Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Big Environmental Problems Come In Small Packages

Doing a quick search on Google, I found this United Kingdom based website that talks about product packaging and the environment - http://www.wasteonline.org.uk/resources/InformationSheets/Packaging.htm. The site speaks of how paper and cardboard are the most heavily used packaging materials in terms of weight. Plastics are in wide use for the packaging of food products and "is the most energy efficient" and sturdy material for packaging. Aluminum, glass, and steel are also being used for certain items. They suggest reducing, reusing, and recycling in that order.

Some of the packaged, portable products I use almost on a daily are the following:

- My laptop computer. It came in a cardboard box with Styrofoam inserts, and also included additional booklets sealed in plastic. The mouse also came in a separate plastic package.

- The carrying case for the laptop came in a cardboard wrap. I use it every day to carry items to work and school. The computer, mouse, and carrying case all came to me in a cardboard shipping package.

- My cell phone was purchased from Best Buy and came in a cardboard box with plastic inserts and booklets sealed in plastic.

- One of the remote controllers I use for my television came in the cardboard box my TV set came in, and the other controller came in the DirectTV box's cardboard box.

- All of my textbooks for FGCU came sealed in plastic from the University. They were all used, except for my accounting textbook, which came separately sealed in plastic.

- Notebook paper that I use at school came in a plastic wrapping.

- Mail and packages that I receive comes in various envelopes and packaging. I get junk mail only occasionally.

- I usually eat protein bars when I am at work or school, and they come in a thin foil wrapping. I also eat trail mix that usually comes in a plastic pouch. On occasion, I will bring a small bowl of soup that comes in a tin/plastic can, with a plastic top. I sometimes also bring a tuna fish cracker kit to work. The total kit comes in a plastic/cardboard package, and the condiments and crackers are in plastic packets. The tuna fish is in a foil pouch.

- Some of the books I carry and read probably came in a plastic wrapping and were shipped to me in a cardboard box.

- Every now and again I will drink a soda from an aluminum can or a plastic bottle, and I drink from a bottled water almost every day.

- Paper towels could count as a portable item. I use them often and aside from being paper themselves, they come in plastic wrapping.

- I enjoy drinking tea, which comes in a bag to be dipped in water. The tea leaves come in some sort of sieved paper bag, and the bag itself comes in a paper wrapping. The paper-wrapped tea bags come in a cardboard, plastic wrapped box!

...Those are pretty much all of the portable, packaged items I can think of. Going to this website - http://www.pacinst.org/topics/water_and_sustainability/bottled_water/bottled_water_and_energy.html - one can read about how it takes 3 liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water, and in 2006 the bottling of water created 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide! The 3 liters to produce 1 liter syndrome, reminds me of the same problem of which I spoke in my water blog, where cleaning and reusing a bottled water caused me to use 8 cups of water. In addition to these externalities, the bottles have to be shipped, or trucked, which uses further gas. Plastic seemed to be the main culprit in my packages, and though the British site mentioned at the beginning of this blog spoke of its efficiency, it still isn't that efficient or sustainable

The other major packaging material I saw was cardboard and paper, both of which require trees. Perhaps some of the materials are manufactured from recycled components, but I know there is still other energy and water being used in their production. Also not sustainable.

I would like to point out the fact that whenever I sell something online, which I do from time to time, I generally use a cardboard box from a past purchase and insert paper that is actually the wrapping for computer paper that my Dad uses at his print shop. I am proud of doing that, at least.

Feeling Lethargic Every Day Isn't My Only Energy Problem!

I'm just kidding, I don't feel completely lethargic every day, but enough to make the title of this blog funny, I would say. Anyway, energy, something I like to have. Who knew that using all of these electrical appliances was destroying the environment and costing tons of money? Maybe that's a naive rhetorical question, but here we go, a rundown of my electrical day, followed by my gas usage:

Note: I only accounted for electricity that was directly affecting me as trying to keep up with every usage of the electronics by my parents seemed impractical and impossible.

October 19, 3:00 PM: Checked the watt hours on the meter on the side of the house. Watt hours = 12,351

Also around 3:00 PM: I had my bedroom light, my fan, alarm clock, and TV on. As a result of the awareness gained instantly from this exercise, I unplugged my cell phone charger. However, I used my camera battery charger.

Shortly after 3:00: I used the rest room. I turned off the fan, light, and TV in my bedroom and turned on the light in the rest room. I noticed that there was a night light and air freshener that my mom had put in the bathroom, which are undoubtedly using electricity 24/7.

3:10: I turned off the bathroom light and turned on my room light, fan, TV, and computer.

3:25: Turned off computer.

3:50: Turned on computer.

4:15: I unplugged the camera battery charger.

5:10: I Turned off the computer.

6:00: I turned off everything in my bedroom and went running.

6:20: I came back from my run and took a shower, which required that I have the bathroom light on, and I used some hot water. Maybe I could shower in the dark, when the sun is out.

6:30: Used the microwave for 3o seconds to defrost bread for a sandwich I ate.

6:35: I turned on my computer, fan, light, and TV.

7:20: I turned off the fan, light, and TV in my room, but left my computer on. I went to the bathroom and turned on the light for 1 minute. I went out into the living room with my parents to eat dinner and watched our big screen TV for 20 minutes.

7:40: I went back into my room and put my light, fan, and TV back on.

8:50: I once again turned off the computer.

9:30: I turned the computer back on again.

10:15: I turned off the computer.

11:15: I used the rest room, and had the light on for about 5 minutes.

11:25: Big surprise...I turned on my computer.

12:40: I turned off the computer (it's true).

1:15: I plugged my cell phone charger in.

1:20: I turned on the bathroom light to brush my teeth.

1:25: Turned off bathroom light and I turned off the light in my bedroom so I could go to bed.

2:30: Turned on the light in the bathroom for 1 minute, then turned off the TV in my room.

October 20, 11:15 AM: I woke up, my fan and alarm clock were on all night. I went to the restroom, and turned on the light for 2 minutes. Then I turned off the fan in my room, because I thought it was cold in my room. I turned on the TV and light.

11:25: I turned off the light and TV in my room. I took a shower with hot water, and the bathroom light was on for approximately 10 minutes.

11:45: I went to Edison Community College to go tutor.

I did not return home until 5:30 PM and the meter now read:

12, 404 WATT HOURS!

No bueno. In addition to having my alarm clock on all day everyday, my home does have air conditioning, which seems to come on at least every hour. There were also those plug-ins in my bathroom. Oftentimes I forget to unplug my cell phone charger, but I have been trying to be better about that. I always have my fan on all night. Of course, sometimes I do laundry, and my parents use much electricity as well.

I learned that my electric company is the Lee County Electric Cooperative. Going to this link in the "About Us" section of their site - http://www.lcec.net/aboutus/images/Our%20Wholesale%20Energy%20Supplier.pdf - showed me that the electricity they serve is from the wholesale supplier Seminole. This site explains that their energy is powered by coal. Only a small fraction, 4%, is from alternative energy sources, however they are able to sell the waste to wallboard manufacturers.

Now for an evaluation of my gas energy usage:
A typical Wednesday at Florida Gulf Coast University involves driving there and back to my house, plus the occasional run to a gas station in between my classes, which is what I did on the Wednesday that I recorded my mileage. I had no passengers in my car, and usually do not. Only from doing the things I just mentioned resulted in me driving 53.2 MILES! A lot more miles than I expected.

My car, a 2004 Hyundai Sonata, has just a little over 84,000 miles on it right now, and it was purchased around this time in 2003, therefore, I drive approximately 14,000 miles a year. Which is a little less than I expected.

Looking at my car's energy score at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/, I found that my car emits 9.5 tons of carbon per year, when I plug in my annual miles data. It also had a 2 on a scale of ten of an air pollution score. It uses approximately 17.7 barrels of oil in a given year.

Dividing the 9.5 tons of carbon per year by 365 days gives me an average of 0.026 tons, which I believe translates into 52 pounds of carbon, if one assumes that the website was using the United States ton of 2000 lbs. That's practically a pound of carbon per gallon! If not more.

Final Thoughts
I think I did pretty poorly on electricity and gas usage. Not only does my household use a lot of electricity, but it is supplied by a coal power plant. I don't know what the other company, Florida Power and Light is offering, but I don't like it. Furthermore, I was very disappointed with my car's emissions. I thought that Hyundai's were supposed to have good fuel economy and be at least better than average on emissions and the like, but this was not the case.

I don't know what to do about these problems either, they're tough to curb greatly. I'm continuing to turn electric appliances off when not in use, but any major actions that could be taken will probably cost a fair amount of money up front. The same thing goes for my car. I've been very thankful for the fact that I finally paid off my car last month, and I didn't want to get a new car very soon, so that I could save up. So I may be keeping this carbon machine a little longer. Also, I know that living closer to FGCU and my job at the airport would be beneficial, but again cost comes into play. Assuming I spend $2000 on gas per year, living in an apartment instead of with my parents will cost me close to $6000, if I were able to only pay $500 a month. From the ecological footprint exercise in the related blog posting, living separately could possibly be less efficient environmentally as well.

Tough problems. And if I'm having these types of problems with my relatively simple lifestyle, the rest of the industrialized world is in big trouble!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Field Trip to Corkscrew Swamp - Well at Least Corkscrew Swamp Isn't Scr...In Danger of Being Destroyed!

Before venturing onto the boardwalk that takes one through the preserve, our student guide for the trip explained that the ratio of wildlife to people in Florida has progressively grown heavily in favor of people. But thanks to efforts like the Corkscrew Swamp, Florida is not entirely scr...in danger of being destroyed! In fact, Corkscrew Swamp is alive and well and beautiful, thanks to its founding organization, the Audubon Society.

I am glad and feel fortunate to have seen such a place. I enjoy bizarre, out of the ordinary occurrences in nature, and the Corkscrew Swamp falls near that category. It is a very mystical, lively place. The interiors of the swamp remind one of Yoda's planet of Dagobah in Star Wars. Perhaps not everyone will understand that reference, but suffice it to say that the canopy of prehistoric-looking trees, mosses, and unique creatures, gives one the feeling that "the force" is with them. However, that's a very pop-culture comparison. I could also compare it to the deep, dark regions that one would expect to find a Native American medicine man in the Amazon or the bayou of the southern United States. I would have expected to see such a place in the so-called "swamp" of Gainesville, Florida, but I had no idea that such places existed so close to where I live.

Speaking of Gainesville, here is a baby alligator that somebody walking the trail had found. It was explained that baby alligators carry the yellow bands, which are lost when they grow older.

Shortly down the trail to the boardwalk, my classmates and I came across this wildlife crossing sign, pictured right. It may seem insignificant, but it is actually a means by which animals can be saved.

A short distance from the sign was this large patch of sunflowers, an unexpected sight to see. The field of sunflowers was teeming with butterflies and locusts.

After passing through the Wizard of Oz, Poppy Field-esque land of sunflowers...it was time to get on the boardwalk. Pictured right was an initial scene that I came across. A good example of that mystical, "force" feeling. In this photo there are sturdy cypress with lichens growing on them - a sign of clean air. And there are many large air plants and flag grass plants. It is obvious that this is a slough area, with the tree-marked swamp.

Here at the left is a good example of a resurrection fern, which has become quite large on its host tree. Also it is a more-close up example of an air plant.

I don't know how anybody was able to spot this creature, but here is a snake nesting in a tree. You can tell that the "force" is strong with this one. I don't remember ever seeing a snake living in a tree before, very interesting.

http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-guide/Storeriadekayi.htm - by looking here, it seems possible that it's a type of brown snake, but it's hard to say. Seems to have a thick body.

Here is another interesting animal living arrangement, a globe of spiderweb that was hanging out into the boardwalk.

Ah, here above is a section of the Corkscrew Swamp with a flag grass marsh. I think I remember seeing flag grass some time ago when I went to the Six Mile Cypress Slough. It is apparently common to sloughs. It is a large, leafy plant. It seemed like birds liked this marsh area.

Coming close to the end of our journey, I was able to capture this expansive view of the Swamp.

On the right is just a fraction of the mass of a gargantuan pre-historic looking tree. Trees such as these were not too uncommon on the walk. It is clearly very old and other trees are growing on it. I recall either the professor or guide saying that there used to be trees as large as sequoias in this region. I think this one ranks pretty closely to that size.

Half of the class had been separated from my group during the trip, and we were tipped off that were was another alligator down the part of the trail we had not traversed. Here he is, sleeping on a log, not yet an adult.
It was also around the time of seeing the second alligator that my group and I heard the loud whoop of a Bard Owl, a very bizarre sound.

The Corkscrew Swamp was almost like a trip back in time a few thousand years ago. Again a very mysterious and powerful place. I think it was my favorite field trip yet. Seeing two alligators in one day was definitely cool. The only thing I wish I could have done there was to have tried a swamp apple, which was a fruit that I saw growing near the boardwalk. But all of them were out of reach. Supposedly it tastes somewhat of mango, and/or apple. A mystery yet to be solved.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Field Trip to the Campus Trail - Forget UF, FGCU is the Swamp

That's right, I said it, I used to go to the University of Florida, but Florida Gulf Coast University is the REAL swamp. The university has its own watershed and aquifer. The guide for the trip told the class that the aquifer is actually used as a water source for buildings on campus.

Other interesting facts that I learned, even before heading out to the trails that lead into the marshlands, were that a new environmentally advanced building is being constructed on campus and various tree species were planted on campus in order to promote the university's environmental theme. The new building will feature rooftops that are more reflective, and showers will be installed in order to encourage students to bike to school instead of drive. Another interesting point that was explained was that there is a project in the works to provide energy to the school via solar energy.

After that quick update on what FGCU's environmental agenda, it was off to the campus trail.

Here is a shot of the aquifer right in front of one of the entrances into the trail, along with a nice expansive view of the slough area that the trail runs through. From this view many melaleuca, palm, and cypress trees can be seen.

Starting down the trail it becomes apparent that the region is filled with melaleuca. Which is a tall, skinny white tree with bark that almost seems like it's shedding. It is sometimes called the "paper tree" and I remember taking the bark off as a kid and writing on it. My camera ran out of battery halfway down the trail, and so I didn't manage to get a picture of everything I wanted, including the melaleuca, but I have retrieved a photo online at http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.iswgfla.org/templates/Melaleuca05.JPG&imgrefurl=http://www.iswgfla.org/Melaleuca.htm&usg=__WSWfSM8B43XNXRNAUs_FeIx8jcc=&h=2384&w=3628&sz=2532&hl=en&start=4&tbnid=-aTKnWzDPTZjzM:&tbnh=99&tbnw=150&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmelaleuca%26gbv%3D2%26hl%3Den.

According to the website, and I think the professor also mentioned it, the melaleuca is an invasive species, non-native to southwest Florida.

Other, more native species were present in relative abundance, including cabbage palms and saw grass. While sighting these plants, there was clearly evidence of a forest fire, which had seared many palms in some areas. The professor and guide explained that the woods must be intentionally set fire to every so often in a controlled way in order to prevent a natural brush fire from occurring. Pictured below is an example of this.

Here is another example of a toasted palm, along with a beautiful orchid. Orchids were also a common occurrence on the trail.

After hiking down the trail a little more, it was cut off by a large marshland or swamp. Indeed it was an unforgettable experience trudging through the knee high water. I thought it was very relaxing to walk in the water, and as the professor even said, it would go hand in hand with Richard Louv's theory of being in contact with nature as a means of helping your mind and spirit.

There was much tall grass and trees in watershed area, which also would indicate that it is a slough. A kind of tree-laden swamp. Not a whole lot of wild animals to speak of, but there were signs of hog residency.

All and all it was a pleasant experience. I wasn't afraid to get into the water before reaching it, but then thought that I could skirt the outer rim and avoid it, seemed like a a good plan, but the outer rim disappeared after a while, and it wasn't so bad after all.

It was obvious to me that the university was surrounded by a forest, but I had no idea what the forests were harboring. Now I am aware and I believe that areas like the slough here in our backyard definitely need to be protected. They are very beautiful and it is obvious that they are an important part of the ecosystem.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Water Usage - The World's Water is Slipping Through My Fingers!

Yes, Wild Man Jesse, the author of such groundbreaking blogs as "T. Boone Pickens Ain't Who I'm Pickin'" and "Behold Wild Man Jesse's Wild Diet, is himself an environmental abomination, a plague to the human race, because you see, Wild Man Jesse washes his hands AT LEAST FIFTEEN TIMES A DAY! The humanity. The wasted oceans, ravines, and watersheds. Whole submarine ecosystems wiped off the planet by the wiping of my hands.

OK, maybe I'm being a little melodramatic, but I do tend to use a lot of water on a daily basis, and I'm at about the halfway point between necessary hand-washings and OCD disorder. I must be stopped.

Here's a rundown of my water usage from 1 pm Sunday, October 11 to 1 pm Monday, October 12:


I awoke late Sunday morning, as the result of an unusually hard night of work on the previous eve. I made my customary trip to the restroom upon rising from bed, which involved a flushing of the latrine - 1.6 gallons of water - and a standard hand-washing - 1 cup.

Total water = 1.66 gallons

I proceeded to make myself breakfast, which included a class of water - 1.5 cups.

Total water = .09 gallons

I drank that water and refilled another glass with another 1.5 cups.

Total water = .09 gallons

Later I again used the rest room - 1.6 gallons - and washed my hands - 1 cup. I then used the shower which by my measurements uses 2.4 gallons.

Total water = 4.06 gallons

How did I arrive at that gallons per shower? First, I set a bucket in the shower and then turned the water on. I kept track of the time; usually it takes me about 5-6 minutes to take a shower. I'm at least saving water that way! I think that's a relatively short shower. Anyway, after about 6 minutes had elapsed, I took a measuring cup and found that the water was about 4 cups long, 3 cups wide, and 3 cups deep, therefore, there were 36 cups of water in the bucket. However, I usually have the water on at full power, and I noticed that the bucket did not capture all of the water, no matter how I positioned it. Therefore I divided that 36 cups by .85, which I thought accounted for the uncaught water. The resulting number I divided by 16, as there are 16 cups in a gallon: something I learned in elementary school!

Next I made my other preparations for work. I made a large cup of coffee - 1.5 cups -for the ride out to the airport and reused a bottled water bottle - 8 cups. Cleaning out the bottle ended up using a lot of water.

Total water = .59 gallons

While at work, I used the bathroom twice - 3.26 gallons, washed my hands about 4 times other than when I was using the men's room - 4 cups, and drank a Starbuck's Frappucinno - .5 cup, and a 1.5 cups can of iced tea/lemonade.

Total water = 3.64 gallons

Upon returning home, I washed my hands - 1 cup, and took another shower - 2.4 gallons.

Total water = 2.46 gallons

I then made some food, washing my hands again - 1 cup, and I had 1.5 cups of water with my meal.

Total water = .16 gallons

I brushed my teeth - 1.5 cups - and washed my hands - 1 cup - before going to bed.

Total water = .16 gallons

The next day I woke up at 8:30 am and went to the commode, which involved a toilet flush - 1.6 gallons, a hand washing - 1 cup, washing of my hair - .5 cup, and the brushing of my teeth - 1.5 cups. I also poured myself a cup of water - 1.5 cups.

Total water = 1.88 gallons

It was time to go tutor at Edison Community College. While there I used the rest room, with another toilet flushing - 1.6 gallons, a hand washing - 1 cup, and a bottle of soda - 2.5 cups.

Total water = 1.82 gallons

This was all the water usage I had for that particular 24 hour period, but I will include numbers for the dishwasher, laundry machine, and for shaving, for the sake of argument.

Dishwasher - 7.8 gallons for a normal load.
Laundry machine - 45 gallons
Shaving - .16 gallons

Grand totals:
Day without additions - 16.61
Day with additions - 69.57 gallons

Clearly there is a large difference in the day without additions and the day with additions, mostly due to the laundry machine. My house has a top loading laundry machine, which I read at the Whirlpool website - http://www.whirlpool.com/catalog/buying_guide.jsp?sectionId=292 - uses significantly more water than a front loading machine. I will admit that the machine is in use a lot in my house and efforts should be made to curb that.

All and all, I don't use too great of an amount of water, IF I don't do laundry or dishes. In all it amounted to a third of one load of laundry. Of course, with everything else included, there is a problem! I also think I wash my hands too much, perhaps I should invest in hand sanitizer again. Ever since I was a kid, I've had a slight phobia of germs, nothing too crazy, but I like to feel clean. Furthermore, I will see if my folks are willing to purchase a front loading washing machine.

One final note, I am confused about what to do with water bottles, my parents keep buying them, and I'd like to recycle them, but at the same time, whenever I reuse a bottle, I end up using a lot of water to wash it. I guess I need to buy a bunch of washable, durable water bottles and tell my parents to ease up on the throw-away bottles.

I am much more aware of my water usage after this exercise!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Estero Bay Historic Cottage and Matanzas Pass Preserve - A Little Ironic

In many ways, the idea of a Matanzas Pass Preserve is a little ironic, as I came to learn from a brief history lesson that I received while at the natural habitat. Recently I was officially registered with FGCU as a Spanish minor. I have quite an affinity for the language and Latin culture. Thus it interested me much to learn that "matanzas" is Spanish for "massacre," which I was actually unaware of before the field trip. I would like to comment on the irony inherent in the fact that an area of land named after the massacre of Native Americans - and hence the non-preservation of livings organisms - is now being used to preserve life. It's definitely a good thing, but something to think about.

Anyway, the trip began with the aforementioned history debriefing at the Estero Bay Historic Cottage, which is a structure remaining from the inhabitants of Ft. Myers Beach that lived during the early 20th century. For some reason it was surprising to me to learn that there were non-natives living on the island of Ft. Myers Beach at that time, but it makes sense. According to the woman in charge of the cottage, things were very simple back then. Most of the people living on the island fished and the environment was thriving. The woman in charge of the cottage also described an arch that formed the entryway from Ft. Myers to Ft. Myers Beach, when the bridge connecting them was first built. This edifice no longer stands, but it sounded as though it was a tourist attraction. Things have changed regarding the ecosystem as well, as chemicals being leeched into the waters have changed the water composition and killed a large portion of the sea life. The information that the woman at the Estero Bay Historic Cottage gave was relatively interesting and I would not have learned them otherwise, I'm sure, but I think that most of my classmates would agree with me that it was not the best part of the trip.

After sitting around in the small cottage it was time to head into the Matanzas Pass Preserve, where no doubt, Spanish soldiers were waiting to do battle. If only that were the case, but I digress. Indeed it would prove to be just about as interesting, as the Matanzas Pass Preserve is a unique mangrove forest ecosystem.

The above photo showcases the unusual tangle of roots that are peculiar to the red mangrove, which is the most common mangrove. There are three types of mangroves, the red, black, and white, however they are not related plant species. In the following photograph, there is a comparison of the black (left) and red (right) mangroves.

Whereas the red mangrove leaves are shiny and vibrant green, the black mangrove leaves have almost a powdery appearance. Further investigation at the "Black Mangrove" entry on Wikipedia.org (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_mangrove) will tell you that the whiteness of the leaves is a result of salt that is secreted at night.

Other trees that are in high concentrations in Matanzas include this saw palmetto, which I am told has edible leaves.

...As well as this example of a redemption fern, which actually grows on the limbs of other trees. I have been aware for quite some time that ferns are very ancient forms of plant life with simple photosynthetic systems.

About mid-way through the preserve, the class stopped to take in the beauty of Estero Bay, which, at least in the area of the preserve, is a little safer from environmental massacring.

Of course, these photographs do not reveal everything present in the mangrove swamp of Matanzas Pass. There were many small crabs crawling along the trees, but they were very fast and tended to sit right on the side of the tree where it was hardest to take a picture of them! And of course there was the snake at the beginning of this post that a classmate and I encountered. It seemed frozen in place. I would imagine that in general it is difficult to get that close to a snake in the wild, and at least in my opinion, they are worth saving. There were also cypress trees and some scattered palms.

The field trip proved to be very relaxing and surprising. From ironic Spanish expressions to bizarre wildlife, the Matanzas Pass Preserve is my kind of natural habitat.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Conservation 20/20 - The People Responsible for Preserving Lee County

Conservation 20/20 is a county ordained organization that seeks to acquire lands for preservation. Their website is here - http://www.conservation2020.org/index.cfm.

In sum of the information provided on the website, the organization began with a group of Lee County citizens who recognized in 1995 that there was land in this area that needed to be preserved before the whole place was developed and it was too late. They called themselves Conservation 20/20 at this time and eventually through their lobbying, voters enacted a law to raise taxes, the money from which would go towards protecting natural habitats. Officially the group is now called the Conservation Lands Acquisition and Stewardship Advisory Committee (or CLASAC), but they are still more widely known as Conservation 20/20. The function of this committee is to take offers and screen possible lands to be protected, which are then deemed preserves by the county.

Also according to the website, the group has these four primary objectives:
1. Protect and preserve natural wildlife habitat.
2. Protect and preserve water quality and supply.
3. Protect developed lands from flooding.
4. Provide resource-based recreation.

I was not aware until now of this branch of Lee County Parks and Recreations, and it appears that they are the responsible party for many of the preserves in Lee County that I have ever visited or heard about.

The preserved natural habitats that I have visited that were set up by Conservation 20/20 are - Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve, Matanzas Pass Preserve (thanks to the University Colloquium course), Boomer Preserve - Koreshan State Historic Site, and I may have been to the San Carlos Bay - Bunche Beach Preserve, but my memory does not serve me so well on that.
There's always a possibility that I will go to one of the other preserves listed on the site. I seem to always end up at the Koreshan State Historic Site for one reason or another. I'd like to learn more about the individual preserves and see what interests me.

I see no fault whatsoever in Conservation 20/20's mission and I believe that tax money is efficiently being allocated through their program. It is a small price to pay for the ability to live in the future, quite literally!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Water Rights Reflection - T. Boone Pickens Ain't Who I'm Pickin'

In the fight for the tapping of the Ogallala aquifer in Texas discussed in the article "There Will Be Water" from Business Week, I can't entirely side with Mr. Boone Pickens. I ain't pickin' him for my water needs! Then again, I don't live in Texas and don't know the full extent of the water shortages they're having there.

Regardless, it seems that using up anywhere close to half of the water in an aquifer would have dramatic effects on wildlife and plants that are growing above it. I'm glad to have been able to read this article, because before having done so, I thought that T. Boone Pickens was some sort of alternative energy visionary and an environmental guru. Of course, I should have known better when I've only seen his commercials on CNBC! In the "There Will Be Water" article he is painted as an old kook who's trying to make a quick buck off of other people's ignorance. I do agree with his wind power ideas, but he might be going too far with his water plan.

A quick check here - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquifer - which is the Wikipedia article on aquifers, enlightened me to the fact that aquifers are used all of the time for the same general purpose that Pickens is suggesting. They are used for well water and sustain people all of over in this way. But should a person or corporation be tapping all of this water and transporting it for a high price tag? There are other ways, though they will probably necessitate the same pipeline system that Pickens has in mind. For instance, a large desalination facility could pipe the water up to Dallas and other cities from the Gulf of Mexico. I also saw a type of water treatment facility on the show "Monsters Inside Me" that was located somewhere in the Midwest. The facility processed and recycled the water from the sewage system.

I also just watched an episode of the show "Modern Marvels" that was, in fact, entitled "Water," and in this documentary the Ogallala aquifer is actually discussed! The show talks about how many quadrillions of gallons of water were held within the aquifer and that trillions of gallons were being used each day as things stand now. This vast amount of water is mostly being used in order to water crops in Texas and up through the Midwest. Would a plan like Pickens' even affect things? In the show they also demonstrate how crops can be irrigated with pumped river water. Perhaps in addition to desalination and/or a water sewage treatment plant, river water could be utilized and treated as well. Perhaps Pickens' plan could be used to a small extent, but the aquifer must be preserved as much as possible.

I believe that cities that are experiencing water supply issues should explore their options and possibly use a combination of a few of these options. In this way moderation will be exercised and no one water source will be seriously threatened or depleted.

Pictured here is a desalination plant in Australia taken from http://www04.abb.com/global/seitp/seitp202.nsf/0/6fe27e59554a8c7bc12572260036c5dd/$file/Perth+desal+plant+image.jpg.

Behold Wild Man Jesse's Wild Diet

The following list of foods and caloric content for today October, 5, is pretty close to my usual diet. But before I go into the list, I should mention that about four to five days of the week I am at school or work for part of the day and while there I usually consume trail mix, protein bars, bottled water, and the occasional diet coke. However, when I am home, as was the case today, I will eat various things until I am full.

This morning I woke up and ate a more than moderate-sized bowl of a generic, "pre-made" Captain Crunch cereal with skim milk and water as a drink. Cereal ~ 160 Cal; milk ~ 60 Cal; water ~ 0 Cal; Total ~ 220 Calories.

I took an hour nap because the person I was tutoring in accounting cancelled, and when I woke up I had a peanut butter and waffle sandwich, with maple syrup on top, and water to drink. The peanut butter is actually "home-made" by the local Publix, and therefore has basic ingredients. The waffles were Ego, and made partially from whole grains. The maple syrup is pure maple syrup, not the imitation. Peanut butter ~ 150 Cal (http://kidshealth.org/kid/recipes/recipes/peanut_butter.html); waffles ~ 190 Cal; maple syrup ~ 110 Cal; water ~ 0 Cal; Total ~ 450 Cal.

When I returned from another tutoring session, I made myself some form of culinary dish with groceries I had just purchased, and drank a cup of green tea. Medium shrimp ~ 100 Cal; canned yuca ~ 550 Cal; asparagus ~ 25 Cal (http://caloriecount.about.com/calories-asparagus-i11011); eighth stick of butter ~ 50 Cal; Serrano chilies ~ 10 Cal (http://www.truestarhealth.com/Notes/3632006.html); lemon juice ~ 0 Cal; half cup of water ~ 0 Cal; cup of green tea ~ 0 Cal; Total ~ 735 Cal.

*Note: I usually eat similar food to this, except that I'll eat a large bowl of rice in place of the yuca, and I would estimate that similar calories would be consumed.

After that meal, I kept handy a glass of water, that originally had about 16 oz. and also a cup of black tea. Each contain negligible calories.

I ate a quarter of a package of pumpkin seeds purchased from Walgreen's ~ 160 Cal.

Shortly after, I ate an average sized banana ~ 110 Cal (http://www.weightlossforall.com/calories-banana.htm).

For dinner my mother prepared a tuna wrap, and I still drank water. The tuna was canned, the tortilla came packaged, as did the cream cheese. The mayonnaise was from a jar. Tuna ~ 140 Cal; tortilla - 210 Cal; cream cheese ~ 140 Cal; mayonnaise ~ 40 Cal; carrot, celery, onion ~ 20 Cal (http://caloriecount.about.com); water ~ 0 Cal; Total ~ 550 Cal.

For dessert I prepared a sundae. I used two different cookies from Pepperidge Farms, Brier's all natural vanilla ice cream, and the dreadfully "in-organic" Hershey's syrup. Two cookies ~ 210 Cal; ice cream ~ 130 Cal; chocolate syrup ~ 50 Cal; Total ~ 390 Cal

The rest of the night I only took in water ~ 0 Cal.



Not too bad, considering that the nutritional facts on the back of almost every food says that one should consume up to about 2500 calories per day. And this was actually a pretty good day, in an alimentary way, at least. I think I eat quite a bit less on work days and days when I spend a lot of time at school.

I try to eat a variety of things, and usually consume whole grains when possible. I also enjoy different vegetables and have been on a hot pepper kick in recent times. I believe that my whole grain and vegetable choices are sustainable, and I generally go for inexpensive seafood, which is moderately sustainable, though I'm aware that there are problems there as well. Basically I steer away from red meat and pork. I like beef, but it's not necessary all of the time. I'm to understand that beef utilizes a lot of resources, so I feel that I am not taking advantage of that. I'm sure there is much water and other chemicals being used to grow some of the more generic grains and vegetables I consume, such as high fructose corn syrup, carrots, onions, peanuts, unbleached wheat flour, etc. I do my best to eat healthfully and conscientiously while keeping within my budget.

Until I become a big time accountant, this is probably how I will continue to eat. I think that once I have the means, I will endeavor to eat a larger majority of certified organic foods.

An Andean farm, picture taken from - http://www.mongabay.com/images/peru/cuzco/Urubamba_1020_1283.JPG

Calculating My Ecological Footprint - Consumer Consequences

By playing the game at this website: http://sustainability.publicradio.org/consumerconsequences/, I was able to see how many earth's it would take to sustain my lifestyle.

My score - 3.2 (give or take)

According to this small test, it would take at least 3.2 earth's to accommodate my habits. Sufficed to say I was pretty surprised.

I do notice that I use an unnecessary amount of electricity. However, at home and even at work, I turn my lights, computers, fans, and televisions off whenever possible. However, when I'm at home, I like to have the TV and fan on when I'm doing things, and I use my laptop often. The rest of my family in the house are a little worse about turning off electronics.

I don't foresee myself buying a new car soon, but when I do, I think I would like a more eco-friendly car. I drive a Hyundai Sonata now, I wasn't entirely sure what the miles per gallon were, but I thought it was a relatively fuel-efficient car. The 21.4 average they had as default in the Consumer Consequences game seemed to be what I thought my mpg's were, so I was a little confused there. I do know that I have to drive at least 10-15 miles each way to my job and work which are in approximately the same place, and I rarely drive on the interstate. I do try to take care of multiple tasks while I'm out though, if for no other reason than to save myself gas and money.

I compared myself to other players of the Consumer Consequences game and found that I was below just about everybody, which was reassuring for myself, but speaks of the poor habits of my fellow human beings in industrialized nations! I think my score reflects the fact that I do not shop very often, and I don't eat much meat or dairy. I'm out at school or work a lot, so I usually end up eating snacks like trail mix or protein bars over fast foods or similar eats. I also do not drink alcohol.

I think that the game was a great way to bring poor ecological habits to one's attention. I will do what I can to improve my score, so to speak, and take better care of Earth!

Image taken from - http://www.classicalarchives.com/prs/astro/Arizona/01-Biosphere_2.jpg