What’s Worse Our Normal Water Pollution or the Gulf Oil Spill?

A lot of us can’t ignore the devastation in the Gulf and want to do something to help out. Maybe fly out and volunteer or donate money. Here is another alternative.

After browsing the news articles I came upon the following photo created by a scientist already in the Gulf studying Dead Zones:

So, what’s worse the Dead Zone or the Oil Spill?

At first, it may be hard to tell. The Oil Spill is continuing to grow and may not be stopped for a few months. The oil will be washing ashore or getting out into the Atlantic.

On the other hand the Dead Zone occurs every year and not just in the Gulf. They occur in every river, bay, lake, and in both our oceans. The cumulative size of all the Dead Zones in our waterways makes the Oil Spill seem paltry.

With this in mind you can do something right now to help out. You can help prevent the dead zones from occurring in your local water spots. Here are two ways that can create a permanent long lasting change that will not only help your own community but your health and pocketbook.

The first thing you can do is reduce your water needs. Pull less out of the faucet and send less down the drain. Doing so will lower your water/sewage bill and their are so many easy ways to save water at home.

The other way to buy local or organic food. That’s right agricultural waste accounts for just as much pollution as humans do. It is part of the irony of the food movement and especially the organic movement. Organic was originally started for just this reason, to save the environment. Yet most of us eat the food because it taste better, is healthier, and cheaper (by quality).

Here is an opportunity for all of us to help the environment in a way that provides multiple benefits. Cleaner water, healthier bodies, and lives in balance.

Plus, maybe just maybe an opportunity to swim and play in our favorite waterways.

This has been a dream of mine for longtime.

A Thought on a Pollution Tax

I’ve been thinking for a while about why global warming bothers me so much. You would think that as a “greenie” I would be all over this issue. Instead of proclaiming catastrophe to every new A Clean Lifer I avoid the subject. I have just found that there are so many other pressing issues. Items that are more relevant to everyday life than some future global immolation.

Which brings me to cap-n-trade. A supposed solution to global warming. I’ll just come out and say it: I don’t think its going to work. Not because we don’t need it but because its a bad idea. I like to say a square peg being pushed into a round hole. Here’s why.

The issue at hand is pollution. Companies, people, and governments are polluting (via carbon). This means all of us and we are doing it at an incredible rate. Sooner or later we all going to have to pay for our pollution. Like the smog control issues in Los Angeles, the plastic bag charge in DC, or the brownfield cleanups in New York. For years now we have already been paying for our pollution, just doing so after the fact.

pollution towers

This is where cap-n-trade comes in and attempts to solve the problem. It’s a continuation of after-the-fact, monday-morning-quarterbacking. In essence we know you are going to pollute so let’s create an artificial market so you can buy/sell your pollution “allowance”. We take it for granted that pollution has to happen? If so, we create a fake market, make allowances for pollution, allow people to sell pollution?

Yeah, when you explain it like that it does sound dumb. Even more I would venture that the only reason this solution is being bandied about is because the money from the buying/selling is supposed to go cleaning up pollution or to poorer countries.

Like I said, a dumb idea.

Instead, I suggest we invoke a pollution tax. You pollute you pay for it, upfront. I say we do away with letting companies and people pollute first then pay years later (or not at all). Let’s incorporate the costs into the activity. Like if you want to use electricity then you are going to have to pay for consulting contract to clean-up the power plant and reduce its pollution. The more electricity you use the more you pay.

Here is a perfect example. The city of Alexandria in Virginia has a contract out to clean-up their local power plant. This is to meet EPA standards, state standards, and local pollution concerns. Who do you think is paying for that $80 million dollar clean-up? It is definitely not the previous users of the electricity the plant produced. It is the future users through an increase in the cost of electricity. Basically, we have a system where you can pollute all you want and then let someone else pay to clean it up.

This bothers me deeply because my parents generation has been doing just that. They polluted the hell out of this world and are now bequeathing it to me dirty and I have to pay to clean it up. Thanks.

You may be thinking to yourself that this is impossible. There is no way we know the costs of pollution. Wrong. We know the costs of nearly every type of pollution that humans can produce. We have been cleaning up, litigating, and charging people for years now.

I just think it’s time to start realizing this and doing something about it. We have all we need to stop passing-the-buck and avoid the silliness of cap-n-trade. Problem is people don’t want to actually pay for their own pollution…

Why is that?

A Clean Life Thanksgiving

If you remember back to the stories we learned in school then Thanksgiving is about giving thanks. This is in two specific areas thanks for the fall harvest and gratitude to others (thanks in general).

This Thanksgiving I ask you, the reader, to honor this tradition by getting into the fall harvest. Head to your local farmers market for fall harvest potatoes, vegetables, etc. Stop by your local whole foods for a free range, cage free heritage turkey.

Potatoes at the farmers market should be abundant and cheap (comment if you can’t find a market in your area). At Whole Foods you can special order a turkey (link helps you find a location). I went in and talked to the butcher, he said to estimate about 1.5 pounds per person and the price was $2.50/pound. For my family dinner of 6 people that will be about $25 for the turkey.

The benefits to doing so are numerous and powerful. Supporting a local farmer builds up our Capital foodshed and adds to a sustainable food industry. It reduces pollution in your community and in our water. It even increases you and your family’s health.

If you’ve heard me speak before you know that our current food system is one of the largest polluters in the world. It is also one of the unhealthiest (67% of all adults are overweight). Unfortunately, the alternatives to this food system (farmers markets, coops) constitute only 2% of our food system. Some studies show that if every American were to buy one item at a farmers market each week then that 2% would grow to 10% in one year. Maybe this Thanksgiving is your chance to join in.

Turkey’s are another story altogether and its not a sweet bedtime story. Most turkey’s purchased for this Thanksgiving will be obese and loaded with drugs. Their weight problems and our industrialized food system also make them sterile or unable to reproduce. They are fed an unnatural diet that kills their organs, requiring more drugs. Their cages are indoor factories where they have no room to move (rarely move their whole life) and often sit in their own bathroom stuff.

I won’t scare or bore you with any more details. But, I hope it does give you a motivation to develop a new Thanksgiving tradition this year. If you do you can join several million people around the country and the world who are doing so. In the process we are all making ourselves healthier, the planet cleaner, and creating a sustainable future for our children.