Friday, March 22, 2013

The Debate over Genetically Engineered Foods

With the climate changing worldwide and more-and-more low crop yields as of recently, the argument for and against genetically engineered (GE) food is becoming more heated than ever. The topic of GE food lacks no shortage of issues related to it, but our food security and health are two of the issues at the frontlines that get a lot of attention – and for good reason. Our ability to grow food in a sustainable way that will feed populations around the world, but also support the farmers who do it is important and worth debating. The health risks that are often associated with using genetically modified foods is something that could potentially touch every individual on the planet, so it makes sense that it’s such a highly contested subject. But trying to figure out which side of the argument is right is no easy task. There are a variety of different opinions on the topic and it’s important to analyze them to understand where we’re at now and what lies ahead.

Here are two interesting articles with opposing takes on the GE food debate:

There are many difference stances to take on genetically engineered food. Our health is intimately connected to the food we eat and it’s important that we do more research to find out the effects GE foods have in humans. Completely banning GE food could prove to be costly, especially with the current patterns of climate change. With increased droughts and more arid soils, GE foods might be the solution to feed starving populations. Investing in GE food prematurely, or without doing more research could also be costly. The GE crops could negatively affect Biodiversity, soil conditions and native crops.  These articles prove that efforts are being made to ensure that all parties are accounted for in the debate.

Buy Organic – For you and the Environment

Organic agriculture is the best possible produce for our children’s health, our own health, our communities and our country as a whole.  Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystems, and people, it relies on ecological processes, bio-diversity and cycles adapted to local conditions, rather than the use of inputs with adverse effects and organic agriculture combines tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and a good quality of life for all involved.
Supporting big-business agriculture and factory farming can have negative effects on your health. Factory farms have a “reliance on pesticides, require heavy doses of insecticides and herbicides and an increasing need for fertilizers”. There are other negative effects of industrial agriculture, including “environmental and social costs, damage to fisheries, constant clean-up of surface and groundwater polluted with animal waste, increased health risks from pesticides, increased ozone pollution via methane byproducts of animals and global warming from heavy use of fossil fuels, and industrial agriculture also uses huge amounts of water, energy and industrialized chemicals.” (Wikipedia).
If all those reasons weren’t enough, consider this photo comparing organic to industrially grown crops:

Calling all City Folk!

Imagine a self-sustaining city that is reliable and not dependant on the negative polution habits of the past. In hollywood we see movies and television series that reflect the breakdown and fall of society as continue to suffocate ourselves with polution. The following article offers some exciting new hope for the future of cities!
Pictures: 10 High-Tech, Green City Solutions for Beating the Heat

IT's SPRINGTIME! Spring Cleaning....

Well its that time of year! The season of spring is upon us. Whether your cleaning out your filing cabinet to prepare for your taxes or cleaning out your book bag to prepare for spring break. Tis the season for spring cleaning. Nothing helps get you started like a checklist. Well atleast that is the case for me. So why not do it in a way that is safe for our enviornment! The following article gives some great tips!

Top 5 Items That Cannot Be Recycled [Recycling Pt 2]

By John Simmons

In my previous post we looked at the top five things that should be recycled. While recycling is great and should be done as much as possible, we shouldn't get carried away and try to recycle items that cannot or should not be recycled. Here are the top five items that should not be recycled.

#5: Any Recyclable Item with Residue on It

Residue, including food residue, dirt, and other substances, can contaminate the recycling process. For example, greasy pizza boxes should not be recycled. When paper products are being broken down, they are places in a large vat and mixed together with water and other substances to break the paper down. Called “slurry,” this pulp can easily be contaminated by grease, which will affect the ultimate quality of the paper produced and may even require the slurry to be discarded.  
Best solution? Clean recyclables before recycling them or, in the case of food-contaminated paper products, burn or compost them.

#4: Plastic Caps and Lids

Although plastic caps and lids are technically recyclable, they cause issues at most recycling plants. Lids are small and flat and can end up in other recyclables such as newspaper, contaminating those other materials. Bottle caps and other small plastics can get caught in the gears of the conveyer belts that are used to sort out our commingled recycling, interfering with production.Another issue arises when bottle caps are left on the bottle they came with. Most plastic bottles are made from PET #1 plastic, but caps and lids are commonly made from the sturdier #5 plastic. These two different types melt at different temperatures during the recycling process, and if they are together the resulting plastic is of lower quality and cannot be properly reused. 
Leaving the cap on bottles also traditionally causes problems in the sorting facility: when bottles are crushed caps can shoot off at high velocity and potentially hurt an employee, and bottles that escape crushing retain air and take up more space, meaning fewer bottles can be transported at a time. Some modern recycling centers can handle bottles with caps on them, but the majority still do not. 
Best solution? Check for a list of drop sites that accept bottle caps; one might be near you.  Also, some schools and charities collect bottle caps as fundraisers, so caps can be donated to them.

#3: Plastic Grocery Bags. 

The type of plastic these bags are made from is too thin and weak to be recycled. In addition, the bags can easily become caught in machinery during the recycling process, requiring work to stop and the machinery to be unclogged. A good solution is to return plastic bags to store that collect them. Even better, avoid plastic bags to begin with and opt for paper bags or reusable bags. ( Several local stores provide recycling for plastic grocery bags, and they have the infrastructure in place to transport this item to a recycling facility in bulk so it doesn’t get mixed up with other items.

#2: Ceramics, Window Glass, Broken Glass, and Glass Kitchenware Items

Much like with plastic bottle caps, window glass melt at a different temperature than glass bottles, resulting in weakened or inferior final products. Another issue is the lack of uniformity with these types of glass. While glass bottles are fairly uniform in size and shape, window glass varies widely in shape, size, and thickness and may have frames attached that must be removed. Ceramics and glass kitchenware items contaminate glass and are difficult to sort, as is broken glass. These types of glass often have additives that would contaminate the rest of the batch. 
Best solution? Reuse glass products when possible, or find centers in your area that have the equipment to handle these other forms of glass.

#1: Toxic or Hazardous Products, and Their Containers

Toxic products include household chemicals, antifreeze and other liquid coolants. The containers for these items are also off the list of recyclables, as they would quickly contaminate other recyclable items. Motor oil is recyclable, but it must be handled separately from household items and should be treated with great care, because if it gets into city drains it can greatly harm aquatic life.In addition to these toxic products, do not recycle hazardous products such as aerosol cans and medical supplies, which can be dangerous to employees. These are items that should be thrown away
Best solution? Find out how your community handles hazardous materials before you need those services, and follow those standards. .

For further reading on what should be be recycled and some reasons why, go to these websites:

Acid Rain

By Ibrahim Alhamad 

Acid rain Acid rain is rain that is more acidic than normal. Acid rain is a complicated problem. Primarily caused by air pollution, acid rain's spread and damage involves weather, chemistry, soil, and the life cycles of plants and animals on the land and in lakes and streams. This form of air pollution is currently a subject of great controversy because of its worldwide environmental damages. For the last two decade. This problem has brought destruction to thousands of lakes and streams in worldwide. Scientists have discovered that air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels is the major cause of acid rain. Power plants and factories burn coal and oil. Power plants use that coal and oil to produce the electricity for our homes and to run our electric appliances. We also burn natural gas, coal, and oil to heat our homes. The smoke and fumes from burning fossil fuels rise into the atmosphere and combine with the moisture in the air to form acid rain. The main chemicals in air pollution that creates acid rain are sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides. Acid rain usually forms high in the clouds where sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides react with water. 

NOx Pollution

By Ibrahim Alhamad

Diesel engines and gasoline engines are the most widely used primary sources of power in automobiles and the sheer number of them makes the issue of emissions from these engines an important one. It gives a comparison of the amounts of different pollutants in the exhaust of diesel and petrol engines formation of NOx and control methods.  The main source of NOx in diesel engine emissions is the oxidation of the nitrogen in the air at the high temperatures in the cylinder during combustion. As the reaction mixture cools during the expansion stroke and exhaust blow down, the reactions of NOx freeze and NO is left in concentrations much higher than its equilibrium concentration. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Water Pollution

By Ibrahim Alhamad 

Fresh water is necessary for life, but now it has become a scarce-commodity and it is getting scarcer everyday as communi­ties, industries and agriculturists discharge their filth, muck and harmful wastes into the nearest sink. There are many sources of water pollution. Firstly community wastes for human settlements give rise to water pollution. Contrary to common belief, it has been estimated that the community wastes account for four times as much wastewater as industrial effluents. Most of these wastes are discharged into the water sources. Secondly industrial effluent directly entering into a stream, through a municipal sewer, or through discharge on land meant for irrigation causes water pollution. Thirdly Human wastes may cause pollution by seepage from improperly constructed or improperly placed septic tanks, or leaking sewer lines. Industrial wastes, including highly poisonous chemicals, may be introduced to the groundwater either by intention or accident.

Noise pollution

By Ibrahim alhamad 

During the last twenty years there has been increasing concern with the quality of the environment. Along with air and water contaminants, noise pollution has been recognized as a serious pollutant. As noise levels have risen. The effects of noise have become more apparent. Noise is defined as unwanted sound. Noise has adverse effects on people and the environment. Noise causes hearing loss, interferes with human activities at home and work, and is in various ways dangerous to people's health and well being. Studies show that over forty percent of Americans are disturbed at home or lose sleep because of noise pollution. Such as Aircraft noise pollution. Most people who work with or near the aircraft have soundproof earplugs that prevent them from the deafening noise of the plane. However, people who reside near the airports or places where aircraft are serviced or repaired have to bear the brunt of aircraft noise. They are the victims of that noise and their suffering has no solutions.