Archive for Agriculture

The Not So Silent Spring Summary

The author of Silent Spring is Rachel Carson and it was published on September 27, 1962. The book focused on the detrimental effects of certain pesticides on birds such as DDT. The pesticide causes harm to birds eggs and makes the shells thinner. The book even suggests that DDT caused a decline in the reproductive rates of birds. She mentions how the chemical industry that produces this pesticides using disinformation to misinform the public about the effects of DDT.  Uncontrolled and unexamined pesticide use in the environment has the potential of harming and even killing not only animals, but also affecting humans as well. The title even suggest the long-term effects of DDT could produce a spring season where birds are extinct and society is unable to hear the songs of birds; creating silence. It became quite popular after its publication and made its way to the Book-of-the-Month-Club as well as the New York Times best seller’s list. Finally, the novel became so popular in 1972 that it generated enough support to ban DDT in the United States. Finally, President John F. Kennedy directed the Science Advisory Committee to investigate the claims made. After investigation, there was an immediate strengthening of the regulation of chemical pesticides all around theUnited States. We can see how our environment was threatened and through voicing a strong opinion, change in policy can make a long-lasting difference in our community.

 -Nicholas Chan

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BioChar: The New Approach to Carbon Sequestration.

Coal, a fossil fuel, emits foul and harmful gasses into our atmosphere, and with a lack of political support for clean coal, a new alternative is here, biochar. Biochar is a newfound way of trapping carbon with so called “green coal”. Biomass waste we would never think of using, such as peanut shells actually release carbon when it decomposes. However, by burning the remains in a process known as pyrolysis, what’s left over is biochar or green coal. South American societies began this process and dug back this green coal in the ground in order to lock in carbon instead of allowing it to widen the hole in the ozone layer. If this process is applied efficiently and effectively, scientists agree that billion of tons of carbons could be sequestered in soil instead of being released into our atmosphere. Carbon sequestration can be an effective approach to runaway global warming. This new green coal is proved to be more effective than nature’s natural approach to the problem. While trees or plants lock in the carbon for only 15-20 years, biochar could possibly lock in carbon for possibly 100 years. Along with its obvious benefits, the nutrients brought back into the soil could also spur the industrial agriculture sector, signifying a thumbs up from not only farmers, but those attempting to combat climatecharcoal_d change.

-Nicholas Chan

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Hooray for Hemp?

 legal-hempBiofuels have been proven to be cost effective and efficient since 1973. It is estimated that biomass produces 146 billion metric tons a year. Many new alternatives are emerging across the country and hemp is a potential. Hemp has the potential to be the number one biomass producer on Earth. 77% of the plant contains cellulose and cellulosic ethanol is the term referring to types of energy that we are familiar with. Cubing the plant can condense the bulk which reduces the cost and the amount of land used in the pyrolosis reactor which makes the fuel.

Hemp has promising potential because it is drought resistant making it easier to grow in dry regions across the country and is the only resource capable of functioning as an independent energy source. Although this seems like a great idea, there’s an underlying problem, it was outlawed in the United States in 1938. It is said that marijuana and hemp are of the same category, so the government made them illegal, but scientifically speaking you would need to smoke a 60ft pole of hemp just to get high. American farmers are now encouraged to apply for a license to cultivate hemp, but the Department of Agriculture rarely gives them out discouraging farmers.

The United States spends so much money on petroleum and coal exports that we are now feeling the effects of it in our economy. If the government were to legalize hemp, then the crop would provide us with a clean energy source, easier ways of producing cotton, a reduction on oil, and a better outlook on our future. To outlaw something with such great potential is completely absurd and its many uses can change the face of the green America.

-Nicholas Chan

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Chocolate is not brown… It’s green.

     

Now that we’ve established alternatives to wrapping papers and lights, there’s one more topic to address, chocolate. Christmas is filled with chocolate and that’s only reasonable because chocolate makes us happy, no matter hot or cold.  Bloomsberry and Terrapass worked together and produced the Climate Change Chocolate.  A 3.5-ounce confection that, for $4.95, offsets 133 pounds of carbon dioxide — the average American’s daily carbon impact on the planet. “It’s a great way to treat yourself while washing away your sins,” says John Edson, president of Lunar Design, which created the chocolate bar wrappings. Not only are chocolates extremely delicious and eco-friendly, but it also suggestion 15 different ways to reduce your carbon footprint on the wrapping of the candy bar. Chocolate that educates us? Now that’s a win-win. So for this Christmas season, indulge yourself with the decadent Climate Change Chocolate and enjoy the satisfaction of helping the planet while you’re at it.   

~Phil Pham

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Lean Green Vegetarian Machines

vegetarian-IQGreenhouse gases and global warming is becoming a serious threat to the environment and it’s important now more than ever to change human history. Environmental organizations constantly look for ways to reduce and limit the emissions emitted, but don’t target the leading causes of it. Society is looking past the most logistical, probable, and effective strategy for global warming: vegetarian diets. Temperatures are higher than expected and have been climbing the charter much faster than we ever expected. Consequences of unchecked warming are coastal flooding, disastrous weather conditions, disease spread, and mass species extinctions. Domestic bills and legislation passed through Congress strictly focuses on fuel economy standards, capping emissions, and investing time and funds on alternative energy sources, but Dr. James Hansen indicates that C02 emissions are not the main cause of atmospheric warming. Many other gases trap heat and are evidently more potent and powerful. According to studies, the most important greenhouse gas is methane and is caused most by livestock and animal agriculture. Methane is 21 times more powerful than C02 and methane concentrations have doubled. Coal mining, landfills, and most of all animal agriculture produces more than 100 million tons of methane a year. About 80-85% of methane is produced by emissions from livestock and however comical the situation may be, targeting the root cause of global warming is incredibly important. The best way to reduce global warming is to eliminate heavy consumption in animal products. Simply promoting vegetarian diets and cutting back on meat leads to a reduction of supply and demand efforts for livestock. The overall benefits of vegetarian diets prove to be cost effective, empirically proven to work, and faster than any of the status quo initiatives to win a small battle in a larger war.

-Nicholas Chan

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Now, Switch!

grasssssFrom fossil fuels to corn ethanol, Americans need to switch over to brighter and greener forms of energy. Switchgrass, a fast growing plant is looking quite promising, but is overlooked among citizens. The Department of Energy truly believes that biofuels are the keystone transition from dependence to independence. The native crop can easily reduce reliance on foreign oil, curb greenhouse gas emissions, and strengthen the agricultural sector. The major problem with corn ethanol is the price fluctuation and the fast paced transition instead of a gradual switch over.  Switchgrass, however provides many benefits such as the cost competitiveness, the push in biodiversity, and the lack of a need for pesticides. It is one of the fastest growing crops that can be processed into a biofuel, but with corn ethanol and oil overshadowing the true potential of the grass, switchgrass is still stuck in the research and development phase. It is also empirically proven that switchgrass actuall adds organic nutrients to the soil ensuring a long lasting harvest. With its strong roots, the cash crop can last through the winter and prevent soil erosion. The air produced from the plant reduces carbon dioxide and it slows the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Naturally, since we don’t eat grass, price spikes won’t occur as with corn ethanol. Only with determination and public knowledge can society bring this promising grass to the forefront, so American, now, switch!

-Nicholas Chan

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The Egg Recall And How It Effects You

With the recent out break of salmonella in eggs I decided that it was time to really look into eggs and how they are produced and which ones are good for you. I learned from this study why the eggs from Iowa where dangerous and forced to be recalled. The farm that the eggs were produced on had major health code violations, and these violations were made by Jack DeCoster are repeat offender. The problems that he is currently facing in Iowa aren’t the only violations that he has made. In fact, DeCoster was marked a “habitual violator” of Iowa’s environmental laws. According to the former governor of Iowa he has been a problem since he moved over to Iowa from Maine. In 2000, DeCoster faced several lawsuits because of claims that he polluted the river with pig manure. “Just weeks after DeCoster accepted habitual violator status, his associates founded a company called Environ Egg Production LLC.”

            After learning of these horrible details, I decided not to eat eggs from a company until I do a thorough background check because even though a company says its for the environment that doesn’t mean that it really is. (All quotes used were taken from http://www.khou.com/news/world/101665243.html .)

– Funmilayo Amubieya

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