By Iowa State Senator Rob Hogg
In case you missed it last week, Mitt Romney said in his nomination acceptance speech that “President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. My promise is to help you and your family.”
And then the crowd erupted in laughter and cheers.
There is something wrong when, in 2012, a major party candidate for President uses global warming and the environment as a quip–especially when much of the state of Louisiana is still under water from Hurricane Isaac, which brought huge storm surges and record rain falls that were literally pulling parts of the Gulf Coast back into the ocean.
It is surreal. It ignores the reality of what is happening. But it does provide an opportunity to explain better why rising seas and the planet’s declining health hurt us and our families.
Jobs and our Economy–The single most important reason that our economy remains sluggish is high gas prices and the high cost of imported oil. We import the same amount of oil into this country as we did in 1997–but it now costs us nearly $300 billion a year more, a five-fold increase.
That is nearly $1,000 more per American each year. If we had that money here, rather than sending it out of the country, we could employ almost 5 million people with jobs that pay wages and benefits worth $60,000 per year.
Increasing our dependence on expensive oil, domestic or foreign, will not help our economy. The most expensive oil in the world, both economically and environmentally, is offshore oil and oil extracted from the tar sands of Canada.
By contrast, energy conservation, energy efficiency, fuel efficiency and clean renewable energy like wind power are already creating jobs, saving consumers money and growing prosperity right here in Iowa.
Health Care Costs–One of the causes of increasing health care costs is pollution from coal and other fossil fuels–a cost of more than $175 billion a year from coal alone according to research led by Paul Epstein of the Harvard Medical School. That figure is more than $560 per American every year.
The pollutants from coal and other fossil fuels cause or contribute to bronchitis, asthma, respiratory disease, heart disease and neurological disorders. When people suffer these problems, they and their families not only incur substantial health care costs, they also lose economic productivity from the need for medical care and treatment.
Climate Disasters–In 2011, the U.S. was hammered by a record 14 billion dollar disasters at a total cost of $52 billion–damages of more than $160 per American from just those 14 disasters.
In Iowa, we have suffered floods, drought and severe storms. Around the country, Americans have suffered damage from hurricanes, tropical storms, floods, droughts, severe storms, wildfires, infestations of pests and outbreaks of disease. These disasters cause severe property damage, endanger people and disrupt our economy. Their numbers are growing and will continue to grow until we deal effectively with climate change.
As the sea levels continue to rise, it is projected that more than 3 million Americans will be displaced from their current homes over the coming century. Globally, the number is much, much higher. If we do not stop sea level rise, you and your family will be affected by the disruption of our global economy and an influx of environmental refugees from other places.
Loss of Natural Resources–Unusual weather and habitat loss are combining to disrupt ecological areas across the state and our country. At its web site, Ducks Unlimited states that it has examined “the best available science” and concluded that “climate change poses a significant threat to North America’s waterfowl that could undermine achievements gained through more than 70 years of conservation work.” If you and your family enjoy hunting and fishing, you should be concerned about rising sea levels and the planet’s health.
Finally, I am not afraid to say that I care about the health of the planet simply because I care about it. I want my children and someday my grandchildren and future generations to have the opportunity to live in a world where there are forests in the Rocky Mountains, glaciers in Glacier Park, polar bears, cheetahs and Monarch butterflies.
The health of the planet matters to me and my family. It should matter to all of us and all of our families.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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