Isn’t The Whole World Our Environment?

The orangutans in Borneo are in danger of extinction. Although in 2010 it’s estimated there are 11,000, they could be gone in 60 years because of inbreeding and loss of habitat. The long-term solution is reforestation. Forests have been cut for development, logging and palm oil plantations, isolating groups of orangutans on opposite sides of rivers. Because finding new mates will increase the species chances for survival, old fire hoses have been slung across rivers or used to make bridges. Orangutans can’t swim – and humans – when it comes to the environment – have difficulty keeping their heads above water too.

Deforestation is one cause of global warming and global warming is killing coral. According to a study done by the ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and James Cook University, a mass of abnormally hot water moved into the Indian Ocean in mid-2010, increasing the water temperature 4 degrees Centigrade. This caused corals to shed algae that nourish them. When algae are gone, corals starve and appear bleached. Coral coverage in affected areas could drop from 50% to 10%, unable to support as much marine life. The hot water was caused by carbon emissions warming the atmosphere – a carbon copy of what humans are doing elsewhere.

Cows contribute to global warming. They produce methane gas, a greenhouse gas. However, manure can be put in a digester. The methane released by the manure bubbles to the top, passes through a pipe to a generator and is used to produce electricity. California is the biggest dairy state. John Fiscalini is a California farmer who spent $ 4 million on a digester, followed by $ 200,000 to control the pollution created by the generator. Until cheaper pollution controls are available, states like New York and Wisconsin – with different air quality restrictions – won’t be “cowed” by regulations.

Landfills also produce methane gas. Nationwide landfills – a $ 50 billion business – are responsible for 22% of human-related methane emissions. That’s second only to methane gas produced by livestock. After processing, landfill gas is identical to natural gas from underground reservoirs. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. has 2,300 landfills and 520 capture and burn methane gas to make electricity – enough to power 688,000 homes. In fact, landfills supply approximately 1% of the nation’s natural gas demand. With plans to turn yard clippings and food waste into gasoline, landfills seem to be filled with potential too.