The standard practices of running the economy of the industrialized nations all over the world has caused catastrophic results to our environment such as Acid Rain, Ozone depletion, and Global Warming. These three main topics has raised an international debate on what to do about it and are we blowing things way out of concern when it comes to its impacts to the natural world and the future generations.
What is Acid Rain?
Acid Rain is the result of the emissions of sulfate and nitrates into the atmosphere from the burning coal to produce electricity and deposited to the earths surfaces as an acid. The debate goes on today if acid rain is the major cause of the fish to disappear in the lakes and streams in the Adirondack region.
Studies have proven that acid rain does come from the coal burning plants from the mid-west region and deposited in the mid-atlantic, eastern states, and Canada. The studies also show that the amount of acid rain formed and deposited is not enough to cause the streams and lakes in these regions to be devoid of fish. They believe it is a combination of both man made and natural causes. An ecosystem can get a good dose of acid from its own environment from surface run-off coming into contact with peat moss under the pine forest canopy, alkaline base rocks, and cracks in the bedrock. Natural means is not the total blame for aquatic systems to become acidic. If this was the case then fish would have disappeared long ago. We believe that the fish can build up a certain tolerance that mother nature has to offer. But with the onset of acid rain, it was too much for them to handle and died off.
What is Ozone Depletion?
The Ozone layer is a thin layer in the atmosphere made up of oxygen atoms (03) that absorb harmful ultraviolet radiation (UV-B) from reaching the earths surface. The ozone is being depleted by chemicals released into the atmosphere likechlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), carbon tetraflouride, methyl chloroforms, chlorofluoromethanes (aerosol repellents and as refrigerants). The problem is when CFC's reach the ozone layer, it is broken down by the UV -B rays and it is these free chlorine atoms that do the damage to the ozone. One free chlorine atom will destroy 100,000 ozone molecules before it dies off.
There are some natural means that effect ozone like volcano eruptions, and drastic changes in weather problems (El Nina and La Nina). What would happen if a hole was breached and UV-B rays were able to pass through. This has already happen. Scientists have discovered a hole over the Antarctic and some mid-altitude regions over Chile in South America. The Mapuche Nation lives under one of these holes in the ozone and they have seen an increased number of skin cancer and blindness among their people. They see a huge impact to the plants and animals in their surrounding environment.
Scientists believe that species on earth will have to adjust their UV-B composition in order to survive. At least humans can put on sunscreen to protect them from the UV-B rays. Animals don't have this luxury. Plants will have a hard time surviving, unless there is drought conditions, then they won't be able to survive at all. Plus the addition of UV-B rays will heat the earths surface which adds to global warming which leads us to our next topic.
What is Global Warming?
Global warming is the result of the troposphere trapping heat causing a greenhouse effect. Studies have shown that the rise in CO2 has a direct relationship with temperatures rising on earth. CO2 and other greenhouse gas is produced by, burning of fossil fuels (coal,oil), transportation,
deforestation practices, agricultural practices (cattle and rice farming). The United States is the biggest contributor to green house gas. The results from global warming could prove to be catastrophic to our environment. The World will experience a decrease in biodiversity. coastal lands underwater due to the glaciers melting in the polar regions, see severe droughts and floods due to the disruption of the water cycle. Entire ecosystems could be altered as the range of distribution of plants and animal species change. Economically, the costs to society is enormous. Diseases will increase in diseases like malaria, yellow fever, and cholera. These types of diseases flourish during warm weather There is one benefit we could see from global warming. Crop yield will increase in some regions by 30 to 40%. But this will be negligible because crop yield will decrease in other regions by the same amount. S
In 1992, at the Earth Summit in Rio, 18 developed countries agreed to cap industrial emissions of Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gas. Some even went further to cut their emissions to 1990 levels. No country today has done this yet. The US being the biggest emitter of Greenhouse gas didn't agree to anything from the earth summit because they did not want to tie the hands of industry and fossil fuel burning plants in fear of hurting the economy of this country. They have an the attitude that they should be able to pollute as much as they want for the free world and everybody else should cut back.
What Can You and I do About It?
As consumers, we have to curve our appetite for destruction. Parents. educators, political, and spiritual leaders have to come together and work together for the good of the environment and make sure there is an environment for the future generations. The children of the world have to make the adults live up to this goal. From attending meetings. we know we can't leave it up to the governments to do something. Look what happened to the Earth Summit and look at the prosperity the US economy experienced under the Clinton Administration and still did nothing to decrease the CO2 levels in the states fearing it will hurt the economy. Now that the US is in a recession, The Bush Administration is looking at slashing every environmental regulation there is
on the books to spur the economy. The faster the rate of climate change, the harder it will be for nature and humans to adopt to those changes. If the rate of change is slow, then we can surely adapt. Our mission for the next decade should be to slow the rate of change and this needs to happen now. We must begin to consider how important our wetlands. our forests, species of fish, plants and animals. We must take the energy away from fossil burning plants and put it towards alternative energy technologies (Solar, Wind, bio-mass). In mid 70s to the mid 80s, US experienced an oil crisis and pushed energy conservation. As a result, the US was able to save 150 billion dollars per year, displaced the need for 14 million barrels of oil per day and reduced CO2 levels by 40%. We know it can be done if we all work together.
Energy Conservation - For the Home, For the Environment
How to save energy in the home!
- Shut the lights off when you leave the room. We can't stress this enough. Replace all candescent light bulbs with compact florescent light (CFL) bulbs. Replacing a 75 watt bulb with an 18 watt CFL bulb will prevent the generation of 1 tonne of CO2 and 25. Lbs. Of 804 and last three times longer and will save you over $45.00 per year on energy costs.
- Utilize the sunlight as much as possible because it is free.
- Paint surfaces in light colors, they reflect the light to other areas ofthe room.
- Use motion detector lights for the outside lighting.
Windows & Doors
Windows and doors are considered the weakest link to your home. They account for 10 to 25% of the heat loss to your home.
- Build an awning or walkway entrance around your door to keep the cold air out and sunlight from warming your house in the summer time.
- Caulk around all windows and doors.
- Put up insulated curtains for the winter time. Keep them open during the day, close them at night.
- Put up light colored shades or blinds.
- Put your hand on the inside of the window, if it is cold, then the heat from the room will be transferred to the outside. You might need additional protection around your windows like putting plastic around the outside.
- When building a new home, or replacing new windows, check for the highest r-value you can find for your home. It may cost you more, but save you money in the long run. A single pane window will lose up to 12 times as much heat than a single pane. This adds up to 1 gallon of oil per day that is lost per window.
Refrigerator & Freezers
One of the biggest energy consumers in the household.
- If you have an old refrigerator, it is time to replace it because the old refrigerators are not energy efficient.
- When selecting a new refrigerator, look for the most energy efficient model out their on the market. Look for an energy saver label, higher the number, more energy you save.
- If you have a second refrigerator, unplug it and get rid of it, because you don’t need it.
- Locate away from sunlight, and away from any appliance that creates heat, like ovens, dishwasher or dryer.
- Keep the top uncluttered.
- Clean the conditioner coils in the back.
- Check the temperature on a regular basis. The temperature inside should be kept around 35-40 degreesfahrenheit.
- Think of what you want before you open the door, then reach in and grab it as fast as you can.
- Cover liquids and foods. Label food containers.
- Check the gaskets around the door - place a paper in the door opening, close the door with the paper half in and half out. If you can slide the paper out with no resistance, its time to adjust the door latch of replace the seal and gasket around the door.
- If you have to purchase a freezer, select the chest top with manual defrost. It consumes less energy up to 35%. If we go back to the old ways of preserving our foods like canning, drying, etc. we could eliminate the use of freezers.
- Install an energy saving green plug. This device reduces the voltage of electricity feeding into your appliance.
Hot Water Heater
The second largest consumer in the household.
- Add water efficiency fixtures to all faucets and showerheads, Saves on the use of hot water and will save on the life span of your hot water heater.
- Fix a leaky faucet right away. One drop per second for a month will waste enough water for 16 baths.
- Take seven minute showers instead of baths.
- If you have to mix cold water when you turn on the hot water, your temperature is set to high. Most Hot water heaters are set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. You could set it to 115 to 120 degrees to suit most household needs.
- Never leave the plug out when running hot water.
- Insulate your tank and all hot water pipes.
- Add rigid board insulation to the bottom of your tank.
- Add anti- convection valves to the inlet and outlet pipes to the hot water heater. It will save you 8 to $28 per year.
- Turn off your hot water heater when you go on vacation.
- Add a shut off switch to your unit so it shuts off why you sleep.
- If your hot water heater or boiler is more than 10 years old, replace it.
- Try to select your own hot water unit for your own home. Most new homes, they select for you and saving energy is not in their best interest.
- Selecting the cheap conventional electric tank hot water heater will add $5,500 to your energy bill.
- A solar hot water system is the best way to go.
- Washing dishes manually is more energy efficient than any dishwashers.
Washers and Dryers
- Wash in full loads
- Wash with cold water instead of hot. Clothes will get as clean in cold water as in hot water.
- Soak clothes with tough stains in cold water first before washing.
- Locate washer closer to your hot water heater.
- It is more energy efficient to wash your clothes at the laundromat than using the conventional washing machine in the home. They use a third of the less water, can wash more clothes at one time, use less the detergent, and use 60% less the energy.
- Ring clothes out before putting them in the dryer.
- Electric clothes dryers are more efficient than gas dryers, but burn more fossil fuels to run an electric dryer to a gas dryer.
- The most energy efficient clothes dryer is the clothes line.
- Look for the most energy efficient stove on the market. Gas stoves are more efficient than electric stoves.
- Cover pots when cooking or heating foods up.
- Size up the appropriate pan for the right job.
- Boil the right amount of water you need to cook with. You don’t want to heat up what you don’t need.
- Cook in bulk. It is cheaper to re-heat than cook from scratch.
- Use microwaves to heat up foods. Use 1/3 less electricity than ovens.
- The most energy efficient way to thaw out food is take it out the night before, instead of using the microwave or oven.. Plan your meals ahead of time.
- Convection ovens with self cleaning are more energy efficient when it comes to electric ovens.
- Cook with glass or ceramic when cooking in the oven. Make sure it is full. Less space to heat up.
- Get an oven with a light, so you don’t have to open the door to see if your food is done.
- Consider using the broiler instead of the oven, no warming process involved. Cooks in less time.
- Crock pots are very energy efficient in cooking stews and soups.
- Use pressure cookers when appropriate. Cook foods at higher temperatures in such a short time.
- Electric kettles are by far the most energy efficient way to boil water for your hot tea.
- Use toaster ovens to cook small meals.
Heating and Cooling
- Because heat rises, insulating your ceiling and attic should be your first priority. It can save you up to 30% on your heating bill. Make sure you have the proper vapor barrier underneath your insulation. If the insulation absorbs moisture, it can no longer perform its duty.
- Select the right furnace for your home. Keep it maintained on a regular basis.
- Keep air ducts clean. Dust and dirt can impede the flow of hot air to your rooms.
- Seal all leaky ducts and pipes.
- Heat pumps can reduce your heating bill by 30%, by moving hot air from one room to another.
- Add insulated foam gaskets behind switch and plug outlets located on exterior walls.
- Remove screens in the wintertime, reduces the solar increase gain to your home by 40%
- Apply window films to your windows and doors, help keep heat inside in the wintertime, and help reflects sun rays in the summertime.
- If you use an air conditioner, make sure it is shaded on the outside.
- Fans is the most energy efficient way to cool a room.
- Don’t keep fans or air conditioners on overnight.
- Apply light colored surfaces to the exterior of your home. Dark colors absorb heat from the sun.
- Build your home on a slab. Keeps the house cool in the summertime, saves on heating costs in the winter.
- Orientate your home to the proper surroundings.
- Plant coniferous trees on the north side to keep the north wind out. Plant deciduous trees on the south, east, and west side of the house, to keep the sunlight out. Properly planted trees can reduce your cooling bill by 35%.
Your car emits the same amount of CO2 of your body weight every 300 km you drive.
- Plan your trips. Make several stops, instead of going out, coming home, then going out again.
- Driving a 4 cylinder instead of a six cylinder will save you $ 500 a year.
- Driving at 55 mph instead of 65 mph will save you 10% in your fuel costs.
- Car pool every chance and every where you go.
- Tune up your vehicle twice a year.
- Make sure your exhaust system is functioning properly. This helps your vehicle run in an efficient manner and not polluting the environment.
- Keep your speed steady on the highways. Use your cruise control. Speeding up and slowing down increases fuel consumption.
- Remove car racks when not needed.
- Never leave your car running when you leave your vehicle. Your car emits more CO2 when idling and waste gas needlessly.
- You only need to warm up your vehicle for 60 seconds before driving in the wintertime.
- Use a scrapper to clean the ice off the windows instead of the heater.
- The most energy efficient transportation known to man is the bicycle, besides his two left feet.
Things You Can Do to Help The Environment – Why Recycle?
Energy matters begin in the home.
- Every tonne of newsprint recycled about 2000 daily newspapers will save the equivalent of 19 trees.
- Plant trees whenever and wherever you can.
- Every tonne of steel recycled, saves 1.5 tonnes of iron ore to be excavated out of mother earth.
- It takes 70% less energy to produce aluminum from recycled products than from raw materials.
- Recharge batteries, they may not last as long, but saves energy and materials in producing a new one.
- You can save more than 400 Kilo-watt hours of electricity in one year by recycling all the glass, steel, paper aluminum, plastic, bottles, and cans in your household.
- Compost all your organic waste in your household. This will reduce your garbage volume by 40%
- Never burn your leaves. Always compost them.
- Protect Wetlands. They absorb carbon out of the air, and filter chemicals out of the water.
- Buy things that are re-usable, use over and over again.
- Don’t buy merchandise that are over packaged.
- Bring your bags to the grocery store.
- Buy stuff in bulk, break it down into smaller portions when you get home.
- Wash your plastic bags and tin foil after use. You can keep using your plastic bags until they don’t re-seal anymore or it gets a hole in it.
- Use rags instead of paper towels to clean up spills.
- Avoid fast food restaurants, and if you can’t avoid fast food restaurants, then avoid the drive thru. Eat at a place that has real utensils for you to eat with.
- Keep an electricity log in your home.