Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The environment in a year – 2012.

Here's what happened in 2012: 

The 2011 winners for World Challenge were announced. The winners included Chile, who implemented the Tech Crunch initiative – the company Recycla integrates the “socially marginalized” of the country and recycling e-waste!  In India, Hand in Hand turns food waste to gas, similar to what our club at Canadian International School did right at that time. In Mongolia, Snow Leopard Enterprises helps the country’s rural sheep herders, who are constantly being threatened by snow leopards. The company gives families a few hundred dollars in an attempt to prevent the numbers of leopards in the house from decreasing any further. Log onto www.theworldchallenge.co.uk in January 2013 to see the winners of 2012!

My environmental club at Canadian International School, The Green Idea, holds a WWF Animal survey, in support of the World Wildlife Fund’s campaign to “adopt” a wild animal, by donating money to the WWF. The Snow Leopard was by far the winner, with the panda trailing close behind. By February 2012, the biogas unit at our school was ready to go. The first cup of coffee was made with this and the kitchen staff vowed to use our environmentally friendly fuel to make the teachers’ coffee and tea. The Green Idea started the idea of a monthly Green Hero, and the social studies teacher, Mr. Jayan Philip, was awarded this prestigious title for being an instrumental person in keeping the green spirit going at school. Mr. Philip was seen collecting Tetra Pak juice cartons from the trash cans so that they could be recycled.

I was awarded the Sparrow Award for 2012!  This was for my efforts in school and my community – starting the Green Idea, implementing a recycling program, the Biogas, and the sparrow boxes. The other winners were Mr. Dilsher Khan, who dedicates his time to the vultures of Madhya Pradesh. The Green Umbrella team helps Fiscus plants in Kalwa that are stuck growing in buildings. The Shri Mahatma Gandhi Ashramsala helps promote environmental awareness among children in the Kutch desert. Everyone is making an effort to help the earth become a more environmentally safe place!

The 22nd is Earth Day and worldwide, people turn off the lights and make a difference in the fight for a greener earth. CIS made an attempt to help the earth by planting a vegetable garden by the pool area. Everyone was excited, especially the 6th and 7th graders, who helped plant their own carrot and cucumber patches! In the US, the Oregon state Senate limited the amount of mercury that is allowed in CFL bulbs in the state. The American Bird Conservancy  filed a 100 page petition with the FWS (US Fish and Wildlife Service) that asked for standards in operating wind farms so that birds and bats would not suffer from the harmful effects of the turbines’ blades. I think it’s remarkable that even small 11 and 12 year olds can pitch in to save the earth. There was such enthusiasm that day, when we planted all those saplings. It’s interesting to see similar actions all the way across the planet in the US. Lawmakers are seeing the importance of saving the planet – as shown with the bill passed by the Oregon Senate.

Old tectonic plates are starting to shift again! In May, an earthquake shook Northern Italy, as a result of compression by the Apennine Mountains. The Mediterranean region is seismically active because of the African plate and Eurasian plate clashing. More people are worried that increasing events such as these will result due to careless usage of the earth. Damaging tsunamis have been recorded due to earthquakes in this region. Earthquakes throughout history, dating back to 1693 in Sicily and more recently the 1908 Messina, which had a magnitude of 7.2 make up the deadliest European earthquakes that have occurred. Italy better be prepared! This should send a message to the world that the earth’s environmental patterns are beginning to change. Activists have been warning us that the following years will be environmentally rough on the earth, but we need to help mitigate these effects.

June 5th marks World Environment Day, which the United Nations Environment Program conferred the theme of “Green Economy: Does it include you?”  for 2012. The idea of this new theme was that countries will become more eco-friendly through their economies increasing the standards of living and work. From June 20th to 22nd, a UN conference in Rio de Janeiro covered sustainable development. The conference was aptly named Rio +20 due to its occurrence 20 years after the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio. The mission of the conference was to “rethink economic growth advance social equity and ensure environmental protection.” I think the idea of the economic growth was  brilliant, especially after the world was going through so many economic troubles. More conferences like this one should be held, where people come together to discuss problems of today and how they relate to the environment. Even younger people, like us, should try to make an effort to see where we can help. That’s where GINSING (November) comes into play!

The 2012 Summer Olympics begin in London! It’s imperative that people realize the environmental impact that comes with the spectacular displays and what we can do about them. Some activists think that offsetting for just for events like the Olympics don’t help, but the overall emissions for the country will help mitigate such events’ impacts. The Olympic Flame was carbon neutral! This is a really big step towards the whole environmental attitude of the games. The 24 MW of energy that supplied the games came only from renewable energy sources, like wind power. It was estimated that the games would produce 3.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, whereas the UK normally has an annual 550 million metric ton emission. A pre-games study approximated that media packs and briefings alone would account for 8,250,000 sheets of A4 size paper. This year, Britain finished its first carbon budget cut, and made the London Olympics’ carbon footprint binding to these terms. The UK government did do its part in calculating the carbon emission beforehand, setting goals to stick to, and attempting to execute its plans! I applaud the organizers of the 2012 games in London for all these efforts. I hope the 2016 Olympics will consider the green aspect of their games as well. Countries should set up a competition system for the Olympic committees in seeing how they can realistically implement carbon footprint reducing policies.

The election campaign is starting to get tough in the United States and citizens are starting to pay attention to the green promises of the candidates. The big topics included:
Clean Energy – The focus was on providing jobs and affordable energy  sources for the US. Many Americans looked at the reducing the “fracking” that goes on in the country and improving the reliance on solar power.  I think this is a really important factor to consider, since the US has historically used up coal mines after coal mines. If the US wants to continue to be the top country in the future, the government needs to be clear on becoming fossil-fuel independent.
Climate Change – Some people don’t believe in this phenomenon, which I think is ridiculous. Can’t you see the higher temperatures in the summer? The photos of the melting ice caps? The right candidate worried about the earth’s future has to believe in global warming, or the lifestyle of most Americans won’t change for the green good.
Water Quality is another main question that people were questioning candidates about. Had Superstorm Sandy come sooner, I think this would have been a greater concern for the citizens of the US.
Biotechnology, is related to America’s increasing reliance on oil that is not found in the US. Candidates that were worried about the earth’s future were made sure to acknowledge the idea of other alternative fuels. Here is where our CIS biogas really could come in handy! In Bangalore, CIS is on the right path, relying more upon the earth friendly fuel.

The world undertakes a challenge to clean up its beaches. Nations ranging from the Philippines, to South Africa, to Venezuela used the power of 598,076 volunteers to sweep the coasts clean of 9.2 million pounds of trash. Even in Singapore, the American school teamed up with the National University to clean up a mangrove that was filled with an initial astonishing 2.3 tons of trash that was collected in 4 hours. The Ocean Conservancy organizes this global initiative every year since 1987 and releases its data to the public, scientists and the powerful law makers.  At the mangroves here in Singapore, plastic bags made up most of the trash but worldwide, cigarettes made the top. 27 mammals, such as dolphins, were found entangled in ropes and other beach debris, in addition to the 49 birds facing a similar plight. Find out how you can make a difference in your community! Participate in the 2013 International Coastal Clean-Up; it was a really great experience for me. It opened up my eyes to see how every little piece of plastic that ends up on the beach could potentially hurt an animal. I think this could be implemented even on holiday beaches. Pick up whatever little garbage you see – you’re helping an animal survive.

Hurricane Sandy hits the eastern coastline of the United States as well as the Caribbean. Many believe that Sandy symbolizes the beginning of a series of environmental catastrophes. Maybe the earth is telling us something – we need to be more diligent with the way we are using our home! Flooding of the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn, residents are worried about toxic residue. 630 oil spills have been reported in New York City, as a result of the storm. Arthur Kill, a strait between New Jersey and Staten Island, had 336,000 gallons of fuel spilled. Due to the biodegradation of the oil, fish can die after exposure to low oxygen levels. Salt marshes could also be affected, and more wildlife habitats may have been threatened due to the deadly storm. But that’s not all; the list goes on and on. Sewage treatment plants could not control the release of sewage into local waterways.  Pesticides, contaminants, and bacteria could affect drinking water supplies in the regions that were hit by Sandy. I think that the US government needs to pay more attention to the effects of such storms. The impact for both humans and wildlife could prove disastrous. Imagine those poor creatures in the marshes panicking due to the oil spills! What will happen if the drinking water sanitation becomes extremely low? I’m sure that importing drinking water to certain states will be extremely expensive. The government must look into the environmental mitigation of superstorms like Sandy.  

Students of South East Asia met, discussed, and planned ways to make the earth a safer place, environmentally, socially, and politically. GINSING, the Global Issues Network Singapore Conference, brought people from Manila, Dubai, and a whole slew of other schools all the way to Singapore to discuss topics like Natural Disasters, Human Trafficking, Global Warming, and rewiring taxes for the 21st Century. GANGs – Global Action Network Groups – came together to brainstorm ways to make the world more aware and how we, as mere students, could make a difference. The conference was an all-out success. Guest speakers such as Abigail Ailing contributed to the buzzing atmosphere. Delegates and Facilitators are still communicating with each other to keep the spirit of GINSING alive!

A conference on climate change was held in Qatar – the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Delegates talked about extending the Kyoto Protocol; they are hoping that by 2015 there will be a new climate agreement in 2015. The World Bank released a report that investigates the effect of an increase in temperature by 4 degrees Celsius – intense wildfires, heat waves, droughts, dead ocean life, increased pests and disease. Increased dependence on fossil fuels is another big problem that the world needs to deal with soon. There are almost 1,200 new coal plants that are going to go up soon. 2011 exceeded the record for greenhouse gas, and there’s a possibility that 2012 will do the same. It’s good to see the leaders of today and tomorrow taking a stand on environmental 
awareness. The young people of today need to do the same, more often.

Reflections for the year
I really wish that in the first few months at my new school, SAS, I had gotten the chance to assimilate into the green environment faster. Now I’m thinking of a few ideas that I hope will become a reality in early 2013. My junior year has to be an environmentally filled one! Sometimes I think back to the nuclear plants of Japan. We don’t want another abandoned community like Fukushima. I hope they are secure now, because if another major tsunami hits, the whole east coast of Asia could be in trouble.

The plan for 2013
Everyone can contribute to helping the Earth become a safer, cleaner, greener planet. Regardless of your age, nationality, or political power, your little actions make a difference. In 2013, I plan to make a difference. My number one goal is spreading awareness. At SAS, SAVE club – the environmental club – is extremely popular. So many people have joined. Empowering those people to come and join one of the activities or fundraisers in important. I know that in 2013, I will definitely participate more in SAVE! The earth needs my help and I will make the effort to be there for our planet!
Keep the environment in mind this holiday season! Happy holidays!