On Saturday, May 4th 2013, I will be graduating Penn State University with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Media Studies, along with minors in Environmental Inquiry, and Civic and Community Engagement.
There have been many “lasts” over the past few months: my last semester, my last finals, my last time riding the CATA bus, the last time taking a test in the testing center, the last time living in my apartment. All of these are sad, no doubt! I will miss walking through the elm trees, working in the surplus store, attending football games in the student section, getting lost in the library stacks, and having dinner downtown.
However, Penn State has brought me many firsts: my first conference presentation (and my 2nd, and 3rd, and 4th), research project (and many more), conference attendance, football game, collegiate hockey career, and many more. Through the last four years at Penn State, I have presented at four conferences across the United States, gained two professional memberships, finished many research projects, published two iBooks (Controversies and Deepwater Horizon), played club ice hockey.. and loved every minute of it!
What is next for me? Through my communications classes, I learned that I love to write and really enjoy print/e-media, and through my environmental studies classes, I have learned that I love and cherish the environment. So, after four years of school, I realized that my dream is to pursue environmental journalism: I will be attending the University of Montana for my Masters in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism. This summer, I will have an article published in the Earth Scientist and do some curriculum development for PAESTA before heading to Missoula, Montana.
I have no regrets upon graduation, and I am so happy that I chose the Blue and White. The saying on my favorite Penn State Alumni tee-shirt says “I wish I could go back. Not to change anything, but to do it all over again.” I could not agree more. Good luck class of 2013, and thank you Penn State!
This semester, I took a class called Foundations of Civic and Community Engagement. The class focused on public problems and their definition (see my blog post on why I think climate change is a public problem). For this class, I made a pecha kucha as the final project: a 20 minute “chit chat”, originating in Japan, that consists of 20 slides with 20 different pictures, totaling 6:20. I chose world water depletion as my public problem. Enjoy!
I have been honored by the Pennsylvania State Earth Science Teachers Association (PAESTA) this month, and I am a PAESTAR!! Here is the write up on their website:
This month, we recognize Abbey Dufoe, a May 2013 graduate of The Pennsylvania State University, earning her undergraduate major in Media Studies and minors in Environmental Inquiry and Civic & Community Engagement. In her time as an undergraduate student, Abbey completed several research projects where she developed curricular materials and supporting resources now available on the PAESTA website, such as five iBooks on topics relating to the hydrosphere. Abbey presented her PAESTA contributions at the 2012 Fall American Geophysical Union conference in San Francisco and has written an article for the summer 2013 issue of The Earth Scientist. Her work has earned her an Award of Honorable Mention from the Council on Undergraduate Research for being high-quality research among the top 10% of the undergraduate submissions from across the country and across all disciplines to CUR’s Poster on the Hill. Abbey is beginning a Master’s degree this fall in Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism at the University of Montana – after spending one last summer developing materials for the PAESTA Classroom.
Congratulations, Abbey – you are clearly a PAESTAR!
As the quote mentions, I will be working on one last project this summer before heading to Montana! Thanks PAESTA.
Keystone XL is a pipeline that is scheduled to be placed between Western Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, and there are many detrimental environmental implications of placing this pipeline across the United States. Abbreviated as KXL, the pipeline project will bring tar sands/oil sands and heavy crude oil through the pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
Also, according to 350.org and the NRDC, there are a few misconceptions about the pipeline. Since tar and oil sands are heavier, there is a greater risk of oil spills. The pipeline is less likely to contain the material, leading to a greater possibility of spills and breaks in the pipe. Also, since the piping will be so long, about 2,000 miles, it passes through ecologically sensitive areas and stretches across the country’s largest Aquifer, the Ogallala Aquifer, which provides water resources for 20 percent of the agricultural industry in the US.
Another thing to think about is terrorists. Most people wouldn’t think of international conflict as a con of the pipeline, but with a pipe stretching across Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois and Texas in multiple states, there is a greater risk of a terrorist attack on the pipeline. Since the pipeline is estimated to bring in at least 700,000 barrels a day, a bombing or attack on one part of the pipeline, the refinery in Steele City, Nebraska, the factory in Cushing, Oklahoma, or the refineries, shipping ports, or terminal in Port Arthur, Texas could cause devastating damage to the economy and energy security of the United States. Also, again, since the pipe is so long, it would be difficult to stop the flow of oil if we did get attacked, causing devastating environmental damage that would affect delicate ecosystems and national parks in Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota, as well as a possibility of oil seeping into the ground near the Ogallala Aquifer, causing the agricultural structure of the Mid-West to crumble temporarily as a result.
There is still time to stop the pipeline decision: On January 18th, 2012, the US Government turned down Canada’s proposal for the pipeline, citing environmental issues as a main cause of the disapproval. On May 4th, 2012, TransCanada (the agency in charge of the pipeline) resubmitted their claims. Over the past 4 years, the State Department of the United States has been conducting research on the environmental implications of the pipeline. However, on Monday, April 22, the State Department came out with a report explaining the outcome of their research: there is insufficient evidence that the pipeline will cause environmental damage. The EPA has been urging the State Department to look over the report again, and the State Department responded publicly, saying “officials have long-planned to conduct additional analysis and will incorporate comments from the public and other federal agencies into a final environmental report expected this summer.”
Skeptics say that the pipeline will create jobs: studies project that only 35 sustainable jobs will be created, and thousands of temporary jobs, sending these people back into unemployment when the project is over. Skeptics also say that there is little chance of a spill: Joe Oliver, Canada’s minister of natural resources, states that there is a 99.99965% of the oil will be transported safely. However, even .0004% of these large volumes of oil will create a very large mess – on April 10, 2013, there was an oil spill in Mayflower, Arkansas. This case shows that even a couple thousand barrels of oil spilled can cause catastrophic environmental damage and poses a risk to global health. I want to remind you that the KXL will transport 700,000 barrels of oil a DAY.
On top of all of this, the EPA reports that “oil sands crude is significantly more GHG [greenhouse gas] intensive than other crudes, and therefore has potentially large climate impacts.” We do not need more greenhouse gas emissions (these lead to global warming and climate change.
VisualCapitalist came out with an all-inclusive infographic on this topic last year, and it provides the best comprehensive overlook in infographic form that I coud find. See below:
3 years ago (on 4/20/2010, to be exact), there was an oil spill of catastrophic proportions in the Gulf of Mexico due to negligence by BP executives. This negligence caused the largest oil spill in history: 4.9 million barrels (205 million gallons) of oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico.
After this spill, air quality was diminished, sediment was polluted, water quality was diminished ecosystems and sea vegetation was damaged, wildlife (including dolphins, sperm whales, manatees, sea turtles, brown pelicans, American oystercatchers, and seaside sparrows) was killed, and the economy of the Gulf area was depleted from the spill. Overall, BP worked with the U.S. National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, NOAA, and other non-profits to help restore the Gulf to its prior environmental state.
New developments have been made in the BP case recently, so I will describe the background with a timeline:
- April 20, 2013 – Oil spill and explosion occurred, and oil would leak out of the broken well-head for 5 months
- September 19, 2010 – All oil has apparently stopped leaking, and total barrel count released
- 2010 – BP donates $22 million to the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for conservation efforts
- End of 2010 – Obama enacted Gulf Coast Ecosystem Task Force, which aimed to restore the ecosystem
- 2011 – $6.85 million donated to the NFWF by the Recovered Oil Fund for Wildlife, along with about $3 million from other donors
- June 29, 2012 – Obama passed RESTORE Act (Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability Tourist Opportunities and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast States Act) aimed to continually fulfill the goals set by the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Task Force
- May-October 2012 – Scientists and Coast Guard were still seeing oil sheens pop up throughout the Gulf
- March 2012 – BP reaches a settlement with lawyers for economic livelihood compensation for $7.8 billion
- November 15, 2012 - BP tried in court – charged with 14 felony counts (including corporate manslaughter, violation of Clean Water Act and Migratory Bird Act, and obstruction of Congress)
- November 15, 2012 – BP was fined $4.5 billion towards criminal charges and toward settling civil penalties
So, it seems, to the public at least, that the oil spill was under control: the oil had stopped flowing, clean-up efforts were in place, and fines were doled out. However, in recent months, more drama has come up regarding the BP case.
In February (2013), a hearing started in New Orleans against BP, charging them with economic damage, gross negligence, and environmental damage. The list of charges includes violation of the Clean Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, and gross negligence resulting in the largest oil spill in history. On top of that, in 2012, BP was banned by the EPA from doing business with the United States government, staying that BP can not bid on any federal oil leases until BP can provide sufficient evidence that it has revamped its business standards. On top of THAT, BP faces cases in environmental and economic damage from four states, including Alabama, Florida, Mississippi and Louisiana, not to mention thousands more from the public once the February 2013 trial is over for personal damages and public health issues. However, all of these charges depend on if the court finds BP guilty of negligence – if they can prove that BP purposely neglected safety protocol, they will have more fines placed on them and the cases will start flooding in. If not, then there will be minimal fines.
Sadly, proving negligence and proving that BP’s spill had colossal environmental ramifications may be harder than everyone thinks. Dr. Moby Solangi of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Mississippi states the following about the health of the Gulf:
In addition to all that oil you have the Missouri, the Arkansas, all these rivers bringing agricultural waste right down into the gulf, creating dead zones. Combine that with the impact of flooding. It’s going to be very, very hard unless you can isolate a particular substance to work out the toxicology here.
On top of that complexity comes the sad truth that until recently, research in the area was minimal, meaning that the real scale of what has been lost may never be fully known.
Despite the fact that BP could afford to pay off their debts, a YouGov/Huffington Post poll has found that BP’s efforts to clean up the Gulf are “poor” at best. Even though I realize that this sample of people is not exactly representative of the mass public, it is still interesting to note that despite the advertising that BP has shown since the spill, people aren’t buying it. The poll found that 59% of viewer’s views were unchanged after watching the ad.
So where are we now? It is important to remember that despite all of the money and effort being put forth in the Gulf, it is nearly impossible to get every bit of oil out of the water and off of animals. The Gulf will feel the repercussions of this environmental tragedy for years to come, and conservation groups will have to continue to work on removing oil from animals for many years to come. The Guardian predicts that BP will have to pay $25 billion towards restoration of environmental damage, and this case should continue into the fall due to the magnitude of defendants, testimonies and evidence. Only time will tell if the image of BP remains tarnished or the Gulf comes out victorious.
The premise of the bottled water dilemma is that the water in the bottles it not well regulated and isn’t from where the bottle/company says it is from. Also, the plastic making up the bottles clogs landfills, wastes resources, and pollutes the oceans.
An analysis done by the National Resource Defense Council in 1999 shows that bottled and tap water each come from freshwater sources like lakes, springs, and aquifers. However, tap water is more regulated and has to go through a more intensive filtration system, meeting the Environmental Protection Agency drinking-water standards, which bottled water doesn’t have to meet (they have standards from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which aren’t as stringent). Even though both are regulated, the EPA system provides testing of water sources for tap water up to several times a day, but the FDA will test bottled water sources either weekly or monthly. Along the same lines, tap water facilities must fill out a source and contaminant report annually under the EPA, but bottled water facilities are not required to share their contaminant report with consumers. If this doesn’t change your mind, do a tap water vs. bottled water blind test – most of the time, consumers choose tap!
On top of the regulation dilemma, the plastic from the bottles causes devastating damage to the environment. Not only is plastic made out of oil, but most people do not recycle. If they do recycle, sometimes the facilities where they recycle don’t take the recycling to the recycling plant and instead throw it in the trash, leading the bottles into landfills and into the ocean. If the plastic is not biodegradable, which most bottles are not, the carcinogens in the plastic seep into the ground, polluting the ground water. If the bottles make their way into the ocean, they make a dead spot, ruining the delicate marine ecosystems. Also, it is almost impossible to remove the plastic from these areas in the ocean, the largest one being “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” For more information on these implications, check out my past blog post on the Garbage Patch and Method Soap bottles.
More and more bottling companies are making recycled bottles for their one-use water bottles, which is taking a step in the right direction. However, there still needs to be accountability on the consumer and the waste companies to actually take the bottles to the recycling plant.
My view on this is: why would you pay for water when it comes out of the tap? Also, I like tap water better, and as you all know, I love to help save the environment. Keeping plastic out of landfills by not even purchasing bottled water helps lessen waste on land and at sea. Unless it is an emergency or there is absolutely no tap water around for some odd reason, you will NEVER see me with a bottle of water that I purchased. Besides it being expensive, it is wasteful. And if you don’t like the way that it tastes, you can buy a Bobble bottle, or a Brita bottle, both of which use reusable plastic and have a filter.
So, in the spirit of Earth Day, my challenge to you is to fill up your reusable bottle before spending 1-3 dollars on bottled water. It is free, and the possibilites for reusable bottles are endless. As with every “act of green,” a lot of little actions go a long way!
For some, Earth Days have come and gone for years without even a thought. For others, Earth Day symbolizes a day to celebrate all which with the Earth has provided us, including air to breathe, water to drink, and land to develop. So, will you celebrate this year?
I take time on this blog every week discussing world-wide water issues, domestic oil disasters, banning plastic bags, recycling, national monuments/parks, energy usage, climate change, smog and pollution, geology, and many more in an effort to alert the public of the growing problem of environmental issues and the damage that we are inflicting to the planet which allows us to sustain life.
But, what does celebrating Earth Day really mean to me? It means that I provide the public, including YOU, with environmental education so that you and others can tell take action on these environmental problems, like telling your government that you do not support harmful energy activities like fracking and pipelines, educating younger generations on the importance of conserving energy and recycling, and learning about issues that many not be affecting you now, but will definitely come to the forefront of many conversations in the future.
The benefits of education are endless: it provides you with knowledge to make your own decisions and own actions, as well as the drive to tell others about what you believe and why you believe it. So, this Earth Day, I encourage you to talk to your peers about what worries you about the future of the environment, whether it be the dwindling water supply, our dependence on foreign oil, or the pollution in the atmosphere. And for those of you who do not usually participate in Earth Day, I encourage you to listen to your peers in order to form your own educated opinion about these timely issues.
I will be celebrating this Earth Day with a week of blog posts and updates on my favorite environmental issues. Will you be listening?
(For the official Earth Day website, sponsored by the Earth Day Network, click here! The Earth Day Network is focusing on climate change this year.)
Yes, we are hosting an “Earth Week” in order of Earth Day this year at Penn State!
Tomorrow (4/19), Earth Week will commence with an Earth Day expo from 11am-2pm in the HUB, where I will be hosting a table for Lion Surplus, the surplus and salvage warehouse of Penn State. We will be educating students and faculty on what Lion Surplus really is: all of the old equipment, furniture, and everything else Penn State gets rid of comes to our warehouse, where we re-sell it to the public. We will be talking about the importance of recycling and most importantly, re-using. People often forget that reusing or upcycling items is more sustainable than recycling, and the item can find a new home!
There are many speakers throughout the week, including a talk with Tom Szaky (Thursday 4/18 6pm 105 Forum), founder of TerraCycle, a company who’s mission is to ”eliminate the idea of waste. We do this by creating national recycling systems for previously non-recyclable or hard-to-recycle waste.” Also, urban revitalization strategist Majora Carter will talk on Monday April 22 (6pm, 105 Forum) to wrap up the celebration.
Penn State’s Earth Day website has more information on the schedule across all branch campuses as well, and highlights include Spring Watershed Cleanup and Shaver’s Creek Earth Day Cleanup on Saturday April 20, and a talk by NPR science correspondent Christopher Joyce (talk titled “Scientists and Journalists: Codependents in the Age of Disappearing Media”).
There will also be a viewing of the documentary “Tapped”, which I have been dying to see! It is an exposee of the unregulated bottled water industry, plastic production, and the communities that are negatively affected by the industry. Even though it is almost 5 years old now, the ideas still hold true for most of the bottled water industry. I will have to write a blog post about my feelings on this, and I’m surprised that I haven’t yet! Check out the trailer below:
Lastly, Penn State Professor and climate scientist Richard Alley presented a talk titled “Rising Seas, Warming Planet” last week, and it will air on C-Net this weekend on channel 98 (Comcast, in State College). For more information on this, click here.
I hope that these events are well attended this week. Check back here for my summaries of various talks and an overview of the week!
Managing Editor Heather Libby from the Huffington Post created this infographic titled “13 Oil Spills in the Last 30 Days”: it showcases the large oil spills, like the one in Arkansas in late March, as well as smaller ones. Although, when it comes to the environment, no spill is a small spill.. Click through for the full infographic.
This infographic goes over the oil spills in the last 30 days around the world, even covering Nigeria and Equador as well as the United States and Canada. Sadly, oil spills are becoming more and more common as there has been a world-wide push for crude oil.
The most astounding figure in the graphic for me is the total amount of oil spilled: 1,185,000 gallons. Granted, it’s not as much as the BP oil spill (205 million gallons over the course of a few weeks), but as I mentioned before, no spill is a small spill when it comes to the well-being of the environment. We also have to think about how this happened: in the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill, safety regulations promoted equipment failure, causing a breakage of the cap and malfunctioning equipment in the drill site, but how can all of these spills keep occurring? I hope that the fines places on BP and the awareness of oil spills from that tragedy have a global impact on drilling regulations in the future.
Here is a video of the damage done in Arkansas:
Spills like this are also getting the attention of the national media, and people are beginning to question what impact the proposed Keystone XL pipeline will have on the environment. As sad as it is, seeing oil spills in their community is really motivating people to respond negatively towards Keystone XL in hopes of saving the environment from oil spills. Not only does the still have direct affects on the environment, but oil is notorious for sticking around, literally, on wildlife and vegetation. The Huffington Post also reported that schoolchildren were throwing up from the fumes in Mayflower, Arkansas after the spill. So, as we have known from previous environmental tragedies, people are only mobilized when it affects them personally. Let’s hope that these 13 spills have an effect on the American public and there is a gigantic push for regulation, as there always should have been.
I’m back from my brief hiatus (sickness and term papers don’t let up in late winter/early spring!) with three stories to catch up on this weekend.
1. 2013 Allergy Season Could Be The Worst Ever: As if spring allergies aren’t bad enough, climate scientists are hypothesizing that global warming brings early spring, and the high levels of carbon dioxide bring MORE pollen than ever before. Break out the tissues and allergy medication!
2. President Obama Creates New National Monuments: A few weeks ago, Obama designated 5 new national monuments, including the following: the Brandywine Valley in Delaware and Pennsylvania (my backyard!), Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad in Maryland, Rio Grande de Norte land area in New Mexico, Charles Young Buffalo Soldier home in Ohio, and the San Juan Islands in Washington. Click through to the article to explore the new natural monument sites!
3. The Aftermath of Earth Hour 2013: If you aren’t familiar with Earth Hour, check out my prior blog post. The Instagram blog compiled a list of landmarks around the world that wend dark for Earth Hour and the World Wildlife Fund compiled a list of participants. Overall, I am very happy about the amount of participants this year, and raising awareness for global celebrations of the Earth is awesome!