Friday, November 9, 2007
Friday, October 12, 2007
Friday, October 5, 2007
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Saving the planet can seem like a daunting task. People often ask "what can I do?" or "will my small changes really make a difference?". As a matter of fact, you can help and yes, your changes do make a difference. Every wonder how much CO2 you are putting into the atmosphere? Click here to find out. National average is 7.5 and mine came out to be 11.2. I was shocked. I do have a really long commute but my car gets 36 miles to the gallon but because it's older, I'm sure I got hit for that. If you happen to use TXU for your electricity and you DON'T live in Waco, 0% of your electricity is generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind or solar. TXU has a wind farm out in west Texas and it only supplies power to half a million customers. Let's hope that number increases really quickly. If you use Austin Energy or PEC, you have the option to purchase green power at a slighter higher rate. I'm pretty excited about this. We have PEC out in Kyle. I'm going to check my bill to see how much more it will be and I'll post the comparisons. Here's the link (it's also posted below) to see if your state or power company offers green options.
Here's a few ways that you can easily make a difference while you are at home, the office or on the road. The majority of these tips came from climatecrisis.net. The other ones are ones that I have heard about over the years and have been practicing in my own home.
1. Turn the water off when you are brushing your teeth. You can save up to 8 gallons of water in just 2 minutes.
2. Turn off the lights when you leave a room.
3. Even better - replace all your light bulbs with a compact fluorescent light bulb. CFLs use 60% less energy than a regular bulb. This simple switch will save about 300 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. If every family in the U.S. made the switch, we’d reduce carbon dioxide by more than 90 billion pounds! You can purchase CFLs online from the Energy Federation.
4. Take a shorter shower. Cutting a few minutes off your shower time will save buckets of water.
5. Only water your lawn in the morning or after sunset. Evaporation happens at a slower rate when the air is cooler.
6. Move your thermostat down 2° in winter and up 2° in summer. Almost half of the energy we use in our homes goes to heating and cooling. You could save about 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year with this simple adjustment. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has more tips for saving energy on heating and cooling.
7. Clean or replace filters on your furnace and air conditioner. Cleaning a dirty air filter can save 350 pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
8. Choose energy efficient appliances when making new purchases
Look for the Energy Star label on new appliances to choose the most efficient models. If each household in the U.S. replaced its existing appliances with the most efficient models available, we’d eliminate 175 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year!
9. Wrap your water heater in an insulation blanket. You’ll save 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year with this simple action. You can save another 550 pounds per year by setting the thermostat no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
10. Use less hot water. It takes a lot of energy to heat water. You can use less hot water by installing a low flow showerhead (350 pounds of carbon dioxide saved per year) and washing your clothes in cold or warm water (500 pounds saved per year) instead of hot.
11. Use a clothesline instead of a dryer whenever possible. You can save 700 pounds of carbon dioxide when you air dry your clothes for 6 months out of the year.
12. Turn off electronic devices you’re not using. Simply turning off your television, DVD player, stereo, and computer when you’re not using them will save you thousands of pounds of carbon dioxide a year.
13. Unplug electronics from the wall when you’re not using them. Even when turned off, things like hairdryers, cell phone chargers and televisions use energy. In fact, the energy used to keep display clocks lit and memory chips working accounts for 5 percent of total domestic energy consumption and spews 18 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere every year!
14. Only run your dishwasher when there’s a full load and use the energy-saving setting. You can save 100 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
15. Insulate and weatherize your home. Properly insulating your walls and ceilings can save 25% of your home heating bill and 2,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Caulking and weather-stripping can save another 1,700 pounds per year. The Consumer Federation of America has more information on how to better insulate your home.
16. Be sure you’re recycling at home. You can save 2,400 pounds of carbon dioxide a year by recycling half of the waste your household generates. Earth 911 can help you find recycling resources in your area.
17. Buy recycled paper products. It takes less 70 to 90% less energy to make recycled paper and it prevents the loss of forests worldwide.
18. Plant a tree. A single tree will absorb one ton of carbon dioxide over its lifetime. Shade provided by trees can also reduce your air conditioning bill by 10 to 15%. The Arbor Day Foundation has information on planting and provides trees you can plant with membership.
19. Get a home energy audit. Many utilities offer free home energy audits to find where your home is poorly insulated or energy inefficient. You can save up to 30% off your energy bill and 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. Energy Star can help you find an energy specialist.
20. Switch to green power. In many areas, you can switch to energy generated by clean, renewable sources such as wind and solar. The Green Power Network is a good place to start to figure out what’s available in your area21. Buy locally grown and produced foods. The average meal in the United States travels 1,200 miles from the farm to your plate. Buying locally will save fuel and keep money in your community.
22. Buy fresh foods instead of frozen. Frozen food uses 10 times more energy to produce.
23. Seek out and support local farmers markets. They reduce the amount of energy required to grow and transport the food to you by one fifth. You can find a farmer’s market in your area at the USDA website.
24. Buy organic foods as much as possible. Organic soils capture and store carbon dioxide at much higher levels than soils from conventional farms. If we grew all of our corn and soybeans organically, we’d remove 580 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere!
25. Avoid heavily packaged products. You can save 1,200 pounds of carbon dioxide if you cut down your garbage by 10%.
26. Eat less meat. Methane is the second most significant greenhouse gas and cows are one of the greatest methane emitters. Their grassy diet and multiple stomachs cause them to produce methane, which they exhale with every breath.
27. Reduce the number of miles you drive by walking, biking, carpooling or taking mass transit wherever possible. Avoiding just 10 miles of driving every week would eliminate about 500 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions a year! Click here to find transit options in your area.
28. Start a carpool with your coworkers or classmates. Sharing a ride with someone just 2 days a week will reduce your carbon dioxide emissions by 1,590 pounds a year. eRideShare.com runs a free national service connecting commuters and travelers.
29. Keep your car tuned up. Regular maintenance helps improve fuel efficiency and reduces emissions. When just 1% of car owners properly maintain their cars, nearly a billion pounds of carbon dioxide are kept out of the atmosphere.
30. Check your tires weekly to make sure they’re properly inflated. Proper inflation can improve gas mileage by more than 3%. Since every gallon of gasoline saved keeps 20 pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, every increase in fuel efficiency makes a difference!
31. When it is time for a new car, choose a more fuel efficient vehicle. You can save 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year if your new car gets only 3 miles per gallon more than your current one. You can get up to 60 miles per gallon with a hybrid! You can find information on fuel efficiency here and here.
32. Try car sharing. Need a car but don’t want to buy one? Community car sharing organizations provide access to a car and your membership fee covers gas, maintenance and insurance. Many companies – such as Flexcar -- offer low emission or hybrid cars too! Also, see ZipCar.
33. Try telecommuting from home. Telecommuting can help you drastically reduce the number of miles you drive every week. For more information, check out the Telework Coalition.
34. Fly less. Air travel produces large amounts of emissions so reducing how much you fly by even one or two trips a year can reduce your emissions significantly. You can also offset your air travel by investing in renewable energy projects.Thanks again for looking!
Thursday, September 6, 2007
It is horrifying that we have to fight our own government to save the environment.
I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defense of our resources is just as important as defense abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend?
Hello my friends. As you all are very aware, we have many problems today threatening our environment. It makes me very sad and angry to think that our earth is being destroyed at alarming rates. It breaks my heart to think that my children and grandchildren may not have the quality of life that we have because of what people are doing to our planet. There are things that are happening out there that not everyone is aware of so I feel compelled to bring awareness to the people that I know.
Sean and I were using Google Earth to look at a place we had chosen for our next vacation and while scrolling through the different options of things you can view, we came across the Global Awareness section. We started looking at all the things that are happening to our planet and we were shocked. That’s when I had the idea to share what I had found out and create Arms Around the Planet. My goal is to bring awareness to you on an issue that our world is facing – whether it is environmental or social. My hope is that you will feel strong enough to tell people that you know and spread the word. I will have a new topic each month and will be posting it here. I'm working on getting a website up and running as well. Please check back often, post comments and offer suggestions.
Thank you all so much for taking the time to become aware. I welcome all comments, suggestions, debates, etc. If you have a topic that you would like to hear about, let me know.
If we all do just a little bit each day to help the environment, we can save our planet.
With that being said, my first inaugural issue is about the alarming rate that our mountains right here in the United States are being destroyed by the use of mountaintop removal coal mining. Before researching this topic,I knew very little about this type of mining, having only seen clips of a show on it that showed before and after pictures so I had no idea that it was this severe. Mountaintop removal coal mining has destroyed more than 470 mountains. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. This type of mining almost completely removes the miner from the process. Not only does this have a huge affect on the environment but it affects the people and the economy as well. According to the bureau of labor statistics, in the 1950’s, there were between 125,000 and 145,000 coal miners working in West Virginia; in 2004, there were just over 16,000.
The link below is to a very informative video on the destruction of mountain top removal. It is only 8 minutes so please take the time to watch it. I was shocked that this is being allowed to happen.
What is mountaintop removal mining?
Mountaintop removal is a relatively new type of coal mining that began in Appalachia in the 1970s as an extension of conventional strip mining techniques. Primarily, mountaintop removal is occurring in West Virginia, Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee. Coal companies in Appalachia are increasingly using this method because it allows for almost complete recovery of coal seams while reducing the number of workers required to a fraction of what conventional methods require.
The US Environmental Protection Agency defines mountaintop removal as follows:
“Mountaintop removal/valley fill is a mining practice where the tops of mountains are removed, exposing the seams of coal. Mountaintop removal can involve removing 500 feet or more of the summit to get at buried seams of coal. The earth from the mountaintop is then dumped in the neighboring valleys.”
What are the effects of mountaintop removal on families and communities?
Even government agencies that regulate mountaintop removal agree that the effects on nearby homes and communities can be devastating. In their Mid-Atlantic Regional Assessment, the Environmental Protection Agency states: “The impact of mountaintop removal on nearby communities is devastating. Dynamite blasts needed to splinter rock strata are so strong they crack the foundations and walls of houses. Mining dries up an average of 100 wells a year and contaminates water in others. In many coalfield communities, the purity and availability of drinking water are keen concerns.”
Coal washing often results in thousands of gallons of contaminated water that looks like black sludge and contains toxic chemicals and heavy metals. The sludge, or slurry, is often contained behind earthen dams in huge sludge ponds. One of these ponds broke on February 26th, 1972 above the community of Buffalo Creek in southern West Virginia. Pittston Coal Company had been warned that the dam was dangerous, but they did nothing. Heavy rain caused the pond to fill up and it breached the dam, sending a wall of black water into the valley below. Over 132 million gallons of black wastewater raged through the valley. 125 people were killed, 1100 injured and 4000 were left homeless. Over 1000 cars and trucks were destroyed and the disaster did 50 million dollars in damage. The coal company called it an “act of God”.
Marsh Fork Elementary School
The school is in lower left of photo. The clear green patch in the lower left is the football field. The tall cylindrical white object is the coal silo, less than 200 feet from the school. The zigzag is the earthen dam holding the sludge lake (2.8 billion gallons), directly above the school.
Marsh Fork Elementary (MFE) is a K-5 school in Sundial, WV, in the heart of the Coal River Valley of Southern West Virginia, Raleigh County. Whereas most kids can go outside and play during recess without having to be exposed to serious threats to their health, these school children attend class in a potentially lethal location. A coal silo sits just 225 feet from the school building and 150 feet from the school grounds. The silo is part of a coal processing plant complex that sits adjacent to the school. The school is also 400 yards downstream from a 385 foot tall sludge dam holding back 2.8 billion gallons of toxic coal waste.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) says the dam is seeping. Behind the dam, another subsidiary of Massey Energy, Alex Energy, operates an 1849 acre mountaintop removal mining site. In an independent study, samples of dust were taken from various classrooms in the school. Analysis confirmed that all seven samples showed coal dust contamination, which has been proven to cause respiratory problems, especially in children. The school has just more than 200 students and 21 teachers.
Marsh Fork Elementary School is one of the most blatant examples of coal companies' disregard for human health and safety.
How does mountaintop removal affect the environment?
Mountaintop Removal is occurring right at the heart of one of the nation’s main hotspots of biological diversity. According to the Nature Conservancy, the mountain region including southwest Virginia, southern West Virginia, eastern Kentucky and northeastern Tennessee contains some of the highest levels of biological diversity in the nation. This region is also at the headwaters of the drinking water supplies of many US cities.
Here are some of the impacts and concerns expressed in a 2003 EPA report:
- More than 7 percent of Appalachian forests have been cut down and more than 1,200 miles of streams across the region have been buried or polluted between 1985 and 2001.
- Over 1000 miles of streams have been permitted to be buried in valley fills. (for scale, this is a greater distance than the length of the entire Ohio River).
- Mountaintop removal mining, if it continues unabated, will cause a projected loss of more than 1.4 million acres by the end of the decade—an area the size of Delaware—with a concomitant severe impact on fish, wildlife, and bird species, not to mention a devastating effect on many neighboring communities.
- 800+ square miles of mountains are estimated to be already destroyed. (this is equal to a one-quarter mile wide swath of destruction from New York to San Francisco – it is also significantly underestimated).
How does mountaintop removal affect the economy?
Mountaintop removal is a mining technique designed, from the very start, to take the labor force out of the mining operation. According to the bureau of labor statistics, in the early 1950’s there were between 125,000 and 145,000 miners employed in West Virginia; in 2004 there were just over 16,000. During that time, coal production increased. In addition, the coal-bearing counties of Appalachia are some of the poorest in the nation, despite the fact that some of the greatest wealth is being extracted from them.
How could this happen?
A federal judge has twice ruled that most valley fills are illegal under the Clean Water Act (CWA). His first ruling was overturned on a jurisdictional issue, and his second ruling is now under appeal by the Bush administration. In case the appeal doesn’t go the way he wants, Bush has rewritten a 25-year-old rule of the CWA, thus legalizing illegal valley fills. The federal judge reminded Bush that only Congress can rewrite the laws of the land. The whole issue is up in the air. Other aspects of MTR are also illegal, but the outlaw coal industry has many politicians, from the local to the national level, in its pocket. Coal companies continue to buy politicians’ support, so they can do whatever they want, choking out the democratic political process just as their frequent spills choke the life out of streams.
Bush received millions of dollars from the coal industry during his 2000 election campaign One of Bush’s big supporters in West Virginia, James “Buck” Harless (a Bush “Pioneer”), who raised $250,000 for Bush, had a private audience with the President at Bush’s ranch. What’s more, his grandson, James H. Harless II, was chosen as an energy policy adviser during the White House transition.
What can Congress do to stop mountaintop removal?
The Clean Water Act was enacted by Congress to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters,” and prohibited the dumping of material into waterways for the purpose of waste disposal. In 2002, the Secretary of the Army changed the definition of “fill material” in order to include mining waste. Since debris from mountaintop removal is no longer considered “waste,” coal companies are dumping millions of tons of mine waste into streams.
Representatives Frank Pallone and Christopher Shays introduced a bill that reestablishes the original intent of the Clean Water Act: to protect our waterways, not give industry permission to pollute and bury them. By the end of the 109th congress of 2006, the bill had 77 co-sponsors.
What can you do? Spread the word and write your congressman. Click here to find your congressman and read about the Clean Water Protection Act. The Clean Water Protection Act is necessary to protect clean drinking water for many of our nation’s cities. It is also necessary to protect the quality of life for Appalachian coalfield residents who face frequent catastrophic flooding and pollution or loss of drinking water as a result of mountaintop removal.
For more information, contact Appalachian Voices at 828-262-1500 or visit their website.
Where can I learn more about mountaintop removal?
Click here to go to ILoveMountains.org to find out how to view the full length version of the National Memorial to the Moutains on Google Earth.
End Mountaintop Removal Action and Resource Center
Boone, North Carolina
Coal River Mountain Watch
Whitesville, West Virginia
Keeper of the Mountains Foundation
Dawes, West Virginia
Kentuckians for the Commonwealth
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
Huntington, West Virginia
Save Our Cumberland Mountains
Lake City, Tennessee
Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards
Big Stone Gap, Virginia
Appalachian Center for the Economy and the Environment
Lewisburg, West Virginia
Appalachian Citizens Law Center
Chesapeake Climate Action Network
Takoma Park, Maryland
Christians for the Mountains
Dunmore, West Virginia
Dave Cooper’s Mountaintop Removal Road Show
Friends of the Mountains
Sierra Club Environmental Justice Projects:
Shepherdstown, West Virginia
Asheville, North Carolina
United Mountain Defense
West Virginia Highlands Conservancy
Charleston, West Virginia
West Virginia Rivers Coalition
Elkins, West Virginia
I Love Mountains
Grist Environmental News and Commentary
Mountain Justice Summer
Coal River Mountain Watch
Global Awareness Section, Appalachian Mountaintop Removal