Despite Major Improvements, Levels of Air Pollution in the U.S. Are Still Unsafe

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

Air pollution not only threatens the future of our climate by significantly contributing to global warming, it also causes some of our most common illnesses, accounting for 1 in 8 deaths worldwide.  It’s an invisible killer that is globally responsible for 36% of deaths from lung cancer, 35% of deaths from pulmonary disease, 34% of deaths from stroke, and 27% of deaths from heart disease, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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Why the United States Needs the Environmental Protection Agency

A guest post by Greg Schiefer, Anne Fairbrother, Wayne Landis, Keith Solomon, Ralph Stahl, Jane Staveley

We are worried about the recently released White House budget and the failure to customarily renew one-term members of a key review panel, in particular, the Board of Scientific Counselors. Financial cuts and the absence of scientific rigor and integrity will permanently alter the way science informs policy.

Specifically, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under attack, and we are compelled to speak up in its defense as representatives of a leading professional society composed of environmental scientists working in academia, business, NGOs and government. We are writing to both defend the science produced by the EPA and to express deep concerns with the unprecedented efforts to undercut EPA’s goal of protecting the nation’s environment and the health of U.S. citizens. Continue reading

Fast Fashion and Viscose Production: The Time Is Ripe for Sustainable Practices

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

We live in the world of fast fashion, which Kate Fletcher defines as low-cost clothing collections based on current, high-cost luxury fashion trends—it is a system that encourages disposability and is based on the rapid production of a large variety of clothing items that are not made to last and are used only a few times before being thrown away.  Not surprisingly, the global production of clothing doubled between 2000 and 2014.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013 in the United States and, of these, only 2.3 million tons were recovered through recycling.  Sustainability is not a concept that consumers typically associate with fashion—the result is a general lack of awareness of the environmental impact of clothes manufacturing.  With the increased rapid production of large amounts of newly generated textiles, it’s time to examine on the extent of this impact.  Continue reading

Drylands’ Best Kept Secret: Trees

Dryland forest

Dryland forest, Queensland, Australia. CSIRO, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

We face a steady, sobering news stream about the deforestation of the humid tropics, the warming of the Arctic, and more recently, the greening of Antarctica.  In contrast, we hear very little about drylands, the arid regions that cover more than 40% of Earth’s land surface.  Although the United Nations has periodically focused on drylands, the popular and scientific media have given little coverage to them, partly because of the absence of a focused international program.  However, in the past few years, we have been hearing more about drylands, including the recent unveiling of what has been touted as a secret—they are home to large forests, much larger than previously thought. Continue reading

The Arctic is Opening Up: Offshore Drilling and Melting Sea Ice

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

The heat is on in the Arctic. This region is now warming at a rate faster than twice the global average—known as Arctic amplification. Consequently, the ice that covers the North Pole and surrounding areas, and melts to its lowest extent each September, has been disappearing at an alarming rate. Continue reading

Insidious Danger: Microplastics Pollute Aquatic Life and Harm Our Food Supply

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

microplastic on blk bkgrnd

Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Credit: Chesapeake Bay Program, CC BY-NC 2.0.

Microplastics—the tiny bits of plastic that are now infamously and ubiquitously present in the world’s waterways—are polluting aquatic life and ending up in our food supply. As evidence of the damage that microplastics inflict on aquatic life accumulates, so does the amount of microplastics dispersed in oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. Virtually indestructible in natural environments, these tiny bits of plastic contain a combination of very small particles—microparticles and nanoparticles—that derive from the breakdown of larger plastic items, for example plastic bags and bottles, and include, among others, pre-production plastic pellets (the so-called nurdles), microbeads from personal care products, and microfibers from textiles.

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Methane Leaks: The Big and the Small

By Roberta Attanasio, IEAM Blog Editor

By emitting just a little bit of methane, mankind is greatly accelerating the rate of climatic change” – Steven Hamburg, Chief Scientist, Environmental Defense Fund

gas flare

Orvis State natural gas flare head, Evanson Place, Arnegard North Dakota. Credit: Tim Evanson, CC BY-SA 2.0.

Methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, has been receiving more bad press than usual lately—courtesy of the massive natural gas leak that erupted on Oct. 23, 2015, at the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility near Los Angeles. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, and thousands of families were evacuated. After unsuccessful initial attempts to plug the leak, Southern California Gas Company was finally able to build a relief well to capture the leaking gas. On February 18, 2016, nearly four months later, officials announced the leak had been permanently sealed.

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