Posts Tagged ‘environment’

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) tracks changes in the environment and has released the Arctic Report Card: Update for 2012. Based on multiple observations, the report finds “strong evidence of widespread, sustained change driving Arctic environmental system into new state,” and highlights the following:

“Record low snow extent and low sea ice extent occurred in June and September, respectively.”

“Growing season length is increasing along with tundra greenness and above-ground biomass. Below the tundra, record high permafrost temperatures occurred in northernmost Alaska. Duration of melting was the longest observed yet on the Greenland ice sheet, and a rare, nearly ice sheet-wide melt event occurred in July.”

“Massive phytoplankton blooms below summer sea ice suggest previous estimates of ocean primary productivity might be ten times too low. Arctic fox is close to extinction in Fennoscandia and vulnerable to further changes in the lemming cycle and the encroaching Red fox.”

“Severe weather events included extreme cold and snowfall in Eurasia, and two major storms with deep central pressure and strong winds offshore of western and northern Alaska.”

This year also marks the first time that there has been less than 4 million square kilometers (1.54 million square miles) of sea ice since satellite observations began in 1979. Visualization here.


Pollution, by ribarnica on flickr, creative commons.

Voting 247 times in the last 18 months to undermine regulations that protect the environment, the “House of Representatives has become the most anti-environment House in the history of Congress,” according to a June 16, 2012 report prepared for Congress members Henry Waxman and Edward Markey.

House Republicans have repeatedly voted to undermine basic environmental protections that have existed for decades. They have voted to block actions to prevent air pollution; to strip the Environmental Protection Agency of authority to enforce water pollution standards; to halt efforts to address climate change; to stop the Department of the Interior from identifying lands suitable for wilderness designations; to allow oil and gas development off the coasts of Florida, California, and other states opposed to offshore drilling; and to slash funding for the Department of Energy, including funding to support renewable energy and energy efficiency, by more than 80%.

The House of Representatives averaged one anti-environmental vote for every day the House was in session in 2011 and the first half of 2012. Of the 1,100 legislative roll call votes taken in the House since the beginning of 2011, 19% – almost one out of every five – were votes to undermine environmental protection. During these roll calls, 94% of Republican members voted for the anti-environment position, while 87% of Democratic members voted for the pro-environment position.

The report explains that the oil and gas industry is the largest beneficiary of the numerous Republican votes to dismantle environmental protections. Perhaps the oil and gas industry stands to profit in the short term, but what about the cost of environmental destruction in the long term?

House Republicans have voted to undermine The Clean Air Act that was signed into law in 1970 by President Nixon. According to an EPA full report, the benefits of the Clean Air Act outweigh the costs by a factor of four to one. In 2010, according to EPA:

saved over 160,000 lives; avoided more than 100,000 hospital visits; prevented millions of cases of respiratory problems, including bronchitis and asthma; enhanced productivity by preventing 13 million lost workdays; and kept kids healthy and in school, avoiding 3.2 million lost school days due to respiratory illness and other diseases caused or exacerbated by air pollution.

In addition, House Republicans have voted to remove protections for public lands, fish and wildlife. These are areas that contain scenic wonders as well as endangered species.

America’s public lands and resources also supported two million jobs and generated $363 billion in revenue in 2010.

Yet House Republicans voted 39 times to weaken environmental protections on public lands in 2011 and the first half of 2012.

Why would, and how could, anyone vote to destroy the national parks?

The litany continues:

•77 votes to undermine Clean Air Act protections, including votes to repeal the health-based standards that are the heart of the Clean Air Act and to block EPA regulation of toxic mercury and other harmful emissions from power plants, incinerators, industrial boilers, cement plants, and mining operations.

• 39 votes to weaken protection of public lands and wildlife, including votes to halt reviews of public lands for possible wilderness designations and to remove protections for salmon, wolves, sea turtles, and other species.

• 37 votes to block action to address climate change, including votes to overturn EPA’s scientific findings that climate change endangers human health and welfare; to block EPA from regulating carbon pollution from power plants, oil refineries, and vehicles; to prevent the United States from participating in international climate negotiations; and even to cut funding for basic climate science.

• 31 votes to undermine Clean Water Act protections, including votes to strip EPA of authority to set water quality standards and enforce limits on industrial discharges; to repeal EPA’s authority to stop mountaintop removal mining disposal; and to block EPA from protecting headwaters and wetlands that flow into navigable waters.

Is the current House of Representatives looking to win a world record for voting to put the environment on a fast tract to destruction?

The full report is here, if you can even stand to read it.

Dumpsters are so ubiquitous that they are easy to miss. Hidden in plain view, if you will. Since they contain trash, we usually only notice them when they become an eyesore.

Some folks in Alaska, however, came up with the idea of using dumpsters to convey messages that promote health and peace. Here is what they did:

“We worked with the ReCycle Center that had leftover paint people had turned in. They had the paint, and we had the dumpsters. So we coordinated a system with Public Works to use the dumpsters. Anybody could adopt a dumpster. Public Works would go out and pressure-wash them. Folks got paint from the ReCycle Center and went out and painted those things. Then we got three of our biggest vendors in town, our local stores (Alaska Commercial Company, Swansons and ANICA) to donate prizes. The first year, prizes were $400 for first place, $300 for second and $200 for third. We got people who worked in some form of the art field to be our judges, and off it went.

“Public Health Nursing, school groups and even individual youth have won. Kids have adopted dumpsters in their neighborhoods. They’ve painted fireweed and little kids pouring water on the flowers, and a big happy face with teeth. Some of the college students’ work was remarkable. This idea also went to the Western Regional 4-H Leaders Forum in Washington some years ago.
“In rural Alaska, dumpsters serve a huge purpose. The Cooperative Extension Service Bethel District is 55,000 sq. miles. You think of it as pristine Alaska. There’s little worse than coming to a rural community for the first time and seeing garbage on the ground. The Cleanup/Greenup Project and the Adopt-A-Dumpster Contest have helped make a difference.
“You just don’t get it about living in ‘Bush Alaska’ until you come here!”

-Janet Athanas, Bethel Parks & Recreation Department

The creative folks of Alaska have it just about right: Involve everyone from Public Health Nursing to school kids, roll up your sleeves and generate some grant money, make it a contest, and produce something meaningful for the community at large. This must have been a really fun grant-writing experience as well.

I often fantasize about community activism. To me, this is a prime example.

The above video is from Seward, Alaska. If you do not like to look at dumpsters, just focus on the background because Alaska is art, all by itself.

The Healthy People 2010 Bethel Dumpster Art article, showing dumpsters with health messages: