The Catastrophic Effects of Man-made Pollution

beaches

According to the 24th annual report released by Natural Resources Defense Council, one in 10 U.S. beaches are dangerously polluted making them unsafe for swimmers. The environmental advocacy nonprofit collected 3,500 water samples from American beaches and evaluated the specimens using the Environmental Protection Agency’s new water safety standard known as Beach Action Value. The BAV sets the threshold for water quality at American beaches to protect swimmers from pollution mostly from sewage overflow and contaminated storm water runoff, the HuffPost’s Sara Gates reports in her article 1  In 10 U.S. Beaches Are So Polluted They’re Not Safe For Swimming. NRDC senior attorney Jon Devine explained to USA Today that: “Results in this year show uptick in failure rate at 10 percent nationwide, but this reflects a newer, more health-protected (standard of safety test). If we were to compare to the old defunct standard, it would have been about 7 percent of samples; which tells us we’re stagnating in terms of progress of water protection.” Gates reports, according to the finding, the NRDC found 17 repeat offenders or beaches that failed the public heath standard in more than 25 percent of its water quality samples in the past 5 years e.g. several polluted beaches in Indiana, New York and Ohio. Ranking the highest in polluted beaches was the Great Lakes followed by the Gulf Coast and New England. As for the least polluted, the NRDC labeled 35 U.S. beaches as all stars as they all met the national benchmark for water quality 98 percent of the time over the last five years including waterfronts in 14 states such as California and Virginia.

While water pollution is a major concern all over the world especially the United States, fracking has become increasingly worrisome as the frequency of earthquake increases in areas where earthquakes rarely happened, if at all, e.g vast stretches of prairie across Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma. In recent years, Oklahoma has recorded nearly 150 earthquakes between January and the start of May with most being too weak to cause serious damage or endanger lives. However, these temblors have rattled nerves and raised suspicions enough to start to question their connection with the oil and gas drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing especially the wells in which the industry disposes of its wastewater, according to Emily Schmalland Kristi Eaton’s article States Confront Worries About Fracking And Earthquakes. Due to the increasing complaints from residents over the years, governments in three states are confronting the issue by reviewing scientific data, holding public discussion and possibly implementing new regulations. The states with few earthquakes historically are trying to reconcile scientific data with the interests of their citizens and the oil and gas companies. Regulators from each state met in March in Oklahoma City to exchange earthquake information and discuss toughening standards for the lightly regulated business of fracking water disposal. In Azle, Texas where hundreds of small quakes have happened, the residents went to the state Capitol earlier in the year to demand action by the Railroad Commission who are the chief oil and gas regulators. In response, the commission hired the first ever state seismologist and lawmakers formed the House Subcommittee on Seismic Activity, reports Schmalland and Eaton. After Kansas had 56 earthquakes between last October and April, the governor appointed a three member task force to address the issue.

While the frequency of earthquakes is troubling, fracking also generates large quantities of wastewater even more than traditional drilling methods. The water is pumped into injection wells sending it thousands of feet underground. Scientists wonder whether this process could trigger quakes due to increasing underground pressure or act as lubricant for faults. In addition, injection well operators could be pumping either too much water into the ground or pumping it at exceedingly high pressures e.g data published by the Railroad Commission earlier this month found ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy has pumped 281,000 gallons or 94 tanker truckloads of wastwater into Azle wells every day for two years. In recent weeks, Oklahoma has experienced 145 quakes of 3.0 magnitude or greater from January to May 2,2014, the Oklahoma Geological Survey reports. Fortunately, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin has approved new testing and monitoring regulation for injections wells that take effect in September requiring well operators to collect daily information on well volume and pressure. Nationwide, the United States has more than 150,000 injections wells and only a handful have been proven to induce quakes according to the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Moving from active drilling and pumping to derelict oil wells and gas wells, a study of the latter in Pennsylvania found that hundreds of thousands in the states may leak methane suggesting that wells across the country may be a bigger source of climate changing greenhouse gases than previously thought. According to Mary Kang’s study, a Princeton University scientist, 19 abandoned wells were found leaking various amounts of methane with hundreds of thousands of such oil and gas wells, abandoned and plugged, in Pennsylvania and many more across the country. The problem Bobby Magill reports, Derelict Oil Wells May Be Major Methane Emitters, is that these wells go unmonitored and are rarely checked for leaks. Over the past three years, numerous studies suggest that crude oil and natural gas development especially in shale formations are significant sources of methane leaks. Scientists believe that there is inadequate data available for them to know where all the leaks are and how much methane is leaking due to the fact the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency greenhouse gas inventory does not fully include these derelict sites as they are not monitored. Over a 100 year span, methane is 34 times more potent as a climate change greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Even more troublesome is its potency over 20 years which is 86 times. Of all the greenhouse gases emitted by humans worldwide, methane is more than 40 percent of all radiative forcing, a measure of trapped heat in the atmosphere and a measuring stick of changing climate. Kang found that the wells leak so much methane that if the leaks from all the abandoned wells in Pennsylvania are added up that the percentage would be between 4 and 13 percent of human caused methane emissions in the state, according to Magill. However, more studies need to be done to fully understand how common the leaking wells are in the state and how much methane they emit. According to the historical record and the study conducted, there are between 280,000 and 970,000 abandoned oil and gas wells in Pennsylvania. Kang found that state regulations are inadequate at controlling methane emissions from abandoned wells due to the rules focusing on containing fluids, not gases and the plugged wells are not required to be monitored closely over time.

Poverty has an Expiration Date?

According the World Bank, it does. What is the difference between extreme poverty and poverty? Who defined it? While the governments of the world figure this out, the World Bank has set a deadline for 2030 to end extreme global poverty emphasizing that the poorest benefit from strong growth and rising prosperity in developing nations Reuters reports. According to World Bank President Jim Yong Kim on Saturday following a meeting of the World Bank’s Development Committee, “For the first time in history we have committed to setting a target to end poverty. We are no longer dreaming of a world free of poverty; we have set an expiration date for extreme poverty.”  The goal plans to reduce extreme poverty to 3 percent and target the bottom 40 percent of people living in each country of the developing world.

The target of the World Bank aims to guide the institution and work with the United Nations to make plans post-2015 poverty strategy to replace existing goals. The developing world has seen a growth of about 6 percent annually in their economies with millions of people being lifted out of poverty creating a new global middle class which has also allowed for increases in growing inequality. As the Committee explains, “We recognize that sustained economic growth needs a reduction in inequality. Investments that create opportunities for all citizens and promote gender equality are an important end in their own right, as well we being integral to creating prosperity.” This week the World Bank released figures that show extreme poverty has plunged since 1990 with 21 percent from 43 percent and that most of the poor are heavily concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, while China has slashed extreme poverty according to Reuters. Kim also said climate change and investments in heath and education were discussed as well.

The meeting also called for donor fundraising campaigns by the World Bank’s fund for its poorest borrowers urging strong participation by all countries. Every three years according to Huff Post, donors from rich and developing economies alike raise funds for the Bank’s International Development Association or IDA, while the United States, Britain and Nordic nations are usually the biggest funders for the past several years Brazil, India, China, Chile, Argentina and Peru have also donated funds. However with the current financial climates in Europe and the United States, the World Bank will be more restrictive when it comes to how the money is used so not to impact the poor. The emphasis according to Kim should be on helping fragile  and conflict hit countries.

Changing the World: Amazing Billboard Produces Water Out of Air (VIDEO)

Billboard In Lima, Peru Creates Drinking Water Out Of Thin Air (VIDEO).

Changing the world one billboard at a time or at least that is the hope for one group of imaginative engineers and I don’t mean Disney. It is no secret that water is in short supply especially in some areas around the world with only three percent of the water in the world potable. At a rapid rate, the world has used  much of the water leading us all eventually into a world water crisis if nothing is done to curb our appetite. What makes it worse is the fact that many of our fresh water canal and underground springs are polluted everyday by large corporations and carelessness killing species that thrive in these areas. The hope here is to take inspiration away from the video and find ways to lessen your footprint on the world by making positive choices and taking responsibility for what man has done. The engineers came up with the idea because of a necessity and scarcity of water available in some parts of the world.

 The University of Engineering and Technology of Peru partnered with the ad agency Mayo DraftFCBand to the first ever billboard to capture   humidity and turn it into potable drinking water in Lima in order to address the area’s water insecurity issues as well as bring a message of hope in the second largest desert capital in the world. The structure was created in order to address the issue of residents being forced to drink polluted water from wells. As one resident of the Bujama District explains, ” They could put this in different places if possible in each village, in each town…the water that gives us life.” Peru gets less than two inches of rain, but has an atmospheric humidity of 98 percent according to the video so the billboard uses reverse osmosis, a water purifying process, in order to produce the water and stores the water in tanks up to 20 liters each providing 9,450 liters in three months.

The implementation of the billboard coincides with a study, published in the Cryosphere journal, showing the Andean glaciers which provides fresh water for the residents of Peru and other countries has shrunk 30 to 50 percent since the 1970s. Antoine Rabatel, one author of the study, explains: “Glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is unprecedented.” With water supplies dwindling due to climate change and a growing population facing food insecurity issues, the billboard provides one innovative solution in a sea of many possibilities. NanoGanesh, for example, allows farmers to use mobile phones to turn off irrigation systems remotely decreasing the use of water and electricity. According to the Associated Press, the UN and other global agencies are calling for greater solutions to the water crisis as 60 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities in the next eight years putting more strain on resources and sanitation. UN Deputy Chief Jan Eliasson had this to say, “If we do water and sanitation right, we can have a great improvement on others goals.” The impact of such technology is vast and the potential to save lives is enormous as the access to potable clean water will reduce maternal health issues, child mortality and overall poverty.