Dreaming Big Again Could Help U.S. Confront Climate Change
The U.S. has inspired and influenced millions of people around the world. I am one of them. America is the nation of big ideas like the New Deal, the Marshall Plan and the Fulbright Program. It has showed the world what is possible with vision, commitment and determination. Today, global warming and its impacts call for that kind of vision again.
Almost 60 year ago, I received a generous scholarship and an elite education not possible at the time in my home country, Canada. On Oct. 4, 1957, as I began my senior year at Amherst College in Massachusetts, I was electrified by the Soviet launch of Sputnik. As the satellite passed overhead, its electronic beep reminded us how advanced Soviet technology had become.
In the months that followed, the U.S. sped up its response. America spared no amount of money and effort to blast ahead. Institutions, grants and scholarships were expanded. Even for foreigners like me, opportunities for graduate school, postdoctoral studies and faculty positions opened up. President John F. Kennedy's call for a race to the moon gave America a target.
Look at the results! The U.S. caught up to and overtook the Soviets, becoming the only nation to put astronauts on the moon. The spotlight on science stimulated innovation and led to advances that weren't predicted but are now taken for granted, from 24-hour television news and GPS to cellphones and computer technology. By providing the first pictures of Earth, the "blue marble," from space, the Space Race even inspired the environmental movement.
Now, 60 years later, the U.S. still earns a disproportionate share of Nobel prizes, all because Americans and their leaders dreamed big to meet a challenge. By investing in science and research, Americans made enormous strides, created jobs and spurred long-term economic benefits. Today, American science leads the world, expanding the frontiers of knowledge and providing fuel for ongoing revolutions in telecommunications, medicine and biotechnology.
But scientists do far more than expand technological and economic opportunities; they also increase our knowledge about our home, the biosphere—the air, water, land, photosynthesis and biodiversity—on which our survival and wellbeing depend. For decades, scientists have discovered unexpected consequences of exploding populations, technology, resource exploitation and waste disposal. They are society's sentinels, giving advance notice of unexpected problems or challenges.
Scientists discovered biomagnification, the phenomenon of concentrating molecules up the food chain as described by Rachel Carson's seminal book, Silent Spring. Physicists provided the insights to create atomic bombs and later discovered radioactive fallout, electromagnetic pulses and nuclear winter. Chemists synthesized chlorofluorocarbons that were ideal for aerosol spray cans and later learned of their unanticipated impact on the ozone layer.
More than 150 years ago, scientists discovered the heat-reflecting properties of molecules like carbon dioxide, water vapor and methane, and speculated on the role these greenhouse gases play in maintaining Earth's climate. Like a blanket holding warmth, these gases moderate nocturnal heat loss. In the right balance, they prevent huge daily temperature fluctuations, as occur on Mars, or extreme conditions, such as on cloud-shrouded Venus, where excessive water vapor keeps temperatures above 500 C.
For more than four decades, scientists have warned that human activity is spewing more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than can be reabsorbed, so they are accumulating. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the world's largest, most authoritative group of climate experts. Its latest report shows we're already experiencing ever-increasing impacts. If we act quickly, they say, we can better protect food and water supplies, critical infrastructure, security, health, economies and communities, and avoid the increased human displacement, migration and violent conflict that result from such tumultuous upsets. Meeting the challenge will also bring numerous economic benefits, as investing in innovative technology and renewable energy is a healthier long-term plan than relying on increasingly destructive, dwindling and difficult-to-obtain fossil fuels.
Faced with the magnitude and seriousness of global warming, and the tremendous opportunities in addressing it, we need the kind of leadership America is known for. We need an all-out effort as great as or greater than the determination to pull ahead of the Soviet Union in the Space Race.
America launched my science career, and I'm proud to receive the U.S. National Wildlife Federation's Award for Science in Washington later this month, along with President Bill Clinton, who is receiving the Conservation Award.
The America that set me on my path would never deny the reality of a scientifically proven problem, or claim nothing can be done about it or that meeting the challenge will destroy the economy. By committing to seek solutions, we will reap benefits—expected and unexpected. It's time to revive the American know-how and gung-ho enthusiasm that has long characterized this great nation.
Dr. David Suzuki is a Canadian scientist, writer, broadcaster and activist. Dr. Suzuki is receiving the U.S. National Wildlife Federation Award for Science in Washington, D.C. on April 30.
YOU ALSO MIGHT LIKE
In a dramatic rescue captured on camera, a Florida man ran into a pond and pried open an alligator's mouth in order to rescue his beloved puppy, all without dropping his cigar.
- 'He had green eyes': Florida man will paint alligator that attacked him ›
- Florida alligator attack: A woman was attacked by a 10-foot alligator ... ›
- Weird presidential pets include alligator, tiger cub, dog named Satan ... ›
- Alligators make terrible pets: 'You're basically dealing with a dinosaur.' ›
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>
- Coronavirus Plastic Waste Polluting the Environment - EcoWatch ›
- Scuba Divers Make Face Masks out of Recycled Ocean Plastic ... ›
By Bret Wilkins
In a year in which the United States has already suffered 16 climate-driven extreme weather events causing more than $1 billion in economic damages, and as millions of American workers face loss of essential unemployment benefits due to congressional inaction, a report published Monday reveals the Trump administration has given fossil fuel companies as much as $15.2 billion in direct relief — and tens of billions more indirectly — through federal COVID-19 recovery programs since March.
- 'We Need People's Bailout, Not Polluters' Bailout': Climate Groups ... ›
- Corporate Polluters Have Received Tens of Millions in PPP Loans ... ›
- Trump Bails Out Oil Industry, Not U.S. Families, as Coronavirus ... ›
- Former Federal Reserve Governor Rebukes Fed for Fossil Fuel Bail ... ›
By Ashia Aubourg
As Thanksgiving approaches, some Indigenous organizations and activists caution against perpetuating further injustices towards Native communities. Indigenous activist Mariah Gladstone, for example, encourages eaters to celebrate the harvest time in ways that do not involve stereotypes and pilgrim stories.
- Why Face Masks Belong at Your Thanksgiving Gathering + 7 Things ... ›
- Reasons to Be Thankful — 8 Food and Farm 'Good News' Stories ... ›
- Why I'm Going to Standing Rock for Thanksgiving - EcoWatch ›
By Alex Middleton
Losing weight and reducing fat is a hard battle to fight. Thankfully, there are fat burner supplements that help you gain your target body and goal. However, how would you know which supplement is right for you?