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Friday, November 21 2014 @ 11:56 AM UTC

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LIVING LONGER BY SAFER DRIVING, LESS SMOKING, & LESS DRINKING

Health & Environmentby Mark Plotz
-> This article could have been titled: "Gains in Life Expectancy Slowed by Obesity, Shootings, and Overdoses." A working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research examined preventable deaths for the period 1960-2010 and its conclusion is troubling: the longevity gained from our public health wins (safer cars, less smoking, less drinking) has been nearly cancelled out by the public health battles we are losing (obesity, shootings, and drug overdoses). The wins have given us an additional 1.82 years of good health; the losses have erased 1.77 years, leaving not much net gain. The study uses 'quality-adjusted life expectancy' as it is a more accurate measurement of years spent in good health. Read the working paper at http://bit.ly/1Ae7KDc or the summary at http://on.wsj.com/1sdkykg.

The decline in motor vehicle death rates is impressive, dropping from 20 per 100k in population (1960) to a little over 10 deaths per 100k (2010). The authors present the counterfactual scenario, which projects death rates if we had done nothing--freezing seat belt use, impaired driving, and vehicle safety at 1960 levels--and continued to drive at our current rate: we reach 78 deaths per 100k population by 2008 before the plunge in VMT brings deaths back down to 65 per 100k in 2010. The lesson seems to be it is remarkable what we can accomplish when government, the private sector, and the public agree on a public health threat and decide to act.

The trend is going the wrong way in Houston, where the voters told the City to turn off red light cameras in 2010. The result: more crashes--a lot more (http://bit.ly/1uqzPVc).

from CenterLines, the e-newsletter of the National Center for Bicycling & Walking.
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B' Spokes: I want to emphasize: "The lesson seems to be it is remarkable what we can accomplish when government, the private sector, and the public agree on a public health threat and decide to act."
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Industry Awakens to Threat of Climate Change

Health & Environment[B' Spokes: We need to promote more sustainable activities.... like bicycling. Meanwhile this is interesting.]


http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/24/science/earth/threat-to-bottom-line-spurs-action-on-climate.html?smid=fb-share
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Taking Stormwater Management Home

Health & Environmentby inspsw, Sustainable Stormwater Management

After we told our neighbor we were planning to construct a rain garden, she asked us whether it would have any floating aquatic plants. We said, “Oh, no, it’s not going to hold water. It will fill up after a rain but then the water will seep into the ground within 48 hours.” Then she asked us if we were planning to keep fish in it.

I wasn’t surprised to hear this, though, because not a lot of people are familiar with the concept of stormwater management.
...

So, what are some of the benefits of building a rain garden?
  • Beautiful, low maintenance landscaping – A rain garden is full of hearty, typically native, perennials, that can handle both wet and dry conditions.
  • Native plants help native species – In particular, the plants we purchased have been inundated by monarch butterfly larvae, who attached their chrysalises to them.
  • Reducing our stormwater footprint – Stormwater that runs off of hard surfaces such as our roof, sidewalk, and parking pad, flows to the alleyway picking up pollutants as well as contributing to huge spikes in volume in nearby streams. By keeping some of our runoff on site and letting it slowly seep into the water table, we’re doing our part to reduce erosion and pollution effecting Herring Run, the Back River, and the Chesapeake Bay. In some areas, large rain events also contribute to sewage overflows, which, in case you didn’t know, means raw sewage ends up in waterways – toilet paper and all.
  • And, as already mentioned… less mowing!
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http://sustainablestormwater.org/2013/10/09/taking-stormwater-management-home/
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Just a Fractional Improvement in Bay Quality

Health & EnvironmentBy Dagger News Service

From Harford County government:
...

The fact that stormwater and urban runoff from Maryland accounts for just 5% of the sediment and 2% of the nitrogen and phosphorus in the Bay calls into question the need to undertake incredibly costly public works projects. We all want a cleaner Bay, but are we willing to stretch the household budgets of our citizens or to put local companies out of business to achieve just a fractional improvement in Bay quality?
...

http://www.daggerpress.com/2013/10/06/craig-are-we-willing-to-stretch-the-household-budgets-of-our-citizens-or-to-put-local-companies-out-of-business-to-achieve-just-a-fractional-improvement-in-bay-quality/
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Households in transit-oriented locations save more energy and emissions than even 'green' households in sprawl

Health & EnvironmentBy Kaid Benfield

A new, peer-reviewed analysis performed by the staff of Jonathan Rose Companies, with assistance from the federal EPA, shows the power of a superior location in substantially reducing a household’s environmental footprint.  In fact, it shows this is so whether the housing type is a single-family home, townhome, or multi-family building.  In particular, a comparison based on national averages indicates that the energy consumption (and, thus, global warming emissions) of a typical household in a transit-oriented location is likely to be less than that of a household in a conventional suburban location (i.e., “sprawl”), even if the household in a conventional suburban location employs energy-efficient building technology and drives fuel-efficient vehicles.

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http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/households_in_transit-oriented.html
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You're invited to GreenScape 2013: A Green Schools Summit (May 28, 2013)

Health & Environment
 
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Hello,
You are invited to the following event:
GreenScape 2013: A Green Schools Summit
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Event to be held at the following time, date, and location:
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013 from 5:00 PM to 8:30 PM (EDT)
Baltimore Polytechnic Institute
1400 W. Cold Spring Lane
Baltimore, MD 21209

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GreenScape 2013: A Green Schools Summit GreenScape is a free for-youth-by-youth celebration of student environmental leadership in Baltimore. All are welcome to attend, including kids and adults.

GreenScape will feature recognition for schools newly certified as Maryland Green Schools and schools that have completed projects to save energy, clean stormwater runoff, green their schoolyards, recycle waste, and much more. There will be local food, music, games, art, DIY learning stations, info on summer opportunities, and forums for students and their supporters to learn from each other. A light dinner will be provided.
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Please feel free to forward this invitation to anyone you know who would be interested -- you can also share this event on Facebook and Twitter.

We hope you can make it!

Sincerely,
The Student Environmental Leadership Action Team (SELAT) and the Baltimore Office of Sustainability
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Before the (next) deluge: Midwestern floods remind us of sprawl's toll

Health & Environment[B' Spokes: This has relevance for Maryland and the so called "rain tax" as our roads and poor use of public lands should be taxed along with other impervious surfaces. Well we can't have government tax itself but we can try to get better policies so we don't pay the price of governments ineptness. (I'll note other places have a tax for this too but the more common way is just an addition to the sewer tax.) I will also point out in my travels in Arizona they use water retention areas to form a grade separated road crossing for trails. It's really cool not have to cross hardly any roads when on the trails in Arizona. ]
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Via Switchboard of the Natural Resources Defense Council

...
Does suburban sprawl – spread-out, automobile-dependent strip malls, big-box stores, wide arterial roadways, and unending large-lot housing – cause flooding? Absolutely not. (Sprawl doesn’t make it rain, although I can put together a very plausible theory about increased driving, tailpipe emissions, global warming, and severe weather events.) But does sprawl aggravate flooding? Oh, yeah. Here’s how:

When it rains, the water needs somewhere to go. Ideally, that someplace is a forest or meadow, which filters and absorbs the water into the ground. But when, instead of natural vegetation, we have rooftops and pavement, the natural process is broken and the water runs off, gaining volume and velocity. If the rainfall is hard enough and/or steady enough, flooding occurs; and floodwaters increase as runoff increases. Nature, already overburdened by severe precipitation, is prevented entirely from doing its job at limiting the accumulation of flood waters when impervious surface is in the way.

What does this have to do with suburban sprawl? Spread-out, low-rise development contributes more rooftops and pavement per unit of development to the watershed than do walkable neighborhoods. Imagine a 200,000-square-foot, one-story Walmart Supercenter surrounded by 15-20 acres of surface parking. When it rains on Walmart's property, there’s no way the water can get into the ground through naturl filtration processes. Now multiply that by all the other parking lots required for strip malls and office parks, and all the widened and extended road surfaces needed to accommodate traffic heading to the retail and spread-out housing.

Now imagine a different scenario: The same amount of floor space is accommodated by a combination of even two- to four-story buildings, and housing built more compactly to a walkable scale. Imagine that the pattern reaches sufficient critical mass to support decent transit service and the substitution of walking, bicycling, and transit use for some of those car trips, thus reducing the amount of road surface needed. Where there is parking, imagine that some of it, rather than spread out on surface lots, is placed in multi-story, above- or below-ground garages such as those found in urban areas. With rainwater hitting a smaller footprint of pavement and other hard surfaces, there is less runoff.

Would the difference be great enough to prevent flooding altogether during the most severe weather events? Probably not. But it could make a difference in the volume of water running off into the flood.

EPA has done some calculations on the residential part of the issue. Suppose your metropolitan area is going to grow by 10,000 homes over the next several years. If those homes are built one to an acre, a hypothetical storm might produce 187 cubic meters of runoff; but reducing the watershed coverage to an average of four homes per acre, the runoff from those same new homes would be reduced to 62 cubic meters. Build the homes at eight to an acre, and the runoff would reduce further, to 49.5 cubic meters. The main reason for the difference is the amount of roadway required to service the homes is much greater at low densities than at moderate densities.
...

http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/kbenfield/before_the_next_deluge_midwest.html
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Carbon dioxide now at highest level in 5 million years

Health & EnvironmentBy Doyle Rice, USA TODAY

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Increasing amounts of carbon dioxide and other gases caused by the burning of the oil, gas and coal that power our world are enhancing the natural "greenhouse effect," causing the planet to warm to levels that climate scientists say can't be linked to natural forces.

Carbon dioxide levels were around 280 ppm prior to the Industrial Revolution, when we first began releasing large amounts into the atmosphere by the burning of fossil fuels.

For the past 800,000 years, CO2 levels never exceeded 300 parts per million, according to Scripps, which measures CO2 levels along with several other agencies, including NOAA. Records of past levels of CO2 are found in samples of old air preserved as bubbles in the Antarctic ice sheet, Scripps reports.

"The 400-ppm threshold is a sobering milestone, and should serve as a wake up call for all of us to support clean energy technology and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, before it's too late for our children and grandchildren," said Tim Lueker, a Scripps oceanographer.
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http://www.usatoday.com/story/weather/2013/04/24/carbon-dioxide-keeling-curve-global-warming/2110445/
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Monsanto Protection Act

Health & EnvironmentB' Spokes: This is a bit off topic but since our Senator Barbara Mikulski is involved I thought I would at least give a link to a summary of issues. I should note my main issue with GMO is just label it and let the market place decide. And if there is no market advantage (a benefit to the general population) why are we giving so many protections to Monsanto?

More info: http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/mpa.asp
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There Is No Poop Fairy

Health & Environment[B' Spokes: I'm posting this because by my causal observations too many dog walkers treat our trails as having a poop fairy.]
From Sustainable Storm Water

poop_fairy_for_web

First:  Please know that we love our pets.  This post is about human behavior, not pets!

Have you heard of the Poop Fairy?  The first thing you should know about her is that she doesn’t exist.  Many municipalities use the myth of the Poop Fairy in campaigns to remind residents that there is no magical way to make dog poop “go away”.

Just like with littering, some people may not realize the impact their behavior has on waterways, and some may simply not care.  Some may even think it’s good to leave it to fertilize the grass.

Besides the immediate issues, like the fact that it looks bad, smells gross, and that unfortunate (and subsequently irate) people step in it, there are plenty of other reasons cities are campaigning to decrease the doo doo:

  • Nutrients – Pet waste adds to nutrient pollution, which in turn increases algal blooms which block light for aquatic life and deplete the water of oxygen when it decays.
  • Bacteria – E. coli, giardia, and salmonella.
  • Parasites – Roundworms, hookworms, and cryptosporidium.
  • It lasts – Dog poop doesn’t break down quickly because of the foods we feed them.  It sticks around and builds up in parks, or washes down storm drains during rain events.
  • It is concentrated – Any open space that has access to pets can become ground zero for these pollutants, especially in urban areas that have limited open space areas.  With highly concentrated use, stormwater runoff from these areas is a toxic soup.

In short, research is showing that this is a significant part of urban pollution.  The chart below shows the estimated amount of waste being left on the ground by dog owners in the city of Baltimore alone:

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 11.42.07 AM

Stormwater in Baltimore washes dog waste (that’s thousands of tons per year) into storm drains, then streams like Herring Run or Jones Falls, and then Baltimore Harbor and the Chesapeake Bay.

737441_491444140897447_1544026708_oThe best methods for dealing with dog waste are to seal it in a bag and dispose of it in the regular trash, which bothers some because it might never break down in a landfill, or you could flush it so it will be treated along with other sewage.  Cat waste, however, should not be flushed because a parasite common to felines, Toxoplasma Gondii, is not killed by regular sewage treatment methods.

Check out these sites for more info:


http://sustainablestormwater.org/2013/03/11/there-is-no-poop-fairy/
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