Happy Earth Day

Happy Earth Day

A Happy Earth Day List of Rules everyone should keep in mind of.

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Smell the roses, hug a tree. Properly discard your trash, pick up the random bag fluttering around on the beach. Re-use that plastic container, and that plastic bag, and that other plastic container. Re-use it again, and again, and again. It's not going anywhere. Don't like plastic? Buy a Hydroflask, or any stainless steel water bottle. Re-use it again, and again, and again. It is officially your new expensive, small, colorful and helpful non-human, best friend. Someone at WholeFoods will think you're cool. And never, EVER walk in without a re-usable, recycled bag. You will be shunned.

"Eat more Chikin," said the Chik-Fil-A cows. It's true. Eat more chicken. Even better, eat less meat! Go for that plant based diet. Not only are you eating healthier than before, but you're helping the planet. Drink more water, almond milk is so last year. Think local, act global. Four simple words in one short phrase, but with a whole lot of meaning to it. "Think local, act global," encourages people to consider their personal actions as well as the health of our planet.

Forget whatever Kim or Kendall posted on Instagram. Go camping. Breathe in the smell of pine trees and damp forest soil. Trust me, it's one of the best scents in the world. But before you do that, get a permit to camp. Pick up your plastic baggy with left over peanut butter and jelly inside. Double check, no triple check that everything you went with to your secluded spot is coming back with you home. Leave no trace behind. And ALWAYS respect your open spaces.

Donate some of that birthday or allowance money to non-profits that take real action. Volunteer in a beach clean up. Vote for politicians in support of our planet. Vote for the planet, the people, and all living biota in it. We live in a pretty spectacular place, there really is no place like home. Do your part to keep it that way.

Happy Earth Day.

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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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The Flint Water Crisis Is Affecting More People Than We Know, Including The Unborn

Flint is not the only city with water pipes contaminated with lead. At 40 weeks pregnant, I have to worry about the lead in my home’s water.

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Many Americans are familiar with the atrocities in Flint, Michigan. Flint received nationwide coverage when it was revealed that residents were being restricted access to clean water and were exposed to water contaminated with lead for many years. After the state discovered the lead, the residents were left with the contaminated water and still have it years later.

I have watched many documentaries on Flint like "Here's to Flint" and "Fahrenheit 11/9." The scenes from the documentaries are haunting and much resemble a war-torn, third world country. I was especially surprised when I received a letter in the mail from Chicago's Department of Water Management. The letter looked like nothing special and had been placed in a pile of junk mail that none of my roommate's wanted to read. I eventually went through the mail and was shocked at what I read. The letter casually says that my home uses a water meter and water meters activate lead in pipes.

It continued to say that most homes in Chicago test under the U.S. EPA's benchmark level for lead in drinking, however, 17.2% percent exceed it.

As a pregnant woman, this is horrifying news. I had been pregnant for months drinking and cooking with contaminated water before reading this letter. Drinking water contaminated with lead has long term effects for the whole family. For example, it affects the brain and nervous system development in children and increases the risks of things like kidney damage and high blood pressure in adults. The CDC itself says that there is no known safe level of lead in a child's blood.

I especially remember a scene in "Fahrenheit 11/9" where they talk about the effects lead has on the babies born to pregnant women who consumed it. It can cause miscarriages and stillbirths. There are pregnancy complications like low birth weight, premature delivery, preeclampsia.

Babies whose mother consumed lead water have been reported to have behavioral problems, lower IQs, and learning disabilities.

My own home soon resembled that of a developing country. I had stacks and stacks of water bottles. I have to use these bottles for everything. Just like residents of Flint, I have to brush my teeth with water bottles. I have to go through about five water bottles to boil water to cook. If I am out of water bottles, I just have to wait it out because the alternative is not worth it.

Having to worry about lead in the water is very stressful. Along with all the other stresses of pregnancy, I have to stress about accidentally poisoning my baby. I know that I have to take precautions in my own home, but am unsure where else is contaminated. I don't know where is safe. I don't know who else received the same letter I did, but ignored it as junk mail.

I recently had a house guest stay from another state. He asked why our water had an odd smell. I had to casually tell him not to mind that, it's just the lead in our water. I find it very disheartening that the city, state, and country don't prioritize the health and safety of its pregnant women, babies, or children. It is sincerely unfortunate how things like access to clean drinking water in America are just a luxury.

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