State of the Gulf Report Released by Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers
More than a year since the BP's Deepwater Horizon well was capped in the Gulf of Mexico, oil continues to wash ashore along beaches and wetlands of the U.S. coast at an alarming rate.
This disaster—the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history—has devastated the health of the region's wildlife and lands. It's a growing threat to public health. Local economies—from Florida to Louisiana—and family budgets are suffering. The BP oil disaster isn't over.
To highlight the oil contamination found in the water, sediment, and seafood and sea life across the coastline, on Oct. 4, Waterkeeper Alliance issued The State of the Gulf, a status report of Gulf Coast recovery after the discharge of 250 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The report outlines seven key findings, including calling for long-term environmental monitoring. Currently, the Save Our Gulf Waterkeeper organizations coordinate the most comprehensive citizen-led environmental monitoring effort. The report documents the results of the environmental monitoring project, including oyster tissue sampling from Louisiana to Florida.
Since last summer, Waterkeeper Alliance and Gulf Coast Waterkeepers have been speaking out and advocating for local communities and watersheds to ensure that they're not forgotten. Over the last year, Waterkeeper Alliance has:
- Sampled and monitored the oil contamination found in water, sea life and along the shores of the Gulf states,
- Pressed for a greater voice among local citizens as part of the government's Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, and
- Organized more than 154 environmental, fishing and community groups to demand that that Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Health and Human Services provide resources to those who are experiencing health impacts due to the oil disaster.
The seven key findings of the report include:
- The BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster is an ongoing disaster. The oil isn't gone, and long-term impacts are still unknown. If past oil spills are used as a barometer we can fully expect the Gulf Coast to suffer continued environmental degradation for decades. Leading scientific studies are showing that three-fourths of the oil is still lingering on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico, creating an unprecedented and unknown new environmental reality for the Gulf Coast. Oil is also still along the coastal areas in the form of tarballs, strings and mats, as well as in subsurface sandy beach areas. Our governmental and community leaders must work in concert to find long-term, sustainable solutions for recovery and restoration.
- The BP deepwater horizon oil disaster is a national disaster. The Gulf Coast serves as a resource for the entire nation. The Gulf of Mexico has one of the most productive fisheries in the world, providing more than two-thirds of the nation’s shrimp and oysters along with four of the top seven fishing ports by weight. There are more than 5 million acres of coastal wetlands along the Gulf, which is about half of the coastal wetlands in the United States. If the Gulf Coast collapses and these resources are lost, it will have negative consequences for the entire nation. The BP oil disaster also proved that the industry and federal and state governments and agencies are not prepared for oil spills of national significance. Deficiencies in regulations and enforcement continue to threaten communities and ecosystems across the nation. At a minimum, Oil Spill Commission recommendations must be implemented in order to ensure a higher level of safety in offshore drilling.
- There are growing public health concerns on the gulf coast. While setting up pathways toward ecosystem restoration, the government continues to ignore citizens’ calls for action on public health. Currently there's no government forum for those suffering from and concerned about the short- and long-term health impacts. The impacts extend along all Gulf of Mexico states and consist of current and ex-oil clean-up workers and coastal communities. The people of the Gulf Coast are still in need of proper diagnosis, treatment and medical monitoring. Our health, economy and environment are interconnected and solutions must reflect this.
- Citizens’ participation must be placed at the highest priority for appropriate restoration. To ensure responsible and adequate recovery and restoration for sustainable and resilient communities, public participation must be included in all decision making. A Citizen Advisory Council has been added to provide input to the federal restoration framework, and now a Regional Citizen Advisory Council (RCAC) must be established, funded and given decision-making authority for the Gulf Coast. An RCAC should be charged to help monitor industry compliance, governmental oversight and scientific research in the years following the nation’s largest environmental disaster, thus protecting our environment, communities and economies from additional oil pollution.
- Dedicate clean water act penalties to the Gulf Coast for environmental restoration. Impacted communities need leadership from their congressional delegations to ensure that Clean Water Act penalties resulting from the BP oil disaster are dedicated to the Gulf Coast for environmental restoration. The Gulf of Mexico is a major economic engine for the entire country, and its restoration must be adequately funded.
- The Gulf Coast must restore and rebuild sustainabily. The past seven years have been tumultuous for the Gulf Coast. Hurricanes Ivan, Katrina, Rita, Ike and Gustav and now the BP oil disaster have devastated both important natural resources and local economies. In our changing times and climate, the Gulf Coast must show leadership by rebuilding, recovering and restoring sustainability. Restoring wetlands, oyster reefs and natural flow regimes can build resiliency back into our coastal communities. We have an opportunity to make fundamental changes to the way we have cared for our environment and natural resources, and we must not let the lessons of this disaster or the gateway to change be lost.
- Long-term environmental monitoring is essential. Save Our Gulf Waterkeepers has collected and analyzed over 100 samples of aquatic organism tissue, soil and water from Gulf of Mexico coastal areas from Louisiana to Florida. We found petroleum hydrocarbon contamination in all of the areas that were sampled and in the tissue of many of the seafood species. The data that we collected also lead us to believe that polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) contamination in some seafood species may be increasing over time. In light of these results, we believe that comprehensive long-term environmental monitoring is essential to understanding, protecting and restoring the Gulf Coast ecosystem in the wake of the BP oil disaster.
To download the full report, click here.
For more information, click here.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dr. Kate Raynes-Goldie
Of all the plastic we've ever produced, only 9% has been recycled. So what happened to all that plastic you've put in the recycling bin over the years?
Triangle of Mistruths<p>The myth created around plastic recycling has been one of simplicity. We look for the familiar triangle arrows, then pop the waste in the recycling bin so it can be reused.</p><p>But the true purpose of those triangles has been misunderstood by the general public ever since their invention in the 1980s.</p><p>These triangles were actually created by the plastics industry and, according to a report provided to them in July 1993, <a href="https://www.npr.org/transcripts/912150085" target="_blank">were creating "unrealistic expectations"</a> about what could be recycled. But they decided to keep using the codes.</p><p>Which is why many people still believe that these triangular symbols (also known as a <a href="https://sustainablepackaging.org/101-resin-identification-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">resin identifier code</a> or RIC) means something is recyclable.</p><p>But according to the American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM) – which controls the RIC system – the numbered triangles "<a href="https://www.astm.org/Standards/D7611.htm" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">are not recycle codes</a>." In fact, they weren't created for the general public at all. They were made for the post-consumer plastic industry.</p><p>In other words, the symbols make it easier to sort the different types of plastics, some of which cannot be recycled – <a href="https://www.ecobin.com.au/understand-recycling-codes/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">depending on the recycling facility</a>.</p><p>"Unfortunately, just placing your plastic into the recycling bin doesn't mean it will get recycled," says Lara Camilla Pinho. She is an architect and lecturer at the UWA School of Design who is researching novel uses of plastic waste.</p><p>"The recycling system is complicated and often dictated by market demand. Not all plastic is recyclable. We cannot recycle plastic bags or straws for example."</p>
Behind the Scenes<p>So, what makes recycling plastics so difficult?</p><p>"Essentially, there are two types of plastics – thermoplastics and thermosets. While thermoplastics can be re-melted and re-molded, thermosets contain cross-linked polymers that cannot be separated meaning they cannot be recycled," says Lara.</p><p>"Even thermoplastics have a limit to the amount of times we can recycle them, as each time they are recycled they downgrade in quality."</p><p>Even when plastics are recyclable, it is <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/13/war-on-plastic-waste-faces-setback-as-cost-of-recycled-material-soars" target="_blank">often more costly</a> than simply making new plastics.</p>
Sugar, Seaweed and Mushrooms<p>If the conventional recycling system isn't working, what else can we do with all the plastic we've created?</p><p>Lara is looking for ways to add value to recycled plastics such as using it in the design and development of architectural products. She hopes to use these architectural products to help underserved communities that are disproportionately affected by plastic waste.</p><p>In addition to recycling, we also need to find ways to reduce our use of virgin petroleum-based plastics.</p><p>Bioplastic is one such product that has been getting a lot of hype over the last few years. And although they're better than petroleum-based plastics, bioplastics also come with their own <a href="https://phys.org/news/2017-12-truth-bioplastics.html" target="_blank">set of challenges</a>.</p><p>"There are already a lot of bio-based alternatives to plastic, such as bagasse – a byproduct of sugar cane processing," says Lara.</p><p><a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/the-mycelium-revolution-is-upon-us/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mycelium</a>, a type of fungi we most often associate with mushrooms, are also providing an interesting plastic alternative.</p><p>"In the field of architecture, mycelium is starting to be used as an alternative to plastic insulation, but also as compostable packaging and bricks," says Lara.</p><p>"The bricks take around five days to make and are strong, durable, water resistant and compostable at the end of their use."</p><p><a href="https://www.arup.com/news-and-events/hyfi-reinvents-the-brick" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hy-Fi Tower</a>, created by <a href="http://www.thelivingnewyork.com/living_about.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Living</a>, is an example of a building made from these bricks.</p><p>And finally, there's seaweed.</p><p>"[Seaweed is] cheap and can reproduce itself quickly without fertilizers. In architecture, there is use for seaweed as an alternative to plastic insulation but also as cladding," says Lara.</p>
More Money, More Problems<p>While all these alternatives are great, the main cause of our plastic dilemma is not scientific or technological, but economic.</p><p>As long as it remains <a href="https://engineering.mit.edu/engage/ask-an-engineer/why-is-it-cheaper-to-make-new-plastic-bottles-than-to-recycle-old-ones/" target="_blank">cheaper to create new plastics</a> from fossil fuels rather than from bioplastics or from recycling, we're going to be stuck with plastic garbage islands floating in our oceans.</p><p>The true cost to our health and our environment has yet to be included in the equation. But once it is, maybe that is when the real shift will happen.</p>
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Plain Naturals is making waves in the CBD space with a new product line for retail customers looking for high potency CBD products at industry-low prices.
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The Truth About CBD Product Potency<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDU2ODMyNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyNDc2NTg1N30.OAm3iOTO_pKZLXi7KdJ7n0DGOFMdOmIYuG4ArGooFC4/img.jpg?width=980" id="d657c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ee016a81b29caa699b9185b64ce345d6" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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Towards the end of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election season, the moderator asked both candidates how they would address both the climate crisis and job growth, leading to a nearly 12-minute discussion where Donald Trump did not acknowledge that the climate is changing and Joe Biden called the climate crisis an existential threat.
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By Zheng Chen and Darren H. S. Tan
As concern mounts over the impacts of climate change, many experts are calling for greater use of electricity as a substitute for fossil fuels. Powered by advancements in battery technology, the number of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles on U.S. roads is increasing. And utilities are generating a growing share of their power from renewable fuels, supported by large-scale battery storage systems.