Littering and pesticides damage your food and drinking water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Diabetes and High Blood Pressure from drinking bottled water?

Diabetes

Plastic pollution is a big deal.  Our oceans, green spaces and city streets are full of it.  Beaches around the world find plastics upon their shore, including ones where no humans live.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of species who are directly impacted by plastic in their diets on a daily basis.  Ironically, humans are one of those species.

If you are like most people you have heard of  bisphenol A  most commonly called BPA.   .  Many people know it’s bad but they don’t understand exactly how and they make efforts to shop for plastics that are BPA free.  That’s a good thing, but not all plastics are labeled effectively and BPA isn’t just found in plastic.  It’s also found in the lining of Aluminum cans and many major water supplies throughout the United States.

Fighting effective labeling of products is something corporations have been doing for decades.  One primary example of this is the cigarette industry.  While there has been a change over the last 100 years from Doctors and Actors actively supporting this “healthy habit” to education and understanding of the toxicity of manufactured nicotine to labels stating that cigarettes can cause cancer, birth deformities and more.

cigarettes are good

This is no different in today’s manufacturing industries.  According to the International Bottled Water Association, a conglomerate of corporations who profit from the privatization of water; BPA is a safe chemical for adults to consume.  They even provide links to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) papers and website while painting a rosy picture of the chemical, which has been regulated out of packaging and uses for infants while being allowed in the adult human supply chain.

Why is this an issue, consuming BPA?  According to a report in Reuters, researchers, “using government health data, they found that the 25 percent of people with the highest levels of bisphenol A in their bodies were more than twice as likely to have heart disease and, or diabetes compared to the 25 percent of with the lowest levels.”  One study that links it to diabetes also indicates; “People ingest BPA that leaches from containers into foods and drinks. Studies in the United States showed that BPA appeared in the blood and urine of 95% of people tested.”

In a 2016 study, researchers found,”The present study showed that BPA could lead to chromosomal aberrations in both ER-dependent and independent pathways at some concentrations or in cell types yet not reported. Also, BPA could probably be considered as a facilitator for some predisposed cells to be cancerous by raising the chromosome instability levels. Finally, estrogen receptor seems to have a different role in cytotoxicity and genotoxicity effects” http://www.ijmcmed.org/browse.php?a_id=335&slc_lang=en&sid=1&ftxt=1

Plastics have a history of being this great invention that has turned out to have many negative effects.  Pollution litters our planet and we now know it pollutes our body.  What is can be found as astonishing is that it takes very little plastic in your life to be put at risk for health issues.  One of the major carriers of “sick plastic” is water and soda bottles.  It’s a hot day and you want a cold beverage, so you stop in to a convenience store and grab a plastic bottle of water or some carbonated beverage.  After a few swigs and a few miles down the road, you head into a business for work, shopping or other reason.  But its a sunny day and that beverage you purchased in warming up, and so is the plastic that it comes in.  Maybe you drink some more when you get back in your car, maybe you put it in the fridge and drink it when it gets cold again – either way, you could be consuming toxic chemicals that have leached out of the bottle and into your drink.  No harm in that right?  Wrong.

Researchers indicate that, “Rate of growth and sexual maturation, hormone levels in blood, reproductive organ function, fertility, immune function, enzyme activity, brain structure, brain chemistry, and behavior are all affected by exposure to low doses of BPA. Many of these effects are due to exposure during early development (gestation and/or lactation), but effects due to postweaning-through-adult exposure have also been reported.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280330/

This means that drinking plastic beverages can increase the age of puberty, impact the function of your brain, impact one’s fertility and more.  While these factors are scary, many people would believe that the solution is to avoid drinking these beverages after they have become warm.  While this is a nice idea, the truth is that many of these chemical impacts can occur to the beverage before we purchase them. Most of the shipping containers and semis hauling these manufactured goods from the factory to local distributors do not use cooling units, so the risk of exposure begins at the initial transport to market.

The same study also indicates one unfortunate fact – the government and businesses that use BPA don’t research it’s impacts.  From the same medical report we see this chart showing the lack of studies by corporations and government entities on the impacts of BPA.

Government /Corporate Studies on BPA

Biased outcome due to source of funding in low-dose in vivo BPA research as of December 2004.

All studies


CD-SD rat studies


All studies except CD-SD rats


Source of funding Harm No harm Harm No harm Harm No harm
Government 94 (90.4) 10 (9.6) 0 (0%) 6 (100) 94 (96) 4 (4)
Chemical corporations 0 (0) 11 (100) 0 (0%) 3 (100) 0 (0) 8 (100)

Values shown are no. (%).  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280330/)  To back up this stance, one simply needs to look at the Coca Cola FAQ page.

What’s the solution?  There are two basic solutions to avoiding BPA in your life.  Avoid single use plastics like water and soda bottles.  In addition to protecting yourself, you will have a positive impact on the world around you.  To travel with beverages on a regular basis, purchase a Stainless Steele insulated beverage container.  Insulated containers last a lifetime and help keep your beverages cold for long periods of time.  This will eliminate any concerns about being forced to warm beverages on a hot day.  Also, you can take your insulated container and purchase fountain soda from many chain and convenience stores.

While direct links establishing the permanence of impacts from BPA in our bodies are needed, it’s clear that corporations will not notify us the general public when they provide chemicals in our environment that have negative effects on the human body.  While Diabetes and Heart Disease are just the tip of the iceberg in the potential for permanent damage to our bodies, issues like breast cancer and advanced puberty onset are known.  For these reasons alone it’s best to eliminate single use plastic water bottles from your diet, but not fresh clean water.   For more information on types of plastics and the ways they pollute our body, check out page 2 of this printable PDF from the Ecology Center in Berkley, CA.

Sources:

  1. Aghajanpour-Mir S M, Zabihi E, Keyhani E, Akhavan-Niaki H, Bagherizadeh I, Biglari S et al . The Genotoxic and Cytotoxic Effects of Bisphenol-A (BPA) in MCF-7 Cell Line and Amniocytes. Int J Mol Cell Med. 2016; 5 (1) :19-29
    URL http://www.ijmcmed.org/article-1-335-en.html
  2. Vom Saal, Frederick S., and Claude Hughes. “An Extensive New Literature Concerning Low-Dose Effects of Bisphenol A Shows the Need for a New Risk Assessment.” Environmental Health Perspectives 113.8 (2005): 926–933. PMC. Web. 13 June 2016
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1280330/
  3. Washam, Cynthia. “Exploring the Roots of Diabetes: Bisphenol A May Promote Insulin Resistance.” Environmental Health Perspectives 114.1 (2006): A48–A49. Print.http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1332699/
  4. http://www.coca-colacompany.com/contact-us/faqs
  5. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-chemical-heart-idUSLF18683220080916
  6. http://www.bottledwater.org/health/container-safety/what-is-bpa
  7. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm064437.htm#regulations
  8. http://www.bottledwater.org/health/container-safety/what-is-bpa
  9. http://ecologycenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/eliminate-plastic.pdf

Issues island nations face with modern consumption practices.

Beach debris at Lion’s Park -Tutuilia, American Samoa shows the impacts of both localized littering and ocean debris being deposited on the shoreline.

In the modern era, gone are the days when whole island villages consumed all the food they needed by planting gardens, fishing in the ocean and picking food off of the trees.  With the modernization of consumption practices comes a whole new slew of issues island nations have to face.  These items can be listed in three major categories:  health, infrastructure and pollution.  Over the last 40 years as consumption practices around the world have significantly changed the way island communities interact with the world around them.

Non Communicable Diseases – Issues with Health

One of the largest problems with modernization of island communities is the overall diet that is being consumed by the population as a whole.  According to the World Health Organization, a transition has occurred from pathogen based diseases to food intake and activity based health concerns.  In the 2011 report on American Samoa the WHO reports;

“The most serious health issues relate to the increase in chronic diseases associated with lifestyle, with their roots in improper nutrition and physical inactivity. Significant increases in the prevalence of obesity, in both sexes and at increasingly younger ages, are associated with a number of these conditions. Hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, cerebrovascular diseases, type II diabetes mellitus and its complications, arthritis, gout and some forms of cancer are among the most important chronic diseases. (http://www.wpro.who.int/countries/asm/1FAMSpro2011_finaldraft.pdf)

These dietary concerns are largely focused on the prevalence of foods packaged in metal lined plastic bags.  Prepackaged foods fall out of shipping containers like waves on a shore.  The names and varieties are as diverse as the country of origin the store owners call home.  In American Samoa, local markets are rarely operated by indigenous islanders and are instead run by entrepreneurs from places like Vietnam and China.  As part of the big picture of the problems with the local economy, this is one of the issues that many may point to regarding causes of money leaving the local economy at a catastrophic rate.  What can be said to be growing in America Samoa at an enormous rate is the wasteline of children.  With the prevalence of packaged food, the tastes of children are turning to this highly addictive, easy to consume food.  And the results are showing.  Diabetes, anemia, cancer and heart disease are all appearing as part of a modernized Samoa that are not part of it’s history and culture.  According to a guest speaker at a recent farming education event, the island of American Samoa is currently facing a 40% or greater population diagnosis of Diabetes.  This staggering statistic is supported by the American Diabetes Association

Pollution – What happens to all that packaging?

 Another part of the island life that was never part of it’s original heritage is the packaging from these manufactured goods.  Items like steel food containers, aluminum cans, plastic bottles and bags with a metallic lining are being shipped to the island and are offloaded from shipping containers by the tens of thousands every couple of weeks.  With these imported materials comes a requirement to dispose of these materials on island or export them for reclamation of the natural resources they contain.  In the case of many Pacific Island Nations with no recycling programs, the eventuality for the majority of these items is the community landfill.   For islands with recycling initiatives in place, these programs are often source separated materials – requiring individualized participation at a community drop off point instead of curbside pickup.  The need to expand collection he problem can be addressed by acquiring the next stage in technology, MRF Units.  The issue is expanding the capacity to recycle to include single stream sources like generated from public recycling containers like those found in community parks and at business locations, further allowing or even mandating by law – curbside collection that occurs in most, but not all, states.

Littering is a common behaviour in American Samoa.

Aluminum cans are littered into this hole in the sidewalk on a regular basis even though they are collected multiple times a week. This type of mentality shows the lack of education and need for local recycling programs.

What do you do when there is no concentrated focus on recycling as part of the cultural norm?  Unfortunately, as is often seen in American Samoa, where the focus of recycling does not exist – excessive littering and open burning of trash does.  This creates two specific problems.  One, emissions from burning trash are often toxic, especially when burning plastics and hazardous materials like batteries.  In addition, island based littering adds to the global burden of mitigating ocean pollution efforts by groups like The Plastic Pollution Coalition and 5 Gyres.  Due to the creation of litter on island nations combined with relatively short distances for litter to travel to reach the ocean,  much of this debris can become ocean debris as it enters streams and estuaries that feed into global currents.

With limited space to increase infrastructure, meet growing population needs and prepare for rising sea levels  expected with continued melting of the global ice shelves and glaciers; island governments will face many difficulties between balancing the population’s desires for manufactured and consumer goods and the need manage the waste stream produced by a growing consumption of these goods.  Without the implementation of infrastructure to separate and process the packaging from these goods, many governments are likely to find themselves beyond reasonable capacity in managing their island’s waste streams.

Unfortunately, even with a focus toward capturing recycling goods, there are other issues to be focused on throughout the search to develop solutions.  One reason recycling programs often have difficulty taking off is the cost of shipping materials off island.  When local businesses ship items inbound for the community to purchase, it’s easy to add the costs of shipping these items into the retail price.  However, without enhanced manufactures responsibility to reclaim or assist with the costs of shipping the items or their packaging off island, governments will continue to find the cost of shipping recycled goods to be greater than the resale value of the raw materials themselves.  It will only be with a blend of government action, education, and increased infrastructure that the combined issues of healthy lifestyles and waste management can be effectively tackled.

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.

.20160524_ca_none
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.

HB 15-1144 – Plastic Microbead Legislation – Did Colorado add Greenwashing to the list of legislative priorities?

Today Governor Hickenlooper signed HB 15-1144 a ban on solid synthetic microbeads added to cosmetic materials like face scrubs and body washes!  This bill is designed to keep tiny particles of plastic out of our waterways and local biospheres because of the negative impacts of plastic in these locations.   Colorado joins a variety of states, the first being Illinois, who are banning these microbeads.  In Illinois, efforts to introduce scientific legislation was attempted by members of the 5 Gyres Institute and the Ban the Bead Campaign.
Scientifically there are two primary problems with microbeads in our waters.  The first issue is that plastics are made with binding agents that  seep into the water when issues where the plastics leach chemicals into the water impacting the quality and purity of water.   The second issue is that these plastics are often viewed as food and are then consumed by insects and fish where two serious impacts occur.  Since plastic does not get digested by animals it accumulates in their bellies, filling up space for nutrient providing foods.  This accumulation causes a lack of space for real consumable, nutrient rich materials while leaching into the body of the animal that has consumed it.

Banning microbeads is a noble and valuable activity that should push regulations on corporations and manufacturers to be accountable and responsible for the materials they create and the environmental damage they do.  The scientific facts speak for themselves, microplastic is bad for the environment.  The Wisconsin Lakes Partnership dedicated the first three pages of it’s Fall 2014 newsletter exclusively to this topic.

The unfortunate truth is that the corporate lobby built a loophole into the rules they are placing upon themselves.  They introduced the legal terms of “Solid Synthetics” and “Nonbiodegradeable” as the specific type of plastic that would be banned.  There is scientific concern about this verbiage based on the fact that truly biodegradable plastic must have microbial breakdown.  This breakdown is only found in commercial or “hot compost” facilities.  In their 2015 publication in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, Michigan State University student’s published a study concluding:

“anaerobic and aerobic biodegradation are not recommended as feasible disposal routes for nonbiodegradable plastics containing any of the five tested biodegradation-promoting additives.” (Selke et all – 2015)

There are dozens of journal articles and news pieces that support this thought process leading educated consumers to understand that purported bioplastics are still going to enter our waters, causing deadly toxins to enter Colorado waters, causing the same concerns for bioaccumulation that  has proven to exist in our waters.  As this piece by Mother Jones from 2009 explains; “Real biodegradable plastic should be sent to a commercial composting facility, where it will spend its final days being eaten by microbes. But here’s the catch: In 2007, only 42 communities nationwide offered compost collection. (Seventeen were in California.) And though some biodegradable plastics can be recycled, no curbside recycling program will take them.”
The unfortunate part in the current movement to ban microbeads is that this effort is being led by corporations who wish to regulate themselves so they have the control and upper hand.  In an earlier post, I commented on how Johnson and Johnson, as well as other entities showed up to Colorado House Committee Meetings to introduce soft legislation that would offer a consistent level of legislation they could manipulate in order to have “consistent legislation”.   These organizations are already phasing out these plastics from their products., but want to allow for the weakest levels of legislation to be enacted.   This process began with Unilever in 2012 and has gained momentum as you can read about in this post on Beat The Microbead’s page.

This is exactly what Director of the 5 Gyres Institue’s predicted would happen in a 2014 EcoWatch Article stating “According to Marcus Eriksen of 5 Gyres Institute, plastics industry lobbyists worked hard to block it, wanting legislation more like the far from ideal bill that passed in Illinois. The Ilinois bill leaves a loophole for plastic, like Polylactic Acid (PLA) the so-called biodegradable plastic that corn cups are made of. Unfortunately, PLA doesn’t biodegrade in the environment, it requires an industrial composting facility.”

And this is what has happened here in the state of Colorado.  Colorado HB-15-1144 bill specifically states:.

4) “SYNTHETIC PLASTIC MICROBEAD” MEANS AN INTENTIONALLY ADDED, NONBIODEGRADABLE, PLASTIC PARTICLE MEASURING LESS THAN FIVE MILLIMETERS IN SIZE   INTENDED TO AID IN EXFOLIATING OR CLEANSING AS PART OF A RINSE-OFF PRODUCT.”

This is exactly the actions that have been predicted by many environmentalist groups, that the efforts of the science community to curtail the effects of microplastics would be mitigated by corporations who originally fought microbead legislation so they would have the opportunity to craft and create looser regulations that would present “Greenwashed” material information that would weaken future efforts to protect our water.  Colorado is known for being a state that has fought hard to protect our waters and this bill is an unfortunate example.

The reason is very simple.  Biodegradeable plastics have not been proven to biodegrade in cold water settings.  According to Brenda Platt, coordinator for Sustainable Plastics Project:

  “Truly biodegradable plastics are plastics that can decompose into carbon dioxide, methane, water, inorganic compounds, or biomass via microbial assimilation (the enzymatic action of microorganism). To be considered biodegradable, this decomposition has to be measured by standardized tests, and take place within a specified time period, which vary according to the “disposal” method chosen. The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) has created definitions on what constitutes biodegradability in various disposal environments.”

What this boils down to is sadly is that  that Colorado’s Microbead ban, HB 15-1144 is a piece of greenwashing legislation presented by corporations who are willingly removing certain types of plastics from their products – ones they already agree to take out, while  having consent to pollute in a slightly different way that still has negative impacts on our environment. The bill, is a bill with solid foundations.  Unfortunately, it happened so fast that even those individuals in the community that tried reaching out to the bills writers didn’t get an effective chance to effectively communicate the scientific realities major corporations were able to step around in the writing of this bill.

Fortunately, there are a wide variety of solutions that already exist!  Besides avoiding purchasing products that already include microplastic, consumers are advised to look for exfoliating products that include natural or real plant products that are effective exfolliants.  Common materials include oatmeal, apricot or peach pits and walnut shells.  These products are already commonly found in supermarket shelves.

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://i0.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

 

I am grateful for moments when it all comes into line!

“Do we have any cold water bottles?” – The sing song voice of my sister’s question hit me sideways, as the idea of single use plastics makes me cringe.  Then I heard the answer, “No”.  While I’d like to say that my heart was flipping cartwheels, I really was to busy trying to get everything ready to go to the pool to realize the enormity of the situation.   I don’t remember who was speaking at this point, but I do remember the idea behind the words – all my preaching was working it’s way into the practices and habits of my family!

Yes, I’m one of those people who does more than recycle plastic, I refuse it every possible chance!  What does that mean?  It’s simple, I tell people, vendors and corporations that I don’t want their plastic. I do what it takes to avoid new single use plastic in my life, I recycle everything that should be recycled, regardless of what the recycling company requests I limit my items to (in order to assist with their profit model).  I may be considered a radical by many, including my own family, but that’s just how I roll – revolutions don’t occur quietly and change doesn’t happen effectively without leaders giving the example.

By the way, this task isn’t for the meek in heart or spirit.  I mean consider any given day in your world – unless you are out somewhere in the part of the world that resembles the planet pre 1850’s, you have used plastic that has been viewed as ‘Single Use Plastic’.  This could have been in the form of a portable beverage container, drinking straw, a sandwich bag, a plastic grocery sack, and the packaging your food came in – it’s all considered single use plastic by the manufacturer.

Single use – it’s interesting to think about how many things in the world are intended to be single use.  Besides toilet paper and tampons there aren’t many things that I can truly justify as single use, other than Gasoline and other burned fuel sources.  I’m sure the reasons why items aren’t make for single use are obvious, but today I want to focus on just one of them.

We have a limited amount of natural resources.  Yes I said limited.  For every manufactured item, there were a series of process that had to be used to extract and refine the natural elements from our planet.  For every step of that process cost time, energy and financial expense.  This is true for both natural as well as man made products.  A great example of the realities of limited and finite resources can be found in the work of John Muir and Stephen Mather who proved to America’s west that responsible use and conservation efforts are necessary to provide resources and stability for generations to live off the land and enjoy it’s beauty.  These efforts from 100 years ago are what have allowed our great nation to preserve the natural beauty we have today, while having provisioned to provide income not only for past generations, but for those of the foreseeable future as well.

While these examples of conservation show that American’s have the potential to protect and preserve the resources we have, no effort has ever been successful without a battle of some sort.  I have a feeling that these battles will wear many of you down.  I know they do me.  Which is why it’s important to stand back and appreciate every once in a while.  It becomes apparent that while progress may be slow, it happens.    This is the reason I have to step back for a moment and acknowledge this win publicly.   So the next time your friends do something simple like rinsing out a plastic container and putting it the recycling bin, or requesting that no straws be brought to the dinner table when going out to eat, or when family members start bringing grocery bags and stop buying plastic water bottles – remember that these are huge wins in the fight against plastic.

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!

Why current petition trends aren’t working – 2013 example: Firearms background checks

So, I signed a petition online regarding the Keystone XL pipeline the other day because in general, I’m against the expansion of fossil fuel dependancy and growing environmental risks of man made pollution.   Since then I’ve recieved more than 10 different calls to speak up… and it got me thinking, this is turning into a joke.  How can I believe that there is value in 100 different organizations saying their members want something will be effective?  I mean if I say yes to 10 different petitions I’m still only 1 voice, will any of the 10 be more effective than the other?  Is it possible that they are hurting one another because they are not unified?

I just did a quick look on Google, to look at how many different petitions in the United States that  I could currently sign telling my congressional representatives to support Background checks for firearms purchasesI understand that this topic is a touchy one, everybody has an opinion one way or the other.  Regardless of your personal opinion, this blog is about the process of communicating with government in a way that effectively brings change on a unified front.  This, in my opinion, is the most important aspect of my rant today.

Here’s a list of websites I found: http://www.Change.org, http://americansforresponsiblesolutions.org/, http://www.signon.org, https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/, http://boldprogressives.org/, http://www.ipetitions.com, http://www.thepetitionsite.com, http://www.demandaction.org, http://www.pachurchesadvocacy.org, http://www.campaigns.dailykos.com, http://www.democrats.com, http://www.workthreat.com, http://www.forcechange.com, http://www.ryot.org, http://www.educationvotes.nea.org, http://www.mayorsagainstillegalguns.org, http://www.newsericks.com, http://www.causes.com/putthegunsdown (I stopped at page 3 because news stories were filtering in). 

And yet the bill didn’t pass.  One might blame the National Rifle Association (NRA) for pushing advertizing that focused on American’s loosing their rights as Americans.  Regardless of your stance, the NRA did exactly what they were supposed to for their members, provide a singular unified voice representing the memberships interest.  There is no ‘hold on government’  that they have greater than any other organization in America.  What separates them they are is organized.  It’s the NRA – not the voice of fifteen or twenty different entities saying something close to what the other is saying, that spoke on a singular front.

What’s important about this?  Background checks for gun purchases have been a hot topic of late, and they are something that – to the obvious dismay of President Obama, did not pass our bureaucratic process to arrive on his desk for signature into law.  One of the biggest complaints from the president is that the majority of American’s supported this kind of change and yet the people’s representatives in each state placed their votes based on a unified last minute effort to these representatives. 

I propose that what the NRA did most effectively, is offer an opportunity for environmentalists to learn from the successes of others.  How many organizations can you name that teach about the environment, that speak about conservation and responsibility, about recycling and pollution?   I bet there are a bunch and I propose that each wants you to consider them an expert on the topic.  I can name over ten  Heck that’s what I want from you, to consider me an expect on the topic of plastics in our environment and how we create solutions.

Now tell me who your authorities on firearms are… and I just got you!  Of course, it’s the NRA, even if you hate guns or have never touched one the primary expert you will think of is singular!  Now maybe you are a firearms owner and maybe you have a local shop or friend to turn to, but for the majority of American’s the NRA is the unified umbrella expert.   The methodology: One petition, one voice, one direction – and it worked.  It’s been working, it continues to work.

What’s the point?  We environmentalists need a unified clearing house, a place where one topic, one  battle at a time we speak with one voice – an that single voice would be so loud, and so strong, that companies and elected officials would be required to take action, to listen, to become educated, and to become part of the change.  My recommendation, use the official government website and share the same petition among like minded groups!