Nov 5, 2010

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Ok, this is interesting and terribly tragic. I saw a show on the discovery channel that showed The Great Pacific Garbage Patch and it went on to discuss how this floating mass of trash, mostly plastic waste, has become a sort of habitat for fish in the ocean. I found that disturbing and I am certain anybody who reads this and the articles I post below will also. I am not an expert on this topic, but essentially there is a spot in the Pacific Ocean where floating debris tends to end up. Essentially what has happened is that this garbage patch has formed which is the product of trash, mostly plastics, that do not readily decompose.  This patch is no ordinary patch. When I think of the word patch I think of something small like a patch of flowers or grass or something. In this instance patch indicates something that is the size of Texas at a minimum and possibly twice as large.  Pretty cool, huh?

Blog #1  - This is a great account of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.  Probably more than you ever wanted to know.
Article #1 - Here is a link describing how this all happens, etc.



I had a conversation with a friend regarding this issue, based on personal observations regarding my own lifestyle. I am guilty of being wasteful with food.  Too often it seems that the loaf of bread I bought molds before I can finish it, or that last banana goes to mush, or the Parmesan cheese in the fridge molds, or I don't manage to finish the casserole that I thought making would save me time and money. I have good intentions. I don't like the idea that I end up throwing out food which I bought and intended to eat, yet it happens. When I look at it realistically its my money that is being thrown out, and wasted, its the resources that went into producing that good, transporting said good that turns out being completely frivolous, and an externality of my own personal consumption. The really sad part is that where I live does not have a compost bin and my living arrangements do not provide for the opportunity to compost even if I wanted to.  Pretty lame, I know.

If interested, here is an article which may shed some light on the concept of food waste in America. I never gave much thought to this concept until recently, but I found the overall numbers concerning.

Waste is a fact of life and a product of society. However the quantity of waste produced, especially food waste is, in my opinion, a product of the individual and their desire to utilize that with which they purchase. I took a bunch of eco classes in college and one thing that really comes to mind is a concept called the frugality movement. (Article) This is something I think about frequently, and try to embrace whenever possible. Conceptually it is very simple and to many it's probably common sense, but to only a handful is it a way of life. 

Jul 15, 2010

The Gulf Oil Spill: Cautious Optimism

So the newest cap solution has been reported to have completely stopped the oil spill for the time being.  However, this is not a permanent stop or solution but it is definitely a step in the right direction after 87 into the largest environmental catastrophy in US history.  This spill ranks #1 for worst oil spills with the exception of a spill that was deliberately set in the Persian Gulf during the first gulf war in order to prevent US troops from coming ashore in Iraq.

I don't know about you but I have my fingers crossed.


Jul 7, 2010

The Gulf Oil Spill: Relief Well Drilling

So...this is a graphic portrayal of the relief well and drilling components. For a full article and a better image, see (IMAGE, ARTICLE)  This is the solution for stopping the run away oil spill, lets just hope it works.  The well drilling and capping is still scheduled to take place sometime near the beginning of August even though its estimated to be ahead of schedule.

Cleanup Update:

A new oil collection vessel 'A Whale' has been brought to the Gulf and is being tested for its oil collection capabilities. This ship has the capacity, best case scenario, to skim up to 300,000 barrels of oil a day from the waters surface.(LINK)  Otherwise, the 2 existing rigs and the containment cap are collecting approximately 25,000 gallons a day from the well, while an estimated 60,000 gallons a day is being released.  In the coming days BP estimates that it will be able to upgrade its containment cap solution, by adding a third vessel to collect oil, to recover as much as 53,000 gallons a day.(LINK)  It takes a lot of time, it turns out, to hook up a hose to the ports on a containment cap thats been sitting over the well for weeks now. 

Spill Migration:

Oil has now been found on a few Texas beaches, that means the oil spill has come ashore on all 5 gulf states.  Further, the rough weather has pushed oil into  Lake Pontchartrain located north of New Orleans.  This is sad for many reasons but mainly due to the fact that this was a lake that used to be fished and utilized then experienced significant pollution and was eventually closed. However, the Lake was restored over the last 20 years, where it eventually returned to being a productive fishing area, one of the last ones left in the Louisiana area in the wake of the oil spill.  Apparently it was not so lucky. (NYT, AP)

Economic Implications:

Amidst all of the spill problems, BP is putting a rather large spill mitigation effort forward.  This spill could cause the company to be bought out, meaning no more BP.  BP has spent nearly $4 billion on this situation in the last 77 days, and their stock has plummeted to half its previous value.  They have agreed to put $20 billion into an escrow account for cleanup costs, and estimates are still greater for what they will ultimately be on the hook for. (LINK)  I guess we will just have to wait and see how this plays out. This spill has been very unfortunate for the gulf states, the fishermen, the wildlife affected, the independent gas station owners and basically the entire region with implications spanning years into the future. Apparently, the same holds true for BP based on the fallout from this catastrophe.  At least they claim to be willing to pay claims to all affected parties at this point.  I guess in the light of this we will see if BP stands for bottomless pockets, instead of whatever its supposed to mean now a days.

Jun 28, 2010

The Gulf Oil Spill Tracker News

If you put your cursor over the spill tracker you can switch between the 2 estimates.  One for the higher estimated spill rate and one for the lower estimated rate.

Jun 25, 2010

The Gulf Spill: No End In Sight

So its been over 2 months now since the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sunk resulting in 11 casualties and a massive oil spill.  Every since oil has continued to gush from approximately a mile below the ocean surface.  So far all containment efforts have either failed or not met projected recovery estimates.  At best BP has been able to recover maybe half of the oil spilling from their well, using the latest containment cap solution, and not the 90% that they had forcasted that they would be able to by this point. This is also exacerbated by continual blunders on BPs part to keep the containment cap in place, or to get one in place to begin with.  The other little tid bit is that there is great uncertainty at the amount of oil being released into the Gulf.  Estimates range from 30-60,000 barrels a day or approximately 1.25 to 2.5 million gallons a day.  The oil will continue to leak into the Gulf until relief wells are drilled in August, more than a month away.  Already, an estimated 40-110 million gallons have been spilled into the Gulf. This spill will likely take the place as the worse oil spill in history that was not deliberately set into motion, however based on the court hearings and as evidence comes to light we may find that it was somewhat deliberate due to gross negligence on behalf of BP. (BBC, NYT)
Oil has now washed ashore on the coast of every state in the Gulf.  Birds, turtles, fish, sharks, marshes, developing and young animals, and all the little organisms in the ocean that these creatures ultimately feed on to survive are being affected, poisoned, killed by the impacts from the millions upon millions of gallons of crude oil spewing from the ocean floor.(CSM)  This link will explain more than you ever wanted to know.

To top it off, as if the above news was not good enough, well guess what....It Hurricane Season! So what this means is that BP will be unable to capture any oil or make progress drilling their relief wells during times when tropical storms threaten the area.  So, expect oil to be spilling, lots of it, unmitigated, for days and days on end. You know, seems to me to be pretty much the same news that we have been hearing for the last 2 months. All I have to say is pretty awesome, thanks BP, my hat's off to you! (Wall Street Journal)

Jun 23, 2010

Mend it

When I was young, there was nothing more thrilling than getting something new.  Now I feel like there's just too much stuff in the world.

This month's illustration is about maintaining the belongings we already own (mending a shirt, re-soling shoes) so they serve us well.

Not all items accept maintenance.  When a new purchase is necessary - when you can't do without, borrow, or buy from eBay or the Goodwill - it's a good idea to choose higher-quality things that can be fixed and enjoyed for a long time.

Thank you for all of the great ideas you emailed to me last time!  Keep them coming, and I hope July is beautiful and frugal for all.