I have found it just as interesting to attend to the planning and cultural awareness that goes in to the facilities. Planners and architects should be recognized not just for their adherence to LEED standards, but also to the cultural and ethnographic idiosyncrasies of their sites and localities.
By Rod Harris & special guest contributors.
Re-enchant yourself with a sense of awe, wonder and connectedness. Be inspired to stand under the stars and gaze, feel the power and purpose of an ocean, stream or lake. Take a stroll in the forest, or any other place of untamed nature and hear the call. Observe your world and love our home- planet earth. Touch the Earth. Feel the life within it that sustains our existence. We are all connected. Gain this perspective and awaken into the connective nature of *Our BlueSphere.
by Sam Marquit
Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, is a building certification process developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a non-profit organization (not a government agency) headquartered in Washington, D.C. As a contractor working in the commercial building industry, I have been able to see first-hand the progress of implementing the green building mentality into the tourism industry. The ultimate goal, of course, is for the facility to become LEED certified and self-sustaining.
Think about the travel and hospitality industry as a whole, and the numbers of structures they represent. The combined environmental impact of the trade is huge, but at the same time the opportunities for a hotel to make a positive impact by reducing their carbon footprint is equally vast. Every area of a hotel, from guest rooms to “back of house” facilities has operations that can negatively impact the environment. Energy and water management, waste reduction, sustainable and local purchasing, and use of alternative transportation are areas that offer relatively easy ways to improve green-friendliness. Hotels and resorts that achieve LEED certification also see cash benefits from energy efficiency and utility savings. Best of all perhaps is that such properties attract the growing market of eco-conscious travelers.
In Asia, for instance, I have noticed accommodation providers taking community and culture into account when developing properties. Wildlife and nature conservation and efficiency of resource usages are categories in an award called the Wild Asia Responsible Tourism Awards. Strategies by property developers could be as easy as installing bathroom fixtures with automatic shut off valves or serving locally sourced foods.
Las Vegas has also filled properties with products that meet LEED standards. The Palazzo Hotel & Resort in Las Vegas was recently namednamed “Most Eco-Friendly Hotel in America”. It has many sustainable elements, including reusing its own waste. Las Vegas has not cornered the market for those wanting to take their green-mindedness on the road. While LEED certified hotels in Las Vegas are a great example of innovation, there are other destinations at the LEED forefront. New York City hotels are working to recycle waste and improve their sustainability scores. The ink48 Hotel program called Earthcare focuses on having a positive impact on the globe. It is a member of the Kimpton brand of boutique hotels, a chain that takes eco-mindedness seriously at all their properties. The program allows members to discuss methods on how they can play a positive role in boosting the health and environment.
Regardless of the methods, the location or the price tag, it is fantastic to see entrepreneurs taking on the task of making their operations sustainable and culturally meaningful. The integration of local populations, produce and activities further blends the facility with the land. As a builder, it is an honor to participate in this work. I hope it is something that more business owners in the travel and tourism market begin to take seriously to bring forth a better OurBlueSphere.
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Shark Stewards has filed a petition with the Federal Government to protect the North East Pacific population of great white sharks under the Endangered Species Act. Concurrently, we are appealing to protect these sharks under the California Endangered Species Act. The genetically distinct white shark population in California and Baja numbers only a few hundred individuals and are at risk of disappearing from the ocean forever.
Great White Sharks Deserve Protection Now!
Adult great whites migrate thousands of miles across the Pacific, falling prey to longlines and shark finning. These sharks are being killed as bycatch, exploited for fins, jaws and teeth and are being fished towards extinction. At the same time, pups and young white sharks have had their habitat severely impacted and are killed in the drift gillnet fisheries in the Southern California nursery.
We Need Your Help to List these Sharks as Endangered under Federal and State Listing. Take action here to urge the California Fish and Game Commission to protect this species.
Pups and young sharks in their critical California nursery, and adult sharks foraging in California waters, will be better protected under the Endangered Species Act. As top predators, these and other shark species are essential for maintaining the health and balance of our fragile marine ecosystems.
Endangered sea turtles across the world are accidentally eating plastic. Scientists report 30-60% of juvenile sea turtles have plastic inside them, which is whySeaTurtles.org is leading efforts to clean up plastic pollution and advance public policies that reduce wasteful plastic use.
Vote today to “Create Plastic-Free Sea Turtle Habitat” at nesting beaches in Central America! Project AWARE Foundation will award funding to the projects with the most votes on Facebook using the Contests App. Voting ends after September 1!
1) Click here to visit the Project AWARE Facebook page,
2) Click on the green VOTE NOW button
3) Accept the “Go to Contests App” in the Facebook pop-up window
4) Your vote to “Create Plastic-Free Sea Turtle Habitat” has been submitted!
We will continue to leverage creative opportunities to fund the increasing need to save sea turtles from plastics pollution. You can donate directly to this work to help us clean sea turtle habitat, ban plastic bags and disposable polystyrene foam, and educate the next generation of ocean advocates!
The National Organic Program published a final rule today that addresses the use of three substances in organic agriculture with specific limitations that would support production and processing of organic products.
Tetracycaline, formic acid, and attapulgite.
read more about it -
Even as scientist discover more amphibian species, they are also finding that more amphibian populations and species are declining. In the case of vertebrate animals, species are discovered at about one new species per year, but toads, frogs and salamanders, and other amphibian species, are disappearing at an alarming rate of 38% since 1985. Since amphibians rely on aquatic and terrestrial environments to breathe and absorb water through their skin, they are highly prone to pollution and other stresses. Thus, amphibians are “biological indicators” that inform us whether ecosystems are in good shape. Scientists are trying to discover the reasons for the decline of amphibians around the globe.
The major decline in amphibian species is due to habitat destruction, chemical pollution, disease, invasive species, and climate change. Habitat loss, followed by pollution, are the top two causes of decline. Most researchers believe that a combination of these factors cause the decline. An area of concern is that populations are vanishing in remote and pristine environments where no direct damage is apparent. The problem seems to be a fungal disease called Chytridiomycosis caused by a pathogen Batrachochytrium dendobrobatidis. Scientists do not know whether the disease spread around the world from some unknown source, whether it has been around for a long time, but evolved to a greater strength, or whether amphibian immune systems have weakened. The dilemma is that the disease is spreading rapidly worldwide. Human influence may or may not be responsible for its introduction and/or transmission.
Warnings as to the fate of amphibians (that have been around for 300 million years) are being proclaimed. According to David Wake, a biologist at the University of California, “Amphibians are tough, yet they are checking out all around us”. Several proposals have been presented by scientist and researchers such as protection and restoration of habitat, slowing down on illegal harvesting, enhancing disease monitoring, and establishing captive breeding programs.
What are frogs good for besides being excellent biodiversity indicators? A good example is an Australian species, one only two species to raise it’s young in its stomach. It produced chemicals that were promising to help treat stomach ulcers for millions of people. Sadly, this frog went extinct soon after its discovery, taking its secrets and potential with it. The existence of our fogs, toads and salamanders, is just a small, mostly unnoticed part of our world, but none-the-less a very important one that can teach us about the need to understand how we all fit together on Our Blue Sphere!
Photo by Susie Harris HarrisPhotos.com
“Bio-prospecting” is a term used to describe the search for organisms that can provide new drugs, foods, medicines, or other valuable products. Bio-prospectors work for pharmaceutical companies in biodiversity-rich countries trying to discover new species for commercial development and exploitation.
This can result in “bio-piracy” – harvesting indigenous species to create commercial products without compensating the country of origin. Recently, Costa Rica reached an agreement with Merck Pharmaceutical that allowed them to evaluate several species for commercial use in return for $1.1 million dollars for any products developed. This helped to finance the training and employment of new Costa Rican scientists.
People have made medicines from plants for centuries, and today most drugs are derived from chemical compounds from wild plants. For example, the rosy periwinkle produces compounds that treat Hodgkin’s Disease and a deadly form of leukemia. Had this plant from Madagascar become extinct, these two fatal diseases would have claimed many more victims. Each year pharmaceutical companies who have developed life saving compounds from products wild in origin generate $150 Billion in sales and save hundreds of lives. Every species that goes extinct represents one lost opportunity to find a cure for cancer or AIDS. Recent international surveys indicate animals that show particular promise, yet may be lost to extinction.
- Amphibians – Antibiotics, pain killers, chemicals to treat heart disease
- Bears – Acids for treating gall bladder disease, chemicals for osteoporosis
- Cone Snails – Compounds to treat head and brain injuries
- Sharks – Appetite suppressants, drugs to shrink tumors, agents to treat kidney disease
- Horseshoe Crabs – new antibiotics, chemicals to detect cerebral meningitis, compounds that may be more effective in treating AIDS.
What role can we play in helping to secure those needed discoveries? As residents of Our Blue Sphere, we can get involved and support efforts to protect ALL species from endangerment or extinction!
Photo by Susie Harris, Harrisphotos.com
By Rod Harris
In a poem titled “The Rime Of the Ancient Mariner”, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, (1798), reference is made to “Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink”.
Water is essential to survival on our planet, and our life on earth cannot exist without safe drinking water. Water covers 70.9% of the Earth’s surface. 97% is found in the oceans, 2.4% in the polar ice caps and glaciers, 1.6% below ground in aquifers and .001% in the air as vapor, clouds, or precipitation. Only about 0.024% of the earth’s vast water supply is available as liquid freshwater in accessible groundwater deposits from rivers, lakes, and streams. The remainder is too salty or is stored as ice, or is to deep underground to extract at affordable prices.
The Water Cycle or Hydrologic Cycle collects, purifies, and distributes the earth’s fixed supply of water. This cycle is considered to be a cycle of natural renewal of water quality. Through evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and transpiration (water loss through evaporation from the surfaces of plants) the Hydrologic Cycle continues to re-supply water to the “water planet”, earth. Surface runoff of water continually re-sculptures the earth. Groundwater replenishes streams and lakes. Water is the number one way in which nutrients are transported between ecosystems.
Humans alter the Water Cycle in three ways.
(1) We withdraw large quantities of freshwater from lakes, rivers, streams and underground sources faster than nature can replace it.
(2) We clear vegetation that increases runoff and reduce infiltration to replace underground aquifers. This also alters weather patterns by reducing transpiration by plants.
(3) We increase flooding by draining wetlands for farming and other purposes. If wetlands are not disturbed or altered they act as a natural flood control by absorbing the overflow of water like a sponge. When we cover many acres of land with roads, parking lots, and buildings it lowers the land’s ability to absorb water, which increases water runoff. The runoff often picks up a variety of harmful water pollutants.
It is estimated that by 2025 half the world will be facing water-based vulnerability. Water demands may exceed supply by as much as 50% making water an enormous commodity in the world economy. As stewards of all the natural resources our earth contains, protecting our freshwater supply is essential to sustaining life on Our Blue Sphere.
Photos by Susie Harris, HarrisPhotos.com
By Rod Harris
“If I do not use this resource, someone else will. The little bit I use or pollute is not enough to matter, and anyway, It’s a renewable resource”.
The idea that open and free access areas with renewable resources are available for use by anyone at little or no charge gave rise to the concept of the “Tragedy of the Commons” by Garrett Hardin (1915-2003). Examples of shared renewable resources, include clean air, underground water supplies, and open ocean and its fish.
There are three types of property or resource rights:
- Private property where individuals or firms own the rights to land, minerals, or other resources.
- Common property, where the rights to certain resources are held by large groups or individuals.
- Open access renewable resources, owned by no one and available for use by anyone at little or no charge.
When the number of users is small, the problem is minimal. However, the cumulative effect leads to exploitation that can ruin the resource. This, in turn, causes total loss of benefits. The concept of satisfying short term needs, causes long term economic and sustainability loss of open-access resources such as clean air or an open ocean fishery.
One solution is to use shared resources at rates well below their estimated sustainable yields by reducing use of the resources, regulating access to the resources or doing both. For example, governments could establish laws limiting the annual harvest of ocean fish that are being harvested above sustainable rates In their coastal waters. Nations could agree to regulate access to open-access renewable resources such as fish in the open ocean.
A second solution might be to convert open-access resources to private ownership. This approach is not practical for global open-access resources, such as the atmosphere, the open ocean, and most wildlife species that cannot be divided up to private property.
Our Blue Sphere is to be shared by all mankind. Environmental decisions whether local, regional, national or global, will ultimately affect our existence. Planet Earth, our home, must become sustainable for us and all future inhabitants!
By Rod and Susie Harris
South Padre Island, Texas, 7:00 AM, June 20, 2011.
181 baby Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempii) sea turtles were released into the Gulf of Mexico by Sea Turtle, Inc. a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the survival rate of the most rare of all sea turtles-The Kemp’s Ridley.
Placed on the endangered species list in December of 1970, these rare sea turtles are found in the coastal waters and bays of the Gulf of Mexico and along the Eastern seaboard as far north as Nova Scotia.
This smallest of all sea turtles can grow to 27-32 inches long and weigh on an average of 75 to 100 pounds. The diet of the Kemp’s ridley consist mostly of crabs, shrimp, clams, sea stars, jellyfish and some fish. In Mexico, it is known as the tortuga lora, referring to the “parrot-like” shape of its beak.
Very little information is known about the males. However, most scientists believe they never return to land, and remain in the oceans their entire life. The female will return back to the same beach from which she was born, to nest from one year to the next. Some scientists believe that baby sea turtles “imprint” on smell, chemical make-up, or perhaps a magnetic location on the beach.
Unlike other sea turtles, Kemp’s ridley nest on a single stretch of beach on the Gulf of Mexico near Rancho Nuevo, Tamaulipa, Mexico. Females lay about 100 eggs per nest, two clutches per season and about 25 days apart. Approximately 125,000 hatchlings attempt the trek to water each year. Less than 1% will survive to sexual maturity at age 10-15 years for females.
Between the 1940’s and 1960’s egg traders collected hundreds of thousands of eggs for market from these beaches. From the estimated 40,000 nesting females per year, the population has been reduced to less than 200. Rancho Nuevo was declared a Natural Reserve in 1977. Conservancy now returns 50,000 hatchlings to the Gulf per season; however, the number of Kemp’s ridley that nest each year is in decline due to continued losses. Nesting activity in 2010, along the western Gulf of Mexico, was down by 40% over 2009 levels.
The loss of this sea turtle (mostly as juveniles) is related directly to some natural predators such as shore birds, sharks and other sea animals. However, the major loss of the Kemp’s Ridley is due to the interference of humans. These include hunting for meat, skins, or eggs, running over nesting sites by vehicles, boat propellers, fishing nets, destruction of beach habitat, oil spills, and refuse including plastic materials such as bags and ring tops. Most are lost today from suffocation in large shrimp nets, and ingesting floating trash, which they mistake for food.
Since the 1970’s, a major undertaking has been established in restoring the Kemp’s ridley. A secondary nesting site has been established on Padre Island National Seashore in Texas. Sea Turtle, inc. a non-profit, rescues, rehabilitates and releases sea turtles. In 2010 there were 32 nests and nearly 3,000 hatchlings released. Rescued nests produced 91% hatch success, a record year. The number of injured turtles was up significantly. Sea turtles, inc. treated over 110 injured turtles in the first 10 months of 2010. Freezing temperatures along the South Texas coastline in Feb. of 2011 affected over 700 sea turtles causing them to wash ashore in a cold shock. Volunteers were able to collect, rehabilitate and release the sea turtles back into the Gulf of Mexico.
Hats off to Sea Turtle, Inc. and the US Fish and Wildlife Service on South Padre Island for their tireless efforts to protect and re-establish the Kemp’s ridley Sea Turtle, and help all of us to appreciate and become aware of our stewardship to all creatures on Our Blue Sphere!
Photos by Susie Harris, HarrisPhotos.com
Has everyone heard of DDT, once proclaimed as the great boon to the human race? Used as a garden pesticide and in many households as an insecticide, it was finally brought down by public outrage. The United States EPA, supposedly saved the environment, and we could breathe again……Or can we? Surprisingly, DDT is still around. Maybe in your old barn or greenhouse? DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) was first synthesized in 1874, but first was used as insecticide in 1939.
In World War II, soldiers and sailors carried small cans of DDT powder to protect themselves against bedbugs, lice and mosquitoes. They came to love the stuff, especially in the tropics. Millions of DDT aerosol bombs were used to spray the interiors of tents, barracks, and mess halls. By the end of World War II, DDT had become the most publicized synthetic chemical in the world!
DDT was released for public use in August 1945, just three days before the end of World War II. When DDT was removed from wartime federal control, the government’s power over its production, distribution, and use was diminished. There were immediate profits to be made from DDT’s manufacture, distribution and agricultural use. Because there was a desperate need for all the food and fiber that could be produced, DDT could do more to increase production more than any other insecticide. Millions of people were saved from starvation because of increased food production made possible by DDT. The U.S.D.A. has estimated that without chemical pesticides, some 30% of America’s protein supply and 80% of high vitamin crops would be lost to insects – and DDT was by far the most widely and heavily used chemical pesticide throughout the 1950’s.
After World War II, DDT was used extensively as an agricultural insecticide, usually in the form of a spray. In some cases as much as a ton of DDT was used to treat a single cotton field. By the 1950’s, in some cases, doses of DDT and other insecticides had to be doubled or tripled as resistant strains developed. In addition, the evidence began to grow that the chemical became more and more concentrated at higher levels in the food chain. As the stubbornly persistent DDT enters the food chain that begins with plant eaters and runs through small to large and larger meat eaters, including man, the process known as “bioaccumulation” occurs.
Research reports began to note the amazing persistence of DDT, due to its chemical stability and insolubility in water. Pyrethrum, as then used in ordinary household sprays, was highly poisonous to insects for the first few hours after application, but gradually lost all its power within a day or two. But DDT, sprayed upon an interior wall, was fatal to flies and mosquitoes for as long as three months. DDT sprayed on a blanket could be laundered a half dozen times, and still kill every moth that touched it!
In 1962, Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published. The book argued that pesticides, and especially DDT, was giving evidence both for and against the use of DDT, where poisoning both wildlife and the environment was happening. The public reaction to Silent Spring launched the modern environmental movement in the United States, and DDT became a prime target of the growing anti-pesticide movements during the 1960’s.
The EPA held several months of hearings in 1971-72 with scientists giving evidence both for and against the use of DDT. EPA’s first administrator, William Ruckelshaus, in the summer of 1972, ruled that a ban be placed on the use of DDT in the United States. The 1970’s ban took place amid a climate of public mistrust of the scientific and industrial community, following such problems as Agent Orange and Love Canal.
DDT continues to be used in other countries (primarily tropical) where mosquito-borne malaria and typhus are greater health problems than DDT’s potential toxicity. Use of DDT in public health to control mosquitoes is primarily done inside buildings and through household products and selective spraying; this greatly reduces environmental impact compared to the earlier widespread of DDT in agriculture.
The Stockholm Convention in May 2004, called for the elimination of DDT and other persistent organic pollutants. The Convention was signed by 98 countries and is endorsed by most environmental groups. However, a total elimination of DDT use in many malaria-prone countries is currently unfeasible because of the prohibitive costs of alternative insecticides.
It has recently been estimated that 2,400 tons of DDT has now accumulated in Antarctica’s snow. Probably from worldwide winds bearing pesticides. Whatever its ultimate effects may be, the fact is that most of the hundreds of millions of pounds of DDT sprayed over the world during the last quarter century remain in circulation – only a fraction has decayed into harmless substances.
And so the use of DDT continues. The need for some system of broadly assessing the likely consequences of technological innovations before they are unleashed seems all to apparent. In the case of DDT, we can only hope to live with our mistakes. In the interest of Our Blue Sphere, we must continue to learn and apply that knowledge for now and in the future!
Sustainability is the ability of the current generation to meet its needs, without
compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs.
-United Nations, 1987
What’s Possible For The Future? Our current path is on the course of un-sustainability. For example, 70% of the world’s forests have been eliminated and 30% of the world’s arable land has been lost in the past 40 years. Most people who are aware of the environmental crises are worried that climate destabilization, pollution, and habitat destruction will soon have a major impact on their lives.
The movement to address this disparity in who is affected most is called “Environmental Justice.” According to Majora Custer, founder of Sustainable South Bronx, The basis of this belief is that no community should have to bear a disproportionate amount of environmental burdens and not enjoy any environmental benefits. Many studies conclude that material gains to most do not lead to greater happiness or spiritual fulfillment. Can we attain a state of sustainability? The good news is different actions can create different outcomes. These actions can be summed up in ten major approaches to sustainability.
- Be Politically Active
- Vote With Our Wallets
- Rethink Our Assumptions About Economic Growth
- Consume Less While Maintaining Quality Of Life
- Limit Population Growth
- Encourage Green Technologies
- Mimic Natural Systems By Promising Closed-Loop Industrial Processes
- Enhance Local Self-Sufficiency, Yet Embrace Some Aspects of Globalization
- Think In The Long Term
- Promote Research And Education
The challenge for our global society today is to support the science that we are a one-world community, and that we may judge false alarms from real problems. Only then can we make legitimate solutions to fixing these problems. The study of Earth, and of ourselves, offers us great hope for our future as inhabitants of OurBlueSphere!
There are several worldviews concerning the environmental management of the earth. Two opposing views are the Deep Ecology Worldview and the Planetary Management Worldview.
The Deep Ecology Worldview holds that each form of life has intrinsic value, that fundamental interdependence and diversity of life forms helps all life to thrive, that humans have no right to reduce this interdependence and diversity except to satisfy vital needs, and that present human interference with the non-human world is excessive.
The Planetary Management Worldview contends that humans are totally separate from nature, that nature exits mainly to meet our needs and increasing wants, and that we can use our ingenuity and technology to manage the earth’s life-support system, mostly for our benefit. It assumes that economic growth is unlimited. A third worldview, the Environmental Wisdom Worldview,is based on sustainability.
It proposes that humans are part of and totally dependent on nature, and that nature exists for all species, not just for us. Our success depends on learning how the earth sustains itself and integrating environmental wisdom into the ways we think and act.
Paralleling the Environmental Wisdom Worldview is the Stewardship Worldview. This worldview is based on precepts that we can manage the earth for our benefit but we have an ethical responsibility to care as responsible managers, or stewards, of the earth. It calls for encouraging environmentally beneficial forms of economic growth and discouraging environmentally harmful forms.
As passengers aboard spaceship earth, the Environmental Wisdom and the Stewardship Worldviews are essential for our survival. How we sustain our race depends on how we conserve our natural resources, while at the same time, wisely using these resources to assure that future generations will be able to exist on Our BlueSphere.
As we race around our nearest star, the sun, SpaceShip Earth travels at an average speed of 167,062 miles per hour in its 365.25 day orbit. As a comparison, the NASA Space Shuttle travels at an average speed of 17,500 miles per hour in its one hour and thirty minute orbit around planet earth. Both are self -contained, and both have adequate resources (food, water, atmosphere) for an exact number of inhabitants.
The NASA Space Shuttle is self-sustainable when all the resources and its environmental components are designed for a specific number of passengers. However, as the population increases within our space ship, resources are depleted, living space (habitat) becomes threatened, and pollution increases.
And so it is with SpaceShip Earth. Exponential population increases, pollution of air, water, and land, and mis-use of our natural resources (non-renewable) fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) to maintain energy needs for our space ship are being depleted.
Our dilemma then becomes: (1) either to sustain what we have, that is, utilize our resources to meet our needs, while at the same time conserve our resources for future spaceship passengers, or (2) leave SpaceShip Earth and find a new environment, suitable for life, before our Spaceship becomes fails.
As passengers aboard SpaceShip Earth, we must become great caretakers of our resources to maintain our current needs as well as those of future generations. This maintenance includes: (1) slowing down or stopping pollution, (2) developing and utilizing alternate energy sources using renewable resources such as wind,solar, and geothermal, and (3) educating all passengers of their responsibilities to insure their future survival aboard SpaceShip Earth.
We are the inhabitants, guardians, and caretakers of our Blue Sphere-Spaceship Earth. It is imperative that we have and practice a holistic environmental perspective based on sustainability to insure our survival and provide for a better earth for future generations. We are the caretakers of our BlueSphere –SpaceShip Earth.