Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Climate Change Big Picture Part III (of 4)

by Lawrence Petersen

This is where the topic of climate change really gets disturbing. We keep talking about the climate problems that are coming up now saying that, if we make some changes, then the bad things, melting ice caps, storms, droughts, floods, will stop and the Earth will somehow return to normal.

The fact is that what is happening now is the result of conditions in the atmosphere over forty years ago. Since that time we have increased the amount of greenhouse gases going into the air by almost 500 percent. This means that for the next forty years we will be seeing the result of this escalation in fossil fuel use.

This lag in consequences from early activity is caused by the fact that the ocean takes a long time to heat up, being an almost unimaginably huge volume of water. Once it heats up, it then acts like a thermal battery, storing and slowly releasing all that heat over a period of decades. Climate scientists have found that it takes a mean of about forty years for atmospheric heat to transfer to the ocean.

This means that anything we do now in limiting fossil fuel use will not have any effect whatsoever on the climate over the next forty years. In fact, it might make things worse over a shorter time period because particulate matter and aerosols from the same burning of fossil fuels and from other chemical pollution has been slightly mitigating the heating from the greenhouse gases. If we stop burning fossil fuels, even more heat will make it into the lower atmosphere and ocean. We are already seeing the effect in increased temperatures of banning chlorofluorocarbons that happened in the 1990s.

"Sulfate" refers to aerosols like chlorofluorocarbons that were banned in many countries in the 1990s

On top of all that, we are not simply dealing with a direct linear effect of man-made gases causing heat to be trapped. The heating process the Earth is going through has started many feedback systems releasing more gases and absorbing more heat. Open ocean is darker than ice and does not reflect heat but absorbs it. Thawing permafrost releases vast amounts of methane which is an even more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2. Warming in the abyssal depths of the oceans is also beginning to release frozen methane that has been stored in a stable condition for millions of years. We have started a chain reaction and no one knows where that chain leads because the Earth has never been warmed this quickly before. Ever.

All of what we are learning is creating a pretty bleak picture for the future. What can we do to help the situation? (To Be Continued)

Climate Change Big Picture Part II (of 4)

by Lawrence Petersen

Renewable energy is being promoted as a solution to global climate change. Great efforts have been made to encourage the production of solar panels and wind turbines, for instance. But there is a problem with basing too much hope on this method of reducing the carbon dioxide that is being loaded into the atmosphere. We are making headway in creating electricity in ways that don’t pollute as much. But we are not slowing the use of fossil fuels. The demand, and supply and use of these materials continues to rise. It seems that the more energy that is available, the more we want.

Energy is used to change things. To make mountains and forests into building materials and places to build things, to make minerals and gases into chemicals, machines and weapons. As the population grows, and we add a billion more people to the Earth every decade or so, more energy is needed to make things, places, food and clothing for all these people.

Changing things has at least two adverse effects. First it destroys the things and places that are used to build the new things and second, all energy use produces heat, whether it comes from a wind turbine, a hydroelectric plant or solar panels. We already have too much heat. Further, some of the biggest polluters in the world today, second only to the extraction of fossil fuels, are those involved in  the extraction and refinement of rare earths for electronics to supply the renewable energy industry such as solar panels and batteries.

Unknown Fields collecting radioactive tailings material from besides the worlds Largest Rare Earth minerals refinery in Inner Mongolia. Film Still © Toby Smith/Unknown Fields

Meanwhile the fossil fuels continue to burn and the CO2 levels keep going up. It seems that it is going to take more than just changing some of our energy supply to stop climate change. It looks as if we may have to cut way back on all energy use, to stop tearing up the Earth and stop building things. As this will severely disrupt the world economy, we have some tough choices to make. But these choices should have been made decades ago and were not. Now we are running out of choices and we seem to favor our own comfort over the lives of future generations. (To Be Continued)

Climate Change Big Picture Conclusion (Part IV)

(Part III is posted after this conclusion. Please scroll down and then come back here.)

by Lawrence Petersen

As we have seen, actions like using led lights and recycling aren’t going to contribute much as global warming accelerates. Where does that leave us? Where does that leave our grandchildren and the rest of a biosphere that has been in place since the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago?

Some scientists have proposed radical geo-engineering plans to make more immediate reversals in the warming trend. The idea is to use the technology that has gotten us into this problem to solve it with mega projects designed to change the composition of the air, the oceans, or to force the oceans into shifting its currents. Some of these ideas are more far-fetched than others. Most would require a massive worldwide effort. All come with some major known side-effects and many more unknown possible consequences. And do we really think that we can continue to produce and pollute if we just force the Earth to stop reacting?

We as a civilization do not have a good track record in long-term solutions. We tend to apply our energy to the short term symptoms without thinking much of the adverse and lasting effects. For example we try to make less familiar places more comfortable by introducing foreign species of plants and animals. Then we try to control these invasive life-forms by introducing their enemies which in turn become invasive themselves. We dam up rivers for their power and water and find we have killed all the fish. We create cheap and useful materials only to find that the pollution they cause is destroying the environment we need to live in so we can enjoy our technology.

We have brought ourselves to the point where we think we cannot live without technology. And we probably can’t, as our huge population is completely and artificially supported by technology. Worse, technology has become about having things that allow us, not just to survive, but to rise above others. We believe that those with the most things will live longer and will be less likely to be sick, victimized or unhappy. But we are finding that more things bring more problems. And we have not discovered that truth quickly enough.

How can it be that people have been around for more than a million years, but we just found out how much we wanted to change everything and got the ability to do it in the last ten thousand? I think an outside observer would see that we are not very good at limiting ourselves to things that have proven good for all of us. We are not very good and holding large concepts in the common consciousness. Finally, we are just not as smart as we think we are. 

Alfred Allen Bartlett. Atomic bomb scientist.

Large groups of people mostly seem to work toward what they think is good for themselves at the expense of others while being blind to the fact that we all have to live on the same planet together and share the consequences of our actions. Our lack of this ability in the context of our ability for destruction is staggering. There will be no respite from the damage we do until we can change this one fact about our nature and we can only change our own individual natures, not that of others. All of our history has been about neglecting the inevitable arrival of the long term. The long term is here. We don't seem to be able to face this as a group. Can we face it as individuals?

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bagging It

I don’t know if you knew it or not, buttt Black folks hoard plastic bags.  We never, ever throw them away.  Plastic bags were saved for rainy days- literally.  I can remember as a child, my grandmother outfitting me in new rain gear that was only plastic bags.  Plastic bags have a long history, with multiple uses. Check some out here .   Communities of color were the earlier recyclers, as the issue wasn’t about sustainability, but about economy-  how to save money.  But we also know that plastic bags are an petroleum by-product, which is rapidly becoming unsustainable for us here on planet earth.   States know this too and are responding by banning plastic bags, or an tax on single use plastic bags.  

So are paper bags a better solution?  A more sustainable way to go?  Not everyone thinks so.  Paper bags are biodegradable, and recyclable, but plastic bags outperform when it comes to reuse.   

 Arty Etsy Trash Bag Holder

We’re not going to get into the carbon footprint of the paper and cloth bags.  Cloth bags are the best way to go, uses count 131x  vs. plastic’s 11x.    So what can you do beyond just carrying food out in your bare arms??   Recycle what you got! Look for compose plastics to reuse and if you can afford it - buy a cloth bag.  And check out what your putting in those bags- buy local produce - reducing our carbon footprint. 



Climate Change Big Picture Part I (of 4)

by Lawrence Petersen

We recognize oil as the main fossil fuel that is causing the most damage to the planet. But are we seeing this issue as the biggest life-or-death problem we as a civilization face? Even if we manage to slow our population growth and to not blow ourselves up with nuclear weapons, climate change is well on its way to creating a planet that is hostile to much of the life in the biosphere.

Human-caused climate change is real and exceptionally dangerous to life on Earth. It is mostly a result of the burning of fossil fuels including petroleum, natural gas and coal. While humans have been aggressively extracting and burning these fuels for almost two centuries, their use went up exponentially with WWII and the new cold war economy that arose in the war’s wake seventy years ago. Greenhouse gasses that cause the Earth and its oceans to warm, most notably carbon dioxide (CO2), are filling the atmosphere at a faster rate than they have for millions of years, leading to a representation of our situation being called the “hockey stick graph (” 

CO2 reading in 2016. As of May 2017 CO2 counts at Mona Loa are at about 409 ppm. (

At this point, because of global warming and climate change we are seeing the loss of almost all of the multi-year ice in the Arctic ocean and the breakup of large sections of sea ice in the Antarctic. There has been dramatic retreat in glaciers all over the world but particularly of tropical glaciers such as in the Andes and the Himalayas. The world’s coral reefs are bleaching and disappearing and droughts, floods and major storms are disrupting economies and taking lives especially in developing countries. Furthermore, sea level rise is threatening highly populated areas with constant flooding and salinification of farm land and ground water.

Now the world is experiencing a refugee crisis as people try to escape wars and collapsed economies that are partially caused by climate issues such as drought and lack of safe water. This will become much worse as people have to leave the coastal areas because of sea level rise and will severely exacerbate current political problems. When tropical glaciers are gone, and they are close to that point now, the water supply will dry up for entire seasons in South America and Central Asia crippling hydroelectric power and irrigation water supplies.

The loss of coral reefs will cut huge links from the food chain in the oceans. The heat and acidification of the seawater also causes shellfish and other invertebrates to be unable to build strong shells and carapaces threatening their survival. These animals constitute a fundamental place in ocean food supplies.

There is no real argument against taking action on climate change. Only the voices of ignorance and of those who place power and wealth in the short run at a higher priority than the future of all life are blocking international efforts. These are not good enough reasons to continue killing the biosphere and possibly ourselves through our continued use of fossil fuels. We cannot allow these voices to continue swaying us away from immediate action to save ourselves and life as we know it on Earth. (To Be Continued)

Monday, May 29, 2017

The “Thorium” solution, The alternatives to petroleum on Mass scale

Over the past decades, the field of nuclear technology has accumulated a “bad rap” that has instilled a negative connotation in the general public. When talking about nuclear technology, individuals think of fukushima daichi nuclear disaster, Chernobyl, Three mile island and etc.  As result the public and private sectors have taken a step back away from nuclear technology and refocus on other alternative sources of energy. But in the last couple of years, a rediscovery of a reactor design has shown to be very promising and renew vigor in further developing this technology.  The following video below is presented by Jam Pedersen, Co-founder of Copenhagen Atomics for TED-Talk.

Making Safe Nuclear Power from Thorium | Thomas Jam Pedersen | TEDxCopenhagen

As a result, a new race to develop this technology is underway, with China, India and Canada taking the lead and other countries in pursuit.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Petroleum Jelly Alternative

Image result for Vaseline

One of the more common oil based products is petroleum jelly, This product isn't black and disgusting, it doesn't smell bad, in fact, many of us know this product as Vaseline. Vaseline, the world's first petroleum jelly product was invented by Robert Chesebrough in 1872. For the last 145 years humans have used a petroleum by product that serves as a lubricant, moisturizer among other things.

Many of us have used Vaseline or other petroleum based skin care products because they are readily available and work relatively well. Vaseline is made from the waxy substance that comes from the rods on oil pumps. It sounds gross right? The same substance you use for your chapped lips comes for the rods on an oil pump.

According to, " Petrolatum runs a high risk of contaminants linked to cancer. The European Union, whose cosmetic safety standards are more stringent than those of the U.S., consider the ingredient carcinogenic and restrict its use." That means that using products like Vaseline can affect your health in the long term. So you may be asking yourself, "Is there any alternative to petroleum jelly that do not affect our environment?" There absolutely is!
Waxelene is the current leader in substitutes for petroleum jelly.

Image result for waxelene images

As stated on their website, "Waxelene is the petroleum jelly alternative – made from natural, pesticide-free beeswax and 3 of the highest quality natural & organic oils. Waxelene is smooth, rich and creamy. Our patented aeration process allows the skin to breathe." Wexelene makes a great product without hurting consumers or the environment. The company also makes it clear that they never test their products on animals. Using products like Waxelene is an investment in your health and the health of our world. If you or someone you no is still using petroleum jelly, make the switch today, you wont regret it!


Thursday, May 25, 2017

Edible Cutlery

Image result for plastic cutlery images

How many of you have used plastic eating utensils? If you have ever eaten food while camping or if you have ever eaten a meal at school, or even a large event, chances are you have used plastic cutlery. Plastic cutlery is used often because it is incredibly cheap and doesn't require washing. These utensils are also very light weight which makes them attractive to most companies. What if there was a way to replace all of this extra plastic with something just as efficient and useful? Well a company out of India is here to make that happen.

Image result for edible cutlery images

Bakeys is the exciting new company that is looking to change the world, replacing one oil based product at a time. According to their website, "There are no preservatives, chemicals, additives, colouring agents, raising agents, fat, trans fat, artificial chemical nutrition or animal ingredients, milk or milk products. It is 100% Vegan, vegetarian and is purely Halal. It is baked at high temperature to make it crisp, hard and moisture free." Bakey's is also currently working on a recipe to make their cutlery gluten free. Bakey's edible cutlery currently comes in three flavors, savory, sweet and plain.

This a very easy and inexpensive way that you can make a positive impact on our environment. To give you a better understanding of the Bakeys company and the incredible individuals behind it, here is an informational video on their amazing story.

Sustainable Fuel On Trees

Watch: Eastern Finland's newest development - the world's first marine biofuel 

Source: CNN

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sustainable vs Traditional Polymers

Plastics are comprised of large molecules called “polymers” (“poly-” is Greek for “many”). Polymers are long chain molecules made of smaller, repeating unit molecules called “monomers” (“mono-” is Greek for “one”), similar to how beads (monomers) connected together form a necklace (polymer). Naturally occurring polymers include DNA, starch, wood and natural rubber. The two synthetic polymers produced on the largest scale are polyethylene and polypropylene, but there are many different kinds of synthetic polymers and plastics.

A sustainable polymer is a plastic material that addresses the needs of consumers without damaging our environment, health, and economy. To do this, researchers are working to develop polymers that, when compared with their non-sustainable counterparts:

  • use renewable feedstocks, such as plants, for production
  • use less net water and non-renewable energy in production
  • emit less greenhouse gases during production
  • produce less waste in production
  • have a smaller carbon-footprint
  • have a facile end life

How are sustainable plastics different from ordinary plastics?

Traditional Polymers:

1. Petroleum or natural gas is converted into chemicals (monomers).
2. These monomers are made into useful plastic products.
3. The plastic products can be incinerated, recycled, or thrown away.

For more information about the petroleum-based plastic life cycle see The American Chemical Society’s “Life Cycle of a Plastic Product,” and Ellen MacArthur Foundation infographic on the linearity of the plastic lifecycle.

Sustainable Polymers:

1. Carbon dioxide and water are used in photosynthesis to grow plants
2. The plants are harvested and processed to make chemicals (monomers or polymers):
    The plant material may be fermented to produce monomers (e.g., plant-derived sugar to lactic acid)
    Chemicals may be extracted from the plant to make monomers (e.g., modified soybean oil used in       polyurethane foam) or polymers (e.g natural rubber or polyhydroxyalkanoates)
    Through bioengineering and microbial pathways, plant-derived sugars or other molecules can be         converted into monomers.
3. The renewable chemicals are converted to plastic products.
4. Some sustainable polymers can be composted in addition to being recycle or incinerated to recover     their energy content.
5. Composting produces carbon dioxide, water and organic matter (dirt) which is used to regenerate       the renewable resource feedstock (plants).

What new policies are needed?
Sustainable polymers are relatively new to the consumer market. Therefore, there is much work to be done in terms of developing appropriate policies. Currently, there is inadequate regulation of advertising and labeling of environmentally-friendly products. More policies are needed to prevent “greenwashing” that can mislead consumers. In order to take full advantage of the properties of compostable polymers, industrial composting should be more accessible to consumers, possibly through the use of curbside compost pick-up. Finally, progress towards improved sustainable polymers can only result from scientific research and technological innovation, which requires public support and a commitment to research and education.

Eco Brand Spotlight: Patagonia

If you're a Portlander or rub elbows with the outdoor industry at all, chances are you've heard of the revered clothing brand Patagonia (also known as #Patagucci for its steep price tags). But even though the company makes high-quality, fashionable, and functional outdoor wear, it's even better known for its eco-friendly approach to clothing.

"Build the best product,
cause no unnecessary harm,
use business to inspire and
implement solutions to the
environmental crisis."

- Patagonia mission statement

Patagonia uses recycled polyester in much of their clothing and sticks to only organic, pesticide-free cotton. The company also devotes many service hours to environmental causes and donates 1% of daily global sales to environmental causes. Most notably, Patagonia dedicated all of their sales from this past Black Friday to grassroots environmental groups dedicated to protecting precious natural resources such as water, air, and soil. The company was anticipating to pull in $2 million in sales on Black Friday alone, but experienced a surge in sales and ended up making a whopping $10 million. The company, of course, donated it all.

Patagonia's Better Sweater
Another way that Patagonia uses its business model to cut down on waste - and ultimately conserve natural resources - is through their Worn Wear Program. Patagonia prides itself on making durable, functional clothing to last a lifetime - and stands by that guarantee. It invites its customers to send in pieces of their clothing that need to be repaired in order to keep the clothes worn again and again, avoiding the landfill. Customers can either have their repaired Patagonia clothing sent back or opt to make some cash by reselling it through the Worn Wear Program, where Patagonia will list the product on its dedicated used clothing page. Users can filter by size to snatch up items that typically sell quickly due to the steep price slash: a popular product, the full-zip Better Sweater, retails for $139 but sells for a cool $40 used.

If you're looking for a quality clothing item with both fashion & function and values eco-friendly materials and production methods, try stopping by Patagonia's store in downtown Portland or picking up your own Worn Wear piece to keep clothing well-loved and well-worn - and out of the landfill.

How Oil Harms Animals: PART II

Oil can harm animals in two ways: from the oil itself and then from the cleanup process afterwards. This post is about how the clean up of oil actually harms animals as well.

By using hot water or chemicals to remove oil, this directly can harm animals. Many people try to save birds by washing them off, but the chemicals of the oil are so powerful, that sometimes it's too late. Pressure washing the beaches can remove smaller organisms from the bigger animal's food chain.

Special chemicals called dispersants are sprayed over oil spills to help break up the oil into smaller chunks. This makes the oil more easily spread out into the environment. However, even though these chemicals can breakdown petroleum, they also breakdown cell membranes in marine mammals. Thus, red blood cells begin to to breakdown, with the ending resulting in hemorrhaging of the animals.

Photo: Dead oiled sea otter after the Exxon Valdez oil spill.

Sources: , , &

How Oil Harms Animals: PART I

Photo: Oiled cormorant on a rocky, oil-covered shore.Oil can harm animals in two ways: from the oil itself and then from the cleanup process afterwards. This post is about how the oil itself harms animals.

Oil is a huge mixture of different chemicals, and what country it's made in has different effects on different outcomes. Specifically on animals, these terrible outcomes can be:

  • oils gets on fur and feathers so they no longer keep the animal insulated from nature.
  • small animals can get completely covered and suffocate,
  • oil then gets into the animal's reproductive system and the next generation has deformities.
Getting even more specific, here are some ways certain species are affected:
  • Birds
    • destroy their water poof coats.
    • cause chemical burns all the way down to the skin.
    • can no longer absorb food and nutrients due to digestive system problems.
    • also toxic to the pancreas, liver, and kidneys.
  • Marine Mammals
    • Sea otters can no longer stay warm due to the oil damaging their fur. They will try to lick themselves clean, but are now eating the oil.
    • Dolphins, whales, and manatees, can get chemical burns and oil clogging their blowholes.
  • Fish
    • weakened immune systems, enlarged livers, and fin erosion.
Sources: &

Hemp vs Oil

In 1900 at the Paris Exposition Universelle, Rudolf Diesel showed an engine running on peanut oil. There were also ideas about running an engine on corn oil, because methanol can be derived from corn, but corn oil is hard to produce.

However, today there is another alternative: hemp oil. Hemp is a great alternative to traditional oil This is because it can also produce methanol, it grows a lot faster than corn. Thus, more oil at a faster rate. Hemp fuel is biodegradable, and can be used to make a wide variety of products.

Back in 1990, it was cheaper to run engines on gasoline, but that is no longer the case. We have so many other resources available to use, especially hemp oil.

Sources: &

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Got Plant?

There are so many materials that industry and consumers use daily that are made from petroleum: plastics; nylons; and fiberglass. Lately, bio based alternatives have been up and coming. These days businesses can buy durable plastic-like industrial materials without petroleum-based polymers. Consumers can buy grocery bags, cups, forks and spoons that act like plastic but are biodegradable and compostable. There are even soft, washable fabrics that seem like nylon but are made of plants and biodegrade. Even Reebok is working on a shoe made out of corn based materials. Reebok has begun manufacturing a shoe made from non-food source corn stalks and hopes to begin selling the shoes by fall of 2017.

From Reebok's video ad about its new Cotton + Corn initiative of making shows from "things that grow."

Reebok’s head of Reebok future Bill McInnis says "With product development, we’re using materials that grow and can be replenished rather than the petroleum-based materials commonly used today." Yet it is tailored to meet the same demands athletes have of other Reebok shoes. "When the product hits the market, we know our consumers don’t want to sacrifice how sneakers look and perform," McInnis said.

For more information visit: Got plants?

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Nuclear Option

One alternative to oil on a large scale is the use of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy does not produce any greenhouse gases, and it produces power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is the only clean-air source of energy to do so. Nuclear power is land-efficient as well. For the same energy produced by a nuclear power plant, a wind farm would need 260 square miles of land. Nuclear power plants are a huge boon to the economy of local and state communities. There is enough uranium in the world to power reactors for more than 100 years, giving the world enough time to optimize fully renewable energy sources.

Many people have concerns about the safety of nuclear energy, with high-profile disasters such as Chernobyl and Fukushima. The United States has strict safety regulations in place to prevent disasters, and even increased regulations following the Fukushima disaster. There have been many studies showing 0 adverse radiation-linked health effects in the US. However, as with anything, risk can never be 100% mitigated, as the unforeseen does happen. Several countries, such as Germany and Switzerland are phasing out their nuclear programs and are shifting towards solar and wind. Japan is updating its reactors with new safety regulations and is starting to reopen them. Every country must decide how to handle the benefit-risk ratio. In the United States, nuclear energy has been a huge benefit to the environment and to people in the search for alternative sources of power.
Patrick Moore, the co-founder of Greenpeace, changed his mind about nuclear energy, and is now an active proponent of it. He has come to the conclusion that nuclear energy is an important resource that the world must utilize. He acknowledges the risks and strongly advocates for safe ways of developing nuclear energy plants. To get his perspective, here is an opinion article he wrote for the Washington Post:

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

From Food To Crude: 3 Ways to Avoid Consuming Petroleum

The proliferation of petroleum oil in our society has no better example than its silent insertion into the foods we ingest on a regular basis. Oil in food is usually made from animal or vegetable fats, but it can be made from petroleum as well. However, it will not be labeled as such. Since no one wants to see ‘petroleum’ listed as an ingredient in their food, companies usually list it as ‘mineral oil’. Be on the lookout for packaged baked goods that use mineral oil to extend their shelf lives.

Petroleum products can even be disguised as paraffin wax in chocolate, but they are not even required to be listed as such! They can fall under the category of ‘other flavors’. Companies like Hershey’s are very reluctant to reveal what goes into their chocolate, but many food scientists will tell you that paraffin wax is a likely ingredient. If, like me, you want to keep chocolate as the bedrock of your food pyramid, you are better off purchasing higher quality chocolates that don’t use wax-based fillers (your taste buds will thank you as well).

One last tip, wash your fruits and vegetables before you consume them! Petroleum products are sometimes used to coat produce so that they stay shiny and fresh-looking longer. Buy produce from your local farmer’s market to ensure that no petroleum products are used in the preservation of your food.

The True Cost of Oil: Tedx Talk by Garth Lenz

Garth Lenz is a photographer who created the exhibition The True Cost of Oil. His shocking photos capture the environmental devastation of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project and have become a pivotal part of the resistance against Alberta Tar Sands mining. 

The Canadian boreal forest houses the largest oil reserves in the world outside of Saudi Arabia. These reserves contain vast amounts of the tar-like substance bitumen. To harvest the bitumen, there are two methods. The first is mining. There are ten mines so far in the Alberta Tar Sands, and each mine is huge - one mine is compared to a large metropolitan area in size. 

The next method is called the "in situ," which involves the heating and pumping of colossal amounts of water underground through a tunnel-like network system. Both of these methods are incredibly damaging to the environment, partly because this type of oil - bitumen - is called the world's dirtiest oil. This type of oil required more water than any other oil process. 

One of the most devastating ecological effects of the Alberta Tar Sands mining project is how it has affected the food chain of the people who live in the area - namely remote Northern aboriginal communities. It's too expensive to fly food into the area, so these people are forced to hunt and fish in order to survive. The fish are carcinogenic due to all the toxic byproduct waste deposited into unlined "tailings ponds" (more aptly called wastelands), which has led to cancer rates in the region to rise to up to 10 times higher than the average in the rest of Canada.

In this TedX video, Lenz shares some of his images with the audience and gives us context for the threatened ecosystems under attack due to the mining project.