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The Greater London Authority to Power New Air Quality Monitoring Network in the Fight Against Toxic Air

A global sensing and data analytics company empowering the world to reduce air pollution, today announce its partnership with the Greater London Authority in the fight against air pollution. Funded by the Mayor of London and supported by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the next phase of the Breathe London project will utilize Clarity’s low-cost air quality monitoring technology in the fight against London’s toxic air.

London is the first city to holistically integrate low-cost sensors with existing air quality infrastructure, making the project a blueprint for governments around the world to emulate, including the U.S., a country whose air pollution monitoring networks have fallen into disrepair according to the latest report from the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office (GAO).

More information about how London is adopting the low-cost solution, powering Breathe London can be found on Clarity’s website: https://www.clarity.io/.

How Technology Can Help the Environment

It is no secret that significant changes will need to be made to society if we want to reduce greenhouse gas emission to a safe level. Thankfully, technology that is already being developed and used has the potential to reduce toxic greenhouse gases and help us live a more sustainable lifestyle.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote work has become commonplace, a trend which is expected to continue. Beyond saving employees and employers time and money, this arrangement has positive effects for the environment as well. For example, workers who no longer drive to an office are producing fewer greenhouse gases. Fully remote companies also do not require office space, reducing the amount of congestion in major cities, as well as waste created by an office.

The rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI) also has the potential to help save the environment. AI bot technology can monitor pollution levels in air, soil, and water, allowing scientists to see where pollution is the worst and where it is coming from. This can also catch organizations in the act of illegal dumping. AI can be used to further help by creating a “smart” electrical grid that maximizes efficiency in electric production and distribution.

Lastly, digital communication methods save a significant amount of resources. A tremendous amount of paper is saved thanks to electronic billing statements and emails. A company’s carbon footprint can also be reduced by conducting internal and external meetings via Zoom or another video conferencing app instead of flying out to meet clients in person.

However, it is important to keep in mind that there are risks to using technology as well. For example, AI algorithms can learn to make patterns based on factors such as race, gender and age. It is important, for the time being at least, that humans oversee this technology to prevent discrimination from occuring. Of course, remote work also means more workers are using electricity at home to power their laptops and office equipment. Plus, videoconferencing is often considered to be an inferior method of communication compared to in-person meetings.

Overall, technology is an important tool to creating a sustainable society. With the proper research and oversight, these resources make it possible for us to significantly reduce fossil fuels from our energy portfolio to create a cleaner and better future.

Contributed by:

Marie Johnson
Enlightened-Digital.com

Solar Energy, Technology Key to Patented “Green” Methane Breakthrough

Researchers from the University of Michigan and McGill University have developed a way to harvest solar energy and convert it into a carbon-neutral “green” methane that is capable of replacing natural gas. “Green” methane can be used as a form of synthetic gas because 90% of natural gas is comprised of methane.

 

“This is needed now because there is a desire to reduce and recycle CO2 and to move to a carbon-neutral economy,” said Zetian Mi, professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan, who together with Jun Song, professor of materials engineering at McGill University, led the research. 

 

The process for making “green” methane takes a page from nature’s playbook; it uses solar cell wafers to increase the efficiency of its artificial photosynthesis process. Because solar cell efficiency is 20% or higher, Mi and his team of researchers decided to use silicon (Si) solar cells to amp up the artificial photosynthesis process to make it more efficient. 

 

Essentially, the process creates a way to recycle stored CO2 or CO2 from smokestacks and convert it into a synthetic fuel that heavy industrial companies – like oil and gas, petrochemical, mining, and other companies – can use for their operations. Technologies that capture atmospheric CO2 and the infrastructure for transporting and distributing methane already exist. 

 

“The current approach to reducing CO2 emission often relies on transporting CO2 through pipelines and storage underground. We envision that large emitters of CO2 in the future can put that into a solar farm and generate [a clean burning] fuel,” Mi said.

 

To develop the “green” methane process, the team of researchers needed to break apart water molecules, figure out a way to bend a CO2 bond so that it can be used to form a new chemical and design a catalyst that could attach the hydrogen to carbon effectively. 

 

Ultimately, the team designed a catalyst device – made from a solar cell wafer covered with nanowires that are dotted with copper and iron nanoparticles – that can break down and reconnect carbon and hydrogen. The device inputs include sunlight and a thin film of water. In the future, such a device can also be designed to use electricity as an energy source when the sun isn’t shining. 

“It’s a technology with a lot of promise. There is no roadblock in terms of its scalability because this device is made of GaN [Gallium Nitride] and Si, the two most-produced semiconductors, and earth-abundant catalysts,” Mi said, noting that the patented technology can be commercially available within the next five to ten years. The University of Michigan holds the patents for this artificial photosynthesis device. 

 

Mi’s team has been working on artificial photosynthesis technology for 10 years. More recently, his team started collaborating with Song’s team at McGill University and with researchers at McMaster University on this project. 

 

Emissions Reduction Alberta, the Engineering Council of Canada, and the University of Michigan College of Engineering’s Blue Sky Program funded their research. 

Understanding Climate Change and Natural Disasters


Photo Credit: 12019 via Pixabay

All over the world, we hear about shocking earthquakes, powerful tsunamis and devastating cyclones all happening one after the other. Coupled with the current climate crisis, it’s natural to assume that the seemingly increasing and more devastating weather occurrences are attributed to the effects of climate change. However, the link between climate change and natural disasters isn’t always that straightforward. Below, we’ll try to dissect current claims on the connection between climate change and the increasing amount and severity of natural disasters.

Increasing Droughts

A drought is a prolonged dry period in the natural climate cycle. In recent decades, the outcomes of droughts have been lessened through man-made irrigation systems. With the negative effects brought about climate change, experts predict that droughts will become longer and more extreme by the end of the century. Researchers from the University of Arkansas found that if we don’t take steps to mitigate climate change, up to 60% of wheat-growing areas worldwide could have severe, prolonged and simultaneous droughts in the near future. If this prediction does materialize, this could shock the global food system and lead to food insecurity for many parts of the world. The findings reflect more than future predictions, as cases like Syria have already proven how intense droughts can upset a whole region.

Severity of Tropical Cyclones

Aside from droughts and heat waves, rainfall is another indicator of the detrimental effects of climate change on natural weather occurrences. The Independent interviewed Dr. Friederike Otto, the deputy director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, who said “We’re now finding that for many kinds of extreme weather events, especially heatwaves and extreme rainfall, we can be quite confident about the effect of climate change.” The US Geological Survey found that because of warmer ocean temperatures, tropical storms are becoming more severe. Most of these tropical storms are affecting archipelagic countries in certain parts of Asia. Daydreaming in Paradise says that the vulnerability of Southeast Asia to natural disasters is not only due to geographic location, but to how people there live. The region is full of young rapidly urbanizing economies where large populations are squeezed into poorly designed cities. As tropical storms become more common and more severe, these densely populated areas are at high risk.

Danger of Premature Conclusions

However, there is also a certain danger in immediately associating extreme natural disasters with climate change. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report on hurricanes and global warming found that while anthropogenic warming is likely to cause more intense tropical cyclones, it’s still premature to conclude that the same can be said for other natural disasters like Atlantic hurricanes and earthquakes. While hurricane patterns are likely to be affected by man-made forces if they haven’t already, scientists have currently found no direct ties to the recent Hurricanes Harvey or Irma. Thus, although compelling arguments to the extricable causation between climate change and current natural disasters seem hard to deny, it’s always important to take everything with a grain of salt and look for claims that have proper scientific backing.

Written exclusively for ENN.com
by Melanie Friedman

8
Apr/19
0

Invisible Threat Following Natural Disasters

After a natural disaster strikes, it’s difficult to decide where to begin the recovery process. From water damage and electrical outages to damaged infrastructures and scattered debris, it can be an overwhelming task that requires endless months of hard work to salvage what’s left behind.

First responders, clean-up crews and local patrons are often eager to start the cleanup process and restore the home they all know and love. However, the reality is that the likelihood of environmental exposure is just as prominent as the visible damage left in front of our very eyes. We encourage anyone impacted by a natural disaster to protect their health before jumping into restoration efforts by learning of the typical toxins that arise from extreme weather.

Natural disasters can occur anywhere at any time and include everything from severe storms and floods to earthquakes, landslides, wildfires, dust storms, and tornadoes. While it’s true that the extent of toxic exposures depends on the location, those who live near areas that are vulnerable to natural disasters, such as the coast, are at higher risk.

Just this past summer, The D.C Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the EPA enforcing prevention practices to combat the accidental release of toxic chemicals. While these safety practices were planned to be implemented in March 2017, unfortunately the plan was delayed just three months before Hurricane Harvey struck our nation.

This catastrophic event resulted in major power outages throughout Houston, leaving the Arkema chemical plant unable to function and stop volatile chemicals from flooding the city. On top of this, New Orleans was also saturated with toxic sewage that included lead and arsenic, and both found to have adverse effects on human health.

Along with contaminated water, building products were once full of dangerous ingredients including lead, PCBs, and asbestos; thus, leftover debris can also pose a threat. Residents and workers should remain cautious of any old infrastructure including homes, public buildings, and even abandoned property that could have released airborne toxins as a result of damage. In the case of asbestos, avoiding exposure can be life-saving as the toxin is often associated with insidious cancer, mesothelioma.

While Hurricane Katrina ravaged three entire states covering nearly 90,000 miles, this major event brought government officials together, agreeing that our nation should have better protection practices in place for the future. Fortunately, the Obama administration began to relieve some concerns; however, certain manufacturing companies were unwilling to reveal relevant information and petitioned the EPA to reconsider the accidental release risk management policy. Although the agency is still processing the proposal, officials agree that first responders, at the very least, should be fully trained on the matter and provided with protective gear proper decontamination tents to prevent unnecessary exposure.


Poison Prevention Week: The Importance of Understanding Toxic Air Pollution

Every March, National Poison Prevention Week is recognized as a way to spread awareness about toxins of all kinds, especially ones that are detrimental to human health. A form of poison that we often do not think about is the pollution that is invading our indoor and outdoor air. Whether it is carbon monoxide (CO) as a result of vehicle exhausts or microscopic asbestos fibers from a home renovation, hidden dangers lurk within all facets of our lives.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 91 percent of the global population lives in areas where the air is deemed polluted. In order for us to combat this, we must understand how our carbon footprints are affecting the environment, and what we can do to reduce hazardous pollution that is a byproduct of our everyday activities.

Things such as carpooling or riding a bike to get from place to place can reduce CO emissions, something that can protect our well-beings in the long run. CO has been linked to short-term health issues such as dizziness, confusion, and headaches. If exposed to CO for a prolonged period of time, serious complications can arise such as permanent damage to the brain, cardiac issues, and even death. CO is also hazardous to the environment by creating a potentially harmful ground level ozone, which can create problems amongst our plants and wildlife.

For more information about carbon monoxide and the hazards associated with your health, check out the EPA’s page on CO.

With spring cleaning and home renovation season right around the corner, it is important to be cognizant of our indoor air and the toxins that we may exposing ourselves to. As mentioned previously, asbestos is a seriously harmful toxin that can create havoc within our internal organs. Asbestos is the only known cause of mesothelioma cancer, a rapidly progressing disease that is often misdiagnosed due to symptoms that mimic less severe aliments. If your home was built prior to 1980, it is vital to have it tested for asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and other toxins such as lead and benzene before renovating and cleaning.

To get involved in National Poison Prevention Week, consider spreading awareness by sharing this article across all platforms of social media. The more people that are involved in this initiative, the faster the results will be in reducing the pollution that causes so much damage to our health and environment year after year.

For more information about mesothelioma cancer and asbestos exposure, check out mesothelioma.com.


Asbestos and Occupational Wellness

Asbestos and Occupational Wellness

Professionals who work daily in mines, shipyards, construction sites and industrial plants are constantly exposed to different types of threats on the job. Environmental risk plays a role in occupational health, as there are less-known natural factors that put the health of workers at risk as well. Asbestos is an especially dangerous mineral that has been affecting the health of workers for decades. Today, asbestos remains the leading cause of occupational cancer in many countries around the world, and those on the job could still be exposed.

Shining a light on these naturally occurring occupational risks can lead to bigger discussions around why it is important to hold worker safety to a high standard. With more discussion around safety in the workplace, we can decrease the number of workers harmed annually on the job by preventable injury and sickness.

Asbestos related illness

Asbestos is still the leading cause of occupational cancer and in the past been a harmful material that has plagued those in the construction and industrial industry. Asbestos was first discovered to be harmful when asbestos miners in the early 1900s came down with cases of asbestosis and what would later become known as mesothelioma cancer. Despite the link to disease, asbestos would continue to be used in the construction of buildings, insulation, heating appliances and machinery such as pipes and boilers through much of the 20th century.

There is now legislation in place that controls the amount of asbestos used in new products. However, due to its previous widespread use, asbestos has been built into many buildings and materials that are still intact today. When asbestos containing materials in buildings or piping is broken apart, the risk of inhaling the microscopic fibers increases. Once inhaled or ingested, asbestos settles inside the body, irritating the organs and can lead to cancerous tumors. Therefore, those who work closely with broken building materials are more likely to be exposed.

Occupations with the highest risk

Construction workers and laborers – During the haydays of asbestos use, the mineral was noted for its strong qualities, resistance to heat and ability to absorb sound. These characteristics made asbestos a valuable product to use in the construction of buildings and homes. During a demolition or renovation project of an older building, asbestos can stay in the air up to 72 hours, so workers could be unknowingly exposed. To avoid inhaling any unwanted fibers, workers should make sure that they are wearing the proper clothing and masks, and only abatement professionals should attempt to remove asbestos.

Firefighters – When asbestos-containing materials in homes and other structures catch fire, asbestos can be displaced and become airborne. Firefighters can be especially vulnerable when materials are cooling, and the threat seems like it is contained. Asbestos can become airborne as damaged structures are cooling off, so firefighters and officials should be wary of removing safety equipment and masks. Relief workers and volunteers should also be aware of these risks as they rebuild or pick up materials in the wake of a storm or natural disaster. Both firefighters and relief workers should wash off their bodies and clothing before going home at the end of the day as to not bring harmful toxins into the home.

Mechanics and Automotive workers – Asbestos was widely used in brake pads, brake linings and car parts throughout much of the 1970s. Today in the United States, car parts are in the minority of materials that still include asbestos. Replacing brake pads and other materials could lead to accidental exposure for those who work as mechanics or manufacturing car products. To avoid unnecessary exposure, it is important for mechanics who work closely with these materials to wear the proper safety garments and use ready-to-install products when possible rather than altering materials that could lead to friable asbestos, meaning the toxin is easily damaged and turned to powder.

Monitoring Health and Symptoms

In the past, workers were heavily exposed to asbestos in mines, shipyards and in the military. Naval vessels were also known to be places of highly concentrated levels of the dangerous mineral. While employees and service members in these areas are less likely to be exposed to asbestos today, those who formerly worked in these positions should monitor their health closely. Symptoms of mesothelioma and asbestos-related disease can take anywhere from 20 to 50 years to develop in the body, so communicating work history with a family physician is important. Mesothelioma can also be easily misdiagnosed due to the vague nature of the symptoms. Veterans and former miners should be especially watchful of their health and keep up on annual doctor’s visits. For patients with lung cancer and mesothelioma, early detection is extremely important, so catching these cancers in the early stages can help with treatment options and a patient’s quality of life.


The article was written by Molly McGuane Communications Specialist at the MAA Center.

22
Jun/18
0

Hope for a World in Crisis

An Introduction to A New Reality by Jonas and Jonathan Salk

 The shape of the world population growth curve provides a perspective for understanding our current social, political, and economic turmoil.  It indicates the necessity of moving forward to a future of sustainability, interdependence, and balance with the environment.

World Population Growth

If we look at the growth curve for world population using UN median projections to the year 2100, it is clear that, after a long period of acceleration, world population growth is slowing and is projected to plateau.

We are currently at or just past the point of inflection of that S-shaped or sigmoid curve. 

Two Eras

If the S-curve is separated at the inflection point, we see two curves representing two distinct eras in human history.

The first is a period of acceleration, growth without constraints, and apparently unlimited resources.  The second is a period of deceleration, clear limits to growth, and limited resources.  In the first era, short-term thinking, competition, independence, and unrestrained exploitation of the environment are rewarded with success.  In the second, longer-term thinking, cooperation, interdependence, and balance with nature confer advantage to individuals, communities, and the entire human species.

Conflict and Transition

As we pass through the transition point between these two eras, there is, necessarily and expectedly, conflict.  Looked at in the short-term, we see only uncertainty and turmoil.  However, viewed from the long-term perspective of the sigmoid growth curve, this difficult period is seen as a predictable developmental and evolutionary phase of transition.  Importantly, it is clear that the way forward is the adoption of the new value system.

This understanding is crucial, as we see some segments of society reacting to the current uncertainty by returning to values of the past – growth, reliance on fossil fuels, denial of climate change, and isolationism – while others are looking forward, advocating equilibrium, development of renewable resources, strategies to reduce greenhouse gases, interdependence and a cooperative approach to international relations.  Over time, this more forward-looking value system will likely be adopted not because it is idealistic or morally correct but because it is necessary for our survival and for the maintenance of life as we know it on this planet.

A Positive Outcome

It is increasingly clear that coordinated movement toward social, political, and economic changes that support sustainable development, a balanced relationship with the environment, and the welfare of all human beings are the keys to successful adaptation to the future.  Together, we have the opportunity – in fact, the obligation – to facilitate this change and enter a new reality.


This article was authored by Dr. Jonathan Salk.

14
May/18
0

Fortifying the Resiliency of NYC’s Urban Forests

When you think of forests, the largest city in the US probably doesn’t come right to mind. However, New York City is home to over 7000 acres of urban forest land — mostly found throughout its extensive parks.

The addition of trees and shrubbery to an urban setting makes the air fresher in an otherwise stagnant city setting and provides a habitat for wildlife in the middle of the urban sprawl. The Forest Management Framework for New York City has outlined several threats to these natural oases, and also examines a plan for mitigating them.

Threats to the Trees

Global warming and the intrusion of several destructive foreign species are two of the most significant concerns for the long-term wellbeing of the urban forests. With warmer, drier climates likely around the NYC area in the coming decades, some of the species that inhabit urban green spaces may have trouble surviving. Furthermore, warmer temperatures mean that new varieties of insects, fungus and other tree-munching species will likely migrate north, which presents a compound threat to the health of the trees.

Likewise, the introduction of foreign species into an isolated area can be disastrous. An insect that targets a specific type of tree, like the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, might lack natural predators or other population checks that would usually exist in nature. Further, the annihilation of one species is more impactful to a smaller, less diverse ecosystem of an urban forest.

The Plan

The Forest Management Framework project is emphasizing data-supported research and findings and will be advising other branches of the city’s extensive network of park conservancies, such as the Forest Park Trust and the Prospect Park Alliance. The ultimate goal of this 25-year plan is laid out in a one-page summary of the project and includes reducing the number of invasive species to 10 percent of their current level and boosting climate-related resiliency.

The other goals of the plan include fostering comprehensive and informed stewardship of the forest within the greater NYC community. Though not explicitly stated in the documentation, pollution is another concern facing the urban forests. These areas tend to have a disproportionate amount of traffic in comparison to natural woodlands. More people usually means more pollution and litter.

Pollution is estimated to cause up to 20,000 deaths per year. The addition of air-filtering plant life helps mitigate this. By instilling in communities a sense of the worth of forest land, this project hopes to maintain its quality.

Urban Forests

For those of us who live in cities, contributing to your local urban forest initiatives and park programs can be a fun and helpful activity. After all, all of us have to breathe the air, and adding a few trees to the urban landscape is an easy way to make that air cleaner and healthier.

Kate Harveston
Political Journalist & Blogger
13
Apr/18
0

Why Growers Should Transition to Eco-Friendly IPM Instead of Using Harmful Pesticides

Using Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for your farm, yard or garden is a healthy and eco-friendly alternative to pesticides.

IPM is a way to control the presence of creatures we traditionally refer to and think of as “pests” that is both environmentally friendly and uses common sense. It is a multi-step process that takes into consideration all aspects of pest control to rid your farm, garden or lawn of bugs and animals that you simply can’t allow to stay there.

Every circumstance is different, so it is important to inspect, monitor and report on your situation before determining the best course of action. Below are some basic facts and steps you can take to start implementing an IPM pest control plan.

Determine What to Look Out for

We share this world with a variety of different animals and insects, and while not all of them are desirable to have hanging around in our daily human operations, they have a place and function in the environment — and they have a right to life. However, some species can cause health hazards that impact our quality of life.

It’s important to be aware of health hazards and do your best to avoid exposure to them for yourself and your workers. IPM educates workers on humane ways to avoid too much contact with these kinds of creatures.

Determine the Best Control Route

To determine what will work best for your situation, you’ll need to know exactly what types of insects and animals are present in your work area, and also what types of plants you have. Depending on what types of plants you have and what time of the year it is, there are different prevention methods for your lawn, farm or garden. For your IPM to be successful, you need to know exactly what types of creatures will be attracted to your grow area.

Prevent and Control

Once you’ve determined what creatures to be aware of, you need to determine the best way to prevent or control them. If the level of pests present hasn’t reached your health hazard level, then there are steps you can take to simply prevent them from entering your grow area. These can include steps as simple as just removing things that attract them, such as food and shelter.

Implement a plan to control these animals and bugs and give yourself time to test it out. Steps may include things like humane trapping and releasing. Keep track of what’s working and once you’ve found a perfect IPM plan for your situation, stick to it.

Don’t Spray Pesticides

Controlling bugs and rodents in your lawn, garden or farm area is an ongoing process. While it may seem easy and convenient to spray pesticides, it’s incredibly harmful to the environment and your health. Implementing an IPM and reducing the number of chemicals you use will be eco-friendly and better for your health.

Kate Harveston
Political Journalist & Blogger
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