Pollution in American Samoa, a look at the Nu’uuli Mangroves

Recently I had the opportunity to sit in on a planning meeting between the Environmental Protection Agency of American Samoa, Department of Marine Wildlife and the American Samoa Power Authority.  This meeting was to discuss the implementation and roll-out of a new mitigation program that would include data collection to help assist in evaluating the types and sources of pollution on the coastlines of American Samoa.  Within 3 weeks, I found this article written in the local newspaper, the American Samoa News about a group of roughly 25 individuals who collected 160 bags of waste during a cleanup of the Pala Lagoon on the opposite side of the Nu’uuli Mangroves.

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A picturesque scene from the Nu’uuli mangroves.  Unfortunately, everything isn’t a beautiful as it seems.

With this in mind, I accepted an invite to take a short tour of a section of the Mangroves, a section that stretches out into the Lagoon and is one of the areas proposed to be mitigated by the EPA.  What we found was heartbreaking.

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A look inland shows large swaths of pollution across the mangroves and inland island.

As I toured the mangroves, I had a conversation with Dennis Ahoia, a local business owner and family member tied to one of the pieces of land designated as part of the Nu’uuli Mangroves.   This part of the island is uninhabited, yet the area is full of rubbish, and most of it is fairly new. After a short boat ride across the bay, Dennis lead me through the mangroves, most of which are completely undeveloped.  He showed me sections where decades ago, walls and foundations were buried from when families used to live here.

As he used his machete to clear a pathway he explained to me his families involvement in cleaning up a portion of the land.  His astonishment at the quantity of pollution was evident.  “Several years ago we were cleaning up a portion of this land, and a small fire spread across the mangroves, it burned for several days and while it was unfortunate, it burned all the trash.  So all of this, all of this is new.”

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Styrofoam food containers, single use beverage containers and other signs of human consumption are mixed with natural organic plant material at the  Mangroves shoreline.

What amazed me the most is that there are significant barriers at the waters edge that should in theory capture and limit the spread of rubbish in this area.  Large portions of debris can be found up to 50 feet inland from the shoreline.  According to Ahoia, much of this pollution comes directly from the Village of Nu’uuli and the multiple streams that discharge into the bay. His disheartened amazement at the quantities of pollution is evident throughout our entire walk.  “Where does all this come from?”, he asks shaking his head.  “People don’t take care of their garbage and it ends up here.”  It appears that this debris then floats with the currents until it comes to the shoreline where wind and varying tides carry it inland.

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Nu’uuli Mangroves – 10 -30 feet inland, you can see the waterline

Managing this pollution is a multi step process that begins with personal responsibility.  Putting trash in its place and not littering are the first solutions to preventing this type of pollution to occur.  Secondary measures are to avoid purchasing items that are common pollutants like Styrofoam take out containers.  Requesting your local business purchase environmentally responsible packaging and traveling with personal beverage containers are additional measures to preventing the problem.

Additionally,  active mitigation – or cleaning up these type of areas is also important.  Forming a group of friends and family members, faith based community, or other group that gathers regularly is a great way to make an impact on pollution in your local area.  By taking people out to clean up existing trash, we spread awareness and educate people about the impact litter makes.  This blog on tips to running a successful community cleanup can be a great place to start you on starting your own cleanup group.   If you are interested in helping clean up American Samoa please contact the EPA  by email :info@epa.as.gov  or call them directly at 684.633.2304

 

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Some tips to running a successful community litter cleanup

 

 

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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/

 

 

Some thoughts on Storm-water pollution

Water quality in the United States may be one of the most understated concerns facing future generations.  As the spread of human development continues to grow, the concerns and understanding of maintaining a vibrant and consumable water supply chain continue to push their way to the forefront of society and governmental concerns.  As Americans we do many things to put our water at risk of being safe for our planet.   While oil spills, hazardous waste and major contaminants like sewage are items that bring recognition to most peoples consciousness, especially when concerning the impact to drinking water, this is not the case for one of most common daily sources of pollution to our open water sources.  These contaminants, known as Non Source Pollutants (NSP’s), threaten to destroy our lakes, streams and watersheds on a consistent basis.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the direct street to stream aspect of storm-water runoff and is one of the primary culprits of this growing pollution source and education is one of the most valuable solutions for solving this problem.  

Non Source Pollutants are  the wide range of incidental chemicals and elements that end up in natural watersheds through particulate collection of materials by water as it  travels from humanized environs to natural biospheres.  The incidental nature of NSPs are at the core of the dangers they represent.  According to the EPA, “The term “nonpoint source” is defined to mean any source of water pollution that does not meet the legal definition of “point source” in section 502(14) of the Clean Water Act. (EPA, web).  The secondary primary  aspect of this water is that it is not processed by municipal water treatment facilities.  According to Aurora, Colorado Water’s website,  “In an urban setting these (NSP’s)  include: pesticides and fertilizers, automotive fluids from leaks including oil and antifreeze,  as well as a wide variety of chemicals that are leaked or spilled within our communities.” (Aurora Water, web).    These chemicals are generally absorbed by water during precipitation and flow through storm water systems to open source water where the contaminants can gather and have a greater impact on their surroundings.   Additional items considered NSP include bacteria, viruses and trash or litter.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NSP pollution can have negative impacts on the economy through: shipping issues, tourism, and available foodstocks.  

    In addition to liquid chemicals, plastic and other man-made material pollution is being studied in many areas for the chemicals that they can leach into the environment in addition to the problem they pose as litter.   This type of pollution is relatively new in scope as it is a secondary pollutant to water and a direct result of littering, or improperly disposing consumed goods for recycling or landfill.  Examples of this include but are not limited to: grocery sacks,metal food containers, drinking bottles, tires, and shoes.  As these materials are exposed to a variety of climatic conditions they can leach or release chemicals  as water comes into contact with it.  One of the major chemicals known to come from plastics is BPA or Bisphenol A.  It is a highly used chemical in certain plastics that has been proven to mimic estrogen when consumed by humans , According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIH), “Plastic containers have recycle codes on the bottom. Some, but not all, plastics that are marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA.”  (NIH, web)

    To solve the impacts of both chemical and litter pollution from impacting storm-water runoff directly, governments have established a wide variety of solutions to directly counter the variety of sources that fall under the NSP category.  The internet has become an extensive resource for providing general access to educational resources for a wide variety of community solutions.  These range from ready to print flyers and classroom modules to details of infrastructure improvements and plans that impact collection and capture of water. In addition, special collection days and community activities like litter remediation continue to prove valuable techniques in reducing the quantity of NSP’s in our storm-water systems and natural waterways.  

    As the demand for water increases in urban communities like Aurora, concerns for development of additional water collection are under active consideration.  The Prairie Waters Project (PWP) is an example of one such project.  This project will divert river water from the Platte River where it will be transported and then processed for consumption before being returned to sources downstream or away from the of the collection point.  It is important to note that much of the water will have come from storm-water runoff that is  naturally filling the South Platte River.  It is important to consider that this water will have NPS’s contaminants from farms, forests, animal and rural activity upstream of the collection point. Besides transporting elevated nutrient content and suspended sediments, bacteria and viruses may be in the water being transported.  In the map of the PWP’s infrastructure plans, it is important to note that part of this system includes a storm drain bypass that will feed directly into the Aurora reservoir.  

This presents potentials for elevated levels of contamination as storm-water runoff could contaminate the reservoir itself.  To alleviate these risks, monitoring of water quality at both the Platte River and along the Storm Drain Bypass Extension will have to maintained as well as increased monitoring of potential sources of pollution upstream whose activities could change classification status to ‘Source Point’ pollutants.  In addition, it will be necessary  to monitor the ways that new  NSP nutrients will impact the overall health of the Aurora Reservoir.

    to the varying nature and impact of Non-Source Pollutants on our water system, as well as the wide array of possible initial sources, non source pollutants are a danger to natural ecosystems as well as viable groundwater sources for human consumption.  Their impact on the environment can be hard to directly measure as these pollutants accumulate over time generally on non permeable surfaces and generally accumulate during a precipitation event.  Because these events are varied and are not regulated, the frequency at which they occur and the rates they introduce accumulated pollutants is hard to capture or resolve.  This causes the primary methods of monitoring watersheds, maintaining riparian zones for diffusion of pollutants as well as education processes and active community efforts to limit and control non source pollutants in urban areas necessary practices.  I believe the monitoring of watersheds and potential source points is expected to expand as our society grows.  Understanding how this need will expand or need to be intensified for downstream communities will be a problem that will likely continue to grow.

Works Cited

“Aurora – Prairie Waters Project.” Aurora – Prairie Waters Project. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.

“National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.” Bisphenol A (BPA). N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.

News Releases By Date.” 10/30/2013: EPA Announces Cleanup Plan for the Ellis Property Site in Evesham Township, New Jersey; EPA Cost of Removal of Contaminated Soil Estimated at $13.6 Million. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2013

“Nonpoint Source Pollution.” NOAA’s National Ocean Service Education:. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 Nov. 2013.

No really, recycling isn’t good enough – it’s time to recognize the impact of over consumption

Yes that’s right, I said it.  If you recycle your plastic you are doing a good thing, but really it’s not enough to make a difference.  According the the EPA, currently  only 8% of plastic is being recycled.  If your plastic doesn’t have a stamp and a number on it, most waste disposal companies don’t want your plastic.  If it’s got moldy food on it, you probably just tossed that plastic into the garbage can, where it will never change form from the oil it was polymerized out of.  Going out to eat?  Did you notice how many items like straws, ramequins, and lids are made of plastic and get thrown into the waste stream on a regular basis?

No, most people who find this post will be forced to admit it –  American’s as a whole do not appear to be attentive to the levels of consumption they participate in.  It’s a hard truth to face because we Americans have been raised by the corporations around us to consume as much as possible with minimal efforts going toward reducing those numbers. This has been a business model for all of time.  Fortunately American’s only need to go back about 100 years to the creation of the National Forest Service to see examples of why a conservation method of consumption and production is necessary.  Without the efforts of the likes of Theodore Roosevelt and John Muir; hundred of ranchers, woodsmen, hunters and loggers would have mass consumed the natural resources of our land.  Instead these resources are still being used generations later – all because a conservation methodology was pressed upon them.

Recently a friend of mine posted a comment that essentially indicated that because she participated in recycling processes, mass consumption of plastic bags was acceptable.  I’m here to argue this as a falsehood.  Besides the fact that most plastics are not recycled; the act of consumption equates to the justification for manufactures to continue taking virgin oil and producing virgin plastic as a sustained and profitable practice.  Unfortunately, this practice is not considered sustainable as oil is available on a limited basis, once we run out, there is no more.  We have but one planet to live on.  Ironically, it’s also the one source for all concepts of life as we know it.  With one planet providing us with a limited stream of resources, the concept of limited consumption should be a no brainer.

Unfortunately for our grandchildren, these concepts were not passed effectively from generation to generation.  Remembering lessons from our past allows us to prepare for our future.  Only we don’t have a past where we polluted our oceans and skies while piling ‘single use’ materials all around ourselves.  In fact, the lessons from the greatest generation – about working hard, achieving, thinking outside of the box, tending to the space you are given, giving more than you were given ( just to name a few); well these lessons are falling by the wayside of I want it now and I shouldn’t have to work at it.  But, the most important of these lessons should really be about supply and demand.

If I don’t use or make purchase of plastic, I’m not generating any demand for the product.  However, when you slow your consumption of plastics, a movement is afoot.  If you and I use less oil, participate in ride sharing, public transportation and planning trips to the store; if we can begin to work with others in our community to change the way we think as a group, then we become more than a movement.  Changing your consumption habits is not going to be an easy thing, but when the day comes when birds on remote islands stop dying from plastic ingestion, the day when all plastic is recycled or depolymerized back into natural or refined chemicals then maybe we will be glad that we took time to appreciate the efforts.  If we don’t make these changes, we can’t teach our children by example.  They follow in our footsteps, replicating the behaviors they see at home.  So instead of participating in destructive behaviors toward our planet, consider the positive impact your hard work will benefit those to come in both indirect and direct ways.  Can you think of three ways which changing your consumption will benefit the planet?

How you shop is important, it is already changing the world.

When recycling was beginning to be a requirement on a national level, there was much ado about how it was all going to work.  People all over this country were involved in the idea that what they were doing was important and would be useful for generations to come.  How recycled products would be labeled, what types of material were to be used to be ‘post-consumer’ content and at what percentages.  What is post consumer waste?  What percentage of post consumer product could you use, was it safe?  What would standard be?  Who would enforce this?  Does the Federal Government have a responsibility to do this?  Do they have the right?  A lot of work was put into the entire process.

And yet, according to the EPA, only 7% of the plastic that is created – gets recycled.  For some really good reading the 1990 report to Congress by the EPA titles,”Methods to Manage and Control Plastic Waste“.  In the meantime understand this – as a species we suck at cleaning up after ourselves.  And this my friends is creating a massive problem for our world. These problems are not just land based problems like, “our landfill is full, can we send our garbage to yours?”  While this happens all the time in the Midwest (garbage from cities like Chicago travels out of the city and even into Wisconsin.   Unfortunately, not all states have space where they can send their trash.  So what happened to all the garbage from a city like say, New York when there is no landfill space?  They took it out to sea, an activity that eventually ended in the 90’s.

ARE YOU OUTRAGED?  You should be.  Just in case you didn’t catch the earlier point, let me repeat it for you.  The City and State of New York authorized barges of trash to be sent out to sea.  A practice that is known to exist for over 100 years.  You and I can be sure they aren’t the only ones.  This might not have been a major issue at first, however since the creation of plastic in the 1850’s, we have been throwing it in the ocean.

So now we have organizations like 5 Gyres Institute  who are seeking to understand how the ocean is impacted by this trash and promoting, like this author, to increase recycling methods while reducing the amount of plastics we purchase.  Unfortunately the problem has become a beast of it’s own as we have come to discover that there are more than 5 major garbage patches in our oceans.  The main ones are flowing along our worlds major oceanic currents, known as gyres.  These ocean currents are so strong and regular that the water carries everything that we throw in them.  Greenpeace published a whitepaper sometime in the last 5 years titled,” Plastic Debris in the Worlds Oceans.”

What can I do?

The point of all of this is simple.  You purchase plastic on a daily basis.  There truly is no way around it.  Companies have concluded that you won’t do anything about it in the form of not purchasing their products and that articles like this will provide you with awareness that you will soon forget to act upon as soon as your hunger or schedule gets in the way.   The first thing that each of us can do is to make daily decisions to “Cut The Plastic out of our Lives”.  Demand manufactures use post consumer products, that virgin plastics are labeled effectively, and remember it’s how you spend your money that speaks to companies the most.  Stop purchasing products that are not made with the environment in mind, especially individually wrapped products.   Buy in bulk, and send your kids to school or daycare with smaller plastic storage containers.  Encourage recycling at work, places you shop, and demand it in your home.   Maybe you are seeing this information for the first time,  it’s ok if you weren’t educated about all of this before today.  What matters is what you do from here on out.  To quote G. I. Joe, “Knowing is half the battle.”

Using annalytics to help heal America?

So, I’m reading blog posts, which as an author is something that one should be part of the daily process.  If one contributes only to the initial idea without contributing to the conversation, then there is a diminished value to the point of publicly writing.  Today I read an amazing article on listening by The Journey Institute’s founder Dafna Michaelson.
The point is that every time I read a great post I go off on a tangent of thoughts that often expands to another idea or post.  So, my advice, read other blogs.

Today’s gem:  Not Taking your medication, or taking way to much? The Data Knows… by Derrick Harris
This is an amazing article examining the facts of Prescription Drug use and abuse in the United States.  Using analytic methods like this would allow both private businesses and local governments the ability to heal communities that are broken by a process that is illegally abusing both communities and the aspects of health care both private and public.  The real truth here is that both private and public medical systems are funding these abuses that trickle down the economic pipeline.  Effectively persecuting Dr.’s who abuse the system must include publicly available data without exposing the private personal and medical data.  Examining doctors who prescribe high quantities of narcotics, especially in high risk communities, can expose tragic abuses and help curb the public costs.  In addition to the actual medical expenses paid by governments and private health insurance that would reduce the overall expense of coverage, the welfare of communities and the extended burden of addiction.  This extends to the capacity of social service agencies, churches, the burden of community governments that pay for extended crime rates that are extended by “Pill Farms”.

Additionally, effective use of this data (when it comes to people that don’t take all their medicines effectively), could allow health insurance companies to help communicate to their clients the value of effective medication consumption in regards to success of medication usage as well as a tool for targeting national health concerns like unused medicine disposal in correlation to water quality (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) and diseases developing immunity to medicine due to lack of complete consumption of assigned prescription dosages.  More on bacterial immunity can be found via the CDC.

Your parents may have been hippies – but they made a difference

April 22nd is Earth day and you can thank your family for that the next time you sit down for dinner.  Why, well it wasn’t that long ago America was really sucking on an environmental basis. So a while back a bunch of hippies decided to get together and have a celebration of the place we live, this planet that well call home.  Whippie!!!

But no, really. This is a big deal and those hippies, well they were your parents or grandparents.  Why?  Well what you probably don’t realize is that in America the place was beginning to look like a landfill.  After WWII, the government went through a process to downsize.  One of the bureaucracies that were cut from the picture was a national recycling program.  Many of your grandparents probably still remember what it was like to take newspapers, soda bottles, aluminum and all kinds of items and turn them in, many times for money.  This is how they got to buy dollies and baseball gloves when they were children.  They worked for it because their parents taught them how important it was to tend to the things we had like beautiful land and clean water and healthy food that was grown so locally that much of the time you could walk outside in your bare feet and pick it.

These values are the kind that have (ideally) come down from generation to generation.  Unfortunately, in any society, this is only a representative of a portion of the population.  Corporations were still corporations and without regulatory oversight it doesn’t make sense to be responsible to the planet at the expense of the bottom line.  It’s the kind of attitude that says, if I’m not told something is wrong – it must not be wrong for me to do.  And devastation was laid out on the countryside.   Eventually,  major city beaches were being closed due to pollution, waterways caught fire due to chemical and oil spills and masses of animals were  mutating and dying from unnatural changes to their environment.

So our parents, and grandparents, they did something about it.  Earth day rallies, like those of civil rights and women’s suffrage actually did make an impact.  The disasters that were befalling our country were visible to the naked eye and people cared about it.  They thought about you and me and our children.  They didn’t want to leave a legacy that was shameful, deadly and horrific.  So they took action.  They made cities build waste water treatment facilities, (before it often went from toilet to river to tap in the next town).   They banned chemicals like DDT and They cleaned up most of the messes they made.  They set rules into place that said, what we did was not ok – and nobody should be allowed to do this in the future.

And here we are in 2013.  While human waste is cleaned before entering the waterways, mass quantities of factory farm waste is not regulated.  Instead of filling our waterways with oil and chemicals we are loading them with a different chemical that is producing the same results in killing off biospheres of natural wildlife – plastic.  While air pollution standards have made visible skies in major cities a reality, we are now burning Tar Sands Oil- which is producing double the amount of carbon-dioxide standard crude oil emits.  And instead of boldly declaring the atrocities of big industry, news agencies are now owned, operated and invested in the entities they are supposed to be holding accountable.  This month the FAA declared an American NoFly Zone because an oil company (and the government) doesn’t want bad press to negatively impact infrastructure plans that are bad for our country.

So does Earth Day mean anything to you?  Will the sacrifices and values of those that wanted you to have a clean planet encourage you to make changes in your life, to stand in unison with one another over real issues and to hold big polluters accountable not just with the click of a mouse button but with real action? Please I encourage you to take the time to consider – what kind of life are we leaving behind and begin making simple changes like bringing your own bags to the grocery store, riding public transportation and more importantly write your representatives and hold them accountable to standing strong on issues that matter to you.

Most importantly, if you have children – on April 20th (Saturday) show them what Earth Day is about by spending time outdoors, learning about or doing something special, they will only learn what you pass on.

Some days it’s really hard to pick your battles

Have you seen X-Men the movie?  There’s a scene in it where Dr. Charles Xavier in in a machine called Cerebro and he is able to ‘hear’ the thoughts of mutants everywhere.  Sometimes I truly believe that our world is becoming like that.  Turn on your tv, drive down the street, open your phone – tablet or computer – we are getting messages everywhere and the sad sad truth is that these messages are controlled and directed at you.

Do a search on your computer for a topic, activity or event.  Now wait and watch.  In the next 20 min (often less) advertizing related to your searches will start appearing on Facebook, Google and every web page you visit.  When it comes to the digital world, marketing is tailored to you.   Unfortunately, this isn’t the case when it comes to news of the world.   There is so much tragedy out there today, most of us find it easy to tune out the nastyness Yesterday I watched a movie called, “Not Today” on child slavery in India.  It is a really good movie that I believe everybody should see. However it’s one of a thousand topics regarding the horrific nature of greed and destruction here on earth.

Today, in America – something unique has happened this week.  In the past seven days we have experienced not one, two or three but FOUR known oil and or chemical spills, some of them are small, but they are real.  While this is happening, our news media has been keeping busy keeping our eyes averted so you wouldn’t focus on them.  Why don’t they want you to focus on this?  Well my opinion is that if we knew how much oil is spilling, we might not support XL pipelines crossing our country – exposing potential disasters to our water resources, our pristine protected lands or our  communities.

Now hold on, I’m not exaggerating.  This is not some far off conspiracy theory.   These stories are real, and once you see all of them in combination, I hope you will do something more than read and share this post.  I also ask you to share it, not just with each other, but post it on the Facebook and Twitter feeds of  your elected officials, tell them your concerns.  Email them your questions and have a direct dialogue with them.   First the stories of these four oil spills.

One – Train March 27, a train derailed and spilled 30,000 gallons of tar sands oil in Minnesota via Bloomberg  (@BloombergNews) http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-03-27/canadian-pacific-railway-derailment-spills-crude-in-minnesota.html

Two – A small rest area oil spill leaves firefighters with the cleanup and the culprit unknown.  Also unknown – how much was leaking as it continued down the road    http://www.austindailyherald.com/2013/03/30/firefighters-clean-up-after-semi-spills-oil-at-hayward-rest-area/ Via Austin Daily Herald

Three – over 300 gallons hydraulic oil spills in Michigan.  http://record-eagle.com/statenews/x1413935908/Oil-spill-leaves-sheen-on-the-Grand-River-in-Lansing  via Traverse City Record Eagle

Four – Mayflower Alabama, now a No Fly Zone as deemed by the FAA – is an inland tar sands disaster when an underground pipe sprung a leak.  Most resident’s didn’t even know the pipe was flowing under their homes!  American news media silent over for 3 days, minimal coverage since.  Story by Russia Today (@RT_com) http://on.rt.com/gt0j6d

Wow.  That’s a lot of mess.  And this is just one area where we, are watching things get worse.  Truth is if all we do is focus on these problems, how could we find any happyness in our world.  As I consider getting some coffee before writing my representatives, I know I’ll be getting it out of a plastic container that was shipped to my grocer using fossil fuels to get it from another part of the world to my neighborhood.  It’s a never ending battle, and some days well, it’s really hard to pick your battles.  I’m hoping that today, this is one you’ll spend 20 minutes fighting with me.    So go grab a coffee, or soda and then please use the following links to contact the president and your state representatives to voice your concerns.

http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml

As a concerned American, human and resident of planet earth, I thank you in advance.

UPDATE:

A 5th incident is being reported!  Texas pipeline owned by Shell ruptures!!!

 

Conservation -It’s your money after all

Let’s face it.  If someone were to sit down and show you five ways that you could change the environment and all it took was one hour of your time, you probably wouldn’t take the time to find an hour out of your busy life to find out more.  In contrast, if I told you that in just 5 minutes I was going to show you one trick that would save you up to $500 year if you made just one change to the way you did one thing in your life that you do everyday, you might stop and listen.  

As I’ve been thinking about what I want this blog to be, I feel like this is what will be required of me, to hone a pitch about why, with just five minutes of your day, you will feel a gain in your life, by changing the way we do little things in our lives that make sense, but might require a little effort, those five minutes out of your day.

Today’s tip: reduce the flow of water in the kitchen.  Today’s manufactures like American Standard and Kohler manufacture kitchen faucets with aeration and flow control to help families save thousands of gallons of water a year.  Many new facets have a setting for flow or aeration on them.  Recently the EPA’s WaterSense program awarded these two company’s as well as Lowes, Colorado Springs Utilities, and builder KB Home as the 2012 WaterSense Partners of the year.

http://www.epa.gov/watersense/partners/winners_2012.html#one

 While the EPA provides a rebate finder that allows you to find some rebate programs in your area, the reality is that most areas don’t have them – or it’s not always listed.  American Standard has a fun little quiz,  http://responsiblebathroom.com/ where I learned a lot (I only got about 65% of the questions right).

Will you take the quiz with me?  I’d like to hear in the comments what you found to me the most interesting thing you learned from the quiz!