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This Woman Is Paddling from Chicago to New Orleans to Fight for Clean Water
A New Jersey native and mother of two has set off on a two-month paddling journey from Chicago to New Orleans to raise awareness about water quality issues.
Extreme distance paddler and clean water activist Margo Pellegrino.The Big Apple 2 The Big Easy Facebook
Blue Frontier Ocean Explorer Margo Pellegrino set off via the Sanitary Canal on her 20-foot outrigger canoe on Aug. 10 from the Lincoln Park Boathouse in Chicago.
This downstream-upstream challenge will first take her from the Windy City into the Mississippi. Then, she'll traverse upstream on the Illinois River into Kentucky Lake and onto the Tennessee River and the Tenn-Tom Waterway. From Mobile, Alabama, she will paddle into the Mobile Bay and head west into New Orleans.
"This adventure for our water, our rivers, our ocean, our bays/estuaries has begun," she wrote about Day 1 of her 8-week trip. "It certainly won't be an earth shattering movement, won't rock the world, but it's very much another drop in the ocean of worker bees striving to make our watery world a better place. It's what I can do, so with the help of many many hands along the way, prayers from friends and family, I'm doing it."
To underscore how epic the voyage will be, traveling the 927 miles to New Orleans from Chicago by car would take at least 13 hours of straight driving.
The CHI2NOLA routeGoogle Maps
Incredibly, Pellegrino's current trip is actually the second leg of her two-year "The Big Apple to The Big Easy" journey. For the past three summers in a row, Pellegrino has paddled extreme distances from one city to another. In 2015, she paddled from New York City to Chicago via the Hudson River, the Erie Canal and the Great Lakes. In 2014, she paddled from Trenton to Newark.
To date, the ocean activist has paddled more than 5,000 miles of the nation's coast. For her current campaign, she has helped Blue Frontier raise roughly $11,500 towards a $30,000 target to go towards conservation efforts.
According to Blue Frontier, Pellegrino and her logistics and communications crew are hoping to raise public awareness to problems affecting our waterways. Along the way to her destination, Pellegrino and her team will be holding a number of community events so people can learn why clean water, and the people whose jobs and health depend on it, should be a nationwide issue. You can see tentative landing dates here.
"Margo's paddle is OUR paddle," Blue Frontier states on its website. "Together we can educate the public and our elected officials, and show them that there is a growing constituency for our water—from our watersheds into our rivers, lakes, and bays, to our ocean."
In a blog post, Pellegrino also highlighted why clean water and healthy coastlines and riverfronts must be a 2016 election issue:
"In order to help our ailing ocean, please help me make water and climate change an election year priority. We need an honest debate and serious attention to these issues, as the consequences are nipping at our heels. To do any less is a dereliction of duty to protect the people and property of this great nation. We need to know now, before we cast those ballots, how our future president will address these crisis level issues."
The adventurer took time during her epic paddle to answer some of EcoWatch's questions via email.
Q. In terms of training, what do you have to do to prepare for such a long journey?
A. I try to paddle as much as possible, run, bike, anything, theoretically anyway, though I have to admit, my training was a little lean going into this. Fortunately, I also paddle with the Philadelphia Outrigger Canoe Club so I made sure I made as many team practices as I could.
Q. Have you ever felt deterred by crazy weather or other obstacles along the way? What keeps you motivated to keep paddling?
A. Conditions have shut me out on occasion, but once I'm started from point A I'm pretty determined to get to point B. So far I'm going into my fifth day of paddling, and am just happy I've been able to stay on target with the distances and destinations. Friday with the storms and rains and two locks in a big miles day was a definite challenge, but I'm pretty focused on the schedule. I think sticking to a schedule helps build momentum and enthusiasm for this crazy way to bring attention to the plight of our nations water-our rivers and our ocean. I also want to stick to a schedule so I can get home in two months! You do miss the family, after all, and my son is going to start high school. I'm a little sad about missing his first month, but at least we can call.
Q. Have you always been an extreme distance paddler/When did you start? How did you get involved in it?
A. No, but I've always like paddling for longer than many of my friends. One of whom bit me on the arm when I refused to turn around our aluminum canoe to go home. That was in high school. But serious long distances I haven't done before, not before '07 when I paddled from Miami to Maine.
Q. What are some must-have items that you bring with you on your extreme paddling trips?
A. Water, food, are pretty basic. But GPS, VHF (marine radio), waterproof cell phone, iPhone in waterproof case, SPOT tracker, water shoes, reflective vest, emergency repair stuff, compass, light, spare paddle, sunblock. Oh yes, and of course a sense of adventure, flexibility—clearly the ability to "go with the flow"—and curiosity are crucial.
Q. Was there a particular "aha" moment where you became passionate about water issues?
I've always been aware of water issues. I grew up hearing about Love Canal, reading Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and have kept fresh water fish. I get tinge need for clean water. You can collapse your tank if you have too many fish and you don't change the water. When my father died in '04 and we were helping my mom clear out some of his stuff, I stumbled across an article in, I forget which science mag, about our collapsing ocean. That combined with David Helvarg's 50 Ways to Save the Ocean, jump started my activism. How can you not try to do all you can do to help fix things? There's no "unknowing." And when you KNOW about a problem, then the next step is to DO something. So I'm trying in this crazy way, to get folks to see the problem, and put pressure on their elected officials and agency heads to DO something.
Q. In your own words, can you explain to me why this election year is especially important in terms of water and environmental issues?
A. It is off the charts how important this election year is. Our nations water is in crisis. Look at Flint. That disaster to save money and switch Flints water source to the corrosive water of the Flint River is case in point. The DIRTY WATER accelerated and exacerbated the problem we have everywhere of lead in our pipes. On this paddle, I can't tell you how many times I WISHED I could hop in the water to cool off. This is my hottest paddle ever, but I didn't dare hop in for those first few days. And, the simply despicable, inexcusable unsanitary Canal out of Chicago blows my mind. How anyone finds that acceptable is beyond me. Our nations water is in crisis, from our drying rivers like the Rio Grande to our ailing coastal waters and our ocean, we have got to do something. Aging sewer plants, agricultural run-off, polluting industry, plastic pollution ... it all needs to be addressed.
We need to be asking our elected officials about where they stand on our nations water, both salty and fresh because this impacts everyone's lives and businesses. Clean water is an economic driver. The Outdoor Industry says that outdoor recreation brings in $646 billion a year.
Q. Who are your environmental heroes (and why)?
A. David Helvarg, president and founder of Blue Frontier, is one. He's gotten the grassroots active wth his Blue Vision Summit. He jump started the "seaweed rebellion" by helping smaller groups network and more effectively come together to maximize their voice. Sylvia Earle, Jacques Cousteau and my local friend Joel Fogel of Water Watch International who has been nonstop since the 70's and before are up there as well.
Q. Where's the most memorable place you've paddled and what made it so special?
A. The Pacific Northwest. Something about its heaviness—there is definitely somethings primal, connected to our ocean and Earth, mysteriously spiritual, wild, I don't know. But I love that place ... Washington, Oregon and Northern California. You can be a wild human animal there. You hafta rely on your intuition out on those waters. My other favorite place is South Jersey—our own lost coast of the Delaware Bayshore and our back bat marshy areas like Motts Creek (which has a GREAT little bar except they hafta use all disposable stuff because of their septic).
Q. How do you practice an environmentally friendly lifestyle?
A. Hahaha ... only have beer at Mott's Creek Inn! Or bring your own utensils but there's probably some stupid New Jersey reg about that ... But seriously, use LESS and BUY LESS of everything. Get OUT more, especially to your local waterways/ocean. And hopefully it's clean water you have access to.
Q. What is an easy way for people to help out with your cause? If there's one thing you wish you could tell people about your current campaign what would it be
A. Sign my petition, sign up for David Helvarg's "Blue Notes" at Bluefront.org, try to use as little plastic as possible, get OUT and play in some body of water, and consider making a donation and/or hosting me and Chelsea, my logistics manager/ground team, if we happen to be coming in your neck of the woods.
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By Joni Sweet
Should you skip your annual checkup? The answer would have been a resounding "no" if you asked most doctors before the pandemic.
But with the risk of COVID-19, the answer isn't so clear anymore.
Are States Allowing Preventive Care Visits?<p>First things first: If you're experiencing a medical emergency, don't delay treatment.</p><p>While there's the potential that you could be <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/hai/data/portal/index.html" target="_blank">exposed to infections at the emergency room</a>, the health risks of avoiding urgent medical care could be far more severe.</p><p>Hospitals have also implemented precautionary measures, like distributing masks to patients, that help cut down the risk of viral exposure.</p><p>Now that that's out of the way, is it possible to start catching up on routine healthcare appointments, like physicals and dental cleanings?</p><p>"Different places are in different stages of opening up," said <a href="https://www.methodisthealth.org/doctors/arvind-ankireddypalli/" target="_blank">Dr. Arvind Ankireddypalli</a>, primary care physician and geriatrician at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare. "Preventative services might not even be available in some communities, [and in others] medical appointments may be on a case-by-case basis."</p>
Is it Safe to Go to the Doctor?<p>If your state is open (or will end its lockdown soon), you may be able to start booking preventive care appointments, like Pap smears, cancer screenings, checkups, and dental cleanings.</p><p>But is it worth the risk of possible exposure to the new coronavirus?</p><p>Opinions vary among healthcare providers and the conditions of their patients, as well as the infection rate in their communities and availability of personal protective equipment.</p><p><a href="https://www.lenhorovitz.com/" target="_blank">Dr. Len Horovitz</a>, internist, pulmonary specialist, and director of Carnegie Medical, recommends that patients avoid delaying their annual physical or other types of preventive care.</p><p>"You will encounter problems that are best seen earlier rather than later," he said. "It is possible to provide a safe environment for a patient in the doctor's office. There's no reason for people to put off an annual exam; these are important appointments that help keep problems from getting out of control."</p><p>In an effort to curb the spread of infection, Horovitz has been following a strict set of procedures at his office, including allowing just one patient in at a time, requiring patients to wear masks and gloves, and disinfecting the examination room between every patient.</p><p>Other physicians, like Ankireddypalli, conduct a risk-benefit analysis for every patient before agreeing to see them in person.</p><p>"It is probably not appropriate to keep delaying visits for high-risk patients, like older adults or people with chronic conditions," he explained.</p>
Role of Telehealth Visits<p>Telemedicine visits, where doctors connect with patients via phone or video chat, can be an option if in-person appointments are risky or prohibited.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/benefits/downloads/medicaid-chip-telehealth-toolkit.pdf" target="_blank">Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services</a> and some private insurance companies have expanded coverage for telehealth services during the pandemic. As a result, some practices have seen the <a href="https://www.healthcareitnews.com/news/during-pandemic-telehealth-visits-soar-10-week-300-group-practice" target="_blank">use of telemedicine services soar</a> over the last few months.</p><p>"Telemedicine is a way that patients can be seen, evaluated, counseled, and informed about their healthcare without being exposed to the dangers of going into lobbies and offices," said <a href="https://www.mayoclinic.org/biographies/ommen-steve-r-m-d/bio-20053861" target="_blank">Dr. Steve Ommen</a>, cardiologist and associate dean of the Mayo Clinic Center for Connected Care, which offers telemedicine services.</p><p>"It is particularly relevant for patients who already have a relationship with a provider, the appointment is for an ongoing care episode, and the patient doesn't need to be touched," he said.</p><p>A virtual doctor's visit can't be a substitute for all routine care, though. Cancer screenings, blood draws, evaluations of lumps, Pap smears, and other services still need to be done in person.</p><p>But even if you do have to go to the doctor's office, telehealth services can help cut down on the amount of time you spend there, thus potentially reducing your exposure to the new coronavirus and other germs.</p>
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By Jeannette Cwienk
When it comes to recycling and recyclability, very little, it seems is straightforward — even something as seemingly simple as orange juice can present a conundrum. In Germany, many smaller shops sell drinks in cartons or plastic bottles, both of which will end up in the yellow recycling bin. But how do their recycling credentials stack up?
More and More Multilayer Packaging<p>How easy is it to recognize multilayer packaging? With drink cartons, it's usually obvious that they're made from a combination of different materials, but with other products, such as candy wrappers, it's a different story.</p><p>Such packaging can be made from a complex mix of up to 10 different films of plastic, which as Joachim Christiani, managing director of German recycling institute cyclos-HTP, explains, is <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-produces-record-amount-of-packaging-waste/a-51293541" target="_blank">invisible to consumers</a>.</p><p>"In recent years there's been a trend toward so-called multilayer packaging, which is extremely light and thin. It saves material as well as CO2 emissions during transport, but can't be recycled," Christiani says.</p><p>Because it is not possible to melt the different plastics together, or — at least for now — to separate the individual films from one another at recycling plants.</p>
Lack of Recycled Plastic<p>A 2017 cyclos-HTP study into the recyclability of conventional packaging waste concluded that a third of it was not recyclable, and only 40% of the remaining two-thirds was made into plastic recyclate. The rest was used as fuel <em>—</em> in other words it was incinerated.</p><p>"There was no economic or political pressure to recycle more than this amount," Christiani says. "The prescribed recycling quotas were met, and there were not nearly enough recycling plants."</p>
Room for Greenwashing<p>According to a 2018 survey by Germany's vzbv consumer protection association, most consumers would like to see more plastic recycling, especially when it comes to packaging.</p><p>Although some products come in packaging that is advertised as being "made from recycled material," Elke Salzmann, a resource protection officer with vzbv, says that can be misleading.</p><p>"It says nothing about how much recycled material the packaging actually contains," according to Salzmann. "And it also doesn't mean that the recycled plastic comes from collected plastic waste. It could just as well come from plastic leftovers created during the production of primary plastic."</p><p>The term "ocean plastic," which some textile and shoe manufacturers use to advertise the recycled plastic in their product lines, can also be misleading, Salzmann says.</p><p><span></span>"Plastic waste from the ocean is in much too bad a state to be recycled. Instead, they use plastic waste from beaches or riverbanks."</p>
Laws Against Plastic<p>Images of garbage choking our waters and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/eurythenes-plasticus-a-deep-sea-crustacean-full-of-plastic/a-52663559" target="_blank">killing marine wildlife</a> have played a key role in giving plastic a negative reputation among the public, and politicians have started to act.</p><p>Many countries worldwide have introduced bans on single-use items, and in Germany, a 2019 packaging law stipulates a plastics recycling quota of 90% from 2022, up from 36%. That said, the quota only refers to how much material has to be fed into the recycling system, not how much ultimately needs to be recycled.</p>
Rethinking the Whole System<p>Although plastic is a very useful material, at the end of its life it causes many problems, EASAC environmental program director Michael Norton tells DW, adding that we have to rethink the whole system and completely change the way we use plastic.</p><p>Joachim Christiani says the packaging industry is starting to catch on. Around 70% of recycled mass can currently be generated from packaging, but that figure is expected to rise in the future.</p><p>"95% is quite feasible," says the engineer, adding that sorting facilities are currently undergoing improvements, while packaging design is also changing.</p>
Clear Plastics Are Easiest to Recycle<p>As things stand, PET bottles are easiest to recycle because they're not mixed with other materials. New bottles can therefore easily be made from the old ones and the recycling rate is high. But the color of the bottle can pose a problem.</p><p>Because plastic is sorted by type rather than color, if different colors of plastic are mixed, the resulting recyclate cannot be used for light-colored packaging, which many manufacturers want. The upshot is the introduction of new plastic instead.</p><p>Consumer and environmental associations have long called for recyclability, greater sorting purity and better sorting facilities, but their most important demand remains waste avoidance through reusable systems.</p><p>"Why melt down disposable bottles to make new disposable bottles when you can refill them up to 20 times?" Buschmann asks.</p>
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When the coronavirus pandemic hit, the future of the Cannard Family Farm—whose organic vegetables supplied a single Berkeley restaurant—was looking stark.
Building Food Communities<p>Family farms in California and across the country have been hit hard by the impact of the coronavirus on their markets. But in the health-conscious Bay Area, where celery was already one of the first groceries to disappear from the produce rack, demand for fresh local produce has shot up. The challenge is in redirecting food from farms to new customers.</p><p>Sonoma County has historically been an agricultural region. When the organic food movement sprang up in the 1970s, this area was one of its early proponents. The first farmers markets and CSAs appeared in the 1980s and flourished, but the burgeoning network was later eclipsed by an inflated wine industry, much of it owned by distant corporations.</p><p>According to a 2018 crop report, 60,000 acres have gone to grapes, with only 500 acres in food crops. Land prices have skyrocketed, the cost of labor has gone up, and increased regulations have all made it harder to run a viable business here. Many farmers had turned to "boutique" specialty crops for restaurants.</p><p>"Farmers are always in an uphill battle, especially ecological farmers," says Wiig of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. "I often hear them say, 'I'm working my butt off and hoping for the best.'" That's even more true now, as the pandemic strangles economies the world over.</p>
Scaling Up Support<p>F.E.E.D. Sonoma, a food hub that aggregates produce from dozens of local farms, was another quick responder. When the pandemic hit, it went from serving Bay Area restaurants to building a cooperative of farmers, filling food boxes for distribution at F.E.E.D.'s Petaluma warehouse and other drop spots in the county.</p><p>"Our local food system is extremely diverse," says co-founder Tim Page, who has the energy of a visionary combined with the skills of a businessman. "We have a ton of small farms but we don't have the infrastructure to support them. That is what F.E.E.D. is trying to establish." Since converting the restaurant supply business to a CSA, it has gone from 90 boxes to 450. Ultimately, the goal is 1,800 or more.</p><p>"I grew up in L.A.," Page says. "Every single farm is gone. The same thing will happen here if the general public does not understand the importance of it.</p><p>"That understanding was on display at the Sonoma Farmers Market, which now operates with strict restrictions and safety precautions because of the virus. "We think F.E.E.D. is going to save us," said Candy Wirtz, co-director of Paul's Produce, a well-established farm in Sonoma, as she weighed out my purchases. The CSA model could be transformative for Paul's and other farms across the country.</p><p>Subscribing to a CSA is a lifestyle change for consumers, to be sure. It means eating what's in season and learning to cook unfamiliar vegetables. But it's a change that many people are making now because of the stay-at-home orders. "People just have to learn to cook again instead of eating out," says Judith Redmond, part-owner of Full Belly Farm near Sacramento.</p><p>In light of this newfound commitment to CSAs, Perrotti, of Coyote Family Farm, says: "My hope is that this solidifies instead of going back to the way things were. I hope the importance of local farming stays at the forefront."</p>
Farms With Futures<p>To help small farmers stay in business during the crisis, Community Alliance is also advocating for stimulus dollars. "Most often subsidies go to a small number of the largest farms, or to buy food that goes to food banks from far away, while local farmers can't sell their food," Wiig says. "We want food banks to buy from local farms."</p><p>This seems like a win-win. Millions of tons of food is being plowed under as 60 million people are now going hungry, 17 million of them since the pandemic began, according to Feeding America, the national network of food banks.</p><p>But it's complicated. David Goodman of the Redwood Empire Food Bank puts it plainly: Local food is too expensive. "We distribute nine and a half million pounds of produce annually," he says. "It costs about 9 cents a pound, 3 cents to transport. With 82,000 people to feed, it would be a luxury to think of tending to local needs by buying locally."</p><p>That reticence is partly because the food bank system is tangled in bureaucracy. The USDA decides what to purchase and from where. Because of the distances between sites, the federal agency has tended to favor foods with long shelf lives, such as canned and processed foods, and long-lasting produce like apples and potatoes. "If local food is what we need, there has to be a plan," Goodman says.</p><p>Such a plan might be where short-term disaster relief meets long-term resilience. Michael Dimock is president of Roots of Change, a nonprofit organization that advocates for transforming California's food system. To get serious about preparing the food system for future disasters, Dimock says, the government needs to be involved. Roots of Change is now advocating for a tax on sugary beverages to help foot the bill.</p><p>Dimock says the state needs a paradigm shift for farms to remain viable in the face of multiplying disasters to come—not only pandemics, but fires, floods, and other symptoms of climate change. "How bold will people get in the months ahead to demand real change? My hope is they will get more radical."</p><p>Food is fundamental. While farmers have yet to face the full economic impact of this pandemic, their collaborative efforts, along with local grassroots networks, could mark the beginning of a new economy laboring to be born.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Nearly 200 Canadian organizations on Monday rolled out their demands for a "just recovery," saying that continuing business-as-usual after the pandemic would prevent the kind of far-reaching transformation needed to put "the health and well-being of ALL peoples and ecosystems first."
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Alberta Energy Minister Calls Pandemic ‘a Great Time’ to Build Pipelines Due to Protest Restrictions
Anti-pipeline protests work.
That's the implication behind comments made by Alberta Energy Minister Sonya Savage Friday on how coronavirus social distancing requirements could ease the construction of Canada's controversial Trans Mountain Expansion project.