U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West, Wikimedia Commons Images.
Thursday, August 31, 2017
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality released the following statement today, in regards to the water quality of flood-impacted areas from Hurricane Harvey: “EPA and TCEQ are aware that releases of wastewater from sanitary sewers occur during major flood events. The agencies actively work to monitor those facilities that have reported spills, as well as conducting outreach and providing technical guidance to all other wastewater facilities in flood-impacted areas. “Floodwaters may contain many hazards, including bacteria and other disease agents. Precautions should be taken by anyone involved in cleanup activities or any others who may be exposed to flood waters. These precautions include heeding all warnings from local and state authorities regarding boil water notices, swimming advisories, or other safety advisories. In addition to the drowning hazards of wading, swimming, or driving in swift floodwaters, these waters can carry large objects that are not always readily visible that can cause injuries to those in the water. Other potential hazards include downed power lines and possible injuries inflicted by animals displaced by the floodwaters.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
Harmful algal blooms can suck the oxygen out of the water column and mean certain death for fish, marine animals and birds, and cause toxic effects for people and local economies. NOAA's Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services is providing routine HAB forecasts to help members of the public make informed decisions when a bloom is temporarily affecting their area. The forecasts also aid people responsible for responding to bloom impacts, according to NOAA's website. Gulf of Mexico HAB Forecast - CO-OPS issues forecasts twice a week for the eastern and western Gulf of Mexico after confirmation of a HAB of the red tide species, Karenia brevis, and once weekly during the inactive bloom season. Red tide is the name for algal bloom when it is caused by a few species of dinoflagellates, a kind of aggressive plankton, and the bloom takes on a reddish color. A bloom of some dinoflagellates can result in a discoloration of the water column (red tide), which can cause shellfish poisoning if humans consume contaminated shellfish. Some dinoflagellates also exhibit bioluminescence—primarily emitting blue-green light.
Currently, areas of the Gulf such as Padre Island in South Texas have experienced red tide, which can affect breathing quality for beach combers and kill marine life in the area. As seen in this photo, algal blooms can contribute to what is called a dead zone, an area of hypoxia. Some dead zones occur naturally, but more and more this lack of oxygen stems from human causes - chemical runoff, for example, and the contribution to oxygen-depleting algal bloom. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons Images, NOAA, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGulf_dead_zone.jpg.
Sunday, July 16, 2017
The BP oil spill that began on April 20, 2010 and lasted 87 days, gushed 200 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. Further tarnishing the ecosystem occurred following generous air drops of the dispersant Corexit around the area of Barataria Bay and in other affected regions, called "zones". Birds, turtles, dolphins, and people were sickened by the horrific spill and the dispersant effects. Coral in the Gulf is still suffering, an additional pummeling besides the blight of climate change. Now it's time for people in the Gulf, those most affected by this disaster, to voice their pain and share their experiences. The Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council has announced the availability of the Draft 2017 Funded Priorities List: Comprehensive Commitment and Planning Support in accordance with the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf States Act (RESTORE Act). "In the draft CPS FPL, the Council proposes to provide its members with funding to enhance collaboration, coordination, public engagement and use of best available science needed to make efficient use of Gulf restoration funds resulting from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. These awards will support the Council’s commitment to a coordinated approach to ecosystem restoration, as called for in the Comprehensive Plan Update 2016: Restoring the Gulf Coast’s Ecosystem and Economy. The draft CPS FPL is now available for public and Tribal review and comment at www.restorethegulf.gov," they wrote in a press release issued July 13.
Photo: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Images - Washing an oiled gannet, a victim of the BP oil spill, May 1, 2010
Thursday, June 8, 2017
The Florida Aquarium and its Center for Conservation team released eight rehabilitated Kemp’s ridley sea turtles on the Canaveral National Seashore in New Smyrna, Florida today. The endangered sea turtles, who saw their numbers decimated following the 2010 BP oil spill, were rescued and flown from New England in December to The Florida Aquarium. According to a press release issued today, the Aquarium says the turtles were "cold-stunned from a harsh cold-snap weather event that hit the northeast United States." The eight turtles were part of a group of 12 the Aquarium received and has been rehabilitating, with the remaining four currently continuing to undergo rehabilitation at their facility in Tampa. The Aquarium’s veterinary team expects a full recovery for the remaining sea turtles and is optimistic they will also be ready for release soon, according to the press release. Cold-stunning happens to sea turtles because they are cold blooded and cannot regulate their body temperature. They quickly become hypothermic and can wash ashore or become stranded at sea during extreme, sudden cold-weather events. When the sea turtles arrived in Tampa, they underwent treatment for skin and shell wounds, similar to frostbite in humans. Several of the animals were treated with antibiotics to help remedy pneumonia. After five months of care, all eight of these animals were eating well, swimming normally and gaining weight, signaling that the medical care and rehabilitation efforts had been successful and they were ready to return to the Atlantic Ocean. On World Oceans Day, it's important to remember that these are the fortunate turtles. By 2014, at least 500 dead Kemp's ridley sea turtles were found in the vicinity of the spill sight annually. As of 2017, the exact numbers are hardly known as much of the research is both still being done, and yet to be shared with the public. Yet, highlighting the positive, Aquarium Associate Veterinarian Dr. Ari Fustukjian, who played a key part in rehabilitating the animals, said: “It’s always a great day when we can get rescued sea turtles back out to the ocean. Rescue, rehabilitation and release of marine animals is a huge part of The Florida Aquarium’s mission, and is a critical component to protect and restore our oceans. What better day to send them back to the big blue than on World Oceans Day?”
Thursday, June 1, 2017
It had just been a few hours since U.S. President Donald Trump cheerily announced America's withdrawl from the Paris climate agreement when the press releases and statements started to roll into my e-mail box. I can't even keep up with them all. In case you missed it, or don't know what the Paris Agreement is, it's a deal struck by 195 nations to curtail greenhouse gases and keep temperature rise below pre-industrial levels at 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit. And in case you haven't stepped outside the past few years, every year has gotten warmer than the one before it. Cities are threatened by sea level riseall over the world. Famine, drought, hurricanes. With so much pressing evidence of the horrors of climate change, how can the leader of the free world make such a decision? Like all decisions Trump makes, it reeked of being "all business" - except ... There was Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX founder, who tweeted, "Am departing presidential councils. Climate change is real. Leaving Paris is not good for America or the world." And there were the flurry of businesses who'd already endorsed the accord - even BP (as in the Gulf oil spill), even Exxon (as in their former CEO is now the secretary of state...say what?). Here's a snippet of what's in my in-box: - from Rainforest Action Network Executive Director Lindsey Allen: "The Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the groundbreaking Paris Climate Accord is as unsurprising as it is ignorant. Flying in the face of all credible science on climate change, this decision threatens to return the United States to the age of choking smog, flammable lakes, and a regressive and hopeless energy infrastructure. Nearly every decision from this administration has prioritized shortsighted corporate profits over human rights, Indigenous rights, civil rights and the future of our forests, our climate and our planet. From gutting public education to privatized prisons to stripping away environmental regulations to maximize fossil fuel profits, this administration has been one long demonstration of naked greed and corporate giveaways." - And from Hispanic Federation: “President Trump has turned his back on an unprecedented and urgent global agreement. Perhaps more than any of Trump’s latest actions, exiting this agreement carries the risk of widespread and lasting damage – not just to the planet and future generations, but to our country’s standing in the world. Scientists have been warning for years that a rise in global average temperature will mean widespread stresses on food, water, and a harmful increase in sea level. Moreover, many states that are home to the country’s largest Latino communities are ground zero for the impacts of climate change, including extreme heat, drought, water-borne illnesses, and other infectious diseases. Latino communities in the U.S. already face disproportionate rates of respiratory and cardiovascular disease. Trump’s decision to ignore the science will compound the conflict and suffering that disproportionately affect already vulnerable communities, including immigrants and Latinos. Cities like New York have pledged to uphold the underlying tenets of the Paris Climate Accord regardless of the President’s decision. We urge other cities and states to do the same and take measures to protect the planet and protect public health by making existing federal clean air, climate, clean water, worker safety, and endangered species standards enforceable under state and local law. If our federal government will not prioritize protecting the environment and public health, then we must look to our local leaders to do so. Ultimately though, to avert the worst of these consequences, we need global coordination to solve the toughest problem humanity has ever faced. The U.S. is the second greatest polluter in the world, and our leadership was welcomed when the Paris Agreement was crafted two years ago. Since then, it has been agreed to by 195 countries and ratified by 147 to date. By exiting the climate agreement, Trump has severely damaged our standing as a global leader on arguably the most important issue affecting our planet, and has endangered our ability to prevent catastrophe and widespread human suffering on a global scale.” More tomorrow. PHOTO: Via Wikimedia Commons Images, Michael Vadon.
The following article originally was published on Examiner.com, May 28, 2016 Greenpeace has made its clean energy demands clear to G7 leaders who are meeting nearby at their Elmau summit. After a G7 pledge to get rid of carbon fuels by the end of the century, they ultimately gave them a rare thumbs up. At the G7 2016 Ise-Shima Summit in Kashikojima, Japan President Barack Obama, along with leaders from countries around the world, officially pledged this week to end fossil fuel subsidies by 2025. The event was officiated by Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Universities and companies worldwide have been under increasing pressure to divest interests in fossil fuels. The announcement today will fuel that aim, albeit in a non-carbon centric fashion. In a lengthy document called "G7 Ise-Shima Leaders' Declaration, May 26-27, 2016", leaders of the EU, Japan, US, Germany, UK, France, and Italy urge all nations to end support for coal, oil, and gas by 2025. They said in part that following the December Paris Agreement on climate change, the nations will implement their commitments. "The G7 has a special responsibility to lead international efforts to tackle these challenges," they stated regarded climate change and its various impacts. "Today, we have demonstrated our capacity to make tangible progress on a broad range of economic, security, and development policy issues." Highlights of their 32-page statement also include: - That this is the first time G7 nations have set a deadline to end most fossil fuel subsidies. - That these nations will "commit to further investment in areas conducive to economic growth, such as environment, energy, digital economy, human resource development, education, science, and technology." This week, the president also spoke in Japan regarding the bombings at Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II, offering sympathethy but not a formal apology. ... To read the document, please see: http://www.mofa.go.jp/files/000160266.pdf Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
I'm not exaggerating - grow one small pea and you're on your way to protecting Earth. Visiting my mother in South Texas for several months, I had admired her garden - especially the tomatoes. Y-u-m. So pretty, so fun to spy a wee red bulb and pluck it for dinner, if I could wait that long. So when the opportunity arose to try PittMoss (yes, you're reading that right), which uses recycled newspapers to replace the properties of peat moss and absorb less water, I was onboard. I planted black-eyed peas. Not only was it a fun project - I chose to mix about half PittMoss with dirt/mud - but it worked. PittMoss was featured on an episode of "Shark Tank", where its inventor Mont Handley discussed the product - what the company says "was developed from seeing the degradation of important peat-lands being harvested for potting soils." In simple terms, the recycled material is more eco-friendly than traditional peat moss, while both types are working to enhance growth by using less water. The product is supposed to offer an added benefit, purportedly pumping nutrients back into the soil. I enjoyed my first experience planting anything by myself, but being my first time, don't have enough to compare PittMoss to. That being said, it only took I think two weeks, maybe less, for the first black-eyed pea to appear! The day before I was to leave Texas, I was out back watering when I jumped for joy. A pea had sprouted! Now, I should mention my mom had bought me five more pots to plant after I'd innocently thought one would be enough - thanks, Mom. I am sad that I will not be in the garden to see more peas sprout, but happy Mom can enjoy them. Photo: The author's black-eyed pea sprouts skyward; two still-potted plants (since planted in the soil) are in the foreground.