Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Environment: Good News, Bad News

First, the good news: Vail Resorts to invest heavily in wind power, making it the second largest corporate buyer of wind power after Whole Foods Markets, which is now using 100% wind power for its energy needs.

Just outside of Palm Springs, California, you can see a huge wind farm. I don't know how to describe my feelings whenever I see it, but I personally find it to be beautiful. Hundreds and hundreds of quiet, simple, windmills. They're all lined up like a marching band formation. I find them to be elegant. And it is a renewable energy source, doesn't create greenhouse gasses, it is our friend.

And the bad news:

Plague of plastic chokes the seas, causing the death of at least 40% of Albatross chicks on Midway Island Atoll. Chicks die with a belly full of bottle caps, combs, cigarette lighters, golf tees. John Klavitter, a wildlife biologist who is stationed at the atoll for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "We often find cigarette lighters, bucket handles, toothbrushes, syringes, toy soldiers — anything made out of plastic."

Midway Island Atoll is 1000 miles from the nearest city; it is midway between the USA and Japan, and is without any industry, no fast-food establishments, no overflowing trashcans, and only a handful of people. Yet the deaths of these magnificent birds is a clear indicator of the massive amounts of crap that clogs the seas.

Albatross fly hundreds of miles in their search for food for their young. Their flight paths from Midway often take them over what is perhaps the world's largest dump: a slowly rotating mass of trash-laden water about twice the size of Texas.

This is known as the Eastern Garbage Patch, part of a system of currents called the North Pacific subtropical gyre. Located halfway between San Francisco and Hawaii, the garbage patch is an area of slack winds and sluggish currents where flotsam collects from around the Pacific, much like foam piling up in the calm center of a hot tub.

Nearly 90% of this crap is plastic. Most of it comes from land, litter tossed out on highways, streets, streams, rivers which gets swept out to sea. The rest is dumped from ships - both passenger and cargo ships. Some consists of synthetic floats and other gear that is jettisoned illegally to avoid the cost of proper disposal in port.

In addition, thousands of cargo containers fall overboard in stormy seas each year, spilling their contents. One ship heading from Los Angeles to Tacoma, Wash., disgorged 33,000 blue-and-white Nike basketball shoes in 2002. Other loads lost at sea include 34,000 hockey gloves and 29,000 yellow rubber ducks and other bathtub toys.

This crap floats around in various gyres for dozens of years, eventually finding its way to various currents, and spreading out across the seas. The victims - sea birds, seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins, sea turtles, fish - mistake it for food, and die. Since the 1950s, the plastic debris has increased 10-fold each decade.

Plastic doesn't disintigrate. And plastic is derived from petroleum. And petroleum is a huge contributor to greenhouse gasses.

But WINDFARMS are a non-polluting, renewable resource that don't kill sea life or choke our oceans.


robin andrea said...

Those windmill farms are quite a sight. I wish we were more inventive and forward thinking, so we'd be obtaining at least half of our energy through alternative sources by now. I can't believe how long we've let our dependence on oil (and oil's big political money) run everything.

When I think of what we have done to the seas, and to our planet for that matter, I am sickened by our reckless disregard for the very thing that gives us life.

DivaJood said...

I'm starting to look at my own use of plastic stuff - and be more conscientious about recycling.

glenda said...

Well, some good, some bad news...we have a lot of wind farms off the Texas coast too. When at the grocey store, get paper not plastic, although it uses trees, they are a renewable resource and the lesser evil. Or you could bring recycled boxes .

sumo said...

That really makes me feel terrible.

Tina said...

We are lucky that the trash service that we pay for (we live in a township, not the city) does recycle everything, but if you already separate all the stuff (and we do) you get a discount. Poor little baby birds w/bellies full of plastic... awful. Environment?... feh. Ya heard what that moronic Majority Whip Roy Blunt announced yesterday: "If I stay in charge (after the Nov elections) Congress won't do anything meaningful on climate change".... great.

Tina said...

Diva... OMG... you have got to come to my blog and see what that troll Rick just left for me AND you:
"A fascinating little world you have gathered here. A place where snooty Jewishness is a veil to elevate the status of, at very best, anti Israeli sentiment, or at the very worst, anti Semitism. My grandmother said "Beware of self deprecating Jews. When something smells fishy, it is nearly always fish" said she."
I want to just delete his hateful stupid ass... but I want you to read it all. It's 8:00 am here... I have to get ready for work and get BabyGirl up... I am seething.
My stats indicate he is from a city called Indiana, PA. If I recall, that is not too far from Pittsburgh... his name is Rick... he is a hate spewing mouth breather... OMG... Rick Santorum? Is that you?? :)

Tina said...

I'm back... I "dedicated" a post to Troll-Boy in PA... please check it out... and PLEASE feel free to become the fierce Diva you are and slap him into next week where he left the comment (my top post for the day).

DivaJood said...

Glenda, I also have mesh sacks which I take to the grocery store. It's the plastic milk containers, and the freezer bags, and laundry detergent, and dishwasher detergent - so much comes in plastic.

Sumo, in September, there is an annual "Heal the Bay" day where all the beach cities clean up the beaches from the Palos Verdes Peninsula through to Santa Monica. Action.

Tina, Roy Blunt is being short-sighted, as usual. I'll be right over to your blog - I'm in very slow motion this morning, as I had a 3 hour cram session from my Improv class last night, and I'm operating on almost no sleep.

glenda said...

Yes, diva, that's tue. I reuse my milk bottles to mix organic fertilizer-fish oil emulsion, for my garden. Bu, luckily, Austin has a ciy-sponsored recycling program where they will pick up our recylcable plastic as long as we separate it from the trash and recycle it. Thus, no waste or dumping? Does your city do that? If not, friends, haul it all to a recycling center! Or petition your area to begin this service!

DivaJood said...

Glenda, we have to take our recyclable things to a specific location. The city doesn't pick up. But it is a huge site. We also have a site for hazardous materials (electronics, paint, chemicals, etc.) which I use - did you know that empty paint cans are hazardous waste? I'm currently waiting for someone to help carry my old computer monitor to my car to take it to the hazardous waste site.

Our condo association recycles papers, plastic, and glass. But I need to be more diligent about what I purchase, because even cutting down on the use of plastics will help.

Helen Wheels said...

I wish our packaging wasn't so grotesquely out of control. I have to have a pair of scissors around all the time because otherwise I go nuts trying to open stuff!! Why do we have to have double seals on EVERYTHING?? Gawd, the waste is incredible.

I find the windmills completely beautiful too. The first time I saw them, I was just filled with awe. Why do people find them aesthetically displeasing??!! They look much better than a big burping, smoking, stinking refinery or horribly ugly oil drills or big scary nuclear plants.

DivaJood said...

Helen, the double seals go back to when somebody laced Tylenol with poison, killing quite a number of people.

I agree, the windmills are graceful in their simplicity. But, like Diane Arbus, I am also drawn to the squalor of America - and I am fascinated by refineries, steel mills, oil rigs, nuclear plants. Fascinated by their ugliness, their mean quality, their darkness. The windmills, on the other hand, are light. Quiet. Peaceful.

MrsGreenThumb said...

Sadly, for every action there is a reaction. So the wind farms are not without drawbacks. I went to an Audubon Society meeting to hear about these wind farms. If not situated correctly, they impact migrating birds. The birds fly into the blades and are killed. They need a lot more research in picking sites and eleveations for these installations.

I like your blog, came over from Dr. Charles.

DivaJood said...

Welcome, Mrs. Greenthumb. Right, the Windmills are not perfect and care must be taken in placement. But my god, today oil is topping $77 a barrel, and we're at war over greed and big oil. I'm just saying.