Coal and the Curse of Commercialization
By Cher Gilmore
A recent Wall Street Journal editorial crowed "Coal Makes a Comeback," touting the 14.5 percent increase in weekly coal production nationwide in 2017 compared to 2016 and the 58 percent increase in exports during the first quarter alone. That newspaper views the economic growth in coal-producing states like West Virginia, New Mexico and Kentucky stimulated by the current administration's policies as something to celebrate, and the editors conclude that "there's still demand for U.S. coal if regulators allow energy markets to work."
While the increase in coal production and use may be good news for coal companies and the states to which they pay taxes, economic growth is not the only thing to consider when weighing the costs and benefits of an activity. What about the beautiful Appalachian mountain landscapes completely destroyed by "mountaintop removal" and the streams and aquifers filled with toxic mining waste? What about the "black lung" disease suffered by too many miners, and the deaths from collapsed mines? And, perhaps most significantly, what about the fact that coal-burning plants are some of the biggest emitters of the greenhouse gases causing global warming and wreaking havoc on the planet?
These effects of coal production—the ones that affect the daily lives of actual people—are not even considered in the calculation. Why would that be? British author Benjamin Creme said it's because we don't understand the larger purpose of life. "We have replaced our reverence for life with commercialization, a market forces economy and the worship of money. The economy is the new religion of the world, and it is this commercialization that is driving us to the very edge of destruction."
In a world of commercialization, everything becomes a commodity with a price tag. Individuals are seen only as consumers, and those with the biggest bank accounts are able to buy whatever they want. Those who have little get little, and what they do get—including basic necessities like food and water—is often second rate or worse. Corporate and financial interests rank above the needs of human beings and the health of the planet, and unhappy people are either lulled into apathy by 24-hour digital entertainment, or turn to drugs and alcohol to escape from their narrow, unsatisfying lives.
In thrall to market forces, governments compete fiercely with one another, sacrificing the livelihood and well-being of their peoples. The major industrialized countries, making up only a third of the world's population, dominate the global economy and impose their chosen structure—commercialization or "competition" biased in their favor—on the other two-thirds. "This," said Creme, "is economic totalitarianism and must come to an end. It is based on the lie that we all start equal; we do not."
Creme has been the major spokesperson for decades regarding information about the World Teacher for this age: Maitreya. According to Creme, Maitreya is expected to appear at the invitation of the world's media on an international television broadcast when the conditions are right—most likely following the predicted world financial collapse, which will awaken humanity to reality for the first time and open us to hearing Maitreya's advice.
During that broadcast, Maitreya will analyze our present problems and show clearly the consequences of various actions we might take. These revelations will ultimately bring us to an inevitable choice: to continue in our destructive business as usual mode and extinguish all life, or to follow his suggestions for a simpler, saner way of living that will guarantee a happier future for all people.
Maitreya will teach, most basically, the need to share the natural resources of the world, which belong to everyone equally and should not be greedily usurped by the wealthy few. Since this is antithetical to the direction the developed world in particular is moving, in order for Maitreya's central principles—justice, freedom and sharing, for all people on Earth—to be put into practice, the existing social/economic structure will have to be dissolved. The financial collapse will have that effect. In its aftermath, we will begin to know ourselves as brothers and sisters, and with Maitreya's help will come to see that the only way forward is together, in cooperation, for the common good.
When we have come to our senses, we will not choose to "grow our economy" regardless of the burdens it places on ordinary people and the planet. Nor will we choose to promote the burning of coal—which is only today's example of commercialization gone amok—or any other action whose end result is planetary destruction. Benjamin Creme's spiritual Master assures us, "From the ruins of the old, a new civilization will be built by human hands under the inspiration of Maitreya ... Humanity will overcome this time of crisis and enter into a new and better relationship with itself, its planet and its source."
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By Jason Bruck
Human actions have taken a steep toll on whales and dolphins. Some studies estimate that small whale abundance, which includes dolphins, has fallen 87% since 1980 and thousands of whales die from rope entanglement annually. But humans also cause less obvious harm. Researchers have found changes in the stress levels, reproductive health and respiratory health of these animals, but this valuable data is extremely hard to collect.
Researchers work with trained dolphins to learn more about their sensory abilities, seen here testing a dolphin's hearing. Jason Bruck / CC BY-ND
A Lot to Learn From Hormones<p>When sampling the blow, we are looking for hormones in mucus as these can be used to gauge psychological and physiological health. We are specifically interested in <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0114062" target="_blank">hormones like cortisol</a> and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ygcen.2018.04.003" target="_blank">progesterone</a>, which indicate stress levels and reproductive ability respectively, but can also help determine overall health.</p><p>Additionally, blow samples can detect <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.1128%2FmSystems.00119-17" target="_blank">respiratory pathogens</a> in the lungs or nasal passages - blowholes evolved from noses after all.</p><p>This health analysis is especially important in areas with oil spills as the chemicals can cause hormonal problems that harm <a href="https://www.carmmha.org/investigating-how-oil-spills-affect-dolphins-and-whales/" target="_blank">development, metabolism and reproduction</a> in dolphins.</p><p>Hormone samples can provide scientists with valuable data, but collecting them from intelligent and unpredictable animals is challenging.</p>
Cetacean Collaborators<p>To build a drone that can stealthily collect spray from moving dolphins, we needed more data on their eyesight and hearing, and this is data that couldn't be collected in the wild nor simulated in a lab.</p><p>We worked with dolphins at facilities like Dolphin Quest in Bermuda, which provides guests opportunities to learn about dolphins while allowing <a href="https://dolphinquest.com/about-us/our-story/" target="_blank">scientists access to animals for noninvasive research</a>. Here the dolphins can swim away if they choose not to work with us, so we had to design the study like a game; the way a kindergarten teacher entertains a class. If the dolphins aren't interested, we don't get to do the science.</p><p>Over the course of hundreds of sessions, we sought to answer two questions: What can dolphins hear and what can they see around their heads?</p><p>To test dolphin hearing, we set up microphones and cameras to record dolphin behavior as we played drone noise in the air. We analyzed the responses to each noise – such as how many dolphins looked at the speaker – and used these as a proxy for their ability to hear the sounds.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5f31daf07a652b8d64a093b993ee4e96"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/UjmQeH3vXHI?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Robodolphin doesn't look like a real dolphin, but it doesn't need to in order to train our drone pilots. C.J. Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND<p>To build robodolphin, we worked with dolphins trained to "chuff" or sneeze on command to measure spray characteristics. We used high-speed photography to see the dolphins' breath as it moved through the air. Then we conducted high resolution CT scans of a dolphin head and 3D-printed a replica of a nasal passage.</p><p>Now, we have a complete robodolphin and are tweaking its sprays to be nearly identical to the real thing. This will allow us to determine how close we need to get to collect the samples, and therefore, how quiet our drone needs to be.</p>
The replica dolphin blowhole was designed from a scan of a real blowhole passage, and the spray it produces closely matches the real thing. Alvin Ngo, Mitch Ford and CJ Barton / Oklahoma State University / CC BY-ND
A Bit of Practice, Then Into the Wild<p>In the next few months, we will test flights over robodolphin with existing drones to determine the timing and strategy for collection. From there, we will fabricate a low-noise drone that can fly fast enough and with sufficient maneuverability to capture samples from wild dolphins. Like a video game, we will use the visual field data to develop approach trajectories to stay in the visual blindspots.</p><p>We plan to test our drones on a truck-mounted robodolphin moving down a runway, then using a boat to simulate realistic conditions. The next steps will involve ocean testing with dolphins trained for open ocean swimming. These tests will determine if our devices can catch and hold the hormones as the drone flies back to a researcher's boat.</p><p>Finally, we will deploy the system to collect data on wild dolphins. Our first goal is to test resident dolphins – animals that live on the coasts and deal directly with boat and oil industry noise – which will allow us to learn more about stress resulting from human impacts.</p><p>Those samples are a way off, but if all goes well we will have a specially built drone capable of flying long distances and capturing samples undetected in a few years. The samples collected will allow researchers to do better science with impact on the animals they study.</p>
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Billions worth of valuable metals such as gold, silver and copper were dumped or burned last year as electronic waste produced globally jumped to a record 53.6 million tons (Mt), or 7.3 kilogram per person, a UN report showed on Thursday.
Environmental and Health Hazard<p>Experts say e-waste, which is now the world's fastest-growing domestic waste stream, poses serious environmental and health risks.</p><p>Simply throwing away electronic items without ensuring they get properly recycled leads to the loss of key materials such as iron, copper and gold, which can otherwise be recovered and used as primary raw materials to make new equipment, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions from extraction and refinement of raw materials.</p><p>Refrigerants found in electronic equipment such as fridge and air conditioners also contribute to global warming. A total of 98 Mt of CO2-equivalents, or about 0.3% of global energy-related emissions, were released into the atmosphere in 2019 from discarded refrigerators and ACs that were not recycled properly, the report said.</p><p>E-waste contains several toxic additives or hazardous substances, such as mercury and brominated flame retardants (BFR), and simply burning it or throwing it away could lead to serious health issues. Several studies have linked unregulated recycling of e-waste to adverse birth outcomes like stillbirth and premature birth, damages to the human brain or nervous system and in some cases hearing loss and heart troubles.</p><p>"Informal and improper e-waste recycling is a major emerging hazard silently affecting our health and that of future generations. One in four children are dying from avoidable environmental exposures," said Maria Neira, director of the Environment, Climate Change and Health Department at the World Health Organization. "One in four children could be saved, if we take action to protect their health and ensure a safe environment."</p>
Europe Leads the Way<p>While most of the e-waste was generated in Asia (24.9 Mt) in 2019, Europe led the charts on a per person basis with 16.2 kg per capita, the report said.</p><p>But the continent also recorded the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/the-eu-declares-war-on-e-waste/a-51108790" target="_blank">highest documented formal e-waste collection and recycling</a> rate at 42.5%, still below its target of 65%. Europe was well ahead of the others on this front. Asia ranked second with 11.7%.</p><p>The authors said while more that 70% of the world's population was covered by some form of e-waste policy or laws, not much was being done toward implementation and enforcement of the regulations to encourage the take-up of a collection and recycling infrastructure due to lack of investment and political motivation.</p><p>"You have to think about new economic systems," said Kühr.</p><p>One approach could be that consumers no longer buy the products, but only the service they offer. The device would remain the property of the maker, who would then have an interest in offering his customers the best service and the necessary equipment. The maker would also be interested in designing his products in such a way that they are easier to repair and easier to recycle, Kühr said.</p>
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