In a Dying World, Individuals Must Be the Agent of Change

I heard two disturbing news reports in the last two weeks. The first was how the carbon dioxide has reached record highs. Here is the story on USAToday, “Emissions of carbon dioxide into Earth’s atmosphere reach record high”. With evidence like this, it boggles the mind that anyone can possibly think that mankind isn’t responsible. In addition, the Scientific American  article, “CO2 Levels Just Hit Another Record-Here’s Why It Matters”, made the event sound like a domino effect in that the more the we have global warming, the more the ice caps melt, releasing ancient carbon compounds to add to the problem.

CO2 emissions

The second nightmarish article Came from Forbes Magazine, entitled “We’re Now at a Million Plastic Bottles Per Minute – 915 of Which Are Not Recycled”. The last blog I wrote was on how plastic was not going away so we must reduce our single-use containers: bottles, bags, straws, take out containers. I still proudly agree with this and would scream RECYCLE, REUSE, REPURPOSE! daily from the rooftops if that would help.

Government Help?

When I see news like this, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Trillions of bottles, 37 billion tons of CO2 emissions due to humans. All those numbers must decrease dramatically and they must do so by 2030 or in 11 short years. Companies must be forced to change packaging and one way to do that is make plastic use not as profitable. Governments must enact legislation that encourages research into and development of more economically sound recycling technologies for plastics and other waste products. We need those industries inside the United States so when we have problems with China or other countries, it doesn’t shut down the recycling like it has this year.

For instance, a Utah based company, Renewlogy basically melts down plastic back to its carbon core and changes it to diesel, kerosene, light fuels, and natural gas. The natural gas is pumped back into the factory to keep the process going. The process has only a 5% waste and no toxic emissions. Unfortunately, this company is overwhelmed with supply now that China is refusing our plastic. We need more factories like this. If we can spend tax dollars bailing out the auto and bank industries, why can’t we create low interest development loans on these types of recycling or reusing industries?

Individual Help?

None of this answer what I or you can do now about rising CO2 and global warming. The options seem overly simplified for one individual, which is discouraging. Not just a drop in a bucket but a micron of effort in a container the size of the Empire State Building. But collectively we can make a difference if we all change our lifestyles. Think of it as one drop of rain doesn’t do much, but a thunderstorm swells streams and rivers. It is time for all of us to be that thunderstorm of change to so we can save our planet.

Plant a Tree, bush, or flowers, or lots of them. We need to reduce CO2 emissions and deal with what is in the atmosphere now. Plants are the natural recyclers of the air. However, Americans have cut down most of our original forests and South America is losing the great rainforest. One small way to fight back is to plant trees in your yard, bushes along your walkway, flowers in a bed—any plant will do. Your grass helps but larger plants can do recycle the air more. Trees are the best because of their massive size makes them large recyclers. Flowers also help bring back pollinating insects like bees and butterflies, which are in grave trouble as well.

Make good recycling choices. By that I mean carry the bottle/can you used in the car back home again to clean and recycle properly rather than throwing it in a local trash can. Know what your recycler will and will not take so that you don’t contaminate large loads of plastic. For instance, I just learned deli take-out containers used in many grocery stores are not recyclable. This includes the large hot-chicken boxes many grocery stores use. See the recycling rules here. 

reyclingReject single-use items. The easy step is using canvas and net bags in place of store plastics. Refuse to use straws in restaurants. If you want to focus on not using single-use plastic bottles, then buy all your soda/water/whatever drinks in aluminum or glass and then always recycle those containers. Even better, buy a reusable drinking container (lots of types available) and fill it up at water fountains.

Change your use-and-discard habits. So many things we throw away can be reused or donated for others. Can you turn that old leaking plastic container into something else? A planter? Some folks make CDs into toys or mandala art projects while others use them for mosaics. Several websites will tell you how. Consider making a rag rug out of old sheets, clothes, t-shirts. Lots of instructions are online for doing so. These are just a few ideas you can find by doing searches on the Internet.

Hopefully you already are an agent of change. I believe it is a learning process and I can always improve. However, we need more “rain drops.” We need friends encouraging each other to recycle and reject one-use items. We should teach our children a more sustainable lifestyle since it is their future that is endangered. We must vote in leaders willing to make the hard decisions to limit some wasteful/toxic industries while encouraging other renewable or recycling companies. We need sensible environmental legislation. With everyone being agents of a better world, we can create a global thunderstorm of change and stop humanity from drowning in a sea of carbon emissions.

 

Black Hole Bliss: A Model of Cooperation

The news last week was filled with the beautiful image of a supermassive black hole, the first picture ever taken on one. In order to do this, it took 200 scientists, 60 institutes, and 18 countries from 6 continents in an amazing feat of cooperation for the glory of science.

Some cool facts

A few cool facts about the black hole in the Messier 87 galaxy:

It is slightly larger than our solar system. In fact, it is 100 billion kilometers wide and 6.5 billion times more massive than our sun.1

Closer black holes exist, such as the one in our own galaxy, but we didn’t choose to image them. The reason for this is that they are smaller. Although Messier 87 is outside our galaxy and inside another, its size made it easier to image. 1

We are not seeing the “black hole” because gravity is so strong at that point that not even light can escape. What we see is the light in orbit around it, the ergosphere.

At the center of the black hole everything is crushed into the smallest conceivable space, the singularity. Science doesn’t really know what goes on there, but I like call it the universe’s trash compactor.

According to Wikipedia, the galaxy that contains this black hole is no slouch on size. It is referred to as a supergiant elliptical galaxy in Virgo and one of the most massive galaxies in the universe. This makes sense when you are talking about such a massive black hole at its core.2

Messier 87 galaxy

Messier 87 galaxy

The achievement is due to the Event Horizon Telescope project using an array of observatories scattered from Hawaii to the South Pole. The information took up a petabyte of storage. I can’t even picture a terabyte in my computer so have no clue how big a petabyte is.3

The “picture,” which was formed from radio waves, was taken in April 2017. It took two years of working with the data to create the image.3

According to my “in-house” expert, this black whole contains almost all the mass of all the stars in our Milky Way galaxy, scrunched down into a volume somewhat equal to our solar system. That’s a lot more crowded than a Japanese subway during rush hour.

Science as a model of cooperation.

As cool as all these facts are, the one that I’m impressed with is that 60 institutes in 18 different countries cut through all the fame-seeking and political crap that weigh down countries themselves to pull together and create something nearly magical in its enormity. Given the current climate of isolationism and hate-mongering in America now, hearing how people reached past that for a common goal is pretty inspiring.

Fermi Telescope

Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope

Having said that, I know science, particularly physics and astronomy, has turned to big collaborations and projects because it takes massiveness to see in the depths of space or the smallest particle. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is a fine example of a large collaboration, as was Hubble, and the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope.

Still, science can also have competition as researchers race each other for Noble prizes and other highly sought awards. Yet scientists can come together for the greater good. People can learn to look beyond their differences and personal goals to achieve something magnificent. Countries can unite in the search of information and new frontiers in an atmosphere of the greater good.

Don’t you wish politicians could do the same?

 

 

All the information above came from these articles.

1Cooper, Brenda. (14 April 2019) “The first black hole image: what can we really see.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/apr/14/the-new-black-hole-what-can-we-really-see. Viewed 4/14/2019.

2Wikipedia (14 April 2019) “Messier 87”  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messier_87 Viewed 4/14/2019.

3Drake, Nadia (10 April 2019) “First-ever picture of a black hole unveiled.” National Geographic.com. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/04/first-picture-black-hole-revealed-m87-event-horizon-telescope-astrophysics/ Viewed 4/14/2019.