State of the Paris Climate Agreement

By Hannah Gartner 

Just under one year after the historic Paris Change Agreement was declared, it entered into force. This means that the treaty laid out in the agreement is now binding and that the countries who have both signed and ratified the Agreement can be held accountable. For this to happen 55 countries making up for 55% of global greenhouse gas emissions were required to ratify their signatures. The United States (17.89% of global emissions) and China (20.09%), the world’s two greatest polluters, both ratified the agreement on September, 3rd 2016. However, it was not until October, 5th, when eleven countries making up 6.71% of global emissions ratified, that the agreement became binding.

Paris Agreement Map

All countries that signed the Paris Agreement in 2015 are shown in blue. Source- BBC

The primary goal of the Paris Agreement is to bring global greenhouse gas emissions down to keep global temperatures from rising above 2 degrees Celsius since the pre-industrial era. However, the treaty also outlines the more ambitious goal keeping temperature rise below 1.5 degrees. Accomplishing this objective required all 194 countries that signed the treaty to set their own emission reduction standards depending on the infrastructure already in place and how much they contribute to overall emissions. Once the treaty was ratified these standards became binding, and any county that may want to opt out would have to go through a lengthy process and runs the risk of sanctions from the other members of the treaty.  Actually reaching these goals will be a lengthy, difficult process, something that is accounted for within the treaty. However, this doesn’t mean there is time before action must be taken.

 

Among the 129 countries that have ratified the agreement to date, many know this and have already begun to take clear and serious action towards moving our world towards a carbon neutral future. Over the last three years the level of global yearly emissions has inexplicably plateaued. Moreover, in the US, China, and Europe, there have been across the board reductions in the use of carbon. This is just the beginning of what needs to happen though. For one, reducing carbon is not enough. To get enough of the gas out of the atmosphere to stop catastrophic warming, scientists now warn that we must put increased energy into sequestration. Furthermore, reductions in carbon are just one aspect of the many changes that need to be made for humanity to achieve a heathy planet. One year into the Paris agreement, work has been done, but in many ways what is done just shows how much more there is to do.

The Ways We Connect

By Hannah Gartner

The modern environmental movement is filled with calls to connect with the natural world. Over half of the world’s population now live in cities, and having gown up in a city myself I understand how easy being in the concrete jungle makes it forget that one is part of nature. Danger arises from this because human beings value and take care of what is seen as like them, and without any connection to the natural world there is no motivation to behave more sustainably. The environmentalist are therefore on the right path by encouraging connection with the natural world.

My own connection really began as a child, when I spent my Summers going to Maine and my afternoons walking the woods near my home in Philadelphia. Then, in my early twenties I began hiking, snowboarding, and rock climbing. Throughout all this I also grew an understanding of how the world interacts within me through what I take in and put out. For example, the food I eat and excrete can be turned into compost, which has nutrients that feed the plants who then go on to provide me with oxygen and more food. This rapport, along with many others, is no accident but rather a symbiotic relationship developed over millennia.

I have found no better way to connect with nature then to adventure in it, sometimes in exposing and scary ways. Each of the athletic hobbies that I pursue also connect me differently. Snowboarding is a fast rush, while climbing is slow, calculating, and far more exposing. Hiking does not possess the same thrills, but allows more intimacy with the most peaceful aspects of nature. The connection is further enhanced as I learn more about the native flora in my home.

A few weekends ago I took a three day backpacking trip. Passing into wilderness areas with nothing but my feet to move me and what was on my back to sustain me, I found a nature that is rarely seen. The first night was spent by a mountaintop lake between two high passes. The next day, after getting water from the lake, we continued over one of the passes. It was a beautiful day until an afternoon thunderstorm came and refused to leave. We arrived at the campsite that afternoon sopping wet with the rain still pouring down. The tent was erected as quickly as possible, and the remainder of the evening was spent huddled from the rain under that nylon barrier.

Experiencing the natural world is not always confortable. This lesson is clear in the above story, and is one I learn almost every time I adventure in nature. Another lesson I learn is that it is through vulnerability that a deeper connection is able to arise. To foster these types of experiences in one’s own life therefore spontaneously creates the kind of links to the natural world that our culture so desperately needs. Furthermore, allowing oneself the discomfort of being in the outdoors better prepares them for the uncomfortable task of mitigating climate change. So go out there, get your hands dirty, and get close to nature!

That One Corner!

By Pooja Mishra

 

slr5                                                  Source : gananoque.com

Finally, I got a chance to explore The Thousand Islands this Canada Day. The place is magical and is one of the best spots to appreciate Canada’s natural beauty. The moment you reach there you get the feeling that you are living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Splendid, exciting, relaxing are some of the words that describe this place.

The moment we reached there, the beauty of the Lawrence River blew me away. The view in front of our cottage was scenic; we got a beautiful view of the river and it was in the heart of The Thousand Islands. Every morning we could see and feel the pleasure of that place. We couldn’t stop ourselves from capturing every detail in our camera and we clicked many pictures.

Thousand Islands is located on the Upper St Lawrence River near Kingston, Ontario and has over 1800 islands. The St. Lawrence River is one of the largest rivers in the world, which links great lakes into the Atlantic Ocean; Great Lakes hold 20% of fresh drinking water. The river holds a unique position as it straddles the border of the US and Canada and provide fresh drinking water to local towns of both the sides. It is a most loved place of nature lovers.

IMG_1049

One evening I was soaking in the beauty of the place. I could see that many ducks were floating around, which made me walk closer to the river. But as soon as I headed towards the water; my eyes got stuck on one corner of the river. The water which had me mesmerized a few minutes back suddenly made me feel gross. One whole corner of the water by a ferry way, was full of waste material which was polluting the water. There were a couple of ducks that were stuck in the waste, trying frantically to get out of the mess.

Where St. Lawrence River is a great source of drinking water, it also faces many other pollution related problems as well, as it is the only way for ships to enter the Great Lakes and these ships brings along many problems. All other countless stress such as development, transport, over harvesting and pollution are also a threat to rivers and lakes.

All our demands for food, goods, material, energy put so much pressure on our planet. We are so busy in fulfilling our own needs and demands that sometime knowingly or may be unknowingly we do things which harm our nature and spoil its beauty and charm. And water is the heart of all these problems. We think its not our responsibility to clean everything; there are appointed officials for those jobs and they are doing their jobs. There are many organizations like Save the River and Water Aid Canada that have been working to save and protect the rivers and lakes. But they aren’t the sole custodians of preserving the nature. If we want our loved ones to have a healthy life, we need to share the responsibilities; we cannot leave everything to others. We need to do whatever we can do to protect and save our home for the future generation.

Everything in my trip was completely amazing. Our cottage, parks, everything was clean and well maintained but that one corner stuck somewhere in my mind. We all love clean and tidy places and keep our home the same way, but sometime we forget about our surroundings, which also need to be clean and pollution free.

There are many small steps that each one of us can take at home and outside and by making them a part of our daily routine we can make our planet a healthy place to live.

  • Always recycle the waste material; never dump wastes into a storm drain. Storm sewers go directly to rivers and lakes
  • Reduce uses of pesticide and fertilizers; If you live near lake or river, plant a buffer strip of plants along the water
  • Maintain the healthy ecosystem by planting in or around your home; make sure when you water your plant the water doesn’t go on the street or sidewalks
  • Don’t pour chemicals down the sink or toilet
  • Reduce air pollution by using less gasoline into the water. So when you buy a boat motor, choose a 4-cycle, rather than 2-cycle, engine. You will cause less pollution
  • In the winter, use less salt on your sidewalks and driveway. Chloride from road salt is building up in lakes and aquifers that receive runoff from highways
  • If you fish, consider putting away your lead sinkers and jigs and switching to non-toxic tackle. Loons, trumpeter swans and some other waterfowl are susceptible to contracting lead poisoning from tackle they pick up off lake bottoms
  • Don’t use the lake as a bathtub. Soaps and shampoos contain nutrients and pollutants that are harmful to the lake and organisms living in it; even when you wash your car park it on the grass instead of on the street or driveway

 

 

 

 

Tracking Your Food

By Hannah Gartner

Being a responsible citizen of this world means understanding where one sits in it. This involves thinking about and understanding the historical, political, socioeconomic, and ecological impact of one’s actions. One great space to begin unpacking this is food, something each of us must interact with every day.

produceSource: Indiana State Department of Health

Most of us are fully aware that the majority of our food travels a very long distance to our plate. Fresh produce has the easiest origins to pinpoint, as the little sticker says what country it comes from. Harder to figure out is where in that country as well as what farm. With this in mind I grab two granny smith apples from my pantry. They are both from the US, and one includes the word “Washington”, making me believe it comes from Washington State. The other has five stars arranged in a circle, which, after a small amount of research, leads me to believe it is from Oklahoma, since the state seal there is a pentagram. I try to find more information by looking through the websites of the grocery stores I bought these apples from (City Market and Safeway), but can’t find these types of details on individual products.

This small experiment only begins to to show how complicated figuring out where our food comes from is. With processed and packaged food the difficulty grows exponentially. One box of macaroni and cheese will contain near twenty ingredients, and although it may say from where it is distributed, each of those ingredients may come from a different place. To pick apart where food comes from is therefore a huge research task.

What one can do though is get to know the global trends. Around the world their are twelve centers of food production located in North America, Central America, South America, the Western edge of the Mediterranean, Ethiopia, the Arabian Peninsula, Siberia, Central Asia, India, Western Asia and Japan, Southeast Asia, and Australia. If something you are eating was not grown or produced locally, most likely it comes from one of these hubs. We can get to know the climate and practices in each of these regions and try to buy in ways that support those that are more sustainable and fruitful.

Seed-Map-Poster_Where-Did-our-Food-Come-FromSource: SeedMapper.org

Quite obviously the easiest way to know where your food comes from is to buy locally, or to even grow your own food. For those of us who live in higher latitudes though this isn’t a year round option, so it is important to learn how to navigate the grocery store. I hope this gets you on the right path, and here are a few more helpful links:

Happy eating!

It’s time to change your habit!

 

By Pooja Mishra

download

Source : truehuenews.com

Recycling can easily make a big difference in protecting the environment. It helps reduce energy and other useful materials from being wasted. There are a lot of people out there who always keep in mind what things can or can’t be recycled and follow the instructions. But you may be surprised to know the fact that the things you have been throwing away in the blue bins, actually don’t belong there.

The Toronto city launched a campaign earlier this month as a reminder for people on what can and can’t go into recycling bin.  You will be surprised to know that those takeout coffee mugs, which we use on the go and have been throwing away in blue bins, thinking that they are recyclable, actually have to go in trash.

The takeout coffee mugs are coated with plastic and wax so they can’t go in recycle. There black lid also can’t go in blue bins, only non-plastic lids and cardboard cup sleeves can be recycled. According to the city, last year estimated 45,000 tonnes of garbage was mistakenly put into recycling bins.

Here is a small list of those things which we use on a daily basis and which can or can’t be recycled. We can help reduce global environmental damage by keeping this in mind and adding it to our daily routine.

 Can:

  1. Food packaging (Unwaxed only)
  2. Boxboard (Shoes box, gift box, cereal box)
  3. Aluminium foil
  4. All colors glass bottles and jars
  5. All plastics number 1-7
  6. Clean grocery and retail plastic bags
  7. Beer and wine bottles
  8. Kitchen cookware (metal pots, pans, tins, and utensils)
  9. Brown paper bags
  10. Newspapers and magazines

Can’t:

  1. Paper coffee cups
  2. Pizza boxes (with food and wax)
  3. Wet paper
  4. Plastic bottle caps
  5. Plastic Bags
  6. Juice Boxes
  7. Styrofoam
  8. Paper napkins or towel
  9. Heavy died papers
  10. Broken glass

 

 

 

Forget Political Parties, Vote for the Natural World!

By Hannah Gartner

The vast number of countries in the modern world vote for who will head their government. Where I live in the United States we are currently undergoing a presidential election, without doubt the most important election that takes place here. This one is particularly important given that the candidates on the right are all anthropogenic climate change deniers. This has gotten me thinking a lot about how we can vote for the natural environment and help bring sound climate policy into politics.

Presidential Candidate Profiles 52Source: Conservative Review

The first step in determining the right candidate to vote for is to find their political platform for climate change. For the US presidential election this was relatively simple, since none of the Republican candidates have anything to say on this particular issue. As an environmentalist it is therefore clear to me that I can not vote for anyone in the Republican party. I believe that environmental issues are the most important issues we face, and feel that my vote must therefore be for someone who represents and believes the same.

The next step in voting for the natural world is to evaluate each platform. Hillary Clinton’s platform sets clear goals, but does not dive into details on how to accomplish these goals. It also completely ignores the international components of climate change. Bernie Sanders has a much more complete climate platform, although again the international components are lacking. Furthermore, it is important to look at each candidates history on these issues. Sanders has been talking about climate change for years, while Clinton has remained relatively silent.

3d rendering of a badge for the 2008 presidential election

The final step is to vote! Collecting this information and forming opinions means nothing if one does not act of them. So, wherever you live and whoever your candidates are, make sure you cast your vote for the natural world.

Amendment, 5/9/2016: Since writing this Clinton has released an environmental justice plan which can be found here.

World Water Day!

By Pooja Mishra

Source: news.Ik

Source: news.Ik

Can you imagine waking up in the morning without a single drop of water flowing from the taps of your home? Horrible right! We can’t even imagine few hours of our life without access to clean water. But do you know in spite of tremendous progress in science and technology; over 600 million people around the globe still don’t have access to clean water and adequate sanitation. Millions of people spend hours collecting fresh water every day. We never realize that how challenging it is for all those people who don’t have access to safe and clean water.

On 22nd March every year we celebrate the World Water Day, which was started in 1993. Since then it has been celebrated every year around the globe. Its mission is to get everyone access to safer water. It is a day to learn, make efforts and save water.

Water is a vital for sustenance of life. There are many areas where people are suffering from many water-related diseases including Diarrhea, Malaria and Pneumonia. Newborns are getting infected because of the hygiene problems and lack of safe water. The total amount of clean water has been declining rapidly.

Source:

Source: ibtimes.co.uk

Access to safe water is a first and foremost need/right of every human being. We always talk about drinking lots of water keeps you safe and healthy but what if the same water makes you sick. It is a disturbing fact that 82 percent of people who live in rural areas don’t have access to clean water. More than 840,000 people die every year from water related diseases caused by polluted drinking water, hygiene and sanitation.

Water is a precious thing that many of us take for granted. It is high time to take action for all those people who don’t have access to clean water, and the places where water needs are still a paramount. We should come forward together to find a solution.

On this day we all should take a pledge to learn more about water related issues, take required action and make a difference. By improving the access to clean and safe water, we can improve the lives of many people.

Social Impacts of Melting Sea Ice in the Arctic

By Hannah Gartner
As climate science has grown two of the areas most closely monitored are the poles. This past January saw record breaking lows of sea ice in the Arctic. For the years between 1981 and 2010 the average extent of sea ice for this time of year was measured to be 14.57 million square kilometers. Since 2005, January has consistently seen sea ice extent below 14.25 million square miles, and this year it reached only 13.53 million square miles. The effects that this loss will have on climate change remain unclear, yet there is consensus that there will be effects.

Sea Ice, Jan 2016
Source: ecowatch.com

What is more apparent is how sea ice, or lack thereof, impacts people in the Arctic. For over a century we have known of the Northwest Passage, a boating rout that takes one from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific through archipelagos above the Arctic Circle. For those in the Northern hemisphere this allows for a much shorter journey to the other side of the World then the conventional one through the Panama Canal. Over the past decade the number of vessels making this journey has risen to around 30 per year. Still, for large shipping containers the voyage can only be made in the Summer months when sea ice is lowest, and they need to bring along ice breaking technology.

As the ice recedes the tourism industry has also moved into the Northwest Passage. They too can only voyage in the Summer, but this does not change the fact that they are stopping in ports that previously would have been impossible. One example is Cambridge Bay, a town of 1,500, which until recently was only accessible by air. The added tourism is changing the culture of these towns. Tours and cultural centers have begun to crop up and the increased traffic is also increasing revenue.

Arctic Cruise
Source:bestholidaytrips.co.uk

For other areas though the outlook is not so positive. Shishmaref, a island town on the western coast of Alaska, has historically relied on Fall sea ice to stop the damaging impacts of storms. However, now the ice isn’t forming until December and the impact is the loss of about 50 feet of shoreline annually. The future of the people of Shishmaref becomes more uncertain each year, and there is consensus that they must relocate or perish. In the face of all this unknown, there is one nonnegotiable fact about receding sea ice – there will be massive affects that dramatically change life within the Arctic Circle.

Environmental Performance Index 2016- A quick checkpoint

By Pooja Mishra

Environmental Performance Index via phys.org

Environmental Performance Index via phys.org

Canada fell down a rank in 2016 Environmental Performance Index. Canada ranked 25th with a score of 85.06. Canada’s overall scored increased by 11.92% in comparison to the score in 2014, 73.14 which was good enough for a 24th rank.
For the past 15 years Yale and Columbia University have been ranking 180 countries on the bases of their environmental performance. This index ranks the performance of each nation in two areas: Protection of human health and protection of ecosystem. It is based on nine assessment areas including air quality, water & sanitation, health impacts, climate & energy, water resources, agriculture, forest, fisheries and biodiversity & habitant.

Canada’s score card:
13th rank with 99.65 score in water and sanitation
18th rank with 94.64 score in health impact
28th rank with 89.75 score in water resources
36th rank with 91.16 score in air quality
59th rank with 95.68 score in agriculture
64th rank with 74.59 score in climate and energy
82th rank with 39.1 score in forest
99th rank with 35.51 score in fisheries
111th rank with 74.5 score in biodiversity and habitat

Compared to last results, our performance has improved to13th rank in water and sanitation, 59th in agriculture, 82nd in forest but this progress has been very slow. In some other areas our performance has degraded since the last study. In 2014 we scored 100 out of 100 in health impacts. We need to focus more on our environmental issues.
Finland was ranked 1st with 90.68 score followed by Iceland (90.51), Sweden (90.43), Denmark (89.21), Slovenia (88.98).

For more and complete analysis click on epi.yale.edu

Dialogue Through Art at COP21

by Hannah Gartner

The first two weeks of December saw that most important climate talks in years. From these talks, called COP21, have come the most concrete plan on how to mitigate global warming and its effects to date. Each country involved is now creating an individual plan of what this will look like. Starting in 2018 these plans will be revised every five years. The international goal is to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, with a more ambitious side goal of staying below 1.5 degrees of warming. To achieve this already developed nations are pledging to contribute funds to developing nations so that they may grow their alternative energy economies.

The steps taken during COP21 may be a turning point for the environmental movement. No longer are global warming and climate change being portrayed as fringe issues. They now exist within the public consciousness in large way, something that was vividly apparent throughout the talks in Paris. Along with the politicians, activists and everyday citizens flocked to the city to make their voices heard. Among them where a number of artists who used a diverse array of methods to increase the dialogue around these issues.

One of the most remarkable art Livegreenblog.cominstallations at COP21 was by Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. He shipped twelve massive pieces of Greenland ice and arranged them in a shape of a clock in front of the Pantheon. The installation, titled Ice Watch, was then left to melt. The symbolism here is very clear: our planet is running out of time and action must be taken now.

Source HighsnobietyPublic art also served as an alternative to protests, which following the terrorist attacks on November 13th had been outlawed throughout the entire conference.  French artist JR and American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky collaborated on a projection piece they call The Standing March. Showing the image of over 500 people, the purpose of this piece is to show that the world stands in solidarity on the need to care for our environment.

 

About 200,000 activists had planned to march on November 29th to further cement this idea. With strict rules on mass assemblies in place though, the protesters opted for a second best. That morning 20,000 pairs of shoes were placed in the Place de la Republique. Since the people could not walk, they let their shoes stand in their place.