Saving Our Water

In 48 hours, 110 people, mostly women and children, have died in Somalia due to starvation caused by a drought. Over six million people, more than half the country’s population, are vulnerable to dying of starvation and diseases caused by drinking contaminated water, whatever water they can find.

People dying of hunger is hard to comprehend in 2017, when in America, I can’t drive two miles without passing a fleet of fast food joints, pizza places, Chinese restaurants, hot dog stands, and convenient stores with their quick and cheap meal deals.

No one in the year 2017 should die of hunger or thirst. In every grocery store, aisles are dedicated to bottled water, a multi-billion dollar industry. We seem to have food and water in abundance every where we go, yet the state of California just got over a major drought of their own. Even though I don’t live in the state, I was worried about the consequences of a dry California.

I worry because I know the way we are living and eating as a country is not sustainable. We waste too much. We eat too much meat, which takes up too much land and uses too much water, and our water is being contaminated with farm animals’ waste that spills into our rivers and lakes and streams.

It worries me how much agriculture is ruining our planet. When the Governor of California, Jerry Brown, was asked during his state’s drought what people should do he told them to eat a veggie burger because he knew the absurd amount of water it takes to produce beef. Approximately 660 gallons of water is needed to produce a 1/3 hamburger and 1,799 gallons of water per pound of beef. (National Geographic)

You can shorten all the showers you want, wash dishes as fast as you can, and make sure you’re filling the washing machine with as many clothes as possible, but if you end the day by knocking back a couple burgers, your water conservation attempts don’t really add up to much.

The drought that is killing the Somalian people was “induced by two consecutive seasons of poor rainfall…inadequate rainfall and lack of water has wiped out crops and killed livestock, while communities are being forced to sell their assets, and borrow food and money to survive.” (CNN)

If the Californian drought should have taught us anything it’s that water can not be taken for granted. We need to try to live more sustainable lives. I fear one day our lives may depend on it. What is really stopping what’s happening in Somalia from happening here?

What if an entire region of the U.S. suffers a California-like drought? What effect would that have on the rest of the country?

I’m not saying these worries keep me up at night, but I do think about it enough to change the way I eat, being mindful of my carbon footprint. You don’t have to be a vegetarian or a fancy vegan to make a positive change for the environment. You can be a reducetarian. (Yes, that’s a real thing.)

If you would like to help the Somalian people, you can donate to the American Red Cross, as well as other organizations working to deliver clean water to the region.

 

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Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

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So Much Has Changed. Time Does That.

In the last few years, I have become a strong animal rights advocate.  I have protested against pet stores that sell puppies from puppy mills (which is most of them). I have joined forces against Ringling Brothers, (with their known cruel treatment toward their animals) when the “Not-So-Greatest-Show-On Earth” came to my city.  And I have protested against fast-food giants and the cruel way farm animals are treated and killed.

I have significantly limited and/or omitted meat and dairy from my diet.   Before I made the decision to cut out meat, I did some research about how to make the switch to a vegetarian diet safely. Surprisingly to me at the time, I found that eating less meat helps the environment. This made the decision a definite no-brainer for me. I’d be improving my health, living a more compassionate lifestyle, and decreasing my impact on the planet. Three slam-dunks!

The more I research and learn about the horrors of factory farming and climate change and the meat industry’s disastrous impact on Mother Earth, the more motivated I am in doing my part in ensuring our planet’s health.

I’m ashamed of the many years I’ve lived in oblivion. I used to think nothing of eating meat everyday, sometimes with every meal. Nor thinking twice about tossing an empty can or bottle into the trash, instead of a recycling bin. And I absolutely loathe the memory I have of my now ex-girlfriend and I, visiting a pet store and gawking at all the cute little puppies while promising that once we move in together, we’d come back to that very store (ironically, it’s the same store I was asked to leave recently when I insisted to the owner  that I be able to visit the place their puppies come from)  and buy a puppy. BUY A PUPPY??? NEVER would that thought EVER enter my mind now, but it had then.

So much has changed. Time does that. I don’t mind change when it’s for the better.  Now, I think a lot about the animals and the environment because in many ways, the two go hand in hand. The best way to protect the environment is to stop, or drastically reduce, your consumption of meat, which in turn benefits the animals.

I wouldn’t feel right proclaiming my love for animals, and then eat them. And I couldn’t call myself an environmentalist if I ate the very food that is “responsible for 80 percent of the planet’s deforestation, 70 percent of freshwater use and 30 percent of human-generated greeenhouse gases.” (Nature World News)

It pains me when I see my mother drinking bottled water at home instead of filling a glass using the refrigerator water, or buying a Brita. According to utahrecylces.com, 35 billion plastic bottles are thrown away every year, with only about 25% of the plastic made in the U.S being recycled.  For me, bottled water is used only for when I am on the go. But when I am home, it’s a glass and my Brita.

I don’t drink much coffee, but when I do, I use a coffee pot, not those environment-killing Keuriq cups.  According to TheAtlantic.com, “In 2014, enough K-Cups were sold that if placed end-to-end, they would circle the globe 10.5 times.”   Billions of  K-cups end up in our landfill each year. That’s a lot of money spent to kill our planet.

The more I read, the more I learn, and some news is hard to take. I recently discovered that a popular animal-rights group I thought was a friend, may actually be a foe. PETA is not the “animal rights group” I was duped into believing they were. I’m in the process of learning more about their stances regarding pit bulls, Breed Specific Legislation, and No-Kill Shelters, so I can’t write anything definitive right now.

But I’ve read enough from reputable sources to know I am never giving another dime to this organization.loving-mother-cow-and-calf1If you are looking for a way to help animals, and are considering donating to PETA, please give to your local animal shelter instead. From the information I’ve gathered so far, your local shelters are probably doing a lot more than PETA to keep the animals alive….More on that later.

 

An American Town With No Clean Water

Right now, residents in a city of 100,000 people cannot drink the water that flows from their faucets, nor can they wash themselves from the water that pours from their shower heads. Why?

Because their water supply is poisoned with lead.

An American town, Flint, Michigan, has no clean water to drink or bathe in. How did this happen? And what is the state doing for the thirsty people of Flint?

To the former, this was mostly a man-made tragedy, and to the latter, not much. Yep, the state and its officials, including its Governor, Rick Snyder, has shown a lack of urgency to help the poor people of Flint. And I don’t use the term “poor” to describe the state of their circumstances, but I use it to describe the state of their social class.

Flint, Michigan is a poor neighborhood. Is there a relevant reason to state this fact? I believe so. It is hard to imagine the horrendously slow response time officials took to inform people of the dangers in their contaminated drinking water would have been the same if Flint, Michigan were a rich neighborhood.

Nothing irks me more than child abuse, animal abuse and elderly abuse, but you can rank taking advantage of poor people or treating them as though they matter less, up there too.

If you know nothing about this, let me provide a brief synopsis.

In April, 2014 an appointed emergency manager changed the city of Flint’s water resource to the Flint River. But because of the high amount of salt in the river’s water, the city’s old pipes started to corrode, which caused high-levels of lead to poison the water supply.

Drinking lead-poisoned water can cause irreversible brain damage.  Children were drinking this water.

The question, of course, is when did Governor Snyder know about the contamination to Flint’s water supply? Like a good politician, Snyder is dancing around this question, but according to The Atlantic, in July 2015, Snyder’s then chief-of-staff emailed a health department official stating frustration over the water issue in Flint and the rising “lead level studies.”

Although Snyder hasn’t been forthcoming about his personal awareness to the Flint water crisis, his chief-of-staff knew at least as early as July 2015 about a contamination in a water supply that was changed in April, 2014.

Soon, the water started to smell rancid, and GM switched their water source when it found “city water was corroding engines at the Flint factory.” (The Atlantic)

The water that was corroding car engines was the same water children were drinking – and the State and its Governor let it happen.

Children and adults started getting sick.  An “environmental-engineering professor found that the water had nearly 900 times the recommended EPA limit for lead particles.” (The Atlantic) The aforementioned email about this was sent in mid-2015, but some believe the problems was known as far back as May 2014.

Yet, in Feb 2015, even after it was known by city officials that the water was testing at dangerous levels of lead, “officials were telling residents there were no threats.” (The Atlantic)

Wow… Officials told the people of Flint that the water was safe, even though the lead levels were rising. (I actually heard audio of this and it is inconceivable that a person can encourage people, including children, to drink poisoned water.)

On Jan 5, Governor Rick Snyder, finally did something for the people of Flint. He declared a state of emergency, however it was done on the same day the US Department of Justice confirmed it was investigating the Flint water crisis. What suspicious timing on the Governor’s part.

Luckily, while Snyder sat on his hands and did nothing while people in his state had no clean water to drink, strangers with kind hearts donated water. Corporations got involved donating trucks of bottled water, but the state government run by Snyder, did nothing.

It is always wonderful to see strangers helping each other, it’s good for humanity. But, what if there were no donations? What if strangers didn’t get involved? Would Snyder have let the people of his state drink from puddles before finally doing something?

I’ve been on Twitter supporting a call for Governor Snyder’s arrest. (#arrestgovsnyder) I hope in the end there is a long and arduous investigation into finding who knew what, and when. Who did nothing. And who told innocent people poisoned water was safe to drink.

Where’s Erin Brockovich when you need her?

An ex-Governor of the state I live in is currently serving a 14 year sentence for corruption. He didn’t poison anyone and he got 14 years.

How many years will Rick Snyder get when all this is over?

 

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Below is a link to the article from The Atlantic that I referenced in my post.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/01/what-did-the-governor-know-about-flints-water-and-when-did-he-know-it/423342/

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our Wells are Running Dry

It was in my fourth grade science class that I remember learning about water conservation for the first time. In the text book, there was a picture  of a boy standing in front of a bathroom sink, brushing his teeth. Beside the picture, was a lesson about the need to conserve the earth’s most important chemical compound, water – because all living things will die without it.

The reason for the insert of the boy brushing his teeth was to teach kids to turn the faucet off while they brush. Maybe that message didn’t stick with the other kids in my class, but it stuck with me. And today, at 39 years old, I still shut the water off while I brush my teeth.

It’s become second-nature to me now. If I’m in the bathroom while someone is brushing their teeth and the water’s running, I’ll rush to turn the faucet off.

“Doesn’t that noise drive you crazy?” I ask.

“What noise?” Is the response I usually get, with a weird look.

Oh, right. People who are used to brushing their teeth while the faucet is on probably don’t even hear the water running anymore, while to someone like me, who is used to silence while she brushes her teeth, a running faucet sounds like Niagara Falls.

At a young age, I learned to turn the water off when I wasn’t using it. And now, it seems, it may be time you learn to do the same because our water is running out.

The Chicago Sun-Times featured an article about the global crisis of vanishing groundwater. The three-page feature scared me more than any Stephen King novel ever had because this story was much too real.

The article centered on a four-generation farm family in the plains of Southwestern Kansas, who’d been farming in that region since 1902. But now, the family farm may not survive another generation because “the groundwater they depend on is disappearing.”

The High Plains Aquifer, which lies underneath eight states, is the lifeline of “one of the world’s most productive farming economies.” An aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing permeable rock…from which groundwater can be extracted using a water well. (wikipedia)

These wells are going dry.

“Much more water is pumped from the ground that can be naturally replenished. Groundwater levels are plummeting.”

A study was conducted on 32,000 wells in a span of two decades and it “found water levels falling in nearly two-thirds of those wells.”

Across the nation, water levels have declined 64 percent.

Thirteen counties in five states have water levels averaging declines of more than 40 feet since 1995. In one of the country’s largest depletion zones, “the average water levels in more than 4,000 wells are 13.2 feet lower today than they were in 1995.”

Two-thirds of the nation’s fresh groundwater is used for agriculture. According to Huffpost, to produce just one pound of beef requires about 1,847 gallons of water, where a pound of chickpeas uses about 500 gallons. It’s no wonder why the governor of the drought-stricken state of California responded to the lack of water in his state, by saying, “If you ask me, I think you should be eating veggie burgers.”

High meat consumption is using up a lot of our drinking water.

Just like climate change, “groundwater depletion has become another human-made crisis that could bring devastating consequences.”

In just five years, the amount of water pumped from the four-generation farm family’s wells fell 30 percent – in just five years.

During World War I, American soldiers and their allies were facing starvation because farms were destroyed and turned into battlefields. Food was scarce. Selected by President Woodrow Wilson, future President Herbert Hoover formed a program that asked Americans for their patriotic support in reducing their consumption of wheat, meat, sugar, and fats. There were slogans like, “Food will win the war,” that encouraged people not to waste food, and to eat less meat so more could be sent to hungry soldiers protecting our freedom.

According to History.com, as a result of the conservation efforts, “food shipments to Europe were doubled within a year, while consumption in America was reduced 15 percent.”

This country came together once before to save food for our soldiers, we can come together again, but this time, to save water for each other and for our planet.

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Below are a couple of links with easy tips on how you can conserve water every day.

http://www.bewaterwise.com/tips01.html

http://eartheasy.com/live_water_saving.htm

http://www.home-water-works.org/water-conservation-tips

*I don’t own the picture above. I believe it is public domain, but if it is subject to copyright, I will take it down.

*Also, all the quotes that weren’t cited directly were taken from the Chicago Sun-Times article noted in my blog.

How Much Do You Like Drinking Clean Water?

I have read that giving up meat just one day a week carries the same beneficial effect on the environment as not driving your car for one month. One month! Such an easy way to decrease one’s carbon footprint on our planet!

When I made the conscious decision to give up meat, I had no idea the detrimental impact raising livestock had on the environment. I stopped eating meat because I wanted to partake in a more compassionate diet, to assure that no living-being had to die just so I could eat.

But now, I’m learning that I may be doing more than just sparing the lives of precious animals from a cruelly-inhumane death, I may also have a hand in helping to save the environment. The meat industry is wreaking havoc on our water supply (ask Californians how fun it is being strapped for water). One-third of the world’s fresh water supply is used for the production of livestock.* It takes twenty-four hundred gallons of water to produce just one pound of beef,** and the average American eats around 270 lbs of meat a year.*

Also, a typical US farm produces over 500 million tons of manure every year.** Runoffs of animals waste is the leading cause of pollution to our lakes and rivers.**

It isn’t surprising that when answering questions about water-saving advice over California’s historic drought, the State’s Governor, Jerry Brown, answered, “If you ask me, I think we should be eating veggie burgers.”

Statistics are showing that the Governor may be on to something.

How hard is it to give up meat for one day? I don’t know, how much do you like drinking clean water?

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Please Note: Raising animals for dairy consumption also uses a lot of natural resources. I am not a vegan, but am gradually reducing my dairy intake. I haven’t bought cow’s milk in over three years (almond milk rocks!). The point of this blog is to show that it doesn’t take much to make a big difference if everyone does a little something. This blog is NOT meant  to put anyone down for what they eat.

But, if you can make a little change, please do it, because we are all in this together. We all need a healthy Earth. Except for the Aliens. You have your own planet. Stay there.

*Science.time.com

**Peta

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net