Month: October 2020

Our Microplastic Crisis and a Young First Responder

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 23, 2020 by Noreen Wise

Microplastics have become an urgent health and environmental crisis. These tiny toxic particles are literally everywhere. In our water. In our food. And in our bodies. The five (5) millimeter flecks, smaller than an ant, are made up of broken down larger plastic objects such as water and soda bottles, single-use plastic bags, multiple everyday products that we don’t think twice about, cosmetics and toothpaste for example, even our synthetic clothes that shed tiny bits of plastic while churning around in our washing machine.

Back in September 2019, science blogger Kevin Dervishi spelled out in Harvard University’s Science in the News very clearly to readers, that each of us is a first responder in this alarming crisis. Every single one of us needs to rush to act. For many, the message fell on deaf ears, which has resulted in a continued path forward toward a looming catastrophe. 

As gloomy as this may seem, a bright glimmer of hope shines through the dark clouds along the Chesapeake Bay in Northern Virginia. A youth conservation activist has been inspired and is responding to the urgent call to action. Carolyn Rohr, of Fairfax, VA, has stepped into the arena. 

During Carolyn’s junior year of high school, she followed the advice of her AP environmental science teacher, and filled out an application for the Youth Conservation Leadership Institute in Fairfax County, VA. While involved in YCLI over the summer, Carolyn seized the opportunity to research the impact microplastics have on the environmental health of the Chesapeake Bay after she discovered that microplastics are Chesapeake Bay’s biggest pollutant. This jarring fact was significant. Chesapeake Bay is a watershed connected to six Mid-Atlantic states, as well as the entire population of Washington DC, and serves more than 18 million people. The majority of microplastic particles slip through filters and into our water supply.

Carolyn presented her findings to a group of more than 50 accomplished adults over a Saturday morning Green Breakfast webinar. She created a lesson plan for 7th graders that aligned with Fairfax County’s educational requirements and included multiple activities. Her polished presentation was very powerful, inspiring immediate action. Her lesson plan would certainly be a positive influence for the 7th grade population in Northern Virginia, as well as communities across the country, inspiring increased involvement in acting on eliminating as much plastic from their daily lives as possible by forming plastic-free habits and choices.

Carolyn explained that there are three main ways that microplastics enter the Chesapeake Bay:

  • Plastics in landfills
  • Littering
  • Products that go down the drain

She outlined that toothpaste is a great example of how easy it is to unwittingly pollute our own water supply. She noted that cosmetics are another everyday example. Multiple brands of both products, contain microbeads, the abrasive exfoliant that is the essential ingredient for these particular product lines.

Carloyn cautioned webinar viewers that these microplastic particles release toxic chemicals, as well as trick organisms living in the water into believing they’re full when they’re not, so they often starve to death, and that microplastics also become part of the food web process.

Most importantly, Carolyn supplied valuable insights about what each and every one of us can do to reduce the toxic plastic we’re consuming.

  • Reduce single-use plastics
  • Recycle properly
  • Refuse products that contain microbeads, which shouldn’t be too difficult since they’re now banned in all 50 states
  • Volunteer to help cleanup rivers and streams
  • Most importantly SPREAD THE WORD

When I asked Carolyn what examples she could provide for how to spread the word, she suggested: “Social media is a great way to spread the word and spark change, it’s one of the main reasons that microbeads are being outlawed in the US. Setting an example is another great way to not only spread the word, but also to encourage action. People learn from each other; the more people you see doing something the more likely you are to follow along, that’s probably why the save the turtles anti-straw trend was so huge a year or two ago. But it has since faded.” 

This sounds wonderful. I’m all in on this!

Carolyn Rohr is a military brat, who was born in Jacksonville, NC and has lived in a diverse collection of cities across the globe, including Okinawa, Japan when she was a young and impressionable five year old. While in Okinawa, Carolyn and her family had a home close to the ocean, where she spent “a lot of time playing in the tide pools and looking at the interesting creatures.” Her family eventually settled in Northern Virginia where’s she’s lived for the past ten years. Carolyn spends most of her time outdoors, and often feels torn between her love of the ocean and her passion for the mountains. “I feel like I could spend my entire life in the mountains and I would be quite happy.” 

As a high school senior, Carolyn is busy planning for her future. She is aiming for a dual major in Film and Marine Science and hopes to attend either University of Miami in Florida or University of Delaware, “Both schools have amazing Marine Science programs that I would love to be part of.”

Carolyn has a powerful message for all of us. “‘Only you can be the change you wish to see in the world.’ – Ghandi. The only way to see the microplastic problem disappear completely is to go out into your community and play an active role in fighting against it.”

Science blogger Kevin Dervishi’s ears must be burning. Young first responders are taking bold steps to help move us all in the right direction. The 18 million along the Chesapeake Bay are greatly benefited by Carolyn’s dedication and hard work to improve the health of our watershed. Let’s do our part by following her excellent advice.

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Intense Workload at Election Offices | Human Error?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 21, 2020 by Noreen Wise

According to one recent report, there are roughly 6.5 million registered voters living outside the United States, which means there are many stakeholders who believe in our most basic democratic principle, the right to vote. And it seems that the majority of these living abroad — many whom happen to be employed by the US military and the US State Department — will indeed be following through and voting by mail.

Americans living abroad, have always relied upon the US Postal service to efficiently deliver their ballots. Their reliance on the dedication of US Postal Service employees, who heroically persevere through all types of intense weather situations and perilous global events, have always brought tremendous peace of mind. But this year, the most important presidential election ever, our confidence in the postal service is shaken to the core, as a result of the newly installed Postmaster General, Louis Dejoy.

Over the summer, Dejoy launchd what appears to have been an intentional post office dismantling campaign in an effort to undermine voters who planned on voting by mail, which had the potential of severely impacting the many millions across the continental United States who planned to vote-by-mail during the covid pandemic, but also the potential election-changing 6.5 million who vote from abroad.

With this as the backdrop in the lead-up to November 3, 2020, it’s completely understandable why so many towns and counties across the country decided to offer early voting in their communities, as well as the mail-in-ballot option for all who submitted a vote-by-mail application, and had it approved.

Because this is a first time crisis — voting during a global pandemic which is being managed by a president who spends every waking moment trying to convince the public it’s no big deal — no town or county, especially those with a majority of registered Democrats, could have predicted, and thus planned for, the volume of citizens who would respond to the opportunity of both main-in-ballots and voting early.

The fact that so many election offices were overwhelmed on such a grand scale should inspire an instant response. However, in order to solve this problem, communities have to first acknowledge the problem exists. Election offices across the country ned more help. If I experienced a one-off malfunction, I can’t help but believe there are many others with similar stories. We have to be our own best advocate.

I’m covering climate action up in Canada during the pandemic, and learned the hard way that human error can potentially impact election results, unless we are willing to step up and act quickly. Thankfully, there are angels off in the wings, with sharp critical thinking skills, who know how to act swiftly and find a way through, when everything falls apart.

•I submitted my vote-by-mail application online a few days after Labor Day, following the recommended guidelines of 45 days before election.

•I had the option of selecting between having the ballot emailed to me, or mailed. I obviously selected “email.” What could go wrong with that?

•I expected to receive it the next day, but nothing arrived. The following day, when again there was no email in my inbox, I phoned my local election office. “You must be patient. We’ve received so MANY mail-in-ballot applications.”

•I patiently waited a week, nothing. So I called again. “Please be patient, we’re overwhelmed. Please don’t worry, you’ll definitely receive it.”

•I then waited an entire month. Still nothing. I began to panic, and last week called again. After waiting on hold for an hour, I was informed that my application for mail-in-ballot was denied. “DENIED? Why?” … “We don’t send ballots to PO boxes.” … “But you were supposed to email, not send.” … “Oh, right. I see that now. The employee who was checking the application must have missed that. She made a mistake.” … “What? Can you email it right now?” … “Early voting just started and we’re mobbed. We’ve been working 16 hours per day.” … “But I want to vote too, please email my ballot.”

•To make a log story short, I called back a few hours later. An angel election office employee gave me her personal work number and email, told me to call back if I didn’t receive the ballot by the end of the day. She worked the phones, but would make sure the woman who was emailing ballots, emailed mine. She then followed up through email, as well as called back later that night, after I left a message. She wouldn’t let this go until I confirmed that I’d received my emailed ballot.”

American heroes like this election worker, are ultimately the glue and the backbone of our democracy. Her determined, resourceful ingenuity, enabled one more vote to be cast during this election to save our democracy. M. L. renewed my hope that we’ll succeed with this vital mission. Thank you so much! ✅

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Which Vegan Milk is Best For the Planet? | Vegan Scene

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 20, 2020 by Sarah J. Kings

According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), approximately 270 million dairy cows live on farms and factory farms across the globe. The dairy industry produces greenhouse gas emissions that negatively impact the environment and contribute to climate change. Additionally, “poor handling of manure and fertilizers can degrade local water resources. And unsustainable dairy farming and feed production can” also “lead to the loss of ecologically important areas, such as prairies, wetlands, and forests.”

Just one glass of cow’s milk produces .63 kg of carbon emissions. Additionally, that same glass requires 1.79 square meters of land and 125.6 liters of water to make. Because of the negative effects of producing dairy, many lobbyists and organizations encourage people to swap out cows milk for vegan alternatives. One Green Planet– among other companies- is currently asking people to “ditch dairy.” 

With the increase in popularity of vegan options like almond, cashew, rice, and soy milk, you may be wondering which one to choose. Luckily Science Focus has come out with an easy way to measure the impact of the various vegan alternatives to dairy milk. The milk with the lowest carbon emissions per glass is almond milk-which produces .14 kgs- followed by oat, which produces .18 kgs. The milk with the lowest land usage per glass is rice at .07 square meters. Lastly, the vegan milk responsible for the least amount of water needed in production is soy- which uses 5.6 liters- followed closely by oat, which uses 9.6 liters.

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Twitter: @oatly

If you are looking to make a significant impact in the fight against climate change, the proof is in the vegan pudding! Ditching dairy and swapping it out for a vegan alternative will lower carbon emissions and reduce land and water usage. As for which alternative to dairy milk is the best for the environment, there are two winners. Choosing almond milk or oat milk for your morning coffee or bowl of cereal is a vegan and eco-friendly way to start the day.

Tl;dr

  • 270 million dairy cows are living on farms and factory farms across the globe
  • One glass of cow’s milk produces .63 kg of carbon emissions
  • One glass of cow’s milk requires 1.79 square meters of land and 125.6 liters of water to make
  • Almond milk has the lowest carbon emissions per glass
  • Rice milk uses the least land to make
  • Soy milk uses the least water to make
  • The most eco-friendly milk options are Almond and Oat

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Amy Coney Barrett Unsure of Climate Change, a Scientific Fact

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 16, 2020 by Michael Wells, Attorney @slnc01

On October 14, 2020, Trump Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett, told Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) she could not say whether climate change exists because it is a “politically contentious issue.” She also confessed to Senator John Kennedy (R-LA) she has no firm view on climate change. A skeptic might ask what her view on climate change has to do with cases that might come before her when she sits on the Supreme Court. Quite a bit, actually, especially in light of the lawsuits filed by a number of States’ Attorneys General against Exxon in the past few years.

The New York State Supreme Court in 2019 considered whether Exxon lied to investors about the company’s contribution to climate change and thus violated securities law. The Court ruled in Exxon’s favor, according to NPR, stating there was no evidence Exxon hid evidence of climate change.

This should signal alarm bells across the globe. Climate change exists, and of course the oil companies knew and know about it. It is the greatest danger any of us will face in our lifetimes.

Moreover, when juxtaposed with Barrett’s testimony, that she could not comment on climate change even to acknowledge it exists, it does not bode well for the environment. Given the lawsuits against Exxon and other energy giants, it stands to reason that climate change is a major legal issue.

Barrett claimed she is not a scientist, but one does not need to be a scientist to accept climate change as a fact. And, if it is accepted as a fact, then that certainly affects how she would consider a case.

It is entirely possible (likely even) that, if Biden prevails, the Justice Department will pursue these climate change cases, thereby forcing Barrett to rule on this issue.

Hypothetically speaking, assume the previous New York case made it to the Supreme Court, and at the heart of the case was whether an oil company was committing fraud by hiding climate change from investors. If Barrett were to believe climate change does not exist or was unsure it existed, then her view of fraud would be very different. Then she might rule in favor of the oil giant thus allowing them to continue to pollute, destroy the environment, and unleash a further parade of horribles, possibly another COVID-19 type pandemic. 

Again, this is just speculation, but is it not all speculation as to what kinds of cases Barrett will hear? It is a question or probability. She will hear cases about abortion, birth control, searches and seizures, voting rights, climate change, and myriad other issues none of us ever hear about. In all likelihood, she will hear a case on climate change and likely very soon. 

In fact, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison filed a lawsuit on behalf of the citizens of Minnesota against Exxon, Koch Industries, and the American Petroleum Institute, in the Spring of 2020, alleging the fossil fuel industry knew the damage these fossil fuels would cause the environment.

The cases are coming. It is only a matter of time before a case goes before the Supreme Court. 

Climate change affects everyone on the planet, and it is a problem that everyone will need to work together to solve. We can do our part such as reducing our carbon footprint and also by planting trees. But we also need to be able to count on a nominee to the Supreme Court to accept this established science because, if she does not, what hope do any of us ever have that climate change will ever get under control?

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Planting Trees for Love | Remembering Covid Victims

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 4, 2020 by Noreen Wise

There’s never been a more important time to plant trees than right now. After massive wildfires scorched millions of acres of forests across the western United States, to the ongoing need to cut atmospheric carbon levels in order to reduce global warming, trees are now more important than ever for sustaining human life on our planet. The only way our children will have mature trees tomorrow, is if we plant seedlings today.

At the World Economic Forum in Davos Switzerland in January 2020, hundreds of nations across the globe committed to planting a trillion trees by 2050. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s 2016 ranking, the United States is 33.93 percent forested area. Sadly, prior to Davos, the United States was hovering well below its potential for tree planting despite how much room we have to plant trees. Canada on the other hand, has been a top performer, planting 500 million trees in 2019. During this same year, the US National Forest Foundation planted 5 million trees, nearly double their 2018 total, which is aggressive, but a long way off Canada’s 500 million. There doesn’t appear to be a national data base keeping track of US totals that incorporates tree planting in local communities on private property, so the total number of trees planted in US for any given year is difficult to calculate. But what we do know, is that the US chopped down 36 million trees in 2019, and in 2020, in addition to the millions of leveled trees we ax on an annual basis, we lost 30 billion mature trees in the West Coast wildfires, which is staggering.

Ethiopia is a 2020 tree planting champion, succeeding at putting 350 million trees in the ground in 12 hours this past July 2020. The US needs to rush to catch up. In most states, trees can only be planted a few months out of the year. There’s a window in both the spring and the fall. Thus, it’s vitally important that we take advantage of each and every opportunity. Homeowners have to be the drivers of our national tree planting efforts if we’re going to succeed.

Planting a tree to remember someone whose life was cut short — whether that be from covid, gun violence, wildfires and other natural disasters, a car accident, cancer, and multiple other tragedies — or is still alive but but going through a very difficult time, is a great way of showing empathy and letting others know a loved one is being thought of regularly. It also motivates us into action. This wonderful way of keeping spirits alive and communities full of hope, helps families and communities heal, while at the same time saving the planet. 

This fall, we are specifically focused on planting trees to remember covid victims in our communities:

Please remember me
By planting a tree

There is no Planet B…
So let my life cut short by tragedy
Help to save humanity 

What better way to Rest in Peace

~Trees for Love, Remember Me Tree Campaign, 
by Gallant Gold Media

Gallant Gold Media is distributing 300 FREE redbud and button bush seedlings on Saturday, October 24, 2020, from 12 noon – 3 PM at GMU, courtesy of Fairfax ReLeaf. Residents in Fairfax County and Northern Virginia can register to pick up a free seedling at GMU so that homeowners and businesses throughout the area can plant trees and bushes this fall to remember all those in our community who’ve been lost to covid. Click here to register. This is first come first serve, so please register ASAP.

If your business has any clients or employees who have loved ones to covid, a redbud seedling is a wonderful gift to let them know you care and empathize with what they’re going through. Redbud’s are a top choice to feature in the front yard landscape, with beautiful pink spring blossoms and very easy to care for while they grow.

Again, limited quantity, with some HOAs ordering large bundles, and first come first serve, so please register ASAP.

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