Earth’s Secret Oceans

Earth itself is one of the best secret-keepers known to man. There are countless mysteries under its outer shell, but slowly, scientists are uncovering them. In the past few years, scientists have discovered pockets of water trapped beneath the oceans. Not only this, but they have also found evidence to support the theory of hidden oceans under Earth’s mantle. When I talk about these hidden oceans, I am not saying they are the conventional large body of water. These oceans are much different than the ones you can snorkel and scuba dive in. Right about now, you are probably wondering, “how is it possible? How did they find them? Why did it take so long? Why is this even important?” Finally, scientists are able to answer your questions with real concrete evidence.

This may all seem like a fantasy, but aquifers are now a reality. Aquifers are water-bearing sediments in the oceans, also referred to as water pockets. The reason they are called water pockets instead of ocean pockets is that the waters are two different solidities, two different colors, and two different types. These pockets are not made of Salt water, but rather Fresh water. The pockets were discovered a while ago when a drilling team in search of oil had mistakenly run into them, releasing bits of Fresh water into the sea. Since then, marine biologists have found many more, mainly under the Atlantic ocean. These water pockets are not a few cubic kilometers, but rather 2,800 cubic kilometers. To gain a better perspective, this is nearly equivalent to six Lake Eries. This specific aquifer was found by marine biologists. They perform a technique which uses Electromagnetic(EM) receivers to measure the current in waters. This is applicable in finding Fresh water because it is commonly known that Salt water is a much better conductor than Fresh water. When they notice a fall in current, they know they have found another aquifer. How these pockets were formed is a much deeper question. It is expected this water has been hidden from society since way back during the Pleistocene Ice Age. Our knowledge of aquifers has been around for tens of years, but recently we have taken a deeper interest, which has directly led to our better understanding.

As we continue researching these aquifers, we are slowly realizing how much of a role they may play in our future. It is common knowledge many countries around the globe are suffering from water shortages. According to the World Health Organization (WHO),

Some 2.2 billion people around the world do not have safely managed* drinking water services…

To allow a better understanding, this is roughly one in three people internationally. By 2025, it is expected half of Earth’s population will suffer from the water crisis. The water shortages around the globe are unreasonably harmful as they have also led 4.2 billion humans to lack of sanitation services. Yes, that is more than half of the population. When lacking sanitation, humans are at an exponentially higher risk for countless diseases ranging from Cholera to Diarrhea. Aquifers could very well be the solution to our woes. If Oceanic scientists continue discovering these aquifers, it would be logical to develop a technique in order to properly harness most if not all of this Fresh water. Once we do develop proper technique to harness the water, we move to the desalination step. Yes, yes, I did say it was Fresh water, so it should not need desalination; in this particular scenario, desalination is required. Since the Fresh water has been trapped below or near Salt water for nearly 2.6 million years, Salt water was able to slowly mix in with the Fresh water. This means the Fresh water does have some salt, therefore needs to be desalinated before drinking. Although desalination plants cost a hefty amount of cash, the bright side about this water is there is a much lower amount of salt, meaning the desalination of this water will be for less time and much less money. Aquifers will soon be the driving force in our efforts to reduce the impact of the water crisis.

Although aquifers are relatively old, the theory of oceans under Earth’s mantle is fairly new. The path to this discovery is very odd, but there is a connection. Deep down in Earth’s mantle, Richard Siemens and his research team from the University of Alberta have found diamonds. These are no ordinary diamonds, as they are water-based. When I say water-based, it’s not liquid water trapped in diamonds, but rather the elements which make up water (oxygen and hydrogen), are trapped in diamonds. Due to convection in Earth, where hot magma rises and cool sediment sinks underneath, the water from the diamonds is pulled out and pushed under hot magma. Once the elements are under the magma they begin to warm and bind, resulting in liquid water we are used to seeing. When researchers from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas decided to continue the diamond experiment, they found a very unique set of diamonds containing little bits of a particular type of water, Ice VII, better known as water-ice. Water-ice is a crystalline form of ice formed when water is put above 3 GPa (30,000 atmospheres). Ice VII is important because it fully supports and proves the theory of aqueous pockets under Earth’s mantle.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:15th_MEU_Marines_provide_drinking_water_from_ocean_150307-M-JT438-156.jpgAqueous pockets, unlike aquifers, leave an impact on the past instead of the future. It is the common theory by thousands of scientists that there was a large icy comet that had crashed into Earth, which had later melted and formed oceans. This is the common belief because when Earth was forming, it was most likely too hot for any water molecules to survive and cling to any space dust which would eventually become Earth. The newly found aquifers may finally provide a sustainable contradicting theory. The volume of water under Earth’s mantle is expected to be three times that of the surface water. This is much more water than an icy comet could have ever brought down. This means the water on Earth might have come from somewhere else: aquifers. The new theory of how this water came is a massive earthquake that allowed water to slowly seep through the crust and make up the ocean in the given time frame. Some of the water may have taken a much longer route and seeped through more rock. This is the expected path for Fresh water, as rocks serve as a natural filter. Who would have expected a diamond experiment would lead to the altering of a long-lasting belief in the science community.

For thousands of years, human nature has been to explore. This is precisely what we have done on both these occasions. The water shortage is growing at a large rate, meaning we need to continue finding these aquifers at an even higher rate. Aqueous pockets are still relatively new, but in the near future, progress will come. Both discoveries will take their place in history and mark their icy comet mark on both the past and the future. Earth has previously shown it holds countless secrets, and it is our job to continue uncovering them if development is our goal.

Is Poop a Gift or a Curse?

In our world, a new creature has come into town. It is a devious enemy with a smell vicious enough to make us run away. Its brownish skin taunts you to come closer until you come close enough, and it haunts you forever. It is filling up our space and taking over, preparing to kill us one by one. The worst part is, we are producing it. POOP! Yes, poop, aka as feces, is this diabolical specimen that will be (and currently is) a big problem for the human race. Now, I’m not saying that human waste will smell worse over time and cause us to pass out every time we go to the bathroom. Do you ever wonder where all our human waste goes? Now you’re getting at what I’m saying.

Human waste isn’t the first thing you think of when someone says “crisis,” but this should be near the top of that list. Many humans don’t have access to necessary sanitation–precisely 1,800,000,000 people. Yes, you read that number correctly; nearly a quarter of humans do not have access to basic sanitation, for example, toilets. The result of this is that approximately 200 million tons of waste goes untreated. When sewage is untreated, it can lead to countless health issues. If the feces finds an entrance to the water supply, it will release E. Coli, leading to many diseases. Not only does human waste impact humans, but ecosystems may be destroyed. There was a disease spreading through the coral which decreased the population of coral greatly in the Florida/Caribbean area. This disease was White Pox. This disease spread to the corals as a result of human waste being discarded into the oceans. There are bacteria in the human feces, which we can live with but coral cannot. Many sea creatures lost their homes due to human feces. So, how do we control the amount of feces and how should we discard it?

Controlling feces is something out of the ordinary, meaning it needs an out of the ordinary solution. To control feces, there’s a two-step process. The first step is humans changing their diets to vegetarian or vegan. According to the Mayo Clinic, a leading medical center in the U.S., “Dietary fiber increases the weight and size of your stool and softens it. A bulky stool is easier to pass…” This explicitly states if you eat more fiber, your stool will be easier to pass. This means your body will be producing more waste as it’s heavier and larger. Right about now you are probably thinking to yourself, “I just spent the last 5 minutes reading why we’re producing too much waste, now he’s saying we should make more?” Yes, that’s precisely what I’m saying. The more waste we produce, the more efficient the second step will be.

Fecal energy; this is the second part of controlling human waste. Fecal energy is the process of converting biomasses such as human waste into sources of energy. How this works is the toilet has a grinding system that makes the waste odorless and dries it. Once it dries, microbes will biodegrade the waste. This process generates biofuel gasses such as Ethanol. You may think this sounds crazy, turning poop into power, but I can assure you it’s not. There have been multiple instances where biofuel has been beneficial. A small city in Colorado is fueling over 40 vehicles by using biofuel gasses provided by the local waste management company. On the second occasion in Europe, a Netherland’s Dairy company has started a new project. Since their building already has over 175 cows, they decided it would be more efficient to collect their waste and convert it into biogas for the company. Since the cows are constantly eating, and eating fiber, their stool is very efficient. This is where converting to vegetarian and vegan diets come in. If we are able to produce efficient stool by eating more fibers, the result could be very similar to the success in Colorado. If small towns and big businesses can jump into the future, why can’t the big cities (which have more people and more waste) do the same thing? 

As you can see, the idea of transforming poop into power is not a fantasy; it’s happening. There have already been multiple instances of people adapting to the process. Biofuel can help countries around the globe, as we don’t need to spend millions on drilling and importing, but we can use that money to develop a cheaper biofuel facility. Innovation is using what you have to make something great. In this case, you are using your waste to produce energy. The poop crisis on Earth may be harsh, but I see it as an opportunity. What do you see?

Algae: Fueling Our Future

Currently, human societies’ increased reliance on fossil fuels is creating a need in the future for an alternative yet equally functional energy source. The solution is a green, fuzzy, and live organism: algae. Multiple organizations have already taken initiatives and identified algae as a viable energy producer. Algae could very well be the future of energy.

Nowadays, the United States is falling drastically behind the expected reductions in fossil fuel consumption. Fossil fuels are natural fuels of decomposition which take millions of years to replenish. According to a leader in the green energy section in Britain, Ecotricity, at the present usage rate, nearly 11 billion tonnes a year, fossil fuels are expected to run out in about 53 years, with oil running out in less than 35. Fossil fuels are the common route in energy usage, blowing all renewable energy out of the water. Fossil fuels supply a whopping 80.2% of energy, compared to the mere number 11.5% for alternative energy, provided by the PEW Research Center. If this continues at the same rate as the population spike, this date may arrive sooner than expected. An alternative, yet equally efficient solution must be looked at before the time to switch has run out.

BioProcess Algae technology is used to treat waste products, carbon dioxide, recycled heat and water to mass-produce algae. Algae from this facility are used for animal feeds, pharmaceutical and beauty products. USDA photo by Lance Cheung.

Algae is a simple yet complex alternative to non-renewable and other forms of renewable energy production. To understand how we may use algae for energy, we first have to understand algae itself. Algae is a living organism, specifically a eukaryotic organism. Eukaryotic organisms, as opposed to prokaryotes or archaea, have a nucleus and numerous organelles, among other differences.  Eukaryotes can be split into 4 major kingdoms: animals, plants, fungi, and protists. The special part about algae is the growth rate. The average growth for algae is exponential. According to Fahri Koray Sakarya, a Turkish expert in environmental sciences, 0.4 day^-1 is the daily growth rate. This means algae growth will slowly become larger until the point where it grows in large batches at a time. In the words of the Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy,

…algae, small aquatic organisms that convert sunlight into energy and store it in the form of oil.

This means, once we have harvested the large batches, we will be able to access tons of oil at a time, making up for the depletion of natural fossil fuels. For a while now I’ve been talking about how algae could play a big role in the future, but what about in the present. Where is algae right now

The green machine will be able to save billions if it becomes the everyday norm and takes over for fossil fuels. If most of the human population were able to swap to algae, fossil fuels could be focused on industrial uses, while residents would be able to access a cleaner and more efficient energy source. Many companies have already hopped on to the algae-fuel train, one being NASA. Seambiotic has partnered with NASA to efficiently grow and harvest the oils of algae. Some farms are already planning to grow nearly 200 gallons of fuel from 1 acre of algae per year. Once technologies and funds have been invested in this idea, the price per barrel will drop significantly, as the industry will be expanding. Algae biofuel farms are becoming the norm for many, and the number will continue to grow. If the U.S. is able to make a push for algae fuel, further globalization will occur, taking algae energy to a whole new stage.

Commercial scale photo bioreactors/harvesters

As one can see, algae is an exceptionally productive source of energy. This solution benefits the environment, as the carbon emissions may drop by a monumental 50 to 70 percent, as well as the economy in the future,as algae will replace fossil fuels. Algae is a perfect fit for the criteria of humans, innovative and efficient, the basis of mankind itself. Algae growth will eventually be enough to supply a global demand, but it is crucial we make the first step into the future right now.

If you are interested in learning more about the process of algae-to-energy, click on this video link: Algae to Fuel by the U.S. Department of Energy

Minuscule Insect Solves a Global Crisis

As of right now, the world is home to 6,300 million metric tonnes of a material which is recyclable but takes up to 1000 years to decompose. If you hadn’t guessed, the material is plastic. Plastic is filling the world’s landfills at an exponential rate. However, there is a phenomenal creature that can eradicate the threat of plastic landfills: the Wax Worm Caterpillar. These caterpillars have the capability to eat through polystyrene plastic. Wax Worm Caterpillars could very well be the future of decomposing waste.

There is a fairly simple explanation to how Wax Worm Caterpillars can eat away at this world crisis. The normal diet for these caterpillars is wax from beehives. There is one characteristic in common between the wax from beehives and plastic. Both of these “foods” are made up of carbon-carbon bonds. In other words, because the caterpillars can eat wax, they also have the ability to digest plastic as well. Although plastic is far from organic, the carbon-carbon bonds allow the caterpillars to digest it. The caterpillars  not only consume the material, but the worms actually transform polyethylene into ethylene glycol. The substance, ethylene glycol, involves oxidative metabolism, which means it uses aerobic cellular respiration to energize the organism. As one can see, humans are not the only beneficiaries from wax worms eating plastic, but the caterpillars benefit as well.

The crisis of plastic waste is not domestic, it’s global, meaning all parts of the world are affected by this. As stated before, nearly 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic are in landfills, oceans, roads, etc. It is said that each caterpillar can only eat 2.2 milligrams of plastic each day, but there is a solution to this. We can modify the brains of caterpillars to be able to consume 5 grams of plastic a day by adding a chip that constantly releases ghrelin(a chemical which makes an organism hungry) and a larger stomach. If each plastic bag weighs 4.5 grams, each caterpillar can consume one plastic bag a day. Based off of the current statistics, it would take nearly 7 years for 100 worms to eat away at half of the world’s current plastic waste. This would mean the earth’s oceans could be much cleaner, as well as the landfills being many times smaller. Therefore, the modified wax worm caterpillars may have the potential to eradicate one of the global struggles.

The idea of a minuscule insect eating away at one of the World’s largest struggles looks to be a fantasy, but it has been proven true. The theory of caterpillars consuming plastic was proven in the creation of the theory. A beekeeper, Federica Bertocchini, thinks of these caterpillars as pests, as they eat away at the wax of beehives. Since these caterpillars were pests, she collected them and threw them in the trash can. The next morning, when the beekeeper went to throw out more garbage, she noticed caterpillar-sized holes in her garbage can. She looked inside, and the theory came to fruition: the caterpillars were gone. She then wanted to prove caterpillars could turn the plastic into energy, so she mashed up the wax worms from her yard into a paste. She then spread that paste over some more plastic bags. Once again, the plastic dissolved away. This proved the theory that both humans and wax worms could benefit from the consumption of plastic. This is one of the many accidental, but glorious discoveries of the 21st century.

As one can see, wax worm caterpillars are a realistic and efficient solution to a crisis which has already had harmful effects to the environment. wax worms have proven they are capable of continuing their normal routine with plastic in their diet. Wax worms have been tested on multiple occasions, and all reports came back with the one statement: wax worms are capable of performing aerobic cellular respiration with plastic as the energy source. The world needs an efficient and proactive solution; well they sure got one. Wax worm Caterpillars are the future of environmental protection.

Misshapen Food Waste: It’s What’s Inside That Counts

When I was strapped for cash and working in a little town on the East-coast of Australia, I found ways to cut my budget. On my way to the local supermarket, I ambled past a little stall full of fresh bunches of bananas going for 99 cents a kilo. Just down the road in the supermarket, another bunch was being sold for over twice the amount, but what was the difference between the two? Being a lover of fruit and curious, I purchased both.

Well, when I peeled a banana from each bunch, there was no difference. In fact, the cheaper bunch tasted much more delicious since it had been picked fresh that day from the local banana farm. However, the contrast was apparent from the outside.

The supermarket bunch was all the same size, length and colour. The stall bunch was slightly misshapen, with a few green patches, a little less pleasing to the eye but all the more tasty. Needless to say the stall did very well out of me over the following few weeks as in my opinion, their bananas were of greater value for money.

This led me to wonder what on earth has happened to this society. Have we become so fussy that we now discard produce that does not meet our ‘aesthetically pleasing ‘standards, despite being perfectly edible?

Taste not waste

It’s no surprise that we live in a wasteful society. As the world’s population grows, so does the demand for convenience food. Huge supermarket chains are taking over the food industry to supply us with perfect packaged goods. We have become so disconnected from where our food comes from that any fruit or vegetable that looks slightly askew with a few little blemishes, becomes unworthy of our dinner plates. The supermarkets don’t make a profit from these unmarketable misfits, so they are removed before they even hit the shelves.

As stated on thinkeatsave.org

Nearly 1/2 of all fruit & vegetables produced globally are wasted each year. Global quantitative food waste per year are roughly 30 per cent for cereals, 40-50 per cent for root crops, fruits and vegetables, 20 per cent for oil seeds, meat and dairy plus 30 per cent for fish. Fruits and vegetables, plus roots and tubers have the highest wastage rates of any food.

In recent years, regulations on the appearance of produce have been loosened for suppliers and retailers. On July 1st 2009, the EU simplified the rules, allowing twenty-six types of fruits and vegetables to be covered by general marketing standards, meaning retailers may market them all equally despite some being misshapen.

The European parliament aims to half food waste by 2025 by targeting not only irregular shaped produce but how they are grown, processed, marketed and consumed within every household. First, however, individuals’ awareness and attitudes have to change in order for these improvements to be a success. If we can get the consumer to value the product, then the demand shall grow.

 

Beauty is in the eye of the consumer

Although steps have been made to give misshapen fruits and vegetables a deserved place on our supermarket shelves, they are still the last ones to be picked, if picked at all. The cosmetically flawless produce still entices the customer more, leaving the blemished ones seem as if they are not fit to be eaten. But what if the unlucky leftovers were given a name and their own unique marketing edge? That was exactly how “Inglorious fruits and vegetables” was born.

Since the European Union voted to make 2014 the “European year against food waste”, Intermarche, the third largest supermarket chain in France, decided to see what would happen if they bought and sold the produce that was normally thrown out by their growers. They gave them their own aisle and a 30% discount to encourage buyers.

Not only did they reduce the price, they came up with catchy and comical names for the stars of the Inglorious fruits and vegetables campaign. The “grotesque apple,” the “ugly carrot” and the “hideous orange” were three of seven celebrity veggies and fruits to star in their own advert.

The two day experiment was a massive success, selling out 1.2 tons of inglorious produce and consequently saving food and money. The campaign is continuing with a line of juice and soups to show people that they are no different from the perfect looking foods.

This clever initiative increased the public’s awareness of food waste. It had a huge impact on the media and ignited discussions on social networking sites. Since the campaign was launched it has inspired many across the globe to take on this fresh and healthy approach to food waste.

 

A global issue

Doug Rauch, the former president of the Trader Joe’s Company, is launching the Daily Table, a grocery store situated in Roxbury, Boston, a known place of low income and desperation. His plan is to salvage unwanted foods from grocery stores and sell to customers who otherwise would not get the opportunity to access them.

A study from the United States Department of Agriculture states –

The estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States was $161.6 billion in 2010. In developed countries like the United States, a relatively larger share of food loss occurs at the consumer end of the spectrum. Food accounts for a relatively smaller share of household incomes, and consumers typically demand a wide variety of high-quality, cosmetically appealing, and convenient foods. As a result, blemished, misshapen, or wrong-sized foods are often discarded to meet minimum quality standards.

After three decades in the grocery business and seeing firsthand the effect of America’s food waste contribution, Rauch retired four years ago to find a solution to the problem he has devoted so much time to.

In the near future I hope to see such creative ideas in every supermarket chain. Saving not only precious food but money for the growers, stores and consumers, I can’t see how this idea could fail. Now is the time for us to take action on the world’s waste issues and shed our shallow beliefs on misshapen produce. After all, none of us are perfect, so why does our food have to be?

 

 

Sources:

http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/fruit-and-vegetables/marketing-standards/index_en.htm

http://www.eufic.org/article/en/artid/How-to-minimise-food-waste/

http://www.ers.usda.gov/amber-waves/2014-june/food-loss%E2%80%94questions-about-the-amount-and-causes-still-remain.aspx#.VAgtXqA_7IU

http://www.thinkeatsave.org/index.php/fast-facts-related-resources

https://www.intermarche.com/home/prospectus-et-promotions.html

http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/sustainability/index_en.htm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p2nSECWq_PE

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/eib-economic-information-bulletin/eib121/report-summary.aspx#.U7C1V42wLrS

 

Enormous Landscape Discovered Under Antarctic Ice

Buried deep beneath Antarctic ice, scientists have discovered an ancient valley deeper than the Grand Canyon buried deep beneath Antarctica. Carved out millions of years ago by the first Antarctic ice sheets in Antarctica, the colossal mountains and valleys cover an area nearly 200 miles long, 15 miles across, and 2 miles deep.

The research team who discovered the Antarctic ice valley was composed of researchers from Newcastle University, the University of Bristol’s Glaciology Centre, the British Antarctic Survey and the universities of Edinburgh, Exeter, and York. The team has named the area they discovered the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands.

Related Article: New Ecosystem Discovered: Glacier Mice

An area buried beneath the Antarctic ice fitting the description of the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands has been hypothesized to exist for some time, as scientists have regularly discussed the precise origins of the Antarctic ice in Western Antarctica.  It turns out that the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands encompass the original site where ice sheets similar to those currently in arctic Canada and Russia began to form.

The team spent 3 seasons mapping the region beneath the Antarctic using satellite data along with ice penetrating radar. According to Professor Martin Siegert, Professor of Geosciences at the University of Bristol,

By looking at the topography beneath the ice sheet using a combination of ice-penetrating radio-echo sounding and satellite imagery, we have revealed a region which possesses classic glacial geomorphic landforms, such as u-shaped valleys and cirques, that could only have been formed by a small ice cap, similar to those seen at present in the Canadian and Russian High Arctic. The region uncovered is, therefore, the site of ice sheet genesis in West Antarctica.

The antarctic is arguably owned by 7 different countries. The Antarctic ice is mostly uncharted territory.

The antarctic is arguably owned by 7 different countries along with 1 neutral territory. The Antarctic ice is mostly uncharted territory.

The team will use the data uncovered from mapping sub Antarctic ice trenches within the Ellsworth Subglacial Highlands to better understand the activity of current Antarctic ice. Particularly, this will allow them to create a reconstruction of Western Antarctica before and after the presence of ice sheets. This in turn will shed light on the future of Antarctica as it pertains to climate change, the melting of southern Antarctic ice caps, and the thawing of enormous plots of land in places like Antarctica, Canada, and Russia. According to Tim Flannery in his world renowned book “The Weather Makers” Canada and Russia are poised to become two of the most bountiful and wealthy countries in the world due to expansive amounts of previously unusable land becoming fertile and profitable in the wake of rising global climates.

Related Article: Climate Change Caused by 90 Companies Since Industrial Revolution

Dr. Neil Ross, a member of the team, considers the find to be a serendipitous one. He notes that although antarctic ice penetrating radar had been used on both ends of the valley, it wasn’t until the team used satellite data that they realized the spaces in between could be seen from space. He also reminds us all that we have barely begun exploring the entirety of our planet, stating that,

To me, this just goes to demonstrate how little we still know about the surface of our own planet. The discovery and exploration of hidden, previously-unknown landscapes is still possible and incredibly exciting, even now.

Just think, we’ve only discovered 14% of the projected 87 million species that exist on Earth. Even more astounding, we have only discovered 5% of all ocean space, which accounts for 71% of Earth’s surface.

Related Article: 2800 Year Old Lake Life Survives in Complete Isolation

 

Sources:

http://www.theweathermakers.org/

http://phys.org/news/2014-01-scientists-giant-trench-antarctic-ice.html

http://gsabulletin.gsapubs.org/content/126/1-2/3

http://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/exploration.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2011/08/110824-earths-species-8-7-million-biology-planet-animals-science/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antarctica#Antarctic_territories

More Green Energy: Climate Denial Funders Caught Red Handed

Climate denial kills polar bears

Some men just like to watch the climate burn, it’s called climate denial… mediamatters.org

I have good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news first. Dr. Robert J. Brulle, professor of sociology and environmental science at Drexel University in Philadelphia, conducted a study which exposes the syndication and massive funding of the climate denial movement. This study is the first peer reviewed analysis ever conducted on the climate denial funders.

 

The Bad News

Brulle expected many well known conservative groups to be heading the mast of the climate denial ship, but he claims to have found some very unexpected sources as well. 75% of the funding turned out to be from concealed sources.

Their money fuels the voluntary ignorance van. Are you on board? ingienous.com

Their money fuels the voluntary ignorance van. Are you on board? ingienous.com

Brulle calls the money from these particular sources “dark money.” He notes that,

Koch Industries and ExxonMobil, two of the largest supporters of climate science denial, have recently pulled back from publicly funding countermovement organizations. Coinciding with the decline in traceable funding, the amount of funding given to countermovement organizations through third party pass-through foundations like Donors Trust and Donors Capital, whose funders cannot be traced, has risen dramatically.

The big names are starting to close the veils on us onlookers. Their climate denial agendas demand privacy!

Related Article: Only 90 Companies Responsible for Climate Change Since Industrial Revolution

The amount of money that climate denial groups receive in funding each year is close to $600 million. The climate denial movement represents a collective of corporations, organizations, and politicians actively hampering and blocking the U.S. government’s ability to pass laws to lower emissions.  The movement also supports and actively campaigns to destroy America’s faith in globally reviewed and accepted climate science.

A single movement isn’t something to make such a big deal out of, but this movement has a free multi-million dollar lifeline, media outlets to use as megaphones, and the backing of people in positions of enormous power. As Brulle poignantly explains,

The real issue here is one of democracy. Without a free flow of accurate information, democratic politics and government accountability become impossible. Money amplifies certain voices above others…Powerful funders are supporting the campaign to deny scientific findings about global warming and raise public doubts about the roots and remedies of this massive global threat. At the very least, American voters deserve to know who is behind these efforts.

The livelihood of the entire planet and countless generations depend on the decisions we make in the next 20 years regarding our planet and the sustainability of our lifestyles. Climate denial is dangerous, but still going strong.

 

The Good News (kind of)

Climate denial continues

I’m not a fan of any mainstream party, but come on! You don’t believe in science? en.paperblog.com

Now for the good news. For the entire month of November all additional electricity-generating capacity added to the U.S. was from renewable sources. That’s 394 megawatts of green electrical energy added to the country’s generating capacity. Despite all of America’s climate denial, but the news gets better. In October more than 99% of the energy capacity added was also renewable. This is remarkable news, until we broaden our view a bit. (It was slightly good news at least.)

35.5% of the electricity-generating capacity added from January to November 2013 was from renewable sources. During the same period in 2012 50% of the added capacity was from renewable energy sources. That is a 30% drop from 2012 to 2013, mostly due to a colossal 86% reduction in wind power production. 

Despite the oft-spoken of advantages of renewable energy, the majority of the new energy capacity in the U.S. produced in the last two years was from non-renewable sources. In light of the endless research regarding humanity’s role in climate change, climate denial is not so much worrying as it is alarming.

Related Article:  Fracking Worse Than You Think: Delusional America and Special Interest Gangs

Oh the humanity! newenergynews.blogspot.com

Oh the humanity! newenergynews.blogspot.com

In 2012 only 13.2% of the country’s energy consumption came from renewable sources. Currently only 16% of the total energy capacity in the U.S. comes from renewable sources, which makes it frustrating and strange that the country continues to expand its energy capacity with 65% non-renewable sources. To make matters worse, fossil fuel companies across the globe received $544 billion in subsidies in 2012, almost 7 times as much as renewables received the same year.

A recent study examined the cumulative amount of energy subsidies in the U.S. from 1918 to 2010.  They found that historically, and to this day, the U.S. just blatantly does not care that it is spewing pollutants into everyone’s atmosphere and climate denial flourishes. The U.S. is second only to China in CO2 emissions.  The difference between the energy policy of the U.S. and China is that China is currently leading the world in green energy investments.  According to Chinese officials, the country invested $294 billion dollars into renewable energy over the last 5 years in an attempt to battle climate change. The U.S. doesn’t even come close.

From 1918 to 2010, the U.S. spent a total of $670.61 billion dollars in the form of energy subsidies.

  • $446.96 billion to oil and gas
  • $185.38 billion to nuclear
  • $32.34 billion to biofuels
  • $5.93 billion to renewables

Now, to be fair, oil and gas has existed substantially longer than any of the sectors listed above. So, let’s take a look at a comparison of what each sector received in the fist 30 years of their respective lives.

A good ol' rigged game. http://www.dblinvestors.com/

A good ol’ rigged game. http://www.dblinvestors.com/

Renewable energy has been, and continues to be hampered, even at the federal level. Keep in mind that many companies, including Exxon-Mobil, spend a great deal of money on the climate denial movement, yet receive substantial subsidies via the taxpayers’ collective wallet.

Related Article: New Greenhouse Gas Discovered: 7,100 Times Worse Than Carbon Dioxide

Unlike the 67 countries with renewable energy targets, the U.S. has no federal renewable energy targets whatsoever. Some examples of the energy targets I am referring to are:

  • European Union: 20% renewable energy usage by 2020
  • China: 15% by 2020
  • Australia: 20% by 2020
  • Canada: 90% by 2020
  • Germany: 35% by 2020, 80% by 2050
climate denial

Seems legit. climatedenial.org

While no federal targets exist, many state targets and incentives do. Thirty U.S. States currently have some type of renewable energy mandate and six other states have a renewable energy goal.  Unfortunately, only half of those states are on track to meet their goal.

As usual, what you can do to alter the destructive path of the U.S. is to make sure to do research thoroughly and vote appropriately. Even more importantly, “be the change you want to see in the world.”  Observe your behavior and activities. Don’t get caught up in all the hype that is climate denial. Ask yourself how you are affecting your surroundings. Be honest.  Just ensure the answer you give yourself is grounded in the aforementioned thorough research you have done. Don’t join the climate denial movement.

 

 

Sources:

http://www.drexel.edu/now/news-media/releases/archive/2013/December/Climate-Change/

http://e360.yale.edu/digest/renewable_energy_comprised_total_us_november_power_generation_gains/4032/

http://e360.yale.edu/digest/renewable_energy_comprised_total_us_november_power_generation_gains/4032/

http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/nov-energy-infrastructure.pdf

http://www.ferc.gov/legal/staff-reports/2013/oct-energy-infrastructure.pdf

http://www.worldenergyoutlook.org/resources/energysubsidies/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-30/china-s-spending-on-renewable-energy-may-total-1-8-trillion-yuan.html

http://www.eia.gov/electricity/monthly/epm_table_grapher.cfm?t=epmt_1_1

http://www.dsireusa.org/http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable-mandates/

https://wondergressive.com/news/90-companies-responsible-climate-change/

https://wondergressive.com/news/fracking-worse-than-you-think-delusional-america-and-special-interest-gangs/

https://wondergressive.com/news/new-greenhouse-gas-discovered-7100-times-worse-carbon-dioxide/

Climate denial is bad mmm’kay?

Car Warming: Debunking the Myth

I really can’t stay… baby its cold outside. I’ve got to go away… baby its cold outside! Those words are the words of our freezing cars in the winter. Common folklore tells us that it’s better to wait and allow our vehicle to warm up before we use it, but is that thinking actually correct? The Hinkle Charitable Foundation talks about 3 myths that are commonly associated with vehicles and warming them up before driving off. First and foremost:

Myth 1: Cars should run in an idling mode for several minutes before being driven.

Related Article: Google’s Self Driving Car Initiative

The foundation proposes that simply driving gently helps warm up the engine in seconds rather than letting the car sit on and idle. In fact, by idling you are mostly just wasting gasoline and straining the engine.  Not to mention the increase in CO2 emissions! Which brings us to myth number 2.

Myth 2: Each time you start your car you waste more gasoline than if you let it idle.

Actually, the opposite is the case. When the car is idling you are wasting more gasoline than you do starting it up. The amounts aren’t great, but over time if you add them up you get significant differences. After a couple of tests listed by Natural Resources Canada, it was found that a 5 minute warming session increases fuel consumption by 7 to 14 percent and a 10 minute warming increased fuel consumption by 12 to 19 percent. The folks over in Ohio have made it illegal to idle and warm up their car… what?? Likewise, myth number 3 debunks the idea of allowing your vehicle to stay on while you pop inside for a quick visit.

Myth 3: Repeatedly restarting your car is hard on the engine and quickly drains the battery.

Related Article: Remote Control Cockroaches

Still not convinced? The EcoEnergy publication states that:

Even on the coldest of winter days, you can drive away after only 30 seconds of idling (provided your windows are defrosted).

Let us say you have your windows defrosted, you drive off and are on the road to your family’s but you forgot some flowers for your mother. You run inside the store quickly and leave your car running to conserve wasting gas on restarts. Wrong!

If you’re stopped for more than 10 seconds, turn off your engine. It has a minimal impact on the starter switch, and idling for over 10 seconds uses more fuel than it would take to re-start your engine

How about all of us that have a remote starter? Well…

Avoid using remote car starters. These devices encourage you to start your vehicle before you’re ready to leave, resulting in needless idling and wasted fuel.

Who would have thought? It would make sense to practice each myth with old vehicles, from the 20’s…. but we live in the new millennium! Cars have evolved past the point of the Model T and are efficient and able to handle much more than we give them credit for! So what should we really do?

At most, if it is freezing outside and you start your vehicle, let it idle for a minute or two max, then gently drive off and allow it to work itself into efficiency! And don’t worry, your oil will warm up as well; automobiles today are not so fragile that they will fall apart and quit without a truly good mechanical reason! So stay warm, stay safe, and mostly stay joyful this Christmas as your vehicle just warmed up in less time than it took for you to read this article. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all!

Research:

Hinkle Charitable Foundation: Anti-Idling Primer

Natural Resources Canada

Warming Car in Ohio is Illegal EcoEnergy publication

Wondergressive: Remote Control Cockroaches

Wondergressive: Google’s Self Driving Car Initiative

Grow All of Your Own Food With A Forest Garden

Forest garden

Forest gardens are THE solution. http://www.greenprophet.com/

The world is currently experiencing rampant population growth, land deterioration, and food shortages around the planet.  All of these issues can be solved by incorporating forest gardens into society.  Forest gardens will allow you to grow all of your own food, save money, gain food independence, improve the land, and feed the world.

 

What is A Forest Garden?

Wikipedia tells us that:

Forest gardening is a low-maintenance sustainable plant-based food production and agroforestry system based on woodland ecosystems, incorporating fruit and nut trees, shrubs, herbs, vines and perennial vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans. Making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow in a succession of layers, to build a woodland habitat.

Forest gardening is a prehistoric method of securing food in tropical areas. In the 1980s, Robert Hart coined the term “forest gardening” after adapting the principles and applying them to temperate climates.

Robert Hart used companion planting and intercropping to develop a seven layer system to maximize the benefits of the plants and minimize work for the care taker. The seven layers work together to create a closed ecosystem that takes care of itself, with no need for weeding, fertilizing or tilling the land. The care takers are left to harvest and enjoy their crops!

Related Article: WWOOF and HelpX: Seeing the World One Farm at a Time

To hear Robert Hart himself talk about why he made his forest garden and some of his main inspirations watch his portion in the documentary “Permaculture Trio” (he’s the first portion). Since the development of the seven layer system there have been advances in the technique to include two more layers, but to skip to the meat (fruit?) of the issue here are the original seven layers:

‘Canopy layer’ consisting of the original mature fruit trees.
‘Low-tree layer’ of smaller nut and fruit trees on dwarfing root stocks.
‘Shrub layer’ of fruit bushes such as currants and berries.
‘Herbaceous layer’ of perennial vegetables and herbs.
‘Ground cover layer’ of edible plants that spread horizontally.
‘Rhizosphere’ or ‘underground’ dimension of plants grown for their roots and tubers.
‘Vertical layer’ of vines and climbers.

The two new layers which can be incorporated to a forest gardening system (from Temperate Climate Permaculture) are

‘Aquatic wetland layer’
‘Mycelial fungal layer’

For a full description of all the layers and to learn a whole lot more about permaculture make sure to read Temperate Climate Permaculture’s article on the Nine Layers of the Edible Forest Garden. If the walk with Robert Hart through his forest garden didn’t satisfy your desire to see one of these for yourself, there’s always more on Youtube. I also highly suggest this one with Martin Crawford from the Agroforestry Research Trust of England.

Why Forest Garden?

320px-Blackberry_fruits12

A forest garden creates a closed ecosystem. This is a system where there are no waste products. Everything which is created is used in another part of the system. There is no need to bring in anything to help the system because it produces everything it needs, and there is no need to remove any “waste” because everything produced is used. This promotes healthy environments since nothing is added to the system to unbalance it.

Related Article: Edible Landscapes

Forest gardening is a perfect example of a closed ecosystem. According to a paper written by Professor Miguel A. Altieri from the University of California, Berkeley, a closed ecosystem is in direct opposition to the way that mainstream agriculture has been developing over the past four decades. In his paper he discusses modern agriculture’s open ecosystem of monoculture and the effects that such an open system creates for the world it is used in. Altieri points out the many immediate disadvantages of single crop agriculture. Disadvantages include sacrificed pest resistance for increased productivity, and previous resources (such as cow manure) turning into liabilities as the single crop farms grow so large it becomes economically unrealistic to transport the manure.

He moves on to talk about the environmental effects produced by single crop farms because of their disadvantages. For instance, because the crops being grown are less pest resistant, farmers must use more chemicals and fertilizers. Fertilizers have been linked to destruction of all animal life in water systems.  Modern farms strive not to have the most efficient system for producing the most food sustainably, but instead to make the most money off of one large single crop.

Through Professor Altieri’s paper it becomes evident why monoculture is so detrimental to the planet. It is easy to see the need for a closed system that is self sufficient. In permaculture, if a crop is susceptible to a pest, a species is planted near it that is host to that pest’s predator. If a plant needs more nitrogen in the soil to remain healthy a nitrogen fixing plant is placed near it so that one’s waste is another food. If a certain weed is known to grow near a plant, then an alternate, helpful and desirable plant (that requires the same nutrients as the weed) is placed near the first plant to deprive the weed of the nutrients and space.

 

The Benefit to Gardeners

The environment isn’t the only thing to benefit from the forest garden. The gardener also has benefits.  In the forest garden model “chop and drop” plants are used to maximize ground nutrients. These plants have deep tap roots that reach where other roots do not and retrieve valuable nutrients from deep within the soil. The nutrients are brought to the plant’s leaves, and after the plants have grown too large for their environment they are cut and left on the ground as fertilizer and mulch. This mulch smothers the ground preventing any weeds from arising. In permaculture and forest gardens, turning the soil is looked down upon because this destroys the ecosystem already present and the life that has currently taken up residence there. The forest garden system reduces time spent in the garden because there is no need to fertilize, no need to weed and no need to dig up the soil.

Related Article: Permaculture Connection

forest gardenWhile the time saving, and food attaining benefits alone might convince one that this is the way to go, there’s still more. In addition to having your own homegrown organic food there is also the added benefit of a clearer mind.  In a piece titled Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk in the Park from the New York Times, Gretchen Reynolds states,

studies have found that people who live near trees and parks have lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, in their saliva than those who live primarily amid concrete, and that children with attention deficits tend to concentrate and perform better on cognitive tests after walking through parks or arboretums. More directly, scientists have brought volunteers into a lab, attached electrodes to their heads and shown them photographs of natural or urban scenes, and found that the brain wave readouts show that the volunteers are more calm and meditative when they view the natural scenes.

This article also talks about a more recent study showing that time in nature,

is likely to have a restorative effect and help with attention fatigue and stress recovery.

So what could possibly be better than having a park-like space in your backyard that helps the environment, provides you with food, and aids in stress recovery? I sure can’t think of anything better, short of wild unicorns popping up inside my forest garden.

 

Tips on Starting your Own

256px-Snake_plantFor anyone interested in incorporating this into their life I highly suggest taking a look at Edible Forest Garden‘s website. Continue reading for more advice, dependent upon your living environment.

If you live in the suburbs like I do, it may not really be possible to have your own forest garden. There are many different types of living accommodations and not all of them have space for a forest garden. So here I’ll list some resources on how to be more oriented toward a forest gardening lifestyle for whatever your living situation is.

  • If you live in a small apartment, you can still have edible house plants.
  • If you are a busy person with little time for house plants, there is the Mother-in-law’s Tongue, perfect for the first time plant owner, and it requires little attention while cleaning your air.
  • You can also have a worm farm to turn old food scraps into soil for new house plants. These will help you get closer to a closed system in your own life.

Related Article: The Natural, Three-Plant Air Purifying System

If you have a small yard, but it’s not big enough for a full forest garden, you can still apply several of the techniques used in forest gardening. In the documentary Permaculture Trio, the third section focuses on urban permaculture and different techniques a British couple used to turn their backyard into a food producing garden. One of the best tips is to use companion planting to make fewer plants more productive. For further information head over to Urban Permaculture Guild‘s site to see what else is out there.

If you happen to have enough space for a full blown forest garden and are interested in starting one, I would recommend starting with watching Permaculture Trio, and then moving on to the Edible Forest Garden site. There are many websites dedicated to discussion and learning so go forth and enjoy!

 

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Sources:

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=G3QPo7lThXsC&lpg=PP1&dq=The%20forest-garden%20farms%20of%20Kandy%2C%20Sri%20Lanka.&pg=PA1#v=onepage&q&f=false

Crawford, Martin (2010). Creating a Forest Garden. Green Books. p. 18.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_gardening#cite_note-Crawford_2010_18-1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXVnAMQRGbI

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intercropping

https://wondergressive.com/news/wwoofing-seeing-world-one-farm-time/

http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2013/05/27/nine-layers-of-the-edible-forest-garden/

http://www.agroforestry.co.uk/forgndg.html

http://www.agroforestry.co.uk/

http://nac.unl.edu/#about

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Forest_gardening#Seven-layer_system

https://wondergressive.com/news/edible-landscapes/

http://nature.berkeley.edu/~miguel-alt/modern_agriculture.html

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/companion-planting

http://www.permies.com/t/4124/permaculture/Chop-Drop-Mulch

http://www.backyardecosystem.com/organic-gardening/stop-killing-your-soil-debunking-double-digging/

https://wondergressive.com/news/permaculture-connection/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/27/easing-brain-fatigue-with-a-walk-in-the-park/?_r=0

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169204611003665

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448497/

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/10/17/a-dose-of-nature-for-attention-problems/

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23467965

http://www.edibleforestgardens.com/about_gardening

http://www.beautiful-vegan.com/2011/10/7-edible-houseplants-you-can-grow.html

https://wondergressive.com/news/natural-three-plant-fresh-air-system/

http://unclejimswormfarm.com/index.php/Indoor-Composters/View-all-products.html

http://www.organicgardening.com/learn-and-grow/companion-planting

http://www.urbanpermacultureguild.org/

New Greenhouse Gas Discovered: 7,100 Times Worse Than Carbon Dioxide

Chemists at the University of Toronto have discovered a new greenhouse gas which impacts climate change 7,100 times more than CO2. This new greenhouse gas  is called perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), and has far more potential to effect the climate than any other substance found to date.

A greenhouse gas’ effect on the environment is rated in three ways: quantity, time, and power. Each greenhouse gas has a different effect on the climate based on how much is present (quantity), how long it stays in the environment (time), and how much heat it traps (power). For example, there is dramatically more carbon dioxide than methane on the planet, and although methane stays on the planet for less time, it traps 21 times more heat than CO2 over a 100 year period. Sounds like methane is a pretty serious greenhouse gas, but as far as contributing to climate change, nothing compares to PFTBA.

Related Article: 90 Companies Responsible for Climate Change

greenhouse gases

The government says so, it must be true! http://www.globalchangeblog.com

According to an article published in the University of Toronto News,

PFTBA has been in use since the mid-20th century for various applications in electrical equipment and is used in thermally and chemically stable liquids marketed for use in electronic testing and as heat transfer agents. It does not occur naturally; that is, it is produced by humans.

You know what that means Tea Party fanatics? There is no way you can blame this new greenhouse gas on ‘natural causes’. According to Angela Hong, one of the University of Toronto chemists working on the study,

PFTBA is extremely long-lived in the atmosphere and it has a very high radiative efficiency; the result of this is a very high global warming potential. Calculated over a 100-year timeframe, a single molecule of PFTBA has the equivalent climate impact as 7,100 molecules of CO2.

There is no known way to destroy the greenhouse gas, PFTBA, in the lower atmosphere. It can only be destroyed in the upper atmosphere.  This means that the world is stuck with this incredibly damaging chemical lingering all around us for possibly 100’s of years.

Related Article: Germany Sets Example for Global Climate Battle

So many greenhouse gases, so many climate change deniers... http://www.learner.org/

So many greenhouse gases, so many climate change deniers… http://www.learner.org/

This news has been released and undoubtedly seen by the The House Science, Space and Technology Committee. Unfortunately 17 out of 22 members on the committee are vehement climate change deniers, so it is unlikely this news will incite any motivation for change. Follow that last link for a list of all the climate change deniers in the U.S. congress and how much money they’ve made from the fossil fuel industry. Sometimes denial makes you filthy rich.

Climate change deniers have given rise to very powerful special interest energy gangs, as well as creating what is aptly called ‘delusional America.’ It’s a big world out there fellow citizens, and a large number of countries are actually doing their best to run entirely on green energy.

Related Article: Delusional America and Special Interest Gangs

It’s 2013 and we only just discovered the presence of this new greenhouse gas. What else could be lingering all around us that we haven’t the slightest clue about?

 

 

Sources:

http://www.utoronto.com/

http://www.news.utoronto.ca/new-greenhouse-gas-discovered-u-t-chemists-has-highest-impact-global-warming

http://www.epa.gov/climatestudents/basics/today/greenhouse-gases.html

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/12/11/3045841/house-science-hearing-weather-climate/

http://thinkprogress.org/climate-denier-caucus/#AR