Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The E.U. Proposed Plastic Bag Usage Reduction: A Victory For The Environment?

It might be yet too soon to assess any positive environmental impact, but will the recent proposed European Union plastic bag usage reduction represent a “victory” for out environment?

By: Ringo Bones

On a global basis, crude oil based plastic bags had grown in usage from almost zero after World War II to almost 500-billion individual plastic bags a year as of recent count, that’s almost 1-million individual plastic bags per minute. Single-use crude oil manufactured plastic bags used to carry our groceries had been a bone of contention for environmental activists and tenured environmental scientists / ecologist alike for more than 50 years because their non-biodegradable nature causes them to clog our municipal drainage systems, chokes up our landfills and they have deleterious effects on the gastrointestinal tract of marine organisms both big and small, not to mention the recently uncovered deleterious effects of crude oil derived plastic bags of producing hormone mimics during their ultraviolet light exposure during daylight hours in the open that disrupt the reproductive cycle of ecologically vital marine and littoral organisms. But will a recent proposed European Union measure to drastically reduce our dependence and usage of crude oil derived plastic bags lessen everyone’s negative impact on our environment?

A recent survey in the European Union has shown that on average a typical E.U. citizen on average use about 466 individual pieces of plastic bags a year during their visits to the local grocery. Portuguese shoppers are the heaviest plastic bag users in the E.U. using 666 individual pieces of plastic bags a year, while Danes use the least using on average 4 individual pieces of plastic bags a year. Even though the E.U. proposal sets to reduce plastic bag usage by half, most E.U. based environmental groups say they should emulate Danish shoppers of using only 4 individual pieces of plastic bags a year when doing their groceries.  Charging or taxing plastic bag usage in some E.U. countries during the past few years had been somewhat successful in the reduction of single-use crude oil sourced non-biodegradable plastic bags winding up in landfills and clogging municipal drains, but only by a few percentage points on a statistical basis. Will awareness and stronger legislation be a better solution?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Coughing Fish: Environmental Canary in the Coal Mine?

Even though we already have sophisticated test instruments to assess levels of environmental pollution but can a “coughing fish” provide a better and faster water quality assessment? 

By: Ringo Bones 

Environmentalists had always been looking for ways to monitor water pollution are turning for help to creatures that have a vested interest in clean water – as in fishes. French technicians began the trend in 1973; they checked the waters of the Oise River by observing one peculiar kind of fish behavior: trout that are swimming upstream reverse their direction upon encountering pollution. Back in April 1974, scientists of the US Environmental Protection Agency announced the discovery of another potentially useful piscatorial reaction in the behavior of bluefish, sunfish, flathead minnows, trout and salmon. 

The researchers had found out that the fish began to cough more frequently when concentrations of mercury and copper became great enough to interfere with growth and reproduction. Aquatic biologist Robert Drummond, who directed the study, suggested that monitoring devices could be installed in waters near industrial and waste-treatment plants to record fish coughing and sounds an alarm if there were any sudden increase. Environmentalists would thus be warned that a plant in the vicinity was releasing a potentially harmful effluent into the water and would be able to act immediately to halt the discharge. 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Rockefeller Foundation Quitting Crude Oil Due To Climate Change?

Some might see it as a cheap publicity ploy taking advantage in the wake of the upcoming UN Climate Change Summit but do we all benefit from the Rockefeller Foundation quitting crude oil?

By: Ringo Bones

As someone who experienced the hardships that resulted from both Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm first hand, it seems that the Rockefeller Foundation suddenly deciding to quit their hedge-fund funding from crude oil and other non-renewable fossil fuels almost cold turkey 23 years after Operation Desert Storm seems like a cheap publicity ploy taking advantage of the upcoming UN Climate Change Summit this September 23, 2014 and in the wake of the very recent Climate Change action demonstrations in New York City back in Sunday, September 21, 2014 that also took place almost simultaneously in other 160 countries like the UK, Afghanistan to Australia over world governments’ lack of action on tackling the root cause of climate change – i.e. excessive fossil fuel usage. If the Rockefeller Foundation – a charitable foundation largely funded by the big crude oil boom of the 20th Century – quits crude oil and other non-renewable fossil fuels and switch to greener renewable energy sources, will it benefit the rest of us, the lowly 99-percent?

Given that the United States is now the world’s leading producer of crude oil – and it has been since the middle of January 2013 – America’s Big Oil heir, the Rockefeller Foundation - suddenly quitting crude oil almost cold turkey could send anyone beholden to Capitol Hill’s “Crude Oil Lobby” in a suicidal panic. Fortunately, it hasn’t, but to those in the know and who have no control whatsoever on how their pension funds are invested are now doubtful of the future of their pension funds now that the Rockefeller Foundation has quit crude oil, coal and other fossil fuel based hedge-fund funding almost cold turkey.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

100th Anniversary of the Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon

The last surviving bird may have died 100 years ago, but did you know that the passenger pigeon used to be the most abundant bird in North America?

By: Ringo Bones

Even though this poor bird's extinction happened 100 years ago and the reason why it became extinct is an indictment on how we inadvertently and tacitly support the globalized corporate world's callous disregard to our planet's fragile ecology, one could be labeled as a "crazy alarmist" if he or she told the mid-Victorian era ornithological community that the passenger pigeon will eventually be driven into extinction. In hindsight, it is now quite ironic that what was then the most abundant wild bird - not just in the North American continent - but the whole world has ever known at the time should have become the very symbol of wildlife extinction.

The passenger pigeon, estimated to number perhaps 5-billion individual birds in the heyday of famed ornithologists Audubon and Wilson, had a population as great as that of all other breeding land birds in the United States at that time combined. Although the last wild bird was shot in March 1900, a few lived on in captivity until the passenger pigeon named Martha - the then lone survivor - died in the Cincinnati Zoo back on September 1, 1914, at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time.

As we reflect on the 100th anniversary of the extinction of this once abundant North American bird species, the passenger pigeon were once esteemed for their delicate flavor; their crowded nesting grounds and communal flights made them very east prey to wholesale shooting and netting. Some passenger pigeon meat supply companies ever resorted to dynamiting flocks just to meet the demands of rising restaurant demands in the New York hotel and restaurant boom of the 1850s that were hooked to the "tasty" passenger pigeon meat. By 1880, it was already too late to save them as the last wild passenger pigeon was shot in 1900 and the last individual bird - named Martha - was the last one to die in the Cincinnati Zoo, thus marking the passenger pigeon's exact time of extinction almost to the exact second back in September 1, 1914.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Is The Recent Ebola Outbreak Caused By Endangered Wildlife Poachers?

Though the CDC’s Atlanta main headquarters’ Special Pathogens Branch has yet to trace the 2014 Ebola outbreak’s “Patient Zero”, is there a possibility that the recent outbreak came from an illegal wildlife poacher?  

By: Ringo Bones 

During the 1995 Ebola outbreak, Anthony Sanchez, the then head epidemiologist of the Centers for Disease Control’s Special Pathogens Branch had managed to trace the 1995 Zaire Ebola outbreak back past the unfortunate lab technician to an earlier patient at Kikwit’s hospital – an illegal charcoal maker who probably picked up the disease in the jungle where he worked. Yet, at the time, Sanchez concedes that this still leaves a wide range of crannies where the Ebola virus might be hiding. A typical illegal charcoal maker in Africa would typically head into the deepest recesses of a government protected jungle wildlife preserve to lessen the chances of being caught by the preserve’s park rangers while cutting down a tall tree to then burn it in a pit he’d dug, making the original source of the Ebola virus anywhere from the top of the forest canopy down to some subterranean animal. Given the various suspected source of the infection, is it possible that the 2014 Ebola outbreak might have started in some “unfortunate” wildlife poacher? 

Given the increased demand of illegal African-sourced endangered species products like rhinoceros horn, elephant ivory, etc. in the increasingly affluent middle-class of Mainland China, there’s a good chance that a poacher who frequents into the deepest recesses of Africa’s protected natural wildlife preserves to poach protected species could become infected with Ebola – or a recent unknown strain – and inadvertently spread it once the poacher visits a frontier town to secretly sell his illegally poached wares to some middleman who will later export it to Mainland China and other East Asian markets with a high demand for endangered wildlife products. Health authorities in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and the Ivory Coast had recently advised their citizens to stay away from bush mean in order to avoid catching Ebola. And given that the recent global economic slowdown probably resulted in the cutbacks of the number of personnel guarding Africa’s various wildlife preserves, it is very likely that the “Patient Zero” of the 2014 Ebola outbreak could be an illegal wildlife poacher?  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

President Obama’s Latest Emissions Limiting Guidelines: Good for the Environment?

Will the proposed new guidelines by President Obama on slashing carbon dioxide emissions by up to 30 percent by the year 2030 finally mitigate the worst effects of climate change?

By: Ringo Bones 

Maybe it was probably the recently published NASA’s satellite images showing the West Antarctic ice shelf melting and crashing into the sea that will increase the possibility of a catastrophic sea level rise by the 22nd Century that finally prompted the general public to take the issue of climate change much more seriously. Fortunately, the Obama administration finally bares a proposed coal fired power plant greenhouse gas emissions guidelines that finally pleased the majority of American environmentalists. Unfortunately, Washington’s coal lobby has been up in arms of the proposed emissions guidelines, warning of a catastrophic economic decline if it gets the green light at Capitol Hill. FOX News, The US Republican Party and Chris Hamilton – West Virginia Coal Association chair – all have critical views on what they call as President Obama’s “War on Coal”, but the good news is that if the latest proposed emissions limiting guidelines could cut up to 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from American coal fired power plants by the year 2030.   

Unlike the 8-year tenure of former US President George W. Bush, which had been a “paradise” for climate change deniers and those who profit from it, US president Barack Obama has recently consulted and negotiated with the US Environmental Protection Agency – with EPA administrator Gina McCarthy - back in Monday, June 2, 2014, on new guidelines to slash carbon dioxide and other industrial greenhouse gas emissions from coal fired power plants in order to limit the most catastrophic impact of climate change and sea level rise. Fortunately, the latest proposed emissions guidelines are based on the latest peer-reviewed climate research and not from coal mining and crude oil profit projections of the biggest American based fossil fuel extraction companies. Given that a typical coal fired power plant burns as much as 16-tons of coal a day, some of them will probably be shut down permanently and President Obama says departure form coal burning based power generation could open up new business opportunities for the American wind turbine and solar power generation energy sector. 

The latest carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions data shows that American coal fired power plants produce 40 percent of the country’s overall carbon dioxide emissions and on a per capita basis, every American has on average two times the carbon footprint of a typical Mainland Chinese citizen. But the proposed emissions curb guidelines have had the Washington DC coal lobby up in arms and warns that the entire state of West Virginia’s coal industry could collapse at the cost of millions of jobs. Political rhetoric aside, many American environmentalists had been very wary of the Washington DC’s fossil fuel extraction industry lobby since the mid 1990s for their notoriety of manipulating Evangelical Christianity’s religious dogma to benefit their own profitable ends.  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 UN Climate Change Report: Too Alarmist?

Given that it resulted some climate scientists withdrawing their names from the recent UN IPCC climate change findings report, is the report too alarmist?

By: Ringo Bones

Given that climate change research has been hijacked not only by powerful commercial interests of big crude oil and dirty coal extraction and processing companies but also of political interests funded by “big oil” and “big coal” commercial entities, who’s telling the truth has never been so polarized by not only where your political and religious allegiances lie but also where you lie in the commercial transaction of our still largely polluting energy production means. It has been said that back in 2012, carbon dioxide emissions by all the fossil fueled power plants around the world is 200 times that produced by all of the world’s volcanoes. Given the sobering statistics, is climate change really irreversible and already done its worse as said in a recent UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report?

Most of us are probably old enough to remember the cautionary tales on the consequence of our runaway fossil fuel burning lifestyle in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth – especially on how Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans back in 2005 might have been primarily caused by our largely preventable greenhouse gas emissions wreaking havoc on the earth’s delicate climate. Even though some heads of states of the leading industrialized countries are announcing their long term plans to wean themselves away from extensive fossil fuel burning to more earth friendly renewable power generating means like wind turbines and solar. But have we already thrown enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to have irreversibly damaged our delicate climate system?