The Garlick Press: Unemployment among conservationalists

The school year is ending quickly, and as a second semester senior, I am looking forward to my college experience. In my free time, I’ve been researching my major, environmental science. Within the schools I have applied for, the programs are wonderful, with plenty of opportunities for internships and studying abroad.

I cannot wait to get started on my future, working in labs and publishing papers about pollution levels and the health of local forests.

After getting excited about my major, I started thinking more about where my future degree would take me. I searched for job opportunities that arise from an environmental science degree.

My excitement quickly diminished when I was dismayed to find the lack of employment within these jobs. I scrolled through forums among forums of people who had graduated with similar degrees and had been job-hunting for years, without prevail.

After freaking out for a short while, I wondered why this could be. But after revisiting CNN and ABC news later that day, it was clear what the reason was: our current government. Most of this conflict comes from political figures who refuse to support or believe the proof behind global warming and environmental change.

It makes sense, but baffles me at the same time. Why is it so hard to get hired as an environmental scientist, when global warming is looming over all of us? Yet still we hear about the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) being shut down more and more due to current political standings in the White House.

Hopefully, the future will not be so difficult to compete in for environmental specialists and consultants. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental scientists and specialists should expect employment in their field to grow 11 percent from 2016 to 2029, a rate faster than average occupations.

My hope is that the looming threat of irreversible changes in the weather and our environment will spring every country to action. This may seem dire, but global warming is an imminent threat to the health of everyone on earth, and this field of study and advocacy will step up to solve these issues.

For all my fellow aspiring environmentalists, our efforts will not be in vain to make a difference. Saving the planet will be our job, and protecting our future is in our hands.

The Garlick Press: Does ‘flexible’ vegetarianism have a lasting impact?

It has long been known that climate change is happening, and that our everyday consumption of fuels and products contribute to the rising temperatures. But what people don’t usually think of straight away is how diet can affect the environment.

Yes, I am talking about vegetarianism. I have been a vegetarian for almost a year now, and recently been reflecting on my journey of cutting out meat and various dairy products with my family, and we’ve been discussing different kinds of vegetarianism along with what reasons I myself abstain from meat products.

Not only do people abstain from meat for religious, dietary or ethical reasons, they also stay away from consuming animal products for a better environmental impact.
Beef industries take up a lot of water and energy. According to a study from 2010 conducted by Water USGS gov, California uses around 101 to 250 million gallons of freshwater and groundwater for livestock, coming in as the second state for most bovine water consumption.

But of course, not everyone wants to give up meat in the blink of an eye — or at least, not for the rest of their lives. So the question of eating meat less frequently throughout the week comes to the table.

There’s actually a dietary lifestyle for this concept; flexitarian. Combining ‘flexible’ and ‘vegetarian’ to create this new term perfectly exemplifies what flexitarians are; mostly focused on eating vegetables and simply reducing their meat intake.

Flexitarians will eat meat on fewer occasions, and mostly opt for meals that do not have animal products, cutting down their meat consumption more than the average meat eater.

Studies show families who have ‘meatless mondays’ and ‘fish fridays’ save water. According to the Meatless Monday Website, a quarter pound of beef takes 425 gallons of water to make, whereas soy takes only 75 gallons.

Some people are’ financial vegans’, and buy no meat unless it is free to them, saving their pocketbooks while working for a cause. Meat is expensive, and the average meat consumer can save $2,200-$3,000 each year, by just eat four less meals that have meet each week would save around $600-$800 per year, according to SomethingFinance20.

Others run into the ethical farm dilemma; if a chicken has been happy all its life living on a nice farm, and cannot stop itself from making eggs, is it ethical to eat them? Some will say yes, as the chicken was not harmed and is not contributing to global warming since it lives on a small scale operation. Besides, if you didn’t eat the egg, it could potentially become food waste.

Either way, it is up to the consumer to decide what is ethical to them and what makes the most important change for them personally. After all, becoming vegetarian is a personal choice.

Eating less meat could have health and ecological benefits, and decreasing the rate of one’s overall consumption could do a considerable amount of good for the environment and our population.

Making educated decisions about what kinds of dietary changes one can make to fit within a lifestyle is important for everyone’s health, as well as the planet’s.

The Garlick Press: Greener student driving

The student parking lot is always packed in the morning, with different types of vehicles: trucks, Mini Coopers and family SUVs. For families who are planning on getting a new car for their driving student, an electric car for simple commutes sounds ideal. One problem, however, is where to charge.

Charging stations will allow students and staff with electric vehicles to plug in during school hours.

That issue is going to be solved in a year. After construction for the new F building finishes, charging stations for both students and admin will be installed near the student parking lot.

Tara Grande, FUHSD facilities coordinator, is working on a joint project with Charge! Program to implement the new charging station plan.

“At Homestead, [where] we are looking to put [charging stations] is actually between the student lot and the access road,” Grande said.

In this way, the charging stations can be used by both administration, students and for the public after school hours.

Making charging stations available for students will benefit the campus by allowing families with electric vehicles to utilize the opportunity for a green and cost-effective commute. A newer option for charging stations will also allow prospective students to consider buying an electric vehicle as their first car.

Some college campuses have already taken this opportunity and put electric chargers into effect. Pomona College has 55 plug-in stations available for 1,500 students, installing it’s first six charging stations in 2011 according to a case study conducted by the EPA. Each station cost $6,000, and drivers pay $1.25 and admin get a discounted price at $0.15 per kWh.

Mountain View and Los Altos are also installing charging stations on their campus, according to Mercury News. Admin will be able to charge their electric vehicles at 240 volts for just a small fee. This strategy ultimately helps teachers with long commutes and who wish to use their electric cars to get to work.

Having an electricity-powered car can be more cost-effective than a classic gasoline-fueled vehicle. The California Clean Vehicle Rebate Project administered by CSE for the California Air Resources Board has raised incentives for lower-income households while capping eligibility for higher-income consumers, encouraging a solution to the divide created by financial differences.

When it comes to the cost-benefit analysis in terms of pollution, going electric is an excellent option to reduce greenhouse emissions.

According to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists found the emissions produced by an electric vehicle are less than the emissions of an average compact conventional vehicle, no matter the location of where the vehicle is used.

Our campus is green, and should also not just be green because of our colors. These new charging stations will benefit the staff and students and will encourage a greener commute.

The HHS charging stations will be implemented after the construction of the new F building, and soon, individuals with electric vehicles will have a place to plug in.

If you are looking for green options, resources such as DriveClean can help individuals find a valuable and affordable electric car that will benefit your family.

Garlick Press: Bay Area Superfund sites need super attention

A weekend ago, I hiked with a friend at Fremont Older, both of us looking to enjoy the fresh air and find an escape from our schoolwork. As we finally ascended the lookout called Hunter’s Point, I could see Silicon Valley below. Moffett Field, Levi Stadium, the giant flying saucer of the new Apple campus and something I did not expect: a quarry right behind the rich mansions of Los Altos Hills.

The mining operation had dug deep into the residing rock, exposing sedimentary layers and machinery. It looked like a big bruise in the beautiful rolling hills.

Before this, I had believed most mined materials used to build our cities were imported from over the hills beyond the valley, so as to not affect our living environment. I was surprised by how close this quarry actually was to houses.

After more research, I found even more quarries located north of the small operation I had seen from Hunter’s Point, including the Stevens Creek Quarry by the reservoir and the Lehigh Permanente Quarry, which has sparked concern in the past over the threat it may pose to public safety.

Quarries dig deep into the earth for minerals, and can hit groundwater supplies as their operations grow in size. The mining process can release toxic heavy metals like cadmium and arsenic, leaching out from underground and into the water systems that serve the public.

Yes, it is essential to have building materials close by for a growing community such as ours, but such operations must be assessed for unintended health and environmental hazards.

Superfund, the governmental program set up by the EPA to remediate polluted and intoxicated land, is what should be fixing these local disasters.

The Lehigh Permanente Quarry, though not currently labeled as a federal concern, is an active National Priorities List (NPL) Superfund site, according to the EPA.

Created in 1939, the quarry has been the main source of cement for the valley, but  has caused multiple concerns to the public over the years.

However, after testing nearby creeks and Monta Vista Park for air particulate and mercury levels, the quarry was deemed safe for surrounding citizens, and plans for reclamation are being put into effect, according to the Department of Planning and Development of Santa Clara.

While Superfund approached this case quickly, this federal government program is being neglected by our current presidency. As for the other surrounding quarries, their effects on our groundwater and air quality still remain a bit of a mystery.

But quarries are not the only hazardous locations affecting our health here in the valley. Other nearby Superfund sites in our neighborhood are being put on hold. Santa Clara is home to 23 Superfund sites according to Quartz, as the U.S. county with the most sites.

In such a tech-central destination, the brownfields, or polluted sites, in our backyards are mostly from old chip manufacturing. The materials used contained toxic chemicals such as ethylene glycol ethers (EGEs), most of which were dumped into surrounding areas. According to NBC Bay Area, 518 toxic ‘plumes’ or spills have been reported.

These groundwater plumes reside under large companies such as Texas Instruments in the industrial working area, and Moffett Field, according to NBC Bay Area’s interactive map of old Silicon Valley’s “chemical legacy”.

These locations are near us, and this fact should fear us. Toxic sites must be acknowledged by our local water management facilities and government cleanup programs to ensure the safety of residents. Not to mention, exploitation of natural resources so close to reservoirs and state parks is harmful to local wildlife and disrupts the aesthetic of our surrounding natural reserves.

The need to be aware of these hazardous areas and to be proactive to their remediation is essential to a better neighborhood.

The Garlick Press: Plants in the classroom

It is another day in the classroom, and I’m finding myself gazing through the window, only half-listening to the lesson I should be paying attention to. Why can’t we have class outside? I have thought about this many times, though the class doesn’t necessarily leave the room to get a good fill of nature.

Introducing classroom plants, a fresh new way to engage students as they learn.

It has been proven that nature improves one’s well being, mentally and emotionally. According to Healthline, plants indoors can help to decrease stress, anxiety and depression and instead work to boost one’s sense of stability and positive calm energy.

A fresh new way to look at learning may be through nature; or better yet, with nature accompanying the student. Plants have been proven to enhance the wellbeing of individuals, both mentally and emotionally. Now it is time to introduce foliage among the future generations in our classrooms.

According to researchers from a study from the American Society for Horticultural Science, the presence of houseplants causes improved productivity for individuals, including reduced stress levels, less eye irritation and an increase in motivation and concentration.

Now this element should be taken inside schools to help eliminate the more depressing days and uplift students as they learn.

Our campus currently consists of cinder blocks and asphalt, with trees in the quad as the only greenery standing.

In a study by the American Society for Horticultural Science from the University of Technology in Sydney observed the influence of houseplants in a middle school learning environment. It was found the classrooms with plants improved testing in spelling and mathematics within a 10-14 percent range.

So plants can help students with their academics? Now we’re talking.

It would be easy to incorporate these plants into classrooms on a small budget. Most houseplants range from around $10 to $100, and the cheapest house plants have a range of $5 -45, with the ability to buy Mother in Law’s Tongue, the Money Plant and Areca Palm, according to WiseBread.

Having more greenery around students while they work would also be a breath of fresh air.

Not only do plants indoors filter out negative energy, so to speak, they also clean the air. Air pollutants such as formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, ammonia and benzene are all removed from the air by common house plants, according to a study conducted by NASA in 1989.

These pollutants are released by plastics and and inks, which plenty exist in the learning environment. For the betterment of the student’s health, addressing these toxins with a plant or two would improve the cleanliness and breathability of stuffy classroom atmosphere.

Finally, a breath of fresh air. Plants can help students improve their academics and wellbeing, all the while brightening up the classroom.

The Garlick Press: New food waste bins

T

he City of Sunnyvale has implemented a new way for homes to become more green; food recycling bins after approving the idea last fall.

These new bins with bright yellow lids are for organic food waste, including banana peels, egg shells and seafood waste.

This is taking a giant step toward a greener future by introducing this fresh new initiative into our homes. In the past efforts, I have tried saving food scraps for composting, only to be affronted by terrible fermenting smells coming from my kitchen and backyard.

The City of Sunnyvale is aiming to remove organic food scraps from the municipal land waste area to reduce greenhouse gases from forming.

The FoodCycle bins can be attached to the inside of a normal garbage bin, allowing homeowners to build the habit of throwing food scraps into a separate bin. There are also FoodCycle bin compartments for curb waste bins, and handy counter pails to make separating food waste easier by hand. These scraps will be brought to Sustainable Organic Solutions in Santa Clara, which will process the scraps into animal feed for local farm animals after testing and sterilizing the scraps for diseases.

Some residents fear this program is taking away from normal garbage space, as well as previous composters. This program, however, helps to recycle food scraps that are otherwise difficult to break down such as dairy and meat products. Spoiled food will ferment and this method will reduce the amount of carbon emissions created in landfills.

Others are concerned about the cost of the system, which is 20 cents more than the normal garbage can systems, estimating to be $12.37 more monthly per family, according to Mercury News. However the benefits for landfills outweigh the expenses in the long run.

With these new green steps, the Silicon Valley is working towards a more sustainable future.If your home has not received a FoodCycle Bin they are still being distributed until Nov 10.

 

The Garlick Press: Politics and Puerto Rico

The biggest natural disaster is always around the corner, and now it has hit Puerto Rico. In shambles, the territory is scrambling to get back on its feet after the 4.4 magnitude earthquake.

Where is our President in this time of need? Nowhere.

Hurricane Maria’s category 4 storm was reported to have winds racking up around 150 mph the morning of Oct. 3, according to Slate. It has left Puerto Rico in havoc after devastating the island.

The international anti-poverty nonprofit Oxfam has recently condemned the response of the U.S. in its involvement with the hurricane wreckage. Oxfam is promising to advocate with Puerto Rican political leaders, and is outraged at the “slow and inadequate response” the U.S. government has made in regards to the natural disaster.

Recovery in Puerto Rico is a trainwreck right now. Citizens have been lining up in the streets for just the fundamentals. Gas, water and The Puerto Rico National Guard have been working to clear the roads and deliver supplies to locals, according to Weather Nation.

What has our leader done for the distressed citizens on the island? Nothing.

President Trump claims Puerto Rico has “thrown our budget a little out of whack” due to the expenses the United States has already invested into the region, according to Politico.

The leader and face of our territory should be supporting our fellow Americans. Instead, the president instead hurled rolls of paper towels into the crowd.

When billions worth of damage are required to rebuild cities on the island, President Trump has not started a support foundation or sent federal money to help out with the relief force. Instead, he donated one of his golf trophies to the territory.

Trump also compared Puerto Rico’s disaster to Hurricane Katrina and deemed the whole storm inadequate. He also stated Puerto Rico should be “proud” of its death count. What sort of condescending statement is that?

The president has undermined the entire population by stating the storm’s wreckage has only killed 16 people. The final death count turned out to be 34, according to New York Daily News.

Instead of acknowledging the families who have lost loved ones, Trump instead declared how “proud” he is of the territory, only continuing to attempt to sustain the limelight of positivity the president believes he is gaining from his broadcasted visit.

 

The Garlick Press is a monthly column by Kira Garlick.

The Garlick Press: Natural disaster prevention is better than procrastination

The storm has already broken and now all of us are left to clean up the damage. Hurricane Harvey in Houston, and the small but mighty Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys have hit with lasting impacts.

Hurricane Harvey was only a Category 1 storm when it began, but grew into a Category 4 storm as winds picked up speed from 110 mph to 130 mph, according to the National Hurricane Center.

Harvey lasted only a few days, but the billions of dollars in damage will stand for years. Rebuilding projects are estimated to be around $200 billion, which is 25 percent more than the costs to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina, according to CNBC. The destruction in New Orleans from Katrina is still being dealt with now, and Harvey is only in its initial stage of debris clean-up and rescuing the people obstructed by the storm.

It is time to take notice. With these current trends in weather, it seems like the entire nation should be ready to brace against an uphill battle.

The hurricane surge is definitely not subsiding either. Hurricane Maria reached a Category 5 rating Monday after forming a pinhole in the center, a strong indicator for a nasty storm. According to the Weather Channel, the combination of warm ocean temperatures and moist atmosphere allowed the storm to reach this status, and the hurricane will potentially damage the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico severely.

Yes, hurricane season is annual due to normal weather patterns, but the rate these clouds are brewing at is something entirely new. Considered the “most violent storms on Earth” by NASA, only heat and water are required to create them, and the levels of both are rising due to melting icebergs and greenhouse gases.

The records have already been toppled this year. The count for Atlantic hurricanes clocked in around 13, exceeding expectations for the past six months, according to NOAA.

The evidence proving climate change is already alarming, with rising global temperatures and receding glaciers. But even with these numbers, it seems like a real slap in the face from the weather is required. The only thing that will motivate real proactivity is the consequence itself, when there is no way around it.

But even with these obvious signs, only some of us are taking notice of these alarming new precedents in weather change. Precautions are still overlooked.

In Houston, 69 lives were taken, and thousands were left homeless and devastated from the flooding and water destruction. The city, however, should have been prepared for these possibilities.

Houston is only 40 feet above sea level and within range of the annual hurricane season due to its proximity from the Gulf of Mexico. So why were the people of Houston not prepared for such a disaster?

The city has added over 100,000 residents this past year, and has seen a 23 percent increase in population since 2001, according to CNN. The design was not well planned for natural disasters, however, and faces issues due to its urban sprawl.

The state is known to have “no zoning” regulations, which basically means buildings can be built in any location without having to pass requirements for flooding and other environmentally hazardous factors. Houston therefore falls behind the nation’s policies for a “freeboard,” a building requirement to avoid flooding. Houston set that requirement for only one foot, and that’s not prepared. Compared to cities like Nashville that require four feet, this standard simply is not up to par.

The storm was not the only factor affecting Houston, it was also city planning. These factors are all evidence that that outcome could have been prevented with smarter city planning and tighter regulation. Now the entirety of Houston has to rebuild itself.

A hurricane won’t hit California, but other natural disasters such as earthquakes can.

The repercussions Houston has faced can be an warning for how  California should take extra precaution in protecting homes before disaster hits.

Smaller earthquakes hit areas around San Francisco more often than we think ranging from 1.0 to 4.0 in the past month, according to Earthquake Track.

Don’t think the chance of a big earthquake is not affected by climate change, however. Earthquakes are triggered by slight increase in the pressures between tectonic plates, which are already coiled up like a spring. According to The Guardian, the rising temperatures that cause tsunamis and hurricanes can also cause a release of these strains in the crusts, which can result in the Earth’s crust shifting along the fault line. This process can not only trigger earthquakes, but also volcanoes rupturing as well.

The next big earthquake to shake California, known by locals as “The Big One” has become a pending reminder in our minds. We must be prepared for when natural disaster strikes. The Bay Area already requires a Standard Set Plan to strengthen homes and prevent weaker infrastructure from collapsing, implemented by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

It seems obvious enough that we cannot prevent the weather by brute force, but we should always be prepared and work towards preventing further global warming. With the rising temperatures resulting in weather pattern changes, it is a necessity to get everyone on their feet and reinforce their homes for the battle ahead.

From my POV: The Great American Eclipse

I
traveled a round trip of 1,575 miles in four days to see two minutes of total darkness in late August, for the first total solar eclipse in America since 1918. And I almost didn’t go.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for science, nature and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. I still hesitated at the offer. My family wanted to go to the zone of totality for the eclipse, where the moon blocks the whole sun and not partially. However, I could look up pictures on the internet of what an eclipse looks like. I could watch a timelapse or documentary. My school duties were calling to me and I didn’t want to be left in the dust.

But people talk about the experience of being in the shadow of the moon like it changed their lives. My family was determined to experience it for themselves, and so I was reluctantly pulled along.

We planned to stay at a relative’s ranch in Baker City, Oregon for the event. It was a beautiful property, with views of the farm fields and rolling mountains; a perfect place to watch the sun rise and set. Therefore, it was an ideal spot for seeing the sun hide behind the moon.

The morning of, we gathered on the hill in front of the house with eclipse glasses, setting up cameras. As the moon edged closer to the center of the sun, it began to dim like lights on a stage. The air got colder, and my gut felt nervous. It was an unnatural sunset; instead of the daylight falling away from one point, it was all of a sudden disappearing everywhere.

Then, as totality began, everything exponentially darkened, plunging me into a strange night. I looked up to the sun, and saw the moon covering the entirety of it, except for three beautiful corona flares popping from each side and a halo of light.

View of the eclipse and the darkness it casts on Baker City and the valley

Frogs croaked. Birds flew out of the trees. Everything was confused as to what was happening, and so was I.

I’ll admit I cried. It felt like the world was ending and for the two minutes of totality, I was in an entirely new dimension.
As the moon moved on, things gradually warmed up and started to return to normal. I was aware of time moving again.

An hour later, my family gathered our things and headed back on the road. The event really made me think about how amazing coincidences in nature can be, as well as the importance of the sun’s energy. Experiencing totality of the solar eclipse was something I definitely didn’t want to forget, and I was beyond thankful for going.