Help Save The Whales!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Poison Planet

There is a poison that exists in the world, and it is finding its way into our homes, and our bodies. While this poison is derived from a naturally occurring element, its existence in the quantities that it has attained is not natural. It is by the actions of humanity that our waters are poisoned to the extent they are now. An unfortunate by-product of the industrial age, mercury has made its presence known, and many suffer under its influence. Records of mercury poisoning run rampart across the world.

Mercury itself comes in a number of forms. In its pure natural state it is a liquid metal, which is very volatile. This is perfect for items like thermometers, switches and some light bulbs. This can be also found in coal, and is released into the atmosphere when burned. This accounts for over 40 percent of all domestic human-caused emissions within the United States. Mercury is also released into the environment through the burning of hazardous wastes, chlorine production, destruction of products containing mercury, and improper treatment and disposal of material that contains mercury.

Through whatever means mercury uses to find its way into the environment, it eventually settles within our water supply. Once deposited, certain micro-organisms can change it into methylmercury, a highly toxic form that builds up in fish, shellfish and animals that eat fish. This becomes the main sources of methylmercury exposure to humans.

Mercury exposure at high levels can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. Research shows that most people's fish consumption does not cause a health concern. However, it has been demonstrated that high levels of methylmercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn. Impacts on cognitive thinking, memory, attention, language, and fine motor and visual spatial skills have been seen in children exposed to methylmercury in the womb.

Symptoms of methylmercury poisoning:
impairment of the peripheral vision;
disturbances in sensations ("pins and needles" feelings, usually in the hands, feet, and around the mouth);
lack of coordination of movements;
impairment of speech, hearing, walking;
muscle weakness

Another less common exposure to mercury that can be a concern is breathing mercury vapour. These exposures can occur when elemental mercury or products that contain elemental mercury break and release mercury to the air, particularly in warm or poorly-ventilated indoor spaces.

Symptoms of elemental mercury poisoning:
emotional changes (e.g., mood swings, irritability, nervousness, excessive shyness);
neuromuscular changes (such as weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching);
disturbances in sensations;
changes in nerve responses;
performance deficits on tests of cognitive function.

To protect ourselves, and our children, from this poison we must be aware of the actions we take. Reduce your consumption of fish and shellfish, and conduct some research on which has higher mercury content. While important for a well-balanced diet, they should be consumed in moderation. This is especially important for children. For pregnant women, or those still nursing, omit all consumption. Use caution when handling material that contains mercury (like compact fluorescent lights or thermometers), and dispose or recycle material properly.

Though it is virtually impossible to negate the existence of mercury in our lives, and the world around us, we can affect our exposure to it. By realizing what products contain mercury, how to properly dispose of them, and they symptoms caused by over exposure we can better protect ourselves and loved ones, and work for a better lifestyle.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The plague of the seas

There appears to be trouble brewing within our seas. While many aspects of it our naturally occurring, there is apparent evidence to indicate that the results of our actions are moving it to a more noticeable and detrimental state. The effect of the slight increase in worldwide temperature in conjunction with runoff from agricultural farming and sewage has provided excellent spawning grounds for an interesting creature. Cnidaria are becoming more prominent within our waters, more commonly referred to as jellyfish.

There has been a noticeable increase the populations of numerous varieties of jellyfish across the world. This has been due to the growth of jellyfish "blooms". These "blooms" can contain up to hundreds of thousands of these sea creatures. There are a number of factors involved in the jellyfish reproduction rate; primarily nutrient content, temperature and oxygen levels. These creatures are able to survive in areas with a lower oxygen content than what other marine life can, and feed off the plankton that grow in the nutrients from the waste pumped into the ocean by humanity.

The detrimental effects of vast populations of jellyfish are few in number, but very noticeable. The first direct affect to humanity would be contact, stinging by their tentacles on humans in swimming waters is a known occurrence. As many are fairly small, and their body structure makes them appear translucent, they are nearly invisible in the waters they inhabit. Another prominent effect is upon fish. While they not only eat the same food as fish, they feast on the fish as well. This can result in severe or complete decline in fishing stocks.

Proof of their expansion has been noticed around the world. In Hawaii, the Box jellyfish makes an appearance every month, on the darkest nights near the new moon. Thousands of them swim towards shore to reproduce. They effectively clog the waters, making it unpleasant and unsafe to swim. In Japan, their fishing industry has been decimated at times due the presence of the Nomurai, a giant in the world of jellyfish, which can grow up to 2 meters in diameter and 450 lbs. While not much a direct threat to humans, they do affect the fish population, though they do not feed on them. Hundreds of them in one location can poison and kill the fish, and get caught in nets. In 2009, a Japanese trawler was capsized due to the number of Nomurai within their fishing nets.

These are just two known occurrences of the effects of jellyfish on the world around them. There are others in the Gulf of Mexico, the Bering Strait, and the Dead Sea. Check these hot spots for more stories.

While there is not vast research into the world of jellyfish, there is enough known and witnessed to believe the potential detrimental effects they can have in great numbers. There is proof that our actions that affect our oceans have an effect on marine life, in conjunction with nature. If we continue to pollute our waters at the rate we are going, we may completely offset the balance of nature. Worse case scenario, the jellyfish become the dominate species within our waters, and we could lose our viable resources, and the natural beauty of our world that makes in wondrous.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Products that kill the world, and us

Pesticides, and the dangers they cause.

Chemical compounds used to kill insects, weeds and fungi have drastic effects on the world and creatures around where they are used. It is impossible to contain them directly to the intended target. Pesticides have been used for thousands of years, but until the 1950's, from naturally occurring sources. Since then synthetic compounds have become prevalent.
Pesticides are used to control the spread of organisms that are considered harmful. While this sounds like a good idea, in theory, the side effects of the application can be worse than the problem wished to be contained. Pesticides have a tendency to spread from their applied source. They find their way into nearby ponds, fields and yards, and can be indirectly brought into your home. It is estimated that only 5% of herbicides actually kill the target weeds. Drift from large landscaping applications can spread from 12 feet to 14.4 miles.

These pesticides have a number of effects on the environment, and its inhabitants. Death can be the most severe result, but there are many effects that are long term, and can affect subsequent generations. Cancer is a common result, as well as asthma and allergies. Birth defects, decreased fertility and neurological damage are other known results of contact with pesticides. Children whose homes and gardens are treated with pesticides have 6.5 times greater risk of leukemia than children living in untreated environments.

Even with regulations set down by organizations like the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization pesticides are still detrimental to the state of the world. Even the tests conducted are somewhat inadequate. They typically test against acute effects, of single chemicals on healthy, adult animals over short periods of time. They do not test the effects of multiple chemicals , chemically-sensitive or immune weak young or fetal subjects over long periods of time. It is under these circumstances that the effects of these dangerous chemicals is most noticeable. Those who handle pesticides directly may be able to protect themselves from short term exposure, but what of the children who play everyday in the field next to where they are sprayed? How do they protect themselves to something they are unaware of?

It is estimated that 28 million workers worldwide in the agricultural industry experience severe poisoning from exposure to pesticides. Approximately 18,000 of those die. There are many links between pesticides and numerous forms of cancer; non-Hodgkin lymphoma, leukemia (especially in children), prostate cancer, multiple myeloma, and soft tissue sarcoma to name a few.

It is primarily due to the use of pesticides that Organic foods are becoming so prominent. People are becoming aware of the dangers involved with pesticides, and how it can affect them directly. People are grateful for the opportunity to choose a healthier lifestyle, not one that is chemically induced. We can all make the effort to minimize the amount of exposure to pesticides in our own lives, but we need to take steps to reduce or negate its use in the world around us. It may be good to purchase only Organic fruits and vegetables, but what of the park you take a daily stroll in? Do you know if they spray pesticides to control weeds and insects?

There are alternatives to pesticides now. Dangerous chemicals are not the only option. Biological control is a viable method of controlling pests. Something as simple a implanting natural predators into the ecosystem, like ladybugs, to feast on aphids such as green flies and black flies. Another seemingly simple option is mixed planting and the provision of flowering borders. This can easily increase the diversity of habitats, and provide shelter and alternate food sources. These methods do require more forethought and planning, but the ecological impact would be much less disastrous than the chemical 'spray and pray' method.

Alternatives also include: using coffee grounds, salt and hot water, vinegar and warm water, organic mulch, and even insects. It all is dependant on researching the problem at hand, and finding viable, safe options to deal with the matter. There are countless resources on the matter. The world has come to be more aware of the troubles of pesticides and their use. This is an issue that we can affect directly, in our own lives, and will have an effect on those around us.

Next time you desire to acquire some chemical pesticides to solve your little weed problem, think of the woman out for a walk with her child in the stroller. Do you want to be the one is the cause for that child's future health problems, and the grief the mother will feel? Then think that it is your child that gets leukemia. We can make a difference.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

World Saving Tip of the Day

We all need to do our part. One of the simplest acts that we can take can have a profound affect on our world's ecology. There are many methods, and resources, available in the area of Water Conservation. The use and availability of running water is a privilege many have taken for granted. It is not until something directly affects an individual just how much water is used, and needed.

We drink it, clean and wash with it, cook with it. The numerous uses for water are almost limitless, though the availability of it is not. There are 1.1 billion people on the planet who live in areas who lack access to safe water, and there are 2.6 billion that are without proper sanitation.

Those of us that have the privilege of clean, running water must be aware of the gift that has been given to us, and not abuse what we could one day lose if we do not make changes.
Low-flow is a fairly simple option. Reduce the amount of personal water consumption by turning off the tap when not in use, install low-flow heads to faucets and shower heads, or install a low-flow toilet. Take shorter showers. This can easily reduce personal water consumption by a third.

Avoid bottled water. It takes the equivalent of eight bottles of water to make one plastic bottle, which could spend a great many years in a landfill or floating the ocean if not recycled properly. And think, does it really make sense to be paying for something that you can get for free? Invest in a stainless steel water bottle that you can take with you. That makes sense.

For those with yards or gardens, choose to water them early morning or later at night, when the temperature is cooler, and there is less evaporation.

Replace old, water-using appliances with "Energy Star" models. They can use up to 40% less water, and 60% less energy.

Avoid all chemical cleaners! The effects on marine life from humanities ignorance can be devastating to marine life; including reduced fertility, genetic deformities, immune system damage, increased incidence of tumors, and death. This poisoned water will eventually end up in your very own water supply. The chemicals that you clean with will make their way back to you, causing much damage along the way. Ban the use of chemical cleaners and pesticides!

You can learn how much water it takes to produce everyday products at

Monday, March 22, 2010

More proof that we are killing our oceans

There is undeniable proof of the damage caused by the waste produced by humanity, if one will just open their eyes to what is there. Here we have a view of the coast of California, near La Jolla, San Diego. Here is the decay of algae.

Dead zones are areas of low-oxygen within the planets oceans. This is the result of an increase in chemical nutrients, typically from sewage, urban land use, and fertilizers. While dead zones can be naturally occurring as well, from coastal upwelling and changes in wind and water circulation patterns, there have been a significant increase in the appearance of these across the world. There were 146 dead zones reported in March 2004, and 405 as of 2008.

The pressence of dead zones result in reduced reproduction of marine life and often the suffocation of life within it for prolonged periods. Some areas are classified as dead zones for only a few hours of the day. Even this short time span can mean death for slow moving bottom-dwelling creatures.

Fortunately the existence of dead zones are not permanent. Changes in weather are natural, and do have an effect on the creation and dispersion. Even those created by humanities actions can be undone. The Black Sea, considered the largest dead zone in the world, has been mostly cleared out since 2001, after the coastal countries had a reduction in the use of their fertilizers. Fishing has again become prominent in the area as a result.

Our actions have noticeable effects upon our planet. Our reactions do as well. If we become aware of the mistakes that are made, and take action to right them, we can avoid any future disasters. Every action has a result. The more profound results come from actions with forethought.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Mother Nature's Toilets

Across the planet there are numerous gyres (any large system of rotating ocean currents, particularly those involved with large wind movements). There are five most notable gyres that are across the globe; two in the Pacific Ocean, two in the Atlantic Ocean, and one in the Indian Ocean. These are basically large, slow moving whirpools. They accumulate debris and flotsam carried along ocean currents.

Of the most notable gyres, The North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, contains something referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The existence was initially predicted in 1988, based on data obtained by several Alaska-based researchers that measured neustonic plastic in the North Pacific Ocean. They found high concentrations of marine debris accumulating in regions governed by particular patterns of ocean currents (ie Gyre).

It wasn't until 1997 when The GPGP was officially discovered. It was a man, Charles J. Moore, who was returning through the Pacific Ocean after completing a Transpac sailing race. There he came across a vast view of the sight of plastic, floating upon the ocean's surface. “I was confronted, as far as the eye could see, with the sight of plastic. It seemed unbelievable, but I never found a clear spot. In the week it took to cross the subtropical high, no matter what time of day I looked, plastic debris was floating everywhere: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments.” ; as quoted from an essay he wrote for Natural History.

This area is frequently featured in media reports as an exceptional example of marine pollution. It is places like here where the true nature of the waste produced by humans is viewed in full light. An estimated 80% of the garbage comes from land-based sources, and 20% from ships. A typical 3,000 passenger cruise ship produces over eight tons of solid waste weekly. We can not let our waste continue to flow into our water supply, the lifeblood of our planet. Our planet is slowly choking on it. An article done by Thomas M. Kostigen for the Discover Magazine discusses this important issue further.

Another example of the results of our wasteful nature, is The Midway Atoll, a place that receives a substantial amount waste from the The GPGP. This is turn has a drastic effect on the Albatross population that feeds and nests there. A great many of the albatross fledglings die every year of starvation, of choking or puncture by sharp shards. A team, called their trip The Midway Journey, and document their trip to Midway Island in an attempt to show the world the results of our produced waste. They are making efforts to show the world, through artistic video.

We all must be aware of the waste that we produce individually. We must take into the account of the millions of others that waste, the companies that manufacture waste, and must take thought as to where it all will end up.

Me must take our part to minimize the waste in our own lives. Recycle, Return, Reuse are still words to live by, and should always be. Take thought into the products that buy and choose the ones that are less wasteful, and choose products that can be recycled. Every little action we can make in this regard will have noticeable results in our future.
Thank you for helping to save our planet.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Victory in the world of Anti-Whaling

This link will bring you to a story of the lengths some people will go to in an attempt to stop the whale killing in the pacific, and some of the success theirs efforts bring to fruition.

There are people who make it their lives work to stop this senseless slaughter. It is up to us to recognize their efforts, and to do our part to bring awareness to the rest of the world. When people are shown the truth, they are granted an opportunity to make a difference.

I applaud the crew of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society for their efforts, and wish them much success in the future.
Witness them in action, watch the series Whale Wars, originally aired on Animal Planet from November 7th 2008 to December 19th 2008. The second season was aired June 10th 2009, in Canada.