Monthly Archives: April 2010

Reveling in Palau

reveling-in-PalauEach dive in Palau was magnificent. It’s not every day you come eyeball to eyeball with creatures appearing to wonder; ‘just what are you doing with that funny contraption on your back?’ Such was the case when my dive instructor signaled me to turn around on our safety stop. To my surprise and glee, there was an enormous manta ray staring right at me. I could have touched him, but out of respect I held back as we gazed at one another. That is, after spinning my head around motioning and gurgling “HOLY MOLY!” My instructor proved that you can in fact laugh while scuba diving. I’m hooked.

The biodiversity above and underwater was captivating. Kayaking was a perfect way to catch both along the craggy limestone. Before departing on our carefully planned, 7 night kayaking, camping expedition, we took a day to paddle out for some snorkeling, and practice navigating with the waterproof expedition maps that Planet Blue provided. With countless, similar-looking, uninhabited islands you would too!

Putting our kayaks into the deep turquoise water, surrounded by jungly trees and mangroves, it occurred to me that if I were a salt water crocodile, this would be top notch. So I asked our friend who helped us launch, ‘just out of curiosity – should we keep an eye out for those wily reptiles?’ He grinned, “In Palau? Always Crocodile!”

Super!

Reveling-in-Palau-2Vines swooping to the water provided kayak parking as we snorkeled, and I looked behind, below, all around us for croc eyeballs – at which point it would be too late anyway, so why bother? The corals were a vast array of colors, shapes and textures appearing preserved since the dawn of time.

I’ll never forget though, the eerie feeling that also hung in the air that day. It was especially prominent, listening as our paddles interrupted the buzzing, ringing sounds of the birds and insects. I couldn’t help but wonder what it must have been like for soldiers surviving in hiding for years, or decades in the caves. What it must have been like not knowing if the war was over, if it was safe to come out at all. How explosions must have shattered the stillness that now hung in the air. You could feel it, you could just feel the suffering and fear that had once dominated this beautiful place.

About the author: Jeanethe Falvey, EPA New England, on detail, EPA’s Office of Web Communications.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Future of the Acid Rain Program

In 1980, as an intern with the House Natural Resources Committee, I spent hours summarizing legislative proposals to address acid rain, an issue captivating public consciousness. Thirty years later, I can see the great progress we’ve made and, along with hard-working EPA staff, I’m pleased to spread the word about that progress.

On April 8, we launched the 20th Anniversary Acid Rain Program Discussion Forum to talk about what we’ve been doing to address acid rain over the past 20 years and to create a space for open dialogue on this issue. I encourage everyone to check out the discussion forum posts to learn about the large emission reductions and high compliance rates we’ve seen under the program. You’ll also find information about improvements in air quality and human health, recovering ecosystems, and improved visibility in our parks.

Assessing where we are with acid rain is also done every few years in the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) report. The newest report, scheduled to be sent to Congress later this year, is a collaboration among EPA, other government agencies and scientists. It contains hard data on the success we’ve had in addressing acid rain, but it also underlines the work we still need to do – work that EPA is ready to tackle.

Administrator Lisa Jackson’s seven priorities for EPA specifically list reducing SO2 and NOx as top priorities for improving air quality. And so, building on the success of the Acid Rain Program and other programs, the Agency is getting ready to propose a new rule this spring that will deepen SO2 and NOx emission reductions in the East. Until that rule is finalized (sometime in 2011), the Clean Air Interstate Rule is in place and already achieving NOx and SO2 reductions from power plants. Check back with us this summer to see our progress report on results from the first year of the CAIR annual and ozone season NOx programs.

We are certain that in another 20 years we will have even MORE environmental and public health progress to share with you.

We hope you’ve enjoyed all the posts and comments on our discussion forum. Please continue the conversation with us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the author: Rick Haeuber is Chief of the Assessment and Communications Branch within the Clean Air Markets Division which implements the Acid Rain Program and other cap and trade programs.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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“Fierce Urgency of Now” and Climate Change

After volunteering at the EPA booth during the Earth Day festivities this past weekend, I walked over to the Climate Rally at the National Mall. Speaker after speaker highlighted the need to take action to develop a comprehensive policy to address climate change. It was interesting to see those who had participated at the first Earth Day 40 years ago in 1970 speaking at the rally on Sunday. While they pointed to the environmental progress achieved over the years, several indicated that on this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, the world faces new challenges. Many of them joined their voices to call for urgent action on climate change today in 2010.climate-rally

Just two days after the festivities, EPA has published a report entitled Climate Change Indicators in the United States . The report analyzes 24 key indicators that show how climate change impacts the health and environment across the nation. While it focuses on the effects of these indicators in the United States, global trends are presented as well. Some of the findings point to an increase in average temperatures across the United States, rising sea levels, heavier precipitation, and a greater intensity of tropical storms, to name a few. The report concludes that there is compelling evidence that fundamental changes to our environment are unfolding before our very eyes.

The urgency of the situation brought memories of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I have a dream
speech delivered at the other end of the National Mall nearly forty-seven years ago. Although the great civil rights leader sought to stress the urgency for action in favor of racial justice and equality, a parallel can be drawn regarding the urgency to address the current challenge of climate change. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said on that hallowed spot in front of the Lincoln Memorial, “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism…It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment.”

While the challenges seem monumental for the average citizen, there are simple steps that we all can take to reduce our environmental impacts. Pick something that you can do today!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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“La urgencia feroz del ahora” y el cambio climático

Después de servir de voluntaria en el pabellón de EPA durante las festividades del Día del Planeta Tierra el pasado fin de semana, caminé hasta la Manifestación Climática en el Mall Nacional. Orador tras orador destacó la necesidad de tomar acción para desarrollar una política global para abordar el cambio climático. Fue interesante ver aquellos que participaron en el primer Día del Planeta Tierra hace cuarenta años atrás en 1970 hablando en la manifestación este domingo pasado. Mientras destacaron los avances medioambientales logrados en los pasados años, varios indicaron que en este 40mo aniversario del Día del Planeta Tierra, el mundo se enfrenta a nuevos retos. Muchos unieron sus voces en un llamado a favor de acción urgente para abordar el cambio climático hoy en el 2010.climate-rally

Justo dos días después de las festividades, EPA ha publicado un informe titulado Indicadores del Cambio Climático en Estados Unidos.  El informe analiza 24 indicadores claves que demuestran cómo el cambio climático impacta la salud y al medio ambiente a través de toda la nación. Mientras el informe se enfoca en los efectos de estos indicadores en Estados Unidos, también se presentan tendencias globales. Algunos de los hallazgos apuntan a un aumento en temperaturas promedio en todo Estados Unidos, un alza en los niveles del mar, una mayor precipitación, y una mayor intensidad de las tormentas tropicales, entre otros factores. El informe concluye que hay evidencia apremiante de que hay cambios fundamentales en nuestro medio ambiente se están desarrollando ante nuestros ojos.

La urgencia de la situación me trajo recuerdos del famoso discurso de Martín Luther King, hijo, “Tengo un sueño”que pronunció al otro extremo del Mall Nacional hace casi 47 años atrás. A pesar de que el gran líder de derechos civiles buscaba enfatizar la urgencia de acción a favor de la justicia racial y la igualdad, se puede trazar un paralelo referente a la urgencia de abordar el reto actual del cambio climático. Como dijera Martín Luther King, hijo, en ese lugar sagrado al frente del monumento al Presidente Abraham Lincoln, “Este no es el momento de dedicarse al lujo de enfriarse o de tomar la droga tranquilizante del gradualismo…Sería fatal para la nación ignorar la urgencia del momento”.

Mientras los retos parecen monumentales para el ciudadano promedio, hay unos pasos sencillos que todos podemos tomar para reducir nuestros impactos medioambientales. ¡Elija algo para hacer hoy mismo!

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Mother Earth: Indigenous Knowledge to Promote Positive Change

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

Instant messaging. Tweets. Facebook. E-mail. Blogs. Voicemail.

Like a lot of people, I sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed with the number of choices available these days for communicating.

And I’m sure I’m not alone with feeling that despite all the new technology and “social media” at our disposal, we sometimes need to step away from the keyboard, turn off our cell phones, and actually get together to see one another.

More face time, less Facebook.

That’s why I’m so excited to be deep into planning for the 2010 National Tribal Science Forum . The Forum is designed for Tribal scientists and environmental professionals to network, exchange ideas, and share data with EPA and other federal partners.

Some 400 participants from Tribal Nations and the EPA will get together to partner and share expertise and information about tribal environmental programs. I expect the gathering will spark lots of great discussions about issues of vital interest to Indian Country.

TSFBlogThe theme of the Forum is “Mother Earth: Indigenous Knowledge to Promote Positive Change.” It is sponsored by EPA and will be hosted by the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians at the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa.

This will be the second Tribal Science Forum sponsored by EPA. More than 300 participants attended the 2006 forum, representing 125 American Indian tribes and Alaska Native Villages, intertribal consortia, academic institutions, nonprofit organizations, and federal, state, and local governments. Representative included the American Indian Higher Education Council, tribal leaders, students, elders, and environmental program directors.

This time around, I’m expecting somewhere around 400 participants to join me and my colleagues from the National-EPA Tribal Science Council. Like them, I’m looking forward to sharing ideas and advancing tribal science in person.

Interested in joining us? Visit the forum website

About the Author: Monica L. Rodia is the Executive Secretary for the Tribal Science Council in EPA’s Office of Science Policy.

Editor’s Note: The opinions and comments expressed in Greenversations, including those in Science Wednesday, are those of the author. They do not reflect Agency policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Attack on Asthma

In elementary school I played on a traveling soccer team. Before every game we would pack our bags. We were careful not to forget our uniform, shin guards, socks, and cleats. However, there was another item that was crucial to some of the members of the team: their inhalers. My best friend played on the same team that I did and before we would leave for our games her parents would always remind her to grab her inhaler. I remember having to get her inhaler for her during some of her asthma attacks, and it wasn’t always on the soccer field. Sometimes it was at school or in our homes.

Asthma has proven to be one of the most common serious chronic diseases of childhood. Schools and homes can harbor triggers that can lead to trouble breathing and asthma attacks.

Exposures that can trigger asthma attacks include:
·    Secondhand smoke
·    Dust mites
·    Mold
·    Cockroaches
·    Pet dander
·    Ozone and particle pollution

While most of these are exposures that you can look for indoors, there is also a way to become more aware of the quality of the outdoor air in your area. The Air Quality Index (AQI) , shown during your local weather report, can be a useful tool to provide information on the potential health risks of the air in your area.

Some children with asthma can have difficulty playing outside when there are high levels of pollutants in the air. Even small amounts of outdoor physical activity, such as walking, can trigger an asthma attack when the air quality is poor.

Some measures that can be made to help manage asthma include:

  • Eliminate smoking around children or the areas in which they live, learn, and play.
  • Use integrated pest management (IPM) to help prevent pest problems.
  • Fix leaks and moisture problems indoors.
  • Dust and vacuum regularly in areas that kids will be.
  • Locate animals away from sensitive children and ventilation systems.

About the author: Nicole Reising is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a sophomore studying non-profit management at Indiana University.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: What should environmental justice look like in your community?

Some aspects of modern life can harm health and the environment. Environmental justice means that these effects should be shared fairly and that everyone should have the opportunity to participate in making decisions about environmental issues, regardless of race, color, national origin, or income.. Examples include:
Many inner cities still have sewer systems that are not designed to handle storm overflow, so raw sewage can flow into rivers and streams.

Farm workers, 90% of whom are people of color, may face serious health risks from pesticides.
Low income, and quite often culturally diverse populations, are more likely than other groups to live near landfills, incinerators, and hazardous waste treatment facilities.

What should environmental justice look like in your community?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Pregunta de la Semana: ¿Cómo debe de ser la justicia ambiental en su comunidad?

Algunos aspectos de la vida moderna pueden afectar la salud y el medio ambiente. El término justica ambiental quiere decir que estos efectos se deben compartir de un forma justa y que todos debemos de tener la oportunidad de participar en la toma de decisiones sobre problemas ambientales independientemente de la raza, color, nacionalidad o nivel económico. Algunos ejemplos incluyen:

  • Muchas áreas urbanas continúan teniendo sistemas de alcantarillados que no están diseñados para procesar escorrentías después de una tormenta. Esto ocasiona que aguas residuales desemboquen en ríos y otras corrientes de agua.
  • Los agricultores, 90% de los cuales son personas de color, pueden enfrentar serios riegos a la salud a causa de los pesticidas.
  • Personas de bajos recursos económicos, y a menudo poblaciones de otras culturas, están más inclinadas que otros grupos a vivir cerca de basureros, incineradores, y instalaciones de tratamiento de desperdicios peligrosos.

¿Cómo debe de ser la justicia ambiental en su comunidad?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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The Health Benefits of the Acid Rain Program

Growing up in the early 1990s, I heard a lot of buzz about acid rain and its damaging effects on our forests and aquatic environments. It wasn’t until I started interning in the Clean Air Markets Division of EPA that I began to investigate how sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), the emissions that cause acid rain, could also harm my health.

Since the Acid Rain Program began requiring SO2 and NOx reductions from power plants, the drop in emissions has improved air quality around the country, preventing some negative health impacts and leading to a higher quality of life for many Americans.

In fact, the greatest benefits are the 20,000 to 50,000 lives saved per year because of cleaner air and lower pollution levels. SO2 and NOx emissions can lead to the formation of fine particle pollution and smog, also called ground level ozone. Smog and particle pollution have been linked to health problems including aggravation of asthma and increased risk of premature death in people with heart or lung disease.

Even though I’m relatively healthy and am not considered particularly sensitive to these effects, I can still feel the impact when I’m playing or working outdoors. I spend a lot of time outside with my two dogs, Bella and Lucy. I love taking them hiking near the Occoquan River in northern Virginia. Even though I’m not affected by asthma, the hills are a lot harder to climb on bad air days. Fortunately for me (and my dogs), the good air days far outnumber the bad and we don’t have to cut our adventures short because of polluted air.

It’s pretty amazing that a program originally designed to fix the environmental problem of acid rain saves so many lives every year! EPA’s mission is to protect human health and the environment, and the Acid Rain Program is doing both.

Interested in learning more? Join our Discussion Forum and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

About the author: Elyse Procopio was an intern in EPA’s Office of Atmospheric Programs. She recently graduated from North Carolina State University with a bachelor’s degree in Natural Resource Management.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Earth Day @40 – Reflecting Back and Remembering Gaylord Nelson

Earth_Day_handshake_web_6inI joined the late Sen. Gaylord Nelson’s (founder of Earth Day) staff just out of college, shortly after the celebration of the second Earth Day in 1971. He instilled in me a passion for the environment that lives within me to this day.

The project began when Nelson called two of his senior aides into his office in September, 1969. He had just returned from Santa Barbara right after the horrific oil spill off the California coast. He was outraged by the environmental devastation and political inertia in Washington. He had read in the local newspaper about teach-ins on the Berkeley campus against the war in Vietnam and had an idea. He told his staffers, “See what you can do about having environmental teach-ins on college campuses around the country on the same day next spring.”

On April 22, 1970, about 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day (a record for any event of any kind at that time). Sen. Nelson was justifiably pleased. He had made protecting the environment his career and it seemed that the United States, then the world’s chief polluter, was ready to lead an ‘environmental’ revolution. Not quite.

The first project the Senator assigned me was to call the “Top 100” Fortune CEOs and encourage them to recycle. It took some time (no internet then) but I completed my task. Two things stand out about that experience. First, I got through to 98 of them (directly or they called me back). Second, all of them either hung up on me or laughed and then hung up (Today, not one of those companies, still in existence, would tell me that they don’t recycle in some capacity).

One of those senior aides, John Heritage, wrote in the Madison (WI) Capital Times recently, “Unfortunately, the ecological health of our nation and much of the world has deteriorated in the last four decades. We now face…a warming world climate, degradation of the oceans, decimation of tropical forests, and the loss of habitats and species.”

To honor Gaylord Nelson and his profound understanding of ecological limitations, it is imperative that we work together to find ways to implement a more environmentally favorable system of human living.

About the author: John Larmett has worked in the Office of Public Affairs since 2008. He worked for Sen. Nelson from 1971-80.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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