”  because somewhere in the executive chain at Monsanto someone felt that it was time to seek federal protections from the liability from damages that their products could potentially inflict on local American Biospheres due to the fact that man made genetic organisms are being created on a regular basis and released into the world with only the manufacture of these creatures being determined to be responsible and liable to test these organisms and determine if they are safe for release outside of white sterile facilities to be released into the real world.  The problem with this is that the companies doing all the science behind creating these new life forms are indeed the ones being held responsible by our government, to test the safety. Here is an example on the FDA’s website. Why the United States government is following these uncommon practices might not make much sense to the common person, unless you understood how the system works.

The department within the United States government that is tasked with the responsibility of unbiased third party food safety regulation is the FDA or the Food and Drug Administration. Roughly thirty years ago, a young idealist was working for this very organization probably had no idea that history books in 100 years may point the fingers of blame directly on his role as a perpetrator in the poisoning and destruction of the American Population from within.  However, as  Michael R. Taylor, J.D., Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine’s own FDA profile indicates, he’s a former VP for Monsanto.

Here’s how things get tricky.  The FDA’s mission [according to this Powerpoint (found on their site)]:

“ helping to speed the innovations that make medicines and foods more effective, safer and more affordable; and helping the public get accurate, science-based information they need to use medicines and foods to improve their health.”  Simply put, the only way to ensure ‘science-based information’ is accurate is to have 3rd party testing, something the FDA is NOT currently doing in this arena.  The example I provided is one where the manufacturer has said, “Our scientists believe this” and the regulator has said, “Great! Thank you for doing all the work – on your own products, for us.”

So I’ve been thinking, as I stated earlier, that things aren’t always what they seem to be.  It really is possible that all those warnings people have been making, maybe there’s not so much crazy to them after all.  Now, that I’ve exposed one current way that the naysayers might not be crazy, maybe you can help me figure out how to keep large unified voices active, without breaking them up into 100’s or thousands of small insignificant ones…

My guest post for the March Against Monsanto Denver

My guest post for the March Against Monsanto Denver

This was part of my grassroots efforts to share the educational process through using my experiences to help people understand the problems behind Genetically Modified Foods, also known as GMO’s.  The plants have been modified to survive the consumption of poison and are a mixture of plant and bacteria genetics incorporated into the human food stream while there is strong evidence of poisoning, genetic defects and terminal diseases in humans and animals that consume them.