There is Hope

Evo Morales, an Indigenous Bolivian who has served as President of Bolivia since 2006, is quoted as saying, “Sooner or later, we will have to recognize that the Earth has rights, too, to live without pollution. What mankind must know is that human beings cannot live without Mother Earth, but the planet can live without humans.”  Mr. Morales is right!  We cannot continue to abuse Mother Earth without dire consequences.

According to The Watchers, a daily news service that relays information on global events, world evolution and transformation, there are many environmental catastrophes taking place on our planet. Here are some that I noted.

A state of emergency was declared over a large natural gas leak pouring high quantities of methane and other gases into a Los Angeles neighbourhood on January 6, 2016. Numerous residents reported health issues and thousands of people have been forced to evacuate the area. The leak of natural gas was first observed October 23, 2015, and is now the largest natural gas leak ever reported.

A flow of toxic mining waste, which spilled into a main river in the city of Mariana, Brazil on November 5, 2015 has traveled at least 500 km (310 miles) through the Rio Doce since the event. The disaster has been proclaimed as the country’s worst environmental catastrophe in history. At least 11 people were confirmed dead, 15 went missing and hundreds of homes were devastated.

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Bellandur Lake, India (dogonews.com)

Bellandur Lake, the largest lake in the city of Bangalore, India, is extremely polluted by a high amount of ammonia and phosphate. From the air, the 36 km (22 miles) wide lake visually appears as if snow is covering a mountain. In reality what looks like snow is a large, white foam covering the water surface, an unnatural phenomenon resulting from extremely toxic, untreated, chemical accumulations. The froth has risen to a height of one meter.

A dam at a waste pond on Mount Polley Mine of British Columbia, Canada, full of toxic heavy metals burst on August 4, 2014, releasing 10 million cubic meters of wastewater and 5 million cubic meters of toxic slurry into Hazeltine Creek, Quesnel Lake and Polley Lake.  Mining experts warn that the incident is the largest mining disaster in Canadian history, possibly even globally.

There are many, many more environmental catastrophes listed on the Watchers website, and I haven’t even mentioned the biggest one facing the planet, that is, climate change. Now it would be easy to get down and discouraged when reading this kind information, but as they say, “every cloud has a silver lining”. I still believe that the human spirit is strong and that we can correct our wrongs, even when it comes to the environment. So what is the silver lining you may wonder?

The silver lining is that we now have a tremendous opportunity  to develop new technologies, which in turn would create new industries and jobs as well as benefit our planet environmentally. So what might these technologies look like? The Greenbiz website lists 9 technologies to clean up the planet.   The livescience site lists 10 emerging environmental technologies. Some that caught my attention are:

We now have technologies to prevent CO2 from entering the atmosphere. Some of these makes the CO2 into something else that can be sold as products. Skyonic Corporation is building a commercial CO2 capture plant scheduled to begin operating this year which is expected to reduce 300,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year through a combination of direct capture from a cement plant and the making of commercial products, such as baking soda. This is a technology that could help to curb global warming.

Nuclear reactors are becoming safer. The technology for nuclear power has become so efficient that they now use the byproducts of conventional nuclear power production as fuel. The travel wave reactors, backed by Bill Gates, look to use depleted uranium to generate electricity, rather than leaving it to be stored or used in other applications, such as ammunition. This technology makes nuclear power plants much safer and solves the problem of nuclear waste. This could very well be an alternative to the polluting coal burning power plants.

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From the Berkeley Blog

The United Nations have predicted that water supply shortages will affect billions of people by the middle of this century. Desalination, the removing the salt and minerals out of seawater, is one way to provide potable water in parts of the world where supplies are limited but it is expensive and uses a lot of energy. Scientists are working toward better processes where inexpensive fuels can heat and evaporate the water before running it through membranes with microscopic pores to increase efficiency. That gives hope for new fresh water sources as much of our fresh water supply in the form of glaciers is melting and ending up in our oceans.

Hydrogen fuel cell usage has been touted as a pollution-free alternative to using fossil fuels. These cells make water by combining hydrogen and oxygen and in the process they generate electricity. Most recently, scientists have come up with ways to power laptops and small devices with fuel cells, and some car companies are promising that soon we’ll be seeing cars that emit nothing but clean water. That is great news for our environment.

OTEC technologies convert the thermal energy contained in the oceans and turn it into electricity by using the temperature difference between the water’s surface, which is heated, and the cold of the ocean’s bottom. This difference in temperature can operate turbines that can drive generators. This would be a clean source of electricity therefore helping to reduce climate change by eliminating coal burning power plants.

Bioremediation uses microbes and plants to clean up contamination. Examples include the cleanup of nitrates in contaminated water with the help of microbes, and using plants to uptake arsenic from contaminated soil. There is an urgent need to clean up many of the contaminated sites on our planet such as the Deloro mine, a 202-hectare site that lies 65 kilometres east of Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

I recently watched Disney’s movie, Tomorrowland.  This movie delivers a  message of hope for humanity. It is a call to use our human mental abilities and imagination to make changes that can repair the environmental damage that we humans have created. Just reading about some of the many new technologies being developed gives me hope for our planet. We humans are masters at screwing things up, such as our environment, but we are resilient and savvy enough to fix our mistakes. It just takes public awareness through education, a political will, and economic motivation. New technologies create new industries and new jobs. We can fix our environmental problems and still have a thriving economy.  Keeping things at the status quo is not an option.

There is a Cree Prophecy that says, “When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe, only then will you discover you cannot eat money.” It’s time we put our health and our planet’s welfare ahead of profits. Our survival as a species depends upon it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Get it Right

If you follow the news at all, you know that the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP21, is presently being held in Paris, France. The talks started November 30 and will continue until December 11. The objective of the conference is to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement from all the nations of the world. The goal of the agreement is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions so as to limit the global temperature increase to 2 °C. If you are not familiar with greenhouse gasses and what is known as the greenhouse effect, here is a little science lesson.

GUSTAVO-CAMACHO-GONZALEZ-L1060274_(23430273715)It is referred to as the greenhouse effect because the earth acts just like a greenhouse does. The sun gives off electromagnetic radiation, in particular infrared radiation, visible light, and ultraviolet light. Visible light consists of short wavelengths of energy, which are able to pass through the glass or plastic of a greenhouse, and are absorbed. It is then released back as heat (thermal energy) or infrared radiation. This is what heats up the greenhouse as infrared radiation consists of long wavelengths of energy which are unable to pass through the greenhouse’s glass or plastic, thus are trapped in the greenhouse.

The earth, in essence is like a big greenhouse. The sun sends energy to the earth’s surface in the form of visible light (and other radiation), which is absorbed and then released back as heat. Our atmosphere, which contains naturally occurring greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, and methane gas, absorbs the heat radiation and then slowly releases some of it into space. The earth’s atmosphere is like the glass or plastic of a greenhouse; it traps heat in. Since there is an excess amount of greenhouse gases caused by human activity, namely the burning of fossil fuels, being released into our atmosphere (See the graph on NASA’s Global Climate change website. ), plus the fact that humans are destroying forests at an alarming rate which remove CO2 , more heat radiation than normal is trapped in our atmosphere. The result is the earth is getting warmer

We refer to global warming as when excess greenhouse gases cause the Earth’s temperature to rise.  According to NASA’s Earth Observatory website, “As the Earth moved out of ice ages over the past million years, the global temperature rose a total of 4 to 7 degrees Celsius over about 5,000 years. In the past century alone, the temperature has climbed 0.7 degrees Celsius, roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming”.

Climate change is caused by the rising temperature of the earth, which causes regional climate characteristics (temperature, humidity, rainfall, etc.) to be altered, leading to catastrophic events like melting glaciers, rising oceans, evaporating lakes, devastating hurricanes, and heavy snowfalls.

United Nations Climate Change Conferences have been tried on numerous occasions before with UN conferences on climate change occurring every year since 1995. Will this conference be different? Will the world leaders unify this time and actually produce a binding agreement to reduce greenhouse gasses and commit to it? Let’s hope so.

It doesn’t take much research to determine that our planet is in trouble. Climate change is happening whether we believe it or not. On NASA’s Global Climate change website it states, “Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.” On this website, and there are many other websites agreeing, it sites evidence such as rising sea levels, increasing ocean temperatures, the melting of polar ice caps and glaciers in Greenland. Then there are the extreme weather events that all of us have witnessed in recent years. NASA’s website also sites extreme weather events as evidence. If we are to save this planet, and ultimately ourselves as humans, we must start doing something constructive now!

Many of the world’s leaders are saying the right things. Addressing the 2015 conference in Paris, U. S president Barack Obama said on November 30 that the U.S. accepted its responsibility to help fix climate change, and that global action need not damage economic growth. “What should give us hope that this is a turning point, that this is the moment we finally determined we would save our planet.” He urged the leaders to take action even if the benefits were not evident for generations. Mr. Obama also has stated the importance for getting India and China on board to make the U.N climate summit a success, as both those countries are huge CO2 emitters. (see Citing Urgency)

Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau in his address to the conference stated that, “Canada will take on a new leadership role internationally,” Mr. Trudeau was interrupted by applause when he said: “We’re here to help.”

Mr. Trudeau also goes on to say, “Indigenous peoples have known for thousands of years how to care for our planet…The rest of us have a lot to learn and no time to waste”.

Justin Trudeau also said climate change is more than a challenge, but an historic opportunity. He said climate change is “An opportunity to build a sustainable economy based on clean technology, on green infrastructure and on green jobs. We will not sacrifice growth, we will create growth,” he said. (see APTN National News)

It is true that the indigenous people have historically had a great deal of respect for “Mother Earth”, and when the Europeans came over to North America, that changed. This is something I have taught about for years. Mr. Trudeau is right! Climate change does not have to be just a challenge. It is an opportunity to develop new, clean energy technologies that will create new jobs and potentially provide huge economic growth. This is what the world needs to be focused on. It is time to discharge our addiction to fossil fuels.

There seems to be some indications that world leaders are serious about reducing greenhouse emissions. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi has stated: “The sun is the source of all energy.”  He apparently is enthusiastic about solar energy and in January set an investment target of $100 billion in India’s solar sector by 2022. The United Kingdom has committed to phasing out coal plants entirely by 2025. In Canada the province of Alberta announced a climate change strategy that includes a carbon tax, a cap on tar sands emissions, a phasing out of coal-fired electricity, and an emphasis on wind power. These are all steps in the right direction.

On Monday, Pope Francis said it’s “now or never” for the international community to start effectively curbing climate change. He said, “Every year the problems are getting worse. We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.” (see World leaders must listen to Pope Francis). I believe Pope Francis is correct. I sincerely hope that the leaders of our world are serious about curbing climate change. The planet that we leave behind for our children must be a planet that is habitable. World leaders must get it right this time or our planet will become a vastly different planet; a planet with less habitable landmass, a planet with more deserts than we can ever imagine. A planet where there is little fresh water left to be found since much of our fresh clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdwater supply is in the glaciers that are disappearing. That’s not mentioning the numerous plant and animal species that will likely disappear because of global warming. (see Consequences of Global Warming).  The list goes on. It is time to get serious about curbing climate change. That doesn’t have to be a negative thing. I applaud those leaders who have already committed to change.

Here is an interesting website to check out: Time to Choose

Change is inevitable!

I recently received this quote in an email and the quote got me thinking. The quote was:

Change cannot be avoided in life. So do not resist change, embrace it!

There is no doubt that life is changing all the time.  I’ll use myself as an example.  This year, 2015, has been very much a year of change for myself as well as my family. As I mentioned in some of my other posts, I retired as a classroom teacher after 35 years of teaching.  So to say that this is a huge change for me personally is an understatement.  Really, retirement is a new beginning; it is the beginning of a whole new journey.  For me, that has meant following some of my passions.  One of those passions is writing which is why I started this blog.  I needed an outlet for my writing.  I needed a place to share my stories and my opinions.  It means change because now there will be no more having to get up for work unless I decide to work somewhere.  Working is more of a choice now, rather than a necessity.  That is a good change.  I’ve heard it said, “some people work to live and others live to work”.  I was always one of those that worked to live.  I needed to work to support my family and to feel useful to society.

My wife and I have three wonderful children,  All three of our children have gone through some sort of change this year.  Our eldest daughter has moved to a new place to live after being in her previous place for five years.  That was a major change for her as she is not a person who freely embraces change.  Our youngest daughter is returning to university this year after living and working for the past year in her home town.   Our son is also off to university after spending two years at the local community college.  He is excited for this change as he has been living with us while getting his Diploma.  So as you can see, there has been much change in my family.  The only one that is remaining at her same job is my wife.  Having said that, she has taken a three-month leave of absence from her work place so that we can do some travelling this fall.  So even she has to endure some changes, although they are good changes.

If you listen to the news regularly, then you would also know that the day-to-day conditions on our planet are changing now in ways we could not have anticipated.  Climate change is one of the biggest changes our planet has had to endure.  Every year seems to be reported as the hottest on record.  Storms seem to be getting more and more frequent and progressively more violent.  According to the Union of concerned scientists, “As the Earth warms, the amount of rain or snow falling in the heaviest one percent of storms has risen nearly 20 percent on average in the United States—almost three times the rate of increase in total precipitation between 1958 and 2007.” That is definitely change, and not good change. Our planet needs help.

Changes the world will endure, according to the article, 5 ways the world will change radically, are:

  1. The world is becoming over populated.  The article states that,” India’s population will overtake China’s around 2020, and Africa’s population will overtake India’s by 2040″  That is not change to embrace since Africa is one of the world’s most poverty-stricken continents.
  2. Urbanization will rapidly increase.  The article says, “the number of people living in cities will climb from 3.5 billion today to 6.3 billion by 2050”  That means there will be much less farmland to grow food to feed the people.  That is not good change.
  3. Conflicts over water shortages will probably play out on our planet.  That is not positive change, for that means many people will die because the world is running short of fresh water.
  4. At this time in history, there isn’t enough energy being extracted from known sources of fossil fuels to sustain 10 billion people. That means humans will be forced to turn to new energy sources before the end of the century.  In my opinion this is good change as hopefully these new sources will mean less pollution.
  5. The article maintains, “biologists [not all biologists] believe that with the current rate of extinction, 75 percent of the planet’s species will disappear within the next 300 to 2,000 years”.  That is just sad as this planet has so much biodiversity.  That definitely is not good change.

So the fact of change is real!  The quote at the beginning says, So do not resist change, embrace it.”  When change happens to us individually, then yes it should be embraced.  As it has been said, “A change can be as good as a vacation.”  I think there is truth in that.  Many spiritual writers will say that when change happens to an individual, it is God’s or the universe’s way of forcing you to do what you are not choosing to do yourself, because God knows what is best. Having said that, sometimes individuals need Ostrichto resist change such as when individuals or groups of people are being forced to do something against their will. An example of this might be when groups of people are forced from their homes due to conflict like what we are witnessing in areas of the world like Africa and the Middle East.

However, when it comes to changes affecting this planet, such as climate change, or loss of biodiversity, then change needs to be resisted.  It is time for us humans to “get our heads out of the sand” and start resisting planetary changes that will only cause our planet to be less desirable to live in.