Archive by Author | alliej0017

Want Farming Innovation? Think Up!

Sometimes, instead of focusing so much on the United States and climate change, I feel it’s best to look at the world’s advances and innovations. While perusing the internet for subjects (or “bites”, as we like to call them) on which to write about, a post from NPR’s food blog The Salt caught my eye: Sky Greens, a company in Singapore, just opened their first commercial vertical farm.

“What’s a vertical farm?” you might ask. It’s pretty simple: vertical farms (also called vertical greenhouses) are skyscrapers that house plants. There are many different designs for these farms, and Sky Greens’ farm is just one of them. Inside the Singapore tower, trays of bok choy and Chinese cabbages rotate around an A-frame, like a Ferris wheel for plants. This way, each plant receives an equal amount of sunshine. Since everything’s indoors, there’s no need to worry about pests or other environmental conditions such as storms destroying the crops. The tower even saves water by using a water recycling system.

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Down the Toilet

What do Arizona ski resorts, Navajo Native Americans, and sewage water have in common? A lot, apparently. One particular ski resort, Arizona Snowbowl in Flagstaff, Arizona, plans to expand their slopes onto what was previously Native American territory. And the snow they’ll be using for said slopes? Made from 100% sewage effluent. In other words, treated sewer water. A New York Times article on the subject explains it all:

This coming ski season, the resort, Arizona Snowbowl, will become the first ski resort in the world to use 100 percent sewage effluent to make artificial snow.

It is necessary to create fake snow due to warming climates and early-in-the-season opening days, usually around Thanksgiving. Cities across America already use treated sewer water as a means to irrigate parks, soccer fields, and golf courses. As far as standards go, the water used for Arizona Snowbowl is in the highest category–just below drinking water. However, when the city of Flagstaff conducted its own water tests (in addition to the federal study), they found that the water also contains “hormones, antibiotics, antidepressants, pharmaceuticals and steroids” and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs.

Moreover, both the Native Americans that live on the land and several environmental groups are concerned that the treated sewage water will seep into aquifers and the soil around the mountain. But too much is unknown to make good predictions on the subject of long-term effects.

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Hydraulic Fracturing: Good or Bad?

While perusing the internet I came across an interesting story: the Environmental Working Group, or the EWG, will file a law suit against New York governor Andrew Cuomo. The EWG will sue Cuomo and his administration for not disclosing documents about formulating their plan to permit high-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking:

“In the suit EWG contends that the Cuomo administration failed to honor EWG’s request under the state’s Freedom of Information Law for full disclosure of public records showing communications between the governor and six other senior officials and about two-dozen representatives of the oil and natural gas industry….“We already know that state regulators gave drillers exclusive behind-the-scenes access to draft regulations that were stacked in favor of natural gas companies and riddled with scientific gaps,” said Heather White, Environmental Working Group’s general counsel and chief of staff.”

For those of you who don’t know about fracking, here’s a crash course: underneath parts of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and of course New York lies the Marcellus Shale deposit. It’s possible to extract natural gas from this shale by inserting pipes that inject a mixture of sand, water, and dangerous chemicals such as lead, mercury, and formaldehyde.

When the sand mixture reaches the bottom of the well, the intense pressure creates small cracks, or fractures, in the shale. The natural gas trapped there then migrates up and workers above capture it. Fracking can produce 300,000 barrels of natural gas a day. So what’s the problem?

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Scare Factor: Yep, You’re Scaring Me

The first time I watched Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, I was probably 7 or 8 years old. I didn’t process much, other than the “Simpsons-eque” cartoon towards the beginning. Yes, I recognized it was about global warming. Yes, I knew Al Gore was in it and sort of who he was. But most of the facts and figures that Gore talks about didn’t stick with me. When I heard we would be watching An Inconvenient Truth in our class, I got really excited. I like documentaries and this movie in particular from what I remember, so yay! However, one thing struck me as the movie played on. The film is not that positive.

One could argue there’s a point towards the end, as well as in the credits reel, where Gore talks about things we can do to reverse climate change and global warming. But that didn’t do much to reverse the feelings of guilt and shock I received while watching animations of polar bears trying to find places to live or graphs predicted to go “off the charts” in the near future. In fact, many days after watching a portion of the film, my classmates and I would run to each other, screaming, “I don’t want to die! The polar bears are going to drown! I don’t want the Earth to burn!”

If the point of An Inconvenient Truth is to inform the general public about global warming and inspire them to take action, I’m not getting all of it. Some portions left me feeling like it’s already too late or that it’s all my (or America in general’s) fault. The way some of the statistics and predictions were phrased made the whole thing seem like, say, a doomsday prophecy. There are better ways of informing people about urgent issues, and shock tactics, while often successful, can be overdone. I do feel a bit inspired, but mostly I feel, well, scared.