With water supplies dwindling in certain areas, and with the amount of pollution in water supplies all over the world, it is more important than ever that we pay attention to cleaning up and conserving the precious resource we can’t afford to lose. Conservation typically begins and ends with the land surrounding the source. In order to conserve specific watersheds in an effort to preserve a clean source, the lands surrounding said source must be protected. There is funding – federal, state, and private – available for most conservation projects, which acts as an incentive to get the protection necessary. Prioritizing areas that are of the utmost importance, when it comes to conservation, is the first step in the right direction.
It Starts and Ends With Watersheds
A watershed is any area of land that drains water into one location. This can be lakes, wetlands, streams, rivers, estuaries, and so on. These watersheds supply our drinking water and are responsible for providing a habitat for plants and animals. Their importance cannot be overstated. Things like pollution, runoff, and erosion impact the health of a watershed, thus are all things to which we must pay attention in order to properly conserve our water. This nature.org article on The Importantce of Watersheds is a great resource for simple protection facts and tidbits. The health of our water supplies is obviously correlated with our personal health, and that of those around us. So it’s obvious that the more knowledge and information taken in regarding preservation, the better. There are efforts throughout our country (and throughout the world for that matter), such as the Cadiz Water Project EIR, to create sustainable solutions intended to protect our watersheds.
Causes of Watershed Pollution
There are numerous causes when it comes to the pollution of watersheds and, in turn, our water supplies. Runoff of fertilizer and pesticides, drainage of waste from farms and factories, failed septic systems, and more are responsible for polluting the water on which we rely. With so many pollutants, it is important to identify the source of the problem, or from where the pollution is coming. This begins at a community level, wherein the support and cooperation of the entire public is necessary.
Getting to the Bottom of the Problem
The solution to cleaning up our watersheds and keeping them clean and sustainable doesn’t stop at merely pointing out the problems. It’s necessary that there be constant innovations, sustainable improvements, public involvement and communication, program integration and implementation, and so on. It takes different levels of cooperation from different agencies and groups of people in order to truly get to the protection necessary.
The Magnitude of Clean Water Issues
Aside from the aforementioned issues of maintaining a functional habitat for plants, animals, and humans alike, the magnitude of issues related to clean watersheds is global. Foods, tourism, production of different fibers and other manufactured goods, and more depend on healthy watersheds. Thus the monetary impact is also huge. Sustainability and preservation of the water used for so many things is crucial to just about every element of how we live. Understanding that a single watershed can have a global impact is crucial when it comes to realizing how important each one truly is. It starts at a local level and reaches far beyond that.
Local land trusts, industry groups, landowner groups, and more all have an impact on how we protect the land on which our watersheds exist. Overdevelopment of certain areas and overall pollution of the land surrounding water sources impacts the water we use for so many things. The conversation surrounding sustainability and clean water must incorporate how we use land and how it’s managed. Protection is necessary at level. The symbiotic relationship between water and the land surrounding it must be taken into account in order to better implement strategies that will have a long lasting effect.
Effective Conservation Overall
Conservation at any level requires effective strategies and cooperation every step of the way. Land conservation is crucial when it comes to protecting and conserving water sources. Land use, potential and existing contamination issues, and protection and restoration of said lands will only benefit the watersheds that exist within those habitats. Conservation starts with identifying everything surrounding the watershed itself. Once measures are taken to protect the land, the watershed requires special care and attention.
Educating the public on all the elements of sustainability, conservation tactics, usage, problems (potential and existing), and everything else surrounding our water will go a long way in protecting it. It starts at the source and goes well beyond that, which is important when it comes to understating the impact of everything we do. Once steps are taken to find solutions to each problem, it becomes increasingly important to stay on top things, as other issues will come to the forefront. An educated and knowledgeable public is the key component when it comes to bringing forth effective solutions for water conservation.
You may or may not be aware of the debate raging about palm oil. If you are pretty savvy about food ingredients and how they are sourced (ethically or no) than you probably already know a great deal about palm oil. If you are new to this journey, you might be asking yourself what is palm oil exactly? It is a big deal? The answer is a resounding yes. Chances are you are already using palm oil in your home and you need to know more about it.
Palm oil is an edible vegetable oil taken from the pulp of the fruits that grow on oil palms. Oil palms only grow in the tropics and 85% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Indonesia and Malaysia on both large-scale plantations and small-scale family farms. It is in about 50% of packaged foods. That is a huge percentage. If you still buy the occasional package of cookies, noodles, ice cream, soap, or cosmetics than you are supporting the palm oil industry and which side you support has some pretty big ramifications.
Why Do We Use Palm Oil?
Okay so you might be wanting to say “Stop right there. If palm oil is controversial than we do we use it at all?” That is a great question. Palm is favored for a variety of reasons. It is has wonderful cooking properties and it maintains its properties, and does not degrade, even under high temperatures. It is smooth and creamy with no discernable smell making it perfect for all types of cooking and baking. It has natural preservative properties which give it a long shelf life and it extends the shelf life of food products. It is high yield crop, making it efficient to grow and harvest. It uses less than half of the land required by other crops to produce the same amount of oil. This makes it the least expensive vegetable oil in the world. Heck, it is even used as fuel for cars and power plants. It is pretty amazing how versatile this oil is.
The Bad News About Palm Oil
The bad news is pretty bad. In some regions of the worlds the palm oil industry has lead to some serious deforestation. Primary forest (forest that was previously untouched) or which housed protected species and biodiversity, was cleared in order to be converted into palm oil plantations. Also in some cases palm oil plantations were erected without consideration or permission from the communities in the area and thus they were responsible for forcibly displacing people from their land. There have also been issues with worker’s rights, fair wages, and safe working conditions. The biggest issue for may though (other than deforestation) is the fact that the conversion of the forests also threatens animals such as orangutans, Sumatran tigers, elephants, and rhino.
Why Can’t We Just Stop Using Palm Oil?
The orangutans! The tigers! The virgin forests! We must stop using palm oil right?!
Well, the answer is not as simple as you think. Replacing palm oil with other types of vegetable oil (such as sunflower, soybean or rapeseed oil) would mean that much larger amounts of land would need to be used, since palm trees produce 4-10 times more oil than other crops within the same space. This means MORE forests would need to be converted for agricultural purposes and more environmental damage would occur. In addition to the fact that replacing palm oil with other types of oil will not be more beneficial for the environment (just the opposite actually) replacing palm oil is not always feasible due to palm oil’s unique properties as a food ingredient. Other oils might go rancid, they are more expensive, and they will not give the products the same texture and taste. This makes switching very unlikely from a business standpoint.
There is also the economic issue. In Indonesia and Malaysia, a total of 4.5 million people earn their living from palm oil production. Stopping the production of palm oil altogether would create significant problems for these people who support their families by working in this industry.
The Good News About Palm Oil
The good news is that there are companies and organizations working to fix these issues surrounding palm oil and we can choose to support those companies who are taking the proper steps to make palm oil more sustainable. In 2008, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) developed a set of environmental and social criteria which companies must comply with in order to produce Certified Sustainable Palm Oil (CSPO). When they are properly applied, these criteria can help to minimize the negative impact of palm oil cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil-producing regions.
The RSPO has more than 2,600 members worldwide which represent all links along the palm oil supply chain. They have committed to produce, source and/or use sustainable palm oil certified by the RSPO. The RSPO dictates that no primary forests with high concentrations of biodiversity, endangered species, fragile ecosystems, or culturally important areas can be cleared. They require a reduction in the use of pesticides and fires, fair treatment of workers according to local and international labour rights standards, and the need to inform and consult with local communities before development of any land. Only if they are RSPO certified can a company claim to be making or selling products with sustainable palm oil. All products that meet this stringent criteria carry the RSPO trademark. However, good palm oil only accounts for 21% of all palm oil consumed globally, so that is why we all need to share the story of #GoodPalmOil and make sure that brands and retailers know that we, as consumers, care about this issue and expect them to take action.. And just to let you know why we need to worry about this…worldwide demand for palm oil is expected to double by 2050 to 240 million tons. We need to act now.
For more information and to participate in the debate visit RSPO.
What Can You Do to Demand Sustainable Palm Oil?
At a consumer level, you have an important role to play. You can vote with your dollars and use the power of your purse to encourage companies to increase their societal and environmental responsibility. You can support these efforts by making sure that you only purchase products that contain certified sustainable palm oil. And you can also be vocal in your grocery store and on social media in demanding that your favorite palm oil containing products get certified. Download and print a Shopping Guide that gives more information on RSPO-certified products, as well as a list of some available on supermarket shelves.
You can also help by getting involved with a new campaign from the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) called What’s your food made of?. The campaign features three short fun films of knitted foods which raise awareness of good and bad palm oil. There is a difference and we need to know what that difference is and pursue the more sustainable products.
Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this campaign. All opinions are my own.
There is a lot of misinformation about what solar power is and how it can benefit people. These four facts will show you that solar is an important part of life today and in the future.
Fact One: Solar Gets More Affordable Every Year
A lot of people avoid solar energy because they don’t want the upfront costs of adding solar panels to their homes. While it’s true that there are some expenses associated with purchasing and installing solar panels and related equipment, it’s undeniable that solar power gets more affordable every year.
Some experts expect solar costs to fall by 40 percent by 2017. The technology has already become remarkably more efficient in recent years, and that trend is expected to continue into the foreseeable future.
Eventually, solar power may even become cheaper on a large scale than grid electricity generated from fossil fuels.
Many companies already offer affordable ways to add solar panels to your home. In most cases, you don’t have to pay the entire cost upfront. Instead, you can spread your payments over several years to make equipment more affordable.
Fact Two: Solar is the Planet’s Most Abundant Energy Resource
The sun bombards Earth with so much energy that, theoretically, it only takes 40 minutes to equal an entire year of consumption. The amount of solar energy that reaches Earth in one day could provide enough power to last 27 years.
People don’t currently have the technology to harness all that power, but solar panel designs come closer every year.
Solar is also a renewable resource that will never run out. As long as the sun shines, there is plenty of energy to go around. Homeowners just need the right technology to capture that energy and make it their own.
Fact Three: Solar Energy Creates Very Little Pollution
The use of fossil fuels introduces so much carbon into the atmosphere that it is ushering in a premature period of high temperatures. Reducing the amount of carbon and other pollution in the atmosphere is one of the only ways to avoid an incredibly hot future where crops die in the fields and ocean levels consume coastal cities.
Unfortunately, this isn’t something that people can kick down the road to future generations. Global warming is already happening and will have profound effects within just three decades.
Getting more energy from the sun would significantly reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and thus help prevent some of global warming’s worst effects.
Building solar panels and related equipment does create some pollution, but the benefits of solar quickly offset the effects. Current estimates show that somewhere between 87 and 97 percent of solar power will not create any pollution. That’s a benefit that no one can afford to ignore.
Fact Four: Solar Energy Has Been Used for Thousands of Years
Some people seem to get confused by solar technology. They ask what is solar energy? As if it is something completely new. It’s true that today’s solar panels can harness so much of the sun’s energy that there is enough leftover electricity to contribute to the grid, saving money and cutting carbon emissions. But people have used less advanced forms of solar energy for thousands of years.
During the seventh century B.C., people used magnifying glasses to intensify the sun’s rays and start fires. By the second century B.C., the Greeks had found a way to hone solar rays so well that they could set enemy ships on fire.
Of course, there were plenty of benign uses, too. Roman bathhouses were oriented toward the south so they could use the sun’s energy to warm water.
In a roundabout way, even the gas in your car is a type of solar energy, albeit a much dirtier version, since even fossil fuels are the result of ancient plant and animal life made possible by the sun.
The Future of Solar
Solar energy will keep getting more efficient. As other sources of energy start to dry up, solar will remain. The sooner you add solar power to your home, the sooner you can start reaping the benefits. As the technology improves, your home can keep improving with it.
Protecting our Babies and Belugas from Arctic Drilling – by Raffi Cavoukian
For 40 years I’ve been a children’s troubadour, best known for “Baby Beluga”—a song I’ve shared in concert with fans all across America. To this day, kids continue to inspire me. They speak freely from the heart, expressing pure joy, calling out an injustice, or asking a question. And they ask the best questions! Thinking of my young fans, I reacted strongly to a critical decision made this week affecting the fate of the Arctic.
In January’s State of the Union speech, President Obama said loud and clear that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change.” Just a few days later he announced new protections for the beautiful Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska, an area that’s already showing serious signs of climate change. The picture looked hopeful: a leader with the clear intention to honor the next generation by protecting our planet so it can nurture them.
Just two days after protecting the ANWR, President Obama proposed opening up areas off the Alaskan and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas leasing. Some of these waters are right off the shore of the newly protected Wildlife Refuge. So an oil spill here would be the equivalent of declaring half your cup of coffee “protected” while pouring sour milk into the rest—the whole thing would be ruined. But unlike a coffee, the Arctic is irreplaceable. I can hear the intelligent question any child would ask on hearing about this: “Why would the President do that?”
The President’s decision to give Shell the keys to the Arctic affects me personally, as it will the millions of children and parents for whom I’ve made music. We have been united by a love of beluga whales, known as the canaries of the sea for their sing-song calls. Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic pose a grave threat to our beloved belugas, and more.
Twice a year for their annual migration, belugas pass through the Chukchi Sea, close to where Shell will start drilling activities this summer. President Obama’s own experts have said that exposure to crude oil could be lethal for beluga whales, while the water pollution created by an oil spill would potentially ruin the quality and quantity of food for any remaining belugas. Bowhead and grey whales are also regularly present in these waters, as are seals, fish and birds of many kinds. During early spring and summer months, nearly the entire population of Pacific walrus can be found in the Chukchi Sea, which could be extremely vulnerable to a large oil spill at this time, while many birds may not survive a spill at all. Indigenous peoples in the Arctic depend on many of these species. A spill would destroy their livelihoods.
Another serious area of the concern around oil exploration activities in the Arctic is that whales may need to avoid certain areas where there is a lot of human activity, thus disrupting their feeding and migration patterns. In particular, drilling noise, ship noise, ice-breaking activity and seismic testing have strong potential to disturb whales who are very acoustically sensitive. The planned seismic testing uses an “airgun” which is a loud sound source suspended underwater; the sonic equivalent for the whales of a rocket being launched out of your living room every 10 seconds, 24 hours a day, for days to weeks at a time. We don’t know what this disruption will ultimately do to whales’ chance of survival, but the immediate effects of airguns can result in a deaf whale, which is a dead whale.
As part of gaining permission to drill in the Arctic, Shell had to apply for “Incidental Harassment Authorization”, which in plain English is a permit to harass the wildlife that they come across, even if the animals are nursing, breeding or feeding. Thousands of whales, seals and other animals fall within this jurisdiction.
For decades I’ve paid tribute to the magnificent belugas. In recent years, I’ve spoken out about the importance of honoring the world’s children with a healthy planet. Shell’s plans are at odds with both of these endeavors. This isn’t just about the future; the Arctic is melting irreversibly, right now. So, like any child would ask, I too, look at the prospect of drilling for oil in the Arctic and ask “Why would we do this?”
Raffi Cavoukian is an internationally renowned children’s entertainer with string of gold and platinum-selling recordings, who has been performing for over four decades. Follow him on Twitter @Raffi_RC
Happy earth day everyone!!! How will you celebrate?
This tree hugging gal will most likely celebrate by digging in some dirt and planting some things…pretty much what I have been doing all week. It never gets old seeing what I can create with good soil, sunshine, and organic, non GMO seeds. I was going to plant a tree but we “might” be moving soon and I would hate to plant a tree that I won’t be around to enjoy, so flowers and veggies it will be.
On a larger scale, beyond my own backyard there are also things we can do this earth day. This is my favorite day to donate to environmental causes and support stores who are giving portions of their proceeds to such causes. One such place doing this is ClimateStore. They are partnering with the Washington D.C. based non-profit Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) on Earth Day to provide renewable energy to communities in need. For a full week, 10% of proceeds from all purchases made on ClimateStore.com from April 19 – 25, 2015 will be donated to SELF.
The mission of SELF is to implement solar energy solutions for the 1.5 billion people living in energy poverty with their economic, educational, health care and agricultural development. They do this by conducting small solar installations in places with a specific need. For example, after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, SELF solar installations helped power eight health centers. In Benin, SELF built a solar irrigation system so that families could grow food in a sustainable, empowering way. SELF is currently working on a project to help provide lighting to schools in rural Columbia. They are a great organization and they are doing important work.
This Earth Day initiative, which ClimateStore has dubbed #10forSolar, gives consumers an opportunity to shop for themselves while donating to an amazing cause at no extra cost. 10% of the proceeds for every purchase will provide solar power!
I am an ambassador for ClimateStore so I am thrilled to see them backing this organization and donating a portion of the proceeds for Earth Week. Many people will no doubt be thinking about green and sustainable living and making a few purchases along these lines. It is great to know we can buy green products, support a company with a mission to fight climate change, AND fund solar energy for poverty stricken third world countries. Win, win!!
Some products that caught my eye were:
This mushroom farm. I have always wanted one!
and the Gathering a Garden Board Game…
I like knowing that my money is going twice as far and supporting causes I care about!!
Disclaimer: I am working in partnership with ClimateStore as a blog ambassador and I am compensated for my work . The opinions and thoughts contained in this post are 100% my own.