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Our Environment, Life and our World

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As population grows we need more and more resources to survive and to accommodate our lifestyles, and we produce more waste. Here is a short list of issues we should be concerned about, that have had an impact on the environment, and we all should be aware of moving in to the future. Humans are not the only inhabitants of this world. Is the world going to be a better place when we leave it?

Fracking

” Fracking is also bad news for the climate. Natural gas is 80 percent methane, which traps heat 86 times more effectively than CO2 over a 20-year period. Newly fracked wells released 2.4 million metric tons of methane in 2014 — equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions of 22 coal-fired power plants.

The body of evidence is growing that fracking is not only bad for the global climate, it is also dangerous for local communities.

And affected communities are growing in number. A new report, released Thursday, details the sheer amount of water contamination, air pollution, climate impacts, and chemical use in fracking in the United States.

“For the past decade, fracking has been a nightmare for our drinking water, our open spaces, and our climate,” Rachel Richardson, a co-author of the paper from Environment America, told ThinkProgress.

Fracking, a form of extraction that injects large volumes of chemical-laced water into shale, releasing pockets of oil and gas, has been on the rise in the United States for the past decade, and the sheer numbers are staggering.

Environment America reports that at least 239 billion gallons of water — an average of three million gallons per well — has been used for fracking. In 2014 alone, fracking created 15 billion gallons of wastewater. This water generally cannot be reused, and is often toxic. Fracking operators reinject the water underground, where it can leach into drinking water sources. The chemicals can include formaldehyde, benzene, and hydrochloric acid.” Source: thinkprogress.org

Coal Ash Spill

A few hours before dawn on Dec. 22, 2008, the walls of a dam holding 1.1 billion gallons of coal ash crumbled, spilling the toxic concoction into the town of Kingston, Tenn., and creating the largest industrial spill in U.S. history. The wave of ash, leftovers from burning coal mixed with water, wiped out roads, crumpled docks and destroyed homes.

The ash had been stored at the nearby Tennessee Valley Authority coal power plant and contained a decade’s worth of arsenic, selenium, lead and radioactive materials. These metals can cause cancer, liver damage, neurological disorders and other health problems, but the EPA doesn’t classify coal ash as a hazardous material. As workers in Hazmat suits picked through the sludge, Kingston residents were told the ash didn’t present a serious health risk.

A Duke University study revealed that toxic elements in the coal ash could be suspended in the air, posing a serious health risk. The study also said that the coal ash contaminated waters and that accumulation of toxins in river sediment could poison fish. Residents have reported numerous health problems — headaches, respiratory problems and seizures, among others — and scientists have found high levels of toxins in the tissues of fish in the Tennessee, Clinch and Emory rivers.

The long-term effects of coal ash on humans and wildlife remain largely unknown, and experts say the impact of the Tennessee coal ash spill may take decades to sort out.

Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch is a swirling vortex of plastic bags, bottles and other trash that stretches hundreds of miles across the north Pacific Ocean. Some experts estimate it is as large as a continent, and in 2008 the Algalita Marine Research Foundation found that plastic outnumbers plankton in some areas of the patch by 48 to one.

The patch, which may contain more than 100 million tons of debris, formed gradually as pollution gathered in ocean currents and collected in the North Pacific Subtropical Convergence Zone. About 80 percent of the debris in the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch comes from land, and it may take several years for the trash to reach the area.

This churning sea of trash can entangle marine life, especially sea turtles, and end up in the digestive systems of fish, birds and other animals. Plus, sunlight can break down the plastic in the garbage patch, leaking toxins into the ocean and entering the food chain.

 

Gulf Dead Zone

An area in the Gulf of Mexico — beginning at the Mississippi River Delta and extending to Texas — is a wildlife dead zone for many months of the year. During the summer, this area, which is more than 7,000 miles wide, is devoid of wildlife except for the bodies of shrimp, crabs and other marine life that die because of oxygen depletion in polluted water.

This underwater wasteland is the world’s second largest dead zone and is caused by drainage from the Mississippi River, which deposits massive amounts of pesticides, fertilizers and animal waste from the central United States. Nitrogen in the chemicals and animal waste spur the growth of algae, which is eaten by zooplankton. Those microscopic creatures then excrete pellets that decay on the ocean floor, a process that depletes oxygen.

Although the dead zone fades in winter, not all the organic matter decays, which means the zone will get larger even if the same amount of nitrogen is released next year. The zone has grown steadily over the past few decades, and scientists are concerned the Gulf oil spill could have widened the massive dead zone.

Gulf Oil Spill

The Gulf oil spill began April 22, 2010 and leaked an estimated 206 million gallons into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the worst oil spill in U.S. history and the largest accidental oil spill in the world. Oil washed ashore in all of the Gulf states, creating health threats for both humans and animals.

The spill began when an oil well a mile below the surface of the Gulf blew out, causing an explosion on BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 people. Oil flowed into Gulf for 87 days before the well was finally capped on July 16, 2010.

About 40 percent of the U.S. coastal wetlands are in southern Louisiana, and these areas are home to a variety of species, including the brown pelican, which was removed from the endangered species list in November. Miles of this delicate habitat were coated in oil, and the lives of more than 400 species were severely threatened.

The BP Deepwater Horizon spill also created vast plumes of oil behaving unlike any other spill in history. As these plumes moved through the sea, they suffocated everything in their path. Many of the long-term effects of these plumes and the chemical dispersants used to break up the oil on the ocean’s surface are unknown, but experts say they could devastate the Gulf Coast for years to come.

Source: MotherNatureNtework http://www.mnn.com