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What is the heart of the problem
with our environment?
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This article presents the heart of the problem on how we are treating our environment. It also presents, in a general way, solutions. For more detailed solutions, see Sustainable Planet Development or Ecology.
The earth is heating up at a rate that will cause massive disasters in our lifetimes. The rising heat will change the level of the oceans by melting the polar ice caps, destroying coastal cities and islands. It will change the weather and reduce the ability of many species to survive. The increasing heat is being stored in the oceans, creating very long term disasters. The same human activities that are causing the earth to overheat are also causing our air and water to be polluted, oxygen in the atmosphere to be greatly reduced, and our water supplies to be endangered.
Why do we have global warming?
The levels of pollutants, such as black carbon (from burning coal, wood, and diesel fuel), carbon dioxide (from burning fossil fuels), methane (from cattle), chlorofluorocarbons (from air conditioning), have increased so much that the atmosphere retains more and more heat each year. See Global Warming for more information.
Trees can pull such pollution from the atmosphere and give oxygen in return; however, we have destroyed half of our forests in the past 20 years and, at our current rate, almost all of our rainforests will be gone in another 20 years. (In addition, the loss of our trees has greatly reduced the oxygen available in the atmosphere!) See Saving Forests for more information.
What do we need to do globally?
Restore our trees
1. We need to plant trees in every city and town
2. We need to replant our forests
3. We need to replace the use of wood as a fuel for cooking with inexpensive solar cookers
4. We need to reduce population growth to reduce the need for trees and the land trees now use
Reduce Diesel Pollution
1. We need to require diesel trucks to use the equivalent of catalytic converters to remove diesel fuel pollutants-something we have required of cars for over 20 years.
2. We need to require diesel fuel refiners to remove the sulfur in the fuel so that diesel pollution control devices can work
Reduce Coal Burning
We need to replace coal burning facilities with alternative sources of energy, especially wind turbines and, in coastal areas, ocean wave turbines.
Reduce Use of Fossil Fuels
1. We need to convert from coal-fired power plants to biomass carbonizing power plants .
2. We need to develop, and then require the use of, fuel cells that produce no pollution from motor vehicles.
3. Fossil fuels are limited.
4. Reduce peak time use of electricity.
Stop Polluting Our Water, Rivers, and Oceans
1. We need to send waste water to specially designed pools that have bacteria and plants that remove pollutants before sending the water to our rivers or oceans
2. We need to disconnect our downspouts from sewers so the water from roofs flows into rain barrels or diverters so we can use the water for yard care. If we do not, during heavy rain, the toxic sewers overflow into rivers or the ocean. We use half of our water on our yards, so this may also save cities and individuals a significant amount of money, as well as reduce water pollution, reduce the need for water treatment facilities, and reduce the need for dams (to create additional water supplies).
3. We need to require (and develop a convenient system for) recycling toxic materials, such as lead and mercury.
4. Dumping toxic waste (such as car batteries) should become a felony since the waste can often get back into our water supplies or food chain.
See Water Conservation for more detailed information.
What specifically can my friends and family do?
The hardest part is getting started.
Restore Our Trees
Join a group to foster tree planting in your school, community, or even globally. Such groups can also help you contact your representatives in government so you can enlist your representative's support.
Participate in a group that helps to provide solar cookers to those who need it globally.
Offer to plant trees, with a group of your friends or relatives, for your houses, your neighbors, your relatives, your school, your church, or others.
Reduce Diesel Pollution
Congress passed a law, to be phased in over a ten year period, requiring diesel trucks to use low sulfur diesel fuel and pollution control devices for their engines. Write your Congressman to tell him that you strongly support such pollution control. Thank him or her for supporting it.
Reduce Coal Burning
Find out how well wind turbines and ocean wave turbines work. Find out how your local electric utility is powered. If your electricity is powered with fossil fuel, such as coal, contact your mayor and your county commissioners to see if alternative energy would make sense where you live. Provide them with the information you have found about how well the alternatives work, along with information about places that now use them so they can make a contact. Follow up after several weeks to see if they are pursuing it. Get a group of friends and family to meet with them to talk about progress.
Reduce Use of Fossil Fuels
Discuss how you can reduce the use of the car in your family. If appropriate, consider getting a gas-electric hybrid as your next car.
Learn about fuel cells and write to your Congressmen to encourage them to develop legislation supporting the development of fuel cells for cars. Send them the information that you have put together.
If your downspout goes into the sewer, work with your family to divert it so the water can be used for your yard-you have just made a significant contribution against water pollution and saved your family some money.
Contact your mayor and county commissioners. Provide them with information about the value of diverting downspouts. Ask if they can pass a measure to encourage the use of diverters, such as having the city or county run a public awareness campaign on the value of diverting the water from downspouts and then sending diverters to houses, along with instructions on how to use them.
Find out how waste water is successfully cleaned before being dumped into rivers or the ocean. Find out how waste water is treated in your area before it is dumped into rivers (or the ocean). Meet with your mayor or county commissioners to discuss how waste water treatment can be improved and give them information on projects that have used pools with bacteria and plants that clean the toxic waste.
Ask your mayor and county commissioners how toxic waste, such as old car batteries, is handled. Ask them to develop a system to dispose of such wastes and to pass legislation to prevent the dumping of toxic wastes.
Contacting your mayor and county commissioners
Before you contact a city or county official, select one issue or problem and learn as much as you can about it. Find out how your town or county deals with the problem or issue. If there is a physical plant, visit it if you can.
Put together materials to leave with the mayor or county commissioners, such as how the solution you are proposing works, research that proves it works, contacts of places that have succeeded, and the like.
Write to the person and ask for an appointment, telling him or her the purpose of the meeting. If he or she responds that he or she does not have time to meet with you, find more people, especially those with some authority, to go with you. Have the person with the most authority sign the letter requesting the meeting. If they still will not meet, contact your local newspaper and see if they will do a story on the issue.
Work with your family, friends, neighborhood association, teacher, principal, superintendent, clergyman, mayor, county commissioner, or governor to assess progress in moving forward on the environment. You can use the Environment Checklist to evaluate your neighborhood, city, or state. You can use the Home Environment Checklist to help you monitor your own progress.
Fuel Cell Power
Hydroelectric and Wave Power