Whoa Whoa Whoa China, Thats our neodymium!

recent developments such as photovoltaic panels ( solar panels) have caused a high demand precious metals that have not been of such high importance in the past. The US has large quantities of these precious metals and we have had pressure from world powers such as china to export them in high quantities. Some say these metals could cause the next “oil crisis.” Lets hope not because its on US soil. These metals are found in cell phones and laptops as well which we are using at a highly disposable rate now. We have created recycling plans for these metals which will help but once the solar craze gets going, these metals will run out quite fast. Ties with other world powers will surely be corrupted because there seems to be no easy way around this issue. You think green electric cars are a great idea? They require tons of these metals. These cars are the future of transportation and along with PV panels these metals will be used up at a tremendous rate!

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Honey, The carrots taste like LEAD!

This may be what you hear at the dinner table if you live in the north east and grow your own vegetables. Researches are finding very high levels on lead in the soil throughout the nation and especially in the north east where there is much older soil. This happens by wind and rain splashing lead based things and then bringing them into the soil in which we grow our precious vegetables. There have been recent innovations such as raised gardens so let the rain water drain out, however this is not helping as much as we’d hope. Luckily we have found that this lead does not have a substantial impact on our bodies and our bodies are good at ridding themselves of the lead quite quickly. There really isnt much we can do to rid the soil of lead because they say the lead can be traced to houses with lead paint being burnt down centuries ago. We’ll have to get used to roasted carrots o’lead.

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Let’s get mineral, mineral. I wanna get mineral. I wanna have a little chat about minerals. What sparked the idea for this blog was that I thought asbestos as a gas that was poisonous to forms of life. This was wrong it is in fact a mineral so lets shed a little light on everybody’s favorite recal. The term asbestos is a generic designation referring usually to six types of naturally occurring mineral fibers that are or have been commercially exploited. These fibers belong to two mineral groups: serpentines and amphiboles. The serpentine group contains a single asbestiform variety: chrysotile; five asbestiform varieties of amphiboles are known: anthophyllite asbestos, grunerite asbestos (amosite), riebeckite asbestos (crocidolite), tremolite asbestos, and actinolite asbestos. These fibrous minerals share several properties which qualify them as asbestiform fibers: they are found in bundles of fibers which can be easily separated from the host or sparated into thinner fibers; the fibers exhibit high tensile strengths, they show high length: diameter ratios, from a minimum of 20 up to 1000. They are sufficiently flexible to be spun; and macroscopically, they resemble organic fibers such as cellulose. Since asbestos fibers are all silicates, they exhibit several other common properties, such as incombustibility, thermal stability, resistance to biodegradation, chemical inertia toward most chemicals, and low electrical conductivity.

The term asbestos has traditionally been attributed only to those varieties that are commercially exploited. The industrial applications of asbestos fibers have now shifted almost exclusively to chrysotile. Two types of amphiboles, commonly designated as amosite and crocidolite are no longer mined. The other three amphibole varieties, anthophyllite asbestos, actinolite asbestos, and tremolite asbestos, have no significant industrial applications presently. The use of asbestos is one of the most controversial issues surrounding the industrial minerals industry. Its carcinogenic nature, an overall lack of knowledge of minimum safe exposure levels, its widespread use for more than 100 years, and the long latency for the development of lung cancer and mesothelioma are the main contributing factors to these controversies. Another factor is that, despite decades of research, the mechanisms responsible for its carcinogenic properties are still largely unknown.

The United States produced about 3.29 million metric tons (Mt) of asbestos and used approximately 31.5 Mt between 1900 and 2003. About half of this amount was used after 1960. In 2002, the last asbestos mine in the United States closed, marking the end of more than 110 years of U.S. asbestos production. Cumulative world production from 1900 through 2003 was about 181 Mt. If one assumes that unusually large stocks were not maintained and that world consumption roughly equaled production, then about half of the world production and consumption occurred between the end of 1976 and the end of 2003.

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The Bridge Over the River Kwai

Everybody loves a good river whether your fishing, napping or having a nice little picnic, rivers are always an attraction and the following are some of the nicest wet spots on the map. Rivers irrigate crops which is necessary for agriculture, they generate renewable energy through tidal turbines and have a positive impact on the environment and human kind. Check out my top three starting with the classic Amazon. Beginning in Brazil and traveling through Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia and Venezuela before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean, the Amazon is perhaps the most record-breaking river in the world. It is the largest (2.7 million sq. miles), the widest (202 miles wide at its mouth; 6.8 miles wide along its path) and among the longest (4,000 miles) and deepest (300 feet in some spots). It is also called the “Ocean River” because it boasts the greatest total discharge of all rivers—between 9 million and 32 million gallons per second—which is 20 percent of the world’s freshwater ocean discharge. The Amazon is all a nd good but how do you feel about the Caño Cristales! Also in South America.

Starting in the Andean foothills of the Amazon rainforest in Colombia, the “river that ran away from paradise” is generally regarded as the most beautiful in the world due to its brief seasonal blooming of colorful bottom-feeding algae. In full glory during late October and early November when the water level is just right, vibrant blotches of reds, oranges, yellows, greens and blues paint its water—turning the surface into a virtual rainbow. Lets hop across the pond and take a peak at the Danube River in Europe. At 1,770 miles long, the Danube is the second longest river in Europe after the Volga. But unlike the Volga, which only runs through Russia, the Danube snakes through Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and the Ukraine before emptying into the Black Sea. Vital to the settlement and political evolution of central and southeastern Europe, the Danube’s banks are lined with castles and fortresses as it was the boundary between so many great empires. Today the lower portion of the Danube is a major avenue for freight transport, while the upper Danube is an important source of hydroelectricity. I would have to say that this is my favorite based solely on the fact that it is used as a source of hydroelectricity. I think that if all natural recourses are used to supplement the energy load then our environment we be all the better for it.

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Watch out Mississippi, its not over yet!

Just as it seems the Gulf Coast couldnt get any worse, there seems to be a serious issue on the rise. The Chandeleur Islands-Biloxi Marsh system is on its last lifeline. These islands are just off the coast of Mississippi and take the majority of the wave break, protecting the coastline. These islands are slowly disappearing which means the coastline will begin to take a lot more harsh waves and the the marshland before the coastline will most likely disappear with the islands. This will cause great trouble for Mississippi if hurricanes continue to batter the gulf coast. These islands were its last line of defense. The islands have been said to be ” past the point of recovery by scientists working to preserve them. the disappearance of these islands will also mean the disappearance of the wildlife who call the islands and marshland home. Its sad that we cannot do anything to change this string of events, but we must adapt to an ever changing environment.

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Just Gulfing, Gulfing

If you have taken Environmental Science then you know what a hypoxic zone is. If you haven’t then it’s also known as a dead zone because it can no longer support life. The Gulf of Mexico is one of these areas and it has only gotten worse since oil spill of April this year. The dead zone has been building over time as each spring and summer fertilizer from the fields of the U.S. Midwest runs off into the Mississippi River. It carries the nutrients down the length of the continent before dumping them into the Gulf of Mexico. Once they get there, the nitrogen and phosphorus explodes in a bloom in algae, phytoplankton and other microscopic plants. After the plants die they drift to the bottom and their decomposition sucks the oxygen out of the seawater. The result is a vast dead zone, lethal to sea life that cannot swim out of the way, in inhabitable waters near the Gulf Coast that is sometimes as large as the land mass of New Jersey and with the as much as 3.8 million liters of oil now spilling into the Gulf per day this will only get worse.

The oil spill may exacerbate the shallow-water dead zone through a bunch of physical and biological processes. But it could also help minimize the dead zone through similar means. Overall, the response of the Gulf dead zone to the oil spill is quite uncertain, with oxygen levels being tugged up and down by numerous factors, leaving the future of this habitat in question. At the same time, further from shore, the oil is having a host of potential oxygen-depleting effects from the surface waters all the way to the seafloor. So think about it: Will the oil spill create more dead zones in those deeper habitats? Or could it simply help to minimize the one we already have? Oil creates a slick that rides on the water’s surface. First and foremost, this physical coating prevents seawater from absorbing oxygen from the atmosphere. As the oil washes into ever-shallower waters, that barrier will particularly choke off oxygen in the estuaries and wetlands that serve as habitat and nurseries for much sea life, in essence asphyxiating larvae and other inhabitants.

Of course, the smaller Exxon Valdez oil spill never ended up creating such dead zones near shore. The 41.5 million liters of oil spilled off southern Alaska dropped oxygen levels in the water by as much as 50 percent but currents there minimized the damage to sea life, and the large-scale movements of seawater may work similarly in the Gulf. I thought reading this that only bad things were to come of this enormous oil spill however it appears that the introduction of this spill could help the giant spill at the expense of creating several other, smaller oxygen depeted zones.

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It’s snowing in Charlotte… Global what?

On the topic of controversial issues, I looked outside and saw a few flurries. Ive been called a skeptic by many and I tend to stray away from societal norm of worrying about global warming. Recently Al Gore received a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in ” An Inconvenient Truth.” He has all all of Florida worried that if they dont recycle their water bottles then they will be living under water in a few years. It seems that no matter what “proof” environmentalists bring to the table about how we are warming up the atmosphere, there are just as many facts proving that it is because of natural causes and that we have nothing to worry about. Granted just because we dont have to worry about it, that does not mean we shouldn’t try to clean up the environment. I think the fear factor has worn off because we havent seen significant changes to our environment and since we dont see results from our recycling people have begun to stop caring or worrying so much about Al Gore’s threatening message. The best thing that has happened since the green movement is an economic boom in green products. Im not saying these new green products actually do anything for the environment, but they persuade consumers to spend a bit more or buy something newer in order to make themselves feel better about themselves because they are “helping the environment.” I hope that this trend continues and that it will help bring our economy back up to where it should be…jr

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