For The Californians From Someone In The Midwest

To The Californians Dealing With The Fires, From Someone In The Midwest

My brain is having trouble comprehending what is happening where you live, I cannot fathom what you are going through and my thoughts are with you all.

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Today I watched a video that inspired me to voice my thoughts about the massive wildfires in California. The video was the view from the driver's seat of a man and his daughter who you can hear talking in the background, some of you may have seen it. In the video, you hear the conversation between the father and his child as they drive down a road surrounded by flames on both sides of them.

The man is speaking to his daughter in a calm and positive tone, telling her that everything will be okay and that they're going to stay away from the fire."I'm gonna stay away from it, okay?" he tells her. At the end of the video they drove out of the fire-surrounded road and he says "See, we're out of it everything's okay." his daughter replies "Yay!!! You did it!" and he says to her "No WE did it."

This video gave me chills head to toe, and I even cried a little bit. I am amazed by how calm this dad stayed during this situation and how he made his daughter safe during such a scary time.

Living in Chicago and just the midwest in general, there aren't a lot of intense and dangerous weather conditions we have to worry about. Yes, we deal with blizzards sometimes and very cold weather, which I guess can actually become very dangerous but not necessarily life-threatening, but there are no natural disasters we have to worry about like hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires.

Sometimes I catch myself taking this for granted, I think all people in the midwest do to an extent. We complain about the cold and the snow, which makes sense because it's a total pain in the butt. Although it's not until we see on the news what other states have to deal with that we realize that we are lucky to live where we are.

For those dealing with the wildfires in California, my heart goes out to you.

I cannot wrap my head around what is happening there, to be honest. It is mind-blowing and absolutely terrifying.

If you were affected by this I am so sorry I can't imagine what you are going through.

I have the utmost respect for the firefighters and heroes trying to fix this mess and keep everybody safe. Your job is incredibly important and I'm so grateful to live in a country where there are people like you to protect us.

You all must have very thick skin to handle this chaos and manage to function while this was going on, and manage to keep your children feeling safe like the father did in that video, you are heroes also. It blows my mind how many things nature is capable of. If you are dealing with this I really hope you can evacuate and get to safety, my heart is with you and so does the rest of America's.

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Are Plastic Straws Really Killing Sea Turtles?

It's no secret that plastic isn't great for the environment, but how sensationalized is this topic actually becoming?

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When I first saw a video of a sea turtle getting a plastic drinking straw removed from its nostril, I was obviously upset like any other viewer would be. I care a lot about the environment and about animal life and it was upsetting to see that a product of human consumption and ignorant waste was destroying precious parts of our world. I wholeheartedly jumped on the bandwagon of "plastic straws kill sea turtles!!!" but only knew about the issue from this video and what I heard from people or saw on social media. The whole topic of plastic waste into the ocean remained in the back of my mind until the recent pledge of Starbucks to stop using plastic straws in stores by 2020 reminded me of the issue.

As the topic of plastics and their pollution of the environment (largely the oceans) has become so recently powerful I decided to do some research of my own. If I was going to tell people to stop using plastic straws because they were killing sea turtles, I wanted to be sure that I wasn't just repeating everything I heard from social media.

Turns out, plastic straws are hurting sea turtles and other marine life, but a lot of what I thought about plastic waste was exaggerated (at least from what I had heard from others). Sea birds are the most impacted creature by plastic straws, not sea turtles. About 1 million or more seabirds die every year from ingesting plastic straws and choking on them. In research from recent scientific studies, 80-90% of seabirds have some kind of plastic inside of their stomachs. Also, the ecological footprint that plastic straws alone leave on the planet is actually pretty small compared to food waste or fossil fuels.

However, all the buzz about sea turtles may come from the fact that globally 86% of sea turtle species are known to be affected by plastic debris. Overwhelming amounts of plastic garbage in the ocean have caused a steady decline of the leatherback sea turtle over the past several years, so much that they have been placed on the endangered species list. Plastics can hinder eating and consumption, breathing abilities, and even reproductive capabilities of all kinds of sea turtles.

So while plastic straws may not be killing sea turtles in hordes, they are killing sea birds, and plastic overall have caused huge and deadly effects to many sealife species. We have known that plastic is bad for the environment and the oceans for quite a while, given the fact that the Great Garbage Patch was discovered almost 20 years ago, so it's more than time to start caring about the problem. If we can eliminate single-use plastic straws that aren't biodegradable, we can stop using other single-use plastics and make a better effort to reduce our harmful impacts on the oceans. Individually, we can move towards small changes, which can move our society to a more sustainable and healthy place. If you are more interested in this topic, I would suggest reading about how you can make a change or looking at this article and checking out this scientific journal.

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Vinicius Amano

@viniciusamano

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Being Sustainable Is Hard But It's Not Impossible

Although we've all heard of climate change and have witnessed the disastrous effects that humans have had on the environment, it still seems like most people are not subscribing to the ideals of sustainability.

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Sustainability is a tricky term. Most people that hear about it eventually put in the back of their minds, the same place they put "student loans" and "crippling depression." Most people know that to adhere to this ideal would mean to change how they live.

Sustainability is about adopting behaviors and systems that will ensure that the Earth is around for many generations after ours. Sustainability aims to preserve the Earth in terms of seven generations ahead. Seven generations after ours and societies on Earth will be using entirely different systems than what we do now, therefore, we should start this process now to ensure that they will be able to live comfortably and sustainably.

This is where most people tune out, understandably so. It's hard for us to think about the implications of our actions and how they will affect life on Earth much after our own deaths. It suddenly seems like an incomprehensible problem that no one person can ever solve.

"My actions won't make a difference," most people say, convinced that just because they stop eating meat or buying plastic or start drinking from paper straws, that nothing will change. However, what they fail to consider is how their actions will influence the minds of others around them, and one person who stops eating meat or using plastic sends a ripple effect through the people surrounding them. One person making lifestyle changes in the name of sustainability leads others to suddenly consider, "maybe I should eat less meat?" or "maybe I won't use single-use plastics anymore?"

The idea is not that any one person picking up plastic on the beach is going to save the planet, but rather that through education and awareness, we will all take small steps to preserve our home. Large groups of people all taking small steps leads to big changes, and politics and the economy will follow the demand of the people.

The most difficult thing for most people to do is to adopt those small behavioral changes. Not everyone can afford to stop eating meat, but everyone can afford to opt out of single-use plastics. Buying a personal water bottle is one easy way to do this. Stop buying plastic water bottles just to throw them away. If you need to buy them, make sure to recycle them. Instead of taking plastic silverware and straws from restaurants, bring your own reusable set.

Understandably, most of you are already cringing. It's hard to go against the grain and commit to living a plastic-free lifestyle for the sake of sustainability. And what about when you go to Chipotle with your zero-waste kit and somebody asks you a question about why you have that? Fear or convincing themselves that it's "inconvenient" will keep most of you from adopting these little changes that, over time, make a huge difference in the amount of plastic we put in our oceans.

Although we can't all be leaders of huge sustainability efforts to clean our oceans or buy an electric car, we can all make small changes to mitigate this tragic problem. On our current track, the last half of our lives will be starkly different from the first half, for the worse. Educate yourself and be part of the solution instead of the problem.

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