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How Human Interaction is Ruining our National Parks

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US National Park by Lenny K Photography via Flickr

In 2015, over 305 million visitors experienced the natural wonders of “America’s best idea” — the 84 million acres of the U.S. National Parks, from Acadia National Park in Maine to Yosemite National Park in California. The parks are known for their natural beauty, scenic vistas and unspoiled landscapes.

However, the U.S. National Parks are increasingly suffering damage of one kind or another from factors such as park visitors, drones and even fracking. If this damage continues, it poses a real threat to the viability of the U.S. National Parks as pristine wilderness areas.

Visitor Pollution Is the Destructive First Threat

Human visitors to the parks pose the first kind of threat. In Yellowstone National Park, park rangers have recovered furniture, diapers, pennies and trash from its iconic geysers and pools.

In the beautiful blue Morning Glory Pool, trash from visitors has blocked the vents that ensure the circulation of water in the pool. As a result, the deep blue that has drawn thousands of visitors is fading and is being replaced with orange and yellow striations. A certain species of microorganism is responsible for the pool’s deep blue color, and they are now threatened by the changing circulation pattern.

Damage to the unique natural wonders themselves is only one kind of destruction, though. The U.S. National Parks suffer damage by countless visitors who pick the wildflowers, pose with tree carvings they carefully crafted with their knives and burn illegal campfires — for starters.

Visitor Behavior Causes Damaging Ripple Effects

Yes, each visitor likely thinks their penny/wildflower souvenir/carving/campfire is a great way to commemorate the visit. Tossing a penny may seem highly insignificant given the vastness of the acreage in National Parks.

One penny or one flower may be, but think of the aggregate through the years. Added up, each one of the millions of visitors tossing a penny into a geyser or plucking a flower is doing significant damage.

The rise of social media and the age of the selfie may have exacerbated the problem. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and the like all share an emphasis on images as records of life events. People posing and smiling next to their tree carvings in places like Grand Teton National Park are part of sharing the experience.

Park employees can only do so much to repair the damage. They do deploy long mechanical arms to retrieve garbage from the pools and geysers. However, the temperature of the water — some are as hot as 250 degrees Fahrenheit — can impede these efforts. And, of course, the picked wildflowers and damaged trees can’t be repaired.

The U.S. National Parks have also suffered damage from drones. A drone crashed into Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring two years ago and has never been found. The spring is more than 120 feet deep, making recovery efforts nearly impossible even with mechanical arms.

In a sense, the drones are simply another kind of visitor — just an unexpected technological one. The National Park Service issued a temporary ban on them in 2014, but that doesn’t seem to have halted their use. Last summer, incidents rose throughout the parks — it’s been difficult to enforce the rule within the expansive grounds of most parks.

Should a drone crash in the park and not be recovered, it becomes another kind of garbage — just delivered through the air rather than through two-legged visitors physically in the park.

Fracking on Adjacent Lands Causes Issues

The third form of damage comes from the oil and gas industries fracking on adjacent lands. Although U.S. National Parks are protected from fracking, national forests and state parks aren’t. The drilling and extraction of fracking are often surprisingly close to National Park land. Visitors to Montana’s Glacier National Park, for example, see signs warning them about the effects of gas in the air from fracking.

Moreover, the rivers, streams and other waterways as well as air and wildlife are not confined to the protected boundaries of the National Parks. They circulate throughout the region. That means fracking in a National Forest may causes damage to waterways, air pollution and disruption of wildlife habitats.

How We Can Preserve America’s Treasures

Given the importance of the U.S. National Parks, solutions to these kinds of damage are imperative. The solution to each depends on the cause.

Visitors to the National Parks need to be made more aware of the collective toll of their actions. Education on the kinds of damage — the number of coins tossed in the pools at Yellowstone or the couches retrieved — should start in the primary grades.

Perhaps the U.S. National Parks could start a social media campaign showing the damage done by careless hikers, campers and visitors. Have people sign a pledge on social media that they will be part of the solution — the visitor who simply enjoys — rather than a visitor who does damage.

The solution to drones becoming garbage may need regulation. A law making it illegal to fly in National Park space would eliminate that source of damage.

The solutions to fracking damage can be technological. Although proponents and opponents of fracking have vastly different estimates of the amount of damage fracking causes, some of the equipment and infrastructure used in fracking, such as air compressors, can be designed and chosen to be as environmentally friendly as possible. Drilling using compressed air as an alternative to water may do more to protect waterways. Some compressors also run on electricity rather than oil, thus eliminating emissions and other environmental damage from oil.

The U.S. National Parks have long been known as “America’s best idea.” We need to keep them that way by helping to minimize the damage they face.

Bobbi PetersonBobbi Peterson loves writing and regularly posts on her blog Living Life Green. She’s also a freelance writer, green living advocate and environmentalist. You can find more from Bobbi on Twitter.

Environment

Consumers Investing in Eco-Friendly Cars with the UK Green Revolution

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Eco-Friendly Cars

The UK public appears to be embracing the electric car UK Green Revolution, as recent statistics reveal that more and more consumers are making the switch from petrol and diesel to electric or alternatively fuelled vehicles. The demand for diesel fell by almost a third in October compared to last year, whilst hybrid and electric cars rose by a staggering 36.9%.

Time for UK Green Revolution Change

So, what is the reason for this sudden change? This comes down to the current situation in the UK, which has led to people embracing eco-friendly technologies and automobiles. One of the main reasons is the Government’s clean air plans, which includes the impending 2040 ban on petrol and diesel automobiles. There is then the rollout of the T-Charge in London, the city of Oxford announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel from the city centre by 2020 and various other big announcements which take up a lot of space and time in the UK press.

h2>Diesel’s Reputation

In addition to this, the negative publicity against diesel has had a huge impact on the UK public. This has led to a lot of confusion over emissions, but actually, the newest low emission diesel automobiles will not face restrictions and are not as bad to drive as many believe. Most notably, German brand Volkswagen has been affected due to the emissions scandal in recent times. It was discovered that some emissions controls for VW’s turbocharged direct injection diesel engines were only activated during laboratory testing, so these automobiles were emitting 40 times more NO in real-world driving. As a result of this and all the negative publicity, the manufacturer has made adaptations and amended their vehicles in Europe. Additionally, they have made movements to improve the emissions from their cars, meaning that they are now one of the cleaner manufacturers. Their impressive range includes the Polo, Golf and Up, all of which can be found for affordable prices from places like Unbeatable Car.

The Current Market

The confusion over the Government’s current stance on diesel has clearly had a huge impact on the public. So much so that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called on the Government to use the Autumn Budget to restore stability in the market and encourage the public to invest in the latest low emission automobiles. SMMT believes that this is the fastest and most effective way to address the serious air quality concerns in this country.

Incentives

One way that the Government has encouraged the public to make the switch is by making incentives. Motorists can benefit from a grant when they purchase a new plug-in vehicle, plus there are benefits like no road tax for electric vehicles and no congestion charge. When these are combined with the low running costs, it makes owning an electric automobile an appealing prospect and especially because there are so many great models available and a type to suit every motorist. One of the main reasons holding motorists back is the perceived lack of charging points. However, there are currently over 13,000 up and down the country with this number rapidly increasing each month. It is thought that the amount of charging points will outnumber petrol stations by 2020, so it is easy to see more and more motorists start to invest in electric cars way ahead of the 2040 ban.

It is an interesting time in the UK as people are now embracing the electric car revolution. The Government’s clean air plans seem to have accelerated this revolution, plus the poor publicity that diesel has received has only strengthened the case for making the switch sooner rather than later.

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Environment

How To Make The Shipping Industry Greener

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green shipping industry

Each and every year more damage is done to our planet. When businesses are arranging pallet delivery or any other kind of shipping, the environment usually isn’t their number one concern. However, there’s an increasing pressure for the shipping industry to go greener, particularly as our oceans are filling with plastic and climate change is occurring. Fortunately, there’s plenty of technology out there to help with this. Here’s how the freight industry is going greener.

Make Ship Scrapping Cleaner

There are approximately 51,400 merchant ships trading around the world at the moment. Although the act of transporting tonnes of cargo across the ocean every year is very damaging to the environment, the scrapping of container ships is also very harmful. Large container ships contain asbestos, heavy metals and oils which are toxic to both people and the environment during demolition. The EU has regulations in place which ensure that all European ships are disposed of in an appropriate manner at licenced yards and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) introduced guidelines to make recycling of ships safe and environmentally friendly back in 2009, but since then only Norway, Congo and France have agreed to the policy. The IMO needs to ensure that more countries are on board with the scheme, especially India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, which are some of the worst culprits for scrapping, which may mean enforcing the regulations in the near future.

Reduce Emissions

A single large container ship can produce the same amount of emissions as 50 million cars, making international shipping one of the major contributors towards global warming. Stricter emissions regulations are needed to reduce the amount of emissions entering our atmosphere. The sulphur content within ship fuel is largely responsible for the amount of emissions being produced; studies have shown that a reduction in the sulphur content in fuel oil from 35,000 p.p.m to 1,000 p.p.m could reduce the SOx emissions by as much as 97%! The IMO has already begun to ensure that ships with the Emission Control Areas of the globe, such as the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and the English Channel, are using this lower sulphur content fuel, but it needs to be enforced around the world to make a significant difference.

As it’s not currently practical or possible to completely phase-out heavy, conventional fuels around the world, a sulphur scrubber system can be added to the exhaust system of ships to help reduce the amount of sulphur being emitted.

Better Port Management

As more and more ships are travelling around the world, congestion and large volumes of cargo can leave ports in developing countries overwhelmed. Rapidly expanding ports can be very damaging to the surrounding environment, take Shenzhen for example, it’s a collection of some of the busiest ports in China and there has been a 75% reduction in the number of mangroves along the coastline. Destroying valuable ecosystems has a knock-on effect on the rest of the country’s wildlife. Port authorities need to take responsibility for the environmental impact of construction and ensure that further expansion is carried out sustainably.

Some have suggested that instead of expansion, improved port management is needed. If port authorities can work with transport-planning bureaus, they will be able to establish more efficient ways of unloading cargo to reduce the impact on the environment caused by shipping congestion.

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