Lead Poisoning in Children
For more than a century, the people of Kabwe, Zambia have lived with devastatingly high levels of lead exposure. In 1994, after 90 years, Kabwe’s lead mine shut down. More than 25 years later, the people of Kabwe still suffer the consequences of decades of unstable mining and nearly nonexistent clean-up efforts by mine owners. Environmental health authorities say Kabwe has unprecedented levels of lead contamination leading to lead poisoning in children.

The EPA “defines a soil lead hazard as 400 parts per million (ppm) in play areas and a 1,200 ppm average for bare soil in the rest of the yard.” Black Mountain, a favorite place for Kabwe’s children to play, measures a staggering 30,000-60,000 ppm. The “mountain” is a massive heap of refuse. Adults often crawl through make-shift tunnels mining for lead, copper, manganese and zinc to sell. With more than half of Zambia’s population living below the poverty line, mineral scavenging provides vital income. Many people who venture beyond the “DANGER KEEP AWAY!” warning outside the mine site, say the risk of lead poisoning is a necessity if they want to feed their families.

Children at Risk

Lead poisoning in children is at a disproportionate rate due to children’s developing bodies and brains. Children absorb four to five times more lead than their parents. Lead exposure can result in skin rashes, poor appetite, weight loss, cough, stunted growth, learning disabilities and death. Often, lead poisoning goes undetected until it is too late. Many families will hide their lead-poisoned children because they fear stigma due to their child’s symptoms. In Zambia, 45.5% of children live in extreme poverty. As a result, they do not often have access to proper healthcare to treat lead poisoning.

The World Bank Project

The World Bank is funding a $65 million project, the Zambia Mining and Environment Remediation and Improvement Project (ZMERIP). The project aims to reduce environmental risks in lead hot spots. It also seeks to assist the Zambian government in addressing the dangers of lead exposure and implementing safety protocols, providing health intervention and engaging mining companies in expanding awareness of their environmental and social responsibilities.

In 2020, the ZMERIP began the largest health intervention to address blood lead levels (BLLs) in children in Zambia. More than 10,000 children received lead poison testing. The CDC recommends a BLL in children of no more than 5 µg/dl. Of the children tested, 2,500 had BLLs of 45 µg/dl or more. Chelation therapy, “which binds the lead into a compound that is filtered out through the kidneys”, is the preferred treatment for children who test 45 µg/dl or higher. Children who test lower, receive vitamin supplements, iron and protein as treatment.

The World Bank attempted another project similar to the ZMERIP in 2011 but achieved little progress. With lessons learned, the World Bank is hopeful this new project will be successful. If the project attains the goals it has set out to complete, more than 70,000 people including 30,000 children will benefit from the information. While some Zambians have yet to realize the risks of lead exposure, the World Bank reports mostly positive responses to their health advocacy.

The Future for Zambia

For the children of Kabwe, the ZMERIP offers hope of reducing lead poisoning in children. It offers hope that play is not a risk and a toddler’s appetite for a fistful of dirt is not a life sentence by lead poisoning. The key to the project’s success is continuing prevention practices, education, remediation and the Zambian government’s obligation to enforce safety regulations after the project’s completion expected in 2022. The ZMERIP’s commitment places focus on improving the lives and futures of Kabwe’s most vulnerable and valuable asset, its children, the country’s future.

Rachel Proctor
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Plastic Waste in IndiaIndia produces 15 million tonnes of plastic waste annually, and most cities and towns in the country do not have the means to manage this. The lack of integrated solid waste management systems leads to numerous health and ecological crises. The burden of this issue falls on the Safai Saathis, or waste pickers, who collect and sort through waste daily. The job is dangerous and has little reward. Stepping in to tackle this issue is the United Nations Development Program’s Plastic Waste Management Programme. This project improves upon existing waste management systems to mitigate the dangerous effects of plastic waste in India. Before delving into the project, it is important to understand why plastics are so harmful in the first place.

Why Are Plastics so Harmful?

First, there is enough plastic waste on this planet to cover it four times over. Plastic waste can be found from the deepest depths of the ocean all the way to the clouds in the form of air pollution. There are even microplastics in people that come from food and water. Plastic waste build-up clogs sewage systems, thereby polluting rivers, groundwater resources and the air.

There are numerous implications of plastic waste in India. The waste harms animals who ingest or entangle themselves in it. The carcinogenic chemicals found in plastic can cause severe issues for human health, such as hormonal or genetic disorders, interference with the endocrine system and damage to reproductive health. Land pollution is yet another consequence of plastic waste. The plastics leach hazardous chemicals into the land, which destroys its capacity to support life.

More than this, plastic waste never actually goes away, and 95% of that waste does not get recycled. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, almost every piece of plastic ever made is still on Earth today. This is why it is mandatory to have waste management systems that can recycle old plastic and manufacture new things out of it. In other words, plastic waste is the ideal candidate for a circular economy.

UNDP Plastic Waste Management Programme

The work of this project can greatly aid in the fight against plastic waste in India. The main objective of the project is to establish a sustainable, community-led approach to efficient recycling. The initiative operates in 20 cities throughout India with 22 Swachhta Kendras (material recovery centers). It is designed to lower the devastating impacts on environmental and human health through the enhancement of sustainable plastic waste management practices.

According to the UNDP, the four main components of this project are to:

  1. “Create a socio-technical model for taking plastic waste management from informal to formal economy.
  2. Establish Material Recovery Centres for sustained practices in waste management.
  3. Institutionalize Swachhta Kendras within governance framework structures and improved socioeconomic conditions of waste pickers.
  4. Develop technology-supported knowledge management: Promote Cloud-based traceability, accountability and digital governance along waste value chain through our technical partner Mindtree through field implementing partners.”

According to a source from UNDP India, the greatest challenges to this program lie within the general lack of awareness by citizens of the threats related to handling plastic waste in India. For example, better waste management programs and access to education can prevent deadly practices like burning plastic waste and open dumping in channels and gutters. This project enhances methods of material recovery, separation and recycling. In addition, it also creates jobs, addresses better social security measures and positively impacts the livelihoods of waste pickers.

Safai Saathis

One of the most profound outcomes of this ongoing project is the initiative to improve the standards of living of Safai Saathis. Before the UNDP stepped in, waste pickers worked without the use of any safety equipment. Exposure to so much waste puts their health at risk. Because of the UNDP Waste Management Programme, the lives of many Safai Saathis strengthen in safety and social security.

Safai Saathis are deprived of social benefits and stuck in an abusive system. A great emphasis of the UNDP’s work is to ensure their dignity and social inclusion, as well as to increase their access to health care and self-help groups. As a result of the help of the UNDP, many have seen an increase in income. The workers also experience social upliftment from opening bank accounts and improved working conditions.

The fight against plastic waste in India is multifaceted and constantly progressing. Circular innovations like this Waste Management Programme turn unfathomable amounts of waste into new and useful materials, empowers communities and protect the health and safety of everyone in India.

Rochelle Gluzman
Photo: Flickr

Sanitation in Guam
Guam is a U.S. island territory in the Western Pacific with a population of slightly less than 170,000 people. There are multiple U.S. military bases on the island, which many consider critically important bases for U.S. strategic interests in the Pacific. The bases also provide the island with its principal source of income. Aside from being one of the military’s crown jewels, Guam has a rich indigenous (Chamorro) culture and beautiful coral reefs surround it. While not as beautiful but still impressive, Guam has a relatively robust system of sanitation. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Guam.

10 Facts About Sanitation in Guam

  1. Widespread Access to Safe Drinking Water: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 100% of people in Guam have access to a safe source of drinkable tap water. However, international travelers have only scored Guam’s drinking water as “moderate” in the categories of quality, pollution and accessibility.
  2. The EPA Funding Water Projects: In 2020, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committing more than $10 million to improve Guam’s drinking water. This money is going toward upgrading infrastructure, treatment systems and distribution facilities. Plans are also in place to promote water re-use and to develop methods of recycling the large amounts of stormwater that Guam receives.
  3. Improved Sanitation Facilities: Nine out of 10 people in Guam have access to an improved sanitation facility. This is a good sign for Guam’s population and its efforts to promote a sanitary society.
  4. Trash Collection: Guam Solid Waste Authority (GSWA) provides a trash collection service essentially identical to the service found in the vast majority of continental United States cities. Paying customers (~16,000) receive rollable trash bins which they place outside their homes on a specified day. Trucks collect this garbage and then dump it in a landfill. Non-paying customers can also bring their trash to a local servicing station.
  5. Recycling: Customers of GSWA also receive recycling carts for paper products, aluminum/metal cans and certain plastics. GSWA collects recycling twice a month. Similar to trash collection, non-paying customers can recycle at local “residential transfer stations.” These stations also have facilities for recycling glass and cardboard.
  6. Coastal Cleanup: Guam holds an annual coastal cleanup day every September. Thousands of volunteers partner with NGOs and governmental organizations to keep Guam’s beaches clean. This is one way that local people prioritize their island’s sanitation.
  7. COVID-19 Risk Due to Bases: One might consider that Guam should be able to combat COVID-19 easily because of its remote location in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, however, the presence of two major military bases heightens the risk of disease spread on the island. In fact, U.S. military bases are often COVID-19 hotspots. With 35 airmen testing positive for the disease at Anderson Air Force Base, Guam is no exception.
  8. COVID-19 Measures: Guam has declared a state of emergency due to the global pandemic. The government requires that citizens wear a face mask when using public transportation, and they strongly recommend that people wear a mask whenever in public. Stores are taking extra precautions through increased sanitation, and most restaurants have closed for dine-in services, but many are preparing to re-open.
  9. Grocery Delivery: A village mayor in Guam has partnered with a local Pay-Less supermarket to provide a grocery delivery service to all village residents. The service is called Grocery to Go and provides a safe way for citizens to obtain food during the global health emergency.
  10. Mask Donations: GTA Teleguam, the largest telecommunications company in Guam, is donating 10,000 masks to healthcare clinics and nonprofits on the island. This is a massive boon for families struggling financially, as they will not have to worry about purchasing these critical sanitation items.

As these 10 facts about sanitation in Guam show, the island has a solid foundation of water, sanitation and trash systems. The massive coastal cleanup and the community-driven efforts to combat the spread of COVID-19 clearly demonstrate the commitment of the islanders to their home. Although the pandemic is putting Guam’s sanitation and health facilities to the test, individual citizens and organizations are rising to the challenge.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Department of Defense

10 Facts about Sanitation in American SamoaAmerican Samoa refers to the seven South Pacific islands and atolls that have belonged to the U.S. since 1900. The U.S. Navy governed the islands until 1951 after the deed of cession in which the local chiefs of the Tutuila ceded the island. Today, American Samoa has an elected, nonvoting representative in the U.S. House of Representatives. Like many island nations in the pacific, sanitation is one of the major challenges that American Samoa faces every year. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in American Samoa.

10 Facts about Sanitation in American Samoa

  1. Groundwater resources in American Samoa are limited. The islands that create American Samoa face the same challenges as any island nation. Underground water sources of many island nations are located near the salty seawater. In practice, this means that there’s only a limited amount of water people can draw from and limited space for people to drill wells underground. The fresh water that is accessible on the island is the source of nearly all public drinking water.
  2. Tap water is not drinkable in American Samoa. American Samoa has general access to improved drinking-water that is protected from outside contamination through pipes and sanitation processes. However, the water quality of local streams and rivers is still poor. Visitors are warned to drink bottled water when on the islands.
  3. Rapid urbanization contributed to water pollution. Previously, many villages in American Samoa relied on their local streams and rivers as a source of freshwater. Rapid urbanization, which happened from 1960 to 2004 in American Samoa contributed to the degradation of sanitation in American Samoa. The rapid urbanization and the lack of proper waste disposal polluted the natural water sources near cities. Unchecked development of the islands, such as deforestation to build plantations and housing, also alters the natural flow of local rivers and streams.
  4. Local pig farms contribute to water pollution. Pigs are an important part of culture and food in American Samoa. According to the EPA, there are 2,700 pig farms on Tutuila Island and many more on the six other islands of American Samoa. The majority of the pig farmers operate small-scale pig farms, consisting of anywhere from one to 20 pigs in their backyards. Many pig farmers simply use pressurized water to clean out their pig pens, which leads to polluted water seeping into local rivers and water sources.
  5. In July of 2003, American Samoa received full approval for the pollution control program. This approved program helped the American Samoa government to conduct facility inspections and improve environmental regulations. The American Samoa government worked with landowners to build walls and other structures to contain and direct runoff from pig waste. The program also moved more than 100 pigs away from streams and rivers. This resulted in a 91 percent decrease in average E. coli concentration in the streams.
  6. The Keep American Samoa Beautiful (KASB) program is reducing pollution. KASB encourages the general public to help improve sanitation in American Samoa. There are multiple programs that encourage the people of American Samoa to reduce littering. This kind of program is important for American Samoa since litter, garbage and pollution attract mosquitoes. Diseases such as dengue fever and elephantiasis are some of the diseases that constantly plague the people of American Samoa.
  7. In 2016, the United States EPA awarded $8.9 million to American Samoa. The government of American Samoa will use this awarded money to ensure access to safe drinking water and to improve the general sanitation of American Samoa. Some of the projects include connecting new wells to drinking water systems, a new water storage tank at Upper Pago Pago and a sewer line extension to Aua village.
  8. ASEPA faces a few challenges in future plans for the quality and supply of fresh water. Lack of data prior to 2000 poses a challenge for improving the quality of water and sanitation in American Samoa. First, the lack of data makes it difficult to identify historical trends. Second, it makes anticipating possible water quality problems in the future difficult. This is more important than ever because of climate change.
  9. Cyclones and hurricanes are a major threat to sanitation in American Samoa. American Samoa often faces tropical cyclones and hurricanes. In 2018, cyclone Gita left a trail of devastation in American Samoa. Cyclones can be a major source of pollution in local water supplies for a variety of reasons. The rain from hurricanes and cyclones often contains undrinkable salt water. Flooding caused by events can pick up chemicals and other hazards that can contaminate the local water sources.
  10. The tuna industry is contributing to water pollution. American Samoa is asking tuna cannery industries in American Samoa to contribute to conserving waterTuna canneries are one of the biggest industries in American Samoa. As a result, there were elevated phosphorous levels in local watersheds. The Pacific Regional Integrated Sciences and Assessments Program recommends the tuna canning industries monitor and improve water usage.

These 10 facts about sanitation in American Samoa reveal many challenges. However, it is clear that there are efforts to further improve the conditions in American Samoa. The U.S. government awarding funds for projects that improve water quality. Furthermore, the American Samoa government is also collecting environmental data to prepare themselves for potential challenges in the future. With these improvements, a cleaner American Samoa awaits for all of its inhabitants.

YongJin Yi
Photo: Flickr

Fast Fashion
The fashion industry used to be “four seasons in a year; now it may be up to 11, 15 or more.” This phenomenon is resulting in “fast fashion.” Currently valued at $1.2 trillion, with more than $250 billion spent in the U.S. alone, the fashion industry has exploded as increased wages have increased demand. With this overload in consumption, there is inevitably much waste which damages the environment and exploits poor workers.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile were created in 2013. More than three out of every four garments has been incinerated or put in landfills. Traditionally, the U.S. has tried to reduce waste by selling used clothing to countries such as Pakistan, India, and Russia. With the strong dollar and increasing availability of cheap clothing from Asia, however, demand for secondhand clothing has decreased. As a result,  large amounts of waste needed to be taken care of.

The fast fashion industry also imposes an immense burden on the environment. The industry produces “10 [percent] of global carbon emissions and remains the second largest industrial polluter, second only to oil.” Producers consume nearly 70 million barrels of oil a year in just the production of polyester fiber and dump 1.7 million tons of dyeing chemicals into the environment. The industry also goes through an estimated 1.5 to 2.4 trillion gallons of fresh water a year, polluting much of it and damaging both human health and the environment.

While recent progress has created worker empowerment, the use of cheap labor in the fashion industry has been marred by tragedy. In 2013, a garment factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh collapsed, killing more than 1,100 people. Like other countries experiencing immense poverty, Bangladesh would “see its economy collapse” without the textiles industry. Brands such as Gap, Adidas and H&M have also been criticized for using child labor, paying wages of 50 cents per hour and demanding 10-hour shifts. With other options only as good as intensive agricultural work, many uneducated women find these abusive jobs as their best options. Workers also have had very little leverage in negotiating their working terms and so have less job security.

As all these issues continue to be exposed, however, progress will continue to be made. Since the factory collapse, registered trade unions in Bangladesh have increased from three to 120 and wages nearly doubled. As consumers have grown warier, smaller brands have emerged to promote the “slow fashion movement,” where people shop for quality over quantity and buy products made of sustainable materials. Larger brands have also sought change. H&M and Patagonia launched trade-back programs where customers can send in unwanted clothing that will be recycled and sold again. Nike has also worked to eliminate child labor and improve working conditions.

Although it is always great to see businesses take the initiative in improving the fast fashion industry, the ultimate dictator of change is the customer. Customers are the deciding factor in what companies produce. If the purchasing culture changes to one where customers primarily value how companies have treated its workers and the environment, then the necessary change will follow.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr

Montreal Protocol Amendment Implemented in 2016
The Montreal Protocol, ratified by the United States in 1988, is an international treaty and aims to provide security and the foundations to eradicate the use of ozone-depleting substances. The initiative is also the only universal treaty to be ratified by all member states of the U.N. An amendment brought by all member states of the U.N. in October agreed to new plans to decrease the use of greenhouse gasses found in air conditioning and refrigeration technology.

Collaboration on plans to develop the Montreal Protocol Amendment to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) began a year prior to its passage by world leaders. HFC emissions are most prevalent in refrigeration and air conditioning technologies and have the vast potential to drastically increase global temperatures, as warned by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator (EPA), Gina McCarthy.

The United States has already taken action to eliminate the use of HFCs, as demonstrated by the Clean Air Act (CAA) and President Obama’s Climate Action Plan (CAP). The EPA reports that the president’s CAP initiative also calls for investment in more energy-efficient and environmentally safe alternatives to decrease amounts of greenhouse gas.

The EPA predicts HFC gas emissions to increase 20 times the current level over the decades in the near future. Timely attention to the phasing out of HFC emissions, due to the extremely high potency of the gas in ozone-depleting processes, is imperative to the success of environmental protection and sustainability. Sustaining current emissions of HFCs into the environment also has the potential to counterbalance existing efforts to phase out other ozone-depleting substances, as reported by the EPA.

However, in a press release from the president’s Office of the Press Secretary, results of the plans set forth to cut HFC and other greenhouse gas emissions in the private sector equate to, “taking 210 million passenger vehicles off the road for a year.” The World Bank also states, “consequences of climate change could cause an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030.”

U.N. Sustainable Development Goals outline universal climate action as pivotal to ensuring beneficial development for countries in both the global north and south. The World Bank’s Climate Change Action Plan also provides a framework for global regions, recognizing variations in challenges and needs, to administer support and action plans should challenges arise due to the declining state of nature.

Amber Bailey

Photo: Flickr

reducing food waste
Reducing food waste could potentially prevent climate change and help end global poverty. In the first study of its kind, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calculated that the world’s population wastes 1.3 billion tons of food per year. That food waste also results in 3.3 billion tons of greenhouse gases entering the atmosphere.

Food waste also costs the world $750 billion annually. The United States alone wastes $161 billion a year. Another study calculated that $265 billion per year would end world poverty and hunger by 2030.

The FAO’s study, “Food Wastage Footprint: Impacts on Natural Resources,” focuses specifically on the environmental impacts of wasting food. A 54 percent majority of this waste occurs during the production phase, and developing nations struggle most during this part.

On the other hand, 46 percent of food waste occurs during the distribution and consumption of those products. Developed countries waste more during the consumption phase; they are responsible for 31 to 39 percent of total food waste.

Reducing food waste requires positive change in all phases of the food production and consumption chain. The FAO also suggested teaching more environmentally friendly farming practices and better analysis of the balance between supply and demand. As a result, the entire food production process would be more efficient and profitable during both phases.

Not only does reducing food waste affect the economy and environment, but it also has a positive social impact. If consumers in developed countries reduced their food waste, then farmers in developing nations would have more land and other resources. These farmers could use the extra water and space to grow the foodstuffs their countries (and other developing nations) need.

Both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and FAO provide toolkits for reducing food waste. The EPA’s toolkit also provides a guide full of information specifically about the U.S. It also contains an implementation plan for starting a local advocacy movement. Here are just a few ways individuals can help reduce food waste:

  1. Plan before shopping. Checking the fridge and pantry before shopping can prevent overbuying.
  2. Buy the ugly fruits and vegetables. They are still perfectly good to eat.
  3. Keep track of “Sell By” and “Use Before” dates. Sometimes, food stays good much longer than a sell by date. In addition, make sure to eat foods that are nearing those use before dates.
  4. Be creative. If they are a little wilted or wrinkled, those foods are still great for smoothies, soups, pies, etc.
  5. Eat smart and share. Controlling portion sizes when cooking or ordering food while out will reduce food waste. If there are extras or leftovers, sharing with family and friends can also help.
  6. Freeze food. This will keep it fresh until a much later date.
  7. Compost. Buying a kitchen composter or recycling waste in a garden will keep food out of landfills.
  8. Donate. Donating untouched food to homeless shelters or others in need will be doubly beneficial. Instead of becoming waste, it will go to the people who desperately need it.

Food waste clearly has a widespread impact in all avenues of human life. Better communication and balance between farmers and distributors would save both money and the environment. More thoughtful purchasing and consumption at the individual level would also contribute. If the world can cooperate and reduce food waste, then there is greater hope for the end of environmental destruction and global poverty.

Taylor Hazan

Photo: Pixabay

In the poverty discussion, it is easy to forget Mexico. Although less than two percent of the country lives below the international poverty line set by the World Bank, poverty and lack of economic and educational opportunity is very prevalent throughout the country. It is estimated that 42 percent of the population lives in some degree of poverty in Mexico.

Under President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration, efforts to provide economic and educational opportunities have been made and the country has also instituted universal healthcare during his time in office.

One of Mexico’s newest ambitions is to extract the oil and gas reserves in the Eagle Shale Ford. The massive shale field starts in Texas and runs south along Mexico’s eastern corridor into Veracruz.

According to the Mexican government, the Eagle Shale Ford holds approximately 90 billion barrels of untapped oil and natural gas reserves. This makes Mexico one of the biggest hydrocarbon controlling countries in the world.

Officials believe that the rise of hydraulic fracturing in the United States can be applied in Mexico. Hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” involves drilling into shale and blasting a mixture of water, sand and a litany of chemicals against the rock. This fractures the rock, allowing the gas or oil to be extracted.

This method has recently enabled Texas to ramp up oil operations. The state now produces as much oil annually as Mexico does.

President Nieto passed legislation last year that ended Pemex, the state-owned energy monopoly, and opened up foreign investment to private energy companies.

The difference between oil exploitation in Texas and Mexico is striking. Texas has over 8,000 wells operating in the shale field. In northern Mexico, there were only 25 by the end of 2014.

Mexico believes it is in their best economic interest to exploit the rest of their reserves. In an interview with Dallas Morning News, Mexican Ambassador Medina Mora said that the development of wells is key to limiting the influence of cartels. “The best way to counteract organized crime is to develop jobs in poor areas, that’s why investment by foreign energy companies is key to our future,” Mora said.

However Mexico’s ambition to exploit these reserves have many barriers. Some areas in the Eagle Shale Ford are controlled by various drug cartels. Foreign companies performing preliminary drilling have been known to pay cartels for access to prospective well sites.

Those same cartels also illegally extract oil from pipelines. Pemex asserts it has lost over a billion dollars in revenue over the past few years due to this.

For some foreign energy companies, this lack of security has kept them away from Mexico. Federal Congressman Javier Travińo of Nuevo León said that states must “get their house in order” if they want international investment.

Despite the day and night differences in security and infrastructure in Texas and Mexico, fracking still raises the same health and environmental concerns.

Fracking is banned in New York, Maryland and various counties and municipalities across the US. It is prohibited in Scotland and Wales as well. These bans were enacted due to the proven environmental and health concerns surrounding the process.

There are 250 chemicals commonly used in fracking. Many are detrimental to mammals, aquatic life and human health. The water and chemical mixture, or slurry, that is left in the ground has been linked to contaminated groundwater. Some chemicals have unknown effects.

The amount of water used for fracking also raises concern. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 70 to 140 billion gallons of water were used in the U.S. for fracking. For water deprived Mexico, this will be an issue if necessary infrastructure and security materialize.

Mexico has much more lax environmental regulations than the United States. For companies that have made investments, there isn’t much transparency required with the public.

Gabino Vicente, a delegate from a small town at the southern edge of the Eagle Shale Ford, says companies are leasing land by deceiving owners in Mexico. “They take advantage of the poverty and low education levels to gain access to the land. Many citizens don’t even know what fracking is.”

Mexico is faced with a tough choice. There are direct economic incentives to exploit their natural resources. However, the environmental and social costs, which are obscure and delayed, could negate the monetary gains.

Whichever option is pursued, the citizens of Mexico have the right to be educated about this issue.

Kevin Meyers

Sources: Global Issues, HSPH, Keep Tap Water Safe, Poverty Data, Dallas News, Roar Mag
Photo: Dallas News

Each year, industrialized countries like the U.S. waste just about as much food as the total net amount of food that is produced in sub-Saharan Africa. That is 222 million tons wasted in comparison to 230 million produced.

In 2009, the amount of food wasted was equal to more than 50 percent of cereal crops produced globally, which is 2.3 billion tons of food.

The United States Department of Agriculture began its U.S. Food Waste Challenge in June of 2013. Along with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, their goal was to acquire 1,000 supporters by 2020.

Some of the goals are to minimize food wasted in school meal programs, find ways to reuse food that is rejected from the market due to “un-sellability”, estimate the amount of food waste in the U.S. each year, and discover new technologies that decrease that amount.

The initiative is much needed, considering that the average American consumer throws away ten times the quantity of food that someone in Southeast Asia does. That number has grown by 50 percent since the 1970s.

On average, American wastes about 40 percent of all food. Waste takes place on farms, in grocery stores, in homes, and in landfills. That is equivalent to 20 pounds per person, $165 billion, and one fourth of all freshwater per year.

Studies show that if America reduced food waste by just 15 percent, the amount of food saved could feed more than 25 million people per year.

Fresh water is a precious resource all over the world, and 80 percent of it is used to produce food in the U.S. Food production also uses half of the country’s land and ten percent of the nation’s total energy budget.

Food that decays in landfills now makes up nearly 25 percent of total U.S. methane emissions.

Yolanda Soto is looking to dramatically reduce the amount of food wasted in America by saving 35-40 million pounds of produce every year. She does this by collecting food rejected at the U.S.- Mexican border and shipping it to needy families in the U.S. and Mexico.

More than 50 percent of food grown in Mexico and imported to the U.S. is inspected and rejected at the border near Nogales, Arizona. Each trailer carries about $70,000 worth of food.

Soto started Borderlands Food Bank in the 1990s after being shocked at how much edible produce is tossed despite the high percentage of people plagued by hunger.

The organization’s focus is “to provide fresh, nutritious produce to people in need, advocate for the hungry, and help eradicate malnutrition and hunger.”

Beginning with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, imported fruits and vegetables undergo inspection by around 40 different government agencies. Produce is taken out of commerce if it does not meet the USDA’s standards for quality and size.

“It’s perfectly good,” says Soto about the produce she redistributes, “but because it had some scarring, they couldn’t sell it. Who’s going to buy it?”

The truth is, American’s have this idea that in order to taste good, food has to look perfect. Anything less than perfect is rejected.

– Lillian Sickler


Sources: NPR, The Huffington Post Border Lands Food Bank National Resources Defense Council World Food Day U.S. Environmental Protection Agency USDA
Photo: Takepart

Since the past several weeks, parts of the African nation of Liberia continue to experience an invasion of caterpillars affecting crops and vegetation as well as water sources.

The Salayea and Zorzor Districts of Lofa County, located in the northernmost area of the country, have seen the brunt of the invasion. Specifically, the Lamai and Suenamai Villages and Ganglota Town, as well as surrounding towns and villages, are the primary targets of the insect invasion.

Likewise, the Jorquelleh District, located in the central part of the country, has seen its villagers attacked by jumbo caterpillars. These caterpillars, covered in long hair and nearing the length of a finger, have attacked plantations as well as homes.

It is possible the caterpillars have also been discovered in the Kolahun District of the country, according to unconfirmed reports.

The Liberia Institute of Statistics and Geo-information Services, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Environmental Protection Agency Lofa and the Ministry of Agriculture have developed a collaboration as a means to stop the invasion from continuing to spread.

Inhabitants of the most affected towns have been told to cut down cotton trees and avoid using affected water sources, including rivers and creeks.

Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Technical Services, Dr. Sizi B. Subah, noted that the invasion of caterpillars is most likely related to climate change.

The invasion of destructive worms is the first since 2009, when the government declared a national agricultural emergency. The 2009 invasion was considered the worst in three decades after affecting scores of towns in the country — a country that was still recovering from a civil war — swarming through forests, cocoa and coffee fields throughout the country.

Scientists and government officials have noted the importance of targeting the pests at the right time. Waiting too long to attack the caterpillars may result in sustainable damage to food and water sources.

— Ethan Safran

Sources: allAfrica, Star Africa, NBC News, NY Times
Photo: The Guardian