Month: March 2021

Keystone Pipeline Closure Means Less Toxic Oil Spills

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 27, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

The average person not well versed on the policy and science surrounding the Keystone Pipeline likely knows it is over 1,000 miles long running from Alberta, Canada to Nebraska, and it frequently spills. It takes no more knowledge than these two facts to realize the Keystone Pipeline has always been a problem, and its closure benefits the world. 

Heart of the matter. The Keystone Pipeline pumped 800,000 barrels per day of carbon intensive “tar sands” oil from Alberta, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska. The unrefined oil was then sent to Texas to be refined. According to a Vox article from March 18, 2021, Indigenous peoples from Alberta use the river, Athabasca River, that is used to mine the oil, which creates toxic waste that hurts the wildlife and pollutes the groundwater; the problem is not only environmental, though, as transient workers are linked to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, a crisis worth of much more discussion than is the purview of this article. 

The same Vox article also notes the environmental  problem certainly is not limited to Canada as, most notably, in 2017, in South Dakota, 210,000 gallons of oil leaked. The problem is so bad that the Supreme Court blocked the building of the pipeline over water until a full evaluation of bodies of water could be done. Since it appears the demand for that kind of oil is dropping and in light of the environmental and safety issues caused by the pipeline, it makes clear closing the pipeline was the correct choice. 

How this impacts you personally. Perhaps the greatest threat posed by the Keystone Pipeline centers around the risk to the water supply. Specifically, in Nebraska near the Keystone Pipeline sits the Ogallala Aquifer, which is the largest freshwater aquifer in the United States. If an oil spill occurred near this aquifer and the water supply contaminated, it may affect the entire country with catastrophic results. In other words, it could potentially affect the entire United States water supply were the Keystone Pipeline still in existence.

What you can do. As with any fossil fuel, the less people use them, the better off the environment will be. This is why it is so important to develop alternative energy sources such as wind, solar, and electric power. People can do small things to lessen dependence on oil such as turn off lights when not in use. Consider carpooling, walking, or taking the bus when you go places. There are many small things, but the more people do these things the better off everyone will be. 

Adding composting worms to the soil in our yards will dramatically improve the amount of carbon we can store in the soil. Climate solutions are much easier than we realize. Act today! CLICK here.

Next Steps:

  • Lessen your “carbon footprint” by taking small steps such as drinking from reusable bottles, cutting off lights, carpooling; 
  • Learn about the Keystone Pipeline and other oil pipelines; 
  • Consider purchasing an electric car; and 
  • Contact your local, state, and federal representatives to let them know you support green laws and regulations.

The Keystone Pipeline is shut down (for now), but that does not mean a new president will keep it shut down. Ultimately the dependence on fossil fuels is up to us, and, if we modify our behavior, it can go a long way to ending our dependence upon these fuels and greatly benefiting the environment in the process. 

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Unaccompanied Children at Border are Climate Refugees

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 25, 2021 by author & journalist Noreen Wise

For all of us climate warriors who are giving our 120 percent to educate the public on how to reduce our carbon footprints in our homes as well as our communities, which will result in lowering our atmospheric carbon level and curbing global warming, it seems as though we might know the ideal strategy that will help overcome the chronic border crossing challenge. After all, we’ve been posting and protesting about this for years.

Why is the media blaming Joe anyway? Has any president in the history of our country, (including George Washington and Abe Lincoln, who both had to transform our disunion of states following two divisive and destructive wars fought on our home soil), done more, in such a short period of time, all while in the midst of a global pandemic? Blaming Joe only makes the media look blind and disconnected.

The heart of the matter. Two-thirds of the unaccompanied children who’ve been streaming across the border since President Biden was inaugurated, are from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. These three countries clumped together just below the Mexican border, have extensive shorelines on both sides of the land bridge that connects North America to South America. Viewing the area on a map, it becomes crystal clear that the beautiful Caribbean Sea along the eastern Central American coast and the Pacific Ocean hugging the western coastline, are susceptible to rising ocean waters, particularly problematic in light of the flat coastal regions with all the farmland, are low-lying, making the area much more vulnerable to climate events, as well as flooding from heavy rains, which results in extensive soil erosion.

Seventy-eight percent of the land used for agriculture in Honduras though, is in the hills, with steep angles and eroded soil. Soil degradation, and high temperatures with little rain, makes the land useless for sustaining the country’s food supply. Soil instability has a cascading impact on jobs, food supply, and homes, potentially causing devastating mudslides when the skies eventually do open. Additionally, this fragile strip is affected much more extensively by the negative force of 28 trillion tons of ice melting into the sea in total since the 1990’s, 1.2 trillion tons per year, (this is a 60 percent increase since the 1990’s which saw an annual ice melt of only 760 billion tons per year). Rising sea levels, which have eroded millions of acres of farmland in Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, have resulted in extensive job loss, with no way to replace the disappearing employment opportunities anytime soon. Additionally, thousands of homes have been destroyed by the rising water levels.

Thus, the border crisis is essentially a degraded soil crisis which is rooted in the climate crisis. Please note, that any time the soil becomes so degraded it can’t be used to farm, it takes years to regenerate. 

What’s the solution? Most of the unaccompanied climate refugees are crossing the US border into Texas. Texas is where America’s largest carbon emitters are headquartered. It’s clear that the most effective and fair solutions are twofold. One, the corporate aggresors must step up and fund additional housing at the border for the climate refugees. And two, most importantly, the oil industry must fund soil regeneration back in the home countries. Soil health experts, Rattan Lal and Gabe Brown, have done extensive research and testing on how to regenerate denigrated soil like that found in Central America, brought about by the destructive heat and extended droughts caused by climate change. We simply must apply their techniques to the soil in the home countries. Vice President Kamala Harris is on her way to Central America to help stem the mass exodus, hopefully she can pull this off.

The border crisis is ultimately a financial crisis though, for both the US (in managing the massive influx of minors pouring in from those Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras) as well as the refugees who have lost their financial stability, homes, and occupations due to irresponsible corporate greed that has driven atmospheric carbon levels to staggering highs, hitting third world nations the hardest.

Please note, ExxonMobil had a net profit of $14.34 billion in 2019 and $20.84 billion in 2018. Let that sink in

There are approximately 9,000 independent oil and gas companies located in the United States. Their profit across the decades is staggering. They have the funds necessary to cover the costs required to expand the facilities at the border, while simultaneously covering the expense of regenerating the denigrated soil that’s causing the mass exodus back home. Corporate indifference and callous decision making by fossil fuel giants, dates back several decades. It’s time to require them to take stock and pay up. If anyone can convince these corporate offenders to do the right, and equitable, thing, it’s surely our new Vice President Kamala Harris. Good Luck, Kamala!

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Worse than Snakes and Alligators: Florida’s Toxic Algae Blooms Spell Death

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 20, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

All this time people believed Florida’s snakes and alligators might kill them, when, in reality, the toxic algae blooms are the real threat. For two decades, Florida has struggled to control blue green algae that periodically covers the bottom of Lake Okeechobee, which threatens the state’s tourist industry as well as the once pristine coastline and waters. The blooms are fueled by phosphorus, a key ingredient in fertilizers used on nearby farms and ranches in Orlando and Kissimmee. The algae has killed millions of fish, hundreds of manatees, and it causes ALS and Alzheimers and even death in people. The algae is only getting worse, in particular since 2016, and climate change exacerbates the problem.  

The heart of the matter. The problem mostly comes from 50,000 metric tons of phosphorus carpeting the bottom of Lake Okeechobee. Phosphorus flows out of the lake through rivers and streams and into the Atlantic Ocean all along the coast killing wildlife and putting a damper on tourism with its guacamole like sludge.

While the problem did not originate in Lake Okeechobee, as it likely came from farms and ranches along the Kissimmee River, the lake is the eye of the storm that threatens everything living in Florida. Considering algae thrives in heat, Florida’s problem (ultimately everyone’s problem) will only grow worse if drastic steps are not taken soon. 

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How this impacts you personally? Cynics may see this as akin to “save the rainforest,” which we certainly should do, but they cannot deny that this affects them personally. It does if they are concerned about dying, or, should they be lucky enough to survive, getting Alzheimer’s or ALS. The problem has gotten so bad that the State of Florida has twice declared states of emergency in 2016 and 2018.  Even Governor Ron DeSantis (no big friend to the environment or mask wearing) is concerned, enough so that he made cleaning up the toxic algae a focal point of his campaign, and he created the South Florida Water Management District, which is charged with protecting the water in 16 South Florida counties.

Of course, none of this will matter if something is not done to fix the pipes and sewer systems, which are rotting, and, from 2009-2019, released 1.6 million gallons of waste into the state’s estuaries. This waste also helped fuel the algae blooms, lest the state’s farmers and cattle ranchers think they are being unfairly picked on about this crisis.

Maybe you do not care about Florida, and you think the state only matters as a backdrop for Carl Hiaason novels. Yes, it is a great setting, but it is a HUGE state. And Florida’s problems usually become everyone’s problems.

What can you do about this? While you may not live in Florida, this still affects you. Perhaps you should consider not eating beef as much of it comes from Florida, and, as the algae shows, it is terrible for the environment. You may also want to consider donating money to organizations devoted to the clean up of the algae, or, you can Google “Florida’s toxic algae blooms” and see what else you can figure out.

Next Steps

  • Stop eating beef (or do not eat so much of it);
  • Consider your own carbon footprint and how this adds to climate change, which affects Florida and wherever anyone lives;
  • Donate to groups that help clean up the algae and the damage caused by it;
  • Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and urge them to pass environmental legislation and create regulations that actually protect and clean up the environment.

All of these problems seem so ominous because they are, but they are only going to get worse if people refuse to do anything.

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Overhauling Packaging of Consumer Brands | Circular Economy

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 19, 2021 by Noreen Wise

With the circular economy now in full swing outside the United Statesit becomes that much more clear just how many everyday items cannot be recycled. The reality is alarming. We’ll never reach zero waste unless we find innovative solutions to meet this imperative.

Further, even the plastics that can be recycled, often aren’t. Many items become litter or are tossed in a landfill. It takes 450 years for plastic bottles to decompose and 50 years for tin cans. Plastics breakdown into microplastics, which, unbelievably, land in our food supply as a result of their microscopic size slipping through water filters. On average, we humans eat 100 bits of microplastic with every meal. Microplastics cause toxicity that negatively impacts our life history.

Recycling existing plastic is highly beneficial. But, the following is a list of common plastic packaging/ additional items that cannot be recycled:

  • plastic single use shopping bags
  • straws
  • plastic film wrap
  • frozen food bags (nearly all vegetables are sold in non-recyclable bags)
  • cereal box liner
  • chip bags
  • granola bar, candy bar and nearly all snack items wrappers
  • six-pack rings
  • plastic hangers
  • any plastic containers that can’t be cleaned, ie toothpaste tubes
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The heart of the matter. After a year of Covid and staying home, who’s pumped to go out and live? Surely, the vast majority of us are. So, let’s factor the health impact of plastic into our decision making, for surely it will have health consequences. We must be more cognizant of all the plastic we consume.

Thankfully, innovative sustainability companies have gone plastic free for our safety. According to Healthy Human, the following are the top sustainable packaging innovations of 2019:

  • Loop, Returnity and Share Pack – companies that enable consumers to conveniently return packaging either by dropping off at targeted locations, or sending back in company provided totes
  • Plant based packaging – plastics made from plants
  • Edible packaging – typically this is seaweed, hopefully they’ll soon find additional alternatives
  • Plantable packaging – contains seeds so the packaging can be planted after use
  • Compostable plastic alternatives
  • Minimal packaging design
  • Upcycled or recycled packaging

What you can do about this. Consumers have the power to change the world by how we shop. Sustainable packaging solutions are here. All we need to do is grow the demand by purchasing the products and posting about it through social media. We must be motivated to seek out the brands packaged in recyclable material such as paper and thin cardboard, and use our wallets to influence corporations like Heinz and Coke to invest in overhauling their plastic packaging or lose their customers. If we all refuseto buy particular brands because of the packaging, corporations will make the change.

Nest steps:

  • Laundry detergent sheets wrapped in paper instead of the big plastic jugs
  • Toothpaste tablets replace plastic toothpaste tubes
  • Shampoo & conditioner bars, and ditch the plastic bottles
  • Glass packaged condiments and soft drinks instead of plastic may cut the cancer rate dramatically
  • New loop companies that package food in reusable containers; they pick up the empty containers each week when they drop off the next week’s grocery order

Let’s go! We can do this.

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Hanford Superfund Site, Part 2: Worry About It for 24,100 Years

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 13, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Do you ever think about the vastness of space? Or do you ponder if the universe never ends and is expanding for eternity? On a more personal level, perhaps Earth will be destroyed by an exploding star one day. Maybe you worry about such things, but here on Earth there are known threats, namely the Hanford Superfund Site that will be a problem for possibly 24,100 years, which is the half-life of Plutonium contained on the site, the source of Plutonium used to make the atom bomb dropped on Nagasaki that ended World War II. And the Hanford site is filled with Plutonium, which is buried in 177 storage tanks within sight of the Columbia River.

Heart of the Matter. Climate change has been exacerbated by the oil and coal industries. Nuclear energy appears to some a more viable alternative. Hardly. The Hanford Site shows this to be a faulty premise, especially when you consider what happens when the radioactive waste leaks into the ground and into the water. Because it happened in May 2017 when the Plutonium Uranium Extraction Facility, which holds rail cars full of solid waste, collapsed releasing tons of radioactive waste into the water and soil. Then in December 2018 radioactive dust was released from the site into the air. These are but a few of the problems, and it does not take a complex understanding of climate change and nuclear waste to imagine the scale of the problem.

Gallant Gold Media is planting a forest in North Dakota to remember those we lost to covid, thanks to the generosity of ranch owner Byron Richard. Join us in GreeningUp to help US hit our Paris Agreement targets. CLICK to see details.

How this impacts you personally? The chemical names are long, and the science is hard to follow. But the main reason people should care about the Hanford Site is a shot-glass of liquid out of one of the underground tanks is enough to instantly kill everyone within 100 yards. Of course the tanks have a history of leaking. In fact, whether or not this waste contained in 177 tanks leaks further may depend upon if the concrete that makes the tanks and the caulking that glues the tanks together can hold up long term.

As stated in the first article on this topic, there are 56 million gallons of high-level nuclear waste, made up of 1,800 chemicals. Right now 700,000 gallons of waste are classified as high-level, and that may leak into the Columbia River. And these chemicals will be around for thousands of years. If the tanks crack or otherwise fall apart, there is enough waste to wipe out civilization, a process that will surely be hastened by climate change if something is not done.

To bring this down to a more personal level, this waste causes and has caused bone cancer in many of the people, who live near the site. Imagine if this waste were spread on a wider scale, which could easily happen if it seeps into the groundwater, burns due to a forest fire, or some other calamity such as a flood occurs, all of which could be caused by climate change.

What can you do about this? Of course this problem is almost metaphysical because it will last for so long it is beyond comprehension, and it is on a physical scale that is difficult to grasp. But Congress controls the budget for the cleanup and containment efforts, so it really matters who is in Congress. It cannot be people against regulation, who care nothing for the environment. That will not work at all because it will only increase the risk for everyone. If you do nothing else, think about this when you vote next time.

Next Steps

  • Learn more about this problem. Check out the Hanford Challenge.
  • Educate yourself on nuclear waste.
  • Learn more about climate change.
  • As always, contact your local, state, and federal officials, in particular, Congress people, who may vote on legislation that affects Hanford and other sites like it.

The Hanford Site will likely always be a problem, but people can take steps to make sure the problem is contained. If it is not contained, it will be a disaster of cataclysmic proportions.

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Paper Towel Alternative! | Build Back Better

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 5, 2021 by Pamela Scaiff (Canadian)

When was the last time you reached for a paper towel to clean up a mess?  Has COVID got you using more? How much do you pay for paper towels each week?  Each month?  Each year?  Or in a lifetime?  Do the personal finance math and then the ecological math and you may find yourself questioning whether paper towels really add quality to your life!  Did you know that Americans use more paper towels per capita daily than either of their neighbours?!

My daughters, 29 and 26 years old, never had their gorgeous baby faces wiped with paper towels, their spilled milk mopped up with paper towels, or their bedroom windows cleaned with paper towels.  In 2021, they never think to buy paper towels for their own homes.  Oh, the power of motherhood to plant sustainable living habits into future generations!  Muahahahahahaaa!!!

I think I am a bit weird, but I find the commercials for paper towels as morbidly fascinating as zombie shows.  Just as I wonder how zombies can keep walking when they have no blood circulating to keep the muscles working, I wonder how come people reach for paper towels when they can use a kitchen cloth to wipe up a mess?

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The heart of the matter. In order to wipe dirty faces, mop up messes, and sop up bacon grease, Americans use 8.5 million trees per year plus 144.5 million gallons of water per year, to manufacture the paper towels they consume, according to The University of Minnesota, the EPA, and Statista. Add this loss of natural resources to the consumption of fossil fuels used to make paper towels, wrap them in plastic, and transport them to the local store might give some folks pause for thought.  Is this use of resources worth it when there are easy, cheaper alternatives?

Back in the 1980’s, paper was already an environmental issue, so my husband and I decided to kick some paper habits out of our lives.  The easiest was paper towels.  Heck, we could save money and the environment!  A win-win, as far as we were concerned!

We had a stack of rags and made more from old towels and shirts.   

Peter, the fastidious window cleaner, felt that paper towels were still the best for not leaving streaks on windows and mirrors.  That was then. I used to clean the windows with rags and then polish them with newspapers as the ink really made the glass shine!  Ok, so who am I kidding… I probably only did this once as Peter was passionate about clean windows so this chore rarely fell to me. Now, microfiber cloths work as well as paper towels. And now that Peter and I are friends, not husband and wife, I have to clean my own darned windows!

Sometimes, I wistfully dream of paper towels when cooking bacon, but less so now that my daughter’s boyfriend introduced me to baking bacon and letting the fat drip away!  I have a special cotton tea towel that I have been using as my bacon degreaser for years, but washing it was annoying… so baked bacon it is!  (And yes, not cooking bacon at all would be the better decision… one transition I have yet to make.)

Window cleaning and bacon degreasing used to be the only two tasks when paper towels seemed better than rags;  today,  microfibre cloths and baking are better than paper towels. 

You might wonder what to do with the paper towel alternatives.  Under my bathroom sink, I have a bowl for dirty rags, hankies, and dinner napkins which makes about a quarter laundry load each week.  They get washed, usually with towels on a hot wash.  By washing rags, I have one less kitchen bag of trash going to the curb each week.  

My rags take up less space than a two-roll pack of paper towels. 
My garbage bins are lighter. 
My purse is heavier.
My house is just as clean!

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Next Steps

  1.  Buy only paper towels made from recycled paper as at least you will save trees.  
  2. Bamboo paper towels are reusable and cost effective but they are transformed into rayon through a toxic process and are not compostable once they become rayon.  So although they are an alternative, be aware of this eco-trap.  
  3. Reduce the number of paper towels you buy. 
  4. Notice when you use paper towels.  What else is nearby that you can grab to wipe up that mess?  Becoming aware of our habits is the most important step in any transition. 
  5. Start stockpiling rags made from old clothes. 
  6. Purchase some good quality microfibre cloths and learn to take care of them. 
  7. Feel good about reducing your paper towel consumption and share that feeling with your friends and neighbours!  It is in the discussions that seeds of change are planted. 

Sources

https://www.theworldcounts.com/challenges/consumption/other-products/environmental-impact-of-paper/story

The environmental effects of paper production include deforestation, the use of enormous amounts of energy and water as well as air pollution and waste problems. Paper accounts for around 26% of total waste at landfills.

https://www.statista.com/statistics/275731/us-households-amount-of-paper-towels-used-within-30-days/#:~:text=The%20data%20has%20been%20calculated,of%20paper%20towels%20in%202020.

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2018/12/paper-towels-us-use-consume/577672/

EPA

http://www.mntap.umn.edu/industries/facility/paper/water/  17,000 gallons of water to make a ton of paper

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Hanford Superfund Site: An American Chernobyl Waiting to Happen

Washington (GGM) Analysis | March 4, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Before COVID-19 hit some Americans probably believed a magic forcefield shielded the country from events other less fortunate nations endured. Not anymore. In the fall of 2019, critics scoffed after watching the hit Netflix show, Cherynobyl, that Cherynobyl could not happen in the United States because Americans would be too well prepared. The Hanford Superfund nuclear site in Washington state has 56 million gallons of waste from plutonium, will take 50 years to clean up, and has caused cancer, dementia, and death. Ronan Farrow called it in a 2016 article, “an American Chernobyl.”

Heart of the Matter. The American government built the Hanford site in 1943 as part of the Manhattan Project. It later produced the plutonium that was used in the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, which ended World War II. At one point, it produced two-thirds of the plutonium in the United States, which resulted in 56 million of gallons of waste, waste that still exists and has leaked into the ground and water for decades, earning it the description, “the most toxic place in America.”

Gallant Gold Media is prepping to plant a forest in North Dakota to remember those we lost to covid, thanks to the generosity of ranch owner Byron Richard. Join us in GreeningUp to help US hit our Paris Agreement targets. CLICK to see details.

How this impacts you personally? Since 2010, 640 gallons per year of radioactive nuclear waste have been leaked from the Hanford site. Of course, this is just an estimate, and the U.S. Department of Energy improperly recorded or did not record many radioactive waste spills. Some of the waste reached the Pacific Ocean via the Columbia River 200 miles away, killing all of the fish in the river along the way.

In fact, in 2013, the governor of Washington admitted one tank was leaking up to 300 gallons of radioactive waste per year. The company in control of cleaning it up knew about the leaks and did nothing. This means thousands of gallons of radioactive nuclear waste are still out there spreading all over the country, which affects all of us. 

If you still are not convinced, the pollution is airborne as well.

The waste produced “air toxins,” which have spread to Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Colorado. These toxins along with others in the area surrounding Hanford have caused cancer, dementia, thyroid disorders, and other handicaps. 

Again, these are the things that we know about, and much is not known since private contractors and the United States government lied about it and covered it up for decades. Sadly, sites that take fifty years to clean up do not stay self-contained.

What can you do about this? So much damage has already been done, but that does not mean it needs to continue. The Trump administration created a rule that deemed 90% of the waste at the Hanford site low-level, a rule the Biden administration is trying to change.

What you can do is think before you vote. Learn the candidate’s stance on the environment, in particular clean-up issues and regulatory issues. Try and learn as much as you can about these issues. This is one of 4,000 superfund sites in the United States. Learn about the ones around you, and see if there are any groups you can join. These problems are not going away by themselves:

Next Steps

While, contrary to what Jay Gatsby said, we cannot change the past, at least we can try and clean it up.

  • Join groups advocating for cleaning up your local Superfund site(s);
  • Educate yourself about climate change and other environmental issues;
  • Contact local, state, and federal officials about environmental issues; 
  • Be skeptical of what the government does or does not tell you.

Hanford is terrible, but that does not mean it has to stay that way even if it takes 50 years to clean it up.

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