Tag: Michael Wells

Concrete Kills: Burdens Outweigh the Benefits

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 25, 2021 by Michael Wells

After water concrete is the most widely used substance in the world. But this does not mean it is safe. Concrete is responsible for 8% of global CO2 emissions. It outweighs the combined mass of every tree, bush, and shrub on Earth, and it hardens and degrades slowly. Joni Mitchell once wrote a song about paving paradise to put up a parking lot, and that has already happened. 

Companies and governments have stripped mountains, ripped sand out of beaches, and taken lake and ocean water to feed the massive demand for concrete, the substance that produces buildings for the modern world. Concrete takes so much from the environment, and, in return, the manufacturing of concrete belches CO2 into the atmosphere and spreads harmful particles in the air that causes cancer and respiratory ailments. And it exacerbates the carnage of hurricanes like Katrina and Harvey. It did so by preventing water from being absorbed into the concrete covered ground. In short, concrete is a menace that we all live and work in, on, around, and near.

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Heart of the matter. No material has made the building of the modern world more possible from the construction of the Pantheon in ancient Rome to the Empire State Building. None of it would have been possible without concrete. But that has come at a huge price to the environment, animals, and people. 

“Unfortunately, a cement plant makes for a horrible neighbor,” writes Fred Siegel in his book, Environmental Hazards: Are you Exposed? It is one of the least regulated industries on the planet, and it is largely run by organized crime. What a scheme: perhaps the world’s greatest polluter run by the worst criminals, which makes dead bodies entombed in concrete foundations seem almost quaint by comparison. From thousands of concrete plants that are everywhere it produces mercury, cement kiln dust, burns toxic waste (while lying about it), produces cancer causing particulate matter, and uses toxic gases and metals. 

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How this impacts you personally. Concrete is in your backyard, and under your feet as you read this article. You drive on it, play on it, and your house, office, and apartment sit on it. You cannot escape it. The problem is two-fold: the production of the concrete is extremely harmful, and the concrete itself is harmful. As the saying goes, they get you coming and going, they being the industry with a bottomless need for production that has the ear(s) of most politicians. 

Take Harris County where Houston, Texas sits: it has 188 concrete plants due to there being no zoning laws in Texas. In 2015, 5,200 premature deaths were caused by particulate matter from concrete according to a study done by Rice University. The study states concrete production is one of the deadliest forms of air pollution because it produces massive amounts of CO2 and other harmful chemicals, and the dust it produces causes cancer, bronchitis, COPD, and other breathing issues. 

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Unfortunately, concrete plants are located disproportionately in poor neighborhoods and communities of color. Another disturbing fact is ⅓ of concrete batch plants are a short walk from a school or a daycare. 

As if all of these facts were not disturbing enough, there is a company in Scotland that wants to sell you concrete made of toxic ash. No, this is not an Onion article. Given the prevalence of coal ash in the United States, this type of business could easily take off  because the EPA does very little to regulate the concrete industry. And why is that? Because it is everywhere, and it contributes to most people who are in Congress. Therefore, nothing is done about it.

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What you can do. Be loud. Be vocal in your opposition to using concrete. Tell everyone you can, we need to regulate this industry and do all that we can to find other viable building materials. Surely this dinosaur (no offense to dinosaurs) of a building material can be replaced by something more ecological. Besides, was that building in Miami that recently collapsed built of concrete in a city that is sinking?

Do you want more of that?

Next Steps

  • Call your government representatives at the local, state, and federal levels, and let them know you want something done about concrete;
  • Do research on the internet; and 
  • Boycott companies that pollute when they make concrete.

Concrete is everywhere, and it comprises most buildings in one way or another. It does not always have to be that way though. Concrete may dry quickly and take forever to diminish, but that does not mean the future is already set in stone or concrete, rather. Things can change if we want them to change. 


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Miami Destined to Be Under Water

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 21, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

By 2100 the ocean will cover one-third of Miami. This means at least eight-hundred thousand people or one-third of the population will be displaced, making a large portion of the city uninhabitable. With this in mind, in 2019,  the State of Florida passed a law, which removed the requirement that a property owner obtain a permit before chopping down a tree. Now trees can be cut down with impunity. Miami’s sea level rose one foot from the early 1900s until 1993, and it rose five inches since 1993. It is only a matter of time before the whole city is flooded.

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A September 29, 2020 article from Yale University’s School of the Environment argues Miami will eventually be swallowed by the ocean. The article attributes this to Miami’s location, the weather, climate change, and continued building and development in the Miami area.

The problem is exacerbated by Miami sitting atop a limestone aquifer, which allows sea water to seep in through the ground even before the rising sea levels overtake the city. This problem is exacerbated by the massive amount of multimillion dollar development done in Miami, primarily in the form of oceanfront highrises. Given the lack of tree planting, heavy buildings, and soft ground, it is a recipe for disaster. 

One effort to save Florida, and Miami in particular, is an initiative urging people to plant mangrove trees in their yards. Mangroves serve to hold the ground together, thus preventing erosion, but they also sop up water and other moisture. 

The world loses fifteen billion trees per year, and, since civilization began, forty-six percent of trees have been removed. To add a little context to this, Florida has seven billion trees. 

Time to face the music. In order to succeed at carbon drawdown, we have to return to the Garden of Eden. Very exciting! #ActNow Take a listen.

This is a complex problem, but the 2019 law removing the permitting requirement to cut down trees certainly hurt the situation in Miami. The law is called “Private Property Rights,” which is an absurd title because it makes the destruction of the environment a deprivation of liberty question. It is not, really, because the purpose of the original law was to preserve trees, and, ultimately, blunt the impact of climate change. Now, however, this will be more difficult. 

Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005 showed what happened to cities below sea level when the right kind of storm hits. Something like this will happen in Miami eventually, and Miami will be largely under water. 

From not wearing masks to cutting down trees that do not need to be removed, Americans have a self-destructive desire that likes to masquerade as “individual rights.” In a perverse way, this misguided notion of freedom will ultimately lead to the destruction of the environment in the United States with Miami being only one example in this ongoing literal and metaphorical flood. 


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Chopping Down Trees Creates Legal Liability

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 19, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Trees provide everything from oxygen to habitats for animals, yet they are chopped down with impunity. The damage to the environment is incalculable. To put it into perspective, however, half the number of trees exist now than those in existence when humans first evolved; fifteen billion trees are cut down annually; and ten percent of climate change is attributable to chopping down trees. Environmental carnage aside, legal liability and criminal liability exist for cutting down trees that do not belong to the harvester.

The legal terms most closely associated with cutting down and removing trees that do not belong to the harvester are “timber trespass” (mistakenly harvesting trees from another’s property) and “timber theft” (stealing trees from someone’s property). Timber trespass deals more with the civil end whereas timber theft can involve civil and criminal penalties. It varies from state to state. Nevertheless, lawsuits are filed for large sums of money over taking timber that does not belong to the harvester. 

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In South Carolina, as of 2016 one-hundred cases per year are investigated and pursued with a value of between $500,000 and $600,000. A man in North Carolina illegally cut timber near Asheville, the value of the trees owned by a conservancy assessed at $1,000, but the mill rights to the timber of $25,000-$30,000. 

Illegal tree harvesting tends to be less of a problem in North Carolina, which has a larger population, than it is in Maine, which has a smaller population and vast swaths of uninhabited forests. Maine has over one-thousand complaints of timber theft each year.

The damage to the environment cannot be separated from the legal issues that arise from stealing trees, which are property, but they are far more than that to every living thing. In the most basic sense, illegal harvest of trees contributes to the problem of deforestation:

Over half the world’s land-based plants and animals live in forests, and three quarters of the world’s birds live in and around forests. It does not take a science PhD or intricate knowledge of environmental science or ecology to understand that the more trees that are cut, the more environmental problems that will follow.  

And it is a problem all over the world from the rainforests in South America to the United States to even Ireland:

All of it is interconnected, and every time a tree is cut down (regardless if it is replaced), the owner of the tree is impacted as is the rest of the planet. While planting new trees can certainly mitigate the problem, it cannot recapture what is lost every time a tree is cut down. Sadly, the only way to stop harvesting of trees may be filing lawsuits because people and corporations tend to respond the most when their money is on the line. 

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Golf Courses and the “Good Life” May Kill You

Washington (GGM) Analysis | June 12, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

You do not need to be a character in a Lifetime movie to be poisoned by arsenic. Same goes for some other deadly chemical. Just spend time on a golf course or near one. Contrary to what golf affocinadios claim, golf courses are not good for the environment even though many of the courses look like a cross between Xanadu and Shangri La. Pesticides, herbicides, rodenticides and other chemicals abound on golf courses, according to Fred Siegel’s book Environmental Hazards: Are you Exposed?, and they seep into the soil and run off onto property nearby.

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Heart of the matter. In reality, golf courses are not any different than nuclear sites, chemical dumps, and most any other place where toxic chemicals are dumped, buried, or deposited. What makes them more troubling, perhaps, is they masquerade as environmental improvements. 

For example, on Long Island, 52 golf courses applied 192 different pesticides containing 50 different active ingredients, Siegel writes, and it was later found that these courses averaged 7 pounds of pesticides per acre when the national average was 1.5 pounds per acre. 

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In Virginia, the Battlefield Golf Club was built out of 1.5 million tons of toxic coal ash, and its owners sued Dominion Resources for selling them the coal ash laden dirt used to build the golf course. The course is situated in a planned community, and the EPA deemed the water underneath the course contaminated. A contractor hired by Dominion found more than double the acceptable limits of arsenic as well as high amounts of chromium, lead, beryllium, magnesea, and zinc. One of the developers sued Dominion for contracting kidney cancer, and 383 residents sued for over $1 billion in damages. URS Corporation, the company Dominion hired to test the course, found the course was basically an “open dump”. The groundwater under the course threatened the aquifer supplying water to all the residents. 

In Cape Cod , the Conservation Law Foundation sued Willowbend Country Club for dumping toxic nitrogen pollution into the water. 

These are but a few examples, but this is happening everywhere. And very few people living near golf courses are ever asked (or told) about it. Most troubling is that children are the most vulnerable. But, for whatever reason, golf is associated with the “good life,” but sometimes the “good life” will kill you. Talk about a farce.

How this impacts you personally. Maybe you do not golf or think you live near a golf course, but golf courses are everywhere and often near bodies of water. Their chemicals spread through the water and the air like so many other toxic sites in America. They may look pretty, but they are heavily polluted and pose risks to those far beyond their borders. 

If you live in North America, you live near a golf course more than likely.

What you can do. There are a few things you can do. Never play golf, or, if you have, stop playing. Refuse to live on or near a golf course. Show up at zoning meetings open to the public, and say you do not want developers building golf courses in your town. It may not work, but, if enough people speak up, perhaps it will slow their growth.

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Next Steps

Golf is tied to the chemical industry, so fighting golf course development is really about stopping chemical companies such as Dow Chemicals from polluting. To that end, people can:

  • Contact their local, state, and federal officials and complain about golf course development, which is really golf course pollution;
  • Find out which chemical companies manufacture chemicals used on golf courses and protest these companies as well as boycott them; 
  • Google golf course lawsuits, and read more about them. If you do, you will realize these cases are no different than coal ash in North Carolina or the Hanford superfund site. 

Golf courses are the same as any other environmental problem, but they are not as obvious until you learn all about the toxic chemicals necessary to keep them looking pristine. And people should not have to be poisoned, get cancer, and die just because looks can be (and are) deceiving. You shouldn’t have to die for a cliche to be true. 

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Russian Roulette | Great Pacific Garbage Patch 2X Size of Texas Keeps Expanding

Washington (GGM) Analysis | May 17, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) floats, swirls, and grows in the North Pacific between Hawaii and the coast of North America. It is 1.6 million kilometers around (about 1 million miles), which is three times the size of France and two times the size of Texas. It weighs roughly 80,000 tons, and the only way to view the massive expanse is through photos from space. Discarded fishing lines, nets, and other fishing equipment comprise about half of the mass of the GPGP. Used plastics coming from land make up the vast bulk of the rest of the GPGP. According to the acclaimed documentary, Midway: Message from the Gyre, 136,000 seals, sea lions, and whales are killed each year from the GPGP. Beaches of islands in the vicinity of the GPGP are littered with dead bird carcasses, which are filled with plastics from the patch. If you think you are not affected by this, you are wrong because eventually these plastics will end up on your plate through a process known as bioaccumulation where the plastics pass to organisms and then to humans. And 84% of the plastics contain at least one toxic, cancer causing agent, which makes eating seafood like a game of Russain roulette.

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Heart of the matter. The GPGP is a giant succubus due to its two gyres that constantly move and suck plastic into it, most of which comes from land (Note: when this article was written 6 years ago, it was believed 80% of plastics came from land. That number is probably somewhere in the 55% range because the amount of nets, fishing line, and other debris dumped by fishermen was, perhaps, underestimated.). And it has formed since the 1970s. Think of it as a blackhole on Earth that sucks in millions of tons of plastic and then spits it out killing animals, destroying the ecosystem, and killing humans.

By 2050, production of plastics is expected to quadruple. By the way, it takes plastic 100,000 years to decompose. In other words, this thing is a long term monster, which is why since 2013 an effort known as The Ocean Cleanup has been underway.

How this impacts you personally. You are already ingesting this stuff if you eat seafood, or at least you will be, so it is affecting you. And this is based solely on what you eat. This does not even begin to examine the problem of the toxins in these plastics, damage to the oceans, and greenhouse gasses released. This beast hits from all directions. 

Sadly, it is only one part of a problem that keeps compounding and joining with other environmental disasters such as nuclear spills, toxic water, forest fires, and any other myriad problems we hear about and likely dismiss daily. A great discussion of all these problems can be found in the book Environmental Hazards: Are you Exposed? by Fred Siegel.

What you can do. The easiest thing people can do is reduce the amount of plastics they use. This includes plastic bottles, straws, bags, toothbrushes, and other inorganic materials. It is about consumption, the less people consume the better off everything will be. It is that simple and that difficult.

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly 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.

The easiest thing people can do is reduce the amount of plastics they use. This includes plastic bottles, straws, bags, toothbrushes, and other inorganic materials. It is about consumption, the less people consume the better off everything will be. It is that simple and that difficult.

Next Steps

  • Stop using plastic bottles, straw, bags, and toothbrushes;
  • Start your own local environmental group; 
  • Research the GPGP and consider donating to the cleanup. You can follow the Ocean Cleanup on Twitter; and
  • Contact your local, state, and federal officials and let them know you care about this topic. 

All of these stories are bleak, but that does not mean people should fail to act. The problems persist because people do not modify their behavior. A few small, deliberate acts can make all the difference and begin the process of lessening the environmental blight human beings inflict upon the Earth.

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Fear Waterspouts and Climate Change Calamities

Washington (GGM) Analysis | May 7, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Waterspouts can suck marine life out of the ocean and toss it onto land. And waterspouts can do the same thing with hazardous chemicals on the ocean floor such as 27,000+ barrels of DDT recently discovered off the coast of Los Angeles. Fortunately, this has not happened yet, but it certainly could especially since more and more waterspouts are popping up all over the world due to an increase in severe weather caused by climate change. Any potential calamity climate change may (will) create is not a “what if?” question. The better questions to ask are “how bad?” and “when?”

Heart of the matter. Every week new stories come out about toxic chemicals that if somehow dislodged will kill people, destroy wildlife, wreck plantlife, and otherwise decimate ecosystems. Often these chemicals do cause the problems predicted. 

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Whether it be forest fires in California, toxic algae in Florida, Superfund sites throughout the United States (Hanford Superfund site in particular), Camp Jejune poisonous water, Keystone Pipeline, and other things that are unknown, calamities are everywhere. Most recently, a previously unknown future source of calamity emerged. Specifically, tens of thousands of barrels of DDT dumped off the coast of Catalina Island were discovered. 

On the other side of the Pacific, Tokyo Bay now has coral growing in it, something previously unthinkable because the water was not warm enough. 

In the Great Lakes, 2020 was known as “Great Waterspout Outbreak of 2020.” Forty-one waterspouts popped up in Lake Erie in one day alone. In Louisiana, in 2020, 5 waterspouts occurred in one place. While these events may appear unrelated, they are, in fact, quite related because they are either caused by climate change or they exacerbate problems both known and unknown related to climate change.

How this impacts you personally. The skeptic will argue waterspouts have been discussed for hundreds of years, long before climate change was a huge issue, and they are not a climate change problem. Waterspouts are not new, but one thing is certain: Severe weather will only get worse with climate change, and, regardless of whether that causes more waterspouts, a largely warm water phenomenon, do you really want waterspouts blowing tanks of DDT out of the water in Southern California and smashing them against the rocky coastline? 

Just to give an example of how bad DDT is for the environment, 25% of California’s adult sea lions have cancer largely due to pollution from waste dumped by Montrose Chemical. Montrose dumped the DDT off the coast of Los Angeles. This is in addition to a 34-mile stretch of toxic chemicals dropped in the ocean, which is designated a Superfund site. 

The point of all of this is: whether it be waterspouts blowing toxic waste, leaking nuclear waste, or whatever other disaster waiting to happen, climate change marches on affecting all of us no matter what we believe. Literally and figuratively it is “pick your poison.”

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What you can do. Of course this sounds bleak because it is. We live in a time where life is like the opening montage of an apolocapolitic movie. But all is not lost (not yet). We can still reduce our carbon footprint by consuming less plastic, planting trees, taking reusable bags with us to the store, and other little things along the way. These small steps can make a huge difference.

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly 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

  • Examine and lessen your plastic use; 
  • Read about ways you can reduce your carbon footprint (you are doing that here);
  • Care about the environment even when you think stories are from far away places that do not affect you because everything is connected; and
  • Contact your state, local, and federal officials, and tell them you care about climate change.

Waterspouts, DDT, dead sea lions, and coral in Tokyo Bay should concern everyone because they are symptoms of a planet in a climate crisis. There are multiple “canaries in the coal mine,” and they are singing loudly, begging us to do something before we are all wiped out. 


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Biomass Industry Poses a Greater Threat Than the Coal Industry

Washington (GGM) Analysis | April 23, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Biomass sounds like a living blob slithering its way towards New York City in a bad sci-fi movie. The reality may be worse. Proponents of the biomass industry will call this fearmongering and argue biomasses are carbon neutral and “green.” But the biomass industry involves chopping down vast swaths of trees, turning them into pellets, and shipping them to Europe where they are burned for energy. In other words, it is deforestation on a massive scale, and anyone who knows anything about climate change knows deforestation is one of the major causes of climate change. So how can a practice which is so harmful to the planet — more harmful than the coal industry which releases less carbon than burning trees — be at the same time beneficial? It cannot be whatever anyone claims to the contrary. 

Heart of the Matter 

If the U.S. Congress and other international lawmakers are to be believed, then it is through a metamodernist suspension of disbelief because the notion that deforestation and burning a source of energy more pollutive than coal is somehow “green”  is an absurd notion. 

The biomass industry is a relatively recent phenomenon, and it hails mainly from the American South where twenty-three wood mills devoted to biomass exist. Trees are grown, ground up, turned into wood pellets, and shipped to Europe to be burned for fuel under the auspices that this power is as clean as solar and wind power, which is as ridiculous as it sounds. While proponents of the biomass industry claim they plant trees to replace the felled trees, those trees cannot make up for the mature trees lost, trees that have absorbed carbon dioxide for decades. This is especially true considering the Paris Climate Accord cites deforestation as a major driver of climate change and a barrier to the ambitious emissions targets for 2050. 

Proponents of the biomass industry also ignore the desolate landscapes it leaves and tons of “waste wood” (wood that is left behind and cannot be used). While they claim to replant trees, this is often not done, and the saplings are not nearly as useful as trees that are decades old. 

How This Impacts You Personally

Whether the issue is nuclear waste, toxic water from chemical leaks, or  toxic algae from phosphate deposits, the way this impacts you personally is it is bad for the environment. And that is bad for you. In this instance, trees reduce carbon dioxide, which makes the air more breathable, the planet less hot, and the world cleaner. All of these things benefit everyone regardless of what people believe.

What You Can Do

It is important to learn as much as possible about this topic as it is not going anywhere. A multibillion dollar industry based in the United States, which supplies energy for Europe will not go away gently. Climate activist Greta Thunberg certainly sees the problem:

Think about what paper products you use and how to reduce that consumption. Recycling is not the answer as very little of what is recycled is reused. It is more important to not use paper or fuel sources that are derived from burning trees. 

Next Steps

  • Reduce your consumption for paper and paper products;
  • Stop using plastic bottles and other plastics; 
  • Do not burn wood; 
  • Learn about and try to use solar and wind power;
  • Find out what companies use wood as a source of energy and do not use them;
  • Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and tell them you oppose the biomass industry.

Energy is important for so many reasons, but there are better sources than the biomass industry. We need more —not less — trees in the world, and everything must be done to make sure the reckless and dangerous biomass industry does not continue. 

Adding composting worms to our home composting bins and/or directly 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.

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Bitcoin’s Carbon Footprint May Destroy the Environment

Washington (GGM) Analysis | April 8, 2021 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “Let China sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.” China poses military, economic, social, and environmental threats to the entire world. Yet, with the myriad threats it poses, one threat it has awakened, Bitcoin, threatens to shake — and possibly destroy — the environment. Although Bitcoin requires the most advanced computers performing dizzying calculations, it needs unfathomable amounts of energy, and that energy comes primarily from fossil fuels in China, namely coal.

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Heart of the matter. For years Bitcoin appeared to be a passing fad and something many people were only vaguely aware of, but it is here to stay as is other cryptocurrency. And most of it is constructed or “mined” in China, which requires tons of hardware that needs energy. In China, that energy is supplied by coal based power, according to a February 5, 2021 CNBC article. Bitcoin is the 9th most valuable asset in the world, and it requires more energy than New Zealand. In fact, if Bitcoin were a country, it would rank 31st in the world for energy consumption, according to a March 19, 2021 Independent article. Although Bitcoin has been around since 2009, its energy use came to the forefront in 2017, but, since that time, its energy use has quadrupled since then.

Proponents of Bitcoin, as cited in the Independent article, argue Bitcoin is “moving” towards “renewable energy,” and it will one day be a leader in renewable energy. Little evidence exists of these assertions. What is apparent, however, is the cryptocurrency market, led by Bitcoin is growing. As a currency it is attractive because its so-called block chain technology makes it unique, tough to steal, scarce, and easy to spend. The downside of that is the creation of cryptocurrency or “mining” requires computing power and vast energy sources. That computing power mainly comes from China, which relies heavily on coal however advanced their society may be. And that is a huge problem for the environment no matter how proponents want to spin it.

How this impacts you personally. If you are worried about food shortages, pandemics, cities under water, droughts, or most any other calamity flowing from climate change, then the growth of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies should worry you because they rely so heavily on fossil fuels, namely coal. Until Bitcoin derives its energy from renewable energy sources, it will continue to be an environmental threat, a threat that grows larger as the demand for Bitcoin increases.

What you can do. The best way to lessen the Bitcoin environmental threat is not to buy stock in the company. Another way is not to use the currency or be involved in “mining” it. In addition, tell people it is a threat because many people are probably unaware Bitcoin poses such a threat.

Next Steps:

  • Learn as much as possible about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies;
  • Do not purchase Bitcoin stock shares or fractions of shares; 
  • Learn more about renewable energy; and
  • Contact your local, state, and federal officials and let them know how you feel about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
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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. 

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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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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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