Environment

Sometimes environmentalists get accused of being against everything, so it’s important to speak out when the science suggests that a new technology is not obviously harmful to the environment.  Right now, I think that is the case with most forms of manufactured nanoparticles.  I expected the worst, but the available science is more reassuring.

Just what are nanoparticles?  Like the name suggests, these are very small particles—less than about 300 nanometers in diameter.  At the moment, the EPA regulates air pollution by particles that are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, known as PM2.5, which includes nanoparticles, but also particles that are as much as 8X larger.  Particles less than 2.5 um in diameter can be inhaled deep into our lungs, where they can lead to undesirable effects.

Very small particles are ubiquitous in nature. Many of the clay minerals in soils are found in particles that fall into the size range of nanoparticles. Woodsmoke also contains particles of that size and larger.

“You must have the bird in your heart before you can find it in the bush.”

                         John Burroughs

May 10- The faces of ten adorable-looking frogs—some of which, presumed to be extinct, have not been seen since 1914—adorn a “Wanted Alive” poster. The frogs are the stars of an international campaign spearheaded by Dr. Robin Moore, a Scottish photographer and expert on amphibians. The missing frogs were native to a broad range of habitats in countries including Australia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Israel, Turkmenistan, Venezuela, and numerous African countries.  

Moore began his hunt for the lost frogs in 2010. “In Search of Lost Frogs,”his book about his campaign, was published in 2014. Moore presented his passionate pursuit and defense of these critically endangered species on May 1 at the Cary Institute. 

Moore cited the Global Amphibian Assessment, a survey of amphibians that concludes that half of all amphibians are facing extinction.  

May 10- Recently, when I saw the driver of an SUV pitch a soda can out the window, I wondered “how many cans would he need to recycle each day to make up for the energy he uses to drive his SUV?”  May be that I am a zealot, but perhaps each of us can do a few little things each day that can help redeem our bigger sins against the environment.

The statistics were not difficult to find and rather sobering. U.S. citizens recycle more than 60% of all beverage cans each year, and each can saves 94% of the energy that would be used to make aluminum from new ore. Each can that is recycled saves 2.1 megajoules (MJ) of energy (a megajoule is roughly the energy contained in one fluid ounce of gasoline).  So the 60,000,000,000 cans that are recycled each year save a lot of energy—but only 0.15% of the annual energy used in the United States.

Toxic groundwater, massive fish-kills, and thinning ozone. What is the common link between these environmental problems?  The answer may be too much nitrogen in the environment--produced and distributed worldwide as fertilizer and by burning fossil fuels.

Fertilizer:

Look at any bag of garden fertilizer and you will find three numbers, for instance 15-4-5, that indicate the content of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  The first number, which is the percentage of nitrogen, is usually the largest. Most soils contain relatively small amounts of nitrogen, so adding nitrogen fertilizer is a good way to make plants grow faster.

Food and water needed by billions

says expert at Cary; it’s serious    

On April 24 Rosamond Naylor, Stanford University professor and director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment, described the connections between food production, health, environmental resources, and international security.

Seven billion people inhabit our planet; almost one billion of them don’t have enough food. By the end of the century there will be two billion more people on this earth. It is critical we find ways to feed them. Food shortages have become one of the chief causes of riots and revolution. 

Food, no matter how abundant, is not the same thing as and nutrition. Even here in the United States one in five people have inadequate diets lacking in necessary minerals and vitamins. Moreover, in countries like Haiti and many African nations, the lack of proper nutrition results in stunted growth, both physical and mental. 

Not only are soils too depleted to supply the essential nutrients and minerals, but the lack of clean drinking water and poor sanitary conditions leads to parasites and infections that contribute to malnutrition.

The tick season is here. Alas, most of us know all too well what that means. In this area, chances are about zero that readers aren’t acquainted with at least someone who’s been infected. But the threat keeps getting worse. Now there is Powassan to worry about. 

As a result of climate change, the tick season is advancing. These days, disease-carrying ticks and their most likely hosts, white-footed mice, can be active by late April, two to three weeks earlier than they were two decades ago.

This is the most dangerous time because the ticks are larval—just out of the egg stage and tiny, the size of a small period or poppy seed. Their prey of choice are the white-footed mice that are prolific, but carriers of dread Lyme disease and its variants.  There’s a 90 percent chance the pathogens in the blood the tick sucks from the mouse includes the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdoferi, which goes right to the next human meal they encounter.

I know of few environmental topics that engender more emotion than proposals to extract natural gas using hydraulic fracturing methods (i.e., fracking) to open up the pores in bedrock.  Now don’t get me wrong: I am not in favor of an expanded use of fossil fuels from any source.  We must get off the rich diet of carbon from fossil fuels if we are to avoid the worst of potential changes in our climate.  Fracking promises that we will delay the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, because it can potentially supply inexpensive natural gas for another generation.

Bob Austrian photographed these red tailed hawks who were making a brief stop in a tree next to his house.

Since the first Earth Day in 1970, Dutchess Day School has celebrated the event with action. In 1970 the student body and faculty cleaned up trash along the roads around the school. Since then the school has participated in fund raising drives, volunteer work in town and on campus, and many other programs. This year, the entire school gathered for an assembly on Friday, April 24, to pledge support of stewardship of the planet. Each grade created a list of promises—promises that can and will be kept—with older students scribing for the younger. The pledges will be transcribed by students in each class and posted on a wall of the school in the next few days. Barbara Bettigole, 4th grade teacher and member of the school’s sustainability team, led the assembly and also initiated a “buy local” campaign, encouraging students and teachers to bring labels from local vendors to put on display in the dining room. Mrs. Bettigole says, “It is part of the school’s mission to help children understand their role in preserving the planet, in big ways, and small.” 

 

 

 

 

The tick season is here. Alas, most of us know all too well what that means. In this area, chances are about zero that readers aren’t acquainted with at least someone who’s been infected. But the threat keeps getting worse. And now there is yet another disease to worry about.

For one thing, as a result of climate change, the tick season is advancing. These days, disease-carrying ticks and their most likely hosts, white-footed mice, can be active by late April, two to three weeks earlier than they were two decades ago.

This is the most dangerous time because the ticks are larval—just out of the egg stage and tiny, the size of a small period or poppy seed. They have a choice but why not a prolific carrier of disease such as a white-footed mouse that’s passing by. Up to 90 percent of the time this means  the pathogens in the blood the tick sucks from the mouse  includes the Lyme bacterium, Borrelia burgdoferi,  which goes right to the next human meal they encounter.

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