Humans have a special relationship with the environment. This is a relationship that we must nurture, and intricately consider, so we can continue to work together in a harmonious fashion.
The natural environment helps to sustain human life. The earth is full of natural resources that we rely on for survival, yet these natural resources are finite. This means that there is a limit to our Earth, and we cannot use resources faster than they can be replenished. We tend to use our resources without considering its effect on the environment. To sustain our environment and ultimately sustain ourselves, we must intentionally work with Earth’s natural systems. Innately, these systems support us and we must continue to do our part in taking care of the Earth.
Sustainability is a term that refers to the longevity and support of a system. When we talk about achieving “sustainability” in reference to the Earth, we are referring to maintaining a balance among the Earth so that it can continue to carry on.
We must make a concerted effort to steward our natural resources and environment in order to keep things in balance. Our resources are not infinite, but they are available to us based on how well we take care of our environment. The following are tactics we can use to assist us in better sustaining the Earth: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and Refuse.
This pertains to reducing the amount of consumption of a given material or resource. For example, you could reduce the amount of water you use by choosing to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Businesses can minimize waste through getting utilities such as hand dryers rather than disposable paper towels. This also includes reducing the amount of electric you use. This calls us not to waste materials and resources, and only use the amount that is necessary.
This is a call to reuse items that can be reused, and to buy items that are reusable rather than disposable. For example, using metal utensils and reusable plates rather than disposable utensils and plates. This also goes for water bottles and coffee mugs. Plastic grocery bags are another example of an item that can be reused. Clothing is a great resource to reuse. You can find local charities where you can donate your clothing when you no longer want it, and you can choose to purchase items from thrift stores or second hand shops, rather than buying everything new.
Recycling is similar to reusing, but in the process of recycling, an item is sometimes broken down chemically to be used for a new purpose. According to Waste Management the following items are recyclable:
Certain items are detrimental for the environment, because they cannot be recycled, broken down, or reused. Styrofoam is an example of an item that cannot be broken down, so it is a good material to avoid using. Also, if you don’t need a bag for your items when checking out at the store, refuse the offer to receive one.
There you have it, the "Four R's" of sustainability. Stay tuned for more articles on applying sustainability to your everyday life. Let's take care of our Earth together!
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©2018 Community Planner Anna Caffrey
DISCUSSION: As more and more pollution is generated by commercial transportation (i.e., both air and ground-based travel modes), there is increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide being dispersed into the global atmosphere. However, despite much of this carbon dioxide remaining suspended in gaseous form within the lower to middle parts of the atmosphere, a substantial portion of this global atmospheric carbon dioxide is deposited in the world's oceans. It is at this point that the previous gas-form of this carbon dioxide interacts with seawater to form a compound known as carbonic acid which has a detrimental and dangerous impact on various ecosystems which reside and thrive in the world's oceans. Thus, the production of carbonic acid not only will act to increase the net acidity of the world's oceans but it also has the effect of impacting the ability to various sea-life to survive based on their respective tolerance to changing acidity levels and consequences thereof. For more details on how carbonic acid (i.e., fused carbon dioxide with seawater as noted above), attached below is an exact excerpt from WxShift.com as re-shared by the Climate Central team on Twitter:
"About a quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is currently taken up by the oceans, where it reacts with seawater and forms carbonic acid. This “acidification” of global oceans is observed as lower pH levels. Since pre-industrial times, the average pH of ocean surface water fell from 8.21 to 8.10. While that does not sound like much, that is a 30 percent increase in acidity, and it could decrease another 0.3 pH units by the end of the century. At that rate, it would create an ocean more acidic than any seen in the past 100 million years."
"The current rate in acidity change is about 50 times faster than any known historical change, making it difficult for marine life to adapt. Carbonate ions in the ocean become less abundant in a more acidic ocean, making it difficult for shellfish (clams, oysters, mussels) to build shells and skeletons. Additionally plankton, which form the base of the oceanic food web, also have trouble adapting. In a cascading effect, this will alter ecosystems in a way that could threaten seafood staples around the world. More than 1 billion people rely on oceans for food, as well as their livelihood. By one estimate, ocean acidification will cost the global economy $1 trillion annually by 2100. Corals are similarly threatened. With less calcium carbonate available, it hinders the ability for corals to maintain their reefs, which are important habitats for other marine organisms and provide some coastal protection from storms."
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© 2018 Biologist McKensie Daugherty and Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
Weighing the Benefits of Electric Powered Machines over General Transportation (credit: Climate Central)
DISCUSSION: Over the past few decades there is no debate that there has remained to be a hotly contested debate over whether the majority of transportation vehicles should remain powered by diesel fuel and/or conventional gasoline as opposed to more environmentally-friendly vehicles. As a consequence of this ongoing societal debate, many detailed studies have been conducted over the years to establish how much of a difference there would be from an environmental standpoint with respect to mankind's reliance on fossil fuels. Moreover, how a progressively quicker transition from fossil fuels to electric power can help to curb global and even domestic fossil fuel emissions.
Based on the graphic above (courtesy of the Climate Central team), there is no question whatsoever that during the last part of the 20th Century, industry and society continued to generate increasingly greater net energy demands. However, as we came to the turn of 21st Century, there was an apparent peak in the recent energy demand "curve" which crested before gradually decreasing during the course of the first decade (i.e., from 2000 to 2010). Beyond that point (i.e., from 2010 to 2016), you can clearly see that the net emissions from general transportation are now outweighing those emissions from electric power. Thus, statistical work is beginning to show that technology associated with modernized electric power systems are now gradually becoming more efficient than general forms of transportation. This just goes to show that mankind is finally beginning to turn a corner in terms of developing increasingly more efficient and sustainable forms of practical energy.
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© 2018 Meteorologist Jordan Rabinowitz
The benefits of renewable energy seem to outweigh their own costs, at least more so than nonrenewable resources. Many fossil fuels have downsides, such as running low on resources and reserves, releasing carbon into the atmosphere (contributing to global warming), and an overall decrease of air quality. Wind energy not only combats these downsides, but includes a few added benefits, such as increasing the public awareness on sustainability, and combating the effects of climate change. Other countries around the world are looking towards wind energy as a viable alternative, and parts of the United States are as well.
The burning of fossil fuels releases many pollutants in the air. When fossil fuels are burned, CO2 (carbon dioxide), one of the main greenhouse gases (a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere), is released into the air. When you turn on your car and drive to work or school, pollutants such as SO2 (sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain and a respiratory pollutant) and NOx (nitrogen oxides, another contributor to acid rain and respiratory diseases) are released into the atmosphere. Many health issues can arise from breathing in these chemicals, such as asthma, bronchitis, and nasal congestion. These chemicals can also react with other chemicals in the atmosphere, such as oxygen, to form secondary pollutants. One such secondary pollutant is O3 (ozone), which at the ground-level, can affect human health, by effects such as eye irritation and increased asthmatic attacks. The use of renewable energy will help to facilitate a reduction in these human health issues occurring all over the country (Energy Policy).
China is an example of one such country that is utilizing wind energy. During rapid industrialization and urbanization, policies are being put in place to substitute coal-fired power plants with wind power. These policies have already helped increase the wind power capacity, and now the Chinese government is focusing on policy reform. This reform includes stressing policy in different areas of the country, since wind power may be more viable in certain locations than others (Energy Policy). Wind energy can also complement other forms of renewable energy. For example, Brazil is looking towards renewable resources to help with energy consumption. In 2011, hydroelectric power (electricity generated from falling or fast-running water) accounted for about 90% of their electricity generation. However, this power is subject to seasonal regimes. Wind energy can be used in conjunction with the hydroelectric plants to increase energy reliability (Journal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water, and Environment Systems).
In the United States, national-level policy for wind power is difficult. The federal government could step in to create different programs and policies, but all states have different socio-political interests (Environmental Policy and Governance). To remedy this, a strategy like the reform in China that was discussed before might help – providing different incentives to different regions of the country (for example, areas with rich wind resources vs. non-rich wind resources) might encourage policies in different states. Another option for the United States is the investment in small-scale wind energy (such as small wind turbines for a single house or building), rather than large wind farms, which can be costly. These “small wind” energies can provide an economically competitive cost over traditional fossil fuels, allowing for the United States to grow and explore these renewable resource opportunities (Energy Policy).
The road to renewable resources, especially wind energy, is worth it. Countries around the globe, such as the United States, China, and Brazil, have already taken part in this movement. Not only will there be benefits of reduced environmental and human health effects, but as a society, we will be leaving our children a better world than the one that was given to us.
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©2018 Weather Forecaster Joseph Fogarty