Have you ever put on your shirt in the morning and wondered who made it? Or how many places it went before you got it? Well, I can tell you.
First we have a shirt that is going to be half cotton and half polyester. To make the polyester it starts with just a few drops of petroleum; petroleum comes from the coast of Venezuela. So instead of using our own oil we are using someone else's. Did you know that only about 3 percent of the oil refined in the United States is used to make petrochemicals? Most oil becomes gasoline and diesel fuel. Then a refinery "cracks" some hydrocarbons at high temperatures into smaller, lighter molecules, such as the ethylene and xylene used to make the polyester. Then a bunch of chemical stuff is done to it so that it becomes PET, and we have polyester. Then comes the cotton.
First, cotton is picked then separated by a cotton gin. Then it's cleaned and ready to be spun together with polyester to make yarn.
Then from there it is shipped to Honduras where women who are underpaid cut and sew it. They earn about 30 cents an hour. 30 cents! People need to realize how God has blessed them. I mean we have everything we need here in the United States. We get paid way more than 30 cents an hour. Those poor women work for hours and hours to probably only give their families one meal. I know I take for granted what God has given me.
So then after the women sew it into shirts, it goes to a bunch of different places such as Baltimore, San Francisco, or Seattle. Then it comes to the stores and is put on shelves so that you can buy it.
Then what happens if you spill something on it and have to wash it? Washing your shirt can actually take up most of the energy. Washing it in hot water takes a ton of energy. Then you have to throw it in the dryer too. Washing and drying it can demand one-tenth as much energy as manufacturing it. Ways to prevent using a lot of energy are as follows; wash full loads of laundry, avoid using hot water, if you need a washing machine buy an energy-and-water efficient front loader, or you can buy shirts from vintage stores.
So next time you get dressed in the morning think of how the women in Honduras sewed and cut it for you and think of how much they are paid. You can also think of ways to wash it when you are done wearing it so that it won't take as much energy.
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I recently got back from a trip to Kentucky to see the Appalachian Mountains. I hadn't been to that area since I was a baby so I hadn't really seen them. When we got to Kentucky it was dark, but I could still see the majesty of the large, regal mountains looming on the horizon. These green beauteous mountains support all sorts of wildlife. The whole first day I didn't really know what I was looking for. I saw the mountains but they looked fine to me. The lush green trees and grasses and shrubs; I asked myself, Where is this horrible mountaintop removal I keep hearing about?
My question was definitely answered throughout the rest of the week. We met with people from KFTC (Kentuckians for the Commonwealth) and talked to local people to see how it is affecting their lives. KFTC is working to stop the mountaintop removal not only for the environment but mostly for the people and their rights to their own land. This blasting on the mountains creates many dangers. One such danger is sludge ponds. I was surprised that I hadn't heard anything about these (before the class assignment we did on them.) Sludge is the substance left over when chemicals are used to clean the coal being extracted before shipping. It is thick and gross and dangerous and held, in one instance, dangerously close to an elementary school. This elementary school is a few hundred feet away from this sludge pond and the barrier holding the sludge back is an earthen dam. If/when the dam breaks the children should have a good thirty seconds to get out. I was appalled at the thought of all of these children's lives being at stake. There have been sludge leaks and floods in parts of the country. It pollutes water and takes a lot of time to clean up. This greatly disturbed me, as did many other things about the way this coal mining is affecting the people.
Besides the people, the mining is terrible on the critters that live in the mountains. They lose their homes and food supplies when the mountaintops are blasted off. It also contributes to flooding when the trees aren't there to absorb the rainwater. They mined mountains are ugly and rocky. The poor attempts at reclamation are laughable. I saw one that was covered in scrubby brush and little pine trees. The mountain was definitely not being put right.
I spoke to an elderly woman there. She told me that when they were blasting near her house and she would go to the grocery store and come back and her pictures could be knocked off the wall. One time she believed the rocks falling to have caused her roof to leak.
So you see the problem. It is not just a matter of environmental stewardship; it is also a matter of social justice. I have spoken to people my own age about this topic and they have offered their answers. One response that seems to recur, "Why don't they just move?" This is a suggestion I don't necessarily agree with. I believe that they have a right to live safely on their own land. This is land that possibly has been passed down through generations. I do not think the people should be forced to move. Instead I say the answer is by being proactive. You might say " I am only 15 years old--what could I possibly do?" The solution is simple and you can help get the word out. Turn off lights and don't use unnecessary electricity. That just creates a bigger demand for coal. Then of course they will supply it. So shut off the light and save a mountain. If you won't do it for the wildlife, do it for the people of Appalachia.
Coal is a fossil fuel and we won't have it forever. I think it is time to look to the future and start working towards renewable resources for everyone. It can't be done without our help. We are the future generation; that is cliché and all but we really are. I mean all the jobs out there today will eventually belong to our peers. It really is up to us.
To find out more about mountaintop removal go to:
Soils are the foundation of our lives, literally. I'm not the kind of girl that's real interested in soil (a.k.a. dirt) but you know, once I got to understand more about it, it was rather interesting.
Soil is not dirt. It is a dynamic ecosystem, also known as a living thing, believe it or not, and calling it dirt is an understatement. There are more than 175,000 different types of soil. Soil consists of 5 things: mineral fragments, decaying organic matter, living organisms, water, and oxygen. Let's compare soil to our skin. Our bodies are protected by a thin layer of skin. Our skin holds us together and helps keep diseases from getting into our bodies. Soil does the same thing for the earth. It helps keep us from burning up from the hot center. Soil helps keep the earth from being blown away; like if we don't take care of the soil and it blows away, it will expose the inside and may cause damage to our home. It is a very thin layer ranging from a few inches in some places to a few feet in other places. It helps keep the world together and protected. The earth wouldn't be here without soil.
Soil comes from weathered rock and decaying organic matter. Soil is also broken down by mechanical weathering and chemical weathering. Mechanical weathering is the abrasion of the parent rock such as ice, wind, gravity, or tree roots. Chemical weathering is when chemicals wear down rock into soil such as acid rain or walnut trees. You can think of soil as a lot of tiny crushed up stones mixed with roots and bark chewed on by tiny organisms to be made smaller. One cubic centimeter of soil can take anywhere from 15 years to 100 years to make so be sure your careful when planting crops and that your using the best and most effective way to take care of both your crops and the soil. This way you can make sure the soil won't disintegrate.
Soil, crazy enough, is very valuable. It provides nutrients for plants (the basis of the food chain), it provides clean water by trickling through the soil, it is a habitat for many creatures to live in, like worms, and it stores water. The soil texture is determined by the particle size, the amount of each soil type, and the space between particles. Sand is the largest grain, then there is silt in the middle, and finally clay, which is a very fine-textured grain.
There are so many things in the soil. You can put them into 4 major groups. There is megafauna, macrofauna, mesofauna, and microfauna and flora. Megafauna are mammals like moles. Macrofauna is bugs or invertebrates like slugs or beetles. Mesofauna is mites or springtales or tardirades. With mesofauna you don't need a microscope but with microfauna and flora you do. Microfauna and flora are fungi, yeast, bacteria, and protozoa.
Soil is everywhere. It is even under Antarctica...under miles of ice, but sadly we don't have access to it. Amazingly there is no land under the North Pole. Did you know that we live near the place where there is the deepest soil? The deepest soil is actually in Iowa, Russia and Northern Europe. The shallowest soil is in the tropics and the jungle, because of all the sand it's easily blown away and the trees roots are so shallow that they aren't able to hold on to it. Also, we need to meet the needs of the soil. Taking care of the soil would include contour cropping, crop rotation, a windbreak, no-till, planting cover-crops, terracing, and strip cropping. These will all help the soil stay together longer and be more nutritious for the future. We need to make a contribution to the soil so we can continue protecting the earth. Without soil, we would have nowhere to live, grow, food, or just have fun in the sun with our friends. So do your very best to conserve our soil so we can use it for a long time.
When I first learned about bioaccumulation (the buildup of chemicals in an organism the further up the food chain you go), I was very surprised how little research the World Health Organization had done on the effect of using chemicals in an ecosystem.
One of the first times the World Health Organization learned about the effects of bioaccumulation was when they sprayed DDT to kill mosquitoes and stop the transmission of malaria. DDT worked very well on destroying the mosquitoes, but it ended up leaving the people of Borneo in a worse situation than before. The DDT was also sprayed on cockroaches but they didn't die. Geckos ate these cockroaches. These geckos suffered nerve damage and became very slow. Since the geckos were slow they couldn't eat the caterpillars. There were so many caterpillars that they ate through the roof of the houses, which caused them to collapsed. Cats died from eating the poisoned geckos, which resulted in an increase in the rat population. The rats carried a plague because of the fleas that bit them. The people of Borneo got the plague from the rats, which left them in a worse situation than before.
The second article that I had read about bioaccumulation had to do with mercury. Mercury is a very toxic metal that occurs in the environment naturally. It can be released into the environment by coal-fired power plants or when trash-containing mercury is burnt. When it is in the air, it comes back down through precipitation and makes its way into the water system. Once it is in the water it gets into the fish. Fish can't eliminate it from their bodies and the mercury accumulates in their muscles. People can then be exposed to mercury if they eat large amounts of fish or fish with large amounts of mercury in them. Without knowing it, a person can build up a large amount of it in their system since we can't eliminate mercury either. If a woman becomes pregnant, the baby can also become exposed to this chemical. This exposure could have a wide range of effects. If there were limited exposure the baby might have a small IQ decrease. If there were a large amount of exposure then the child could have developmental problems with learning how to walk and talk. There are people, such as Len Kring, that are working on testing fish for mercury and posting warnings when there is a large amount in the water. Len Kring works for in Elkhart County testing fish. I first met him when we took a field trip and watched him testing the fish.
Bioaccumulation has led to a lot of things not intended for the environment and has hurt a lot of people such as the people of Borneo. There are some things that we can learn from our mistakes, like looking closely at the overall effect of an action on an ecosystem. We should be very careful when doing things not intended by God for the Earth. I think the reason that there are so many problems surrounding bioaccumulation because people have messed with God's creation. There are some things you can do to help this situation like being careful about how much and when you consume, and what you burn in your trash.
If you would like to learn more about this topic visit the links below:
A couple of years ago my school decided to put in a retention pond next to the road to help hold the storm runoff from the parking lot. At first it was just a hole in the ground. But last year our Environmental Science teacher Amy Thut decided to try and get a grant to transform it into a wetland using native plants. But, before I get into detail about our retention pond and why we have one, I would like to tell you about what a retention pond is and how it could be beneficial to you.
As I said, last year my school and its former freshman class decided to transform our retention pond into a wetland. A retention pond is just as it says. It's a pond that serves the purpose of collecting hazardous waste, such as gasoline and oil that come from cars and other vehicles. That is, when it comes out from the car and goes through our drains into our water systems. In short if we don't have something blocking the runoff our water systems will get polluted and people could get very sick. Also, if the runoff gets into our rivers, plants and animals could get hurt because of the toxic waste. And the runoff could cause the river to flood.
Once we knew what a retention pond was and that the toxic waste was harming our water system and nature we decided to take action. So a few years ago when they created a new parking lot they decided to put in a retention pond. By creating something of a hole we had a new retention pond. Soon it began filling up. But, it wasn't until last year that we decided to make it into a wetland. In order to make it a wetland there had to be plants. So we decided to put plants in that are not invasive and that were native to Northern Indiana. That way we could preserve the pants from Indiana and not bring in "foreign" plants. We began with an idea to help save the environment and we now have a thriving environment fill with tadpoles, nymphs and many plants.
I bet you're wondering "how could I help?" then again maybe you're not. Either way you can make a difference. If you are a student talk to your science teacher and propose to them the idea of creating a retention pond. Tell them the benefits of having a retention pond. And to be even more effective with your pond put in native plants and animals. Also, tell them that when you use varieties of plants you can help make the school look more radiant in beauty.
Having a retention pond will not only benefit the environment greatly, but it will also benefit you. You will be able to see a piece of land turn into a thriving habitat for plants and animals. You will be filled with a great sense of joy knowing that you are making the earth a cleaner and healthier place to live.
Bethany Christian High School (Goshen, Ind.) Ecology Club