Fishes in the Boston Common?

fish Boston is a beautiful city. It is rich with 400 years’ worth of history and culture. Toward the end this century, this historic city will be underwater. However, what is the cause? You guessed it, global warming. It is predicted that within a few decades, globally, oceans will increase somewhere between two and six feet. [*] For coastal cities like Boston, this means big trouble, or in other words: fishes swimming in the Boston Common. The photos below show how as little as 5ft and as much as 25 feet of water can affect the look of the Boston area. [*] Based on the past trends of consistent sea level rise in the Boston area, it is very possible that Boston will be under water sooner than we think. [*]

This picture shows what Harvard's Campus would look like with 5 feet in sea level rise.

This picture shows what Harvard’s Campus would look like with 5 feet in sea level rise. *

This picture shows what Harvard's Campus would look like with 25 feet in sea level rise.
This picture shows what Harvard’s Campus would look like with 25 feet in sea level rise.*
This picture shows the increasing trend of sea level rise in the Boston area.

This picture shows the increasing trend of sea level rise in the Boston area.*

Where’s the Evidence? (That it’s actually global warming) Global warming is the phenomenon in which the temperature of the earth is increasing. Global warming is caused by many factors, but primarily it is the increase of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and deterioration of important atmospheric layers. It is back by strong evidence that human activities has contributed greatly to many of the factors that cause global warming.  Some human activities that contribute to the global warming crisis are pollution and the burning of fossil fuels.

This diagram shows how global warming works.

This diagram shows how global warming works.*

Having the temperature of the earth change has serious impacts on environment. This rapid change in climate temperature causes drastic weather conditions such extremely hot summers, heavy rainfall, and fridge winters. [*]  Additionally, an increase in global temperature causes the ice from the north and south poles to melt. When there is more ice melting, this leads to rises in sea levels because there is more water being released into the oceans. Rising sea levels means that in near future, cities like Boston will be partially underwater. Solutions Due to the serious threat of dramatic sea level rises, Boston has started to rethink ways to build infrastructure or modify existing structures. As of recently, the city has made it mandatory that departments consider sea level rise during planning decisions. [*]  Nonprofits like the Urban Land Institute want to turn Boston into the Amsterdam or Venice of North America by replacing streets with canals so water can flow through. [*]

This is a picture of what the new layout of Boston would like with canals in place. This a solution to the rising sea level problem.

This is a picture of what the new layout of Boston would like with canals in place. This is  a solution to the rising sea level problem. *

However, I think there is an easier and simpler solution; let’s stop global warming. Maybe instead of trying to build dams or canals, we should change our habits so that the world’s temperature does not continue to rise.  Tackling global warming as our main issue will save us money and heartache down the line. The only way that we can keep fishes out of the Boston Common is to change the way we interact with our world. The first step is to use less or more efficient forms of energy.

Drugs in the Drinking Water?

There are pharmaceuticals in my drinking water?

Unfortunately, there is a high chance that there are traces of pharmaceutical drugs in tap and bottled water. I was very surprised myself to learn about this sad fact. The tap water in the United States in arguably the cleanest and safest drinking water in the world that is free of microbes and other harmful chemicals. (1) According to the Associated Press investigation, there are varying drugs such as antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers, and sex hormones found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans. (2) But how exactly does this happen? What are the environmental and health implications of having drugs in our drinking water?

How Do They Enter Our Drinking Water System?

Over last few years, the numbers of U.S prescriptions have rose 12%, tallying up to 3.7 billion prescriptions. Adding nonprescription drug purchases to this list adds another 3.3 billion.(3)  With a grand total of 7 billion prescription drugs entering a population of 320 million people, there is no wonder why our drinking water is contaminated. When people take these medications, not all of the medicine is absorbed by the body. Therefore, unmetabolized or unused drugs are being flushed down the toilet. The waste water is then treated and released in reservoirs, lakes, and rivers. Next, some of that water is cleaned at treatment plants and then piped to consumers. (4) The problem is that most of these treatment plants do not remove all of the drug residue.

But wait, human waste and voluntary disposal are not the only causes for contamination in our water system. The drugs that veterinarians use to treat animals with arthritis, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, allergies, dementia, and even obesity are sometimes the same drugs that are used to treat humans. (5) Similar to humans, the drugs are still prevalent in the waste by products. In the same way that thorough human waste drugs enters our water system, animal waste is washed into streams, rivers, and groundwater systems. This not so pure water eventually ends up in our bodies.

The Effects On Human Health & The Environment  

Although these drugs are found at parts per billion and per trillion, scientists are still concerned about the lifetime effects of these drugs floating around in our drinking water. There is research evidence to support that small amounts of medicine can have devastating effects on human embryonic kidney cells, human blood cells, and human breast cancer cells. It can cause kidney cells to grow too slowly, cancer cells to proliferate exceedingly, and the blood cells showed signs of biological activity associated with inflammation. (6) Additionally, there is evidence from the global and national community of the damaging impacts that pharmaceutical ridden waterways can have on wildlife. Male fish have been found to essentially turn into female fish by creating egg yolk proteins which is usually found in females! (7) This is a clear red flag that having drugs in our water (although in a small amounts) is definitely not beneficial to human or Environmental health.

Solutions?

So now the big question is what can we do about our drinking water? Apparently it does not matter whether you drink tap or bottled water; we are all still at risk. It is time that we pressure our government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  As human beings we are entitled to clean drinking water and safe food. It is about time we the people of this nation truly had the power to change the ball game for all our sakes (and the environment’s!). Over the past few weeks in this blog series, we have been posting many articles about how one can save energy. However, this is time when we need to use it. We need to use the energy that it requires to protest, write to congress, and voice our opinions. Don’t you want to know what’s floating around in your drinking water?

Below are a few sources that have more information concerning particular states’ and cities’ purity of drinking water.

http://www.disposemymeds.org/index.php/environmental-impact

http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/how-polluted-is-us-drinking-water

-http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2008-03-10-drugs-tap-water_N.htm

From Cotton Field to Vagina to Landfill: The Story of Tampons and Other Sanitary Products

Wait, My Menstrual Cycle Is Contributing to Environmental Degradation?

I know this not a topic that everyone wants to talk about. However, it has been a fact of life since the beginning of time. The average woman menstruates for 38 years in her lifetime. Unfortunately, in today’s world, 38 years’ worth of menstrual cycles translates into a lot of waste and energy. To be exact, there is approximately 62,415 pounds of sanitary products that end up in landfills[1]. Not to mention the countless tons of fuel that goes into producing these necessities. The truth of the matter is that sanitary items are one of the most unsustainable used products. In North America, over 20 billion pads and tampons are only used once before they are tossed. [2] But how exactly do sanitary items hurt our environment?

How the Waste Affects the Environment

 Cotton

Since most pads and tampons are made up of conventionally produced cotton, there has already been damage done before it even reaches the store self. Conventional cotton farmers usually treat the cotton with toxic pesticides such as aldicarb, phorate, methamidophos and endosulfan[3]. These chemicals are harmful to the people working with them and wildlife. Once sprayed, these toxins often move through the air to other nearby communities contaminating water sources, killing soil micro-organisms, bees, and other beneficial insects.[4]

This image displays all of the toxic chemicals that can be found in pads.

This image displays all of the toxic chemicals that can be found in pads.

Also, most of the cotton is then bleached with chlorine gas.[5] Once the cotton bleached chlorine enters a landfill, it becomes deadly to organisms living in water and the soil.[6] Another harmful chemical found in most sanitary products is called dioxin. Dioxin is a carcinogen that over time accumulates in the food chain. Within an organism it can trigger biological effects such as hormonal disturbances and alterations in cell functions[7] as well as adding to the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and liver damage in humans.[8]

Plastic

It’s not only the cotton that’s harmful, but it is also the plastic applicators and the plastic wrapping. The manufacturing process of producing these disposables consumes a lot of energy[9] and nonrenewable resources which contributes to global warming. Most disposable pads and tampons are made from 90 percent plastic derived from crude oil.[10] When crude oil based plastics reenter the environment it releases large amounts of toxic pollutants which ultimately leads to devastating damage to wildlife and the natural landscape.[11] Combined with other super absorbent materials, the manufacture of sanitary items releases greenhouse gases: nitrogen oxide, sulphur dioxide, and carbon dioxide which are causing our planet to heat up.[12]

Alternatives

I too was shocked to realize that not only are these feminine products not good for the environment, but they are also harmful to my own health. Fortunately, there are healthier and eco friendlier alternatives. Natracare is a company that produces organic chemical-free pads and tampon. These products are more eco-friendly because they are bio degradable and do less damage to the environment since they are bleached without harsh chemicals or sprayed with pesticides.[13]

However, the best alternatives are menstrual cups or reusable pads which have life uses of 15 years. Products such as the Keeper menstrual cup claims those 40 years’ worth of disposables can easily be converted into as few as four menstrual cups![14] Similar to The Keeper, Lunapads claim to divert more than 1 million disposable pads and tampons from landfills every month. Over the course of one year, that is more than 12 million less feminine products contributing to environmental issues. [15]

This image shows how 4 menstrual cups can replace a truck load's worth of sanitary waste.

This image shows how 4 menstrual cups can replace a truck load’s worth of sanitary waste.

How the Second Law of Thermodynamics Took Down Ancient Egypt

I know what you are thinking. What does science have to with the fall of arguably the most remarkable and culturally rich nation’s demise? To understand this puzzling question, we first must understand the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Rudolf Julius Emanuel Clausius was born to a wealthy family on January 2, 1822 in Poland. In 1840 he attended the University of Berlin with hopes of pursing a degree in history. However, he discovered a new passion and concentrated on mathematics and physics instead.[1]

Clausius became famous in 1850 when he wrote his first paper on the mechanical theory of heat, otherwise known as the second law of thermodynamics[2]. This law essentially states three important facts: 1. Heats travels hot to cold, 2. Heat cannot be converted into useful work, and 3. Every isolated system becomes disorderly overtime. [3] The third part of this law is the most important in understanding the fall of Ancient Egypt. In simplistic terms, as time continues, things decay. For example, refer to the diagram below to look at a snow flake. Snowflakes start off as orderly systems with intricate patterns unique to every flake. However, as time continues snowflakes melt and turn into water. What once was an ordered system, turned into chaos. Disorder is always more probable then order in any system.[4]

 

This image describes how over time systems become more disorderly. [5]

 

The Fall of Ancient Egypt

Ancient Egypt was one of the most influential River Valley civilizations that lasted from 3000 BCE until 332 BCE. This empire outlived Christianity by a thousand years and was already gone by the time western culture even existed.[6] The Egyptians created an empire that they thought would last an eternity. Due to its geological location, it was no surprise that Egypt became one of the most power nations in this region. Being near the Nile River and having fertile land made producing food a breeze. Having easy access to food, allowed the Egyptians to pursue other endeavors such as building the Great Pyramids of Giza (see image below). They also had an abundance of resources to create such huge monuments.

This is picture of the Pyramids of Giza. [6]

Unlike a snowflake, the Ancient Egypt’s transitions to disorder took about 3,000 years. It was very gradual, and can be broken up into 3 main periods: the Old Kingdom, the Middle Kingdom and New Kingdom. As each kingdom progressed, the entropy increased. Entropy measures the degree of disorder in the system.[6] As the entropy increased, this nation constantly got one step closer to destruction. In the path to demise, there where uprising, wars, corrupt rulers, oppression, droughts, and famine.[7] Finally around 300 BCE, the mighty Egyptians where defeated by the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

What does that mean for us?  

Have you ever wondered why the world seemed to be falling apart? There is murder corruption, war, and greed seen everywhere across the globe on the daily. The world as we know it, moment by moment is getting more chaotic. One day there will no longer be a United States of America or the even the ideas in which we hold dear. There will come a day our civilization will succumb to the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Every day entropy in our system increases; it is just a matter of time before we become like the Egyptians.

Plastic + Ocean = Major Problems

Bottle In Ocean

At home, my dad buys bottled water weekly for my family. The natural spring water seems to taste so much better than the tap water.  As good environmentally conscious citizens, we always recycle our water bottles. However, to my surprise I found that, “ only 1 out of 5 bottles are sent to the recycle bin. “ [1]  This information left me wondering where do all of the other un-recycled plastic water bottles go once they are out of use?  After a little research, I found that a lot of water bottles and other plastics materials are dumped into the ocean.  According to the Ocean Conservatory, plastic bottles and plastic bags are the most prominent form of pollution in our oceans.[2] It is estimated that for  every square mile of ocean there is over 46,00 pieces of  floating plastic within it. Ten percent of  worldwide manufactured plastic ends up in the ocean; most of this material settles up at the bottom of ocean floor and never biodegrades![3]

The Research

Lead researcher Katsuhiko Saido from the College of Pharmacy at Nihon University in Japan found that some plastics were decomposing much faster than expected[4].  As these plastics degrade, they release harmful chemicals such as Bisphenol A and styrene monomer.  As  a result, these toxins have had significant effects on marine life. When marine animals consumed Bisphenol A , they experienced reproductive deficiencies. Likewise, styrene monomer is suspected as a carcinogen.[5]

Essentially as plastic decomposes many animals mistake plastic pieces for food. Although water bottles are made up of recyclable polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastics, PETs do not biodegrade, they photodegrade. This means that they break down the plastic in small fragments.[6]  (Which make them look more like food) These pieces of plastic can then absorb toxins with are harmful to animals if they consume them. According to a 2008 study in the journal Environmental Research, it turns out that about 44 percent of all seabirds eat plastic and 267 marine species are affected by plastic garbage.[7]

This picture shows a beach cluttered with plastic waste.

This picture shows a beach cluttered with plastic waste.

This plastic waste eventually becomes incorporated into the food chain. Bigger marine animals tend to accumulate most of the harmful waste from eating smaller sea life that has taken in these chemicals. Consequently, these contaminated animals end up on our dinner plates and in our bodies. Personally, I prefer not to have small traces of plastic bags and water bottles in my food. So what can we do to ensure that our bodies and marine life is safe from plastic pollution?

Possible Solutions

As a world, we should reexamine  our usage of renewable and nonrenewable resources.  It takes over 1.5 million barrels of oil to meet the demand of U.S. water bottle manufacturing. [8] Is it really necessary to have all of those disposable water bottles?  A more sustainable and in the long run cheaper alternative would be to invest in BPA free water bottles. Additionally, efforts such as bringing your own bags when going shopping would reduce the demand for plastic bags. These are a just a few out of many ways we can reduce our waste in the oceans in which we eat from.  I think it is important that people use their powers as consumers to take charge of what they are buying; this pushes industries into producing more sustainable and environmentally friendly products. It is important to remember that everything we do on the earth in one way or another affects the health of humans as well.

Eat Less Meat to Reduce Greenhouse Gases

Cows

I only know a few people who do not appreciate a good hamburger. However, did you know that eating meat constantly worsens the health of the earth? Global warming is caused by a surplus of greenhouse emissions in the atmosphere. Each day with more and more greenhouses gases being released, the temperature of the earth continues to rise. Global warming is severely affecting the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect makes sure that the earth maintains a manageable temperature by blocking some UV rays. (See Image Below) There will be serious consequences if humans do not limit the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Due to global warming, the earth’s temperature has started to rise rapidly. One source of the problem is meat production. [2] Since there are a lot of nonrenewable resources used to produce meat, greenhouse gases are increased. Essentially, humans’ meat consumption heavily contributes to the global warming issue.

This image shows how the Greenhouse Effect works. When there is a surplus of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or methane, this causes the earth to get hotter.

This image shows how the Greenhouse Effect works. When there is a surplus of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, or methane, this causes the earth to get hotter.

.                When growing crops to feed cows and other animals, most conventional farmers use fertilizers; these fertilizers release nitrous oxide and other pollutants in the atmosphere[4]. Not only do these fertilizers increase greenhouse gases, according to the UN Environmental Program, fertilizers also threaten human health.[5] Additionally, manure is another source of the problem. Mass producing animals means that there is lot of poop. Unfortunately, manure releases the greenhouse gas methane. With steadily increasing demands for meat, methane and nitrous oxide continue to fuel global warming.

In a study published in the Environmental Research Letters warns there will need to be drastic changes in food production in order to stop a disastrous global warming.[6] Developed countries are the main sources of the issue. In many first world countries, eating meat is expected at every meal; according to Eric Davidson, director of the Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts says that eating meat,”… is part of our culture right now.”[7] This new study suggests that countries like the US would have to cut consumption by 50% to avoid horrific environmental problems by 2050.[8] Also, according to Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts, developed countries will have to reduce fertilizer use to 50% as well.[9]

In conclusion to help stop global warming, people have to stop eating so much meat. I have fully committed myself to the cause by becoming a vegetarian to help the earth keep its cool. Global warming could easily be solved if developed countries were not so in love with their hamburgers and steak dinners. What will you choose to eat next?

 hamburger

Works Cited

Clarke-Billings, Lucy. “‘Stop Eating Meat and Save the Planet’ Says United Nations.” Express. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/378484/Stop-eating-meat-and-save-the-planet-says-United-Nations&gt;.

Cows. America Aljazeera. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://america.aljazeera.com/content/ajam/watch/shows/techknow/blog/2013/10/6/waste-from-thousandsofcowscreatesenergyforanentiredairyfarm/_jcr_content/blog/mainpar/adaptiveimage/src.adapt.480.low.jpg&gt;.

Goldenberg, Suzanne. “Eat Less Meat to Prevent Climate Disaster, Study Warns.” The Guardian. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/apr/13/less-meat-prevent-climate-change&gt;.

Greenhouse Effect. Zhibocc. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://www.zhibocc.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/greenhouse-effect-definition.jpg&gt;.

Hamburger. Wikimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Oct. 2014. <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/62/NCI_Visuals_Food_Hamburger.jpg&gt;.

China’s One Child Policy and Its Implications

China’s One Child Policy and Its Implications

Earth’s population is steadily increasing. By 2050, there is projected to be about 10 billion humans. However, what is the maximum capacity of human life on earth? In 1970s, the Chinese Communist Party implemented a One Child Policy to help the world avoid the answer to this vital question. The country feared that in time it would not be able to provide for its citizens.[1]As of right now in China, there are about 1.4 billion people and counting; subtle hints of evidence that the One Child Policy is failing.

What is it?

China’s One Child Policy made it law that urban couples were only permitted to have one child and rural couples only permitted to have two if both parents were also single children. The Chinese government persuaded citizens that having one child was the means to a prosperous life to help reduce population growth. [2]

[3]Drawing of a Chinese couple.

Social Implications

In Chinese culture, boys were needed to take care of their aging parents; girls were just marred off and could not provide any help to their old-aged parents. Due to this, the social message was,” Survival depends on sons, and daughters are only a burden.”[4] As a result there was an increase in female infanticide and loathing toward females within communities. These negative connotations of females in Chinese society also lead to a huge disturbance in the sex ratio at birth ratio (SRB). Normally there should be about 103 to 107 male babies born for every 100 females babies.[5] As of 2010 the SRB is about 118. Due to this spike in males, there are about 33 million more boys than girls under the age of 20.[6]

Since there about 40 million too many men, 12 to 15 percent of young adult males go unmarried.[7] According to numerous studies, 48% of unmarried men suffer from discrimination and are more likely to become depressed or suicidal because they were not able to pass down the family name.[8]

Financial/Political Implications

Families that violated this rule faced many hardships. Many women were forced to have abortions or to become sterile.[9] While families honoring the one child rule had better child care, housing, and cash bonuses, families that had more than once child faced economic hardships.

Effectiveness: Was it worth it?

Before the 1950’s the Totally Fertility Rate (TFR) was about five children per women. After the implantation of the one child rule, the TFR dropped to two children per women.[10] As the numbers show, the One Child Policy was not very effective; it did not stabilize the population as hoped. However, it did slightly slow down population growth. After all the hardship, tragedy, inequality, and trauma, China’s population is rising- 1.4 billion people and counting.

Works Cited

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg. “The party calls for the partisan to set an example of having only one child.” PBS. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Sept. 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/population-campaign.html&gt;.

Krock, Lexi. “Population Campaigns.” PBS. N.p., 20 Apr. 2004. Web. 15 Sept. 2014. <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/earth/population-campaign.html&gt;.

Scutti, Susan. “One Child Policy Is One Big Problem For China.” News Week. N.p., 23 Jan. 2014. Web. 15 Sept. 2014. <http://www.newsweek.com/2014/01/24/one-child-policy-one-big-problem-china-245118.html&gt;.

By: Jasmine Randle

[1] Scutti, Susan. “One Child Policy Is One Big Problem For China.”

[2] Krock, Lexi. “Population Campaigns.”

[3] Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg. “The party calls for the partisan to set an example of having only one child.”

[4] Scutti, Susan. “One Child Policy Is One Big Problem For China.”

[5] Scutti, Susan. “One Child Policy Is One Big Problem For China.”

[6]Scutti, Susan. “One Child Policy Is One Big Problem For China.”

[7]Scutti, Susan. “One Child Policy Is One Big Problem For China.”

[8] Scutti, Susan. “One Child Policy Is One Big Problem For China.”

[9] Krock, Lexi. “Population Campaigns.”

[10]Krock, Lexi. “Population Campaigns.”