Microplastics Are All Around Us

Ever since the 1960s-when the use of polyethylene became most apparent- our world has been reliant on this pliable and ubiquitous material. Even the most unexpected products such as shoes and clothing are made from this seemingly immortal substance. Of course, when it was initially invented, plastic did not have such a bad reputation. In fact, it quite literally defined the modern world and industry as we know it. Over time, however, through the accumulation of plastic, and the subsequent degradation of the environment, it became clear that this petroleum-based material was not as good as previously assumed.

What Are Microplastics?

Image from pbs.org: Microplastics were found in abundance on a beach on the Hawaiian Islands during a 2014 NOAA debris removal mission.

According to National Geographic, “Microplastics, as the name implies, are tiny plastic particles. Officially, they are defined as plastics less than five millimeters (0.2 inches) in diameter—smaller in diameter than the standard pearl used in jewelry” (Liitschwager). Living in a “throw away” society was a term created regarding the short-term life of plastic; however, this merely refers to the individual’s ownership. In actuality, plastic takes centuries to truly decompose, and even then still remains as microscopic particulates. Today, we see the long-term effects of this short-term material infiltrating every major waterway, obscure ecosystems, the atmosphere, and even us. More so than ever, ocean-life is succumbing to the pressure microplastics have on their habitats. Chunks of it have been found in countless birds, fish, and a multitude of other marine-life variants. Not only is this threatening the integrity of marine and aquatic habitats, but it also directly harms individuals that consume these organisms. Through water runoff, littering, and wind patterns, plastic easily pervades every biome across the planet influencing this constant decadence to it and its inhabited organisms- including us.

As mentioned, scientists have documented the presence of microplastics in virtually every ecosystem. An astonishing field study even checked untouched glacial regions off this extensive list. The National Library of Medicine reported, “In previous studies, abundant microplastics have been reported from Tibetan rivers/lakes water and sediments, and surface soils. We detected microplastics in glacier surface snow on the TP, which were isolated from the impact of human activities, indicating that microplastics can be transported over long distances.” This even ties into the presence of particulates in the atmosphere regarding the very air we breathe.

Why You Should Care

Confrontation and action are two necessary steps to reduce plastic outputs. There is no reversing this turmoil, but it is imperative that we do something to decrease this exponential growth pattern. In a capitalist society where consumerism is the fueling factor, a desire for cheap, materialistic items is inevitable; we are taught to always want more. However, when our health and the health of our planet comes into play, it is all the more important to take action. A research team at Florida State University performed a study on how human bodies react to microplastic inhalation: “Researchers found that exposure to microplastics for only a few days caused human lung cells to slow down their metabolism and growth, change shapes, and decluster so that gaps exist in what is typically a solid sheet of cells.” If the concentration of microplastics in food sources and the air continues to augment, the human population will see these devastating effects more and more frequently.

Sources:

Humphries, Courtney. “Freshwater’s Macro Microplastic Problem.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 11 May 2017, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/article/freshwater-microplastics/.

“Microplastics and Human Health: FSU Researchers Find Exposure to Microplastics May Alter Cellular Function.” Florida State University News, 19 Apr. 2021, news.fsu.edu/news/science-technology/2021/04/19/microplastics-and-human-health-fsu-researchers-find-exposure-to-microplastics-may-alter-cellular-function/.

National Geographic Society. “Microplastics.” National Geographic Society, 28 June 2019, http://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/microplastics/.

US Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “What Are Microplastics?” NOAA’s National Ocean Service, 13 Apr. 2016, oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html.

Zhang Y;Gao T;Kang S;Allen S;Luo X;Allen D; “Microplastics in Glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau: Evidence for the Long-Range Transport of Microplastics.” The Science of the Total Environment, U.S. National Library of Medicine, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33243498/.

Natural Disasters Appearing Left And Right: Only the Beginning

Every month or so there seems to be a new natural catastrophe embarking on different regions, leaving nothing but utter destruction. Although hardly any news outlets express this fact, the progressively changing climate is to blame. Not to mention, regardless of these blatant signs of environmental damage, more degradation has yet to be ceased. Of course, it would be a long process of recovery, sufficient attempts are still yet to be made by most governments causing the majority of the damage.

Recent Environmental Disasters: Brief Overviews

Flooding in Jakarta, Indonesia:

According to reporters at CNBC, “severe flooding across several areas in the Indonesian capital forced more than a thousand people to flee their homes on Saturday.” Meteorologists also warn citizens to expect the poor conditions to persist into next week as well. In some regions, water made it to 1.8 meters in height and left immense destruction on the city. Recent data has expressed that two hundred neighborhoods have been damaged; videos of individuals wading through shoulder height water have been swarming social media. Not to mention, this disaster could not have come at a worse time. Indonesia is already grappling with a peak of cases and a large death toll from Covid-19 in Southeast Asia while also amid an economic recession. Intense weather patterns are expected to remain unrelenting throughout the rest of the season.

Rescuers evacuate residents from their flooded homes in Bekasi on February 19, 2021, as heavy rain inundated the city on the outskirts of Jakarta.
Rescuers evacuate residents from their flooded homes in Bekasi on February 19, 2021, as heavy rain inundated the city on the outskirts of Jakarta (CNBC).

Six Month Summers?:

If global warming persists unchecked, summers in the Northern Hemisphere by 2100 are expected to last 6 months- at least. Denise Chow from CNBC News reports that according to scientists, “the irregularities could have a range of serious implications, affecting human health and agriculture to the environment.” At the State Key Laboratory of Tropical Oceanography at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, a physical oceanographer, Yuping Guan, calculated that over approximately 60 years, summers will extend from an average of 78 to 95 days long. With summers lasting for such long durations, scientists worry about potential, unmitigated outcomes. If summers grow in duration, this subsequently implies that winters will shrink; therefore, potentially cutting off ideal environments for numerous migratory or stationary species. With this being hypothesized, it’s not just the seasonal durations, but also the maximum and minimum temperatures. We might experience unseen highs, but meager lows (potentially only 25 degrees Fahrenheit). Guan continues to express that, “w[W]armer and longer summers, for instance, mean mosquitos and other disease-carrying pests could expand their range and persist in areas where they are not typically found.” Not to mention, these extended/continual seasonal modifications could even decrease species ability to adapt and cut down on genetic diversity. If biological assets such as this dissipate, we will see mass species extinction.

Beijing’s Sandstorm Catastrophe:

China’s capital, Beijing, is suffering from unrelenting sandstorms and suffocating in thick dust carrying extremely high levels of hazardous particles. Just on Sunday, Northeast Chinese cities saw their second sandstorm in two weeks. This is said to be instigated by winds from drought-hit Mongolia and northwestern China. With visibility low, and toxicity high, pedestrians were forced to cover their eyes as gusts of dust swept through the streets. According to U.S. News and World Report, “Beijing’s official air quality index reached a maximum level of 500 on Sunday morning, with floating particles known as PM10 surpassing 2,000 micrograms per cubic meter in some districts.” What is extremely worrying is the PM2.5 particles were above 300 micrograms per cubic meter, far higher than China’s standard of 35 micrograms. What makes this size of particulate matter so dangerous is its ability to enter the bloodstream whereas PM10 can only enter lung passageways. Meteorologists say Beijing might face more sandstorms in April due to the unfavorable weather patterns.

Reuters

Extreme flooding in Nashville:

Nashville declared a state of emergency after flash flooding overnight Saturday. This unforeseen catastrophe killed at least four people in the area. The area had faced its city’s second-highest ever two-day rainfall as causation for this flooding. According to CNN, individuals were, “clinging to trees and taking refuge in their attics to avoid the rising water.” The Nashville Fire Department’s swift water rescue teams had pulled at least 130 people from vehicles and homes; unfortunately, many remain in danger. A deceased man was found inside a car submerged by floodwater by search and rescue teams. A second man was found dead on the Nashboro Village golf course. At least 15 people were rescued from an apartment complex after a building was damaged by a mudslide. The Nashville Weather Service expressed that “rainfall  totals across the middle Tennessee region since Saturday ranged from 4 to 8 inches” and “t[T]he Brentwood area of Nashville may have received 7 to 9 inches of rain.” CNN continued to say that “t[T]he Nashville airport recorded at least 7 inches of rain since Saturday — making the two-day rainfall total the second-largest on record, trailing only 13.5 inches of rain that fell from May 1 to 2, 2010.” Due to the rain and flooding of creeks and streams, drainage outlets were not enough to eradicate the chances of flooding. Many continue to be affected by this disaster as of Sunday.

A car is submerged in water Sunday as flash flooding inundates parts of Nashville.
Submerged car in Nashville amid flooding event (CNN).

For more information on these disasters, vistit:

Indonesian capital slammed by monsoon floods, more than 1,000 forced to evacuate, CNBC, https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/20/indonesian-capital-jakarta-slammed-by-monsoon-floods.html

Summers could last half the year by the end of this century, CNBC, https://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/summers-last-half-year-end-century-rcna436

Beijing Enveloped in Hazardous Sandstorm, Second Time in Two Weeks, USN, https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-03-27/beijing-enveloped-in-hazardous-sandstorm-second-time-in-two-weeks

Nashville declares emergency after deadly flash flooding, CNN, https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/28/weather/severe-weather-south-floods-sunday/index.html

Air Pollution: A Brief Overview

Air pollution is a term we are all well acquainted with; however, oftentimes this concept is never considered deeply enough. According to NRDC, “Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that is detrimental to human health and the planet as a whole.” Whether it is from fossil fuel plants, mining sites, vehicles, or even cigarettes, this is a harmful truth and demeans the air we breathe day-to-day. This entity needed to survive might be slowly degrading our health.

What Are the Predominant Instigators of Air Pollution?

Most air pollution simply comes from energy use and production. Burning fossil fuels releases toxic gases and chemicals into the air. This is destructive and seemingly never-ending feedback loop that instigates and defines Climate Change. The two most notorious air pollutants that perpetually contribute to the Earth’s temperature increase are carbon dioxide and methane, which are direct derivatives of energy usage and production.

These outputs can lead to smog formation when mixed with atmospheric water vapor or sunlight. Photochemical (brown) and sulphuric (grey) smog are most frequently seen from different atmospheric combinations. Los Angeles, being a place of little humidity and immense sun exposure, is the best example of a region susceptible to Photochemical smog formation. London, on the other hand, is a biome of incessant humidity and cloud coverage making it ideal for sulphuric smog accumulation. Based on these climate patterns and chemical outputs, different types of toxins corrupts the air qualities and atmospheric integrity. Not only is Climate Change resulting from air pull toon, but there’s an increase in natural air pollutants as well. As temperatures increase, allergenic air pollutants subsequently become more apparent in the environment for longer periods of time. Mold, which thrives in the damp conditions caused by extreme weather and flooding, and pollen, due to a longer production season, also contribute to atmospheric strife as particulate and chemical entities.

Particulate Matter

According to the EPA, “An extensive body of scientific evidence shows that long- and short-term exposures to fine particle pollution, also known as fine particulate matter (PM2.5), can cause premature death and harmful effects on the cardiovascular system, including increased hospital admissions and emergency department visits for heart attacks and strokes.” Although particle pollution and ground-level ozone pollution have decreased significantly, levels are still unhealthy and have been tracked to cause respiratory issues/diseases. Ozone, a colorless gas, is created when emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds react, which can increase the occurrence of asthma attacks and premature respiratory problems. Particulate matter, directly resulting from sulfur dioxide or nitrogen oxides can accumulate in the atmosphere causing acid rainstorms , or even directly interfere with individuals’ health.

Sources:

“Air Pollution: Current and Future Challenges.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 6 Nov. 2020, http://www.epa.gov/clean-air-act-overview/air-pollution-current-and-future-challenges. 

November 01, 2016 Jillian Mackenzie. “Air Pollution: Everything You Need to Know.” NRDC, 4 Mar. 2021, http://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know. 

RinkeshA true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitab . “Various Causes, Effects and Impressive Solutions to Air Pollution.” Conserve Energy Future, 17 June 2020, http://www.conserve-energy-future.com/causes-effects-solutions-of-air-pollution.php. 

Snowing in Texas: Blatant Sign of Climate Catastrophe

This week we have seen bizarre global weather patterns popping up in numerous regions. One that has specifically gained the attention of the internet and Environmental Scientists is the freezing temperatures and perpetual snow storms in Texas. Texas is a state that is warm for the predominant portion of the year and hardly ever if ever, sees snow. So, why did this happen?

Arctic Polar Vortex

According to the National Weather Service, the Arctic Polar Vortex is, “a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the Earth’s North and South poles.” This ensures that the cooler atmospheric air stays in close proximity to these regions rather than encroaching near the equator. During the winter, this vortex expands and becomes less stable as regional temperatures drop and send cold Arctic air southward over the United States with the jet stream. This is not a rare occurrence and happens annually.

However, this year we saw modified and unusual weather patterns that instigated snow in states like Texas and Alabama. Parts of Texas even hit their coldest temperature ever recorded, 0F (-18C). Although it sounds contradictory, scientists explain that as global temperatures increase, erratic weather patterns like this subsequently become more prevalent; there is an increase in frequency and intensity of such events. National Geographic more understandably explains this process as a ribbon or stream: “The waviness of the ribbon depends at least in part on how much hotter it is down south than it is at the pole. When the difference is large, the jet stream sticks to a fairly straight path. But when the difference is smaller—say, when the Arctic is really warm, and the ‘hill’ down which the air is falling is less steep—the jet stream can go from sort of straight to loopy.” This is exactly what happened this year in Texas. Due to the Arctic’s temperature increase, the vortex became highly unstable and dipped further south than ever before. Environmental scientists are suggesting that phenomenon’s like the Jetstream impairment will only become more frequent and persist annually.

Other Detrimental Effects

Not only are the citizens of Texas facing unimaginably frigid temperatures, but their homes are also experiencing the effects. According to the Washington Post, “With temperatures in the low teens for days, the state, despite its dominant energy sector, saw rolling power outages turn into a prolonged blackout that left more than 4 million people in the dark and cold.” Estates in the deep south that never experience such weather were not built to sustain it and are, quite literal, crumbling under the pressure. In addition, lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by these changes. In total, 21 people have died as a direct result of water shortages and glacial temperatures. Finally, the extreme temperatures and utility impairments caused detrimental effects, not to mention the economic toll expected to be more than $1 billion.

Sources:

Borunda, Alejandra. “Snow in Texas and Ice in Alabama? Bizarre Cold Weather Could Become More Common.” Science, National Geographic, 10 Feb. 2021, http://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/arctic-blast-polar-vortex-cold-weather-climate.

“The Science behind the Polar Vortex: You Might Want to Put on a Sweater.” The Science behind the Polar Vortex: You Might Want to Put on a Sweater | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, http://www.noaa.gov/multimedia/infographic/science-behind-polar-vortex-you-might-want-to-put-on-sweater.

Taylor, Adam. “Analysis | Texas’s Cold-Weather Catastrophe Is a Global Warning.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 18 Feb. 2021, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/02/18/texas-cold-global-climate-change/.

“US Cold Snap: Why Is Texas Seeing Arctic Temperatures?” BBC News, BBC, 15 Feb. 2021, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56058372.

Environmental Racism

Many citizens of the United Sates refuse to believe the Climate Crisis exists. The predominant driver in this blissful ignorance is deception; they do not believe that the Earth is perishing because they will be and are the last to see these effects. Racism is an apparent reality in the United States whether it is displayed discretely or not. Although it is rarely discussed, this oppression continues even into Climate Change and environmental degradation. In fact, it is evident that there is disproportionate exposure to environmental hazards in lower-class communities all over the United States. 

What influences this disproportion?

One of the greatest instigating factors in this behavior are, “industries that follow the path of least resistance when deciding where to locate hazardous waste sites and other polluting facilities” (Erickson, Michigan News). In order to conserve money usage and ensure profit, large energy companies have systematic plans to limit money spent to discard waste. This problem even extends beyond just the disposing of dangerous biproducts. Factories are often constructed in low-income areas to once again limit expenses; subsequently, this lowers the value of said houses in surrounding areas, trapping the residents, limiting options to sell their houses, and leaving them with long-term health deficits. Morning Consult reported that, “In a poll conducted June 16-18 among 1,840 adults, 61 percent of Hispanic adults and 56 percent of Black adults said they’re ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ concerned about the impact of local pollution on themselves and their family, friends and community members, compared to 39 percent of white adults who said the same. In comparison, 27 percent of white adults, 17 percent of Hispanic adults and 12 percent of Black adults said they were ‘not that concerned’ or ‘not at all concerned’ about local pollution.” This further supports the notion of distrust and evident exposure to toxic elements due to individuals’ demography. 

People immediately believe that everyone is equally at risk of exposure to pollutants. However, according to Raquel Pinderhughes, “. . .a growing body of research shows that the most common victims of environmental hazards and pollution are minorities and the poor.” There is not one square inch of Earth that is not actively affected by the Climate crisis; although, much of it is concentrated in areas that people do not think twice about. Under previous governmental leadership, all protection for these communities was completely revoked, worsening their state. Whether it is particulate matter or toxic carcinogens, this problem is far from alleviation and needs desperate attention. 

Sources:

Erickson, Jim. “Targeting Minority, Low-Income Neighborhoods for Hazardous Waste Sites.” University of Michigan News, 19 Jan. 2016, news.umich.edu/targeting-minority-low-income-neighborhoods-for-hazardous-waste-sites/.

II, Vann R. Newkirk. “Environmental Racism Is Real, According to Trump’s EPA.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 28 Feb. 2018, http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/02/the-trump-administration-finds-that-environmental-racism-is-real/554315/.

Jenkins, Lisa Martine. “’They’re Living With It Every Day’: Environmental Injustices Leave Minorities With Pollution Anxieties.” Morning Consult, 6 July 2020, morningconsult.com/2020/07/06/environment-racial-inequality-pollution/.

Pinderhughes, Raquel. “The Impact of Race on Environmental Quality: An Empirical and Theoretical Discussion.” JSTOR https://www.jstor.org/stable/1389310?seq=1/.

U.S. Rejoins the Paris Climate Agreement

What is the Paris Climate Agreement?

In short, The Paris Agreement is explained by the United Nations as, “a legally binding international treaty on climate change.” The primary goal is to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius in comparison to pre-industrial levels; however, ideally, 1.6 degrees. To do this, efforts would entail reaching a global peak of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. Thus, ensuring long-term reparation and a climate neutral world. As of just recently, the United States has contributed to a list of 174 countries world-wide. With combined contributions, these ideals seem more and more obtainable.

Biden’s Signing of Executive Order to Rejoin Agreement

As of January 20th, the 46th president, Joseph Biden, was inaugurated into office. Just hours after this action, he signed a number of significant executive orders- one being to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Because predecessor United States president, Donald Trump had removed the country from this agreement, Biden took quick action towards a reversal. This is only one of the multitude of actions Biden has taken thus far. The New York Times reports that, “President Biden on Wednesday will direct federal agencies to determine how expansive a ban on new oil and gas leasing on federal land should be, part of a suite of executive orders that will effectively launch his agenda to combat climate change. . . .”

U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to sign a series of executive orders, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement, at the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office just hours after his inauguration on January 20, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden became the 46th president of the United States earlier today during the ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Significance of the Paris Agreement

Although the list of actions Biden has already taken is consistently expanding, The Paris Climate Agreement remains quite a significant one. Due to the combination of 175 countries’ efforts, the future of the environment seems a little more hopeful. In fact, NPR expresses that this agreement is, “the largest international effort to curb global warming.” Since the U.S. is the second largest contributor to global carbon emission [following China], it was vital for Biden to take immediate action. Although, it will take a lot more than rejoining this agreement to gain control of the Climate Crisis- with the consistent imploring from American citizens, assigning of environmental experts to more government positions, and the controlling of emission outputs- this goal is more and more visible on the horizon.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is gettyimages-5010818721_custom-befe5d9f7ab6120a36d2af9929ca990a44d4d04b-s600-c85.jpg

Sources:

Berwyn, Bob. “The US Rejoins the Paris Agreement, but Rebuilding Credibility on Climate Action Will Take Time.” Inside Climate News, 21 Jan. 2021, insideclimatenews.org/news/21012021/biden-paris-climate-agreement/.

Friedman, Lisa. “Biden Sets in Motion Plan to Ban New Oil and Gas Leases on Federal Land.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Jan. 2021, http://www.nytimes.com/2021/01/25/climate/biden-climate-change.html.

Rott, Nathan. “Biden Moves To Have U.S. Rejoin Climate Accord.” NPR, NPR, 20 Jan. 2021, http://www.npr.org/sections/inauguration-day-live-updates/2021/01/20/958923821/biden-moves-to-have-u-s-rejoin-climate-accord.

Unfccc.int, unfccc.int/process-and-meetings/the-paris-agreement/the-paris-agreement.

A War against Fast Fashion

H&M, Zaful, Forever 21, Zara, Shein: Teenagers’ go-to brands are not only notorious for their stylish clothing, but also their lasting effects on the planet. For the most part, there is no ignoring the faults of these multi-million dollar companies. The cheap and cute clothes distract many from the true inside workings, factory conditions, employee treatment, and the exploitation of materials. This is not accounted for but, must be.

What is Fast Fashion?

According to Ethical Consumer, “Fast fashion is ‘fast’ in a number of senses: the rate of production is fast; the customer’s decision to purchase is fast; delivery is fast; and garments are worn fast, usually only a few times before being discarded. It is a model that is entirely unsustainable.” The mass production of goods is precisely how these industries flourish. They are quick in updating products the minute something becomes insignificant in the world of fashion. If their cheap prices weren’t convincing enough to draw in materialistic consumers, then their up-to-date products will.

These clothes are, essentially, “too good to be true.” The reason why the prices are so desirable and inexpensive is a direct result of cheap production, poor employee treatment, and the fragility of the materials used. They are virtually made to be worn a couple of times and then thrown away. In a New York Times article, it is stated that “Fast-fashion brands may not design their clothing to last (and they don’t), but as artifacts of a particularly consumptive era, they might become an important part of the fossil record” (Schlossberg).

Environmental Degradation Instigated by Fast Fashion

The constant alterations to current fashion trends inherently makes for a wasteful society. This society, then, reflects on the fashion industries and their attempts to appease consumers. Materialism and commercialization of the fashion world is a huge contributing factor to the environments degradation. We live in a “throw away” society which has now invaded the top clothing industries. It is all about how much you can get for minimal money usage. This ideology inhabits both the consumer’s and producer’s mindsets.

To quote New York Times once more, Tatiana Schlossberg exclaims, “More than 60 percent of fabric fibers are now synthetics, derived from fossil fuels, so if and when our clothing ends up in a landfill (about 85 percent of textile waste in the United States goes to landfills or is incinerated), it will not decay.” On top of materials that are already discarded each day, clothes are being gradually and increasingly added to it. Due to the endurability of these products, often times they do not last longer than a few wears. This is mostly because they were not made to. These industries are training consumers to buy their cheap clothes, wear them once or twice, throw them away, and then go buy a newer and better piece. A constant cycle that has shaped modern-day shoppers. In fact, “The fashion industry is the second-most-polluting industry—coming in right behind big oil—according to the UN. The fashion industry not only produces 10% of global carbon emissions, but also contributes 20% of waste water production” (Rao). These industries are the essence of a global injustice being perpetuated against our planet adding on to the other prevalent violations.

How You Can Help

This problem is a big one and it will take immense reparation to abolish the damage it has placed on consumers and the environment. But, nonetheless, you can do your part to help. One of the best ways to do this is buying second hand. Thrift stores have cute clothes that are usually quite durable. Rather than buying new clothes, you can purchase new, old clothes with a clear conscious. In fact, after you are finished with these products, instead of throwing them away, you can donate them back. It is challenging to train yourself out of a materialistic mindset, but with knowing you are helping the planet and contributing to kinder industries that work to support lower-class communities, it will be worth it.

List of Apparent Fast Fashion Industries:

  • Forever 21
  • H&M
  • Top Shop
  • Zara
  • Zaful
  • Urban Outfitters
  • Pacsun
  • Hot Topic
  • Gap
  • Fashion Nova
  • rue21

Sources:

Crumbie, Alex. “What Is Fast Fashion and Why Is It a Problem?” Ethical Consumer, 31 Oct. 2019, http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/fashion-clothing/what-fast-fashion-why-it-problem.

Rao, Pavithra. “Battling the Damaging Effects of ‘Fast Fashion’ | Africa Renewal.” United Nations, United Nations, 2019, http://www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2019-march-2020/battling-damaging-effects-%E2%80%98fast-fashion%E2%80%99.

Schlossberg, Tatiana. “How Fast Fashion Is Destroying the Planet.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 3 Sept. 2019, http://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/03/books/review/how-fast-fashion-is-destroying-the-planet.html.

Changes To Global Freshwater Networks

Although most of our water-drinking necessities rest on the water beneath our feet, lakes, streams, and freshwater systems maintain ecosystems and the necessary biodiversity within them. They are used to not only relay the current strain of climate hazards but also contain keystone species on which scientists and entire ecosystems rely. Therefore, leaving many to worry about these networks’ current state as time progresses and greenhouse gasses continue to grow in quantity.

Changing Weather Phenomena’s

As global weather patterns are continuously altered by an increase in air temperature, lakes, rivers, and streams experience the implications. Precipitation and evaporation rates have begun impacting freshwater areas in various ways. Shallow, stagnant water being more susceptible to a change, are escalating to warmer temperatures thus completely altering the chemical composition of said body. The Environmental Institute at Indiana University exclaimed, “Increasing temperatures, causing earlier snowmelt, combined with higher precipitation amounts and more severe weather and flooding will impact the reproduction abilities of aquatic species. Changes in the timing of high and low stream flow creates stress on aquatic plants and animals, decreasing survival rates.” Evaporation naturally increases through the addition of heat to bodies of water. This suggests that the water is closer to changing forms into a gaseous state. So, these frequent and rapid changes in aquatic levels induce a stressful environment for biotic inhabitants.

One of the most heavily researched lakes, The Caspian Sea, provides a focal point for environmental scientists. It is said to display the clear effects of weather and atmospheric alterations instigated by the climate crisis. The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) stated in a recent article that “‘The Caspian Sea can be viewed as representative of many other lakes in the world. Many people are not even aware that an inland lake is dramatically shrinking due to climate change, as our models indicate,’ says Matthias Prange. The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also failed to mention lakes, and disregarded the social, political and economic consequences of global warming on the affected regions.”

Local Environmental Changes Can Instigate Vast Modifications to Surrounding Bodies of Water

Deforestation and agriculture are often environmental issues that are discussed individually without mention of the effects they might have on alternate aquatic environments. Nonetheless, these ecosystems are in constant relation to one another and interferences with one affects the integrity of the next. Deforestation, to start, is the removal of trees which frequently includes their roots. These roots are responsible for holding soil in the ground ensuring decreased erosion. However, when removed from the equation, erosion is increased and soil commonly ends up in local freshwater systems. In addition to the already warmed body of water, this creates an ideal environment for blooming activity. Soil includes nutrients which then fuels algae growth inherently allowing for a flourishing effect.

Agricultural runoff virtually has the same result. Rather than the plain soil eroding from farms and ranches, most commercialized crops require fertilizer which incorporates into the dirt. Thus, increasing the nutrient levels present in the sediments. This often finds its way into neighboring streams and lakes influencing similar but even heightened events. With the absence of surrounding trees, these bodies have no protection from erosion. Indiana University continues to explain that “Warmer water temperatures in deep lakes slows down processes that add oxygen to the water, creating dead zones, or areas with less oxygen that are unable to support life. These dead zones can produce large-scale fish mortality and toxic algal blooms.” Dead-zones are becoming more and more apparent as Climate Change progresses.

Changes in Speciation

Species’ presence is also altered as a result of changing freshwater environments. Specialist species that reside in specific environments shaped to their needs, require an ecosystem that will suffice to their minuscule range of tolerance. However, as mentioned, chemical compositions of lakes and streams are more frequently undergoing a complete refashioning of chemical and physical traits: temperature, oxygenation, water level, TSS (total suspended sediment), and other various alterations. Not to mention, after soil erosion infiltrates into these aquatic environments, the sediment within the water often creates a scene in which gilled fish cannot survive. Sediments will adhere to the tight space and slowly kill the organism limiting necessary oxygenation. Alternatively, Generalist species-often known as invasive- easily adapt and thrive in various environments due to their natural adaptability. Not only will they out-compete the native Specialist species present, but will thrive in the new condition modifying the entire ecosystem.

Invasive Cyanobacteria

“Warmer air and water temperatures,” the Environmental Resilience Institute at Indiana State exclaims, “may also expand the ranges of current invasive species, or allow new ones to establish. Invasive species can pose challenges to the success of ecosystem protection efforts ranging from large ecosystem management, such as the Great Lakes, to the restoration of coastal estuaries.” Every day there is an increase in species added to the list of endangered species. Some may seem as insignificant as an aquatic plant, but all have a place in an ecosystem that may suffer in its absence.

Sources:

“Lakes, Rivers, and Streams.” Environmental Resilience Institute Part of the Prepared for Environmental Change Grand Challenge, eri.iu.edu/erit/implications/lakes-rivers-streams.html. 

marum_de. “Climate Crisis Is Causing Lakes to Shrink.” EurekAlert!, http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-12/m-cf-cci122220.php. 

2020 is set to be warmest year in history Despite La niña effect

Each year we see new record temperatures and an increasing presence of dire natural disasters. 2020, following this pattern, is said to once again break predecessor records. We have witnessed disastrous fires, a premature and long-lasting hurricane season, and abnormal weather in different regions of the world. However, this news is more concerning than prior years due to 2020 falling on a La Nina year.

What is the La Nina Effect?

This phenomenon is a weather pattern change in the Pacific Ocean. La Nina’s coupling event, the El Nino Southern Oscillation- or ENSO- has the opposite effect. It is instigated by the reversal of Trade Winds and Ocean Currents in the Pacific Ocean. Thus, influencing warmer ocean temperatures on the West coast of the Americas and the upwelling of cold nutrient-rich water on the East coast of Asia. This cold water, however,  is normally present in the Western Pacific rather than the East, ensuring flourishing fisheries and an absence of extreme wildfires. However, the change in wind direction and ocean currents alters the composition of the ocean and weather. But, back to the La Nina effect. This effect is an extreme normal and known as a cooling effect. California would have even drier conditions and even more aggressive wildfires, fisheries would flourish, and there would be even more hurricane activity in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.

2020’s Abnormal Weather Patterns

The European Union has warned that 2020 is headed to break the 2016 record of being the hottest year recorded. In an article by Jake Johnson, he reported, “‘Globally and in Europe, September 2020 was the warmest September on record, with the global average 0.05°C warmer than the previous warmest September in 2019,’ the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said in an analysis released Wednesday morning.” Though this is common for a La Nina year, these patterns are abnormal at this magnitude. Some say that 2020 is a perfect example of what we have to expect in the future. As greenhouse gasses pile up and Climate Change progresses, there is a heightened concern for environmental scientists. Ivana Kottasova, a writer for CNN exclaimed that “The recurrent climate phenomenon, which developed in August and strengthened in October, is normally associated with below-normal sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean caused by changes in winds, air pressure and rainfall.” Despite La Nina being limited to the Pacific Ocean, it normally serves as a cooling effect for the entire planet- which has not been seen this year. So, even with this “cooling,” 2020 has still surpassed the temperatures documented in 2016.

Firefighters perform structure protection against the Glass Fire in Napa County, California on Thursday, October 1, 2020. (Photo: Getty Images)

We already are seeing the degrading effects on the environment, but this year more so than ever. With merely a 1.8°F rise from the pre-industrial period, it has caused unimaginable harm to our atmosphere and the environment’s stability. Just in December scientists have measured a difference of “1.16 degrees above normal” (Zeke Hausfather). This year as well as previous years have posed as a mass wake-up call addressing the integrity of our Planet’s future. Whether or not detrimental fossil fuel industries will answer this confrontation just might determine the future of mankind.

Sources:

Kottasová, Ivana. “2020 Set to Be One of Three Hottest Years on Record despite La Niña’s Cooling Effect, Report Says.” CNN, Cable News Network, 2 Dec. 2020, http://www.cnn.com/2020/12/02/world/climate-change-effects-wmo-2020-intl/index.html.

Common Dreams, and Jake Johnson. “Scientists Warn 2020 on Pace to Become Hottest Year Ever as September Heat Smashes Previous Record.” Common Dreams, 7 Oct. 2020, http://www.commondreams.org/news/2020/10/07/scientists-warn-2020-pace-become-hottest-year-ever-september-heat-smashes-previous.

Press, The Associated. “2020 Likely to End up Hottest Year on Record.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 15 Dec. 2020, http://www.nbcnews.com/science/environment/2020-likely-end-hottest-year-record-rcna199.

“What Is La Niña?” NOAA SciJinks – All About Weather, scijinks.gov/la-nina/.

Wind Energy

The wind has helped facilitate needs for the past 2,000 years. Yet, more recently it has been a staple renewable energy source. Environmental scientists often debate which renewable power source is the best. Wind energy always presents itself in the top two place- competing with solar energy. What thrusts this power source to the top of the list is not just the minimal waste but also it has proven to be one of the most cost-effective, it has opened up thousands of job opportunities, it is sustainable, and wind turbines can be constructed on multi-purpose lands.

Wind Energy’s Contribution to the Economy

Though wind turbines are costly and laborious to construct, their construction and maintenance obviously require employment. According to the American Wind Energy Association, “American wind energy is a major job creator– today over 120,000 U.S. workers now have wind-powered careers. And these jobs are spread across all 50 states, meaning your state has a wind job even if it doesn’t have a wind farm.” The main fear many people have when the idea of switching entirely to renewable energy comes up is that many jobs will be lost. However, studies prove that this is far from true and jobs won’t be lost but merely used for another specialty. As energy production evolves, employment opportunities will too. It is also stated that “U.S. wind power drives unmatched economic development into rural America. Because of extra income from wind projects, family farmers and ranchers have a new source of stable income, small-town school districts can offer their students top-notch educations, and local taxes stay low.” Farmlands can be dually used to also house wind turbines without disturbing the crops or cattle. This does not only help the economy but also conserves land usage and compensates for its immense size.

Sustainability And Minimal Emission Outputs

Many of the current non-sustainable energy sources release toxic greenhouse gases that continue to put a strain on the environment, whereas wind energy does not. After the construction of the turbines, it is a completely clean fuel source. An article titled, “Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy,” by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, supports that “Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, which emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide—causing human health problems and economic damages.” Thus, making wind energy extremely advantageous in conserving the environment. However, the current problem engineers are faced with is the recycling of the turbine after they cease to work. On average, the current wind turbine lasts 20 to 25 years- not an incredibly long time. With this in mind, Ocean Based Perpetual Energy has researched the possibility of ensuring recyclable turbine models. In an article titled, “Recyclable Wind Turbine Blade Innovation Could Transform Other Renewable Energy Industries,” they exclaim that “Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in partnership with Arkema Inc. of Pennsylvania, have demonstrated the feasibility of thermoplastic resin and validated its structural integrity on a thermoplastic composite blade manufactured at NREL.” Therefore, the possibility of recycled wind turbines is not so far-fetched and companies are proactively working to make them.

Sources:

“Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy.” Energy.gov, http://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy.

“Benefits of Wind.” AWEA, http://www.awea.org/wind-101/benefits-of-wind.

“Recyclable Wind Turbine Blade Innovation Could Transform Other Renewable Energy Industries.” OceanBased, 30 Nov. 2020, oceanbased.energy/recyclable-wind-turbine-blade-innovation-could-transform-renewable-energy-industries/.