Category Archives: Communties

Find Out What is Keeping Our Parks in the Dark

Imagine a permanent haze smothering the panoramic view from the peak of your favorite hike at Big Bend in Texas, the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma, or the Caney Creek Wilderness Area in Arkansas. Read on to learn how to prevent your childhood memories from being clouded over by pollution.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is finalizing a decision on whether dirty Texas coal plants will continue to release their haze air pollution without regulation. This haze pollution damages our beloved National Parks (NP) and wilderness areas in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.

Image 1.1  - Pictures taken from Big Bend and Guadalupe on Clear and Hazy Days to illustrate the immense differences in visibility.Photo Credit: NPCA

Image 1.1 – Pictures taken from Big Bend and Guadalupe on Clear and Hazy Days to illustrate the immense differences in visibility.Photo Credit: NPCA

Haze is a visible and quantifiable measure of the levels of specific pollutants such as Sulfur Dioxide (SO2) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) that cause haze in the atmosphere (See image 1.1). These specific haze pollutants are released in large quantities from the northern and eastern Texas coal plants. The pollution travels from these locations into federally protected national parks in four surrounding areas: Big Bend NP, Guadalupe Mountains NP, Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge, and Caney Creek Wilderness Area.

EPA is finalizing its decision for whether Texas coal plants have to follow the same kinds of rules for SO2 and NOx pollution that other out-of-state plants have to strictly follow. Strong standards would ensure the protection of our national parks and federal lands. The decision will play a pivotal role in propelling Texas towards a breathable future.

The Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ),  the state environmental agency in Texas, proposed a do-nothing plan that would allow the biggest polluters to keep on pumping out visibility and health-harming pollution. With an obsolete plan that requires no changes, no progress towards clear skies, EPA should reject the TCEQ plan and take action to protect the our environment until the coal plants in Texas do their fair share like many other out-of-state power plants.

How do I get started? Call EPA and ask them to follow the law and protect the environment from old, dirty, unregulated Texas coal plants. Tell them that the law requires EPA to hold polluters accountable and that they need to implement a plan that protects our national parks and defends public health by reducing pollutant emissions. As other states like Oklahoma move forward by reducing their power plant emissions, Texas coal plants should not be the forgotten and left in the dark.

With just a few minutes of your day, you could have an impact that lasts through generations – Let’s work together to get EPA to make the right decision! Click Here! 

by Sarah Sharif

Advertisements

Social and Environmental Change for the Holidays

It’s that time of year when people start shopping for holiday gifts…

A great way to support environmental movements is through consumerism. If consumers demand more environmentally, sustainable goods and socially conscious products, that’s what will be provided. Also, what better way to support  socially conscious causes than to purchase gifts that assist them. This way they benefit and even more people learn about the cause through your gift.

We are going to showcase a few online stores whose mission is to improve social justice and/or promote environmental conservation and stewardship.

Definitely don’t stop here, but be encouraged to search and find all the many organizations and companies that are making an impact on being environmentally and socially conscious in producing their goods.

This is just a start.

SOCO Hammocks

hammockhammock1

This Texas-based brand’s mission is to, “empower underprivileged populations through partnerships with nonprofit organizations who provide humanitarian aid”. They  pay fair wages to the artisans at Indocrafts in the small village of Ubud, Indonesia who make the cozy hammocks. Ten percent of the profit goes to a new nonprofit each month.

These  pack down to the size of a softball, making them great for camping. They also are a good hint for that person who just needs to take time, post up a hammock, and relax. Check out their website here and their blog here.                Kick Back Give Back in a SOCO Hammock!

*********************************************

Greenheart Shop

Greenheart Shop is an online store based out of Chicago that offers an array of products that are both fair trade and environmentally friendly. These products range from kids clothing, to food, to Oil Drum art. Their products are made using sustainable materials and methods and they pay the artisans fair wages. As well as being fair trade and eco friendly, this initiative supports the non-proft, Center for Cultural Interchange, to help international students in the US and Americans traveling abroad to partake in different environmental and social volunteer opportunities.

                  

*********************************************

Olive Barn

Do you love gardening and want to share your love with others? Or do you know someone else who does? Olive Barn, who’s tagline is “Rooted in Sustainable Living”, has organic seed kits, wind chimes,and  sun catchers. Their seed kits would be really great for someone who wants to start learning about gardening or an avid gardener. All their seeds are organic! The business also happens to be owned and operated by a former Texas A&M Aggie and ranked in the top 100 fastest growing Aggie-owned companies.

These are just a few examples of companies working towards more sustainable, earth friendly, socially conscious consumerism. When you start shopping for your holiday gifts, search for stores that offer the items you want to buy, with an environmental mindset attached to their production.

Comment below with other great, conscious companies you have found.

Cosmetics: More than You Bargained For?

      

When it comes to taking care of ourselves, we can often neglect to realize what actually goes into products we use for and on our bodies. We might go to the store and look for cosmetic brands that say things like  “all natural”, “pure”, “no animal testing”, and so on but are we actually getting what we want?

The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) defines cosmetics  as “articles intended to be rubbed, poured, sprinkled, or sprayed on, introduced into, or otherwise applied to the human body…for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance.” Some examples are shaving cream, shampoo, face wash, lotion, lipstick, aftershave, deodorant, and toothpaste.

What do they actually consist of?

  • Coloring Agents such as coal tar, chromium oxide, aluminum powder, manganese, iron oxide, and mica flakes
  • Bulking Agents such as talc, nylon and silk fibers, silk powder
  • Additives such as fragrance, preservatives, and parabens

Read your labels and see what you come up with. Triethsnolamine, tocopheral acetate, tetrasodium EDTA, dimethicone, methylparaben, phthalates, and ethylene  oxide may be some of the terms you see along with many others.

So why should you care?

The cosmetics industry uses numerable synthetic chemicals in its products to give them their color, smell, shelf-life, and texture. Many of these have been linked as carcinogens or causing severe allergies.  Often these chemicals are untested for side-efects. Depending on the number of products we use each day, we could be exposing ourselves to numerous different chemicals and their reaction when used simultaneously is also unknown. The Breast Cancer Fund is a strong proponent for making cosmetics safe.

What can you do?

Check your labels. Know what ingredients are not desirable. A great way to do this is using one of these resources:

  •  – a database that scores products based on  hazard
  • The Think Dirty App – an iPhone app that allows you to use your phone to scan products barcodes and receive a toxicity ratings. You can do this at home to check your current products and when you are shopping

Also, you can take action –  The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics  “is a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.”

Get informed. Get involved. Do some research.

Not all chemicals are harmful, but it’s good to know which ones are and to avoid them.

Humans vs. Earth’s Climate: Preparing for Battle

When I first heard the phrase “climate change”, I, like many others, was undecided on the matter and really didn’t have a clue what that phrase was supposed to mean. Should I be scared? I hope the daily climate would change all the time over here in Texas. This confusion led to a trip to the internet, where ignorance is optional, and over time I read a lot about it, trying to avoid opinionated rants while relying on credible sources of information to mold my perception of the truth. I found myself studying the carbon cycle, reading those really long and uninteresting scientific papers, and watching documentaries such as Chasing Ice, where a scientist captures glaciers in motion through time lapsed photography as they recede and disappear. I really dove in. The deeper I dove the more evidence came to support the notion that earth’s climate system is changing and our planet is slowly warming in a way that will likely be detrimental if not dealt with.

the blue marble

Home Sweet Home

What a massive and complex force to have to deal with. Trying to mitigate a change in the Earth’s climate seems like a pretty daunting feet. So, how do we solve this problem? I guess the default answer would be, “to find the solution.” However, I believe “the solution” needs to be rephrased with “many solutions, collaboratively recognized and implemented worldwide.” A major part of this solution needs to face one of the most influential causes of climate change, such as our current escalated contribution of greenhouse gases (GHG’s), namely carbon dioxide and methane, to the atmosphere.

Explanation of Green House Gases (GHG’s):

GHG’s, when in higher concentration in the atmosphere, cause the atmosphere to trap more and more of the sun’s energy, resulting in the warming of our planet.

Nasa's explanation of GHG's

Nasa’s explanation of GHG’s

This process becomes worrisome when you consider that the carbon dioxide concentration in our atmosphere has increased by more than 35% since 1975 and is at an 800,000 year high. Even more worrisome is the fact that, according to the National Research Council, “the average temperature of Earth’s surface increased by about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit  over the past one hundred years with 1 degree of this warming occurring over just the past three decades.”

So if this is really happening, how do we stop it? Well, one could start with the major source of this greenhouse gas concentration increase, which can be attributed primarily to the growth in carbon dioxide emissions from rapid expansion of fossil fuel burning. Other attributing factors include deforestation and land use and land cover changes.

Explanation of fossil fuel burning’s role in the carbon cycle:

Previous plant and animal remains trapped within geological structures in places all over the world, along with millions of years of heat and pressure, have created reservoirs of natural gas, oil, and coal. These reservoirs, in the form of hydrocarbons (long chains of Hydrogen and Carbon), have been stored sources of Carbon for a great amount of time. When these reservoirs are extracted and undergo a combustion reaction, they produce energy in the form of heat with new chemical species being formed, such as carbon dioxide (a green house gas).

I’m fascinated by our capability to discover these remains of ancient life forms and even more so at our ability to use them to meet the present day needs of our energy-reliant society. However, with a global oil production of 83.6 million barrels a day in 2011, this Carbon which has been stored underground for an extremely long amount of time is now being released into our system at a rapid rate… so would the statement, “too much of a good thing, is a bad thing” apply here?

I understand that the burning of fossil fuels is integral to our way of life and energy needs. The intricacy and complications of making rapid emission cuts would have great impacts for our infrastructure and societies. However, the likely effects of climate change/global warming could have even greater, more damaging, impacts on our infrastructure and societies. This is why it is necessary to confront this issue now and progress towards a greater reliance on renewable energy for our present and future energy needs.

This progression is much easier said than done and will undoubtedly be met with great opposition, especially by those involved in fossil fuel energy production (people like my mom). However, I like to perceive it as simply as one of my favorite environmental quotes, “if you get to the cliff, you can take one step forward or turn 180 degrees and take a step forward”.

For one, we’ve already discovered, engineered, and implemented many new means of capturing energy (wind, solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, biomass), all of which are readily available in specific regions, produce nearly no emissions, and are, except for hydroelectric, far less water intensive. We already have a large part of the solution, all we need is implementation. More positive progression was initiated this week as President Obama, leader of a nation that ranks as a close second place behind China in GHG emissions and energy consumption, made a speech that presented some bold, progressive goals: using full authority of the clean air act of 1970 to reduce carbon emissions from power plants, accelerating the implementation of more renewable energy that will “power 6 million homes by 2020”, and reducing energy waste through new energy efficiency. He also is trying to push congress to end the tax breaks for big oil companies to invest in  “the clean energy economies that will fuel our future” and is calling for initiatives to prepare for the inevitable future effects of climate change.

Implementation of these plans will take time, will require governmental initiatives to speed up the process, and will require specific measures to alleviate the negative impacts such change will have on certain individuals. An example of governmental measures to take would be to reduce the massive amount of money that is used to subsidize fossil fuel production and to allocate that money to renewable energy implementation. To alleviate this energy production shift on individuals, retiring fossil fuel companies will need to provide a just transition for its employees: examples include a large preliminary warning, new training, and good retirement packages.

It’s very exciting that the willingness and need to change has been stated by one of the world’s most influential people, but the battle has only yet to begin and many other solutions will need to be presented and implemented if we hope to come out on top. However, optimism is reborn from the depressing ashes of climate change talk as I reflect on how incredibly smart we are as a human race, how much we already know about the issue, and our amazing problem-solving abilities and can’t help but think, this is going to be a good fight.

Written by: Chase Cobb

From the Keystone XL Pipeline Blockade:

I hope this finds you enjoying the beginning of summer. Today we have a request for help and two very informative links from the Piney Woods Sierrans in East Texas.

The Keystone XL Pipeline blockaders have some summer-related needs. If you can help out with any of these, drop them by the blockade camp or respond to this email: pineywoodssierra@gmail.com  and we’ll arrange a pick up. Here are the things that they are in need of:
Refrigerator, Fans, Eggs, Bread, Fruit and Vegetables
The food, of course, will be an ongoing need.

Check out the new website created for neighborhoods along the Pegasus pipeline: http://safecommunityalliance.org/pipeline.html#hpe (go to “pipeline” tab, jump to “Harbor Point Estates” for photos of this Pegasus neighborhood)

And here is a link to a blog with shocking video documentation of some of the 70 anomalies along the portion of the Keystone pipeline in NE Texas between the Sabine and Sulphur Rivers: http://nacstop.org/EastTexasObserver.html

Call to Young Artists: Design the 2013 Renewable Energy Roundup Poster!

Image

Seeking young Texans ages 9 to 18 to submit renewable energy poster designs

Deadine July 1, 2013

The Renewable Energy Roundup and Green Living Fair Art Contest was created to draw upon young people’s artistic expression to convey the importance of renewable energy and living sustainably in Texas. Pieces will be judged on creativity and inclusion of renewable energy (solar and wind), Texas, farming and green living practices.

The purpose is to enhance public awareness of the importance of renewable energy and sustainability in the artists’ and viewers’ lives and to convey how personal actions affect the world.

  •   Rules: The contest is open to all students in Texas ages 9 thru 18.
  •   Entry Requirements: Poster design must be original, and may be computer or electronically generated, hand- drawn or photographed. It must not violate any copyrights, intellectual property rights or contain other infringements. Electronic submissions must be 300 DPI (JPEG or PDF preferred).
  •  Size: Any size between 8.5 x 11 inches and up to 28 x 22 inches.
  •   Deadline: All entries must be postmarked or delivered no later than: July 1, 2013.

  •  Mailed entrees:
    The Roundup Art Contest P O Box 2735; Fredericksburg TX 78624
    Emailed entrees: info@theroundup.org
  •  Hand-delivered entrees:
    Laura Rice; 604 N Bowie; Fredericksburg, TX 78624
    Call 830-456-1341 to arrange
  •   Required: Submitted artwork must have clearly printed on the back: Artist’s name and contact information, parents name, school or facilitator name, including mailing address, phone, email.

The winner will be determined by a vote of the Roundup Planning Committee. All decisions are within the discretion of the committee and those decisions are final.

The winner will be announced and their artwork will be displayed in the art exhibit area during the fair weekend, in addition to being the official t-shirt art for 2013. First Prize $200 Cash + event tickets, 2nd – 5th place gift cards + event tickets.

All entries become the sole property of The Roundup. The Roundup will own all personal, intellectual and other property rights and interests in each submission, including all copyrights, moral rights and publicity rights. The submissions will not be returned to the artist. The artist will not create derivative works of their submissions, nor use their submissions in any other way outside of this contest. A submission may be used to promote any Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair, and/or for any other Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair commercial or promotional purposes, regardless of media. The Roundup reserves the right to make modifications to size, and content display. By sending in a poster design, you agree that the Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair may use, without compensation, artwork and the winner’s name, age, town and likeness for promotional purposes in Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair’s 2013 campaign.

Limited to one entry per person.

Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair
P.O. Box 2735 | Fredericksburg, Texas 78624 | 830-997-2350

The Renewable Energy Roundup & Green Living Fair is organized by: The Center for Policy Studies and Texas Renewable Energy Industries Assoc.

Texas Water Fluoridation Controversy

When you turn on the water faucet in your kitchen to fill up a water bottle, you don’t usually think about the origin of the water you’re about to drink, how it was treated, and what may have been added to it. The only thing you’re really thinking about is how thirsty you are. We all need water, so we’re all used to just drinking whatever water we can get, as long as it looks clean and comes from a home, business, or water bottle. So it’s not surprising that most people have no idea that fluoride is put into their drinking water every day for dental hygienic reasons, not water treatment.

Woman Drinking Glass of Water

                Water fluoridation started in the 1940’s, when tooth decay was a problem and scientists had been researching the differences in natural fluoride concentrations in water sources. What they found was that areas with moderate amounts of fluoride in the water had fewer cases of tooth decay than those with water sources with lower amounts of fluoride. While they also found that excessive amounts of fluoride could cause things like dental fluorosis, communities started adding moderate amounts of fluoride into their drinking water to keep teeth healthy, at the recommendation of several dental associations as well as the FDA.

Today, water fluoridation has stirred some controversy. The side that promotes water fluoridation states that the benefits of fluoridated water completely outweigh the negatives. Fluoridation costs about fifty cents a year per person, which is cheaper than dental visits, and it has been proven to prevent tooth decay, reducing a person’s risk by about 25%. People who oppose community water fluoridation state that the government should not be in control of medicating communities through public resources because it does not allow people to make the choice of whether or not they want to be medicated, especially since the amount of fluoride one should have for dental use differs per person depending on age, etc. They also state that with increased public knowledge of dental hygiene, there is no longer any reason for the public to be given extra amounts of fluoride. Lastly, they state that many countries in Europe and the US have similar amounts of tooth decay, but most countries in Europe do not use fluoridated water, so the true effectiveness may vary.

Here in Texas, around 80% of the population that uses public water drinks water that is fluoridated. Some communities, including places like College Station, Lago Vista, and Alamo Heights, have voted against water fluoridation, and many more have groups that are trying to end fluoridation. Whichever side you stand on for community water fluoridation, water is our most important resource, so continue to be educated about what is in your water and how it affects you.