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First Automotive Parts Manufacturer Authorized to Use New NSF International Sustainability Mark

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. – NSF International, a global organization with more than 70 years of certification, testing and auditing experience, recently introduced a new mark identifying automotive parts that have met specific environmental claims. TYG Products LP’s aftermarket bumper covers that use low volatile organic compound (VOC) paints and primers… Read More
Source: NSF New feed

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Turtle Hugger Wallace “J.” Nichols & His Blue Mind

Turtle Hugger Wallace “J.” Nichols & His Blue Mind

wallace J. nichols has a blue mind and loves sea turtles

Ever wonder exactly why you love being near the water so much?

Dr. Wallace J. Nichols explains his research into the #BlueMind in this fascinating episode of The Green Divas Radio Show. Listen up, then read his article about the benefits of being in, on or around water… and why sea turtles are so important.

 

The Value of Sea Turtles

Written by Dr. Wallace J. Nichols.

Can you recall a time that you glimpsed a sea turtle swimming away from you under water?

Or you witnessed the multimillion-year-old ritual of a nesting turtle burying 100 glistening white eggs under the sand and moon?

Or the first time you carefully placed a baby sea turtle, hatched minutes prior, on the sand and watched it duck-dive wave after wave as it pushed its way seaward to begin an uncertain decades-long journey?

Of course you can.

It’s moments like those that led you to the curiosity and exploration you’re having now as you read. Those experiences transformed us, made us into the turtle warriors we are. Face it, how many of your high school friends are reading about global sea turtle population trends right now?

None, that’s how many. So, how did that feeling of awe convert into what may be best described as a life dedicated to turtle-centric altruism?

A typical, oft-repeated and unquestioned adage is: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” Those of us who do environmental management, who have been involved with successful conservation work and movement building, know that statement is BS. The most important things we manage are not (easily) measurable—from the quality of our new team members to the awe and wonder that’s at the root of why we care in the first place.

Our greatest successes sometimes occur: (a) In spite of government agencies’ denials of decades of well-considered science, (b) In the face of barely quantified threats, or (c) Alongside massive holes in our understanding of basic sea turtle biology and life history.

The “measure to manage” dogma found its place as militaristic styles expanded into business, and business expanded into our professional relationship with nature in the post-World War II industrial era. The language of targets, tactics, strategies and enemies now pervades agency- and NGO-speak alike. But, when the value of sea turtles to humans is reduced to what’s easily measured with our standard metrics and sorely limited resources, we run the risk of getting things dangerously wrong.

Ecology and economics provide a clean, clear, yet wildly incomplete, even cartoon-like framework for analyzing the values of nature. Consider this familiar balance sheet. In one column (A) is the commodified value of sea turtles as resource: eggs, meat, shell, oil. In the next, (B) is the value of sea turtles as eco-tourist attractions: hotel rooms, park fees, guides, meals, travel. If the number at the bottom of column B exceeds the value of column A, sea turtles get to live (in theory, at least).

[Watch a wonderful video of sea turtles rushing into the ocean here.]

The conversation has been expanded in recent years to include a third column called “ecosystem services” that provide public benefits. Those benefits include dune stabilization, sea grass maintenance and even climate regulation, as provided by the trophic cascades, at the top of which are often found sea turtles and other predators.

baby sea turtle by oceanyaipearn / Shutterstock.com

Fortunately, the conversation around valuing nature is expanding quickly to include the cognitive, emotional, psychological and social benefits that we know are real drivers of the human nature relationship. When neuropsychologists and conservation biologists team up, the results can be revolutionary. Consider a few of the real but rarely described benefits of working with sea turtles.

Awe and wonder

New research suggests that the feeling of awe is good for our health, boosts empathy and compassion, and helps connect us to the people and places around us.

Feelings of awe are some of the most cherished and transformative experiences in human life and are generated by art, music, architecture, but most often nature. Dr. Paul Piff of the School of Sociology at University of California Irvine defines awe as “the sense of being in the presence of something bigger than oneself that current knowledge structures cannot accommodate and that allows people to rise above stimulus-response patterns and lose themselves in an all-encompassing event.”

Scientists have made evolutionary arguments for the universality of awe and how it has likely evolved. Other studies find that awe may enhance our memory of events, play an important role in morality, make people less self-focused and more prosocial, lead to enhanced generosity, increase virtuous behavior, reduce feelings of entitlement and increase helping. Current studies show that feelings associated with awe can reduce cytokines (proteins important for cell signaling), chemicals associated with disease and even inflammation.

Yet, some people live wonder-free lives. For those who work with sea turtles, awe can be a daily experience. When we share our work, we make the world better. More sea turtle lovers equal more ocean advocates—a virtuous, positive feedback loop.

Solitude and privacy

Our lives are becoming more and more connected, and time spent truly alone with ourselves and our own thoughts is sadly minimized. A recent study in Science demonstrates how uncomfortable solitude feels to college students: two-thirds of men pressed a button to deliver a painful jolt after a mere 15-minute period of solitude. One man—considered an outlier—found quiet thinking to be so disagreeable that he opted for a shock 190 times. In these modern times, our written and spoken words, as well as our physical movements, are almost constantly monitored by strangers, government agencies and marketers. And this loss of solitude and privacy adds to the stress of life.

Being near, in, on or under water can be a refuge or escape, and that relationship can have the same positive benefits mentioned earlier for awe and wonder. A beach or a bay can provide a rare retreat from technology. And those are the settings in which work frequently places us fortunate souls who are turtle professionals.

sea turtle swimming in ocean

Creativity and inspiration

Artists and engineers, musicians and entrepreneurs, writers and scientists rely heavily on their ability to generate creativity—combine old ideas and pieces to make new ones—to think of things that have never been thought of. It’s no surprise that great thinkers such as Sir Isaac Newton, Oliver Sacks and Albert Einstein found inspiration outside under a blue sky or beside flowing waters. Free from walls and over- stimulation of modern, urban existence, our brains work differently. That’s not to say better, but there’s a certain kind of expansive thinking that’s facilitated by blue space.

Perhaps there’s no better place to experience awe, creativity, inspiration, privacy, solitude and wonder than on a sea turtle beach. Humans have depicted their appreciation for the ocean and sea turtles through art for millennia. You’ve had much the same experience as our ancestors on the beach at night, face to face with our beloved chelonians. As a conservation or research professional, student, seasonal volunteer or wayfaring traveler, being with sea turtles in nature changes us. We become better versions of ourselves.

These are big ideas that are tricky to assign numbers to, but important to put into words, with ever-increasing clarity and rigor. Quite literally—as well as poetically—being with sea turtles is good medicine. And here’s a prediction: In the not-so-distant future, medical professionals will prescribe two weeks of volunteering on a turtle beach for what ails their patients.

This essay first appeared in the annual State of the World’s Sea Turtles report. 

Bonus:

Listen to the latest GD Green Dude radio show segment:


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wallace j nichols has a blue mindDr. Wallace “J.” Nichols is a scientist, wild water advocate, movement-maker, New York Times bestselling author of Blue Mind, and dad. He takes a slow, collaborative approach with leaders in businesses, government, non-profits, and academia to inspire a deeper connection with nature and inventive solutions to pressing issues. J knows that inspiration comes sometimes through adventures, or simply by walking and talking. Other times through writing, images, and art. Science and knowledge can also stoke our fires. But he also knows that what really moves people is feeling part of and touching something bigger than ourselves.

His research and expeditions have taken him to coasts and waterways across North, Central and South America, to Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe where he continually finds that the emotional connection to waters of all kinds–rather than force of financial gain–is what keeps his colleagues and collaborators working hard to understand and restore our blue planet. Connect with J on twitter, instagram and facebook.

The post Turtle Hugger Wallace “J.” Nichols & His Blue Mind appeared first on The Green Divas.

Source: GreenDivas News

Ecosystems Are Dying as Long Island Contends With a Nitrogen Bomb

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Septic systems and nitrogen pollution are killing the island’s marine heritage

Peconic Bay fishkill dead fish Long Island toxic algae bloom brown tide nitrogen

Photo courtesy of Stefan Beaumont
Dead fish pile up on the shore of Long Island’s Peconic Bay in this photo taken on June 1, 2015. The fish suffocated when an algae outbreak depleted the water of oxygen. Click image to enlarge.

By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue

Thousands of dead bunker fish and hundreds of diamondback turtles washed ashore last May in Peconic Bay on the east end of Long Island, New York. Fed by warming waters and a stream of nitrogen, a foul bloom of algae had so depleted the estuary of oxygen that marine life suffocated. The waters of the bay swirled red and brown.

The late-spring algae bloom was the beginning of a seasonal occurrence that has become distressingly common: a toxic summer in the waters of Long Island, the claw-like banner of land that extends 190-kilometers (118-miles) from Brooklyn to the Hamptons. Aureococcus, or brown tide, covered the south shore in June. Cochlodinium, or rust tide, appeared in Shinnecock Bay and Sag Harbor in early September. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, at least 15 lakes were overwhelmed by microcystis, a toxin produced by blue-green algae.

“We got away cheap with managing our waste. It’s all caught up to us.”

–Kevin McDonald
The Nature Conservancy

“You see pictures on TV of water in every shade but clear,” Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, a conservation group, told Circle of Blue.

Clear water is what Amper, who is 70, remembers from the Long Island summers of his youth. Clear water today is rare. The lethal palette that appears in the bays and rivers is a sobering signal that the island’s ecology is dangerously out of balance.

“You used to be able to wade shoulder deep and still see the bottom,” Amper recalled. “Now you can’t see your feet in 2 feet of water.”

Like the unfurling of sails or the aroma of sunscreen, the deadly algae blooms, as in so many urban and rural watersheds around the world, are now an annual rite of summer and not only on Long Island. Two-thirds of the 1,578-kilometer (981-mile) Ohio River was blanketed with algae in September. A bloom in Lake Erie that shut down the Toledo, Ohio, water system for days in August 2014 drew national attention to the long-festering problem.

In each case, the cause of the algae is a large pulse of nitrogen or phosphorus — plant vitamins that supercharge growth. For the Ohio River and Lake Erie, farm fertilizers are the primary contributors. But for Long Island the problem largely stems from a different source: household septic systems.

Septic systems — typically an underground tank to trap solid toilet waste and a pipe to let the liquid percolate into the soil — flourish in areas without connections to centralized sewage treatment plants. They provide an inexpensive, rudimentary barrier to the spread of disease if they are designed, installed, sited, and maintained properly. Nearly one in five American households uses such a system. An undetermined but substantial number are failing to protect human health and the environment.

Even properly functioning systems are flawed. Basic septic units are not designed to remove nitrogen. When too many households with septic are clustered too densely, nitrogen levels spike. Converted into ammonium in the tank and then nitrate in the soil, nitrogen seeps into groundwater and ends up in rivers, lakes, and bays, where it feeds a menagerie of algae species. The algae, in turn, starve the water of oxygen, kill fish, and turn clear water — an asset for tourism, recreation, commercial fishing, health, and property values — into a putrid mess.

The scenario has happened in the towns along Cape Cod and the Chesapeake Bay and in numerous springs and lagoons in Florida, which has more septic systems than any state.

By the Numbers: Nitrogen Pollution Kills Long Island Ecosystems
• 18 to 36 percent loss of tidal wetlands in the Great South Bay between 1974 and 2001
• 90 percent of seagrass beds have died since 1930; seagrass beds will disappear by 2030 at current rates
Nitrate levels in 10 percent of residential wells sampled between 1997 and 2013 exceeded the federal drinking water standard of 10 milligrams per liter
• Nitrate levels in the Upper Glacier aquifer, a primary drinking water source, climbed 50 percent since 1980
• The hard clam harvest in Great South Bay fell 93 percent since 1989

Nowhere is the damage from nitrogen as severe, visible, and directly linked to septic systems as on Long Island. The problem is particularly acute in Suffolk County, which covers the eastern two-thirds of the island and where 1 million people use septic systems, a colossal number for such a small area. Seventy percent of Suffolk’s systems were built before 1972, when the county began requiring tanks. The pre-1972 systems pipe waste into sewage ponds, a feature generally associated in the public mind with animal feedlots. The contribution from individual units adds up. Sixty-nine percent of the nitrogen flowing into Great South Bay, a 100-kilometer (62-mile) coastal stretch, comes from septic pollution.

As a result, the Long Island ecosystem has seen catastrophic collapse. Eelgrass, which provides scallop, oyster, and clam habitat and also buffers tidal surges like those wrought by Hurricane Sandy, is on the verge of extinction, down 90 percent from 1930. Salt marshes, a partner in storm buffering, are dying. Shellfish harvests are one-tenth what they were three decades ago, at a cost of at least 6,000 jobs. Nitrate levels in groundwater supplies are rising and they exceed federal drinking water standards in 10 percent of residential wells. Groundwater is the sole source of drinking water for most Long Islanders, and nitrate interferes with the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen. It is debilitating and potentially deadly for infants.

Altogether, the environmental damage from septic systems is felt in every corner of Long Island life. Just as in the other regions contending with dangerous levels of contamination the root causes in Long Island are similar as well — a striking civic indifference until the mess can’t be ignored any longer. The harm is so bad that the public and politicians are now reckoning with a long-running ecological bill that has come due, argues Kevin McDonald, public lands program director for The Nature Conservancy on Long Island.

“We decided to handle sewage in a relatively inexpensive way over the last 50 years,” McDonald told Circle of Blue. “We got away cheap with managing our waste. It’s all caught up to us. We found out what the consequences are and people don’t like it. The adult decision that has to be made now is: are we going to finally correct what has caught up to us?”

McDonald and others are more hopeful now than ever before. Lawmakers at all levels of government have pledged to chart a new course. Steve Bellone, the Suffolk County executive, said in January 2014 that water quality is “the most important priority of my administration.” A Suffolk County water management plan published this spring, which has 15 recommendations for reducing nitrogen, refers to the county’s “nitrogen bomb” as “public water enemy #1.” Governor Andrew Cuomo’s recent budget committed $US 5 million for a study, to be led by the U.S. Geological Survey, that will determine nitrogen limits for key watersheds. Last year, the state secured $US 383 million from federal sources to connect 10,000 homes in the most degraded basins to sewers.

“The recognition that we have to modernize and have to do better is upon policy makers,” McDonald asserted.

New Resolve for Long Island

Why is septic suddenly Suffolk County’s top priority? Observers offer several explanations.

They begin with better research. Though problems with septic systems and nitrogen on Long Island were identified as far back as a 1978 study that was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the conclusions were largely ignored. “Everyone treated the brown tides as alien encounters,” McDonald said, recalling when the first brown tide appeared in 1985. “The thinking was, ‘Gee, the tides showed up. Maybe they won’t come back.’”

In the last five years, however, more detailed and respected studies emerged. In 2010, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) published a report on the decline of seagrass beds. In 2011, researchers at Woods Hole calculated the amount of nitrate pollution in Great South Bay that came from septic systems. In 2014, the NYSDEC issued a report on the harm to coastal wetlands from nitrate.

Peconic Bay Long Island seagrass toxic algae nitrogen pollution

Graphic © Kaye LaFond / Circle of Blue
Septic systems are the largest source of nitrogen pollution in Long Island’s Peconic Estuary. Click image to enlarge.

All along, researchers at Stony Brook University were producing dozens of papers that dissected the algae life cycle and connected the severity of the blooms to increases in nitrate. Because nitrate moves slowly through the ground, the pollution entering the bays today may have started its journey three decades ago or more. They also found that increases in nitrate induced the microcystis cells to produce more toxins than under low-nitrate conditions.

The second factor was Hurricane Sandy. When the big storm roughed up the mid-Atlantic in October 2012, the damage was immense — $US 1.8 billion in Suffolk County alone. The loss of wetlands and seagrasses compounded the destruction. Marshes can dampen half a wave’s energy within three meters, according to one study. Without them, waves have an open gate to the castle. New York secured $US 383 million in federal Hurricane Sandy rebuilding money to connect 10,000 homes in Suffolk County to sewers.

And finally, there are the images. With the fish kills and swirls of algae appearing all over Facebook, Twitter, newspapers, and television, the problem is too obvious to ignore. “For the first time, people are really seeing the adverse impact on the place they love,” Richard Amper remarked.

Officials Recognize the Problem

That awareness extends to those elected to high office, from county officials to state authorities.

“I’ve never seen government — all levels of government — say, ‘Yes, the problem is real and we all have a responsibility to fix it,’” said Amper, who has worked on conservation on Long Island for 30 years. “It’s remarkable. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Amper said a major effort begin three years ago with the creation of the Long Island Clean Water Partnership, of which the Pine Barrens Society is a member. The partnership spread the scientific community’s growing understanding of the problem to both the public and officials.

Then in 2015, Suffolk County released a new water management plan, the first update since 1987. The plan identifies 15 recommendations for nitrogen reduction and includes 49 specific actions. Several of the items are already being acted on. In addition to the sewer extensions, the county is testing alternative septic technologies that will cut nitrogen discharges by half. The demonstrations are being run for 19 systems, according to Chris Lubicich, chief of the Suffolk County Office of Ecology. The county is also accepting applications for small-scale sewage treatment units, which are decentralized solutions that could serve a subdivision or several hundred homes. And it is upgrading old wastewater treatment plants, which account for a smaller portion of the nitrogen.

“We’re progressing on a number of fronts,” Lubicich told Circle of Blue. Other efforts target lawn fertilizer use and agricultural runoff, which also contribute to the problem.

The latest effort, which kicked off in October, is the $US 5 million state-funded nitrogen study. By March 2017, officials should have in their hands a nitrogen budget for key watersheds. Such goals already exist for Long Island Sound and Peconic estuary under the EPA’s TMDL program, but they focus on wastewater plants and other point sources and conservation groups have complained that they are not rigorous enough.

In some ways, acknowledging the problem may be the easiest step.

“What has been proposed is going to begin to do the job,” said Chris Gobler, a professor at Stony Brook University and one of the leading experts on nitrogen pollution in Long Island. “They are taking a staged approach and looking at the highest priority areas first. But then there is more to be done. There’s always more that can be done.”

As with any change in civic practices, money will be a paramount concern. Building out a sewer system is not cheap, as the Hurricane Sandy funding shows, and sewers lead to worries about rural growth and development. Septic systems that remove nitrogen are more than twice the cost of a traditional system. To encourage installation, McDonald said that governments could incentivize homeowners with rebates, as they do for the purchase of low-flow toilets or efficient light bulbs.

“This is a solvable problem when people decide to pay for it,” McDonald said. “Of course the flip side is that we are paying the price for our nitrogen problems already.”

The post Ecosystems Are Dying as Long Island Contends With a Nitrogen Bomb appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

Source: Water News

Source: Water Industry News

The Stream, November 4: Antarctic Ice Sheet Precarious If Melting Continues

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The  Global Rundown

The Global Rundown

Current rates of melting in Antarctica could trigger a process that would eventually collapse the West Antarctic ice sheet, a new study found. Countries that are the most vulnerable to climate change are struggling to spend climate finance money on adaptation projects, and nearly 40 percent of Americans are not very worried about climate change. A rare cyclone brought flooding to Yemen. Ontario industries are not paying enough for water, according to the province’s environment commissioner, the U.S. Senate voted down a bill to repeal the new clean water rule, and scientists hope a new tool will facilitate handwashing without soap.

“Countries that are most in need of adaptation finance are also those that are least able to spend it.”–Louise Whiting, an analyst for international charity WaterAid, on the majority of climate finance pledged by developed countries that has yet to be spent on projects in the countries most vulnerable to climate change. (Reuters)

By the Numbers

By The Numbers

38 percent Proportion of Americans who are not very worried about climate change, even if they believe it is occurring, according to a poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Associated Press

$2.84 Cost per million liters of water paid by industrial users in Ontario, less than $10 for the amount of water needed to fill an Olympic pool, according to a report by the province’s environmental commissioner. Toronto Star

57-41 Vote in the U.S. Senate denying a bill that would repeal the Environmental Protection Agency’s new clean water rule, which the majority of states say is a federal overreach. The Hill

Science

Science, Studies, And Reports

Current rates of melting in Antarctica over 60 years could precipitate the eventual collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet, according to a study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. In a process taking thousands of years, the melting could cause sea levels to rise by three meters. Bloomberg

Scientists have developed a device that uses ultrasound, bubbles, and cold water to clean more effectively and without soap. The researchers say their goal is to make handwashing faster and reduce the need for soaps and detergents, potentially aiding in the prevention of antibiotic and anti-microbial resistance. Reuters

On the Radar

On The Radar

An unusual cyclone in the Arabian Sea made landfall in Yemen Tuesday, and 1.4 million people are in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations. Floods inundated cities in the country, which has been struggling through a water crisis amid its civil war. Reuters

The post The Stream, November 4: Antarctic Ice Sheet Precarious If Melting Continues appeared first on Circle of Blue WaterNews.

Source: Water News

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