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Category: Environment

5 Surprising Contributors To Light Pollution

Have you lived your whole life within the confines of a large city and aren’t sure what people are referring to when they say that the stars are big and bright? That’s because urban areas are subject to light pollution, meaning that the stars are barely visible on a given night while those that live in these areas can have their daily natural cycles disrupted. There are a lot of things that lead to light pollution such as skyscrapers and traffic lights, but here are a few of the more surprising contributors.

1. Satellites

While we tend to think of light pollution coming from near the Earth’s surface, a lot of it actually comes from outside of the atmosphere. Artificial satellites that orbit around the Earth are huge contributors to light pollution. Each year, more satellites are added into orbit and it’s clogging up a lot of the view that people have of space.

This has been an issue for a lot of researchers here on Earth that are trying to study the stars from the surface. “For the first time in human history, we’re not going to have access to the night sky in the way that we’ve seen it,” said professor Samantha Lawler of the University of Regina, who compared satellite usage to cars in the fact that it was interesting at first but has now become cluttered.

2. Vehicles

Light pollution tends to be thought of as only the sky high above us, but it can also be a more surface-level issue. Vehicles in rural areas don’t contribute much to light pollution since you only tend to get one vehicle that goes down an otherwise empty road every few minutes or so. 

When there’s a traffic jam at night on a major freeway, though, a lot of light pollution is created. Think of those timelapse photos of freeways at night with the big blurs of white headlights and red taillights. When you add in the people that use headlights brighter than what’s necessary, that only makes things worse.

3. Sports Stadiums

For people who live in major cities, you’ve probably driven by a sports stadium and seen that the lights were on. You figured there may be a home game that night, only to check the schedule and see that the local team was either playing on the road or not at all. 

This is a huge contributor to light pollution in urban areas, so why do they keep them on when the stadium isn’t holding thousands of fans? A lot of this is for the handful of security and staff that are still working at the stadium, though the large lights at the top of the arenas tend to be much more than they need.

4. Bad Streetlight Bulbs

While we mentioned that streetlights are some of the biggest contributors to light pollution, the way that they affect people on a personal level can easily be fixed. Streetlights should be equipped with bulbs that give direct light to the areas on the street or sidewalk and nowhere else.

Bad lighting on a streetlight causes light trespass, making an uncomfortable aura of illumination where it’s not supposed to be. Have you ever lived close enough to a streetlamp to the point where you can tell that it’s on from your bedroom despite it being pointed away from you? That’s an example of light trespass.

5. Advertisers

Companies are always demanding your attention, which you probably already know if you subscribe to any streaming service or watch videos on YouTube. At night, these advertisements get pervasive in terms of light pollution. Think of places like Times Square or the Las Vegas Strip where advertisements are illuminated to the point where they can’t be missed.

Even in rural areas, billboards have several high-powered lamps illuminating them and pointing straight into the night sky. It’s a part of the society in which we live, but ads seem to take precedent over a quiet dark night.

Are We Headed into a Global Water Crisis? What’s Going on, and What Can Ordinary People Do About It?

Water is something many take for granted, but the United Nations reports that more than 3.5 billion people – roughly half of the planet – are currently vulnerable to water scarcity. Worse, it projects that this number will rise to more than 5 billion people by 2050. This is due to multiple factors, such as pollution and infrastructural problems as well as overconsumption. 

The Fresh Water Problem

Obviously, water is an absolutely essential component of human health. Without access to potable water, a human can only survive for around three days at best. But fresh drinking water is only the start of the problems when it comes to meeting our ongoing water challenges.

As the global children’s charity World Vision puts it, “access to clean water changes everything; it’s a stepping-stone to development.” Where clean water is plentiful, communities don’t need to compete for rights to limited water resources. Crops and livestock get enough water to flourish. Personal hygiene and household sanitation improves. These advantages, in turn, lead to a healthier population of adults who can serve as productive workers as well as children who can readily attend school.

The Causes of the Water Crisis

There are many different contributing factors to the water crisis, many of which can be addressed through better regulations and changing procedures.

Scientists, who have studied the issue most carefully, have directly tied the effects of global warming and climate change to the water crisis. In addition to engendering extended periods of drought and other long-term harmful environmental conditions, climate change is increasing both the frequency and intensity of hurricanes and other violent weather events that can destroy water supply infrastructure.

Other factors contributing to the mounting water crisis include armed conflict, forced migration, corporate greed, political disenfranchisement, and the poor handling of wastewater and water waste. The problem is also precipitated by a lack of reliable water data and a lack of cooperation among natural resource experts across national lines.

How You Can Help

Any serious attempt to address the water crisis must include sweeping changes to public policy and business regulation. However, this doesn’t mean that the average person is powerless to help.

It all begins with simple awareness. People who understand the true severity of the water problem may be motivated to prioritize healthy water stewardship in their daily lives. Something as simple as taking a shorter shower can make a real difference if it becomes a permanent habit.

Other ways to practice healthy water stewardship include installing low-flow toilets, reusing graywater, and collecting rainwater for watering gardens and lawns. Of course, it is also important to ensure that you aren’t losing water to leaking pipes or other plumbing inefficiencies. People who live by the ocean can even look into desalinizing technology that can transform seawater into freshwater.

Moreover, humbly and quietly changing your own actions will contribute, however subtly, to a gradual change of awareness in your country, making it more likely for much needed regulation changes and global action to occur.

You can also consider donating to a water charity, such as WaterAid. WaterAid is a charity that has been helping address water issues for over three decades, and their website is a wealth of information on the subject, too. 

Landfill Mining: The Future Of Resource Extraction?

As we continue into the future and are becoming more desperate for renewable resources, there aren’t many options left. With more focus on climate change, landfills are getting a lot of attention. Because humanity has thrown all of their trash and even toxic waste into large piles, they’re quickly adding and filling up, and it’s hurting the environment.

As of right now, landfills are the third largest cause of methane pollution in the world, and landfills are causing cancer and other ailments to people on a global scale. Could these landfills that we all know can be damaging actually be able to help us in the long run, though? Back in the 1950s, what is now known as Ariel Sharon Park in Israel experimented with what’s known as landfill mining, and it’s going to be a lot more common in the near future.

Landfill mining is rather simple to explain. Instead of continuing to add onto the top of landfills, mining seeks to shrink the mass by taking out what can be reused and isn’t toxic. Landfills are excavated and sifted through, finding valuable materials that can be used again. Some of the major targets for landfill miners are aluminum and scrap metal. To do this, there are a few different methods that are currently used.

Some landfills have a large magnet that is able to attract some of the more valuable goods before the landfill is sealed off for public safety. Others use an actual excavator to sort from the bottom to the top. When passing a landfill, you may have seen these methods being used before, but mining has gotten a lot of new attention. Surprisingly enough, this includes cryptocurrency.

Believe it or not, one energy company was able to raise millions of dollars to turn methane from landfills into a Bitcoin mining operation. This is because the methane from the landfills was instead used for turbines that generated crypto mining equipment. If cryptocurrency is able to maintain its popularity and versatility in the coming years, you can expect deals like this to become daily headlines.

Another futuristic way that landfill mining is heading toward better renewable resources is by turning some into hydrogen mines. In Oman, one project that’s estimated to be $1.4 billion is underway that is taking solid waste and converting tens of thousands of tonnes into hydrogen through a “thermo-chemical process…achieved without the use of external electricity or burning waste.”

Experts are predicting that because of landfill mining, we’ll be seeing the use of aluminum skyrocket in the near future. No other resource is easier to mine than aluminum, and our new technology is making it so that it’s also going to be the most reusable. That’s going to save a lot of money, too, with an estimated $800 million in aluminum thrown into the trash instead of properly recycled in the United States alone in just 2020.

Through the power of landfill mining, Dr. Subodh Das notes that the United States could save up to $400 million per year in aluminum alone. When you add in some of the other resources such as the valuable copper, zinc and steel, it’s easy to see why landfill mining is getting a big push as we move towards sustainable and renewable energy.

5 Weather Changes We’re Likely To See Due To Climate Change

Climate change is something that more people are becoming aware of on a daily basis, and has become a divisive topic on a political scale. A majority of Americans feel that the government is not doing enough to combat climate change, with around three quarters saying that it’s very much real and will negatively impact the future of the world. No matter what side of the aisle you’re on, it’s hard to ignore the natural disasters that have been happening recently. Things will only escalate in the near future, too, with these changes being more frequent in coming years.

5. Hurricanes

As the atmosphere continues to warm up, we will not only see a slight rise in the amount of hurricanes, but they will also become more intense. We’re seeing more category 4 and 5 hurricanes in recent years, as these storms are able to hold more water vapor. This creates rainfall that’s damaging and wind that can knock down structures. Of the 10 years in which there were the most hurricanes (a statistic that’s been tracked since 1851), six of those years have happened since 2003.

4. Drought

While hurricanes are producing more rain, those that are not getting hit by hurricanes are suffering through a complete lack of precipitation due to climate change. When we get warmer temperatures, evaporation is at its highest and leads to surface water becoming dried out. We’re also seeing lakes and rivers start to lose their water levels, and it’s causing a global crisis. Precipitation overall is down in many areas, and it’s killing crops and water supplies.

3. Increased Flooding

You might think to yourself that drought on a global scale couldn’t possibly lead to flooding, but climate change does affect those that live near certain bodies of water. Think of areas like Louisiana that have been hit hard with hurricanes and experienced flooding. You’ll start to see that more in coastal areas as the ice caps continue to melt, causing water levels to rise and flooding to increase. Flash floods are also becoming more common due to the water vapors we discussed earlier.

2. Heatwaves

It’s only natural that if the global temperature is increasing, it’s going to bring a lot of heatwaves. Just take the European heatwave of 2022 for example, where many were not prepared due to lack of air conditioning and sadly lost their lives. Looking at the average global temperature, it has consistently been on the rise. There have only been two years since 2012 where the average global temperature was below 55 degrees fahrenheit, compare to an average of about 50 degrees a century ago.

1. Wildfires

Over the past few years, some of the biggest news headlines came because of wildfires that were happening in the United States and Australia. It’s something that we’ll see more of as the temperatures rise and the ground becomes more dry. Scientists say that we’re on the doorstep of a wildfire crisis on a global scale, with estimates saying there will be an increase of more than 50 percent in less than a century. It’s scary to think about, but areas that are more humid now might be at risk in 100 years.

5 Reasons To Recycle

Recycling is one of those activities that we’re taught at a very young age, but it somehow didn’t seem to catch on with a lot of people. Mostly due to convenience, many opt to simply throw items away without much regard for recycling. In fact, only about one in every three Americans actively recycles. That’s still a massive increase from the one out of 20 there were a half century ago, but it’s still not enough. Here are a few reasons why you should be helping to increase that number today.

5. It Saves You Money

There are some people that believe recycling their items is more expensive than simply throwing them in the trash, leading them to avoid recycling. However, when playing the long game, you’re saving yourself money by recycling. More recycling leads to more businesses saving money on materials and not having to increase costs. You can also make pocket change for yourself by recycling cans or papers. This is especially true in the state of Michigan where you get a $0.10 refund on a deposit per can or bottle that’s recycled.

4. Helps You Breathe Better

Naturally, to have better air quality, we need more trees since they take in carbon dioxide and then use it to release the oxygen that we breathe. In the past few decades, though, trees have been cut down left and right for the sake of paper and other material goods. Even though the newspaper isn’t the most popular form of media anymore, recycling all of the newspapers in the United States each year alone would help to save around a quarter billion trees.

3. For Your Health

The alternative to recycling is to simply discard anything and everything into the environment, and it can lead to some nasty side effects. This is especially true of toxic liquids that are being poured into bodies of water, and the entire community can feel its presence. With less water, land and air pollution, the amount of diseases in areas that recycle more are reduced drastically. Zurich, Switzerland was found to be the least polluted city in the world, and the life expectancy is 84 years, which is also among the tops in the world.

2. Job Creation

We’re all feeling the crunch in today’s economy, and a lot of people are currently left without jobs. It has been shown through studies, though, that recycling creates a lot of jobs, with over 750,000 in the United States alone. If people recycled at a ¾ rate in the country, then there would be more than 1 million new jobs created within the next decade. This amounts to almost 10 times the amount of jobs that are created by landfills, and billions of dollars would be put back into the economy.

1. Our Future Depends On It

Simply put, our atmosphere is heating up so fast due to global warming that experts are predicting that catastrophic events will continue to happen until it’s too late. If you want to set up the world for future generations, then you should be recycling immediately. This will help to cut down on greenhouse gasses and emissions as we cut down on new production. “Any time you use renewable resources, or secondary resources, there’s less carbon emitted than if you use primary sources,” says author Adam Minter.

Easy Ways To Get Started In Gardening

Gardening is a hobby everyone can enjoy, and it offers so many amazing benefits. Gardening reduces stress, anxiety and depression. It can boost strength and improve memory. It brings beauty into your life and puts delicious and nutritious food on the table.

You can enjoy the quiet, solitude of gardening or make it into an activity the whole family can enjoy together. Whatever and however you choose to garden, you’ve come to the right place if you’re looking for easy ways to get started.

Potted Plants

Growing potted plants, both large and small, is a great entry point into gardening. Taking care of plants in pots lays the groundwork for all future gardening endeavors because many of the principles are the same. Successfully growing potted plants increases your confidence and prepares you to take the next step whenever you’re ready.

Growing herbs on a windowsill is an easy garden project. Parsley, thyme, basil, mint and chives are common herbs used in the kitchen. These herbs also do well in a sunny south- or southwest-facing window that has direct sunlight or under a grow light for 12-14 hours of light each day. Timers make the use of grow lights easy. Your plants will need water when the top half-inch of soil is dry. Position the plants so that their leaves don’t touch the windows themselves.

Turn your cooking into gourmet fare with fresh herbs you’ve grown yourself.

Self-Watering Indoor Gardens

Self-watering indoor gardens such as those sold by Aero Garden and Click and Grow make indoor gardening extra easy. After placing plant pods into the gardening system, seeds soon sprout and grow into vegetables or flowers.  These self-watering indoor gardens give the plants everything needed – food, light and water. All you have to do is provide a little TLC and soon you’ll be enjoying the fruits of your labor.

Microgreens

Get quick gardening results with microgreens. Microgreens are fresh, delicious and nutritious superfoods grown and harvested in as little as 2 to 10 days. Microgreens are the plant stage between sprout and baby greens. They add a punch of flavor and nutrition to salads, sandwiches and smoothies. Growing kits and supplies can be purchased from companies such as True Leaf Market, Hamama and Urban Leaf.

Regrowing Vegetables

Some common vegetables you can eat and regrow, again and again. Vegetables regrown for greens include scallions, onions, beets, carrots, lettuce, bok choy and celery. When preparing these vegetables initially, you typically cut off and discard the roots. Instead, place the roots in a shallow amount of water in a tray or suspend them with toothpicks in a jar of water and place them on a windowsill. The plants will produce new growth, both leaves and roots. The leaves can then be cut and grown over and over again, providing you with a continual source of nutritious greens. Regrowing vegetables is easy, thrifty and fun.

Happy gardening.

How Ordinary People Are Helping Fight Climate Change: Inspiring Stories

How Ordinary People Are Helping Fight Climate Change: Inspiring Stories

Climate change is rapidly worsening, and government policies aren’t changing at the same pace as the world. Many individuals are taking direct and immediate action, though. Here are inspirational stories of how ordinary people are helping fight climate change right now.

Xiye Bastida: Led School Strike

Xiye Bastida was a 17-year-old student when she organized her high school’s first student climate change strike. The initial strike made a statement and gathered news attention, but this effort wasn’t just one day. 

Bastida and fellow students continue to strike on Fridays, and she travels to speak about the imminent need for action. She’s personally suffered because of her strikes. Gym is on Fridays, and she doesn’t have a high grade. Some things are more important than passing physical education, however.

Bastida showed that climate change is something many people are concerned about. When everyone is shown a practical way to make a statement, many will join the collective voice.

Kelsey Juliana: Suing the Government

Kelsey Juliana led a coalition of students who sought to effect national change. They sued the federal government, claiming that its policies violate their right to a liveable environment.

The lawsuit has taken years, and the federal government has tried to get the kids’ lawsuit dismissed multiple times. The group stood fast all the way up to the Supreme Court, which stood by them and said they could sue.

The outcome of this lawsuit is still being decided, but they pioneered legal strategies in two ways. First, they established that people can sue the government over long-term climate change problems. Second, they removed the stigma of lawsuits filed by kids.

Phil Powell: Learning What He Could Do

Phil Powell was well into his professional career when he decided to learn about climate change. He went to a protest, but found that people in that setting weren’t interested in having collaborative conversations. As a result, Phil decided to focus his energy somewhere that the conversation was more productive. But, he wasn’t well informed and didn’t have much to contribute.

Phil chose to educate himself about climate change by going back to school. He completed a bachelor’s degree in environmental science as an older adult. After graduating, he combined his newfound knowledge of climate issues with a long-held knowledge of his local area. 

In 2009, Phil co-founded Gwent Energy Community Interest Company. The company has engineered and now manufactures low-cost solar panels. These are then offered to struggling community organizations throughout South Wales, which is where Phil and the organization are based.

Because of Phil and his co-founder’s work, communities that reach 400,000 Wales residents now have solar power. They estimate that 4,000 tons of carbon emissions have been saved by bringing solar to organizations that otherwise couldn’t afford it.

How To Improve Your Health And Help The Environment At The Same Time

Protecting your health and the environment are both important endeavors. Improve your health and help the environment at the same time when you implement the following meaningful changes. 

Clean Smarter

Cleaning products can contain harmful chemicals that contaminate your body and the air. Natural products like white vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice are eco-friendly alternatives. Use washable cloth rags instead of disposable wipes, too.  

Improve Indoor Air Quality

Allergens, dust mites and other pollutants can contaminate indoor air and cause breathing and sleeping problems. Use eco-friendly products to clean and disinfect your home. Also, open the windows every day and grow indoor plants. You could service the HVAC system, seal air leaks and insulate your home properly to reduce energy use and protect your health. 

Buy Local Produce

Nourish your body with healthy fruits and vegetables grown locally. As you support your health and the local economy, you help to eliminate high greenhouse gas emissions from cross-country shipping.

Eat Vegan

A plant-based diet can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes and reduce your carbon footprint. Try adding a vegan meal or two to your weekly menu as you shift your diet.

Stay Hydrated 

Your body needs water to function. Staying hydrated also supports your brain function, mood and energy level. However, disposable water bottles use valuable resources and take years to decompose. Carry a reusable water bottle, stainless steel canteen or thermos to prevent waste and improve your health. 

Take a Bath

Conserve water and lower stress when you take baths instead of showers. A single shower requires 12 gallons of water versus a nine-gallon bath. And since stress causes a variety of health conditions, you will care for your health as you soak. 

Wear Natural Fibers

Certain fabrics contain perfluorinated chemicals or PFCs that are toxic to your body and the environment. Even cotton growth requires pesticides. Consider switching to hemp, wool or silk instead. And shop at secondhand stores to further preserve the environment.

Nurture a Garden

Grow fresh vegetables and herbs plus colorful flowers in your garden. Whether you have a large backyard or containers on your deck or kitchen windowsill, plants clean the air. Playing in the dirt is also good exercise, and looking at nature also diminishes stress, which can safeguard your health. 

Park the Car

Vehicle emissions affect local air quality and the ozone layer. Instead of driving, walk or bike to work, school and the store. Exercise improves your physical health and mood. However, if you must drive, combine errands, carpool and park at the far end of the lot when possible. 

Plant a Tree

Trees offer numerous health and environmental benefits. Spending time around trees also helps you relax. Trees also create oxygen and reduce carbon dioxide. And the shade they provide around your home means you can run the air conditioner less. So plant a tree or two in your yard. 

Implement one or more of these tips to improve your health and help the environment at the same time. 

How Important Is Food In Stopping Climate Change

There’s no doubt about it: climate change is real, and much of global warming is caused by human activity. It can be hard to convince people to take action against climate change. Many people don’t like to be told what to do, and value the cars they drive and the way they power their homes. Thankfully, changing the way we eat–even a little–can go a long way in helping to slow global warming. 

The way we eat plays a key role in climate change. In the United States, about 80 billion pounds of food are discarded each year. This equates to about 40% of the nation’s total food supply. 

Typically, this food waste ends up in landfills. As the waste breaks down, methane is released. Methane is a gas that has a greater effect on climate change than other gases that result from human activity (such as carbon dioxide). Food waste is responsible for 11% of the greenhouse gases in the world today. 

Food waste isn’t the only food-related issue that contributes to the creation of greenhouse gases. About 40% of all greenhouse gases come from the meat industry. Deforestation, changes in the way that land is used, and the production of farm animals all result in greenhouse gases. 

During the deforestation process, trees are cut down. This means that there are fewer plants available to change carbon dioxide back into oxygen. This carbon dioxide is then added to the atmosphere, resulting in climate change. 

As animals graze grass while they’re being raised for processing, additional plants that typically change carbon dioxide into oxygen are destroyed. When farm animals digest food, they release methane, which, just like food waste, heavily contributes to climate change. 

While all meat farming affects climate change, cattle farming has been shown to have a greater effect than other types of farming. Cows require a large amount of food to grow, and they produce methane at greater levels than other farm animals. 

You don’t have to cut out all meat and other animal products in order to make a difference when it comes to climate change. Cutting down on your consumption of meat–even by going vegetarian one day a week–can go a long way in helping to stop climate change. 

If you’d like to do your part to cut down on eating meat, it can be helpful to share your new delicious recipes with others. Doing so may encourage them to cut down on the amount of meat they eat as well. Sharing the changes you’re making on social media (in an encouraging way) can also be a smart option to get others on board with cutting down on meat to save the planet.

5 Scientific Discoveries That Are Helping Fight Climate Change

Climate change is a huge issue today. It is the result of a wide range of technologies that have been helpful to humans but have really hurt the planet. The global temperature is expected to increase between 0.5 degrees Fahrenheit to 8.6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. While that kind of temperature change may not seem like much, even a one-degree temperature shift can cause catastrophic damage to wildlife and their habitats.

Today, scientists are trying to combat climate change through innovation and advances in technology. Let’s run through a few discoveries that are helping fight climate change.

1. Plastic-eating enzymes

Plastic has now found its way into wildlife and even into some animals’ bloodstreams. This is a terrifying thought.

A group of researchers in Japan accidentally discovered an enzyme that can break down plastic. The process breaks down plastics in a matter of days rather than the hundreds of years that it takes plastic to break down otherwise.

Using this enzyme correctly could result in a reduction in the total amount of plastic on Earth.

2. Solar panels that harvest energy from sun and raindrops

Solar panels provide a clean source of energy, and using them can result in decreased reliance on fossil fuels. Today, scientists are testing out the use of full solar panel roads to gather even more sunlight to convert to energy.

Developments in China have also led to research that indicates we might be able to get energy from raindrops in addition to sunlight.

3. Genetic modification for some crops

Climate change has taken a toll on areas that grow crops like coffee, chocolate, and corn. Increased risk of drought, flooding, and pests, much of which are the result of climate change, has made growing these crops even harder.

Genetic modifications of these crops could help them become more drought or flood-resistant. They might also be able to repel certain pests as well.

While this new technology does not necessarily combat climate change directly, it certainly decreases its effects.

4. Carbon capture technologies

The amount of carbon dioxide trapped in the atmosphere is largely to blame for the increased temperature on Earth. Researchers at Tuskegee University have developed a new way to capture carbon dioxide that may be more effective and environmentally friendly compared to other methods. It may also be less expensive.

This new technology relies on nanocellulose, an agricultural waste product, to capture, store, and release carbon dioxide from the atmosphere without any external influences.

5. Alternative foods for cows

You might be surprised to learn that a huge amount of methane gas is released into the atmosphere because of cow burps—yes, cow burps. Cattle ferment food in their stomachs as part of their normal digestion process, leading to a lot of burping.

We have recently discovered that by supplementing cattle food with seaweed, cows can get the nutrition they need while also cutting down the amount of burping. Seaweed might reduce methane emissions by up to 80 percent.

Currently, there is not enough seaweed to go around, but scientists are also working on that.