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Environment

Genetic Influence on Sustainable Living

October 16, 2017
Genetic Influence on Sustainable Living

What is the genetic influence on sustainable living? What does a self-sustainable lifestyle have to do with our hereditary? A lot, it turns out, once you look at study results of epigenetics.

Epigenetics stands for the study of heritable changes appearing from various aspects of our environment — essentially, how the environment affects our genes. The human epigenome receives signals from the outside world, so factors such as diet, stress and prenatal nutrition impact the DNA cells we pass from one generation to the next. While we all have our own unique genetic code, our lifestyles and diets influence the DNA we pass on to our children and our children’s children.

Making Smart Choices Makes Sense

Professor Elizabeth H. Blackburn, a Nobel Laureate and leader in telomere and telomerase research, established a connection between stress and human genetic material in 2013. She and a colleague found that violence, poverty and abuse reduce the protective cover of the genome. These experiments essentially proved the legitimacy of epigenetics as a realm of scientific study, as well as its real-world applications toward human development.

Knowing this link between our blood inside and our lives outside, the importance of having as healthy a lifestyle as possible becomes a serious consideration.

Those aiming for a sustainable life attempt to reduce the strain they place on the Earth’s resources, reducing their carbon footprint by altering their methods of transportation, energy consumption and diet. Based on what epigenetics tells us, homesteading and converting to green energy power and transportation serves as a positive choice for future generations on more than one level.

Our cells start off one way when we are born and mutate due to the various pollutants we encounter in our environment, which then alter our DNA sequence. For example, chemicals in cigarette smoke cause cancer, and those cancer cells can be passed down to you children. Certain gardening pesticides can alter epigenetic pathways, which are also inherited by the next generation. Increasing our consumption of naturally grown and raised produce and proteins, as well as reducing the amount of pollution we inhale and process on a daily basis, are biologically positive lifestyle choices.

Stress can alter a number of proteins your genes produce for your immune system, which explains why we get sick during high-stress periods of our lives. Since gardening serves as a natural remedy against stress and as a reinforcement of mental and physical health, growing things can improve your immune system and reduce your dependence on pharmaceuticals.

Hope for the Future

Historically, humanity has considered the suffering of the elder generation as inconsequential to the biological well-being of the incoming generation. However, based on the study of epigenetics, this is not true.

While going green has a reputation for being extreme — becoming vegan or communal living, for example — there are plenty of other ways to develop a self-sustainable lifestyle. With a small amount of dedicated effort, simple changes can create resounding positive results in the world and for future generations. Conserving water and electricity, recycling, starting a small garden for herbs or small-scale produce in your backyard, or using reusable bags and containers are all healthy choices.

While incredible ideas are being unveiled and are in construction in order to combat environmental pollution and global warming, it’s the small changes we make in our lives that will forge a better future for our descendants, and change the genetic influence on sustainable living for future generations.

Wildlife

Can We Clone Endangered Species to Save Biodiversity?

October 13, 2017
Clone endangered species

You might remember hearing about Dolly the sheep. She was perhaps the most famous sheep in the world because of something that set her apart from other animals — she was a clone. Dolly represented the first successful cloning of an endangered species, a wild sheep called the European mouflon.

More than 20 years after the creation of Dolly, scientists are still playing with the idea of using cloning to help save endangered species. But the technology is still far from perfect, and not everyone agrees it’s a good idea.

A Still-Developing Technology

Dolly the sheep lived for about half as long as her species typically does. She died in 2003 from a lung infection that’s common in sheep, especially those kept indoors. Some said the fact that she was a clone led to her early death and that she may have been born with the genetic makeup of a six-year-old sheep, the age of the animal scientists cloned to create her. Other researchers, though, said they found no evidence that the cloning caused the early death.

It’s common, though, for cloned animals to have serious health problems. Scientists later managed to create a clone of an extinct species, the Pyrenean ibex, but the animal was born with deformed lungs and died a few minutes after being born.

The process is extremely inefficient, as well. In their efforts to create the ibex, scientists created 439 cloned embryos. Fifty-seven worked well enough to be transferred to goat mothers, seven pregnancies occurred and only one ibex was actually born. Today, cloning wild species is successful less than 1 percent of the time.

Cloning is still fraught with a high risk of failure, but some hold on to hope that the process could improve in the future and offer a viable solution.

Band-Aid or Long-Term Solution?

Even if cloning did work well, would it be able to help endangered species and preserve biodiversity? It might do some good, but it wouldn’t address the root of the problem.

Even if we could reliably bring back extinct species or create more individuals of endangered ones, they still might not be able to survive in the wild. The causes of their decline would still be present. Habitat loss, poaching and invasive species would still pose risks to them.

Each tiger, for example, requires 25,000 acres of habitat, but farmers have taken more than 93 percent of their natural environment. Even if we created more tigers, they’d still have nowhere to go.

Hope for the Future

While cloning extinct or endangered species might not solve the problem, it might help us in the future once we work out the other crucial parts of the equation. If we preserve these species’ DNA, it gives us the opportunity to possible bring them back sometime in the future once we’ve reestablished their habitats. We’ll also need to improve our cloning capabilities.

To this end, the Institute for Conservation Research at the San Diego Zoo created what’s known as a “frozen zoo,” a stockpile of tissue preserved on ice. Scientists in Brazil are working on a similar project. They’ve begun collecting genetic information from the country’s endangered species in hopes it might one day help save them.

The Brazilian scientists are also using the preserved DNA to work on improving cloning techniques, so we’ll be ready if the time comes to clone endangered species.

While cloning might not yet be a viable option and certainly is not a be-all and end-all for preserving biodiversity, it might one day play a role in helping save some of our endangered, or even extinct, species.

Environment

Columbus Day Reflections: History of Environmental Treatment in America

October 9, 2017
History of Environmental Impact in America

With Columbus Day just around the corner, now is a good time to take a moment to consider the history of environmental impact in America. The arrival of Columbus is what gave America the chance to start the Industrial Revolution, which changed our country and our planet in unprecedented ways.

Following a monumental hurricane season that brought the climate change discussion to the forefront again, we might want to take a moment to look back and reflect on the past.

Bringing Technology to the Country

When Columbus initially came to America, it was mostly unsettled. The Native American tribes co-existed with nature, for the most part, living in ways that altered the environment minimally. Once people started immigrating to the U.S. in larger numbers, things began to change.

Cities were built, dams constructed, roads paved and invasive species introduced. The larger waves of immigration came long after Columbus died, between 1880 and 1920, not including the African slaves that were brought here in untold numbers from the 17th to 19th centuries.

Disease was rampant. There was no such thing as plumbing or waste disposal. Cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, diphtheria and tuberculosis killed people by the thousands. We built things up and had nowhere to put the waste, no methods to contain infection and no one in the government who was working toward prevention. At this time, most people thought the world was so big that there was nothing we could do to it. But we could, and we did. Poor farming techniques contributed to the Dust Bowl, and we’re starting to understand what we did to the oceans with overfishing.

America’s History of Change

If there’s one thing that never changes about America, it’s that the country never stays the same. The historical data we have shows us that the world has seen a sudden and significant uptick in carbon dioxide emissions since the end of the Industrial Revolution. CO2 didn’t rise abruptly at first, but from 1880-1910, you can see the start of the trend. Meanwhile, the Industrial Revolution ended in 1840, which gave the world time to start accumulating CO2 from all of those new machines that became so popular.

This huge boom in infrastructure came with some incredible advancements, but it was completely unregulated. It took years for the U.S. government to try and catch up to the machines. One of the biggest wake-up calls came in 1969 when CO2 emissions were steadily climbing. It was also the year that the Cuyahoga River caught fire.

That struck America in a way it hadn’t before. The population suddenly decided that the pollution they could see all around them was enough. The result was a sudden slew of regulations to help protect the environment. Earth Day was born. Private companies, many of them non-profits, sprung up to help people get organized.

In a few short years, things changed. The government stepped up in a big way. The National Environmental Policy Act allowed for the creation of the entire Environmental Protection Agency and later the Clean Water Act.

The U.S. had been teaching environmental education since the late 1800’s, but it wasn’t until 1996 that the National Science Education Standards were developed. This has left us with a good way to look at things accepted as fact, but little methods for dealing with the politicization of facts. Climate change is a fact, but there is still debate around the amount of human activity influencing it. Some schools have flat-out decided not to teach it, leaving students behind in the race for solutions.

Back in the 70s, the politicians didn’t take steps to protect the environment because they thought it was a good idea. They did it because the public demanded it. There might not be an easy answer, but avoiding climate change entirely certainly isn’t it. We need to take steps to prepare for the future, not avoid it. Remembering the history of environmental impact in America, the mistakes we made and how we changed things, is the first step toward that goal.

Green Technology

The Statistics of Coal and Oil Workers vs. Renewable Energy Workers

October 6, 2017

Investment in renewable energy has steadily risen, and consequently, so have the number of renewable energy workers has risen. As the nation transitions from traditional fossil fuel to clean energy sources, one looming question remains: What will happen to the workers in the coal and oil industries?

By the Numbers

The renewable energy and alternative fuel industries employed close to 1 million Americans in 2016, compared to 200,000 workers in the combined fossil fuel industries of coal, gas and oil. Including part-time employees in these statistics raises the total number of Americans working in renewables by another 2 million.

Solar energy employed the largest number of renewable workers, with nearly 360,000 part-time and full-time employees. Wind power came in second, with 100,000 employees. By contrast, the coal industry employed just over 86,000 workers, followed by the oil and petroleum industry, which employed more than 12,000 workers in 2016.

In 2016, solar energy added over 74,000 new positions, and wind energy added nearly 25,000, for a combined total of nearly 100,0000 new jobs in the renewables field.

Over 700,000 Americans work in positions focused on improving the fuel efficiency of vehicles or investigating alternative fuels for transportation.

Not included in these statistics are the 2.3 million workers employed in distribution, energy storage and transmission in the energy efficiency sector.

Industry Transition

Employment in the wind power sector grew by 32 percent in 2016, while employment in the solar power industry increased by 25 percent. As a whole, the renewable job market is expected to increase by nine percent next year. The coal industry has steadily decreased the number of job opportunities offered since 2012. The fossil fuel market, including coal and oil, is expected to decline by three percent over the next year.

The loss of fossil fuel positions is due, in part, to multiple coal plants shutting down in recent years. Competition with inexpensive natural gas, stricter federal regulations and increased interest in renewable energy are the primary reasons for the closures.

Future of Coal and Oil

As opportunities in the coal and oil industries decrease, workers will need to learn new skills to transition into the renewables market if they wish to remain in the energy sector.

The renewables market offers positions for recent graduates and trained managers transitioning from coal plants and the oil industry. However, skilled laborers looking for new opportunities would need additional training to make this change. As governments push to decarbonize their economies, they should also consider how to transfer the energy industry workforce.

Unfortunately, renewable energy sources are not equal throughout the country. The Midwest is a leader in wind power due to the high number of wind resources, while California and Nevada lead the way in solar power.

West Virginia and Wyoming are the two leading states for coal energy production and lack the same access to renewable energy resources. Nearly three percent of Wyoming’s and two percent of West Virginia’s workforce are employed in the coal industry.

As the nation moves toward carbon-free sources of energy generation, job opportunities will shift from the coal and gas industries to the renewable energy sector. For workers to take advantage of these new opportunities, they will need to learn the new skills required to qualify for these positions.

Environment

7 Tips for Sustainable Eating While Eating Out

October 2, 2017
Sustainable Eating

You’re a conscientious eater when you’re at home, and you can be: you’re in charge of the shopping, the preparation and the disposal of all the food you eat there. At a restaurant, though, it’s harder to ensure that what you’re eating is just as sustainable as what you prep for yourself.

To make the task a little bit easier, we’ve gathered the following seven tips to help you eat sustainably while you’re out. So, grab your jacket and get ready to go: nothing’s holding you back from going out to eat anymore.

1. Ask For a Box

It’s no secret that today’s restaurants often pile up plates with extra-large portions of food that you simply cannot finish in one sitting. As such, many diners leave half a dish of food behind which will go straight into the trash.

Simply asking for remnants of your meal in a takeaway box can help cut down on food waste. As an added bonus, you can grab your to-go box on the way to work tomorrow morning and you instantly have lunch prepped.

2. Drink From the Tap

More than $1 billion worth of plastic bottles are wasted every single year when Americans throw them into the trash instead of recycling them. This is just one of the many reasons why bottled water and other beverages are very eco-unfriendly.

On your next restaurant trip, you can cut down on waste by ordering tap water instead of bottled. On top of that, forego any bottled or canned beers in favor of brews on tap. You can even order fountain sodas instead of cans, plastic bottles or glass bottles. Make sure you’ve expended all packaging-free options before choosing a drink that’s served in a one-time-use container.

3. Choose Farm-to-Table Restaurants

Eating at a restaurant with locally sourced ingredients means you’re majorly cutting down your cuisine’s carbon footprint. Think about it: rather than shipping exotic ingredients in from across the country and world, your meal will require way less fuel and waste to get from the farm to the plate in front of you.

4. …Or Know What’s Sustainable and What’s Not

Some places might not have farm-to-table restaurants, of course. Even so, you can do your part by researching the types of foods that tend to be unsustainable and either avoid them or ask the restaurant from where they source theirs.

The most common offender is meat, as meat production requires so many resources. Think about it: livestock farmers have to grow animals to a plump adult size before shipping them off to be slaughtered, butchered, packaged and, once again, shipped to stores or restaurants.

The same goes for the harvest of fish. Figuring out which type of seafood is sustainable is another tough business, as there are many myths around the production and sale of seafood. For example, you don’t have to buy fish from a specialty shop or restaurant to ensure it’s sustainable, but knowing its origins can help you make a sustainable decision.

Also, have a general idea of what fruits and vegetables are in season so they have a better chance of being fresh and local, rather than flown in from warmer, tropical locales.

5. Opt For Organic

It may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning the value of organically grown produce. Pesticides can run off into nearby soil, turf and water supplies, contaminating all three. Plus, the animals that inhabit these areas can become poisoned from their exposure to pesticides. Simply saying “yes” to an organic menu item can help you avoid contributing to this ongoing toxicity problem and perhaps even send a message to those whose products you now avoid because they’re produced with pesticides.

6. Say No to Too Many To-Go Bag Extras

If you’ve ever picked up an order to-go from a restaurant, you know that many establishments will load you up with disposable extras: napkins, plastic cutlery, extra straws, salt packets… the add-ons are endless. And, while these are convenient at the time, they might end up being tossed in the trash immediately by most customers, especially those who aren’t as environmentally aware as you.

So, next time, ask the staff to leave out your plastic cutlery and napkins and use the ones you have at home instead. If you need sauce or other condiments to go, take only what you need (or refrigerate and use what you don’t this time around).

7. Download an App to Help You

Even with the above tips in mind, you still might falter in your attempt to eat eco-friendly 100 percent of the time. You can always ask for help — and you don’t have to look much further than the phone that’s in your hand right now.

There are plenty of smartphone apps to aid you in your quest. One points out vegan or vegetarian restaurants, while others tell you how sustainable menu items and ingredients are. With these tools literally in your pocket, you’ll find sustainable restaurant-ing to be so much easier.

With these tips in mind, you can eat out and feel good that choice. So, start making plans and figure out which eco-friendly eatery you’ll be visiting first: you are definitely not the one cooking tonight.

Environment

Eco-Friendly Home Designs for the Modern Minimalist

September 29, 2017
Eco-Friendly Home Designs

Clear, open space, clean lines, natural lighting and pieces that serve multiple functions: Sounds eerily environmental and sustainable, doesn’t it? A reflection of mother nature at her best.

In stark contrast to the shock factor and plasticity of traditional minimalistic design, today’s trends pull directly from the great outdoors and, as a result, are almost entirely symbiotic with modern eco-friendly home designs.

Simplify Sustainability

Minimalistic design seeks to reduce living space to its necessary elements with a distinct emphasis on simplicity. In the back-to-basics scheme of things, minimalism is so low-impact it screams of eco-influence. As the trends of modern minimalism and eco-friendliness collide, results are striking, innovative — and, unsurprisingly, sustainable.

Open up

Rooms with open-space voids and clear pathways create a natural flow. Air circulates well through an uncluttered floor plan and supports efficient heating and cooling methods.

Clean interior lines allow a few stark furnishings to stand out. Eco-friendly pieces that use organic fabrics and natural materials reflect desired simplicity and create a unified effect with the outdoors. Increasingl

y, retail companies offer ethically made environmental lines from which to choose.

Top It Off

The characteristic rectangular or chunky room parameters of minimalistic design often lend credence to exciting green roof options. Flat or gently sloping roofs are perfect for the installation of cover plantings. Green roofs naturally insulate living space, reduce stormwater runoff, improve air quality and increase area biodiversity. Root networks help protect the longevity of a roof, even while the plants themselves add visual appeal.

Regardless of roof pitch, solar panels continue to be a cost-efficient method to harness environmental power while staying true to clean-line design. In addition to the original large, square units, solar paneling is now available in classic shingles and innovative glass tile.

Keep It Light

Large, multiple windows throughout the home are paramount. They allow for infusion of light and invite the surrounding natural environment in. Cross-view windows create the perspective of widened living space. Keeping windows unadorned with coverings remains faithful to the minimal concept and can significantly lower heating and cooling costs — especially if you’ve chosen to install energy-efficient models.

Salvage Materials

If you are renovating or rebuilding, consider re-use of original foundation structure. It’s as economical as it is environmental when you can avoid razing the earth or clearing additional land. Cement, bricks, steel and glass make excellent eco-friendly building materials and can be adapted in numerous ways to support minimalist design.

Whenever possible, salvage recycled materials like ceramics, aluminum and glass. Source out wood from fallen trees or old barns. Look into composite lumber made from compressed sawdust and rice husks. Search for suitable fixtures and pieces that were previously owned. You’ll save on manufacturing cost, even as you protect the planet’s resources!

Preserve Water

From Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1935 Fallingwater to the present, water has been a prominent element in minimal architecture. Reflective and fluid, water adds unique visual and sensorial draw. Water, as an eco-friendly element, can also be harvested and recycled for home use.

In addition to traditional collection systems which catch water at the base of a structure in barrel-like containers, modern designs include roofs which slant to a center peak and direct water straight into the home.

Using Eco-Friendly Products

From a bold splash of color on the walls to creative effect lighting, modern minimalist homeowners have an arsenal of environmentally supportive products to choose from. Make sure to use paint that’s nontoxic, and preferably an all-natural option made from raw ingredients such as milk protein and lime.

LED — light-emitting diode — bulbs are available for everything from table and floor lamps, recessed lighting, under kitchen cabinet tracks and outdoor area spots. They last eight to 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs and use only 25-30 percent of the energy.

Today’s eco-friendly home designs put modern minimalists in prime position to maximize sustainable practices. After all, less is more!

Green Technology

RiverWatch Technology Provides Solution for Polluted Water

September 25, 2017
RiverWatch Technology

To efficiently combat water pollution, scientists, environmental groups, governments and citizens need access to accurate information about water quality. Unfortunately, this data has historically been hard to come by — especially for citizens. The reason is simple: modern technology is expensive and complex. Because of this, water quality isn’t regularly tested in many areas throughout the world.

Here’s the good news: a project out of New Zealand — where water quality data is available for less than 10 percent of the waterways — is seeking to change that with a new device known as RiverWatch.

What is RiverWatch Technology? 

A group called Water Action Initiative (WAI) along with students from Victoria University developed a device that measures water quality and makes the data available to the public.

The device, called RiverWatch, is designed for placement in waterways either on a temporary or permanent basis. It measures pH levels, chemical composition, temperature, conductivity, turbidity and discoloration. WAI then uploads that information to its website and makes it available on a phone app.

The solar-powered RiverWatch device is designed to be cost-effective and easy to use. The base unit can be built for one-tenth the price of current monitoring technology, the company claims. Each unit costs around $2,000. And since WAI is a non-profit organization, its income goes back into conservation efforts.

RiverWatch won the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) 2016 Conservation Innovation Award and is a finalist in the 2017 Wellington Gold Awards. The organization plans to launch a crowdfunding campaign soon to start producing the device.

The Importance of Water Quality

Water analysis technology has seen rapid growth in recent years thanks to major advances in optical sensors and biosensors. These new technologies have enabled remote sensing and the use of smart technologies that provide real-time information and insights. Robotic fish equipped with small sensors have even been used to locate sources of hazardous pollution.

Water quality also has significant impacts on human health, the economy and the environment, and over the next 100 years, clean water will become increasingly scarce. Unsafe or insufficient water, hygiene and sanitation lead to an estimated 3.1 percent of all deaths worldwide and a number of health conditions.

Water pollution also harms the livelihoods of people who depend on water to make a living, including fishermen and some of those in the tourism industry. Although monitoring and improving water quality can be expensive, the economic impacts make these efforts worthwhile. It’s estimated that every dollar invested in sanitation and drinking water results in $3 to $34 in economic development.

The founders of RiverWatch hope their device will provide more people with the information they need to fix water pollution problems by providing efficient monitoring at an affordable cost. By making this information available to more people, water quality may rise around the world, leading to improved environmental, human and economic health.

Oceans

Sustainable Seafood Myths and Misconceptions Part 2

September 22, 2017
Sustainable Seafood

There are all sorts of myths and misconceptions about sustainable seafood, as we looked at in the first part of this article. The disinformation is particularly frustrating because so many people are interested in eating fish! Fish is a healthier option than meats higher in fats, such as beef and pork. It harmonizes well with vegetables, which health-conscious consumers are continuing to add to their diets.

Sustainable seafood farms are an increasingly visible means of ensuring fish aren’t caught to the point of extinction. More than 30 percent of fisheries are currently overexploited, meaning the catch causes a decline in the population that isn’t replenished.

Sustainability, as applied to seafood, means catching fish in a way that doesn’t contribute to the decimation of the marine population. In the most basic way, sustainability means that, for every salmon someone eats, another one is being raised. And the same is true of tilapia, shrimp, sardines and so on. One way to ensure sustainability is through farms, or aquaculture.

Well, myth-busting is an honorable profession. So let’s apply it to the myths of sustainable seafood.

Fish Farming Causes Environmental Degradation and Unhealthy Fish

As we discussed before, sustainable seafood can be more harmful to the environment and raise unhealthy fish.

The truth is, however, fish farming varies in environmental responsibility, just like land farming does. Some farms conduct responsible, ethical aquaculture. In contrast, some farms care more about maximizing profit, and their employees have less training and supervision.

The good news is that the industry is very aware of the challenges in fish farming. With a little bit more progress, we can ensure everyone is following the leading practices today.

Some countries, like Iceland, have perfected a method of fish farming that relies on recirculated water, so the fish are swimming and eliminating in the same relatively small amount of water. This technique cuts down on disease and environmental threat.

Some scientists are developing methods of farming fish in large tanks, on land. This will eliminate any threat of water pollution or species threat. If the tanks use recirculated water, the fish can remain healthy.

The answer? Be responsible when shopping for fish. Know which farms practice ethical, genuinely sustainable and environmentally healthy methods.

The Most Sustainable Catch Is in Specialty Stores

People interested in environmentally sound purchasing practices should know the best places to purchase sustainable fish.

Is it at a fishmonger’s, a specialty store or near the ocean? A farmers’ market that includes seafood? Not necessarily.

Startlingly enough, some of the largest food retailers in the U.S. have the best record in supplying sustainable seafood: Target, Safeway, Wegman’s and Whole Foods. Many Americans are close to at least one of these retailers. Sustainable seafood is no further than a drive away.

The Catch Has to Be Fresh to Be Sustainable

This myth is not true at all. Food mavens who follow trends on sustainable seafood point out frozen seafood is just as sustainable as the stuff at the fish counter. It fact, frozen seafood may have a greater proportion of sustainably caught fish. Remember, many large retailers are leading the seafood sustainability parade. Plus, even chefs believe that frozen fish is just as good as the catch of the day, and equally healthy.

The same is true of some canned seafood. Again, the answer is to be informed. Canned seafood is just as sustainable as the most sustainable fish.

Yes, some canned fish has been subject to health scandals in the past, like mercury contamination. For tilapia, salmon, trout and tuna, that’s all in the past.

Sustainable Fish Is More Expensive

This myth is also resoundingly busted. Sustainability, after all, just means the fish are being raised with the idea of being used by humans, ultimately, and with being replenished. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the type is exotic and therefore expensive.

Some sustainable seafood can be expensive. Ninety percent of shrimp in the United States, for example, is raised in farms. But its expense is related to its being shrimp, not the sustainability. Catfish is also largely farm-raised and is less expensive than shrimp.

The key for consumers is to shop for cheaper varieties of seafood that are sustainable.

Around the world, our oceans and rivers have been widely fished, leading to fears of overfishing. While many people want to eat seafood because of its health benefits, they also want it to be sustainably raised to avoid the extinction of seafood. Yet myths and misconceptions about sustainable seafood abound.

While there are some environmental and health concerns with fish farming, best practices also exist. Consumers need to be informed about what companies follow the best practices and purchase their products. Look for these products at mainstream retailers, and in frozen and canned varieties.

Oceans

Sustainable Seafood Myths and Misconceptions Part 1

September 18, 2017
Sustainable Seafood

Fish are a great source of protein, but they are a limited resource.

Humans have to eat. Food supplies us with the energy and sustenance we need to get through our days. It allows us to grow up big and strong so that we can accomplish daily tasks and strive for and fulfill our dreams. In the U.S., we have developed ways to ensure our food is readily available and that we don’t have to work too hard to get it.

Since the advent of agriculture, humans have grown crops and domesticated animals for a supply of food close at hand. With industrialization, we’ve developed ways to mass-produce food to feed large groups of people. From stores to restaurants to our homes, we have easy access to food supplies.

As the human population grows in the U.S. and around the world, we have to find ways to ensure everyone gets enough to eat. One of the best and least expensive sources of protein is fish. It is considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet. However, with increasing demands for more fish for food, we have to find sustainable and economical ways to provide people with the nutrition they need and not annihilate fish populations.

Developing Fish Farms: A Sustainable Way to Provide the World With Fish?

One way that has been proposed to solve the not-enough-fish problem is by developing fish farms. Humans and humanoids have depended on creatures that live in the water as a food source for a long time — going back as far as 200,000 BC. We continue to practice fishing today, both on individual levels and commercial levels. However, on a commercial level, fishing is dangerous and makes an impact on the environment.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about fish farming and the pros and cons of raising fish for food in this way. It seems like fish farming is a new idea, but in reality, it has been around for thousands of years. A Chinese man named Fan Lai wrote a book in 475 BC to instruct others on how to raise fish for food. In Germany in 1733, a farmer successfully fertilized eggs, hatched the eggs and then raised the fish for food. Since then, the practice of fish farming has evolved and advanced.

Fish farms can benefit the environment by lessening the impact on wild fish populations, allowing species that have been overfished or are being threatened with overfishing to recover. Fish farms also create jobs and benefit local economies.

Issues With Fish Farms: More Harmful to the Environment Than Natural Fishing?

There are a several different ways to raise fish for food. For instance, the fish might be contained in small ponds or lakes or in pens/cages in the ocean. The species that are raised in these environments include catfish, tilapia, salmon, shrimp, mollusks and algae, among others.

Despite the fact that fish farms have existed for a long time, there are some problems with modern fish farming practices. The way the fish are raised can impact their health and how healthy they are for us. If fish are raised in small tanks crowded with large populations or fed diets that aren’t healthy, they probably aren’t going to be the healthiest fish for us to consume.

Problems that can arise on fish farms include pollution, disease, farmed species accidentally being released into the wild and sea lice. All of these impact the environment the fish live in and their bodies, which, in turn, can impact us.

Finding Sustainable Seafood Solutions

There are no easy solutions when it comes to our environment and sustainability. We have to eat, which means we have to either get our food from the wild or grow it. Both of these methods impact the environment and animal populations. The best way to reduce the impact is to make informed decisions and develop sustainable practices when it comes to food.

No matter what, our desire for seafood has affected the ocean and its delicate natural balance. If we want to sustain our desires and the health of the oceans and the world, we must find a balance between wild-caught fish and farmed fish.

As technology advances and better techniques are developed, it’s possible that aquaculture will become a better solution for our fish needs. Until then, we must continue to work together to develop better practices and make choices that ensure our health and the health of the environment.

Environment

Are Our National Parks in Danger?

September 15, 2017
National parks in danger

The 388 parks, monuments and recreation areas managed by the National Park Service cover some of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes in the United States. From mountains to glaciers to forests, they protect rare ecosystems and species. They also ensure that people can enjoy nature, and they bring tourism money to nearby communities.

Some of these parks, though, are now in trouble due to a wide variety of potential threats. What exactly is putting our national parks in danger, how serious is the situation and what can we do about it? Keep reading to find out.

Political Climate

Republican lawmakers recently proposed a bill that would transfer protected federal lands to the states. Lawmakers who support the bill have said the lands have little value when the federal government owns them. Supporters argue that they bring in approximately $6.46 billion and create around 6 million jobs.

Those who are against the change worry that protected lands could be sold off once under state control and opened up for oil drilling or property development. States might choose to do this to make money, while others would have little choice due to budget restrictions.

Actions like this have been met with opposition. After a bill to sell more than 3 million acres of public land caused an uproar among conservationists, hunters and fishermen, U.S. Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah announced that he would withdraw it.

Pollution and Climate Change

National parks also face a less direct threat from pollution, climate change and other damage to the environment. The pollution levels in some parks are almost as bad as those in urban areas. In Great Smoky Mountains National Park, for example, emissions from industry and power plants blow in from outside the park. That’s not the type of smoke Great Smoky should be known for.

Climate change may cause long-term changes to national parks, as it will to the rest of the world. Glaciers in Montana’s Glacier National Park are already melting. As climate change continues to worsen, we may see more forest fires and storms, as well as higher temperatures that change the ecosystems of the parks. Because national parks are such iconic representations of nature, the effects of climate change seem even more pronounced within them.

Budget Issues

Many of our national parks don’t have enough funding to keep up with repairs, maintenance and the needs of visitors. Roads, buildings and water systems could all use some attention. Some have estimated the parks need around $600 million just to get the infrastructure up to par.

The National Parks Conservation Association has expressed concerns over the Trump Administration’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which includes large cuts to the Department of Interior and Environmental Protection Agency budgets. It also has said that Trump’s hiring freeze may prevent the parks from having enough personnel.

From the Outside In

Though a main goal of establishing the parks is to enable people to enjoy them, the influx of people from places around the world has also created challenges for the health of the parks. Overcrowding can degrade the natural landscape and the habitats of the animals that live there.

When people come to parks, they also sometimes accidentally carry with them species that aren’t native to the area. They might accidentally have seeds of foreign plant species or bugs that aren’t from the area. If these species make their new home in the park, they won’t have any natural competition and may destroy native species.

Some non-native species may escape from homes into the park. For example, people sometimes keep exotic snakes as pets, but if they escape or are released into the wild, they can cause problems. More than 650,000 invasive species have already been identified in national parks in the United States.

U.S. national parks provide critical protection for unique and important ecosystems and create a way for people to easily enjoy and learn more about nature. These national parks in danger from budget cuts and pollution; however, they must be preserved if we want to keep enjoying the benefits from these parks.