Environmental racism in America

June 22, 2020 by  
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The stretch of land along the Mississippi River between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is riddled with petrochemical plants spewing smoke into the air. Huge pipes pump chemicals above and below the highway to load boats in the river. This former plantation land’s modern nicknames are Cancer Alley and Death Alley because of the pollution-induced illness rife in the riverside communities. People familiar with environmental racism won’t be surprised to learn that Saint James Parish, in the heart of this area, is predominately Black. This is some of America’s most polluted air, with eight major industrial plants in 103 square miles and a new, enormous plastic project on the horizon. The cancer rate here is 700 times the national average. All around the country — and, in fact, the world — toxic plants are placed by the least affluent and most vulnerable populations, most of whom are people of color. These low-income communities tend to have the least political power to keep pollution generators out of their backyards. The term environmental racism Environmental racism is not a new concept. But with the Black Lives Matter movement thrusting all forms of racial inequity into the public eye, it’s time to take a look at what it means and how we can create change. Related: Low-income housing in flood zones traps families in harm’s way Benjamin F. Chavis, Junior, former president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), defined the term in his 1983 work, “ Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States .” The NNPA is an association for Black-owned newspaper publishers. Chavis described environmental racism as deliberately targeting communities of color for siting toxic waste facilities that expose people to life-threatening pollutants and poisons. Chavis acknowledged different types of racism, but noted, “environmental racism is a particularly insidious and intentional form of racism that negatively affects millions of Black, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans, as well as people of color around the world.” Environmental racism means that people of color feel a disproportionate impact from things like toxic waste dumps, pollution and chemical plants that expose them to pollutants, known carcinogens and contaminated water at a much higher rate than more affluent White neighborhoods. The problem is intensified by officials failing to enforce environmental laws, for example, the thousands of Black children exposed to lead poisoning in Flint, Michigan in the last decade while officials assured everybody the water was safe. Types of environmental threats that communities of color face Whether they are threats to the water , air or land, people of color face them all. According to a 2012 NAACP study , communities of color breathe in 40% more polluted air than White neighborhoods. Much of this is from coal plants. While only 13% of the U.S. population is Black, 68% live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. That’s 12% higher than for White people. Associated problems include higher risks of birth defects, heart attacks and asthma. Black communities suffer from unusually high levels of asthma. Black women are 20% likelier to have asthma than non-Hispanic White people, according to data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health website. In 2014, Black people were almost three times more likely to die from asthma-related causes than White people. Children are hit especially hard, with a much higher rate of asthma-related hospitalization and death. In addition to coal plants, low-income Black communities are disproportionately located near other types of toxic sites. In rural areas, this could be farm runoff. “Swine CAFOs are disproportionately located in black and brown communities and regions of poverty,” stated a study by researchers at School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. CAFOs, or concentrated animal feeding operations, are an innocuous-sounding euphemism for animals packed tightly together, living sad and squalid lives around enormous manure lagoons. People who live near these air- and water-polluting operations often suffer from eye, nose and throat irritation, depression, stress and decreased quality of life. In North Carolina, CAFOs center on pigs. In California’s San Joaquin Valley, dairy farm waste, including pesticides , has upped the asthma rates in Black and Brown communities. Environmental racism and COVID-19 The novel coronavirus has preyed especially hard on people of color. Patients with underlying conditions are up to 12 times as likely to die of COVID-19 than those that were healthy before contracting the novel coronavirus. A CDC report released June 15 cited heart disease, diabetes and chronic lung disease as the most common underlying conditions contributing to COVID-19 deaths. Black communities have a much higher rate of many conditions that predispose people to dying of COVID-19. These include diabetes, asthma, tobacco exposure, strokes, high blood pressure and cancer. Racism leads to and aggravates all of these conditions, from breathing in more pollution and experiencing more stress in the first place, to having less access to healthcare for early diagnosis and treatment of illness. Via Food is Power and The Guardian Images via Pixabay

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Scientists discover "pristine" fresh air in a unique location

June 10, 2020 by  
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It is difficult to think of a place on Earth where the air has yet to be contaminated by human activity. From metropolises like New York and large cities like Mumbai to even small villages, human activity has affected the natural air we breathe. However, a recent publication from  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences  shows that there is still one place on Earth with “pristine” air. The Southern Ocean , an area south of 40 degrees latitude, has been identified as one place on Earth where the air has not been contaminated. According to the publication, scientists have established that the air in this region is dominated by bacteria emitted in sea spray. Researchers used this bacteria as a “diagnostic tool” in the study. Essentially, findings from this study show that the air of the Southern Ocean is free of aerosols resulting from human activities. This makes the Southern Ocean one of the rare places where you can breathe pristine air. The study leading to this discovery was conducted by Colorado State University and used data collected by R/V Investigator, an Australian research ship. The R/V Investigator is operated by CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency. In sampling the air, the R/V team collected samples from the marine boundary, which is in direct contact with the ocean water. The exercise mainly included collecting airborne microbes and analyzing them with source tracking, DNA sequencing and wind back trajectories to establish their marine origins. According to Colorado State University Scientists, the results of the samples from the Southern Ocean were very different from those in subtropical and Northern Hemisphere oceans. In those waters , the air quality is largely influenced by anthropogenic aerosols from the Northern Hemisphere. As the R/V team found, the process of sampling the air over the Southern Ocean can be difficult. The air was so clear that the team had little DNA to work with. Given that the sampling process included DNA tracking, the team struggled to collect the data needed to conclude the study. The news of fresh air existing on a planet dominated by human activity is good news for all humanity. It shows us that there is hope in our conservation efforts. Even though human activities are causing harm to the environment, some gains can be attained if we keep pushing for a better environment. + Cosmos Images via Pexels

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Scientists discover "pristine" fresh air in a unique location

Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

June 10, 2020 by  
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In May, the French nonprofit Opération Mer Propre reported collecting several used face masks within waves of the Mediterranean Sea. According to the organization’s report, there has been a surge in “COVID waste”, including masks, latex gloves and plastic hand sanitizer bottles, in the past 3 months. Unfortunately, this only compounds a waste problem that has been around for many years. According to the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), over 13 million metric tons of plastic waste go into the oceans each year. UNEP predicts that the amount of waste dumped in the oceans will increase up to 10 times the current amount in the next 15 years. However, the UN report did not anticipate a situation where people around the world had to use face masks on a daily basis. The pandemic now complicates all efforts geared toward a safer and more sustainable environment. Related: How to safely dispose contaminated gloves, masks, wipes and more According to Joffrey Peltier of Opération Mer Propre, dozens of face masks, gloves and hand sanitizer bottles were found at the bottom of the sea among other plastic waste. Opération Mer Propre is one of many organizations concerned about the fate of the environment after the coronavirus pandemic . “Soon there will be more masks than jellyfish in the waters of the Mediterranean,” said Laurent Lombard of Opération Mer Propre. Now, Opération Mer Propre and other organizations are calling for a more cautious approach to the use of face masks and other medical tools. Environmental activists are championing the use of reusable face masks and more washing of hands instead of wearing latex gloves. The oceans are already overwhelmed with plastic waste from our normal lifestyles. If we keep on pumping medical waste into the environment, we risk pushing thousands of ocean species to extinction. In the words of Peltier, “With all the alternatives, plastic isn’t the solution to protect us from COVID.” Via The Guardian Image via Noah

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Discarded COVID-19 masks are now littering seas and oceans

Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

June 5, 2020 by  
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Last month, news media around the world heralded cleaner skies as a byproduct of the pandemic-induced quarantines. Alas, as lockdowns are lifted, air pollution is climbing back to pre-COVID levels in  China . Several European countries may soon follow suit. Concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are back to where they were a year ago, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). In early March, when China was suffering the worst of the  pandemic , the particle count was down by 34%, while nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by 38%. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous “The rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption levels across China is an early warning of what a smokestack industry-led rebound could look like,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Crea’s lead analyst, in an article from  The Guardian . “Highly polluting industries have been faster to recover from the crisis than the rest of the economy. It is essential for policymakers to prioritise clean energy.” Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero, is still experiencing lower than usual nitrogen dioxide levels — 14% lower than last year. However, Shanghai’s NO2 level has soared to 9% higher than in 2019. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy group, expects that the second quarter of 2020 will see China’s  oil  demand recover nearly to its normal level. European cities are still enjoying significant dips in air  pollution . The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) shows that 42 of the 50 European cities it tracks had below-average NO2 levels in March. This pollutant, which is largely produced by diesel vehicles, dropped by 30% in Paris and London during the pandemic. How fast and how much European air pollution will rebound depends on the decisions of citizens, companies and government officials. “We do not know how people’s behaviour will change, for example avoiding public transport and therefore relying more on their own cars, or continuing to work from home,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, the director of Cams, told  The Guardian . Environmentalists hope that people will choose to  walk  and cycle more and drive their cars less. + The Guardian Images via Pexels

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Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

June 5, 2020 by  
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Last month, news media around the world heralded cleaner skies as a byproduct of the pandemic-induced quarantines. Alas, as lockdowns are lifted, air pollution is climbing back to pre-COVID levels in  China . Several European countries may soon follow suit. Concentrations of fine particles and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are back to where they were a year ago, according to data from the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air (Crea). In early March, when China was suffering the worst of the  pandemic , the particle count was down by 34%, while nitrogen dioxide levels had fallen by 38%. Related: Air pollution could make COVID-19 more dangerous “The rapid rebound in air pollution and coal consumption levels across China is an early warning of what a smokestack industry-led rebound could look like,” said Lauri Myllyvirta, Crea’s lead analyst, in an article from  The Guardian . “Highly polluting industries have been faster to recover from the crisis than the rest of the economy. It is essential for policymakers to prioritise clean energy.” Wuhan, the pandemic’s ground zero, is still experiencing lower than usual nitrogen dioxide levels — 14% lower than last year. However, Shanghai’s NO2 level has soared to 9% higher than in 2019. Wood Mackenzie, an energy consultancy group, expects that the second quarter of 2020 will see China’s  oil  demand recover nearly to its normal level. European cities are still enjoying significant dips in air  pollution . The Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (Cams) shows that 42 of the 50 European cities it tracks had below-average NO2 levels in March. This pollutant, which is largely produced by diesel vehicles, dropped by 30% in Paris and London during the pandemic. How fast and how much European air pollution will rebound depends on the decisions of citizens, companies and government officials. “We do not know how people’s behaviour will change, for example avoiding public transport and therefore relying more on their own cars, or continuing to work from home,” Vincent-Henri Peuch, the director of Cams, told  The Guardian . Environmentalists hope that people will choose to  walk  and cycle more and drive their cars less. + The Guardian Images via Pexels

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Air pollution climbing back to pre-pandemic levels

Heimplanet celebrates 9 years of innovative inflatable tents

June 5, 2020 by  
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For almost a decade, Heimplanet has offered adventure-seekers an option for quick and easy tent set up in a variety of environments. The company first released a line of inflatable tents in 2011; now, with summer 2020 approaching, Heimplanet is reminding  outdoor  enthusiasts that there has never been a better time to go camping. Founders Stefan Clauss and Stefan Schulze Dieckhoff got the idea for the inflatable tents while on a trip to Portugal in 2003. Traveling along the coast to surf, the two often found themselves setting up their  camp  late at night and experiencing the inconveniences of conventional tents, such as fussing with poles in the dark and the rain. Related: The North Face unveils a geodesic tent that can withstand 60 mph winds The company offers four regular tent models that sleep one to six people and are built to tolerate 80 mph winds. The four models include Fistral, The Cave, Backdoor and Nias. Those seeking a  tent  developed for more extreme use can also splurge for the Maverick, which features room for up to 10 people and the capacity to handle wind speeds up to roughly 111 mph. The inflatable tents incorporate an “Inflatable Diamond Grid” consisting of an inflatable,  modular  cage-like structure that works as a geodesic dome and says goodbye to traditional tent poles. This design allows for high stability even in volatile weather conditions — the company’s Maverick model has even protected researchers and equipment in Antarctica. Thanks to the patented multi-chamber system, the tent’s entire frame is inflated and divided into separate chambers with one easy step that takes under one minute. This multi-chamber system gives the tent its stability, while also ensuring that if one air chamber is damaged the other chambers will keep the rest of the tent erect. Separate chambers can also be replaced or repaired individually, prolonging the life of the whole structure. Resistant double-layer construction combining an airtight thermoplastic polyurethane bladder on the inside and strong polyester fabric on the outside keeps the tent  insulated  and protected. Heimplanet is also part of the 1% For the Planet community, pledging 1% of sales to environmental preservation and restoration. The company has also recently implemented a “re-store” program that  restores  and repairs used models. + Heimplanet Images via Heimplanet, Luca Jaenichen, Sondre Forsell, Kevin Ellison, and Thibault Bevilacqua

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Have Pollution Levels Decreased Amid the Coronavirus Lockdown?

May 22, 2020 by  
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Does it take a pandemic to reduce pollution? The Earth … The post Have Pollution Levels Decreased Amid the Coronavirus Lockdown? appeared first on Earth911.com.

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Clean trucks are more important than ever

May 5, 2020 by  
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Cleaning up air pollution drives economic growth.

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How COVID-19 changes perceptions of trade in wildlife

May 5, 2020 by  
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Between the COVID-19 pandemic and Netflix’s hit series “Tiger King,” wildlife trade is occupying our collective psyche at a level never been seen before.

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Awair tracks 5 elements of air quality in your home

April 14, 2020 by  
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For San Francisco-based company Awair, “knowledge is power” when it comes to air quality. Co-founder Ronald Ro first had the idea for a smart air quality monitor when he discovered his daughter’s eczema complications were linked to the air around her. After pairing up with friend Kevin Cho to find new ways to observe the air quality in his home, Awair was born. Awair’s Element air quality monitor provides advanced technology in a stylish, compact device that blends seamlessly into any room design. The handy gadget can track five different factors affecting air quality: temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide , volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and microscopic particulate matter (PM2.5). By using the free Awair app, consumers can learn more about their overall air quality, manage individual sensor readings, track changes in their environment and even turn on alerts for sudden changes. Perhaps most important, the app also provides personalized tips to help users reduce their indoor pollution levels. Related: Futuristic air-purifying masks combat air pollution with innovative fan system Though air quality often goes unnoticed inside the household, the air we breathe at home can impact productivity, comfort and even long-term health . Most of us understand the dangers of unhealthy levels of carbon dioxide, and many home smoke alarms already come equipped with CO2 detectors. Awair goes above and beyond by also measuring VOCs, which are toxic chemicals emitted by common building materials, furniture and cleaning products, as well as PM2.5, the microscopic particulate matter that can emerge from cooking, wildfire smoke or vehicle traffic. Temperature can affect sleep quality and immune system functions, while humidity can aggravate conditions such as asthma and eczema, according to the company. The Element models also have the capability to integrate into a smart home ecosystem, including Google Home, Amazon Alexa, Ecobee Thermostat and Sensi Smart Thermostat. With Ecobee and Sensi Smart Thermostats systems, the Element will respond automatically to air quality measurements and turn on the home’s HVAC system if it detects a certain level of air pollution . + Awair Images via Awair

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