Pollution in India shortening Life Expectancy

According to a recent study by researchers from the University of Chicago, Yale and Harvard, more than half of India’s population lives in places with such polluted air that each person loses an average of 3.2 years in life expectancy.

This means that 660 million Indians lose 2.1 billion years as a result of air pollution.

A World Health Organization study last year found that 13 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are in India. Also, the worst city for air pollution is New Delhi. India’s government pays no attention to these startling statistics and has made economic development its priority. In fact, India has announced its intention to double the country’s use of coal over the next five years, which will worsen the country’s air pollution.

air pollution

Figure 1. http://www.globalgujaratnews.in/uploads/news/02_2013/1360751992_07TH_AIR_POLLUTION_886689f.jpg

This pollution causes serious health issues. According to the World Health Organization, India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases, and more deaths from asthma than any other nation. Air pollution also contributes to both chronic and acute heart disease, which happen to be the leading cause of death in India. In addition to human health problems, the air pollution may also cut agricultural production by a third.


Figure 2. http://airpollutionindia.weebly.com/uploads/2/0/3/0/20303009/489667946_orig.jpg?448

This graph shows the PM(particulate matter) in the air. The amount in the air is clearly over a healthy limit.

What is being done to help? Since the Indian government shows little signs of helping with air pollution, the country needs help from the international community. The United States says it will expand air-quality monitoring. This program will help other countries develop their own air-quality monitoring through training and advise with American experts. This will also benefit the U.S. because it will help United States citizens abroad reduce their exposure to pollution. The program is also run by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It will begin to operate in India in a few months. American diplomatic missions will also monitor air quality Vietnam and Mongolia.





Cape Wind

A project to build an offshore wind farm near Cape Cod has been in the works for over 12 years. The farm is named Cape Wind and it will be the nation’s first offshore wind farm. The plan was to build a massive wind farm with 130 Siemens 3.6-megawatt offshore wind turbines with a capacity of 468 megawatts. The wind farm is located on the most technically optimal offshore wind power site in the United States. Cape Wind will produce 75% of the electricity used on Cape Cod, the Islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. Unfortunately, it now looks as if this project may never become a reality. The two biggest buyers of the energy that would be produced on Cape Wind, NSTAR and National Grid, pulled out of their contracts in January. These two companies combined were purchasing 80% of the energy produced. Now, after a long 13-year battle to build Cape Wind, it looks like the project will be stopped due to the insufficient funding.

An offshore wind farm is exactly what it sounds like, a wind farm, in the water. But, how does that work? Each monopile, which are large foundations to support a group of turbines, is driven deep into the seabed. Transition pieces are fitted to each monopile and the turbines are bolted to the transitions. Intra array submarine cables are jet plowed six feet into the seabed and they feed into an Electric Service Platform (ESP). From the ESP, export submarine cables connect to buried cables which continue to the Barnstable Substation. When functioning, Cape Wind will reduce carbon dioxide emissions equivalent to taking 175,000 cars off the road each year.

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There have been many opponents to Cape Wind since its inception. There have been several lawsuits and battles over this project. One of the opponents of Cape Wind is a group called Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, led by Audra Parker. This group has challenged every regulatory and permitting step Cape Wind has taken. This is one of the reasons that the project has taken so long. The buyers pulling out of their contracts might be the end this project. The companies came out of their contracts because of a December 31 deadline that the project unfortunately did not meet.

It is important that this project does not fail. This could be the first of many offshore wind farms in the U.S.. Europe has built 64 offshore wind farms over the past 24 years and now has 58,000 people working in the offshore wind industry. The U.S. should follow Europe’s lead and start an offshore wind industry. Surprisingly, the United States has the greatest offshore wind power resources in the world. Yet, this resource is not utilized because people do not want to pay or have an obstructed view of the ocean. We can only hope that Cape Wind will eventually be built and will be the first of many offshore wind farms in America.

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This map shows the capabilities on the Massachusetts coast for offshore wind farms.





Colleges taking the LEED in energy efficiency

Whether to attract applicants, save on utility bills, or help the planet, colleges around the U.S. have been ramping up their efforts to go green. The Princeton Review’s Guide to 332 Green Colleges is a testament to how many schools have shown a commitment to sustainability on their campus. Princeton Review partnered with The United States Green Building Council (USGBC) to make this list. The USGBC is a national non-profit organization known for developing the LEED green building certification. The USGBC also launched its Center for Green Schools in 2010. This center was created to help schools design and build sustainable campuses.

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Figure 1.

The Review is a list of 332 colleges with impressive energy efficient campuses, locally sourced food, and LEED certified buildings. For each school there is a general overview, and then there is a section called “Green Highlights”, which describes the most impressive energy or sustainability initiative for that school. The profile also includes “Green Facts” such as recycling programs, emphasis on environmental studies, and green jobs career advise. The process to get onto the list is competitive and based off of survey questions about the campus and how it operates. Figure 2 shows the questions each school answers to get rated.

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Figure 2.

A great example of a highly rated green college is Columbia University. Columbia, located in one of the biggest and most densely populated cities in the world, has thrived in evoking change on campus and in the surrounding area. They launched NYC Urban Technology Innovation Center to promote green building design in New York. They have an Urban Design Lab that combines the architectural and engineering schools to work on local environmental design and sustainable economic development. Despite their urban setting, which makes constructing a green campus difficult, Colombia’s 17-acre campus is LEED Platinum. They also have devoted effort to source food from local green markets and vegetative roofs. For academics, there are 24 degrees in environmental studies and 33 environmental research centers. There are organizations like Earth Institute and Columbia Eco-Reps that contribute to environmental movements on campus. The list goes on and this is just one example.

It is important that colleges are making such an effort to promote sustainability and clean energy because of the influence they have. Institutions of higher education train the leaders of the next generation. If they are promoting sustainability principles, then the next generation will have the initiative and skill set to tackle the world’s environmental issues.

Works Cited




Taking Tips From Nature

Nature found out how to survive in a balanced equilibrium long before humans. Plants and animals can survive efficiently using energy from the sun. It has taken humans a long time to realize that the way we exist is not sustainable and that we should start taking a few tips from plants and animals. This idea brought about a new form of biological engineering called biomimicry. Best put by the Biomimicry Institute, “Biomimicry is an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions to human challenges by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies. The goal is to create products, processes, and policies—new ways of living—that are well-adapted to life on earth over the long haul.”

Joseph Cho, a sixth former who graduated last year, was in the STEM Fellowship. His project was based off of biomimicry. He studied a specific species of beetle that had a special ability to capture water from the air and form droplets on its back. He wanted to use the beetles’ “technology” to make a large-scale version that could act as a water source for people in Haiti who had little or no access to water/clean water.

Another example of biomimicry addresses the issue of clean and sustainable energy. Primary producers have mastered the art of photosynthesis. A Swiss company, Airlight Energy, recognized this and is in the process of developing The Sunflower Solar Harvester. This product is an innovation to the standard solar panel system. Previous solar methods were improved by taking processes used by sunflowers to harness more energy. The solar power “station” has the ability to track the sun like a sunflower so it absorbs maximum amounts of sunlight. It also cools itself by pumping water through its veins just like a plant. It is designed in a flower like shape that concentrates the sun’s energy. Developers predict that it will need just a quarter of the panels to produce the same amount of energy a standard solar panel system produces today. The station has the capability to provide 12 kW of energy with just 10 hours of sunlight. This is enough energy to power several houses.

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Biomimicry is the key to solving many environmental issues. Humans need to stop the wasteful patterns and return to natural and efficient methods.

Acid Deposition

There are two major types of acid deposition: wet deposition and dry deposition. Wet-acid deposition is more commonly known as acid rain. The creation of wet-acid deposition starts when harmful gasses from factories and cars are emitted into the air. Specifically the chemicals that cause acid deposition are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. These chemicals rise into the atmosphere where they interact with moisture. This converts the gasses into sulfuric acid and nitric acid. The acid then returns to the earth in the form of rain or snow. Dry-acid deposition occurs when gasses and particles attach to the surfaces of plants, soil, and water.(1)


Figure 1 (http://www.wwk.in/acid-rain-theme)

The effects of acid deposition are very detrimental to the environment. Acid deposition reduces the pH of water from 5.5-6 to below 5. This change in pH produces lethal conditions for many marine organisms. When a group of organisms in an ecosystem die, the whole ecosystem suffers. Even if it is a small, seemingly harmless organism, its absence can cause a trophic cascade. (1) Acid deposition is detrimental for plants and forests because it gets rid of essential nutrients in the soil such as magnesium and calcium. In the absence of these nutrients, the trees are more vulnerable to catch an infection and become damaged by weather or insects. Acid rain also wears on the outer layer of leaves. If leaves are damaged, the plant or tree cannot perform photosynthesis, which is the pathway that produces food and energy. Dry-acid deposition is also a threat for humans. The inhalation of airborne gasses and particles causes respiratory problems and diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, and phenomena.(2)

Needless to say, acid deposition is not good for the environment or for humans. To combat the amount of acid deposition occurring, emissions into the atmosphere need to be reduced. A large source of sulfur and nitrogen dioxide comes from the burning of coal in power plants. To reduce the problem of gasses being released into the atmosphere, many facilities have installed “coal scrubbers”. These filters pass the hot gas through a limestone mixture, which reacts with the acidic gasses and removes them before they leave the smokestack. (1)


Figure 3 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/science/aqa_pre_2011/rocks/fuelsrev5.shtml)

Another source of sulfuric acid that is not caused by human activity is volcanic eruptions. For example, when Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupted in 1991, 20 million tons of sulfur dioxide along with ash was blasted into the atmosphere. The blast pushed the gas and particles up to 12 miles high into the atmosphere. (3)


Figure 3 (http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/Volcano/)

Whether the emission of harmful gasses is natural or not, the creation of acid deposition is terrible for the environment. While we cannot control volcanic eruptions, we can control our emissions into the atmosphere by innovations such as the coal scrubber. More progress must be made so that there is no further damage to ecosystems around the world.

The Ecological Advantages of Algae

“Even though algae is the tiniest plant on earth, representing only 0.5% of total plant biomass, algae create about 60% of the Earth’s oxygen – more than all the forests and fields combined.”

–Mark Edwards (Green Algae Strategy)

Two of the most prominent concerns today are renewable resources and clean water. The most promising route for alternative energy along with water filtration is algae. There is so much potential in these tiny organisms that must be understood and utilized to their full potential in order to solve some major problems with the environment.

Microalgae are a part of a group of many organisms referred to as algae. Algae are photosynthetic organisms that can range from the size of one cell, to chains that group together to make a massive single organism. Cyanophyceae, or blue-green algae, Chlorophyceae (green algae), Bacillariophyceae (including diatoms) and Chrysophyceae (including golden algae), are the types of microalgae most commonly used for wastewater treatment, biofuel, and CO2 fixation. CO2 fixation is the process where CO2 emissions in the atmosphere are converted into organic carbon compounds.

Algae have the potential to kill three birds with one stone. With carbon emissions skyrocketing, there is a desperate need for carbon fixation. There is also a desperate need for a new, sustainable source of crude oil. The use of Microalgae is more efficient then other methods, takes up less space, has no risk of leakage and also provides the crude materials to make biofuel. An additional benefit can be added if the algae are grown in wastewater.

Algae grow using nutrients, which are drawn from the water. These nutrients are actually waste products such as nitrogen and phosphorous. They absorb the nutrients and then use sunlight and CO2 to grow through photosynthesis. When they grow, they create lipids that can be used as biofuel. The actual algae mass left over after extraction can be used as fertilizer.


Figure 1 http://algae.illinois.edu/Projects/Hydrothermal.html

Figure 1 is a visual that shows the inputs and outputs of Algae growth. It shows that the algae only need waste to grow and release beneficial outputs. This is why algae have great ecological impacts if used correctly. Just by growing and living in a certain ecosystem, the algae can clean the environment it is in and clean the air that we breathe.



Enhanced CO2 fixation and biofuel production via microalgae

By: Kumar,Amit;Ergas,Sarina;Yuan,Xin;Sahu,Ashish;Zhang,Qiong

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