The fall of 2019 brought climate strikes by people around the world, demanding that their governments do something to reverse human-induced damage to our planet. A few days prior to the strikes, the UN Climate Summit took place in New York City on September 23rd. Environmental activist Greta Thunberg was in attendance and spoke out against the lack of action on the parts of all governments. India planned to boost renewable energy sources but made no mention of reducing coal. Germany aimed to phase out coal but gave itself a drawn-out nineteen year limit to make the change. Brazil did not prepare any plans to combat climate change, and the United States also failed to compose any significant climate policies. The Trump administration’s rollback of 95 environmental rules since the election is a testimony to the lack of action being made by the US to reduce emissions and reverse climate change. Nevertheless, the government should and will be held accountable for putting inalienable rights to life, health, and peace at risk. A group of 15 young people aged 8-17, including Greta, brought legal cases regarding the aforementioned rights against Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina, and Turkey. Extreme weather, floods, wildfires, sea-level rise, the spread of mosquito-borne disease, and poor air quality are among the hardships that people are subject to as a result of governmental climate inaction. In the new year, let us take action.
This summer, I am participating in the CHEESEHEAD intensive field campaign. The acronym stands for “Chequamegon Heterogeneous Ecosystem Energy-balance Study Enabled by a High-density Extensive Array of Detectors”. It takes place in the Chequamegon National Forest and focuses on the study of large-scale eddies and the impact of different terrains on our atmosphere. Taking measurements out here has been a learning opportunity for myself, as well as a contribution to a larger cause in science. Something I have been asked as a person studying climate change is…How do climate scientists feel about climate change? The answer may surprise you. Many are disheartened and isolated by the notion that their work doesn’t result in political action to stop climate change where it is. Others have moved past negative emotions by sharing them with others. Some remain optimistic that humanity will take action soon, and try not to wallow in grief. Read this article on the burden of being a climate scientist if you want to know more.
It’s March and it already feels like allergy season is in full swing, at least for some of us. This spring I learned about a new technology created at MIT that could lead to more efficient farming and better plant-keeping for hobbyists! The invention is a sensor small enough to be printed onto a leaf that can monitor the opening and closing of stomata. Hollow carbon nanotubes make up the sensor and transmit an electrical signal to the multimeter when the pore is closed. When it opens, the circuit is disrupted and the loss of current is displayed by the multimeter. Leaves with larger stomata are most likely easier to measure. Thanks to this new invention, water stress of crops can be diagnosed within just 2 days.
It’s the start of 2019 and it still feels as though winter hasn’t yet arrived. Soon there will have to be a tune about a “Green Christmas” rather than “White Christmas”. Or maybe a song titled “Grey-Brown-Muddy Color Christmas” will do. At first I thought I’d write about the new law against puppy mills in California. Then I discovered the law was made in 2017. Most recently in environmental news, the meatless “Impossible” burger won Top Tech of 2019 at the Consumer Electronics Show. Who wants a taste?
The Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) is funding an initiative to use hydrogen fuel generated from electrolysis in Australia. In order to cut down on new infrastructure costs, hydrogen will be added to pre-existing Jemena natural gas pipelines in concentrations up to 10%. This will be used primarily for household energy consumption but remaining fuel will be collected for an onsite hydrogen car refueling station at Jemena. According to one of 50 unhappy reviews for Jemena Limited, “there is no other company we can use and we are forced to use this company…[Jemena] charged us so much money and we are still losing money as we couldn’t move in for now half a year”. Hopefully this 11 million dollar motion allows Jemena Limited to focus more on customer service and staffing.
Hundreds of thousands of large scale wildfires take place in the United States every year, according to National Interagency Fire Center. This year is no exception. Low snowfall and hot, dry weather patterns in the Midwest along with wide grassy plains have left the environment defenseless against the raging fires. Difficulties with containment lead the US to call for help from fireline management personnel in Australia and New Zealand. Residents have been forced to evacuate cities in California and Oregon as these fires of record size continue to burn. The fires have also caused air advisories in California.
Most people know about currents. Oceans flow in a particular direction with a very strong current, and some sea creatures use this to their advantage by allowing the stream to bring them wherever they need to go. The circular currents shown above are also known as gyres, vortexes, or “garbage patches”. The first garbage patch was discovered in 1972, but the issue has received more attention recently in articles like this one by ScienceDaily. Studies have determined that the patches are larger than before. These patches are made up of small plastic bits, like the micro-beads pictured in my guilty confessions post. Plastic is broken up by waves and weather conditions, but it remains in small pieces that are dangerous for aquatic life. Read or listen to the NOAA podcast on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch here.
Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on August 17th with such force that it was labeled a Category 3 Hurricane. There has not been a storm labeled with this intensity since Hurricane Katrina. A little over two weeks later, Florida and the Caribbean islands were hit with Hurricane Irma. One week after the Caribbean islands endured Irma, Hurricane Maria raged through the islands again, tearing through the heart of Puerto Rico. It is now September 27th and Puerto Ricans still remain without electricity, low on food and water. The recent barrage of hurricanes and even the recent Earthquake in Mexico have called for a response from the government on all fronts including humanitarian aid and climate change. There are several places to donate online and tons of canned food and water drives taking place.
The Dakota Access Pipeline was an underground crude oil pipeline system that affected 4 states: Iowa, Illinois, North Dakota, and South Dakota. It was planned to be fully operational by the end of 2016. This extravagant project boasts environmental friendliness and a huge boost to the US economically. There’s just one small problem. People live on top of the property that will be seized as part of this monstrous project. You can either give up your land willingly and be compensated, or be taken to court. Native Sioux tribes are experiencing colonization all over again; People are exploiting their homes for personal profit, they are being violently forced out of what has been home to them for hundreds of years, their basic human rights to shelter and water are essentially denied. This time, however, people with huge influence on society and intelligent outspoken voices are coming forward. Shailene Woodley stood up for the minority and was arrested during a protest. I am moved that at just 24 years old she is using her presence as a celebrity to not only fight for environmental and social justice, but to stand for morality.
Heading into February of 2016, two current issues have taken over the media. Those two issues are the Flint, Michigan water crisis and the methane leak in Porter Ranch, California. I don’t want to repeat what has been said hundreds of times already but I’ll just write down the scoop and give some links to good articles. In Flint Michigan, the city decided to switch its main water supply to a source with a higher pH, which eroded away the protective calcium layer in the water and eventually ended up poisoning the tap water with lead from corroded piping. In this day and age we are able to predict and stop this kind of issue, and public health officials have known for some time without putting an end to it. In Porter Ranch, a continuous underground methane leak is reaching dangerous heights. The impacts on the atmosphere from these emissions are hugely disturbing.
I will be traveling to Turkey with the University at Buffalo Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation program (LSAMP) students and other study abroad students as we learn about diverse cultures, civil and structural aspects abroad, and social, economic, and political situations in other countries. I will be gone for one month but I won’t hesitate to post what I learn during my time away.
Everyone knows that Taylor Swift’s scheme to make more money by disappearing from the internet music-wise only brought public shame. No one wanted to buy all of her CD’s just to listen to “Love Story” on Throwback Thursday. So, her managers wised up and did something that made everyone fall for her again. She’s back on the scene with a hit single and music video called Wildest Dreams that she released at the VMA’s. All the money raised with this song will benefit the African Park Foundation of America. This foundation has ten parks in Africa and lends itself to animal conservation, ending poaching, and involving youth in a good cause. So please, go listen to Taylor Swift.