Glitter Sucks

I hate glitter. Screw fun.

And it’s terrible for the environment too. Studies of traditional plastic glitter (and natural glitter – made from the mineral mica) were both bad for the environment, by testing plant growth in water in the presence of the glitters:

The research found that after 36 days, the presence of glitter halved the root length of common duckweed (Lemna minor), while levels of chlorophyll in the water were three times lower than in control conditions, indicating reduced levels of phytoplankton, or microalgae.

Glitter is used in a variety of decorative ways, including on clothing, in arts and crafts, and in cosmetics and body paint. Traditional glitter is a form of microplastic consisting of a plastic core made of polyester PET film, which is coated with aluminum and then covered with another thin plastic layer.

Along with other forms of single-use microplastics, such as microbeads, there have been efforts to phase out PET glitter with the introduction of more biodegradable alternatives.

One version has a core of modified regenerated cellulose (MRC), sourced mainly from eucalyptus trees, but this is still coated with aluminum for reflectivity and then topped with a thin plastic layer. Another form is mica glitter, which is increasingly used in cosmetics.

However, this new study found that the effects of MRC and mica glitters on root length and chlorophyll levels were almost identical to those of traditional glitter.

Source: Glitter litter could be damaging rivers: Research finds biodegradable alternatives are no better for the environment

Wild Predators Are Relying More on Our Food—and Pets

SOME OF NORTH America’s big predators—wolves, mountain lions, bobcats, and the like— are now getting nearly half their food from people. It’s a big shift away from eating foods found in nature and could put them in conflict with one another, or lead to more human-carnivore encounters on running trails or suburban backyards.

The complete list of these carnivores studied in the report includes foxes, coyotes, fishers, and martens.

How did they know this? The team used chemical isotopes of carbon taken from the animals’ fur and bone samples to distinguish between human-grown and naturally occurring foods. “Human foods look like corn, because we give corn to everything,” Manlick says. Corn syrup can be found in many processed foods, while corn grain is fed to beef, chicken, and pork that humans eat. But corn looks very different than natural foods when analyzed in the lab.

Source: Wired

Silent, home rooftop wind turbines

Small wind turbines scaled to the right size for residential and urban areas have so far lived in the shadows of their larger wind-farm-sized counterparts. The power output has been too low for a reasonable return on investment through energy savings and the noise they produce is louder than most homeowners can deal with.

A Dutch renewable energy start-up called The Archimedes is working to solve both of those problems in a new class of small-scale wind turbine — one that is almost silent and is far more efficient at converting wind into energy. The company states that the Liam F1 turbine could generate 1,500 kWh of energy per year at wind speeds of 5m/s, enough to cover half of an average household’s energy use.

When used in combination with rooftop solar panels, a house could run off grid. “When there is wind you use the energy produced by the wind turbine; when the sun is shining you use the solar cells to produce the energy,” The Archimedes CEO Richard Ruijtenbeek said.


Tasmanian Devils Reintroduced to Mainland Australia

Conservationists working with disease-free Tasmanian devils have taken the next step in what they hope will be a “rewilding” project that could eventually see the species reintroduced to the Australian mainland.

About 30 devils, free of devil facial tumour disease, have been released into a 500ha, predator-free sanctuary in the Barrington Tops national park, north of Sydney.

Aussie Ark will use tracking devices and camera traps to monitor how the animals fare in their new environment and consider whether the release of devils into a wild environment could help conservation.

If the devils breed and thrive in the sanctuary, another group of animals will be released into a second predator-free area in a year’s time.


US Farmers Getting Concerned about Climate Change

According to the USDA, more than half of the 2 million farms in the United States are “very small farms,” grossing less than $10,000 annually.

The majority of the smaller farmers Truthout spoke with for this story want to see a federal government that tackles climate change head-on and restructures agriculture to be a solution by encouraging diversified farming that stores (rather than releases) carbon. Industrial agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, through its reliance on chemical fertilizers, the manufacturing of which releases carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, and depletes the soil of nutrients. It’s a system that farmers are “stuck in,” says Tom Rosenfeld, who grows apples, blueberries, strawberries and peaches on 120 acres of farmland in southwest Michigan.

Many small farmers say they’ve yet to see a presidential candidate or down-ballot candidate fully address their needs in this election cycle. President Trump’s reelection campaign has not yet put out a climate plan. And Biden’s climate plan does not yet spell out what small-scale farmers say they want, like a return to the New Deal-era concept of “parity,” a supply-management strategy designed to prevent the kind of wasteful over-production of soybeans and corn that wipes the land of biodiversity and results in unstable prices.

Source: Ecowatch

Compost Yourself – That means you, composted

Loop, a startup based in Delft, the Netherlands, has come out with a solution to an eco-friendly afterlife with its Loop Living Cocoon coffin made from wood chips and mycelium that quicken the process of decomposition and help nature acquire vital nutrients more effectively.

The coffin itself is made out of mushroom fiber.

With the inside filled with microorganisms to help break down your no-longer-needed body. It takes about 3 years to compost yourself.

Cost is about US $1,750.

Last step, dump composted you back into the environment.

Source: Bored Panda

Source: Loop composting coffin

California Takes a Big Step Toward Making Polluters Pay for Their Messes

Map source: LA Times “Exide’s troubled history: years of pollution violations but few penalties”

Making polluters pay for their externalities:

A bill currently sits on Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk that proponents say will provide long-needed oversight of the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the state agency responsible for regulating hazardous waste generation, management and toxic cleanup in California.

Broadly prescriptive, Assembly Bill 995 includes a requirement to develop a hazardous waste management plan, and significant changes to the way hazardous waste fees are calculated and managed in an attempt to help plug major financial holes within the agency. According to community advocates, it also creates new and vital safeguards for some of the state’s most vulnerable, environmentally burdened communities.

Many environmental experts, legislators, community members and other critics of the DTSC say sweeping agency reforms like those included in the bill are a long time coming. And they say they are needed to prevent another environmental and fiscal disaster like Exide from happening again. Pollution from the former Exide Technologies lead battery recycling facility in Southeast L.A. has contaminated as many as 10,000 homes, impacted some 100,000 people and already cost taxpayers more than $250 million in cleanup costs, with waning hopes of the polluters ever being held fully financially accountable.

Source: Capital & Main

Senate reached an agreement to phase out hydrofluorocarbons

Senate Republicans and Democrats reached an agreement last week on a plan to phase out chemicals called hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, which contribute to climate change. The plan would cut the use of HFCs 85 percent by 2035, a target that is in line with an international treaty called the Kigali Amendment — which the Trump administration has refused to join.

HFCs are the secret sauce in air conditioners and refrigerators that actually cool the air. The refrigerants cycle between liquid and gas as they flow through these appliances. If there’s a leak, they are emitted into the atmosphere, where they can be thousands of times more powerful at warming the planet than carbon dioxide.

There are already less-damaging alternatives to HFCs available. Phasing them out would create thousands of jobs building new appliances, according to industry groups, and could help the world avoid an estimated 0.5 degree C (0.9 degree F) of warming. The bipartisan plan will be included as an amendment to an upcoming energy bill, although it’s unclear whether it will make it through Congress or past Trump’s pen.

Source: Grist

New Research Shows Disproportionate Rate of Coronavirus Deaths in Polluted Areas

COVID-19 can be made more serious — and, in some cases, more deadly — by a specific type of industrial emission called hazardous air pollutants, or HAPs, according to new peer-reviewed research by ProPublica and researchers at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. The study, published Friday in the journal Environmental Research Letters, found this association in both rural counties in Louisiana and highly populated communities in New York.

The analysis examined air pollution and coronavirus deaths in the roughly 3,100 U.S. counties and found a close correlation between levels of hazardous pollutants and the per-capita death rate from COVID-19.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency defines HAPs as chemicals known or suspected to cause cancer and other serious health problems. Under the Clean Air Act, industrial facilities emitting these pollutants are subject to regulations.

Hazardous air pollution may help explain the disproportionate number of COVID-19 deaths in communities like West Baton Rouge Parish, home to Port Allen. With 39 deaths as of Sept. 7, the parish’s per-capita death rate from COVID-19 ranked it among the top 3% of all U.S. counties with at least 30 deaths. Several of its neighbors in Louisiana’s industrial corridor also rank near the top of the list.

Source: ProPublica

Resources on Fire

The recent nasty fires in California (and elsewhere – see this interactive fire map) have given rise to interest in fire science, fire ecology, and related careers and research. The Berkely Fire Research Lab has compiled a series of wide-ranging videos and resources on fire and fire science:

Learning Material

Overview / Wildfires / General Repository / Structural Fire Engineering / Engineering Disasters

After exploring our website or seeing one of the hundreds of news articles on wildfires, you might ask how you can learn more? What fire science or fire protection engineering is? And is there a career in it? Well, here we would like to give you a little introduction into the basics of Fire Protection Engineering and Fire Science. These resources have been compiled to answer common questions and are intended to give you an insight into the field from the basics to advanced topics. But if you are curious about more feel free to reach out to us on twitter (@gollnerfire or @FranzHRichter).

Source: Berkely Fire Research Lab