Natural Cycles – Water

Shrinking Ice Caps

With the changing of the season so obvious where I live – especially the beauty of the leaves on trees turning yellow, orange, red and brown amongst the greens, the cycles of nature are front and center in my mind. Also, water has been on my mind. There is the melting of polar and glacial ice, the appearance that storms are increasing in their intensity, drought in some areas leading to large and intense wildfires and just having enough clean and safe drinking water for the burden of humanity.

For too long, humankind has treated the Earth as though it was a supermarket of resources to be tapped, extracted and exploited for profitable gain and usage. When I was growing up in the El Paso TX desert area, the Rio Grande always had water flowing. One year not too long ago, there was only dry river bed. Because Nature is not static, water levels are always changing. The amount of snow in the Colorado Mountains in winter or the release of excess water by the Mexican government preparing for “flood season” can greatly change the flow of the Rio Grande from one year to the next or from one week to the next. In my early adulthood, I once saw a girl drown in that unpredictable river.

On our own farm, the farm pond and beaver ponds can be full and overflowing in Springtime and dry and minimal this time of year. These are all reflections of the natural cycles of nature and water and we would do well to learn to understand them and cooperate with them, rather than fighting against nature or polluting the little fresh water the planet actually has available. We are a “water” planet which is crucial to all of life.

Water makes up about 71% of the Earth’s surface, while the other 29% consists of continents and islands. However, 96.5% of all the Earth’s water is contained within the oceans as salt water, while the remaining 3.5% is freshwater lakes and frozen water locked up in glaciers and the polar ice caps. Of that fresh water, almost all of it takes the form of ice: 69% of it, to be exact. If you could melt all that ice, and the Earth’s surface was perfectly smooth, the sea levels would rise to an altitude of 2.7 km. For those like me who don’t do metric easily that is a rise of almost 9,000 feet or over 1-1/2 miles. Wow !!

The amount of water that exists as groundwater, rivers, lakes, and streams is only a little over 0.7% of the planet’s total water resources. It is a much rarer and more precious commodity than most people are aware it is as they flush their toilet, water their yards and fill up their drinking container.

The Water Cycle

Water has many forms which most of us are intimately familiar with — rain, hail, snow, ice, steam, fog and dew. Even though the minerals in salt water are harmful to most land plants and animals, it is from these vast salty reservoirs (the seas and oceans) that most of our precipitation (rain, snow, etc) rises up to form clouds and comes down upon the land and flows back into the ocean again. The water, or hydrologic, cycle never ends. That is a good thing.

Each person needs about a gallon a day for drinking, cooking, and washing. The average water usage in medieval times was no more than 3 to 5 gallons a day per person. Presently in the United States, people are using about 1,500 gallons a day for their needs and comforts which does include recreation, cooling, food production, and industrial use related to their existence. Another Wow !!

I have been aware for a long time that there are concerns about enough fresh water for the planet’s growing and evolving population. Long ago, Leonardo da Vinci acknowledged that water is the driving force of all nature. In many places on this planet reservoirs and aquifers are drying up. Currently, one in seven people on the planet lacks access to safe drinking water. In some places in the Middle East water has become more important than oil and governments invest in desalination plants. Up to 75% of the farmers in the hot dry plains of northern India, eastern Pakistan and Bangladesh intensely irrigate their crops with pumped groundwater and their use of that water is intensifying.

The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change predictss that the fraction of global population experiencing water scarcity is destined to increase throughout the 21st century. More and more, people and nations will have to compete for those water resources. Jean Chrétien, former Canadian prime minister and co-chair of the InterAction Council, admits that “Using water the way we have in the past simply will not sustain humanity in future.”

So what can be done ? As far back as 2010, 1200 leading international experts from 80 different countries came together and created a list of 19 partial solutions to the Freshwater challenges facing humanity. Of course raising consumer awareness and teaching how to make better use of limited water resources tops the list and is why I am writing a blog about this today. I always seek to be part of “the solution” to whatever concerns me rather than part of the “problem” which only leaves one mired in disfunction.

Wastewater treatment is an obvious place to conserve and revitalize the water that exists. Advanced technologies for cleansing wastewater continue to progress and develop refinements. Clearly agricultural and irrigation practices need rethinking. 70 percent of the world’s freshwater is currently used for agriculture. Water needs to be revalued at higher prices which would reduce waste and pollution. One way to conserve fresh water is to improve the catchment of water running off paved surfaces in urban areas.

Good water management takes into consideration the whole ecosystem – sewage treatment plants could be operated in partnership with clean energy producers who use the wastewater to fertilize algae and other biofuel crops. Those crops, in turn, have an ability not only to soak up nutrients but purify the wastewater which can reduce pumping and treatment costs.

Yemm & Hart’s Origins Material uses recycling water that is heated and sent through piping to melt the recycled post-consumer plastic flakes and pellets loaded into the trays of our press. Then, recycling cool water is sent through pipes to set the material into the patterns that make Origins unique. It is the melting flow of plastic which then is “frozen” into place that gives us a random and natural patterning effect.

What’s new with the most “ECO” of all materials ? (Yeah, I’m talking WATER) I believe that what’s new is a developing but radical change in humanity understanding not only the precious nature of this natural resource but regarding each person’s role in conserving and protecting it’s life sustaining qualities.

Think about it the next time you take a thirst-quenching drink of pure, clean water.

Clean Water

~ Information Resources

Conservation and the Water Cycle posted at NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service, a branch of the USDA – United States Dept of Agriculture) – http://www.wcc.nrcs.usda.gov/factpub/aib326.html

As Rio Grande water levels rise, Border Patrol warns of dangers by Analise Ortiz posted May 26, 2015 at ValleyCentral.com – http://valleycentral.com/news/local/as-rio-grande-water-levels-rise-border-patrol-warns-of-dangers?id=1209856

What Percent of Earth is Water? by Matt Williams posted Dec 1, 2014 at Universe Today – http://www.universetoday.com/65588/what-percent-of-earth-is-water/

Length Units Converter from The Engineering ToolBox – http://www.engineeringtoolbox.com/unit-length-converter-d_851.html

Why fresh water shortages will cause the next great global crisis by Robin McKie posted March 7, 2015 in The Guardian – http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/08/how-water-shortages-lead-food-crises-conflicts

Experts Name the Top 19 Solutions to the Global Freshwater Crisis posted May 24, 2010 at Circle of Blue – http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2010/world/experts-name-the-top-19-solutions-to-the-global-freshwater-crisis/

Yemm & Hart Origins – http://www.yemmhart.com/materials/origins/colorchartpatterns.html

Origins 514 Aquamarine

Origins 514 Aquamarine

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

***

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Facing Up to Climate Change

Bear Glacier Alaska

It is unfortunate that the first alarms about changes in the planetary climate were labeled Global Warming because it gave too much to climate change deniers to loudly proclaim the science faulty. However, climate change affects us all and we might as well face up to what it will mean to who, how and where. I’m not Catholic but I really like the current Pope Francis. He is a gutsy guy and humble too. I believe he truly is living his life in service to the common man and that is rare in anyone with power in our world today.

In December 2015, Paris will host the United Nations Climate Change Conference. According to the organizing committee, the objective of the 2015 conference is to achieve, for the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, a binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. (I won’t hold my breath on that achievement but it is a worthy goal.)

Pope Francis  ~ photo by Franco Origlia for Getty Images

Pope Francis
~ photo by Franco Origlia for Getty Images

In advance of that conference, Pope Francis has issued an official encyclical titled “On Care for Our Common Home” which makes explicit the connection between climate change and the oppression of the poorest and most vulnerable in our human family. Wired.com describes it as “… well-argued, clear, at times quite moving…and 42,000 words long”. I am indebted to their science writers for highlighting the “good stuff”. I have long argued that “the Earth” doesn’t need saving but that humankind does. That is really the issue here.

I agree that too many modern people have totally lost any connection with the natural world. I have to remind myself at times that the majority of urban dwellers do not experience the wildness of nature on a daily basis as I and my husband and children are fortunate enough to have right outside the door of our home. That loss of connection deceives people into thinking of their lives as something separate from and superior to the natural world and from that point onward, arrogance begins to inform choices that actually matter.

Blog author, Deborah Yemm, with sons Simeon and Treston out in the wild

Blog author, Deborah Yemm, with sons Simeon and Treston out in the wild

My husband and I recently watched a documentary about The Corporation. I am well aware that these large organizations also employ a lot of people at a time when employment is an issue due to advances in technology that have made obsolete many of the ways that people have previously provided for their families. I commend enlightened leaders of such corporations, like Ray Anderson the CEO of Interface a flooring manufacturer who came to realize the way that companies such as his have been “exploiters”. Awareness is an important first step towards making meaningful changes.

So it is that Pope Francis has recognized that without awe and wonder for nature and the environment human beings become voracious consumers and ruthless exploiters who are unable to delay the gratification of their every desire or even set any kind of limits on their immediate needs in awareness of the limits that exist regarding natural resources. It is not possible to draw boundaries on the global environment – the air and water circulate freely among all people and cannot be truly “owned” (though some have tried to do this) by any individual, country or organization.

Scientists were not entirely wrong that there has been some global warming. One need only compare old photographs of glaciers with the same geographical regions to see the truth. The melting of ice on our planet is causing the sea level to rise. This is simply the natural behavior of water anywhere as it changes state. It is clear that water is going to be a huge issue for humanity going forward. The Pope declares in his memo that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival and, as such, is a condition for the exercise of other human rights”.

Every person on this planet is affected by climate change in one way or another. The biggest problem for humanity will be the intensity of events whether they are droughts or floods. And adding to the realities of climate change are the burdens of increasing population so that intensive agriculture in places like California and other dry or desert type environments in Arizona, New Mexico and Texas are depleting aquifers at an unsustainable rate for there is no “recharge” to keep them filled. One cannot simply use resources in an unsustainable manner and not eventually hit the brick wall where it all stops.

California Drought

My family enjoys eating many of the foods that California provides to the world. The farmers in California use 80% of the state’s water resources. Almonds which my family enjoys raw or as Almond Butter because the nut is one of the more nutritious choices we can make have received a lot of attention for how much water growing them consumes but that is not all that California produces. Believe in eating your vegetables especially in healthy salads ? It is quite likely that your lettuce, carrots, and celery came from California. Lately my family has been enjoying seasonal fruits like peaches and plums. Yes, California grows those too. Do you enjoy the occasional artichoke or regularly eat asparagus and broccoli ? The drought in California has direct impacts on people’s efforts to be healthy.

The Pope rightly sees “science and technology are wonderful products of God-given human creativity”. Human beings ARE part of nature too. What humans beings do cannot be separated from the Earth and that is the point really. The Pope also sees a need for “a sound ethics, a culture and spirituality genuinely capable of setting limits and teaching clear-minded self-restraint”. I certainly don’t disagree.

In Wired.com’s summary of the Pope’s Memo they note – “When nature is viewed solely as a source of profit and gain, this has serious consequences for society. This vision of ‘might is right’ has engendered immense inequality, injustice and acts of violence against the majority of humanity, since resources end up in the hands of the first comer or the most powerful: the winner takes all.”

“The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone. If we make something our own, it is only to administer it for the good of all. If we do not, we burden our consciences with the weight of having denied the existence of others.”

~ Information Resources

2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2015_United_Nations_Climate_Change_Conference

The Pope’s Memo on Climate Change Is a Mind-Blower – http://www.wired.com/2015/06/popes-memo-climate-change-mind-blower/

California’s Drought Could Upend America’s Entire Food System by Natasha Geiling posted on May 5, 2015 – http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2015/05/05/3646965/california-drought-and-agriculture-explainer/

Interface is a worldwide leader in design, production and sales of environmentally-responsible modular carpet for the commercial, institutional, and residential markets – http://www.interfaceglobal.com/

The Corporation, a documentary – http://www.thecorporation.com/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Conscious of Stone

Large Natural Stone Boulder Veneer

Large Natural Stone Boulder Veneer

My love affair with stone began at a very young age. I wish I had a photo of my paternal grandparent’s rock house to show you but the image above is very much how the rocks were laid. The walls were very thick and I was always fascinated by the naturalness of its appearance compared to the brick veneer home I grew up in. The house passed out of my family’s possession when my grandparents died and so it may not remain standing now. Certainly, it was durable enough to last centuries but the once rural area surrounded by cotton fields has given way to subdivision development. I suspect that old rock house became a casualty that no longer fit in with someone’s economic development plans.

We are fortunate here to be blessed with many large rock outcroppings. Ours is also a cautionary tale of hope and optimism that once fueled an ambitious building project for our business that would have created a model of sustainable design. The early concept was for an elevated structure to avoid the potential of radon that our little farmhouse is plagued by. The building was to be anchored deep in the bedrock but the excavating company quickly gave up as fracturing rhyolite broke equipment windows and wore down implements faster than could be financially justified. It was suggested that we should blast the stubborn rock.

I’ll never forget that look of having been shattered by that blast that I witnessed on my husband and business partner’s face when he returned from that first day. The company that was hired misjudged and overcharged the site and I will admit that I was emotionally impacted when I saw the result. As time passed and plans quickly changed dramatically it all seemed to have been some kind of mistake. My partner will probably never cease to regret what we did to that hilltop without a full understanding of what could unexpectedly occur. So it is that we are left with a hole that looks rather un-naturally and un-intentionally like a quarry. The building project had to be abandoned after the financial crash of 2008. Our farm however is left with a big hole (at least to us) and the mountains of removed stone to deal with. Some of that rock is being used to stabilize logging haul roads to extend their usefulness as perpetual access to the more remote areas of our farm as we sustainably harvest timber for the health and vitality of our forest.

As a natural product stone is inherently earth-friendly. Natural stone offers many attractive, environmentally friendly attributes when quarries utilize the best practices including an enduring life-cycle due to its durability, ease of care and maintenance and inherent recyclability. Responsible practices indicate that the quarry takes responsibility for preserving, restoring or improving the natural environment they have intruded upon. The Natural Stone Council says on their website – “Conserving resources, preventing pollution, and minimizing waste are some ways the stone industry is working to be eco-friendly” in support of green building strategies. The owners of Yemm & Hart do believe that stone and all natural resources should be valued as precious commodities.

West Papua Grasberg Mine

West Papua Grasberg Mine

We applaud the perspectives of the Natural Stone Council to do their “part to contribute to responsible building by providing materials that have been quarried and processed in an environmentally-conscious manner.” I recently became aware of the Grasberg Pit Mine in West Papua which is partly owned by a US company, Freeport-McMoRan. I can’t feel good about what I have learned about that project from the Free West Papua Campaign. I do realize that any politically oriented organization is going to skew the data to support their cause but this one does cause me deep concern. You can read more about those concerns at the Free West Papua Campaign link below in the Information Resources section.

Of course, mountaintop removal isn’t news. The scale of that mine in West Papua is vast but in the United States the issues of mountaintop removal and the environmental and social implications are well documented in places like West Virginia. You can read more about the impacts of irresponsible mining in Appalachia at the Information Resources link below. Sadly there are irresponsible corporations that sometimes play a shell game to hide the corporations that are liable. That may be what Massey Energy was seeking to do when it became Alpha Appalachian Holdings. We’ve seen mining companies here in Missouri possibly change ownership to shed liabilities. I remember hearing an old miner describe his feeling that was what the old St Joseph Lead Company did regarding their mining liabilities. That location is now the Missouri Mines State Historic Site.

Stephens Cemetery Madison Co Missouri

Stephens Cemetery Madison Co Missouri

The Natural Stone Council seeks to substantiate on a holistic level natural stone as a green building material looking at use and life-cycle impacts given not only its durability but salvage and reuse potentials. We revere our stone. Yemm & Hart donated one of the intact large boulders leftover from our own blasting experience to a local pioneer family’s cemetery road entrance. We are happy to see this stone given a long and useful life that can be deeply appreciated for the natural beauty and environmentally benign material that it represents. The white powder in the photo is residue that remained immediately after the engraving.

Stone truly was one of mankind’s first building materials. Stone requires virtually no manufacturing in the conventional sense and is so durable that stone structures built thousands of years ago are still in use today. These are characteristics few contemporary “green” products can equal. Many stone quarries are old-school mom-and-pop operations that have been quarrying for decades with almost no marketing and little trade-group representation. Stone can be salvaged from one building to be reused or repurposed in another. Jason F. McLennan, CEO of the International Living Future Institute says “There is no ‘perfect’ material, but stone is as close to perfect as we can get.” McLennan notes that humans have a universal attraction to buildings made from natural materials like stone, wood, and straw. “There is a part of us that understands that these are the building blocks of nature. This is how we build. This is how we have always built.”

Many people don’t discern a difference between quarrying and mining. Jack Geibig—former director at the Center for Clean Products at the University of Tennessee and current president of Ecoform, a company that specializes in life-cycle analysis (LCA) and other environmental metrics—shared that perception, but after visiting more than 20 quarries throughout the U.S. came away convinced the impacts are very different. “In mining,” says Geibig, “you are taking elements from deep in the earth and concentrating them at the surface.” A lot more material is taken out of mines than out of quarries. In mining there is much more waste, the process is more energy-intensive, and tailings and runoff frequently contain toxic byproducts that contaminate air and local ground water.

With most quarries, the rock is at the surface in large concentrations, and the main environmental problems come from noise, occasional runoff of solids, and scrap piles at the surface. These issues are manageable, however, with good practices, and at the end of a quarry’s production (which could be hundreds of years), most can be repurposed, filled in using waste from production to create useable land or, in some cases, made into lakes. There is a state park here in Missouri called Elephant Rocks. It is the remnant of two abandoned reddish or pink granite quarries and there is a small lake in one pit there. Granite has been quarried in this region since 1869.

Jason McLennan noted “If you compare them (quarries) to an even modest forestry operation, the habitat impacts are a fraction of what they are with logging and milling wood.” He acknowledged that there are poorly run facilities in every industry, but he claims the amount of site disturbance and soil and habitat loss from forestry operations far exceeds that of quarrying. I love stone. It’s hard to even choose which I love more – stone or trees. Thankfully, we have an abundance of both and so I don’t have to choose. They are different entities with uniquely different characteristics but both are precious and should be treated as such.

Last May, our family went on an overnight backpacking adventure in Rockpile Wilderness here in Missouri. There are local stories and indications there that ancient people found the rocks at this mountaintop unique and certainly the big glade near the ancient stone circle would lend itself to camping (as my family did), star-gazing and large groups of people gathered together for whatever purpose native people came to such places. It was definitely a rock lovers paradise.

Deborah Yemm at Entrance Rockpile Mountain Wilderness

Deborah Yemm at Entrance
Rockpile Mountain Wilderness

~ Information Resources

Stone and Sustainability – http://naturalstonecouncil.org/education-training/stone-sustainability/

Free West Papua Campaign regarding the impacts of the Grasberg pit – http://freewestpapua.org/documents/the-envronmental-imacts-of-freeport-rio-tintos-copper-and-gold-mining-operation-in-indonesia-june-2006/

Comunity Impacts of Mountaintop Removal posted at Appalachian Voices – http://appvoices.org/end-mountaintop-removal/community/

Missouri Mines State Historic Site – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Missouri_Mines_State_Historic_Site

Stone, The Original Green Building Material by Brent Ehrlich at Building Green – https://www2.buildinggreen.com/article/stone-original-green-building-material?share-code=6e88a7bc09dc04c5e2842ba220348a17

Elephant Rocks State Park – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_Rocks_State_Park

Rockpile Mountain Wilderness – http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mtnf/recarea/?recid=21864

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Novel Approaches to Wind Energy

I think that some of the most exciting developments in human evolution are in the realm of new and creative approaches to harnessing energy. Certainly, our dependence on fossil fuels – coal and petroleum – has done such damage to the environment of the planet that the sustainability of human life is uncertain. The new Pope Francis has taken the issue to heart saying “An economic system centred on the god of money needs to plunder nature to sustain the frenetic rhythm of consumption that is inherent to it. The system continues unchanged, since what dominates are the dynamics of an economy and a finance that are lacking in ethics.”

However, it may be that human ingenuity will yet come to our rescue.

Wind Tree France

I love trees !! So this unique approach to harvesting wind energy being developed by NewWind of France is reaching right down deeply into my environmentalist heart. Each tree like structure includes a hundred mini-windmills. I suspect that such trees will pose far less risk to birds than the gargantuan windmills that make up the wind farms.

Due to the light construction of the “leaves,” the Wind Tree generates power at wind speeds as low as 4.4 miles per hour! This translates into sustained operation times (an average of 320 days a year) that are almost double those of standard windmills that need higher wind speeds in order to produce electricity. Total output for the tree is about 3.1 kiloWatts. This is substantially below standard windmills, but they can’t operate on as many days due to higher wind thresholds.

Closeup Wind Tree Leaves

Closeup Wind Tree Leaves

The Wind Tree is made entirely of steel and, according to the manufacturer, it is completely silent while running. Each tree is about 36 feet tall and 26 feet wide, allowing it to reach above low obstacles like buildings and other smaller trees and have uninterrupted access to breezes at that level. They can either be plugged in to the public grid or used to power an individual building or complex.

Each tree costs about $36,500, but the payback will be fast. “Planting” them in “groves” may be the key to making the model work most cost effectively. NewWind is planning a test this March, with several units being installed in Paris.

Harnessing wind power really isn’t a new idea. The first grinding of grain harnessing wind power may have developed in Persia. Evidence of windmills in England dates from the 12th century. Wind was not the first non-human power source applied to the task of grinding corn – it was preceded by both animal power, and in all probability by water power. And of course, the Dutch are famous for employing their own unique style of windmill to pump water.

Shattuck Windmills

Our family unexpectedly discovered the Shattuck Windmill Museum and Park while traveling through Oklahoma to share Thanksgiving Dinner with family. This little museum was established in 1994 by a gathering of old windmillers. By January 2013 there were 62 diverse examples of windmills standing in the park with no two exactly alike. Beyond displaying these historic structures the park also shows visitors how homesteaders lived and why the windmill was so important to their survival. The park is located at the junction of US Highway 283 and OK State Highway 15.

Wind is the movement of air from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. In fact, wind exists because the sun unevenly heats the surface of the Earth. As hot air rises, cooler air moves in to fill the void. As long as the sun shines, the wind will blow. And as long as the wind blows, people will harness it to power their lives.

Wind is a clean source of renewable energy that produces no air or water pollution. And since the wind is free, operational costs are nearly zero once a turbine is erected. Mass production and technology advances are making turbines cheaper, and many governments offer tax incentives to spur wind-energy development.

Some people think wind turbines are ugly and complain about the noise the machines make. The slowly rotating blades can also kill birds and bats, but not nearly as many as cars, power lines, and high-rise buildings do. The wind is also variable: If it’s not blowing, there’s no electricity generated.

Texas Panhandle Windfarm

Texas Panhandle Windfarm

During our travels of the blue highways of the back roads we encountered the biggest wind farm we had ever seen in Texas. It turned out to be a project promoted by T Boone Pickens. He bought 500 turbines from GE to build the farm. But then the recession hit hard in late 2008, the Texas wind farm struggled to get the proper transmission lines permitted, and natural gas started on its downward spiral in price, making clean power less attractive to investors.

I’m not complaining about the incredibly low gas prices we are all experiencing currently in the United States. Some of that is driven by excess supply generated by the fracking boom and I suspect some of this has to do with geopolitics influenced by both the Middle East and Russia but I wonder if humanity is being short-sighted about the long-term costs. A General Accounting Office report noted that “shale oil and gas development poses risks to air quality, generally as the result of (1) engine exhaust from increased truck traffic, (2) emissions from diesel-powered pumps used to power equipment, (3) gas that is flared (burned) or vented (released directly into the atmosphere) for operational reasons, and (4) unintentional emissions of pollutants from faulty equipment or impoundment-temporary storage areas”.

China High-speed Rail

But back to novel approaches to harnessing wind energy, how about the winds that blazing-fast trains create (and mechanical forces and energy beyond that including the heat of stations, train car interiors and even the sweat of passengers) ? Around the world, small-scale projects are starting to find innovative ways to harness all this energy. Passengers waiting for a train on the platform are accustomed to the whoosh of wind when their train arrives. Making use of China’s high-speed rail network, designers Jiang Qian and Alessandro Leonetti Luparini have created a prototype of a small power generator called the T-box to make use of those gusts.

Knowing that all “good” things (a relative term if ever there was one) pass, I remain optimistic about human creativity and all of the ways that humanity is going to find to access energy that we never considered as a resource and have either been wasting the potential of or failing to harness the presence of – like wind which is as constant as the sun shining somewhere on this planet every minute of every day.

~ Information Resources

Pope Francis’s edict on climate change will anger deniers and US churches – http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/dec/27/pope-francis-edict-climate-change-us-rightwing

NewWind Wind Trees – http://greenbuildingelements.com/2015/01/12/wind-tree-provides-silent-wind-power-beautifully/

History of Windmills – http://www.windmillworld.com/windmills/history.htm

Shattuck Windmill Museum – http://www.shattuckwindmillmuseum.org/

Wind Power Information – http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/wind-power-profile/

T Boone’s wind farm plans finally blow away – https://gigaom.com/2012/10/15/t-boones-wind-farm-plans-finally-blow-away/

How Has Fracking Changed Our Future ? – http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/energy/great-energy-challenge/big-energy-question/how-has-fracking-changed-our-future/

6 Ways to Harness the Wasted Energy of Trains (and Their Passengers) – http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/energy/efficiency/6-ways-to-harness-wasted-transit-energy#slide-5

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Conflicting Desires

US Fracking Map

What happened to all those promises that fracking was going to bring down polyethylene prices (they have risen significantly of late) and facilitate the re-shoring of manufacturing (where are the jobs) ? This statement is not to minimize my own deep concerns and reservations about the practice of fracking at all. These concerns are significant and serious. Should we build more nuclear reactors on the coast of our oceans in earthquake prone regions ? Anyone want to suggest that as the solution to all of our economic challenges at this point ? I doubt it. At least I would not even consider making such a suggestion.

Susan Freinkel in a article asks “Looking for another reason to worry about fracking? We’re going to bubble-wrap the entire planet with the overabundance of plastic it produces.” She notes that “weaning ourselves from the presence of throwaway plastics in our everyday lives may soon be harder than it’s ever been—thanks to the recent boom in shale gas, of all things”. She shares that “According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, new developments in drilling and extraction technology have opened the door for the capture of more than 2,000 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas—enough to take us, at current rates of consumption, into the 22nd century.”

Freinkel writes that – “Natural gas contains many of the vital raw materials that are used to manufacture plastics and chemicals. The new tide of cheap natural gas has launched the petrochemical industry on the biggest building spree it has seen in many years, with many experts predicting enormous increases in production of those plastics most often used in consumer packaging and single-use products.”

“This is the first time in more than a decade we’ve been able to talk about building facilities [and] increasing capacity,” says Steve Russell, vice president of the plastics department of the American Chemistry Council, which her article goes on to share “represents many of the world’s biggest producers of raw plastics and recently produced a report analyzing the impact of the shale gas boom. To date, companies under its aegis have announced plans to spend more than $100 billion by 2020 to build new facilities or expand existing ones.”

Plastic Consumer Group

“Most of the proposed projects are focused on extracting ethylene from the ethane contained in natural gas. Ethylene is one of the most widely used chemicals in the world—a key raw material for ammonia, antifreeze, vinyl, and rubber. But more than anything else it’s used to make polyethylene: the plastic found in toys and diapers, plastic bags and bubble wrap, milk jugs and squeeze bottles. It’s the chief plastic found in most consumer packaging. Not surprisingly, it’s also the type of plastic most often found floating in ocean garbage patches, thousands of miles from land.” Recycled polyethylene is also the material that our Origins panel product is made of.

With the growth in fracking, any “industry interest in developing greener, biobased plastics has dimmed. When oil and gas prices were higher, the major petrochemical companies were all busy exploring ways to make plastics from renewable feedstocks, such as corn, sugar cane, and sugar beets, as well as from non-food plants (such as algae).” “Anecdotally, that does seem a little off the front burner, compared to where it was,” says Don Loepp, editor of Plastics News.

The United Nations Climate Summit took place in New York City last week. The leaders used the one-day summit to announce plans by governments, investors and financial institutions to mobilize more than $200 billion to finance clean energy and support resilience among vulnerable nations. Several other U.N. initiatives were announced including efforts to reduce methane, a harmful greenhouse gas as well as plans to invest in cleaner transportation and a pledge to end deforestation by 2030. In advance of the summit, there were climate marches in New York City (upwards of 300,000) and other locations around the globe.

2014 People's Climate March New York City

2014 People’s Climate March
New York City

“What we can achieve through this conference is to forge a new model of development for the world,” French President François Hollande said. “There will have to be a new pricing system for carbon which will have to serve as a signal for the way we use it. We have to bring into play what finance has in terms of imagination and shift it to serve the good of planet. We need to define a new economy for the world.” France will be the host country for next year’s summit.

A surprising and encouraging statement came from Stephen Heintz, president of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund – “John D. Rockefeller, the founder of Standard Oil, moved America out of whale oil and into petroleum. We are quite convinced that if he were alive today, as an astute businessman looking out to the future, he would be moving out of fossil fuels and investing in clean, renewable energy.” Also encouraging is the stampede of institutional investors who are committing to expediently decarbonize and measure and disclose the carbon footprint of assets under management. Those making the commitment include foundations, individuals, faith groups, health care organizations, cities and universities around the world.

There is HOPE. Somewhere between such conflicting desires as rapidly growing economies with an appetite for more consumer goods (in India plastic consumption had already been forecast to double over the next five years) and the truly scary sides of climate change gobbling up the coasts where much of the planet’s population currently resides (and are certain to find themselves pushed to migrate even if the planet can keep the rise in global temperatures to no more that 2 degrees C by the target date established at the climate summit) is a balance that equals sustainability. I believe such a balance is possible to achieve even in the context of improving the quality of life for people all over the planet. I hope my optimistic perspective proves out. In the meantime, I do my part and try to remember patience, for even though the need seems quite urgent in reality, such changes in human nature tend to evolve slowly.

TShirt - Post-consumer Recycled to Polyester

TShirt – Post-consumer Recycled to Polyester

“Wrap Party” by Susan Freinkel at OnEarth.org posted 04/28/14 – http://www.onearth.org/articles/2014/04/why-the-plastics-industry-is-raucously-celebrating-the-fracking-boom

“Climate summit kicks off with promises of $200 billion for clean energy” by Michael Casey at Fortune.com posted 09/23/14 – http://fortune.com/tag/new-energy/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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Resourcefulness

Global Economy

It’s been 5 long years for many of us – globally. There have been casualties and certainly there must have been some who have prospered by that. I keep expecting for the global economic situation and the more local situation of the economy in the United States to improve. Depending on who’s forecast you wish to believe, things are going to get better soon (but we’ve been hearing that consistently for a long time, as if willing it could make it so) or we’re in for more of yet the same, a long and bumpy ride is expected to be still ahead for all of us.

1970-2010 Global Downturn

Last night, I read a gloomy perspective in the most recent Time magazine issue (April 7, 2014) by Rana Foroohar titled “Globalization in Reverse” (What the … slowdown means …). Foroohar notes that there is no longer the “easy-money” environment to spur economic growth. That wages might show some increase is doubtful. A more volatile and less predictable time ahead is forecast. China is in the midst of an economic crisis. Japan’s “Abenomics” is faltering. Europe is not expected to come out of their own debt crisis for another 5 years. The US Trade Deficit is shrinking because consumer spending here remains sluggish.

Monetary Cogs

Personally, I don’t know if the pessimistic vision or the optimistic vision will eventually play out. I don’t feel the least bit of certainty about that. Within the Plastics industry there is great hope in the shale energy deposits. Certainly, there have been issues with establishing production in other countries, as business continues to seek advantage in lower cost labor and less stringently applied environmental laws. Personally, fracking deeply concerns me. The Keystone pipeline worries me. The plastics industry has been bloodied in China, just as the oil industry has invested its resources in the Middle East or Mexico, only to later have their investment “nationalized”. Just as businessmen rushed into Russia as the old Soviet Union began to seek a new economic and governmental model for their nation. Business does not always understand the culture or the politics in the countries they seek to exploit. Many have had a rude awakening.

So, some manufacturing businesses are returning to the United States and China faces a reckoning as their one child policy becomes a lack of labor excess in the near future. Our business has always been 100% American. Americans use the containers or tires or other materials that are later recycled to become the feedstocks we use for the “new” materials our business creates. We are an axle on the wheel of financial flows. All that comes in is circulated out, though some is used for our family’s necessary support, most of what comes in goes back out to support other small businesses that we have aligned ourselves with.

Resource Recycling

We have long been grateful that not only are we able to support our family but that we can feel good about what we do to bring financial resources into, through and back out of our lives. We know that we are contributing to the greater good, by doing what we do – keeping waste from being prematurely disposed of into landfills, when it continues to have a usefulness that should not be wasted. We know that environmental ethics are not the “value” that our product’s desire-ablility should be based upon. We have long sought to consistently improve the quality of our product, so that the product is a good quality investment on its material attributes.

We live our vision for a world that increasingly works for everyone inhabiting it in life-affirming and beneficial ways. While it is true that we are not all born equal, nor do our lives reflect an equality of opportunities and comfort, and our deaths are not all of the same cause – it is possible for this planet to be more supportive of all who live upon it than it has been throughout its history. You may say that we are “dreamers” but we’re not the only ones. Someday, it may be our dreams that have lead the way, to a better way for all who live.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

~ Information Resources

“Globalization in Reverse” (What the global trade slowdown means for growth in the U.S. – and abroad) by Rana Foroohar, published in Time Magazine (April 7, 2014 issue) – http://time.com/39880/globalization-in-reverse/

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Blog author ~ Deborah Hart Yemm is co-founder of
Yemm & Hart, a green materials producer

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