Showing posts with label toxins. Show all posts
Showing posts with label toxins. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

7 Environmental Problems That Are Worse Than We Thought


With as much attention as the environment has been getting lately, you’d think that we’d be further along in our fight to preserve the world’s species, resources and the beautiful diversity of nature. Unfortunately, things aren’t nearly that rosy. In fact, many of the environmental problems that have received the most public attention are even worse than we thought – from destruction in the rain forest to melting glaciers in the Arctic. We’ve got a lot of work to do.

7. Mammal Extinction


One in four mammals is threatened with extinction. That’s 25%, a huge number that will totally change the ecology of every corner of the earth. We could see thousands of species die out in our lifetime, and the rate of habitat loss and hunting in crucial areas like Southeast Asia, Central Africa and Central and South America is growing so rapidly, these animals barely have a chance.

If you think the extinction of an animal like the beautiful Iberian Lynx is no big deal, and wouldn’t have that much of an effect on the planet, think again. Not only would we be losing – mostly due to our own disregard for our surroundings – so much of the awe-inspiring diversity of nature, mass extinctions like this would cause a serious imbalance in the world’s food chain. When a predator disappears, the prey will multiply. When prey dies out, the predator will see its ranks decrease as well. Many people fail to realize just how interconnected all species on this planet really are.

6. The Ocean Dead Zones


In oceans around the world, there are eerie areas that are devoid of nearly all life. These ‘dead zones’ are characterized by a lack of oxygen, and they’re caused by excess nitrogen from farm fertilizers, emissions from vehicles and factories, and sewage. The number of dead zones has been growing fast - since the 1960’s, the number of dead zones has doubled every 10 years. They range in size from under a square mile to 45,000 square miles, and the most infamous one of all is in the Gulf of Mexico, a product of toxic sludge that flows down the Mississippi from farms in the Midwest. These ‘hypoxic’ zones now cover an area roughly the size of Oregon.

Spanish researches recently found that many species die off at oxygen levels well above the current definition of ‘uninhabitable’, suggesting that the extent of dead zones in coastal areas that support fishing is much worse than previously thought. Robert Diaz, a Virginia Institute of Marine Science biologist, said “Everything is pointing towards a more desperate situation in all aquatic systems, freshwater and marine. That’s pretty clear. People should be worried, all over the world.”

As if that weren’t bad enough, global warming will likely aggravate the problem. A rise in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will change rainfall patterns, which could create an increase in runoff from rivers into the seas in many areas.

5. Collapsing Fish Stock


Millions of people across the world depend upon fish as a major staple in their diet. As such, commercial fishermen have been pulling such a huge quantity of fish from the oceans that we’re heading toward a global collapse of all species currently fished – possibly as soon as the year 2048. Like large-scale mammal extinction, the collapse of fish species would have a major impact on the world’s ecosystems.

It’s not too late – yet – if overfishing and other threats to fish populations are reduced as soon as possible. Marine systems are still biologically diverse, but catastrophic loss of fish species is close at hand. 29 percent of species have been fished so heavily or have been so affected by pollution that they’re down to 10 percent of their previous population levels. If we continue the way we are fishing today, there will be a 100 percent collapse by mid-century, so we’ve got to turn this around fast.

4. Destruction of the Rain Forest


Saving the rain forest’ has been at the forefront of the environmental movement for decades, yet here we are facing huge losses in the Amazon all the same. You might have thought that, with all the attention the rain forest has gotten, it wouldn’t need so much saving anymore – but unfortunately, global warming and deforestation mean that half of the Amazon rain forest will likely be destroyed or severely damaged by 2030.

The World Wildlife Fund concluded this summer that agriculture, drought, fire, logging and livestock ranching will cause major damage to 55 percent of the Amazon rain forest in the next 22 years. Another 4 percent will see damage due to reduced rainfall, courtesy of global warming. These factors will destroy up to 80 percent of the rain forest’s wildlife. Losing 60 percent of the rain forest would accelerate global warming and affect rainfall in places as far away as India. Massive destruction to the rain forest would have a domino effect on the rest of the world.

The WWF says that the ‘point of no return’, from which recovery will be impossible, is only 15 to 25 years away.

3. Polar Sea Ice Loss


Polar sea ice is melting at an unprecedented rate, and it’s not showing any signs of slowing down. It’s perhaps the most dramatic, startling visual evidence of global warming, and it’s got scientists rushing to figure out just how big of an effect the melting is going to have on the rest of the world.

British researchers said last week that the thickness of sea ice in the Arctic decreased dramatically last winter for the first time since records began in the early 1990s. The research showed a significant loss in thickness on the northern ice cap after the record loss of ice during the summer of 2007.

Scientific American warns that “human fingerprints have been detected” on both the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Antarctica had previously appeared to be the only continent on the planet where humanity’s impact on climate change hadn’t been observed. The collapse of the Larsen B and Wilkins ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula shows just how fast the region is warming.

2. CO2 Levels in the Atmosphere


The aforementioned polar sea ice loss is yet another sinister sign of carbon dioxide levels building up in the atmosphere – the main force behind global warming. Greenhouse gas emissions caused by our modern way of life – vehicles, power plants, factories, giant livestock farms – will bring devastating climate change within decades if they stay at today’s levels.

Average temperatures could increase by as much as 12 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century if emissions continue to rise, a figure that would easily make the world virtually uninhabitable for humans. A global temperature rise of just 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit would cause a catastrophic domino effect, bringing weather extremes that would result in food and water shortages and destructive floods.

The most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change represents “the final nail in the coffin” of climate change denial, representing the most authoritative picture to date that global warming is caused by human activity. According to the panel, we must make a swift and significant switch to clean, efficient and renewable energy technologies in order to prevent the worst-case scenario.

1. Population Explosion


Whether we like to admit it or not, our very own rapidly multiplying presence on this planet is the biggest environmental problem there is, and it’s getting bigger by the minute. We voraciously consume resources, pollute the air and water, tear down natural habitats, introduce species into areas where they don’t belong and destroy ecosystems to the point of causing millions of species to become endangered and, all too often, go extinct.

It took nearly all of human history – from the first days of man on earth until the early 1800’s – to reach a global population of 1 billion. In just 200 years, we’ve managed to reach 6.5 billion. That means the population has grown more since 1950 than in the previous four million years. We’re adding roughly 74 million people to the planet every year, a scary figure that will probably continue to increase. All of those mouths will need to be fed. All of those bodies will need clean water and a place to sleep. All of the new communities created to house those people will continue to encroach upon the natural world.

All seven environmental problems detailed above are very serious, and we’ve got to start treating them that way. We may not have easy solutions, but the fact is, we simply can’t continue living our lives as if everything is peachy. These problems aren’t going to magically solve themselves. We should have begun acting generations ago, but we can’t go back in time, and that means we have to step up our efforts. If we want to keep this planet a healthy place for humans to live – for our grandchildren to enjoy – it’s time to buckle down and do everything in our power to reverse the damage we’ve done.

Friday, August 1, 2008

E-scrap program inches closer

Electronics recycling in Washington is another step closer to becoming a reality. The state’s Department of Ecology (Olympia) has conditionally approved the Standard Plan for Recycling Covered Electronics, which can be found on the department’s Web site. The 2006 legislation, creating the e-recycling program, allows manufacturers, importers and sellers of covered electronic products — including desktop and laptop computers, monitors and televisions — the option of participating in either Washington’s Standard Plan, or an approved independent plan.

The Standard Plan will receive final approval when three conditions are met:

A collection service plan that meets the rule requirements is completed
The Washington Materials Management & Financing Authority (Woodland) conducts at least one public hearing
The DOE determines that the WMMFA is meeting public outreach requirements.
Over 220 manufacturers of covered items have thus far registered with the electronics recycling program, with no proposals for independent plans being put forward, to date. Implementation of Washington's electronic recycling program is scheduled for January 1, 2009.

Friday, March 21, 2008

AN ELECTRONICS RECYCLING company has decided that too many cooks don't always make a bad recipe. Phoenix-based Nxtcycle has announced results for its Shared Responsibility Program, which began in August 2002 and spread the burden of electronic waste (e-waste) recycling among manufacturers, retailers, municipalities, and waste processing and management facilities.

With Panasonic, Sharp and Sony underwriting the costs of recycling their own products collected, Nxtcycle has rounded-up approximately 39,000 electronic products from 16 special event collections in seven states and 19 permanent drop-off sites in three states from August to December 2002. Approximately 4,300 cathode ray tubes (CRTs) collected came from sponsoring manufacturers, Nxtcycle says.

Some municipalities have held single-day events, and others sponsored ongoing e-waste collection. The highest concentration of successful collection records was in Southern California, where approximately 25,000 products were collected.

To the north, the city of San Jose, Calif., presents residents opportunities to recycle electronic waste through two ongoing programs. One is the bulky goods program in which residents pay $21.25 to have three items picked up on a specially arranged curbside pickup. The other option is a neighborhood cleanup program that leads trucks through city neighborhoods every weekend allowing residents to bring out debris boxes containing anything they choose. Although this program does not specifically target e-waste, residents are permitted to put monitors and other items containing CRTs in the boxes. Once collected, the CRTs go to the Nxtcycle processing facility in Utah. Last year, San Jose recycled 175 tons of CRTs.

According to Cynthia Dunn of the city of San Jose Environmental Services Department, Integrated Waste Management Division, a clarification letter from the state Department of Toxic Substance Control that arrived in spring 2001 pushed the city to think critically about how to keep CRTs out of the waste stream. “We're working on longer-term solutions,” Dunn says. “But right now it's going to be difficult to keep [e-waste recycling] as a priority because the city of San Jose has not taken an official position on e-waste. But we have a team that's researching and making recommendations.”

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Texas

Austin, Texas — A report by the Texas Campaign for the Environment says that the state of Texas "faces a surge of toxic electronic trash over the next 10 years and taxpayers could be hit with a $606 million cleanup bill," according to The Associated Press (AP). The report says "computers, televisions and many electronics contain toxic materials that should not be buried with municipal garbage in landfills," the AP says.

The report urges state lawmakers to "follow Maine’s lead in forcing manufacturers of monitors, laptops and TVs to take responsibility for safe recycling of equipment bearing their brand names," the AP says

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Steve Jobs

Jobs Airs Apple's Plans in Macworld Keynote

By Paul HartsockMacNewsWorld Part of the ECT News Network 01/15/08 8:05 AM PT
As Macworld 2008 got under way, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced an iTunes movie rental store, as expected. The rollout will take time, though. Apple plans to have 1,000 movies available for rental by February, but studios insisted that titles may not appear in iTunes until 30 days after they're released on DVD.
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As throngs of Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) devotees crowded the Moscone Center in San Francisco and even more remained waiting in line outside, Apple CEO Steve Jobs took the stage to tell a packed room about the computer maker's plans for following up what was a tremendous year for the company.
2008 will usher in an ultra-portable MacBook, which the company has dubbed the "MacBook Air."
Its 13.3-inch display -- the same size as the display on a standard MacBook -- doesn't stand out as considerably tiny, though that configuration allows it to have a full-sized keyboard, according to Jobs.

Light on Toxins

Apple apparently concentrated instead on a slim device profile: It weighs just 3 lbs. and measures .76 inches at its widest and .16 inches at its thinnest. One model uses the same 1.8-inch hard drive as the iPod classic; another more costly model is available with 64 GB of flash memory. The track pad supports some of the same multi-touch capabilities touted by the iPhone. The device, Jobs said, ships in two weeks and starts at US$1,799.
Jobs also talked up the MacBook Air's environmental friendliness, noting that the display is free of mercury and arsenic.
Also on Apple's list of new hardware is Time Capsule, a complement to the Time Machine data backup feature found in OS X Leopard. Time Capsule is a wireless hard drive available in 1 TB and 500 GB configurations that can be accessed and updated wirelessly. It doubles as an 802.11 WiFi base station.
The 500 GB version sells for $299, while the 1 TB model goes for $499. Both ship in February.
Movie and TV Moves
Apple's media delivery strategy entails a push into new outlets. At the keynote, Jobs announced an iTunes movie rental store, as expected.
However, the number of studios involved in the deal extended well beyond most rumors. Jobs claimed every major studio has signed on to some degree -- including MGM, Lion's Gate, Sony and even Universal. As reported earlier, 20th Century Fox is also on board. Movies rented through the service can be ported to iPods and iPhones.
The rollout will take time -- Apple plans to have 1,000 movies available for rental by February, but studios insisted that titles may not appear in iTunes until 30 days after they're released on DVD.
Apple TV also received a significant refresh through a software update that will apparently allow owners to use the device without a Mac or PC. Content can be browsed and selected using a Cover Flow interface directly through the television. Apple TV also cut the price to $229.
iPhone Bones
As for the iPhone, Jobs started by claiming it has captured a 19.5 percent share of the smartphone market, second only to Research In Motion (Nasdaq: RIMM) . In 200 days, he said, 4 million iPhones have been sold.
A new iPhone is not in the cards for Macworld, but Apple has thrown existing users a few bones by way of software.
New software available for the devices includes a maps feature, developed in conjunction with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Skyhook, that indicates the user's approximate location. The offering is similar to a Google Maps feature that's been available for users of other smartphones since 2007.
iPhone users may now customize their home screens to display images other than the standard multi-button interface that comes with each new iPhone.
New applications are in the works for the WiFi-enabled iPod touch, including mail, maps, stocks, notes and weather applications. The software will come included in every new touch sold; however, current owners of the devices will have to pay $20 for it.
All new updates, Jobs said, are available immediately through iTunes.
A Little Less Wow
"The usual wow," summarized attendant Dan Sokol. "That Air notebook, I've got to get inside. The backup device, not so wow. A little expensive and not enough hard drive for me. For other people, I'm sure it will be fine," he told MacNewsWorld.
"There were a couple of good surprises. The rental movies -- we'll see how that goes."
Sokol thinks the amount of time one can keep a movie once it's started viewing, however, should be longer -- a weekend, perhaps.
However, he noted, this year's keynote did not quite live up to 2007's. "You can't follow an act like this one," he remarked, holding up his iPhone.

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