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Environmental irony: Pollution caused by trees in Japan

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Cryptomeria-Saint-Gilles

So far we only thought of trees as beneficial to our environment. But this belief has been turned upside down. Recently, Cypress and Cedar trees in Japan have been found to be causing massive amounts of nitrogen runoff into local streams. This in turn, is resulting in harmful algae blooms.

Surprisingly, nutrient pollution can be caused due to mismanaged forests. But, it’s not exactly their fault.

Why is this occurring?

The main reason for this occurrence is because these trees are planted in massive commercial plantations. These plantations were established half a century ago when the import of wood by the Japanese companies was at its peak. Many of these plantations have now fallen into a state of disrepair due to negligence. Also, the shift in the market has left an abundance of wood plantations, which are now causing major problems for adjacent wildlife.

How is high concentration of nitrogen in soil harmful?

The older, slowly growing trees use relatively less nutrients (or nitrogen) than younger trees, which grow faster and require more nutrients. Nowadays, rarely any new tree grows in the plantations because the land has become densely populated with older trees which prevent sunlight from nourishing the shorter, nascent trees. In addition, there is an unusually high concentration of nitrogen in the soil on the plantations, which is left to run off into neighboring waterways. As a result, algae blooms have begun to form in the highly nitrogenous marine habitats.

How is algae bloom affecting wildlife?

The algae sucks oxygen out of the water, and therefore, other marine wildlife are unable to survive (a process known as eutrophication). According to the American Society of Agronomy, the problem is widespread. These large plantations account for up to 30 percent of forestland across Japan.

Climate Change is making Trees grow rapidly

A new study penned by Kyushu University’s Masaaki Chiwa, says that the process can be prevented by adequate forest management. Chiwa is encouraging the owners of the large plantations to thin them out and create room for new, smaller trees to utilize the abundant nutrients in the soil. His team is already investigating the impact of recent trimming operations on local waterways. They have been measuring water quality to evaluate any further harmful effects of forest thinning on water quality including nitrogen loss.

This post originally appeared on DSCOVRD.

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Urban Garbage Disposal Crisis and Ways to Tackle it Effectively

Garbage heaps without proper exposure to air take decades to slowly decompose, continuously releasing methane and leachate

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garbage filled canal in India
The less beautiful side of India. This canal running through the heart of Kancheepuram town overflows with garbage and pollution. Pollution remains a growing and significant issue in both rural and urban areas. Wikimedia

– by Gaurav Tyagi 

New Delhi, Sep 11, 2017: Rapid urbanization globally has led to large scale migration of people from rural to urban areas. This has resulted in huge waste disposal problem all over the world.

Ideally, food discards should be returned to the soil. Food leftovers fed to animals and the cattle shed waste put in a pit to decompose. It can then become a very good source for the planting season as NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) nutrients and micro-nutrients for the soil resulting in healthy crops.

The advent of plastic has led to a major problem. People throw the kitchen waste in such plastic bags. This mixed waste when put in the fields, results in the non-bio-degradable plastic film preventing the rain from entering the soil and stop seeds from germinating through them.

This assorted mixed waste presents a serious challenge for the city authorities. The municipalities usually dump them outside the city limits thus creating mountains of mixed waste.

These hills of garbage are denied oxygen from the air. They emit methane, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide and produce leachate, a black liquid oozing from the waste; for example, if a rotten tomato is left in the open air, it would dry to powder within days but the same tomato in a plastic bag would turn into a smelly liquid therefore, it is vitally important to aerate the garbage heaps.

Also Read: Garbologists find roots of modern waste by digging through Victorian-Era garbage 

Garbage heaps without proper exposure to air take decades to slowly decompose, continuously releasing methane and leachate. This leachate seeps into the soil and contaminates deep natural water channels.

The segregation of waste at source into wet (compostable), dry (recyclable), sanitary (disposable diapers as well as sanitary napkins) and hazardous domestic waste should be made compulsory in every nation.

The city authorities should ensure strict 100% compliance of the aforesaid norms with provisions of strict fines, for residents not adhering to these measures.

Once every household segregates its waste into separate categories, then it becomes very easy for the city councils to pursue scientific garbage management.

The dry waste can go for recycling. The hazardous material disposed of safely.

The food waste collected by the authorities must not be dumped in high heaps instead the pattern of windrows should be followed.

Windrows are long, low parallel heaps of waste not more than two meters high. They are designed to achieve the optimum conditions for aerating the waste.

The dumping trucks unload their waste load in a long row. Enough space is left between rows for a lifting tractor or an earthmover to drive through and periodically turn the waste.

The outer aerated waste forms the inner core of a new window and the airless centre of the old heap goes outside. A weekly turning of the waste repeated 3-4 times ensures that all parts of the waste get fully decomposed like leaves on a forest floor, turning dark brown with a sweet earthy smell.

This process can be further accelerated by adding composting bio-culture like fresh cow-dung. Fresh waste windrows heat up inside to about 55 degrees – 60 degrees Celsius in 3-4 days. After 4 turnings, there is about 40 % weight loss as the moisture content declines and also approximately 40% volume reduction.

After this, no leachate, methane and smelly gases get released. This fully stabilized waste turns into compost, which is rich in microbes as well as humus. Both of which are excellent for soil vitality.

This can be used as organic manure in agricultural fields thereby eliminating the need for chemical fertilizers for farming.

City authorities can ensure long term use of the same landfill site by following this approach for waste processing rather than continuously looking for new waste dumping grounds.

Poor homeless people in the cities can be trained and employed at such landfill sites thereby making them valuable contributing members of the society.

By strictly implementing this course of action globally; governments could easily ensure a healthier, cleaner, pollution-free planet thereby, effectively tackling the menace of ever increasing garbage in an environment- friendly sustainable manner. These measures would also greatly assist in urban poverty alleviation.

The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China


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Hinduism Acts As a Boundary for the Spread of Radical Islam in India: Chinese Media

The article called attention to the solid impact of Hinduism in India

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Hinduism in India
Hinduism in India. Pixabay

Sep 03, 2014: Muslims in India generally stayed unaffected from the radicalization of Muslim gatherings in different parts of the world in light of the strong impact of Hinduism in the nation, which has established a mark of itself by going past a religion to end up plainly as a lifestyle and a social establishment, said the state-run Chinese media on Wednesday.

Adulating Hinduism for helping India setting up an ever lasting attachment towards the religion among different sects, an article in Global Times, titled – “Hinduism tied to India’s geopolitical standing” said that Hinduism made India a boundary for the spread of radical Islam on the global geopolitical scene.

The article asserted that-

Why does it seem that Muslims in India have remained largely apart from the radicalization that has happened to Muslim groups in other parts of the world? Indian Muslims seldom have extreme organizations compared with groups in many other Asian countries. In the southern part of the Philippines, extremists backed by Islamic State have turned their occupied cities into horrible places. In southern Thailand, terror attacks staged by Muslim extremists take place almost every week.

The article called attention to the solid impact of Hinduism, the dominant religion of India while answering the question: Why does it seem that Muslims in India have remained largely apart from the radicalization that has happened to Muslim groups in other parts of the world? 

“Like many other religions, Hinduism has its extreme side, but for the most part, its more moderate side has the strongest influence. Perhaps it is this more moderate influence that has helped establish India’s lasting cohesion and is one of the reasons that the country has not separated”

Indians take pride in the Mughal Dynasty, the time of history which was built up by Muslims, not even by the Hindus, however, there was a strong Hindu influence in that time also.

“In the long history of India, Hinduism has gone far beyond a religion to become a lifestyle and social institution. Both its extreme and tolerant sides have constituted the foundation for its relationship with Muslims and this dual character is going to exist for a long time,” it said.

The consequence of this relationship has made India a hindrance for the spread of radical Islam on the global geopolitical scene.

Also Read: How Hinduism is Interpreted by Western Indologists-David Frawley. Wendy Doniger. Koenraad Elst

The article brought up that the absence of Islamic fanatics in India has established its role in Asia and it has been thought about by the US, Japan, Russia and European nations as well.

“In the future, India is sure to continue to stand out in geopolitical significance when it comes to increasing religious and ethnic conflicts around the world. Where China is concerned, this significance should not be ignored”, the article concluded.


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

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Women of America Are Stepping Up As Nuclear Energy Advocates

Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources

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Nuclear Energy
Engineering manager Kristin Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear. VOA
  • The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years
  • Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources
  • Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear

San Francisco, August 26, 2017: Kristin Zaitz is confident that her nuclear power plant is safe.

Zaitz, an engineering manager, was at Diablo Canyon Power Plant during both her pregnancies and has scuba dived to inspect the plant, which hugs the California coast. Zaitz wears a pendant with a tiny bit of uranium inside, an item that tends to invite questions.

“We all have our perceptions of nuclear,” Zaitz said.

In a few years, Diablo Canyon will close, part of a trend nationwide. The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years. Add to that ongoing concerns about public safety, such as those raised by memories of disasters at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) and Three Mile Island in the United States.

Nuclear is ‘cleaner’ than fossil fuels

Supporters of nuclear energy say that when a reactor-based generating station closes, not enough wind and solar power is available to make up the difference. They lament that energy companies tend to turn instead to fossil fuels — coal and natural gas — which produce environmentally harmful emissions.

Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear, their effort to get the word out that nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources.

“I went into the plant very skeptical of nuclear and being scared of it,” said Matteson. “It took me six to seven years to really feel like this is something good for the environment. I don’t want people to take six to seven years to make that decision. We don’t have that long.”

Matteson, too, wears the uranium necklace as a conversation starter. “Nuclear is fun,” she said. Is there any radiation emitted by the pendant? “There’s slightly more than from a banana,” she conceded.

Also Read: Indian nuclear industry growing fast, says former Atomic Energy Commission chief

Women seen as powerful advocates

Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear. They can help change attitudes of other women who tend to be more skeptical than men about nuclear energy’s benefits.

At the recent U.S. Women in Nuclear conference in San Francisco, women working in the industry talked about how more should be done to make nuclear power’s case to the public, and how they may be the best suited to do it.

“As mothers, I think we also have an important role to play in letting the public know that we support nuclear for the future, for our children,” said Matteson. “And we don’t know other mothers supporting nuclear power in a vocal way. We thought there was a gap to fill.”

Young women say they look at careers in this industry because they are socially minded.

‘Do something good for the world’

“I went into this wanting to do something good for the world,” Lenka Kollar, business strategy director at NuScale, a firm in Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors. “Wanting to bring power to people. There are still more than a billion people in the world who don’t have electricity.”

Critics of nuclear energy say it doesn’t matter who is promoting it.

“Using mothers’ voices to argue for a technology that is fundamentally dangerous and that has been demonstrated by disasters like Fukushima to be not safe for the communities that surround the power plants or even cities that are hundreds of miles away is disingenuous,” said Kendra Klein, a staff scientist with Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

While the future of nuclear power in the United States may be uncertain, the women here say they have a positive story to tell. (VOA)