The obligatory Earth Day post

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Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day designated to promote the awareness and appreciation of the Earth–our home and provider. Looking around the world it would be easy to think that Earth Day has not been entirely successful, as you will see later in this post. However, there are some reasons to be optimistic.

Good Stuff

I recently finished reading Paul Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest. The by-line gives a good indication as to what the book is about – “How the largest movement in the world came into being and why no one saw it coming“. The book discusses the rise of millions (yes, millions) of not-for-profit groups, worldwide, that have either an environmental or social justice focus. Hawken argues that this mass of uncoordinated and individual activism is a watershed of change for our society and represents a greater awakening. Hawken also makes the point that any environmental action can be linked to social justice. This is all good news!

Looking around my immediate world, I can readily see these connections. The fight against the Alberta Tar Sands is now focusing on the high cancer rate of indigenous people downstream of the mine and also the poisoning of wildlife. My own community is forming Permaculture and backyard farming groups as well as lobbying city council for the ability to keep chickens in urban areas.  On the web we see the organizations like the new Movement For Happiness and the New Economics Foundation. Each organization on their own may only make a small impact, if any at all; however, the growing number represents a grassroots movement of people that are disenchanted with the status quo and are willing to do something about it. Take a look at Wandari Maathai’s telling of the humming bird parable.


Bad Stuff

CBS News – Sweat Pants, Plastic, More Found in Dead Whale.

Biologists conducted an examination on the stomach of a  gray whale that had recently died in Puget Sound and found it contained a large amount of garbage. They noted that the garbage only consisted of 1-2% of the stomach contents, however, 1% of the 50 gallons in the whales stomach is still quite a lot!

In a news release, the research organization said the animal found on the beach Thursday had more than 50 gallons of material in its stomach. Most was algae – typical of the bottom-feeding whales – but “a surprising amount of human debris” also was found.  Besides the pants and golf ball, the trash included more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, plastic pieces and duct tape.

Information is Beautiful – Planes or Volcano’s? What’s emitting the most CO2 per day?

This is a great graphic that a friend posted on his facebook page (thanks Curtis!). It gives a comparison between the amount of CO2 emitted by the daily air traffic over Europe, versus the CO2 coming out of Eyjafjallajoekull in Iceland. Now, by Information is Beautiful’s own admission, CO2 emissions from the volcano can be as high as 300,000 tons a day. However, this is still less than the European aviation industry.  So, this is one of these mixed blessing numbers. When we consider the international aviation industry, the amount of CO2 pumped into our atmosphere on a daily basis is enormous. Could you imagine the impact of volcano’s like this on erupting continuously all over the world?   Moreover, when you consider how much of our economic trade and food transportation is facilitated by aviation you begin to understand the changes that need to happen if we are really going to make a difference in the realm of CO2 emissions.

Planes vs. Volcanoes