Category Archives: Earth Day

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

The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands, situated about 600 miles west of Ecuador, are a small archipelago consisting of 19 islands of various sizes. These islands were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978. The islands of the Galapagos are where Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, and, consequently, “Darwin’s Finches” stemmed from. I have had the amazing opportunity to spend 10 days on this archipelago, and consider it the most life-changing experience I have had to this day.

Sea lions sunbathing on a boat off a little island in the Galapagos - taken by me

Sea lions sunbathing on a boat off a little island in the Galapagos – taken by me

In order to protect the islands from the overflowing of visitors, the Ecuadorian government limits the amount of people that can visit the area each year. Furthermore, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is dedicated to conserve the Islands. WWF has been educating locals on things such as efficient and sustainable fishing, as well as creating new environmentally-safe landfills that are in the process of being built on one of the main islands.

The amount of diversity of animals and plants that is spread across the archipelago is remarkable. One of the reasons these islands are so unique is because different species of animals can be found in different parts of the archipelago. Red Footed Boobies, for example, can be found primarily in the northern islands.

[A National Geographic review of The Galapagos Islands]

There are three main islands in the archipelago. The mode of transportation is usually a ferry which takes around an hour and a half to get to each island. Some of the islands are only accessible by cruise ships, which are very common there. I have personally decided to stay on each of the main islands for a few days, and explore them on my own, rather than get on a cruise ship where the itinerary is preplanned and somewhat boring to me. I ended up enjoying every second I had on these islands as I snorkeled and discovered penguins, rays, sea lions and sea turtles, to name a few of the amazing wildlife found on the Galapagos.

The entrance gate to the Charles Darwin Research Center - taken by me

The entrance gate to the Charles Darwin Research Center – taken by me

A sea turtle off the "Leon Dormido" rock - taken by me

A sea turtle off the “Sleeping Lion” rock – taken by me

Words and pictures alone can not describe the serenity and beauty that the Islands have to offer, and I will not be exaggerating when I refer to the Galapagos Islands as a Mecca for nature lovers. I highly recommend taking the time to do some research on these incredible islands, followed by a visit of your own.

For more information, please visit the following websites: UNESCO – Galapagos Islands, The Galapagos Conservancy, About Galapagos, Charles Darwin Foundation

-Written by Yuval Edrey

Celebrate Earth Day

2222523486_5e1894e314

Texas constitutes 0.004% of the Earth’s surface

Earth Day events happening around Texas…

Austin
Austin Earth Day Festival
Saturday, April 20th, 12pm-7pm
Browning Hangar at Mueller Park
4550 Mueller Central Dr., Austin, TX 78723
http://www.earthdayaustin.com

Beaumont/Port Arthur/Orange
2013 Trail Between the Lakes Hike
April 19th , 20th, & 21st
www.texas.sierraclub.org/triangle/pages/trail.html
Phil Rogers – philarogers@gmail.com – 409-543-4616
Bruce Walker – bwalker@gt.rr.com – 409-782-3486

Belton
Earth Day Festival Belton
April 13, 9 am – 5 pm
Organized by AWARE Central Texas and
Belton Chamber of Commerce
Contact: Linda Griffith or Richard Paul Thomas at (254) 947-4717 or via email to linda@tbcinternational.com orrichard@tbcinternational.com.http://www.beltonearthday.com

Brazos Valley
Brazos Valley Earth Day
April 20, 2013
11 am – 7 pm
Wolf Pen Creek
Organized by The Brazos Valley Earth Day Committee
http://www.brazosvalleyearthday.com

Corpus Christi
Earth Day Bay Day
Saturday, April 13th, 10am to 5pm
Heritage Park
1581 N Chaparral St, Corpus Christi, TX 78401
Sierra Club Contact:
Lois Huff, huffs@the-i.net, 361-774-1500
http://www.facebook.com/events/426674934068213/

Dallas
Earth Day Dallas
April 20-21, 10 am – 6 pm
Fair Park
Organized by Earth Day Dallas (EDD)
http://www.earthdaydallas.org

Edinburg
The City of Edinburg Earth/Arbor Day Festival
Saturday, April 27th, 9am to 1pm
Edinburg World Birding Center
Includes a 1 mile family walk and a ‘Bicycle Rodeo’
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=496129070453227&set=a.136022163130588.26197.135992229800248&type=1&theater

El Paso
El Paso’s Earth Day
Saturday, April 20, 9 am – 1 pm
Union Plaza District
Organized by City of El Paso
Environmental Services Department
home.elpasotexas.gov/environmental-services/documents/El%20Pasos%20Earth%20Day%202013%20Invitation%20for%20Exhibitors-Vendors.pdf
http://www.downtownelpaso.com/el-pasos-earth-day-celebration-2013/

Houston
Earth Day Houston
April 14, 11 am – 5 pm
Discovery Green
Organized by Air Alliance Houston
http://www.earthdayhouston.org

McAllen
Vida Verde Earth Day Festival
April 20, 9 am – 4 pm
Quinta Mazatlan
Organized by City of McAllen
http://www.quintamazatlan.com/events/special/vidaverde.aspx

San Antonio
April 18: “Earth Day” NW Vista College (9 A.M. – 1 P.M.)
April 22: “Earth Day” San Antonio College (10 A.M. – 2 P.M.)
April 23: “EarthFest” UTSA 1604 (11 A.M. – 2 P.M.)
Contact Gay Wright at alamo.sierra@yahoo.com or(210) 362-1984.

Earth Day San Antonio
April 20, 2013
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Woodlawn Lake
Organized by Build San Antonio Green
http://www.heb.com/page/about-us/community/events/san-antonio/earth-day-2013

Texoma
Texoma Earth Day Festival
April 20, 7:30 am – 5:00 pm
Municipal Ballroom and Grounds
Sherman, TX
http://www.earthdaytexoma.org