Wildfire Closes Yosemite Valley for First Time in More Than a Decade
The iconic Yosemite Valley, home to the most famous vistas in Yosemite National Park, will be evacuated Wednesday to protect visitors from dangerous smoke from the Ferguson fire, The Huffington Post reported.
Park officials said the closure would remain in effect until Sunday, according to an announcement Tuesday.
"Get yourself out of here if you can," Yosemite National Park superintendent Michael Reynolds told CNN on Tuesday.
The closure means all hotels, campgrounds and visitor services in Yosemite Valley and Wawona will be shuttered, and anyone currently using them has been instructed to leave by noon on Wednesday.
This is the first time the valley, home to the national park's famous waterfalls and rock features Half Dome and El Capitan, has been closed because of a wildfire since the A-Rock Fire burned 18,000 acres in the area in 1990, according to The Huffington Post.
California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) spokesperson Rich Eagan told The Wall Street Journal that the fire was currently two miles away from the park and that firefighters were battling it back from the park's western edge.
The Ferguson Fire has burned 36,587 acres since it ignited July 13 and is only 25 percent contained, according to The Wall Street Journal. It is threatening nearly 35,000 buildings and has mobilized 3,311 firefighters against it.
Six of them have been injured and one has died.
Cal Fire heavy equipment operator Braden Varney died early in the fire's outbreak when his bulldozer flipped over into a ravine, The Huffington Post reported.
Officials told reporters that the Ferguson Fire was difficult to fight safely because it was burning through such steep terrain filled with extremely flammable vegetation.
California Interagency Incident Management operation section chief Jake Cagle told The Huffington Post that firefighters were attempting to use scars from previous fires in the area as containment lines to control the current blaze.
This isn't the first time the blaze has menaced the park since it ignited.
The fire already led to the closure of part of State Route 140, a key route into the park, on July 15, according to The Associated Press.
"Since the fire began on Friday, July 13, several other park facilities and roads have been closed due to fire impacts and the need to support firefighting operations. These closures include the Glacier Point Road, Bridalveil Creek Campground, the Wawona Campground, the Merced Grove of Giant Sequoias and others," the park's announcement said.
The park's webcams all show its majestic scenery obscured by smoke, CNN reported.The Cal Fire website currently shows 17 active fires burning in California, in what is shaping up to be another intense fire season for the Golden State.
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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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