Environment

Problems of the Rich and Famous

Outdoor Entertainment.jpg

Partying in Hamptons Could Get Harder If One Village Has Its Way

I'm very curious about how municipalities on the East End of Long Island will balance the requirements of wealthy tax payers' entertainment and their impact on the environment. On any given summer day, it’s nothing to see cars lined up on residential roads as far as the eye can see. Shindigs with over a hundred people are common. The main reason why wealthy New Yorkers and others by properties in the Hamptons is to have the space to have big parties. Cracking down on residents by limiting the amount of guest they can have before they need a permit sounds a little risky. The municipalities and the businesses in the area benefit greatly from the steady flow of monied folks looking to have some fun. Upset that and those same people might choose to go elsewhere.

Could a tiny little creature save us humans?

Plastic Waste.JPG

Scientists stumbled upon a plastic-eating bacterium

I’m looking forward to learning more about this plastic eating bacterium. All I know is that there is a massive area in the ocean filled with floating plastic waste. This waste has found its way into digestive systems of wildlife and ensnares aquatic animals constantly. The proper thing to do is to clean it up, but the problem is the cost would be astronomical and who would pick up the tab. Being able to naturally breakdown these elements might save us from burying ourselves in a mountain of plastic junk. It would be amazing for mealworms and waxworm caterpillars could save mankind.

Wake-up Signs: Is it too late to repair the damage?

Grizzly Bear.jpg

Once a species is gone, that’s it.

With funding being cut for environmental sciences it seems like we’re setting ourselves up for a major catastrophe. I’ve notice personally that critters and insects that were plentiful when I was a child are harder to find now. I remember summers in Ohio when bats and fireflies could be seen everywhere, now just a few fireflies and virtually no bats. Praying mantises were the top insect in every garden, today I see them occasionally. On any warm, humid night a fisherman could search any patch of grass to find nightcrawlers for the next day. Now you must hunt for nightcrawlers in my neighborhood. To see changes like these in ones’ lifetime is a little startling. Are we going to leave our descendants a world dominated by noxious weeds, roaches and rats to consume?

Paper from Manure, That's an Idea I Could Stand Behind!

Watershed contamination

Instead of Using Trees, Scientists Are Making Sustainable Paper Out of Manure

Shout out to the scientist still out there grinding and innovating new ways to make out lives better. I understand it’s a bit of an uphill battle right now with under-funding of projects and all, but you are appreciated.

 

It gives me hope that they have found a use for elephant manure as paper in our everyday lives. The only problem is, I don’t think we have a big problem with elephant dung. If they could come up with other uses for animal wastes from food production that would be great. All I know is that some industrial pig farms have large ponds full of toxic excrement that overflow during floods, contaminating nearby watersheds.

 

You would think after figuring out how to go to the moon and the smartphone that we could come up with a sustainable way to deal with human and all livestock waste.

Snow and Ice Management: Think about the Environment

Snow and Ice Management

Be Careful with Your Salt Use

Being in the landscape industry in the northeastern part of the US, I’ve always been concerned or involved with snow and ice management. It’s always an expensive, yet very seldom perfect service for property owners. After walking through my neighborhood in downtown Silver Spring recently, I’ve noticed environmental disasters all over the place. I understand that the area doesn’t get much snow and ice, but we must do better. It’s been weeks after the last snow events and I’m still seeing piles of salt and ice melting chemicals on the sidewalks and streets. Much of it was applied after the precipitation as an insurance for pedestrians. I understand why; unless you’re from a place that gets a lot of snow and ice, you don’t even know that there is an industry and professionals that focus on the safest and most efficient management methods.

Montgomery County does a pretty good job on environmental regulation and is strict on individuals that cut down trees and regrade land without permission. So, to see inches of salt being left at intersections in a central business district is a bit shocking. With the climate changing it’s time for municipalities to start hiring snow and ice management consultants from areas that get the stuff regularly. They already know to use salt and chemicals sparingly. Until then here’s a pretty good article about snow and ice management.

Environment: We Need Our Leaders to be Looking Forward

  

  

Time For a New Day

It's great to dream about the good old days. Back when our factories were cranking out products the world needed. We believed we had endless resources, and faced no cost for consuming them. After decades of black lungs and poisoned water supplies, we can now make coal a thing of the past. We don't have to blast off the tops of mountains and send poor laborers deep into the earth to keep the lights on. The thought of bringing back 'King Coal' whether it's clean or not, doesn't sound like a good idea any way you slice it.   

Transit Construction Costs Killing Progress

Americans Paying More for Less

Why can’t we build major infrastructure projects in New York and DC at a comparable cost to Paris and Tokyo? We can’t get the transit improvements that we need because of the astronomical costs of construction. We have the resources and millions of under and unemployed people who would be more than willing to do the labor. We should have the most beautiful and efficient transportation infrastructure in the world. 

Urbanophobia: A Growing Threat to Public Transit in America

Public Transportation Viewed as Threat to Civil Liberties

 

“To change people’s behavior through restrictions in land use, herding people into dense inner-city housing, and restricting mobility to force Americans out of their cars and into government-controlled mass transit systems.” - Selous Foundation on Agenda 21.

I really try hard to be open minded about things, but I can’t understand how someone in a leadership position in this country can justify reducing funds and fighting modernization of our public transportation systems in our cities. It’s a difficult sell to someone who travels abroad and uses public transit. Gridlock and pollution isn’t a conservative or liberal issue. It affects all of us. Common sense tells me that getting more people off the road and on to public transportation eases congestion for people who want or need to drive.  There are millions of Americans who would give up their cars if there was a sound alternative. I believe the answer for the US is to have public transportation efficiently integrated with our personal vehicles. 

 

 

Support More Roof Gardens

http://www.fbb.de/inc/template/Presse/Bildarchiv/Hoch/Pressebild9.jpg

Green Roofs in the City

Green Roofs are more than just a way to make a rooftop attractive. There are ecological and economic benefits to installing them. They can be added to an existing structure or be part of the original construction. For existing buildings structural suitability must be considered. So it’s not as simple as placing a growing medium and plants on your roof.

Stormwater Management is an important reason to install a roof garden. They retain water in the soil and help in reducing the amount of runoff that would go into the public stormwater system. The runoff from paved and developed areas is a major reason for downstream flooding. The cumulative effect of several roof gardens in a city could also reduce the size of subsurface drainage structures. That could be a significant saving for a municipality. 

By humidifying the surrounding air, green roofs give a cooling effect to a microclimate. This added cooling reduces the strain on air conditioning systems that saves on energy use. Green roofs also help to improve air quality by binding dust and toxic particles.

Some urban wildlife benefit from roof gardens by the food and habitat they can provide. Every little bit helps, so if you can provide shelter and sustenance it’s an added benefit that outweighs the additional costs. 

 

What's In Your Compost and Fertilizers

Video Cautions Us About Soil Conditioners

Early in my career I learned about a product produced by the City of Akron called Techni-gro. It consisted of bio-solids, shredded branches and sawdust mixed together. The bio-solids were human feces (and other stuff) from the sewage treatment plant. The marketing material for Techni-gro assured the public that the product was safe. The toxins were removed during the digestion process. The process consisted of mixing the wood byproducts with the bio-solids and bringing the mixture up to a certain temperature to kill the pathogens. The digested material was then placed in windrows for a few weeks to "cool off". After that they sold the product in bulk for commercial uses and bags for individual homeowners, as an organic soil conditioner. 

I learned about Techni-gro from a landscape contractor whose work I was reviewing for a contract bid. His plantings were impeccable. The trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals looked great. The lawns were thriving so well that they actually had a bluish tinge to them. I asked him what was his secret and he told me about Techni-gro. He mentioned to me that it shouldn't use it on vegetable gardens. He also cautioned me about getting a "hot load". That's when the facility sells the mix straight out of the digester. He said the nitrogen levels on a fresh load are so high it can burn lawns and damage landscape. 

I immediately went to buy some from the City facility that day. From a few miles away, I noticed this awful smell that kept getting stronger and stronger the closer I got to the facility. When I got out of my truck at the site there was a smell so bad you could taste it. It literally felt like eating shit, but I was willing to suffer to have my landscape look fantastic.

On the way home I pulled my truck up to a stop light. There were people sitting at a bus stop that got a whiff of the soil conditioner and turned their heads in disgust. I just smiled at them.

The next Saturday morning I top dressed my lawn with a 1/2" of the stuff and watered it in well as the instructions on the bag recommended. You could smell the Techni-gro from half a block away. Needless to say my neighbors were not happy with me, but I was willing to take the bruises to have my lawn pumped to the max. It took two days before the smell dissipated. 

Two weeks later my lawn looked like it was on steroids. It was a deep, bluish green and I had to mow it every four days. I had the best looking lawn in Cleveland. I continued using the soil conditioner for years until I moved to New York. 

Now seventeen years later the experts can't agree on if bio-solids can be used safely in our gardens. Some say the heavy metals and chemicals that end up in our sewer systems contaminate the bio-solids. Others say with proper treatment and caution they can be safely used. I don't specify or use compost or soil conditioners that use bio-solids just to be cautious. It's a shame that we can't use treated sewage sludge without worrying. It would be great to be able to recycle the material and not have to dump it into the ocean or in landfills. I haven't seen a chemical or natural fertilizer that makes plants look as good as treated human feces. What a shame.