Tag Archives: Environment

Earth Hour connecting people through social media

Earth Hour is this Saturday beginning at 8:30 p.m. The annual event is a chance for everyone on Earth to connect with everyone else by turning off their lights for an hour.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve found the symbolic event to be an enjoyable time for sitting quietly in the dark with a few candles and discussing with my family what we can do as individuals, joining with others, to make this a better world.

As others have said, all important movements start with small actions. I like Earth Hour, because one is joining something both big and small. It’s big because it is taking place throughout the world. It’s small because it is such a simple thing.

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Environmental groups will boycott Navy meetings

A dozen environmental groups say they will boycott the nine “scoping meetings” the Navy is holding to kick off a new round of studies regarding testing and training activities in the Northwest.

In a letter dated March 13 (PDF 16 kb), the groups said the format of the meetings is not designed to encourage public discussion or even allow public comment. In addition, the Navy and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have ignored ongoing calls for the Navy to better protect marine wildlife and the environment along the Washington Coast and other biologically important areas, they say.

Navy's Northwest testing and training ranges. Click to enlarge.
Map by U.S. Navy

The Navy will seek a new permit from NOAA for the incidental harassment of marine mammals during testing and training activities. Most of the activities are identical to what is taking place now, but some new activities are added — including the testing of sonar from ships docked at piers.

Between now and 2015, Navy officials will describe and study the effects of various activities on marine life and update existing mitigation with new research findings. See my initial story in the Kitsap Sun, Feb. 27, and a related post in Water Ways, March 6. Also, you may review the official notice in the Federal Register.

Back to the letter, which states in part:

“As you know, the scoping process is the best time to identify issues and provide recommendations to agencies on what should be analyzed in the EIS. However, a process developed for activities with controversial impacts, like those at issue here, that does not provide opportunity for the public to testify or speak to a broader audience, or to hear answers to questions raised by others, and that fails to engage major population centers is not designed to help citizens and organizations effectively participate in agencies’ environmental reviews.”

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Amusing Monday: Toilet songs for the holidays

Knowing more than a few sewer operators in my day, I can tell you that their leading pet peeve is all the stuff that people dump down their toilets and drains.

I’ll never forget the courtroom description of a giant “rag ball” — some 30 feet long — found in Bremerton’s sewer. Rag balls are the accumulation of diapers, tampons and baby wipes that get flushed down the toilet and become caught somewhere in the sewer lines.

Bremerton’s famous rag ball became wrapped up in courtroom testimony during a lawsuit against a sewer contractor hired by the city to run the operation. For details, check out my story from April of 1998.

Steve Anderson

What I really wanted to share with you this week is a song called “O Christmas Grease” by Steve Anderson, a water resources analyst at Clean Water Services. This is the agency that manages wastewater and stormwater in a 12-city region west of Portland, Ore.

Steve often writes music and performs in a band when he’s not working at the utility. He told me that he started writing original songs as well as parodies of existing tunes to entertain his fellow water experts at conferences. Last week, for example, he showed up at a conference to help educators decide whether humor is useful in educating people about wastewater issues.

Steve says the public-education folks at Clean Water Services tolerates his songs, but they do not fully embrace his activities. His first song — a parody about the low levels of drugs that make it through the treatment process — got him into a little hot water with some folks in the business. “Dope in the Water” is sung to the tune of the Deep Purple original.

“The Ballad of Betty Poop” was written as a kid’s song for Take-Your-Children-to-Work Day. It’s about the adventures of a plastic GI Joe and other characters. It includes these famous lines: “Give it up, you toilet treasures… You’ll never make it all the way to the river…”

Steve has not released these songs to the public, though he readily shares them with friends and anyone who will listen. I must thank Gayle Leonard, who writes a blog called “Thirsty in Suburbia,” for bringing Steve’s songs out into the light and putting me in touch with this creative force in the sewer world.

      1. O Christmas Grease
      2. Dope in the Water
      3. The Ballad of Betty Poop
      4. Dont Flush the Baby (Wipes)
      5. Fats Oils and Grease

Download the lyrics to all five songs (PDF 72 kb)

Amusing Monday: Animations of Earth’s changes

This week, I’d like to show you some animations from space, demonstrating an interesting way to present satellite imagery and data that change over the surface of the Earth.

While these animations are in no way humorous, I am fascinated by the ability to play around with these images for a closer look at global climate change, effects of El Nino, recovery of Mount St. Helens, water-level changes in Arizona’s Lake Powell, Amazon deforestation in Western Brazil and many other time series. There’s even one showing the surface of the sun.

The decade of 1880-89 was cooler than the baseline period of 1951-1980. This is the first slide in an animation you can find in World of Change. Click to enlarge

Go to NASA’s Earth Observatory for World of Change and check out the left column, where you will see a list of 20 animations that you can run. Some give you the option of viewing the sequence from Google Earth, although some do not work well in that format. Notice that you can click on “play” in the lower right corner to observe the animation or click on any of the time periods to advance at your own pace.

Also, the narrative beneath the images explains why certain changes appear as they do. I think it is a great way to learn about these natural and made-made alterations to our environment.

As the year comes to a close, I thought this would be a good time to feature these animations. We are about to learn whether 2010 will be the warmest year on record. Preliminary results from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center should be out in January.

The decade 2000-09 was warmer than the baseline period of 1951-1980. This is the last slide in the animation in World of Change. Click to enlarge

As Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin reported in her blog, “Post Carbon,” this year is likely to be the warmest we have ever measured, barring some temperature anomaly. Despite near-blizzard conditions on the East Coast at the moment, I don’t believe the temperature will create a dent in the average temperature worldwide.

The warmest year on record is currently 2005, according to analyses by NCDC and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which produced the animations. But 1998 was close and is considered the record-holder by a collaborative group in Great Britain. Check out Tom Yulsman’s informative article in Climate Central about how these data are interpreted.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to take a look at the changes over time in Mount St. Helens, the recovery of fire-scarred Yellowstone National Park and any of the animations in World of Change that catch your interest.

A vision for a holistic ecosystem, humans included

Hood Canal Coordinating Council is undertaking an effort to bring average residents into the discussion about how to preserve the Hood Canal ecosystem.

While Hood Canal is becoming known for its low-oxygen problem and occasional fish kills, it’s good to remember that the canal remains famous for its shrimp, oysters and crabs. Furthermore, history tells us that the canal once abounded in sealife, including all kinds of salmon and bottomfish.

Can the canal ever come close to its heyday? I don’t know, but plenty of people would like to give it a try. (By the way, if you want to argue that the problems are caused entirely by over-fishing, we’ll need to discuss individual species — including those that aren’t harvested at all.)

The underlying premise of the Hood Canal Integrated Watershed Management Plan is that people can find ways to benefit from a healthy ecosystem, that natural processes — including the survival of plants and animals — can continue without wrecking the lifestyles of humans. Check out my story in the Kitsap Sun Oct. 26 for an overview of this project.

The vision for this approach is articulated in a document called “Development of Ecological and Socioeconomic Targets” (PDF 60 kb). The vision section begins with a short, positive statement:

Humans benefit from and coexist sustainably with a healthy Hood Canal.

The document goes on to elaborate on the vision within various goals, consistent with goals of the Puget Sound Partnership:
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Amusing Monday: Quotes to make you think

This week I’d like to share 20 quotes about humans and their relationship to the environment. Some of these quotes are odd; some are witty; and some border on the profound. But I like them because they cause me to think.

Thanks goes to the Quote Garden for compiling a huge list of “environmental quotes” from which these were taken.

1. “The command ‘Be fruitful and multiply’ was promulgated, according to our authorities, when the population of the world consisted of two people.” — William Ralph Inge, More Lay Thoughts of a Dean, 1931

2. “Time and space – time to be alone, space to move about – these may well become the great scarcities of tomorrow.” — Edwin Way Teale, Autumn Across America, 1956

3. “Because we don’t think about future generations, they will never forget us.” — Henrik Tikkanen

4. “The rose has thorns only for those who would gather it.” — Chinese Proverb

5. “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” — Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, 1962

6. “Give a man a fish, and he can eat for a day. But teach a man how to fish, and he’ll be dead of mercury poisoning inside of three years.” — Charles Haas

7. I conceive that the land belongs to a vast family of which many are dead, few are living, and countless numbers are still unborn.” — Author Unknown

8. “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” — Native American Proverb

9. “The struggle to save the global environment is in one way much more difficult than the struggle to vanquish Hitler, for this time the war is with ourselves. We are the enemy, just as we have only ourselves as allies.” — Al Gore

10. “Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature.” — Dennis Gabor, Inventing the Future, 1964

11. “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.” — Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

12. “Man is a complex being: He makes deserts bloom – and lakes die.” — Gil Stern

13. “Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them.” — Bill Vaughn

14. “The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river.” — Ross Perot

15. “Economic advance is not the same thing as human progress.” — John Clapham, A Concise Economic History of Britain, 1957

16. “We say we love flowers, yet we pluck them. We say we love trees, yet we cut them down. And people still wonder why some are afraid when told they are loved.” — Author Unknown

17. “Why do people give each other flowers? To celebrate various important occasions, they’re killing living creatures? Why restrict it to plants? ‘Sweetheart, let’s make up. Have this deceased squirrel.'” — The Washington Post

18. Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect. — Chief Seattle, 1855

19. “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” — John Muir

20. “We could have saved the Earth but we were too damned cheap.” — Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

Regional EPA chief discusses top issues

Dennis McLerran, the new regional administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, held his first news conference today, saying he wanted to touch base with reporters during Earth Week.

Dennis McLerran, EPA regional administrator
EPA photo

This year is not only the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, he noted, but also the 40th anniversary of the EPA. McLerran said he was a freshman at the University of Washington in 1970, the year of the first Earth Day. (That’s the year that I graduated from Mercer Island High School. Like McLerran, I have been involved in environmental issues for much of the last 40 years.)

Coming to the EPA from the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency, McLerran said he has had to expand his horizons to take in all environmental issues. “Wall-to-wall briefings” has been “kind of like drinking from a fire hose,” he said today.

The regional administrator said he was taking many clues from his boss, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson — including focusing on her top seven priorities:

  • Taking Action on Climate Change
  • Improving Air Quality
  • Assuring the Safety of Chemicals
  • Cleaning Up Our Communities
  • Protecting America’s Waters
  • Expanding the Conversation on Environmentalism and Working for Environmental Justice
  • Building Strong State and Tribal Partnerships

Additional notes from McLerran’s comments and responses to questions:

Amusing Monday: Animals Save the Planet

I have to admit a certain fondness for the clay animated creatures that have come to life thanks to Aardman Animations, which has fostered a bunch of creative animations, including Wallace & Gromit.

Since this is the week of Earth Day, I thought I would present the series of Earth-friendly tips offered by some strange but lovable animals. The short videos were produced for Animal Planet in the UK, and I’m not sure if they were shown in the U.S.

Aardman Animations, started by Peter Lord and David Sproxton, has an interesting history. Starting out with simple projects in 1975, the animations grew more sophisticated through the years. You may remember their first full-length movie, “Chicken Run,” which won numerous awards.
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