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.

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The Melting Ice Caps and How They Affect Us

There is plenty of evidence to confirm that the polar ice caps are indeed melting and that global warming is to blame. The most noticeable evidence is the fact that the ice caps have decreased drastically in size over the past 100 years or so. Figure 1 displays this visually.

Figure 1 from enviromatters.wikispaces.com

polar-ice-caps-melting

This poses an incredibly dangerous threat to polar bears and other inhabitants of arctic regions, as well as to the ecosystems of the biome. However, the ecosystem disruption in the ice caps is only one of many drastic repercussions of the melting ice caps.  An article published by the National Academy of Sciences’ Research Council lists two other majorly destructive consequences of this crisis.

Growing scientific research heavily suggests that changes in the arctic regions are leading to changes in the weather of the mid-latitudes. The increasingly warmer air in the arctic regions is leading to a greater persistence in abnormal weather conditions such as intense snow, intense heat, intense cold, intense rain, essentially any other extreme types of weather, including dangerous storms. “The basic idea is that a warmer Arctic plays games with the jet stream, the stream of air high above us in the stratosphere that carries our weather and that is driven by temperature contrasts between the mid and high latitudes,” writes Chris Mooney of the Washington Post. “If the Arctic warms faster than the mid latitudes do, then the jet stream could slow down, goes the theory. It could develop a more elongated and loopier path, leading to a persistence of particular weather conditions.” Figure 2 shows the elongated, loopy jet stream patterns.

Figure 2 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/04/16/the-arctic-is-unraveling-due-to-global-warming-and-the-consequences-will-be-global/

imrs.php

Another destructive side-effect of the meltdown of the ice caps is that it releases greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere, thus increasing global warming. The ice and permafrost (frozen ground) in arctic regions contains massive stores of frozen carbon, “some 1,330 and 1,580 gigatons worth, and that may be a low end estimate,” says The Washington Post. How did carbon get inside the ice caps? The National Research Council explains that dead plants, which are essentially made of carbon, freeze and lock their carbon in place if the climate is cold, but decompose and release their carbon into the atmosphere in warmer climates. Should the ice caps melt and lose their freezing climate, “the volume of carbon emissions could be enough to set back worldwide efforts to reduce emissions from fossil fuel burning by adding an entire new source of greenhouse gases beyond the usual suspects, like fossil fuels and deforestation,” says the Washington Post.

Sources consulted:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/04/16/the-arctic-is-unraveling-due-to-global-warming-and-the-consequences-will-be-global/

http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Features/PolarIce/polar_ice2.php

enviromatters.wikispaces.com

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.

If It’s Sunny You’ll Save Money

Considering the fact that this blog is online, I am assuming that you are using a computer, smartphone or tablet to view this page. Now, I ask you to take a moment to reflect and think about how long you have been on this computer and how much electricity you have been using during the duration of this time. The average American spends about 5 hours a day on digital devices ( figure 1). Annually, that is a total of 1825 hours on digital media. Think about this, and think about how much it costs the average American to power their digital devices.  This means that the average American can spend up to 600 dollars just on electrical bills for their computer. However, what if there was a way to power your computer just using the environment around you?

Figure 1

  o-TV-DIGITAL-DEVICES-570

Using solar power is all the rage as individuals are discovering that they can cut back on electrical bills by using energy from the sun. Solar panels allow us to use , solar energy (a type of solar power) which comes from the sun. In doing so, solar energy can be converted into electrical energy, which can then be used to power things such as a computer and other devices which need electricity to work (figure 2).  Solar energy allows one to power devices with low cost renewable energy and using solar energy to power devices is a fairly simple process.

(Figure 2)

solar-energy-diagram

Companies such as Samsung and SOL have developed laptops that run solely on the energy from the sun. The computer developed by Samsung is powered by a solar panel embedded in the lid. In order to function the computer needs approximately 2 hours of sunlight to get 1 hour of working battery life. When fully charged, the computer battery can last up to 14 hours straight. This computer costs about $350 US dollars. Similarly the company SOL (known for developing devices using solar energy) developed a laptop which uses solar energy as well. This laptop is more efficient than the Samsung, as it is equipped with a detachable solar panel which can obtain 10 hours of battery life from just 2 hours of sun exposure (figure 3). This Laptop costs the exact same amount as the samsung computer, costing about $350 US dollars. By purchasing either of these laptops one would be purchasing a laptop $400 dollars less than the average computer and it is powered free of charge due to its solar panel technology.

Figure 3

samsung-nc215s-solar-powered-netbook

Converting to solar energy is 100% cost efficient and can end up saving you thousands of dollars (figure 4). Personally, I think that everyone should convert to solar power as it is a natural never ending resources that the earth has given us. Although one must pay for the initial cost of installing solar panels, in the long run solar panels save you up to 7 thousand dollars (figure 4). By using solar energy one can cut back on electrical bills and it makes for a more cost efficient lifestyle. Developing technology that allows computers to run on solar panels is truly revolutionary and I think that there is no better place to start converting people to using solar energy, than the devices we use on a day to day basis.

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 9.05.13 PM

Efficient Energy Please, the Japanese Do it with Ease

Everyone these days seems to be obsessed with saving energy. The word “sustainability” and “go green” seem to be all that were hearing these days. Some people hear these ideas of being energy efficient and it goes straight in one ear and out the other. Some countries however, truly want to create  a sustainable, energy efficient environment, and currently Japan sets the highest standard as the most energy efficient country (Figure 1).

Figure 1:

Most-Energy-Efficient-Countries

Japan has always prided itself off being 30 years ahead of other global super powers in terms creating an energy efficiency initiative. After the 1970 increase in oil price (figure 2) it was evident that “if something wasn’t done, life wouldn’t be sustainable” . Japan and several other countries suffered economically and Japan’s economy in particular “was on the brink of collapsing. This prompted the Japanese government to take initiative and increase energy efficiency across their country.

Figure 2:

th

The Japanese government has had a great influence over the Japanese people and their energy efficiency. In doing so, the government established several movements and laws in hopes of creating a sustainable country. Several conservation laws were passed forcing factories to replace old inefficient boilers and assembly-line machinery with new energy efficient equipment. There is also a law put into place which requires each factory to hire an individual who is in charge of overseeing factory energy efficiency. This is a very demanding job as by law, Japanese factories are required to become more energy efficient by one percent every year.  Japanese individuals have also started movements such “Setsudan” which emerged to “encourage people and companies to conserve energy and prevent rolling power cuts”. Japanese individuals will increase temperatures in homes and offices, thin lighting by removing some of the bulbs, and stop using big screen and exterior lighting in hopes of cutting back on energy.  These cut backs in energy use are obviously working as”Japan’s industrial sector uses the same amount of energy as 40 years ago, despite the dramatic economic growth since then”. These laws and movements have now become a Japanese way of life as most families live and operate in energy efficient manners.

Japan faces extreme temperatures in the Summer however typical Japanese families rarely uses their Air Conditioners. Most Japanese have AC units in every room of their homes. In doing so this enables them to save energy in the long run. AC units are only turned on in rooms which are occupied this saves more energy compared to having constant central air. Not only this, but the Japanese also have power strips with individual on/off switches so that their appliances won’t waste energy. Most families also purchase LED lights as well to conserve light energy. Families even save water by sharing bathwater; some individuals even have bathtubs that talk to them and warn them when they are wasting energy (figure 3) . Families are also prompted to conserve energy because of the high energy bills which costs twice as much in Japan as in the US, because Japan imports nearly all of it’s fossil fuels. 

Figure 3:

 ofuro

No matter what the motivation is for the Japanese, whether it is fear of high energy bills, or the fear of living in an unsustainable environment, Japan is setting a great example for the rest of the world in terms of energy efficiency.  In fact, recently Obama mentioned Japan as a country we should strive to be like in terms of our own energy consumption in the US.  Although it could take sometime, I am very hopeful that with some new laws and green initiatives, the US can soon become a green, sustainable country which excels in energy efficiency 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;.

A Storm Three Times The Size of Earth

If Timmy throws a ball from his front yard in Boston towards the Equator in a straight line heading south, in what country will the ball end up?

Pull out your map and look at the country that is on the Equator directly south of Boston. The answer is Columbia, right?

Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.42.38 PM

Wrong!

The question seems simple; a map and a ruler should be all we need to answer it upon first glance. However, there is something else happening to the ball once Timmy throws it that makes the answer a bit more complicated. It is called the Coriolis Effect.

The Coriolis Effect describes the way objects passing over the Earth respond to the Earth’s rotation. Since the Earth rotates as a whole, the speed of rotation at the Equator is faster than that at the poles. The combination of atmospheric convection currents with the Coriolis Effect create high and low pressure systems called Hadley, Polar, and Ferrel Cells. Earth’s air is pushed and pulled through these systems due to the four major properties of air: density, water vapor capacity, adiabatic healing and cooling, and latent heat release. Objects travelling over the Earth’s surface also appear to become displaced, such as Timmy’s ball. However, Timmy’s ball is actually still moving in a straight line, while the Earth rotates under it.

So instead of landing at the end of a straight line south, Timmy’s ball would actually appear curve along the surface of the Earth and end up somewhere in the Pacific Ocean.

coriolis effect ball

The ball is thrown in a straight line, but the Earth rotates beneath it.

The Coriolis Effect also has an impact on large scale storms, such as hurricanes. The air in a hurricane is transformed into the telltale whirlpool image through high- and low-pressure systems created by the Coriolis Effect. High speed rotation at the Equator pushes the air towards the poles, then the low pressure at the Equator draws the air back in.

hurricanes coriolis

 Hurricane air systems are formed by air pushed from the more rapidly rotating Equator towards the poles.

However, Earth is not the only planet that experiences the Coriolis Effect. Jupiter, in particular, has an incredibly strong Coriolis Effect due to its immense size and high speed rotation. Since Jupiter has the fastest rotation in the solar system, the force Jupiter’s Coriolis Effect is magnified. It does not have three cells of high and low pressure systems like Earth. Instead, it has bands of air that whip around its surface, creating the striped look that can be seen from outer space.

jupiter-great-red-spot-shrink

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot has recently been shrinking.

Like Earth, Jupiter’s Coriolis Effect impacts storms. Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, for example, is directly at the point at which two of Jupiter’s air bands meet, creating a pressure system so great that the Great Red Spot was approximately three times larger than Earth at its largest. Recently, however, the Great Red Spot has been shrinking. Now, it is only about the size of one Earth. One hypothesis is that some activity in Jupiter’s atmosphere is drawing energy away from the storm. I think it could potentially be due to a shift in Jupiter’s Coriolis Effect, which would interfere with the meeting place between the bands of high pressure air that caused the Great Red Spot in the first place. However, scientists are not sure why it is shrinking.

The Coriolis Effect impacts so many different things in our universe: storms, air patterns, convection currents, airplanes, missiles, and even rockets, not just on Earth but on other planets as well.