Bioremediation

There have been countless posts about us as humans not being efficient and producing to much waste, whether its chemical, or physical waste. Luckily there is something relatively new called bioremediation.

This technique is a waste management technique that uses organisms to remove or neutralizes pollutants from a contaminated site. According to the EPA, bioremediation is a “treatment that uses naturally occurring organisms to break down hazardous substances into less toxic or non toxic substances”. Bioremediation can be “split up” into two techniques called In Situ or Ex Situ.

In Situ bioremediation involves cleaning of the contamination wherever the contamination happened (on the contaminated site), while Ex Situ involves removing the toxins and contaminants elsewhere (labs, facilities, etc.).

Now you might be thinking: How would the organisms clean up metals and other heavy contaminants? It certainly is not easy for them, but scientists have discovered that by using bone char, it helps the organisms absorb small amounts of metals such as copper, cadmium, and zinc, while fish bones help absorb lead interestingly enough.

I personally never heard of this technique and it was really eye popping for me, and I hope it was just as interesting to you as it was for me. Clearly, this is a growing field that still needs much more research, but it interesting that we don’t use any energy or produce any waste…this technique just simply cleans it up with little to no drawbacks.

Site used: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioremediation

 

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How Dogs are Harming the Environment

While looking for something interesting to write my blog post about, I came across an interesting website that listed 10 ways in which we are hurting the environment and don’t know we are doing so. Number 1 on the list? Using plastic bags to pick up after your dog. I found this hard to believe at first, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how much sense it made. There are SO many people with dogs and everyone knows it’s socially unacceptable NOT to pick up after your dog…plus, I’ve never seen anyone use anything other than a plastic bag to do so. Thus, it makes sense that this use of plastic bags really adds up.

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Each year, the 78 million dogs living in the US produce 10 million TONS of feces. And, believe it or not, about 40% of dog owners don’t pick up after their pet, and this waste pollutes our waterways and poses a huge risk to public health, mentioned another article. So leaving your dog’s waste on the ground is NOT a valid alternative to using plastic bags …But what are we supposed to use instead?

Another website lists alternatives to using plastic bags. The list includes using a pooper scooper, flushing your dog’s waste down the toilet (!!!!!), burying the waste, and even using it as compost! Another alternative that seems sensible (but not necessarily widely accessible) is to put the waste in a methane digester, which can produce power for, for example, a streetlight (This is an option in nearby Cambridge, MA).

NOTE: flushing pet waste is banned in many cities, although I’m not sure how that regulation is enforced…

Sources:

http://www.care2.com/causes/u-s-waters-polluted-by-10-million-tons-of-dog-poop.html#ixzz3ZHd7bkLX%A0

http://www.dogster.com/lifestyle/dog-poop-tips-13-ways-pick-up

 

Canadian Wildfire

 

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The intense wildfire that arrived in early wildfire season, has forced 90,000 people to evacuate in Arberta and is now approaching neighboring province of Saskatchewan. The wildfire had doubled in size over the night due to the dry and windy weather. More than 500 firefighters are battling the blaze around Fort McMurray, with the help of 15 helicopters and 14 air tankers. More than 1,400 firefighters and 133 helicopters are fighting blazes across the province.

High temperature draw moisture out of live and dead trees and bushes, making them more flammable. The heat can also alter precipitation, as well as shift spring thaw earlier, lengthening the fire season. Scientists say big fires will ignite sooner and sooner in the year in the western U.S. and Canada as the snow pack continues to dwindle during warmer winters or dries out sooner during warmer springs, leaving terrain parched for more weeks of the year. For example, in the American West a 1 degree Celsius rise in average temperature could increase the annual acreage burned by up to 600 percent in certain regions.

Source:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/07/americas/fort-mcmurray-fire-canada-duplicate-2/

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/catastrophic-canadian-wildfire-is-a-sign-of-destruction-to-come/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/05/05/raging-wildfire-drives-out-newly-resettled-evacuees/83960660/

Smart Growth America’s Urban Sprawling Study

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As cities and towns across the United States have become more populated, their geographic regions have expanded rapidly. This phenomenon is known as urban sprawl. Smart Growth America recently released a report investigating urban sprawl in our country’s metropolitan areas. The reason why I found this study so interesting and wanted to share it with you all is because the researchers were able to quantify urban sprawling, with a “sprawl index score”, and ranked cities using this metric. “Analyzing 221 US Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) and Metropolitan Divisions with a population of at least 200,000”, the report ranked cities from the most dense to the most sprawling. Below are the top ten most dense and top ten most sprawling cities in the United States:

The Top 10 Most Dense Cities Are:

  1. New York City, NY-NJ (Sprawl Index Score 203.4)
  2. San Francisco, CA (194.3)
  3. Atlantic City, NJ (150.4)
  4. Santa Barbara/Santa Maria, CA (146.6)
  5. Champaign, IL (145.2)
  6. Santa Cruz, CA (145.0)
  7. Trenton, NJ (144.7)
  8. Miami, FL (144.1)
  9. Springfield, IL (142.2)
  10. Santa Ana/Anaheim, CA (139.9)

The Top 10 Most Sprawling Cities Are:

  1. Hickory, NC (24.9)
  2. Atlanta, GA (41.0)
  3. Clarksville, TN-KY (41.5)
  4. Prescott, AZ (49.0)
  5. Nashville, TN (51.7)
  6. Baton Rouge, LA (55.6)
  7. Inland Empire, CA (56.2)
  8. Greenville, SC (59.0)
  9. Augusta, GA-SC (59.2)
  10. Kingsport, TN-VA (60.0)

Urban sprawling has a negative impact on the environment and the people living in affected areas. The report notes several, negative environmental impacts of urban sprawl, including increased energy use, pollution, and traffic congestion. Additionally, the researchers found “a number of correlations between sprawl and poor quality of life, finding that people living in sprawling cities have higher living costs, shorter life expectancies, increased risk of obesity and diabetes, and lower economic mobility than those in dense cities.”

There are many actions that you can take to help stop or reverse urban sprawl. In the future, you could opt to live in a smaller home within the city as opposed to choosing a larger home on the outskirts. If you do reside in a location far from the heart of the city then you could utilize public transportation and, thus, reduce the environmental impact of your commute. Lastly, for those of you who see yourself getting involved in city planning or government, advocating for a pedestrian-friendly community or for an increase in public transportation options would help draw people back towards the center of the metropolitan areas and, thus, would hinder urban sprawling.

Further Reading (Sources): 

National Cherry Blossom Festival

If you ever want to visit Washington D.C., you should go during the Spring time, more specifically March. Go down to the Washington D.C. Tidal Basin, and you will see beautiful white and pink trees lining the sparkling water, which then leads all the way up to the tall Washington Monument. If you go on a day with nice weather, you will see everyone out on the walk/bike path, admiring the boom of the cherry blossoms. This is the time of the season for the National Cherry Blossom Festival. 

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For a brief history on the Washington D.C. Cherry Blossoms, they were planted in 1912 as a gift from the Japanese people to the United States. They symbolize the friendship between Japan and the U.S. by meaning of the “evanescence of human life and epitomizes the transformation of Japanese culture throughout the ages” (National Park Service). The natural beauty of the blossoms express arts and culture of the community in the spring time, within the country’s capital.

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For the National Cherry Blossom Festival, other than the trees, there is a parade, endless food trucks, and plenty of people feeling the signs of spring!

I went to to Washington D.C. last year to visit my aunt, and by surprise, the cherry blossoms were in full bloom. I never knew about the cherry blossoms until I visited in March, and they were beautiful. My mom, my aunt and I went on a walk on the Tidal Basin, and got to enjoy the beautiful colors of the cherry blossoms. Some of the photos on the this blog are ones I took when I was there. I definitely recommend going and see the cherry blossoms because coming from cold, wet, and gloomy Boston, they brought the spirit of spring that made me feel more cheerful.IMG_9618.JPG

Sources:

About

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/cherryblossom/history-of-the-cherry-trees.htm

http://cherryblossomwatch.com/

https://washington.org/run-bike-exercise-outdoors-washington-dc

 

The Mystery of Lucid Dreaming

When I was younger, my older cousin told me that she used to lucid dream. In short, this meant that she was able to control her own actions within her dreams. To do this, she would become aware that she was dreaming, and therefore be able to take control of her actions and what would happen. This was always such an interesting concept to me, and I even researched how you could train yourself to lucid dream. There are many ways you can do this, like creating patterns in your life surrounding your dreams. For example, you could draw a dot on your hand and remind yourself that every time you look at the dot to ask yourself if you were dreaming.

The science behind lucid dreaming is that you are somewhere between asleep and awake. you are at a point where you have control of your consciousness but are still in a dream state. Therefore, you are able to use your usual abilities to create your own adventures within your dreams. Although this is something you can develop the ability to do,  some people simply come upon this ability or are born with it. Like my cousin, this makes you more likely to experience lucidity with frequency.

Sources: http://www.susanblackmore.co.uk/Articles/si91ld.html, http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/inside-the-mind/human-brain/lucid-dreaming.htm, https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-superhuman-mind/201212/lucid-dreaming-and-self-realization

Another Cute One on its way to Extinction

The Margay cat is so cute yet in so much trouble. Don’t you just want to have one of these in your home to call your own. The Margay cat is currently near threatened and its current state is only getting worse. The Margay cats are tree dwelling animals and live in forest habitats in Mexico and further south through Central and South America. Margays are very intolerant to adapting to new habitats therefore who are killing these animals yet again, humans. Once again, the deforestation across the world is impacting the lives of our most precious creatures. Taking down trees is like just stripping these animals of their homes. Margays as well as other animals live and thrive in the wild, taking it away from them and leaving them with nothing is simply cruel. How would you like it if someone just came and took your home away leaving you with nothing. Fending for yourself would get increasingly hard right?

 

Margay