Sunday, November 30, 2014

A New Way to Think about Poop


There has been recent debate about using human faeces for fertilizer. Centuries before, using poop to fertilize crops was common practice. However, after the introduction of synthetic fertilizers and the growing knowledge of public health, the practice fell away. Today, some city wastewater treatment plants are beginning to look at what constitutes real waste – as does the flush really mean the end of the line?

The City of Newberg utilizes a filtration system that cleans, separates, and sanitizes solid human waste. This left over ‘sludge’ ends up as the product that could potentially end up back on your plate. Grossed out? Don’t be. It’s a circular system that allows the food on your table to become processed by you, passed by you to the facility, processed by the facility, and then passed back into the food system and on your plate.

Through several scientifically sound testing mechanisms that involve layers of filtration, high heat, and sawdust Newberg’s solid waste ends up as organic compost perfect for smoothing around the spring garden and flower beds. It also sells at a fraction of the price of synthetic fertilizers and is considered totally organic. Good for the environment and your wallet? What do you think about that?

Want to find out more about what your city is doing, and to get involved in decisions on your city’s wastewater? Visit your municipal website and check out their links for sustainability.  Also, check out the next city meeting open to the public and ask what is happening in your local systems.

How Many Horses is Too Many?
Over the Thanksgiving holidays my mother took me to a new house she has been in the process of building near Yakima, Washington. On the way there, she pointed out about a dozen wild horses. Myself being someone who has always loved horses, I became very excited. However, my mom told me that there are too many wild horses in that area. As I looked at her in confusion she pointed out that much of the land was bare and had no grass. She said if something isn't done about the issue a lot of these wild horses would die. 

As I was looking into the issue, I found that what she said was very true. 
On Highway 97 within the Yakima Reservation there are 15,000 horses trying to survive on this 41,000 acres of land where there is little grass for them to graze. This is ten times more than the amount that experts believe the land is able to sustain.

This issue puts the horses at risk for starvation, and puts the the land's fragile vegetation in jeopardy, as well as encourages the spread of weeds. According to some of the resources I researched, the growing horse population is not a newly found issue, but it has been getting much worse. The Yakima Tribal Council Chairman Harry Smiskin stated that solutions are still being discussed. Recently, tribal members were getting ready to capture some of the horses, and then sell them for saddle, and pack animals, or for slaughter. Slaughter seems to be one of the most likely options, according to one of my sources. What do you believe the answer to this problem is?


Picture Credit:

Portland Biodiversity in Green Areas

Author: Chloe Jones

A recent study from North Carolina State University found that there are higher biodiversity levels in urban areas that one might expect. The study specifically focused on ant species biodiversity in New York City. It found that across the city, there are over 40 species of ants thriving, despite urban development.

However, a different University of Iowa study suggests that planting trees and creating green space in cities is great for attracting species, but maybe not so great for ensuring the sustainability of biodiversity across urban environments. ( One researcher said “In cities, you might have more trees, but you don't necessarily have more insects associated with them,"

These two articles made me wonder about Portland. What are we doing to ensure biodiversity in the city? We are known as such a “green” city, a city with huge forward momentum in sustainable architecture and development. Despite being “green,” are we actually maintaining Portland biodiversity?

It didn’t take much research before I came across The Intertwine Alliance. This is a group focuses on being more aware of PDX biodiversity and creating practices that sustain biodiversity. In the early 2000s, The Intertwine started The Biodiversity Guide for the Greater Portland-Vancouver Region. They mapped both urban and green areas to document the city’s biodiversity and came up with the composition and patterns of this region’s biodiversity. From their website the guide “describes the status of the region’s flora, fauna, and natural habitats; changes that have occurred in the regional landscapes since 1850; and potential losses the region might experience if appropriate conservation and restoration actions are not taken.” ( Moving forward, The Intertwine can use their maps and guide to manage and maintain biodiversity in urban areas.

This article has a really great timeline of how Portland and Vancouver have approached biodiversity sine early city planning, decades ago:

Resources: links throughout the article

Biodiversity in Danger with Keystone XL

Author: Chloe Jones

On November 14th, Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to authorize construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Republicans won majority with 252-161, marking this the ninth time the House has passed legislation for the pipeline. The Senate will vote next week before the bill moves on to the president. News of the House decision was a blow for environmentalists across Canada and the US who oppose pipeline construction. Environmental groups continue to pressure President Obama into vetoing the bill, arguing that the pipeline poses a huge threat to biodiversity.
Proposed in 2008, the pipeline would be, in some areas, an above ground oil line stretching from Alberta, Canada to south Texas. A similar, albeit shorter, pipeline called Keystone 1 has already proven the negative environmental impact of transporting oil in pipes. Since 2010, Keystone 1 has leaked thousands of gallons of oil 14 times.
The Center for Biological Diversity argues that the pipeline would have devastating effects on endangered plant and animal species along its path. Among the endangered species which would be further threatened are piping plovers (, mountain caribou (, Arkansas river shiner (, the American burying beetle (, and the Northern swift fox ( The majority of these endangered species already have populations fewer than 10,000. Pipeline spills, power lines, ground/ecosystem disturbances and the overall change in environments would greatly disturb the ecosystems of these species, possibly leading to extinction.
Loss of these endangered species would diminish biodiversity and irrevocably change plant and animal ecosystems. Under the Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) should be analyzing the potential negative impacts of Keystone XL. However, in ignoring the dangers to endangered species, the FWS has allied itself with the capitalist gains of the pipeline.
The threats of this pipeline remind me of the disastrous 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The Center for Biological Diversity estimate that the oil spill killed approximately 82,000 birds, 6,000 sea turtles and 25,000 marine mammals, including dolphins. The Keystone XL pipeline would run across thousands of miles of protected natural areas, including rivers in Montana, Yellowstone, and grasslands in the Great Plains. Each state the pipeline traverses offers important, diverse ecosystems that help maintain biodiversity across the U.S. The political push for the pipeline construction forgoes any environmental impact, instead focusing on potential capitalist gains. The Keystone XL website claims “TransCanada is committed to minimizing its environmental impact along the proposed route for Keystone XL… the project team will execute established techniques designed for the highest quality reclamation process.” However, they nowhere list what those “established techniques” are and how they differ from previous techniques which have lead to disastrous oil spills. Instead of pursuing further economic growth, we should be focused on how to maintain biodiversity and diminish further threats to endangered species.
For further reading, check out the Center for Biological Diversity here:  and  read their article “In Harm’s Way: How the U.S. State Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have ignored the dangers of the Keystone XL Pipeline to Endangered Species” here:


Volunteer to Protect Biodiversity in our Forests!

The National Forest Service is dedicated to preserving and promoting biodiversity. Especially important to those of us who have traipsed through Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge or Mt. Hood National Forest, outdoor enthusiasts alike find refuge and solace in these trails and trees.

Humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy the comfort the Forest brings. Forest ecosystems rely on a complex web of relationships – and one of those relationships is with us.

The Columbia River National Forest covers 292,500 acres! Evergreens are a natural commodity in these parts. They grow effortlessly due to Oregon’s perfect mild and wet climate.

Biodiversity can be protected by the simple efforts made by local volunteers. Each year volunteers are responsible for helping maintain trails, taking action to restore damage that may have occurred to local watersheds, monitoring the health of local wildlife populations, responding to emergencies, and providing education. Volunteers come from a variety of places including the colleges and universities that so many of us enthusiastically support. Volunteers with a wide variety of knowledge are needed. Everyone has something to offer.

Take action by finding a local group who supports the diversity in our Forests. Students can check out what resources are available on campus and those who aren’t tied to a group can find important contacts at the National Forest Service website for their region. Protecting our Forest’s are important to both the animal and plant life in them as well as to our relationship to this ecosystem. Find a way to give back to biodiversity!

Protect the Salmon- On Dam Removal

Author: Mallory Griffith

In Oregon, and the Greater Pacific Northwest, there are many dams that have been constructed for various reasons, some being, to create energy, allows better flood control or irrigation. Flood control in Oregon is very vital, floods have been known to wipeout towns and cause chaos throughout the state. Floods damage housing, soil, roads and many other expensive assets that a town may have. When a dam is put in place to protect from flooding, it can be expensive but look at all of the assets and land it is protecting. Another important reason humans use dams, is for drinking water. Dams are often put in place to create an area for safe drinking water and in the summer this water is used in case of drought, and in the winter the water is stored up. Having a surplus of water is a huge benefit that comes from a dam. Another important reason for a dam would be to create more usable land and make profit off of it. If the dam is in place it holds water back allowing for more taxable land to be built on. Once that land is being used as real estate it is gaining a profit that it would not have otherwise. These are the human benefits of having a dam in place. 
Now, many years later, dams are beginning to give way and become a hazard if something is not changed. There are two main ecosystems and the cost of removal we have to think about when proposing to remove a dam.  Dam removal is beginning to get more attention because of the cons they provide to ecosystems and potentially to humans. Dams that were built in the 1900’s are old, and have wear and tear from supporting so much water over the years. It is dangerous to have a dam that could break or crumble because it would cause flooding and it would destroy the ecosystems all along the river. Yes, if you remove a dam it will still cause a large disturbance to ecosystems along the river, but humans would be prepared to restore and protect what already exists. Also, dams prevent the growth of salmon and other fish populations because the fish can only go so far before the dam cuts them off. In Oregon, people take their salmon very seriously, and it is important for the community to be protecting the growth of the salmon population.


Photo credit: Salmon leaping at Willamette Falls Image ID: fish6624, NOAA's Historic Fisheries Collection Location: Oregon, Oregon City Photo Date: 1950 June 27

Bergkamp, G., McCartney, M., Dugan, P., McNeely, J., & Acreman, M. (2000). Dams, Ecosystem Functions and Environmental Restoration.

ESA 2014. Dispatches. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 428–432. Retrieved September 24, 2014, From

Lester, L. (n.d.). River Flow By Design: Environmental Flows Support Ecosystem Services In Rivers Natural And Novel. Retrieved September 24, 2014, from

Nijhuis, M. (2014, August 26). World's Largest Dam Removal Unleashes U.S. River After Century of Electric Production. Retrieved October 20, 2014, from