EC7C. Stay Current—Neighborhood and Global Stewardship

cover for GSS book Ecosystem Change

Staying current for Chapter 7

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{ Ecosystem Change Contents }

2022-08-24. Chasing Arrows: The Truth About Recycling (video). [] By Alliance of Mission-Based Recyclers (AMBR). Excerpt: Reduce, reuse, then recycle: In the 1970s, this was the structure under which advocates built America’s recycling industry. Unfortunately, the petrochemical and packaging industries have exploited this fundamental premise and used recycling as a cover to increase plastic production exponentially.  AMBR’s new short film, “Chasing Arrows: The Truth About Recycling,” outlines how the plastics industry is trashing recycling with non-recyclable plastics. It exposes the recycling myths industry promotes, such as blaming the recycling system and consumers for plastic pollution. The real problem is one they created and are expanding: They are simply making too much plastic, most of which cannot be recycled. Recycling is not a strategy for making waste “go away.” It was designed to create feedstock for manufacturing new products so that virgin natural resources like trees, minerals, and fossil fuels are left “in the ground” and protected from being extracted and destroyed. A group of mission-based recyclers have banned together to reinforce this original role for recycling and to address myths about recycling by forming the Alliance of MIssion-Based Recyclers. 

2022-09-06. It Was War. Then, a Rancher’s Truce With Some Pesky Beavers Paid Off. [] By Catrin Einhorn, photographs by Niki Chan Wylie, The New York Times. Excerpt: WELLS, Nev. — Horace Smith blew up a lot of beaver dams in his life. A rancher here in northeastern Nevada, he waged war against the animals, frequently with dynamite. Not from meanness or cruelty; it was a struggle over water. Mr. Smith blamed beavers for flooding some parts of his property, Cottonwood Ranch, and drying out others. But his son Agee, who eventually took over the ranch, is making peace. And he says welcoming beavers to work on the land is one of the best things he’s done. “They’re very controversial still,” said Mr. Smith, whose father died in 2014. “But it’s getting better. People are starting to wake up.” As global warming intensifies droughts, floods and wildfires, Mr. Smith has become one of a growing number of ranchers, scientists and other “beaver believers” who see the creatures not only as helpers, but as furry weapons of climate resilience.…

2022-08-18. Simple mix of soap and solvent could help destroy ‘forever chemicals’. [] By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. Excerpt: There’s finally hope for a simple, cheap way to destroy a class of ubiquitous environmental toxins found in shampoos, fast-food wrappers, and fire-dousing foams. A common ingredient in soap, mixed with water and an organic solvent, readily degrades per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as “forever chemicals” because they can stick around in the environment for decades, a new study shows. The mixture doesn’t work on all PFAS compounds, but related approaches might offer communities a cheap way to rid soils and drinking water of contaminants that currently put millions of people at risk for cancer and other diseases. …PFAS contain strings of carbon atoms attached to fluorine atoms, which bind so tightly to one another they are nearly impossible to break apart. The compounds repel oil and water and can withstand friction and high temperatures, making them widely popular in industry. They accumulate in soils, water supplies, and even in living tissue. In the United States alone there are nearly 3000 PFAS-contaminated sites, from landfills to rivers and groundwater supplies. …The compounds have been implicated in kidney and liver cancer, thyroid disease, decreased immune response, and infant and fetal growth problems. Communities around the world have tried to filter out these chemicals or destroy them. …Two years ago, researchers at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency hit on a better approach by chance. When they placed a PFAS compound in a common solvent called DMSO as part of a toxicity study, the PFAS compound began to degrade. The new study builds on that work. Researchers …studied numerous recipes involving DMSO. One combined a little bit of the solvent with sodium hydroxide, a common component of soap, in water. When the team heated the mix to boiling temperature, it readily degraded one of the largest subsets of PFAS compounds.…

2022-08-10. Can citizen scientists turn the tide against America’s toxic algal blooms? [] By Lena Beck, The Guardian. Excerpt: ‘Red tides’ are an annual hazard in Florida and other coastal areas but a monitoring project can help limit harm to humans. …As climate change brings warming ocean waters, predictions of a dangerous phenomenon known as “red tide” are on the rise. …Red tides occur when warming waters and other factors spur the growth of a type of rust-colored alga known as Karenia brevis. The alga produces toxic compounds that are harmful to humans as well as dolphins, manatees, shellfish and other sea life. Exposure to the organism can cause respiratory illnesses and other problems for people who are exposed, and, in rare occasions, be debilitating or even fatal. …In an effort to address the threat, last year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa) launched the Red Tide Respiratory Forecast, an online map that shows the presence and severity of red tide at select locations. People can use the map to check safety conditions before swimming or fishing or engaging in other activities in the water. The warning system is especially important during peak bloom season from August to December.…

2022-07-09. ‘Disturbing’: weedkiller ingredient tied to cancer found in 80% of US urine samples. [] By Carey Gillam, The Guardian. Excerpt: More than 80% of urine samples drawn from children and adults in a US health study contained a weedkilling chemical linked to cancer, a finding scientists have called “disturbing” and “concerning”. The report by a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that out of 2,310 urine samples, taken from a group of Americans intended to be representative of the US population, 1,885 were laced with detectable traces of glyphosate. This is the active ingredient in herbicides sold around the world, including the widely used Roundup brand. Almost a third of the participants were children ranging from six to 18.…

2022-06-17. The farmers restoring Hawaii’s ancient food forests that once fed an island. [] By Nina Lakhani, The Guardian. Excerpt: Rain clouds cover the peaks of the west Maui mountains, one of the wettest places on the planet, which for centuries sustained biodiverse forests providing abundant food and medicines for Hawaiians who took only what they needed. Those days of abundance and food sovereignty are long gone. Rows of limp lemon trees struggle in windswept sandy slopes depleted by decades of sugarcane cultivation. Agricultural runoff choking the ocean reef and water shortages, linked to over-tourism and global heating, threaten the future viability of this paradise island. Between 85% and 90% of the food eaten in Maui now comes from imports while diet-related diseases are soaring, and the state allocates less than 1% of its budget to agriculture. Downslope from the rain-soaked summits, there is historic drought and degraded soil. “We believe that land is the chief, the people its servants,” said Kaipo Kekona, 38, who with his wife Rachel Lehualani Kapu have transformed several acres of depleted farmland into a dense food forest on a mountain ridge. The soil there is once again full of life, with wriggly worms and multi-colored insects busy among the layered roots and mulch. This food forest provides a glimpse of the ancient forests that for millennia thrived on these slopes until being burnt multiple times to create cropland – a cultural and ecological tragedy documented in traditional songs, chants and stories. The couple are Indigenous farmers – ancient knowledge keepers – and part of a wider food and land sovereignty movement gaining momentum in Hawaii.…

2022-06-17. Meet the Peecyclers. Their Idea to Help Farmers Is No. 1. [] ByCatrin Einhorn, The New York Times . Excerpt: …Human urine… is full of the same nutrients that plants need to flourish. It has a lot more, in fact, than Number Two, with almost none of the pathogens. Farmers typically apply those nutrients — nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium — to crops in the form of chemical fertilizers. But that comes with a high environmental cost from fossil fuels and mining. …Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has worsened a worldwide fertilizer shortage that’s driving farmers to desperation and threatening food supplies. Scientists also warn that feeding a growing global population in a world of climate change will only get more difficult. …Toilets, in fact, are by far the largest source of water use inside homes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Wiser management could save vast amounts of water, an urgent need as climate change worsens drought in places like the American West. It could also help with another profound problem: Inadequate sanitation systems — including leaky septic tanks and aging wastewater infrastructure — overload rivers, lakes and coastal waters with nutrients from urine. …algal blooms that trigger mass die offs of animals and other plants. In one dramatic example, manatees in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida are starving to death after sewage-fueled algal blooms destroyed the sea grass they depend on. “The urban environments and aquatic environments become hideously polluted while the rural environments are depleted of what they need,” said Rebecca Nelson, a professor of plant science and global development at Cornell University. …some are also drawn to a transformative idea behind the endeavor. By reusing something once flushed away, they say, they are taking a revolutionary step toward tackling the biodiversity and climate crises: Moving away from a system that constantly extracts and discards, toward a more circular economy that reuses and recycles in a continuous loop.…

2022-06-01. Planting Wetlands Could Help Stave Off Climate Catastrophe. ByJennifer Schmidt, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: Repopulating forests, planting neighborhood trees, and stopping large-scale logging are popular strategies to offset or reduce carbon emissions. But forests pale in comparison to wetlands’ carbon sequestration potential. Peatlands, salt marshes, and other coastal and inland wetlands cover just 1% of Earth’s surface, yet they store 20% of our planet’s ecosystem carbon, according to new research. Restoring wetlands is a powerful additional tool to combat climate change, said Brian Silliman, an ecologist at Duke University and a coauthor of the study, published in Science. …Peatlands are particularly important carbon sinks. Peat moss—a primary ingredient in many boggy wetlands—grows as mats of spongy plant matter. Older peat is buried beneath newer sprouts, and in the submerged, low-oxygen environment, sluggish decay locks in thick mats of carbon for millennia. …Around 1% of wetlands are lost each year to threats such as construction, farming, and sea level rise, according to the study. With the loss of these environments comes the release of their stored carbon—accounting for roughly 5% of annual total global carbon emissions. …Restoring, protecting, and rebuilding wetlands can be both a global and grassroots strategy. [

2022-05-24. Some Elephants Are Getting Too Much Plastic in Their Diets. By Joshua Rapp Learn, The New York Times. Excerpt: Some Asian elephants… sneak into dumps near human settlements at the edges of their forest habitats and quickly gobble up garbage — plastic utensils, packaging and all. …elephants are transporting plastic and other human garbage deep into forests in parts of India. “When they defecate, the plastic comes out of the dung and gets deposited in the forest,” said Gitanjali Katlam, an ecological researcher in India. While a lot of research has been conducted on the spread of plastics from human pollution into the world’s oceans and seas, considerably less is known about how such waste moves with wildlife on land. But elephants are important seed dispersers, and research published this month in the Journal for Nature Conservation shows that the same process that keeps ecosystems functioning might carry human-made pollutants into national parks and other wild areas. This plastic could have negative effects on the health of elephants and other species that have consumed the material once it has passed through the large mammals’ digestive systems. [] 

2022-05-05. US is recycling just 5% of its plastic waste, studies show. By Katharine Gammon, The Guardian. Excerpt: When most people toss a plastic bottle or cup into the recycling bin, they assume that means the plastic is recycled – but a new report lays bare how rarely that actually happens. According to the Last Beach Cleanup and Beyond Plastics, the organization behind the report released on Wednesday, the recycling rate for post-consumer plastic was just 5% to 6% in 2021. The Department of Energy also released a research paper this week, which analyzed data from 2019, and came to the same number: only 5% of plastics are being recycled. The researchers on that report wrote that landfilled plastic waste in the United States has been on the rise for many reasons, including “low recycling rates, population growth, consumer preference for single-use plastics, and low disposal fees in certain parts of the country”, according to a press release.… []

2022-05-04. Projected environmental benefits of replacing beef with microbial protein. By Florian HumpenöderBenjamin Leon BodirskyIsabelle WeindlHermann Lotze-CampenTomas Linder & Alexander PoppNature volume 605, pages 90–96 (2022). Abstract: Ruminant meat provides valuable protein to humans, but livestock production has many negative environmental impacts, especially in terms of deforestation, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and eutrophication1. In addition to a dietary shift towards plant-based diets2, imitation products, including plant-based meat, cultured meat and fermentation-derived microbial protein (MP), have been proposed as means to reduce the externalities of livestock production3,4,5,6,7. Life cycle assessment (LCA) studies have estimated substantial environmental benefits of MP, produced in bioreactors using sugar as feedstock, especially compared to ruminant meat3,7. Here we present an analysis of MP as substitute for ruminant meat in forward-looking global land-use scenarios towards 2050. …substituting 20% of per-capita ruminant meat consumption with MP globally by 2050 (on a protein basis) offsets future increases in global pasture area, cutting annual deforestation and related CO2 emissions roughly in half, while also lowering methane emissions.… []

2022-04-27. Postcards from Kamikatsu, Japan’s ‘zero-waste’ town. By Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Julia Mio Inuma, The Washington Post. Excerpt: KAMIKATSU, Japan — Tucked away in the mountains of Japan’s Shikoku island, a town of about 1,500 residents is on an ambitious path toward a zero-waste life. In 2003, Kamikatsu became the first municipality in Japan to make a zero-waste declaration. Since then, the town has transformed its open-air burning practices used for waste disposal into a system of buying, consuming and discarding with the goal of reaching carbon neutrality. Now, the town estimates it is more than 80 percent of its way toward meeting that goal by 2030. …The Zero Waste Center is the town’s recycling facility, where residents can sort their garbage into 45 categories — there are nine ways to sort paper products alone — before they toss the rest into a pile for the incinerators. Residents clean and dry dirty items so they are suitable for recycling.… []

2022-03-08. Road Salts Linked to High Sodium Levels in Tap Water. By Sarah Stanley, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: When snowstorms hit, deicing agents such as road salts and brine help keep streets and walkways open. However, some deicers release sodium and chloride into the surrounding environment. Links between elevated sodium intake and human health risks, such as high blood pressure, are well established. The effects of deicers on drinking water, however, have been less clear. Now, evidence reported by Cruz et al. supports a link between deicers and elevated sodium levels in drinking water, with concentrations in the Philadelphia region sometimes surpassing recommended limits for people on sodium-restricted diets. The new study adds a public health perspective to research that has focused primarily on the harmful effects of deicers on freshwater aquatic animals, including amphibians and benthic macroinvertebrates.… []

2022-03-08. The largest remaining tall-grass prairie in Texas is getting solar panels. Environmentalists can’t stop it. By Mary Beth Gahan, The Washington Post. Excerpt: A solar facility on a 3,594-acre tract of land has environmental groups searching for a way to save what they consider a living museum …“We recognize the importance of this native prairie ecosystem,” said Daniel Willard, a biodiversity specialist at Orsted. “One of the best ways to protect biodiversity is the development of clean energy, and we are taking several steps to ensure that development is done in balance with nature.”… []

2022-02-23. World’s nations start to hammer out first global treaty on plastic pollution. By Erik Stokstad, Science Magazine. Excerpt: Each year, an estimated 11 million tons of plastic waste enter the ocean, equivalent to a cargo ship’s worth every day. The rising tide—in the oceans and beyond—is just a symptom of much wider problems: unsustainable product design, short-sighted consumption, and insufficient waste management, scientists say. To curb the flood, says Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia, “we need to take more action and it needs to be further upstream” in the production process. That’s exactly what negotiators from 193 countries are setting out to do when they meet in Nairobi, Kenya, next week. Their ambitious goal: to create a negotiating committee that will try to hammer out, within 2 years, a new global treaty intended to curb plastic pollution. An already released proposal, modeled on the United Nations’s climate treaty, would have nations adopt action plans, set binding waste reduction targets, and establish monitoring systems and a new global scientific advisory body.… []

2022-02-14. Exploration and Evaluation of Deep-Sea Mining Sites. By Aaron Sidder, Eos/AGU. Excerpt: The seafloor near a mid-ocean ridge is often home to rising hydrothermal fluids from the deep crust that deposit minerals on the ocean bottom. These seafloor massive sulfide deposits offer new sources of copper, zinc, lead, gold, and silver. The ore potential led to the European Union’s initiation of the Blue Mining project in 2014 with the goal of turning seafloor mining into a viable industry. Two recent and related studies sought to optimize the detection and exploration of seafloor massive sulfide deposits. …The two studies are a significant step forward in identifying and characterizing active and inactive hydrothermal mounds on the seafloor. The findings move seafloor mining toward cost-effective exploration and assessment of currently undeveloped mineral resources, with a focus on exploiting the hydrothermally inactive deposit to minimize negative environmental impacts. (Journal of Geophysical Research: Solid Earth and, 2021).[]

2022-02-09. An electric jolt salvages valuable metals from waste. By Sam Kean, Science Magazine. Excerpt: As chemists scramble to find ways to reclaim valuable metals from industrial waste and discarded electronics, one team has found a solution that sounds a little like magic: Zap the trash with flashes of electric heat. Rare earth elements (REEs) present an environmental paradox. On one hand, these dozen or so metals, such as yttrium and neodymium, are vital components of wind turbines and solar panels, and cheap sources of REEs could give those green technologies a huge boost. On the other, mining REEs causes billions of dollars of environmental damage each year. …mining companies have to chew through tons upon tons of ore, stripping and gutting landscapes. …Old electronics and other industrial waste, in contrast, are rich in REEs. But existing recycling methods are inefficient and expensive, and require corrosive chemicals such as concentrated hydrochloric acid. The new process could help break that logjam. Today in Science Advances, a team led by organic chemist James Tour of Rice University reports using pulses of electrical heat to make it easier to extract REEs from industrial waste. The technique is roughly twice as efficient as current methods and uses far more benign chemicals. …In addition to fly ash, Tour’s team has extracted REEs from so-called red mud—a byproduct of making aluminum—and from electronics. In the latter case, the team gutted an old laptop and ground its circuit board into powder to experiment with.… []

cover for GSS book Ecosystem Change

Non-chronological resources

Aquabarrel: Simple rain collecting and storage device – attaches to downspouts.


Excellent Packaging and Supply.

Forums for reusing items online.

Growing Power: a nonprofit organization supporting people to provide healthy, high-quality, safe and affordable food for people in all communities. Promotes development of Community Food Systems that help people grow, process, market and distribute food in a sustainable manner. 

The Story of Stuff – From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a 20-minute look at the underside of our production and consumption patterns. 

The Nature Conservancy – Conservation easements. 
A conservation easement is a voluntary, legally binding agreement that limits certain types of uses or prevents development from taking place on a piece of property now and in the future, while protecting the property’s ecological or open-space values.

Life cycle assessment of supermarket carrier bags: a review of the bags available in 2006. Environment Agency (for protection of the environment in England and Wales).


cover for GSS book Ecosystem Change

More non-chronological resources

Biosphere 2

Environment & Ecosystems on the Net from SciLinks®

Environment & Ecosystems in NSTA Journal Articles–high school

Environment & Ecosystems in NSTA Journal Articles–intermediate

Books on the Environment & Ecosystems from NSTA Press and NSTA Recommends.



Earth Shots–Satellite Images of Environmental Change

Fair Trade Cocoa and CoffeeGenetic Engineering

Marine/Ocean life

Native Plants

Organic Farming

Alibrandi, Marsha, GIS in the Classroom and CD-Rom. Heinemann Educational Books, Inc. Portsmouth, NH. 2003. ISBN 032500479X. Grade level: 9-12. Reviewed here (10/15/2003) by Eloise Farmer [GSS teacher leader and] Biology Teacher retiring in June after 37.5 years. The book would be useful with Life and Climate, since many suggested activities have students monitoring the effects of human activities on a variety of things on local bodies of water, or ecosystems in general. It also could be used with Ecosystem Change, or Changing Climate for the same reason. Students could use GIS to map changes in coastlines due to erosion, the effects of storms on an area, etc. It really emphasizes systems, so it could be used with any of the GSS books. This link tells how it has been used in a high school.

Organic Food – Restaurants, Farmers Markets, Coops