by Neil Stalter | Zoom Out Mycology
Water is the most destructive force on the planet, causing billions of dollars in property damage and tens of thousands of casualties every year. Much of this is due to flooding is the major culprit in this destruction. Streets, homes, and businesses filling with water can shake the very foundation of a community, and it will never be the same. Consider for example, the flooding following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. To this day, communities (particularly poor and underprivileged areas) are still feeling the lingering effects of the flooding the storm left in its wake. (1) Puerto Rico, in a similar fashion, will continue to feel the effects of Hurricane Maria indefinitely; not the least of which the loss of life the storm and subsequent flooding caused. Unfortunately, the country and planet now face a growing problem that will increase the frequency and intensity of these flooding events: sea level rise.
by Alyssa Leavy | Zoom Out Mycology
How glaciers serve as our main defense against one of the largest releases of greenhouse gases in history.
Glaciers are an essential part of our planet’s landscape and climate. Although they seem remote, their presence is felt in every corner of the globe. Ten percent of land is covered with glacial ice, adding up to over 5.8 million square miles (NSIDC)(2). Glaciers contain so much water that if they were all to melt the sea level would rise 230 feet (NSIDC)(2). To put this in perspective, sea levels are expected to rise about 3 feet by 2070. Taking into account that many delta cities are concurrently losing their foundation sediment and our planet’s growing population, that 3 foot rise in sea level will put about 150 million people at risk of flooding in coastal areas (The World in 2050)(3). Another consideration is that as glaciers melt, we will also lose our fresh water reserve, since glaciers store about 75 percent of the world's fresh water (NSIDC)(2).
Glaciers also influence climate patterns and reflect the sun's rays, protecting against intensifying natural disasters and rising global temperatures. That’s enough for me to change my habits, but if you’re not convinced that we need to conserve these icy habitats, then read on!
Glaciers are integral to human survival in many ways and scientists are discovering another critical protection that dates back millions of years. As the Earth has cycled through warm and cold periods, organic matter has flourished, died and been encased in ice, unable to decompose. This makes glaciers one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet. If global warming trends continue, all of that organic carbon could be released as glaciers melt, spewing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. It’s a startling thought to say the least, but before we can understand the magnitude of this issue, we need a little history lesson on the holocene.
by Neil Stalter | Zoom Out Mycology
As of September 2015, 17% of Americans (and 18% of all children under the age of 5) live within three miles of a superfund site. 4% (or 12 million people) live within 1 mile of a superfund site. As of this writing, there are currently 1,341 superfund sites in the United States. For a long time, when I heard “superfund” I knew it was a place I didn’t want to spend my spring break, but I did not appreciate just how ubiquitous these places that risk “hazardous substance release” are. There is at least 1 such Superfund site in every state except for North Dakota. New Jersey is the state with the most, at 114 unique sites. But what are these places, how did they come to be, and how dangerous are they really? By giving a history of the Superfund program, examining its current state of affairs, and understanding the strategies the EPA uses to clean up these locations, we can begin to answer some of the questions you probably have about this program.
Our Environmental Science blog strives to explain and expose environmental topics and concerns to a wide audience. We hope that this knowledge will help all of our readers embrace a healthy and sustainable lifestyle!