|Black eyed Susans are a native |
plant in my region
Click for photo credit.
Sunday, April 11, 2021
The Tampa Bay Times published an exposé on serious contamination at Florida's only lead smelting facility. It is worth a read. The conditions are frankly shocking and reminiscent of working conditions from a century ago. It is hard to imagine the described working conditions existing in the 21st century in the United States. As the article notes, many of the workers are minorities, immigrants, or have criminal records. Thus, this situation exemplifies environmental justice inequities.
Tampa. Click for image credit.
Curiously, the site was not inspected by OSHA in five years. Over that time period, workers were exposed to hazardous levels of lead and toxic materials were not managed appropriately. Venting systems didn't work correctly and contaminated sludge built up in some areas of the facility. The images associated with the article are rather striking.
Lead was identified in this country as a serious problem decades ago and was widely banned in most products from paint to gasoline. However, we still use quite a bit of lead in batteries. This smelter did a great deal of battery recycling which is one of the sources of the contamination of the plant.
Friday, April 9, 2021
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Phosphate companies mine phosphate ore through strip mining. However, they have to remove a great deal of sandy overburden prior to getting to the phosphate-rich layers underground. The strip mining creates big gashes in the earth that require considerable restoration. The phosphate ore is transported to processing plants (often using water transport in pipes) where acids and other chemicals treat the ore to pull the phosphate from the slurry. Some of the leftover liquids, some of which are highly acidic and often full of nutrients and some radon (an accessory material associated with the ore) are stored in ponds.
Over the years there have been several notable leaks of these ponds. One occurred during a hurricane when heavy rains caused a pond to leak into a local river. The leak caused a massive fish kill and led to significant pollution of Tampa Bay. Another leak was caused by the collapse of a sinkhole. The entire pond leaked into underground aquifers.
This latest leak into Tampa Bay highlights the dangers of toxic ponds associated with mining to the environment and to the public at large. They often linger for years after mining companies leave an area and cause great challenges for long term management leaving them a burden to tax payers for decades.
Sunday, April 4, 2021
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Two of the key points are:
1. Electric car infrastructure. The plan calls for building thousands of electric car charging stations across the country and provides support for the increase in electric car production and infrastructure.
2. Expansion of mass transit infrastructure. This involves support for regional bus systems, expansion of rail, and support for existing mass transit systems.
The plan also calls for some other interesting projects associated with sustainability including removal of lead containing pipes, support for schools and affordable housing, and $35 billion for the National Science Foundation to support breakthrough research that will address the climate crisis.
Of course, the devil is in the details. I always like to say that the greenest building is the one you don't build and there are some contradictory themes in the plan. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that it will be a game changer for electric car infrastructure in the U.S. should it pass congress.
Thursday, April 1, 2021
Sustainability Case Studies 17: Designing Personal Sustainability into Organizational Culture: The Case of Burning Man
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This chapter, Designing Personal Sustainability into Organizational Culture: The Case of Burning Man, by Morgan C. Benton and Nicole M. Radziwill, focuses on the big international art and music festival known as Burning Man. The famous event draws around 70,000 people every August (except for the whole pandemic thing) to northwestern Nevada. As one can imagine, the event has a relatively large environmental footprint--one that the organizers have worked hard to reduce. The chapter focuses on how the organization of Burning Man is developing clear sustainability goals within its organization.
The chapter begins with a review of sustainability management and sustainability planning for events. It also highlights the need to focus on personal sustainability within any planning context. The chapter then goes into the case study which reviews the organizational elements of Burning Man. What is interesting is the overall organizational structure of the event. The "camp" is the main unit of spatial organization and many camps have specializations such as hair washing or food supply. Some of the camps manage things like trash pick up and water management. Thus, at least for a short period of time every year, Burning Man is the largest intentional eco community on the planet.
Another important aspect of Burning Man is the transformational experiences individuals can have. This transformation includes aspects of sustainability and learning about the environment. Burning Man organizers and participants have also embraced something called the 10 Principles which including things like radical self-reliance, decommodificatios, civic responsibility, and leave no trace. Based on surveys, many of the attendees of Burning Man bring the 10 Principles, including those that involve sustainability, into their lives. The chapter concludes with a variety of lessons learned and challenges and barriers. Some of the lessons learned include a number of recommendations as to how to make Burning Many more sustainable, including finding alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles and reducing waste.
|Layout of Burning Man. Click for image credit.|
Here are some discussion questions when using this chapter for a unit on organizational sustainability, events and sustainability, or personal sustainability:
Chapter 1: Sustainability Definitions, Historical Context, and Frameworks
Chapter 2. Sustainability and Natural Landscape Stewardship: A US Conservation Case Study
Chapter 3. Policy Design for Sustainability at Multiple Scales: The Case of Transboundary Haze Pollution in Southeast Asia
Chapter 4. Sustainable Water Resources Management: Groundwater Depletion
Chapter 12. Urban Social Sustainability: The Case Study of Nottingham, UK