What to Do About Waste

The answer to the question ‘ what do we do about waste? ‘ infers that there are problems. There is, in fact, no where on this planet where waste materials are NOT being released into the environment which remains still to this day a major problem. The most important areas are those classified as: municipal solid waste;. toxic waste ( its’ management and cleanup ) ; and nuclear waste. Some of all the waste mankind produces is regularly and effectively handled such as certain types of water and air pollution found in the developed countries. Also there are wastes which are recycled such as organic manures in agriculture. However most wastes produced today are simply dumped, as the above lead picture shows, creating a serious and continuous threat to our health and environment.

Landfill

The consumer public is buying more and using less thus producing larger amounts of waste. Municipal waste is compounded by industrial dumping from factories, tailings from mines, construction and demolition waste, sewage refuse after treatments and junked machinery. All of this garbage must be consistently disposed of without disturbing the M.S.W. ( the municipal streamed waste ) management program already in place. Recycling is one method being used and it is helping, especially all the efforts in composting. Other methods being used are landfills and incineration.

Much is also being done to reduce amounts used in the manufacturing and packaging of consumer products as well as in their delivery from source to outlet. For example, changing a design or removing it completely from a product allows more to be shipped in selected containers thereby reducing the amounts of corrugated cardboard needed and this in turn reduces the total costs involved all down the line. Various attempts at product longevity are also having successful outcomes.

In 2007, San Francisco was the first U.S. City to put a limit on the number of plastic bags to be used in grocery and drug stores. Soon after in 2009, a N.Y. state law required certain retail and grocery stores to accept plastic bags for recycling. That same year 82 million tonnes of waste were recovered by recycling and composting. As early as 2005 there were 500 material recovery facilities. Recycling reduced energy and raw material costs, the need for more landfills and the amount of carbon dioxide emissions as well as a number of other GHG’s being released into the environment. It also made for an effective solution to the problems created by piles of neglected yard trimmings and aluminum cans.

It is still common for cities to send waste to rural landfills and for these landfills to cause controversy for the people living close by while bringing revenue into the area and even though incinerators are a common and popular choice for dealing with the volume and weight of garbage an average city population generates, they continue to pose an increasingly evident and serious problem for the environment by releasing dangerous odors, particulate matter and toxic gases into the atmosphere. Yes incinerators are slowly being phased out but not fast enough. They have been factored into solutions for waste since 1940 – it is now 2019.

One Ruined Beach

When evaluating an area for suitability as a site for hazardous waste, certain criteria, such as the existing levels of soil and water contamination, the flow of toxins and the number of people possibly affected by toxins as well as the results obtained from strict analysis of the surrounding infrastructure are all carefully studied by experts before any decisions are finalized and acted upon. Hundreds of hazardous wastes have been identified by such agencies as the E.P.A. . Included in these lists are materials such as the slags produced from primary metals, sludges from specific industrial processes and chemicals like PCB’s. Once a site is declared a priority either an emergency action is initiated immediately or a site mediation plan is developed for quick implementation. When high levels of dioxin were found in the town of Times Beach, Missouri, the town was bought out, evacuated and later demolished. Although it presented a technical and financial nightmare it was accomplished quickly and successfully.

Last but by no means least is the problem of nuclear waste. Nuclear power plants; the manufacturing of medical equipment; the production of nuclear weapons; residues from uranium mining and research into alternatives for X-rays such as various sources of industrial radioactivity ,all create for disposal two types of waste – low level and high level. The first kind categorized as low level nuclear waste is slightly radioactive; the second kind categorized as high level nuclear waste is mainly spent fuel from nuclear reactors or wastes from the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Because of the length of time nuclear waste remains radioactive ( could be for thousands of years ) the problems inherent in its’ disposal are many with many long lasting consequences for humankind. Satisfying solutions have yet to be found. Often much of it remains in what are known as “temporary” sites, the sites sometimes being where the waste was originally generated. Famous in the history of nuclear waste disposal is the Saga of Yucca Mountain, in the state of Nevada. In 2002 it was approved by both the President in Office at the time and Congress as the nation’s first long-term geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel and high level radioactive waste. It was slated to accept waste in 2025 and close 100 years later. The cost only $96 billion. Fierce opposition arose and in 2011, with a tenth of the monies gone, the Obama administration proposed it be removed from the Yucca Mountain site. The delimma continues. The decisions to replace fossil fuel generation remain. The true costs of nuclear energy are yet debated.

We are a wasteful generation. We are trying not to be. This is not just our home but the home of countless other living creatures. Will we succeed in keeping it safe and clean? The price of failure may start with black tap water, toilets that no longer flush,rats everywhere and thousands dead from cholera every day. The reader no doubt will add more to the list. I, for one, venture to say, it is a price far too high to pay.

Is Another ‘Dust Bowl’ Possible?

In July 1934, in the United States of America, the most devastating drought on record forced millions of desperate people to escape to safety in neighboring States. Sixty percent of the country experienced extreme damage. Present generations still read about this historical event known as the ‘ Dust Bowl Years ‘ while at school.

Researchers believe it was caused by a high-pressure ridge over the West Coast that misdirected the water-heavy storms of 1934 resulting in the unexpected drought. This ridge reappeared with subsequent disastrous damage in 1976 and 2013 in the California area. It is now an established fact that when a persistent high pressure hovers over an area causing a decline in cloud formation leading to a definite and noticable lowering of relative humidity and less precipitation the probable result will be a drought differing only in degree of severity.

Besides the negative geological impact of such a weather condition the economic and societal impacts have been serious. They have taken their toll financially, emotionally and mentally. A combined cost of over $210 billion was the amount spent by the United States alone between the years 1980 and 2014 because of drought and a staggering number of people lost their lives; thousands according to NOAA.

Further to reports from NOAA, as of July 2018, a figure of 38 percent of the contiguous U.S. was classified as in moderate to extreme drought.

What have the experts said about the future? They have reiterated that increased frequency of drought is to be expected, not just for the Americas but for the entire globe and that it is necessary to be prepared for the worse scenarios. The Earth is experiencing more and more warmth causing excessive periods of evaporation. Major shifts in weather patterns will continue and storm laden clouds carrying the needed rains will move further and further north. Populations used to snow should expect rain instead and that means more and more flooding in the dry areas where slow absorption is what prevents drought.

There are at present 150 definitions of drought categorized into four basic groups. If interested in charts and graphs check info released by The Palmer Drought Severity Index ( PDSI ) devised in 1965 ; The U.S. Drought Monitor which replaced the aforementioned PDSI in 1999 ; The National Climatic Data Center ; The National Drought Summary ; The Climate Prediction Center ; The Drought Portal and last of all the NOAA.

The Planet’s Vents

In strictest geological terms, a volcano is a vent from which magma and other substances erupt to the surface or it is a landform composed of the volcanic debris and solidified lava found near the opening of a vent. These landforms have been in existence since the beginning of volcanic activity. One such volcano would be Mauna Loa. It is classified as a shield volcano; a landform that is usually huge with gentle slopes and many layers of what was once fluid lava. The opposite would be Mount Fuji. This volcano is a classic stratovolcano. It has steep slopes built of layer upon layer of lava and ash. A third type is a submarine volcanic landform found upon the Icelandic seafloor.

Geologists have discovered that the interior heat from large planetary bodies such as Earth has difficulty escaping by such common processes as radiation or conduction and instead uses a method of convection, a partial melting of the Earth’s crust and mantle whereby magma rises to he surface.

Volcanoes give evidence of the directions and rates of motion of the Earth’s tectonic plates. Their study comes under the banners of geophysicists, geochemists, geologists, biologists and meteorologists. Their disciplines cover everything from the roots of volcanoes, signs of future eruptions, the plants and animals who find volcanoes a suitable habitat, and the effects of volcanic dust and gases on the atmosphere, the weather and climate.

Volcanoes enrich the soil making it fertile. One will find valuable mineral deposits and geothermal energy. Over time they even benefit by recycling the planet’s hydrosphere and atmosphere. They create beautiful scenery that mystifies the onlooker. But as we all know too well volcanoes are associated with a long list of destructive hazards. They produce legendary lava flows, explosions, toxic gas clouds, dangerous ash falls, pyroclastic flows, avalanches, tsunamis and mudflows. Secondary is the property damage and crop loss.

If you hunt for rocks near the surface of a vent you will find four major types or what they call clans. There are basalt, andesite, dacite and rhyloite. The range in silica content from 50% to 75%. The higher the silica content the more viscous the rock.

. When the archaeologist finishes his/her studies it s the geologist who continues our journey into the remotest areas of earth’s antiquities. Rocks remember.

Rocks remember. When the archaeologist finishes his/her study it s the geologist who continues our journey into the remotest areas of Earth’s antiquities.

The Language of Wind

Covering the Earth are seven belts of atmospheric pressure. The lowest can be found at the equator. They increase as they move towards the poles. The major wind systems lie between these zones of low and high pressure and are referred to as; the northeast and southeast trade winds, the westerlies which include the roaring forties and furious fifties, the polar easterlies and finally the monsoons.

As air rises, the pressure lowers and the air around it moves in causing wind. The greater the degree of pressure over a given distance the faster the wind. This action is called pressure gradient force. Most wind moves across the ground. It is unusual for it to move up and down except where there are thunderstorm downdrafts. One other force that must be considered is known in physics as the Coriolis effect. When a mass is moving in a rotating system there is a force acting perpendicular to the direction of motion and to the axis of rotation. On Earth moving objects are subject to deflection to the right if in the northern hemisphere and to the left if in the southern hemisphere. This effect becomes important when discussing the formation of cyclonic weather systems.

Seasonal winds include all movements of air that are repetitive and predictable forming what become known as weather patterns. They are found in various geographic regions around the world. The most common are the monsoon winds. The monsoon is a low latitude wind which changes direction between summer and winter. During winter it blows from the land and is composed of cool dry air and from the water to the land in summer when the air is moist and warm. These conditions cause drastic changes in the amount of precipitation and in the temperature patterns of the area where the monsoon occurs. Southern Asia experiences the most pronounced monsoon system however one can find this system happening in West Africa, Australia and the Pacific Ocean. There is even a small system called the North American monsoon, the Mexican monsoon or Arizona monsoon. The monsoon impacts the agricultural economies of the area. It can cause flooding, severe winds and the loss off many many lives.

Short bursts of wind are called gusts. Stronger winds lasting about a minute are known as squalls. Longer winds of increasing strength are termed breezes, gales, storms and hurricanes.

From times of myth, through times of history the wind has influenced thinkers in the fields of warfare, mechanics, transportation, power generation and recreation. They have shaped landscapes from deserts to fertile soil. They have impacted wildfires, dispersed seeds encouraging the survival of plant species, had negative consequences for farm animals, disturbed hunting grounds, and thwarted defensive strategies.

In conclusion let it be said of the wind:

When you can’t change its direction, adjust your sails.

We Are What We Breathe

Air pollution is not just a local concern but a growing regional, national and international concern. It involves identifying levels of dangerous pollutants and where they originate. Emissions need to be controlled. Effective legislation must be drafted, debated and passed . With the creation of such agencies as the E.P.A. which was responsible for implementing the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1970 improvements abounded. Air Quality Standards were established and strictly followed.

Criteria for six pollutants were isolated and standards set. These were:. particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, lead and ozone. In setting the standards such matters as health considerations, environmental conditions, vegetation, esthetics, houses and monuments were discussed in depth. When standards were not met the section under scrutiny was designated a nonattainment area. Air quality is reviewed every five years. Should it be more often some ask.

A form of air pollution not mentioned yet is acid rain; a term used to cover acidic precipitation of all kinds including rain, snow, fog and dust particles. When pollutants get into the air, in particular sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides, they produce acid rain which in turn has serious consequences for the biosystems on land and in water. Some subsequent problems are damaged leaves, compromised photosynthesis, waters so acidic they can no longer support fish or smaller organisms and marred recreational areas.

Air pollution is not going away any time soon and as of today there’s no Planet B.

Water

Fundamental To Us All

Springs are more and more often being threatened with pollution. They are daily contaminated by industrial and muncipal discharge, runoff, spills and airborne pollutants. In time, the ecosystem will be dangerously unbalanced. Other culprits that threaten are agricultural. The toxic synthetic chemicals being used cannot be broken down by natural processes.

Governments announce many a Protection Act; establish Clean Funds to preserve the integrity of water science. They frequently invest in infrastructure and support research yet amongst the general population maintaining a vigilant conscience concerned with a clean safe water supply is difficult.

Most of us remain smilingly ignorant of the problem until a water crisis dominates in the news. One cannot stress enough how important it is for all of us to acknowledge the part we have to play in maintaining a clean water supply, not just for ourselves and our family but for everyone.

What can we do? Well, we can reduce our use of herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. We can reduce our use of bleach and detergents. We can also refuse to dispose by flushing down the drain such things as pills, drugs or medications. There are more ways to help and I will leave it up to you the reader to find them.

It feels good to care. It tastes good too.