Category Archives: environment

Holiday messages…

Every year we try and remember the positive socially concious ideas behind the holiday season and behave accordingly. We go through all our stuff and donate everything we can in November, we choose several charities to assist or gift to, and we try and focus on spending time with our loved ones instead of money on them. This year we are focusing a little on the ecological side of giving.

To start with we did e-cards this year instead of paper cards. Every year Americans generate some additional one million tons of household waster over the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s day (according to the EPA).¬† That number represents 20 percent of the waste generated by our country each year. I believe doing everything I can do to minimize our part in that is hugely important. Hence the e-card.

We are also making our own wrapping paper out of recycled grocery bags decorated with stickers and stamps, and we are shopping primarily at Amazon which is working with their retailers to minimize the packaging on their products. We also give handmade gifts with no packaging at all and try to recycle any of the packaging we get.

So, with that in mind, Happy Holidays everyone! We wish you a joyous 2009 holiday season and a fantastic 2010!

Blogger Action Day: Climate Change

In response to Blog Action Day today I would like to share a victory from one of my favorite organizations, WildEarth Guardians, whose members work tirelessly to keep our air and water clean and to protect our wild places and species.

One of the many pieces in our patchwork of environmental legislation is the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act (CAA), in part, requires the EPA to identify air pollutants that are a danger to the welfare of the public and adopt nationally uniform ambient air quality standards. With an eye towards meeting those standards the CAA requires states to prepare and submit implementation plans that outline specific measures designed to assure the air quality within each state meets the national air quality standards. The CAA also requires that states whose air quality does not meet the national standards prevent significant deterioration of their already sub-par air quality.

Recently the EPA, in response to a petition from WildEarth Guardians, issued a new ruling that will dramatically and positively effect the quality of our air. Prior to this ruling Colorado failed to aggregate its oil and gas emissions, allowing pollution at a significantly higher level than should be permitted under the purview of the Clean Air Act, the Colorado state implementation plan, and the federal and state prevention of significant deterioration guidelines (PSD). Oil and gas operations consist of hundreds to thousands of component parts, and each one emits pollutants into the atmosphere. The gas drilling operation in question, for example, consists of several gas wells adjacent to a compressor station that takes the mined gas and compresses the gas for transportation through pipelines. The oil and gas companies have long acted as though each well is a single source of pollution and may emit under the permit without violating the overall permit limits. However, none of the gas pumped out of these wells would be usable for its intended purpose without the compressor station. Therefore it has been long argued that the compressor station, the gas wells, and the pipeline connecting them are interdependent and therefore should qualify as a major stationary source using the criteria set out in the federal and state PSD regulations. Without this aggregation each individual part may pollute within the guidelines of the CAA permits but when aggregated a oil and gas operation pollutes well outside the limits of the permits, significantly harming the air quality in the west and adding to our smog, environmental decline, and respiratory health problems. This rampant uncontrolled polluting contributes to the degradation of our nation’s air quality and does little to assist in our efforts to deter environmental harm and handle the coming climate change.

Under the new EPA ruling these individual component parts will be treated like a single emissions source and this continued violation of the spirit of the Clean Air Act will stop. It is expected that Colorado will see a significant decrease in air emissions, up to ninety percent. This ruling is a huge victory for air quality.

You wouldn’t eat a slimehead…

We have been going about this saving endangered or threatened species thing all wrong.

David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post explains in his article Tastier Names Trouble for Seafood Stocks that numerous varieties of fish are currently on the threatened species list because someone decided to give them a less disgusting name. It would seem that the seafood environment has reached this level of degradation in part due to positive PR campaigns. (Is there nothing we can’t blame on marketing?!)

Here in Colorado we are well acquainted with the idea of wrapping an attractive name around something mentally repugnant and serving it to tourists as an exotic dish. After all, we are home to the Rocky Mountain Oyster, a dish that is made out of bull testicles and has absolutely nothing to do with Oysters. Seriously though, can you blame the Cattleman’s Association for the that one? Who in their right mind would order Rocky Mountain Testicles?

The Slimehead has joined the ranks of depleted species because it underwent some PR reviews and came out with the appetizing name of Orange Roughy. Scientists named the prehistoric looking fossil fish for it’s distinctive mucus canals.

Mmmm… mucus canals over long grain rice in a tomato cream sauce. Yummy.

The fish was basically left alone and considered a by-catch of other commercial fishing enterprises until the name change occurred. Then the Slimehead became a popular food source and has been quickly over-fished. It’s currently dangerously depleted.

Other victims of good PR schemes are the Monkfish (previously known as the goosefish), the Uni (a sea urchin previously called a Whore’s Egg) and the Chilean Sea Bass (really the Patagoinian toothfish and not actually a member of the bass family.)

The biggest problem with these PR makeovers is their effect on the fish populations. Many of these previously untouched creatures have low reproduction and incredibly long lives making it very difficult for them to recover from over harvesting. Over-fishing is a serious threat to both the Oceanic environment and fisheries. If there are no more fish to pull from the ocean then there are no more fisheries. (This means no more money for you fisheries! Watch what you’re doing here!) While over-fishing is harmful for the more delicate species mentioned in the article, it is also harmful to fish who normally would be able to handle the threat due to their prolific reproduction. The Cod is an excellent example. Cod should be capable of sustaining heavy fishing but their ocean floor habitat is being destroyed by the bottom trawlers sent to harvest them.

In the meantime the renaming of previously revolting fish is wrecking havoc on these previously ignored species, adding them to the already gigantic list of species that may get the government’s attention some decades down the road.

So I propose a new approach to environmental activism. Instead of battling for months and years to have the government list a species as endangered, and then battling for months and years to force them to designate critical habitat, and then battling months and years to force them to comply with their listings, let’s start an anti-PR campaign.

Let’s rename the depleted fish something really, really gross so they won’t get harvested and eaten.

Seriously, how many of you are going to woo someone over dinner with wine and a filet of Slimehead?

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Background information for this post came from Tastier Names Trouble for Seafood Stocks By David A. Fahrenthold and Seafood Watch.