Massive Threats to Our Oceans

Minnehaha Creek drains into the Mississippi River which runs to the Gulf of Mexico

I’ve pledged to reduce single-use plastic in my life, Refuse plastic straws & cutlery, use refillable water bottles, coffee cups, & bring my own bag to the store. Together we can do this! Join me & take the challenge  Mick Jagger

Two thirds of our earth is covered by ocean, and our oceans are paying a price for our behavior on land.

The Mississippi River water shed drains much of the United States.

This afternoon I walked over the Minnehaha Creek, and saw plastic bags stuck in the ice. I live 1,500 miles from an ocean, but this creek, a few blocks from my house, drains into the Mississippi River which runs into the Gulf of Mexico over a thousand miles away.  When the ice melts, this plastic will probably take a long journey down the Mississippi River and end up in our oceans.What we do to the land, we do to our water.  Most ocean pollution starts out on land and is carried by wind and rain to the sea. Plastic from the land ends up in the ocean and plastic is so durable that the EPA reports “every bit of plastic ever made still exists.” Even the pristine Arctic Ocean is being inundated with plastic. Read at Arctic. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zy5c-BZUjHQ  See this video how Norway recycles plastic.

The second threat to oceans is our warming planet. Oceans in 2017 were warmer than they have ever been.  Most of the heat from our warming planet is absorbed by the oceans. More than 90 percent of the Earth’s heat related to global warming is absorbed by the ocean.  Read at ocean heat.

What are the consequences of warming oceans?  Warmer oceans could bring storms, rain droughts and winds like we have never seen.  The hurricanes in Houston and Puerto Rico are just examples of what could come. The warming ocean melts the glaciers faster causing sea rise.   Cities and countries will be under water if this trend continues, and many people will become refugees having to move inland causing refugee crisis to get worse and worse. Unfortunately, this is only going to continue with extreme drought in some places and too much water in others!

 

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-42947155

http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/campaigns/ocean_plastics/

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Try a Low Salt Diet

I am working on this neighborhood campaign.

It’s winter, and in the United States and Canada we are caught between the cold Arctic, and warmer Gulf moisture. All of this causing our snow, cold and winter thaws. This also produces icy sidewalks and icy roads. For many of us the ice is the hardest part of winter to deal with, but what are the best practices in dealing with winter ice?

Using salt on roads, sidewalks and driveways permanently pollutes our lakes and streams. With rain and snow melt his salt washes into our water, it never leaves, harming pets and wildlife. Once salt gets in our water bodies it’s there for good.

Control ice, but also protect our lakes and streams, best practices:

1. Shovel. Clearing walkways before snow turns to ice will reduce the need for salt.
2. Select the right product for the right temperature. Sodium chloride (salt)doesn’t melt snow below 15 degrees Fahrenheit, so use sand for traction in colder weather.  Many products are marketed as environmentally friendly, but read the label, they still contain chloride (salt).
3. Scatter. Use salt sparingly and only where it’s necessary, and use only on ice. Shovel instead of spreading salt!
4. Sweep up  leftover salt and sand to prevent it from running off into water bodies.                                                                                                                                                5. Rearrange downspouts so they don’t drain on to sidewalks causing sidewalk ice.

It takes only one teaspoon of road salt to permanently pollute 5 gallons of water. Once salt is in the water, there is no way to remove it. Salt harms fish, plant life, and the over all quality of lakes and streams.

Be winter safe, but be a friend of our lakes and streams!

Be Healthier in 2018

  • Buy less stuff: Reuse, reuse and reuse the things you have
  • Reduce food waste: http://www.savethefood.com/
  • Drive less: Walk, bike, ride share, Carpool, combine errands, and take public transport.
  • Protect butterflies and bees: Add more pollinator friendly plants to your yard or balcony, and eliminate your use of pesticides, and all chemicals in your home. Your family, your pets, birds and butterflies will be much healthier.
  • Reduce or eliminate beef from your diet.  Producing beef uses lots of energy! Go meatless and fishless several days a week!
  • Reduce all plastic use, and recycle, recycle and recycle everything you can. Always work for zero waste.
  • Become a climatarian: Always consider the earth when you make decisions
  • Walk: Everyday get outside to enjoy nature.
  • Finally, work to elect leaders that believe in climate change, clean air and clean water, and support clean renewable energy solutions

Ways to be a better environmental steward from Ecowatch

From Earth911 ways to be more sustainable. Read at Earth911

Using Food a WIN-WIN

 

 Cook it,   Soup it,   Taco it,    Stir fry it,   Eat it,   Freeze it,   Share it 

                             Be creative

How did you manage your Thanksgiving left overs? What do you generally do  with left over food? 40% of the food  in the United States is not eaten, and ends up in our landfills causing an enormous waste of our precious resources. Wasting food is an enormous waste of water, money, time, labor, energy and transportation.  The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has an incredible education campaign to inform the public how much we are wasting.  For example the production of one egg takes 55 gallons of water!Their website is savethefood.com

So let’s get creative and “Save the Food.” One of my favorite cooking activities is to reinvent leftovers into a new lunch or dinner. Stir fry, soups, tacos, enchiladas, salads, fried rice, and many other things lend themselves to create special meals of uneaten foods.

Not only does wasting food, waste valuable resources and lots of water, but also food in our landfills decomposes creating and giving off methane gas which is a harmful air pollutant contributing to global warming.
From Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, household waste increases by more than 25%. Added food waste, shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons all adds up to an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills. (Source: EPA)

Have a fun holiday month, but make a creative difference by reusing, planning, seriously cutting waste, and saving food from your garbage!

The story of a strawberry here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WREXBUZBrS8

Simple things You can Do

Find a place to recycle your bottles, cans and paper.
Say “No” to plastic bags!
Bring you own shopping bag

We now have plastic in our water and in the fish we eat. Do we really want to put plastic fibers into our bodies every time we eat and drink?

I have three simple thoughts about litter and recycling today: First, countries that have less plastic have less litter. Second and third, if everyone would recycle more, and change the plastic bag habit, it would make a big difference on our planet.

Here is an interesting plastic comparison for you.  This is based on observation during the past month while I have been travelling through Central Asia and Iran. Central Asia uses very little plastic except for black plastic bags for purchases and plastic bottles for soda.  Iran by contrast uses lots of plastic. Beside plastic bottles, restaurant food, hotel towels, and many things that don’t need to be, are wrapped in plastic. Plastic cups and straws are used in Iran, but I saw none in Central Asia. Where would you guess there is a terrible litter problem? The contrast was enormous.  I brought Iranian plastic home to recycle.

Governments clearly need to become aware of the problem, and businesses like Coca Cola need to take more responsibility for the plastic they produce.

While I was thinking about this I came across an excellent essay by ECOwatch with great suggestions for everyone (see below) But keep it simple and by recycling and reducing  plastic bags you can make a big difference on our earth!

From Ecowatch:

  • Complain to retailers. Pressure retailers to do away with over-packaging.
  • Support plastic bag bans, polystyrene foam bans and bottle recycling bills.
  • Use natural clothing fiber rather than synthetic clothing, as synthetic cloth releases plastic fiber in every wash cycle.
  • Choose to reuse. Neither plastic shopping bags nor plastic water bottles can be easily recycled.
  • Deposit return schemes are highly effective ways to reduce plastic bottle waste. In Germany, where a bottle-return program is in place, nearly 98 percent of plastic bottles are returned.
  • Recycle. If you must use plastic, try to choose #1 (PETE) or #2 (HDPE), which are the most commonly recycled plastics.
  • Avoid plastic bags and polystyrene foam as both typically have very low recycling rates.

Too Much Water, Too Much Sediment

Lake Superior and all lakes are precious, protect them!

This summer I wished I could have given some of our rain to drought stricken North or South Dakota. Everyday on Lake Superior seemed to sprout a rain shower.  When I read the water quality of Lake Superior wasn’t superior to other Great Lakes anymore, my first thought was of this summer’s rain. Because of the rainy summer, the lake level became very high, and this high water caused some of the soft lake banks to erode into the lake causing lake sediment.  The streams running into the lake bring more sediment into the lake.

An unusual fact about Lake Superior: Many streams and rivers drain into the big lake, but only one river drains out of the lake, the St. Mary’s River, and that is regulated at Sault Ste. Marie. I know the water that flows out through the St. Mary’s River is complicated with many factors, but releasing more water from the lake could probably help water quality of Lake Superior. Read at St. Mary’s River.

We can all do better to protect the water quality this magnificent lake, and other lakes also.

Buffer strips along lakes protect water quality.

Slowing down the water flow can help. Buffer strips of deep-rooted plants along streams and along the lake can reduce sediment run-off, and putting in rain gardens and rain barrels can also slow the water.

The below ideas for protecting our lakes is from the Superiorforum.org , Sigurd Olson Institute, Northland college, the EPA, and Great Lakes Restoration Initiative:
1 .Be conservative with your water use.
2. Recycle as much as you can with the 4 Rs: reduce, reuse, recycle and repair. And….NEVER burn trash.
3. Curb Yard Pollution. Put your lawn on a chemical-free diet!!
4. Stop aquatic invasives by cleaning plants and animals off your boat.
5. Plant native plants, and reduce turf grass.
6. Plant native trees According to Audubon, oak trees are the best for attracting insects and birds.
7. Install a rain barrel
8. Create an energy-efficient home.
9. Bring hazardous waste to waste collection sites.
10. Love our lakes!

I would add a few more:

  1. Plastics have become a big problem for our waterways.  Reduce plastic use and be sure any plastic-use is recycled. Also remember to say, “No straw please!”
  2. Micro-fibers in our clothes also are polluting our waterways. As of yet there isn’t a good solution. Read about micro-fibers here.
  3. Always pick up litter.

The water we have on earth is the only water we will ever have, we must take care of it!

How Can We Embrace Water?

Wetlands along the Mississippi River

The earth has a natural balance. The prairies, lakes, wetlands, deserts, mountains and oceans and rivers all work together to provide food and habitat for living things. Unfortunately, some places have gotten out of balance. Some areas are suffering terrible drought, and others have more rain and water than they can manage.

Building cities, driveways, parking lots, and roads changes the earth’s balance. What had been surfaces that were pervious, water drained through, are changed into impervious surfaces, that do not drain.  Wetlands have gotten the shaft the past 200 years taking away the natural healing for our earth. Farmers have drained the wetlands to be used for agriculture and cities have drained and paved over these valuable places that naturally clean our water and provide homes for so much wildlife. When you build a city on a wetland you take away the natural ability to drain the area. You also destroy the dynamic life that lives there.

Houston sits on a wetland. Without any regulation parts of Houston were built on a wetlands. The concrete and asphalt took away the earth’s drainage capacity. The original wetland wants to flood, that’s what it is supposed to do, but all the hard paved surface has left only small patches of ground to drain the water and guess what? You have a flooded area.

How can Houston embrace their water? I hope that as Houston rebuilds from Hurricane Harvey they will work to maximize pervious areas, areas that drain, and limit the concrete and asphalt. It is impossible to plan for a 50 inch rain, but with some good science and skilled planning, some houses and many lives can be saved.  Regulation and good minds are needed instead of a “Do what you want” attitude.  I hope the people of Houston will try!   It is so wasteful and expensive not to try to change the way they do things.

Areas need to be created that capture the water so it drains into the earth not into the rivers and streams. Run-off creates polluted water.  The earth naturally cleans the water as it is absorbed by the earth.  I hope Houston is willing to replace some concrete with renewed wetlands and rain gardens that will keep such destruction from happening again! Homeowners could be required to install pervious or permeable driveways or gardens that absorb water, or some area on their property that absorbs a percentage of water. See permeable driveways for ideas.

I heard one Houston homeowner on the radio, his house had flooded 3 times in the past 5 years.  It is insane to keep doing the same thing over and over and expect a different result!  Maybe we can all learn something from New Orleans. See below.

After fighting water New Orleans is starting to embrace their water problem with a new paradigm. I hope Houston can learn from them. Read about it at New Orleans.

Also, Mayors along the Mississippi River are embracing wetlands to improve water quality and this will help New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, also! Read about at wetlands.

Houston, it’s your turn!  Wetlands can soak up lots of flood water. Can you do things differently this time around? Start listening to the scientists, engineers and environmentalists.

Houston helped put a man on the moon. Houston is the leader in the medical field. It could also begin to be a smart, resilient city if it puts its mind to it. That’s all it’s got to do. Read more at Houston.

 

 

 

Scientists, other experts and federal officials say Houston’s explosive growth is largely to blame. As millions have flocked to the metropolitan area in recent decades, local officials have largely snubbed stricter building regulations, allowing developers to pave over crucial acres of prairie land that once absorbed huge amounts of rainwater. That has led to an excess of