Treat our Water Better

As a child I was only allowed to bathe every two weeks. I could only occasionally flush the toilet (I’ll leave out the specific details) and our yard the predominant color was yellow than green. We’d go weeks without electricity and had to use lanterns, candles and flashlights. All of this because of water scarcity. It wasn’t until I got back to the United States did I realize people lived where water and moisture was taken for granted.
            In Kenya, when we were out and about, we didn’t trust water for “normal” reasons such as dead things an animal feces in the water. When out camping and getting water from rivers, generally boiling was sufficient. We didn’t have to worry about chemicals in this water. It continues to amaze me that Americans, in this day and age, can’t trust the water that comes out of their own tap. Furthermore, even though sections of this country are in the worst drought in 500 years, water resources are being used to exacerbate the situation rather than help it.
            A month ago coal mining operations caused a chemical leak in West Virginia. While authorities say that the water is safe to use and drink, residents continue not to trust it. Water is continued to be imported for drinking, bathing and cooking. People in California are also in an equal state of distress. There’s seventeen communities in the state that are about to completely run out of water in 60-120 days.  People are losing their businesses, their livelihoods. Consumers will soon feel the impact of the drought when we don’t have the food that California usually produces.
            Meanwhile, as people in our nation are suffering, water is being used or planning to be used, for practices that intensify the situations. If the Keystone Pipeline were to go through, we would be processing some of the most intensive, dirtiest fossil fuel on the planet. There is also some tar sands in Utah that they are considering to mine. DeSmogBlog outlines the process:

U.S. Oil Sands’ water-and-energy-intensive extraction process involves first digging up congealed tar sands, then crushing them to reduce their size. The company then mixes the crushed sand with large amounts of hot water (at a temperature of 122-176°F) to loosen up and liquefy the tarry, oil-containing residue and separating it from the sand.

Next, coarse solids sink, are subsequently removed and considered waste tailings. Air is then bubbled through the remaining water-oil mixture, which makes the oil float to the top in what’s referred to as “bitumen froth,” in industry lingo. The froth is then deaerated, meaning all the air molecules are removed.

But that is not the end. It continues and it involves even more water. Overall oil sands production takes 170million cubic meters of water – which is the equivalent of 1.7million households use in a year. None of this is water is returnable into the natural system.
              Then we have the 2nd offense – fracking. It takes up to 8million gallons of water to mix with chemicals to inject into the earth and blow it up and extract natural gas. These chemicals then percolate into the natural water systems and into our water systems. It poisons the environment. It poisons us. People can set their tap water on fire. They have to import their water because they cannot trust the water coming out of their own faucets. Animals and humans both become sick, suffering from cancer, hair loss, sensory, respiratory, neurological damage and ultimately death.
              While there’s people in this country that are suffering due to lack of water, it makes me wonder why we are using water resources to poison people. Not only that, this water is just making situations like the drought in California the new norm. We need to step back and redistribute the water in this country. We need to be aware of how our water is used and where it is going. We need to be aware of how our actions, decisions influence our water system.

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Apparently we can’t go a day without a fossil fuel disaster

Apparently we can’t go a day without a fossil fuel disaster

Not only can we not go a week without a fossil fuel disaster, we can’t even go days! Not only was there a train derailment in Pennsylvania, spilling thousands of gallons of oil, there was also another natural gas explosion in Kentucky that leveled homes. War veterans said that the explosion was unlike anything they heard in the war.

Yet the news is not reporting on any of these disasters. They did report on the West Virgina “chemical spill” (due to coal, but they left that out) and there were some whispers about the coal spill in North Carolina. There have been 6 fossil fuel disasters that have been REPORTED in the last two weeks. Only 1 of which have been covered by national media. All of which are detrimental to the environment.

We need to go cleaner. Now.

Keystone Pipeline – We Shall Overcome

              Yesterday I joined hundreds of people all over the United States at 270 sites across the nation to come together to let President Obama know that building the Keystone Pipeline is not acceptable. I honestly thought I wasn’t going to make it given that my area was getting a torrent of snow, but I stubbornly trudged through two miles of deep snow to the local train station to get into New York City. This is a cause I believe in and I’ll be damned if a little bit of snow keeps me from it.
              I am glad I donned my Antarctic parka (which in hindsight might have been a bit of an overkill, but I was toasty the entire time) and made my trek into the City. I have been feeling overall pessimistic about the Keystone Pipeline, as evident in my last two posts. There’s something about being in a group of like-minded people that share your passion that electrifies the spirit and gives you hope.
              At the end of the vigil we sang the classic, “We Shall Overcome,” which given Pete Seeger’s recent passing made me really take in the song more than I ever have in the past. I felt Pete’s presence there with us as I know if he were alive he would have been there or at a KXL protest nearest him. The song is a quiet, enduring, steadfast song of peace meant to be sung in unity. It is the epitome of everything Pete stood for.
              It is also the epitome of everything we are fighting for when we fight for the rejection of the Keystone Pipeline. We shall overcome the Keystone Pipeline someday. Someday we will look back and say we did not put that pipeline in the ground and bring that dirty oil down from Canada. We can look back on that accomplishment in pride. And if they reject the pipeline and they want to bring it by rail, we will still be there to block their way and we will overcome that as well. Deep in our hearts we know this. We will walk hand in hand in peace until we drive those forces of dirty energy set to destroy our environment away from our borders. We are not afraid. Deep in our heart, we do believe, we shall overcome some day.

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Keystone Pipeline Verdict – A Disgrace

Like many in the environmental movement I was disheartened when I heard the news about the State Department’s report, but not surprised. I expected our government, which is blinded by greed, to not put our planet first. By putting our planet first they would be putting people first. But I have figured out that is not how things are run in society. In modern society they put money first. The cost? Everything – citizens, our children, the Earth, our future.

One just has to look at pictures of the area being developed by the Tarsands to see that there IS an environmental impact. Its desolation and wasteland. At first glance you don’t even see oil – you see sand. Where is this precious black gold that people seek? This used to be a pristine ecosystem of boreal forests. Bears, moose, wolves and deer used to graze over these lands. Migratory birds used to stop over here. Now when they stop over here they land in toxic sludge ponds and die. How can you say there’s no environmental impact?

ImageThe State Department’s report specifically looked at the impact of the Keystone Pipeline would have on climate. I imagine they just completely ignored the impact that the Tarsands already have on climate in their study. Oil sands production emits 3 to 4 times more greenhouse gases than producing conventional crude oil. Without a doubt this makes it one of the world’s dirtiest forms of fuel. It is for this reason that Canada will continue to fail to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals in the future. It is also ridiculously difficult to extract oil from sand and uses a ton of valuable other resources. While I don’t condone using natural gas as a resource, more than 600 million cubic feet of natural gas are used per day to extract and upgrade the oil from the tar sands. What if we used this elsewhere? It could heat more than 3 million homes every day!

Right now there is a devastating drought in California. There are farmers that were not able to plant crops this year – this is going to affect everyone, not just California. There are people that have to recycle shower water to water plants and garden. It is very serious. But in the Tarsands, they use roughly 170,000,000 cubic meters of water per year to extract bitumen. And that water cannot even be recycled! 95% of the water used in Tarsands is so polluted it has to be put into toxic sludge pits. But little is done to keep these sludge pits away from wildlife – moose, deer, and other animals come to drink from them. Birds come to try and land in them. Anything that comes near them dies. Not only that, they’re not well managed and the toxic waste seeps out into the Athabasca River. But, there is no environmental impact, so they say.

The reason there is no impact is because the oil is going to come no matter what. If it is not coming by pipeline, it will come by rail. Or trucks. And the jobs this pipeline they are promising it will create? A tiny amount of temporary jobs for a year. Permanent? 50. Just 50 permanent jobs. So what is the driving force here? Money. Canada has a 70billion profit to gain from the Tarsands. They will continue to turn a landmass the size of Florida to look like this:

ImageThey say that it will have no climate impact. But it will have an impact. This pipeline is going to be going through people’s homes, people’s farms, and people’s lands. It is going to have environmental impact. Why are we not building this pipeline through populous areas? Why not go down the west coast, or the east coast? Because we are once again giving the low-income people the short end of the stick. And no impact? There’s been more oil spills on land in this last year than ever before. Our government just chooses to keep them quiet. There were over 300 in North Dakota alone. How many in other states? Oh right, we have to stay quiet about that. Saying Keystone XL won’t impact the climate is like saying no single touchdown will impact who wins the Super Bowl. Doesn’t work.

CONTINUE THE FIGHT! There will be vigil with 350.org on Monday February 03, 2014 at 6:00 PM outside the White House

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