Nel's New Day

April 21, 2019

Earth Day 2019

Tomorrow is the 49th anniversary for a global event in 193 countries. Although hundreds of millions work to save the planet every day, April 22 is set aside as a day of action. As the Earth Day website explains:

“People march, sign petitions, meet with their elected officials, plant trees, clean up their towns and roads. Corporations and governments use it to make pledges and announce sustainability measures. Faith leaders, including Pope Francis, connect Earth Day with protecting God’s greatest creations, humans, biodiversity and the planet that we all live on.”

Last year’s theme was to End Plastic Pollution. One goal was to reduce the annual use of 500 million plastic straws in just the United States. In July 2018, Seattle became the biggest city in the U.S. to ban plastic straws, and Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws by 2020. McDonald will ban plastic straws at UK and Ireland restaurants, and the 1,000 U.S. locations of  the food service company Bon Appétit Management will follow suit. Thanks to a Girls Scout, Alaska Airlines was the first airline to phase out plastic straws and stirrers. Shelby O’Neil created Jr Ocean Guardians for her 2017 Girl Scout USA Gold Award Project to share her passion in saving oceans and marine life for the future. Other airlines–American, Delta, and United–are following Alaska’s lead.

Getting rid of straws may have seemed a minor task because they comprise only 0.025 percent of the eight million tons of plastic going into the ocean each year. But it’s a simple beginning. From there, governments are decreasing the use of single-use plastic bags for shopping by adding fees for them or replacing them with paper bags. The town where I live passed an ordinance to do this a few days ago. Kroger is just one major company doing away with plastic bags for its shoppers. Using reusable shopping bags can drastically cut down on the one trillion plastic bags used world-wide every year.

Another reduction in plastic is to reuse water bottles instead of single-use ones. One person using a refillable water bottle can save an average of 170 bottles each year. And the single-use bottles have poisonous chemicals that aren’t present in glass or stainless steel reusable bottles.

Other ways to avoid plastic use is to pack food in glass containers, avoid snack foods with excess packaging, and skip plastic flatware. Hopefully, restaurants where you eat will use cardboard for takeout food instead of plastic. Buying products in cardboard containers will cut down on single-use plastics.

A particularly vicious form of plastic comes into microbeads used in most cosmetic items. UK has joined other countries in banning the product that is killing marine life who mistake the tiny particles for food. Ethique Beauty became plastic free in 2012, preventing three million bottles, jars, and tubes being sold and aiming for ten million by 2025. The United States has banned microbeads only in rinse-off cosmetics.

Founded in Bandon (OR), the Washed Ashore project creates sculptures from plastic materials washed up on beaches. It has a traveling art exhibit to create an awareness about the world’s growing plastic pollution problems.

Another 30 ways to recycle stuff.

Last year’s Earth Day theme to reduce plastic proliferation set progress into motion, and activists will begin work on this year’s theme, “Protect Our Species” which are rapidly disappearing from climate change, deforestation, poaching, pollution, pesticides/herbicides, and consumption.

One species that people might want to protect is that of humans. Because of the huge corporation Monsanto, people are getting cancer from its pesticides that contain glysophates. Products from popular foods for children–breakfast cereal, snack bars, and from popular companies such as Quaker, Kellogg, and General Mills–to “adult beverages” of wine and beer contain the cancer-causing chemical. To sell its genetically-modified seeds for plants that won’t be damaged by glysophates, Monsanto engineered varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beet, alfalfa, and more crops. Over 90% of all soybeans and over 70% of all corn grown in the U.S. are genetically modified, and the majority of these plants are tolerant to glyphosates. Originally people assumed that these crops were safe for human, but studies–not those paid for by Monsanto–show them to be endocrine disruptors causing birth defects, reproductive impairment, and DNA damage.

Another way to save the planet is to saving marine animals which might slow climate change because they store carbon in their bodies; their carbon-rich waste products sink into the ocean to fertilize and protect marine plants. Sea stars are just one of the marine species rapidly dying off. [Photo by Sue Hardesty]

On its 50th anniversary in 2020, the Earth Day network is organizing a “Great Global Clean Up,” which it hopes to be the largest environmental volunteer event in history. The goal is to remove billions of pieces of rubbish from streets, beaches, rivers,and parks, and is being launched across US cities in 2019. With its SOLVE project, Oregon is already ahead of the project. Founded 50 years ago in 1969 by Gov. Tom McCall, the goal of reducing and cleaning up litter and vandalism throughout the state expanded in 1984 to the first statewide citizen Beach Cleanup in the nation, an event that has spread to all 50 states and 100 other countries. The Oregon beach cleanup now takes place twice a year.

To celebrate Earth Day–every day, every year–hold yourself accountable and vow to save the planet for the future. [Photos: The Moon – Sue Hardesty; The Ocean – Ann Hubard]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January 7, 2019

Sue Hardesty: Sea Stars Gradually Disappear

Filed under: Sue Hardesty — trp2011 @ 8:55 PM
Tags: , , ,

When I was young, these creatures were called starfish. The name was changed in the United States during the past five decades to sea stars because they are echinoderms, not fish, and closely related to sea urchins and sand dollars. No matter what the name, they are disappearing because of environmental problems. This Sea Grant video shows how scientists at the Oregon Coast Aquarium are developing a blood panel for ochre sea stars to help treat them before they die off from Sea Star Wasting Syndrome.

Below, Sue Hardesty’s Facebook entry about the gradual extinction:

I want to talk about my favorite sea thingy, that wondrous little creature, the sea star, that’s nearly impossible to kill. Until now. September 18, 2016, I posted on my Facebook. “Spent yesterday morning walking the tide pools on my favorite beach, looking for my favorite ocean friends, the sea stars. There should have been hundreds. I found three. All sick. They all had bubbling and swelling in their centers and the curling limbs, eventually turning into a smearing mess. This is the fourth year. How much longer before they are all gone?” So, I went looking.

The tragic fact is that we are presently witnessing the largest wildlife die-off in recorded history—and we don’t know why. It is suspected they are another victim of global warming, but the research is still sketchy. Even though this little sea creature has no fins, or brain, or teeth, or even bones, and circulates sea water through their systems instead of blood, they are still tough little guys of wondrous colors and shapes, and, remarkably, they have eyes at the end of each arm, can produce millions of eggs at one time, replace lost arms, and change gender from male to female at will. They can even create glue with their feet. Did I mention how beautiful they are, dressed up in all kinds of colors and shaped with many arms? The loss of the sea star is a true disaster because, unlike the 80 or so extinct mammal species whose demise we are already responsible for, this little guy is one of our major keystone species.

When a major keystone species becomes extinct, its habitat and the living creatures in it are seriously affected and often simply disappear. What makes the sea star a keystone species is that it eats sea urchins which have the bad habit of “clear-cutting” kelp beds destroying cover as well as oxygen and food for many other species, including prawns and fish. Sea stars also eat mussels which, if left unintended, clean the water so well no food is left for the small fishes. Other examples of keystone species presently in danger are bees whose pollination is critical for plant survival, and, in turn, provide food and shelter for bugs who are eaten by birds. Then there is the predator such as bears, lions, tigers, wolves, cougars, and good ol’ man who keep the population of various species in check.

A new report from the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, November 26, 2018, has cited a disease called the “sea star wasting syndrome” as the killer of millions of sea stars from Mexico to Alaska. Like the perfect storm, this disease could be a combination of elevated sea water temperatures with an imbalance of microbiome, or just as likely several microbe pathogens.” The report also discussed the 2014/2015 “unusual boom” in juvenile sea stars of several species which gave so many of us hope. “Unfortunately, the abundance was short-lived,” wrote Schultz. “The juveniles disappeared over a period of weeks to months, and no evidence of their abundance has so far been reflected in adult populations…it’s not uncommon at all to observe a sea star healthy one day and in pieces and near death the next morning,” said UVM co-author Melanie Lloyd. “If this disease was happening in humans, it would be the making of a Stephen King novel.”

 

Sources:

https://www.eeb.ucsc.edu/pacificrockyintertidal/data-products/sea-star-wasting/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181107130255.htm

https://www.opb.org/news/article/despite-glimmers-of-hope-starfish-are-still-wasting-away/

www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/03/180320141317.htm

 

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