Recycling seems like an easy task, right? You have a plastic bottle and you come up on two bins, one silver, one blue. You decide to throw the plastic bottle into the blue bin to be recycled and boom, the job is done. Most of the time we don’t think of what happened after we throw our recyclables away. Where do they go? What happens to them?
First the materials are sorted into categories of paper, plastic, metal, glass, E-waste, and textiles. From there they may be sorted again and then crushed down to make new products. Glass is often repurposed to make more glass, but plastics can be turned into fabrics. All of this starts with the simple idea of throwing that plastic bottle into the right bin. Easy, anyone can do it.
So you’d think. To some surprise, the act of recycling is different for everyone.
The national average of Americans that recycle is 34%, and it been stuck around there since 2010. The average for Charleston West Virginia is even lower at 19.5%, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s recycling rate is lower at 18%. The city of Charleston realized that their program isn’t working and plans to make change. This city currently gives residents clear recycling bags for community members to put recycling in that they
can leave for curbside pickup. But after this spring, they are doing away with this practice. Residents will now have to purchase the clear bags from local stores. by getting rid of the practice that has been around since the 70s, the city will save $400,000 a year. Let’s just hope people continue to recycle.
Pittsburgh also struggles with their recycling program. Residents here also use bags like Charleston. The city doesn’t require residents to sort their recycling. The system they use is called “Single Stream Recycling” which is very common around the area, but its not efficient. If the recycling is contaminated, it’s no good. This means the items get thrown away.
So are people around us recycling? I reached out to my friends on facebook asking about recycling. Majority of my responses were from Pennsylvania, with some from Maryland, Virginia, Connecticut, Florida and of course, West Virginia. Majority of the participants do recycle, in fact 80% of them do, but only 51% of them have a recycling bin in their own home. All users said they recycle plastics and paper came in at second to most popular. Glass and metal were hit or miss, and only 1 recycles electronics.
Majority of the responses said they would try to go out of their way to recycle. As long as people are trying, we are a step in the right direction.
When I say Democrat, I mean the modern understanding of what we know as the party today, not the original Democrat party, founded by Andrew Jackson. Only recently has it been that West Virginians began registering and voting for the Republican party, causing one of the greatest political state shifts to date.
Not only has this caused a few heads to turn, wondering why, but the Governor of the State, Jim Justice, switched parties half-way through his term, causing a major controversy in August of 2017.
Hundreds of thousands of democrats switched to the Republican Party.
The problem here isn’t that West Virginians are deciding to become Republicans, because everyone has the right to their own beliefs. The true issue here is that they’re electing representatives that don’t support the legislations that the state and its citizens so desperately need right now.
If you moved to the area after 2003, or don't remember what hurricanes can do to the Shenandoah Valley and WV mountains, here's a refresher. YOU HAVE TO PREPARE NOW. Flooding can be catestrophic here. https://t.co/d6XHr5EfdB
It’s no secret that, stereotypically, environmental issues are not thought to be a high priority for Republican lawmakers by the general population—but stereotypes exist for a reason.
In his manuscript, The Ideology of Climate Change Denial in the United States, Jean Moulin University Lyon 3 Professor, Jean-Daniel Collomb, dug into which political party takes what stance on the state of climate change and related topics to the two variables. In his abstract he wrote, “First, climate denial stems from the strong ideological commitment of small-government conservatives and libertarians to laisser-faire and their strong opposition to regulation.”
Whatever’s happening in West Virginia’s politics, something needs to be fixed pertaining to our environmental policies—and fast. If the past decade of natural disasters and extreme weather has been enough of a warming, we are all certainly doomed.
As the seasons changes from winter to spring, Easter inches up closer in closer. When you think of Easter you think of chocolate bunnies and maybe stuffed ducks, but what about live ones?
In Morgantown, Animal House, a pet store on High Street, offers a period of the time every year during April where they allow the renting of ducks. Lets address the first problem with this, the safety of the ducks.
Many of the people who are renting these ducks are college students who for the most part don’t have the adequate time, or space to raise these ducks properly. In my first year at West Virginia University the dorm I stayed in had so many students secretly keeping these ducks that we had to have our RA’s otherwise known as resident assistants conduct daily room checks.
Now thinking about how a dorm is set up, besides the obvious insufficient living space, according to purelypultry.com , ducks should live outdoors, have access to grassy areas and ponds or wading pools for cleaning and swimming purposes. All of which a dorm or a student living in a dorm cannot provide their pet duck.
So what if you don’t live in a dorm should you still rent a pet duck? The short answer, NO. During Animal House’s annual duck sale in 2016, a West Virginia University student purchased two pet ducks by the names of Goose and Maverick.
The student seemed to take care of Goose and Maverick at first and even gave them walks around campus with a leash. However things took a dive into the deep end of the pond when the student decided to grill Goose and Maverick.
TheOdysseyOnline.com wrote that while yes some people do eat ducks, they do not eat domesticated ducks. Not only did this student decide to grill her pets but also decided to post it on social media. TRIGGER WARNING the images seen might be sensitive to some viewers.
So if you’re not a college student should you still get a pet duck and give it to a kid for Easter?
Children tend to be very strong handed although not intentional, this can still be harming or even fatal for the ducks. Even my niece still struggles with petting her beagle softly rather than pushing down hard.
Not to mention that ducks often can carry diseases which would not be ideal to bring around a child whose immune system is generally weaker than an adults.
Although Easter is supposed to be a time for Easter egg hunts and may
be the occasional family gathering, if you still want to focus on seeing a live duck, try an alternative option to renting a pet like visiting a pet farm. Especially if you can’t ensure that duck a high quality life it’s best you let the duck be a duck in it’s own habitat.
It all started in Sweden, when students didn’t feel they should go to school for a future that didn’t exist. Now, students all across the globe are joining together and beginning to lead their own protests with #schoolstrike4climatechange.
The movement started with the workings of a then 15 year old Swedish schoolgirl, Greta Thunberg, who was shaken and confused with the climate affair matters in her country. On Augsust 20, 2018, she bravely sat by herself on the cobblestones of a parliament building.
On September 8th, after three weeks of striking, she made a decision to continue her striking every Friday, until, according to FridaysForFuture, “the Swedish policies provided a safe pathway well under 2-degree C, i.e. in line with the Paris agreement.”
While she started out all alone in the beginning, she is now the face of a new movement that’s being followed by students all around the world with joining the FridaysForFuture movement and posting to social media with #schoolstrike4climatechange.
So far, the protests are being organized in more than 123 countries around the world, and the online movement has taken social media by storm.
Thunberg, though she may only be 16 years old now, is considered the face against climate change. Besides starting this movement, she’s gained so much authority in the matter that she’s even given her own TED Talk.
In fact, Thunberg’s plea is so convincing that a teacher in Sweden even left her job in order to support her students.
Overall, the tale of FridaysForFuture and #schoolstrike4climatechange goes to show that the tiniest people are sometimes the mightiest, and that students are the ones with the ability to truly teach the world the importance of certain issues.
“The climate strike was inspired by students from the Parkland school in Florida, who walked out of classes in protest against the US gun laws that enabled the massacre on their campus. Greta was part of a group that wanted to do something similar to raise awareness about climate change, but they couldn’t agree what.”
Student-led protests are happening for issues all over the world for various issues, and WVU had a protest of its own in late February due to the campus carry bill, it’s clear to see that students here are good at rallying together to get a message across.
To add to this, there may even be more of a reason for students here to protest due to the fact that The West Virginia Legislature recently passed a bill containing a set of environmental regulations, which according to West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s Brittany Patterson, includes, “a controversial water pollution rule that was pared down during the legislative process.”
The rule would govern the dumping of pollution in the rivers and streams of our state, a move that will directly impacting the health of the people here.
With this in mind, it’s’ interesting to wonder whether or not FridaysForFuture, #schoolstrike4climatechange, or a similar movement will make its way to Morgantown soon.
Whether or not it makes its way here, the lesson provided by Thunberg’s movement is one to take note of, and one that is fittingly applicable outside of the classroom. It’s that there is always a reason to fight for what’s right, and to remember that we have a right to protest and yearn for the protection and betterment the futures of ourselves and our children.
Walking around the campus of West Virginia University, you have probably seen two types of waste bins. One bin allowing you to throw away regular waste, while the other one allows you to recycle your waste.
Due to the decline in numbers, the University has been working to improve their ability for all types of items to be recycled. With the installment of single-stream recycling, WVU has had a 60% increase on their campus.
Since WVU introduced single-stream recycling, there has been a 60% increase in recycling on campus. Click on the link to learn more! @TVJ386https://t.co/84REL1NidI
Using these bins for single-stream recycling allows the community to participate in recycling, without worrying about what items they are throwing into the bins. Meaning, it makes it easier for consumers to recycle.
While many students may look past these bins without any thought in recycling, others are participating in this recycling program without realizing it. By allowing a variety of all items to be recycled, lets the normal trash bins be used for only non-recyclable items.
These everyday items are not the only things that can be recycled on campus. The Office of Sustainability allows for almost anything to be recycled. Many people may not realize that they can also recycle old electronics and ink cartridges too.
So if you’re wanting to begin a more green lifestyle, but getting started is too much to wrap your brain around, just begin by those old electronics that you have sitting around. You know, the ones you have had for years, that continue to take up space. Instead of worrying about nobody wanting to buy them, you can take them on campus and recycle them.
Recycling is an easy way to get started with going green, and doesn’t always have to be plastics or metals. It can be anything from phones, laptops, to something as simple as clothes.. Yes, even clothes are able to be recycled on campus.
You can learn more about what items you are wanting to recycle here.
Picture this: you’re at a local food joint. You place your order and wait at the next window. Your food comes out and they hand you the drink. You go to the little table where they have napkins, lids and straws. But something is different, something isn’t there. You realize the lid looks
different, and straws are no where to be found.
Cities like Seattle, Miami, Berkeley and many others have banned the use of straws in the cities along with many other and a few that are waiting for approval. Big companies like Starbucks and Disney are working on reducing their plastic foot print by eliminating straws and even more restaurants, even locally are banning the use of those small plastic sticks we all use to drink out of.
We're removing plastic straws in our stores globally by 2020—reducing more than 1 billion plastic straws per year from our stores.
Only about 9% of plastics used end up in recycling and the rest end up in landfill or our oceans. There is an iceberg named the Pacific Garbage Patch that floats 79,000 tons of plastic through the Pacific ocean.
So why are we starting with straws? Theres so many other forms of plastic like water bottles and tooth brushes but straws are small and can cause harm in ocean life. The most common is that they get stuck in sea turtles noses, causing them trouble with breathing.
Local businesses have joined to no straw movement. Tazikis in the Mountainlair now requires you to ask for a lid and straw and the Evansdale crossing now gives out lids that
do no require a straw. Although they seem like small steps they are helping with the bigger picture of reducing plastic from the oceans.
Some businesses are dealing with backlash to the movement. Marshalls Hall of Fame Cafe in Huntington eliminated straws this past summer. They experienced backlash from locals
who need to a straw to drink, due to disabilities.
Although plastic straws are disappearing, that doesn’t mean straws are gone forever. Reusable straws made from metal, hard plastic, and even bamboo can be found on amazon or in stores like Walmart for a very cheap price. Restaurants have started to give out paper straws and biodegradable straws are coming into the market.
The Green New Deal, a pet project of more leftist-leaning members of the Democrat party, has been making waves not only on Capitol Hill, but all around the United States in just the few short months that we’ve been into 2019. Some have even pointed out that individual states have their own versions of the proposed plan already in place.
However, it is still feels that there’s a little animosity surrounding this plan, specifically from the people of Appalachia.
It’s fair to ask why do Appalachians feel this way? Because honestly, what will this supposedly perfect program do for the region, one that’s usually forgotten about by the rest of the country?
Some say that it’ll be great:
“In recent years, US energy markets have moved away from coal in favor of natural gas, causing coal company bankruptcies and mine closures in Kentucky, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia. The area “has seen incredible economic hardship,” Deputy Executive Director of Appalachian Voices Kate Boyle told Vice.
.@AOC on the Green New Deal: "I'm so incredibly excited that we are going to transition this country into the future and we are not going to be dragged behind by our past."
"Today is a big day for people who have been left behind. Today is a big day for workers in Appalachia." pic.twitter.com/4eVFlFdSY6
While others think the politicians who crafted it completely did so without Appalachians in mind:
“As I was thinking and reading about the GND, a couple things stuck out to me and, of course, one of them is that rural does not appear to be mentioned at all,” Director at Tennessee-based Center for Rural Strategies Whitney Kimball-Coe told 100 Days.
With so many different versions of one story being told, it’s hard to decide what to believe or even figure out what the laws our government are trying to put in place will be.
Many third-party organizations have taken matters into their own hands because they feel that the federal government hasn’t given their situation the proper attention it deserves. For example, The Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition and fellow agriculture ventures have begun investing in alternative farming, like CBD and and hemp. Coal won’t be a feasible resource forever—shoot, it hasn’t been one for a few years now, considering the technology we have.
With its new report, Reclaiming Appalachia Coalition offers a "..panoply of local visions for 'Appalachia’s new New Deal,'"and is positioned to "turn the region’s landscape of crisis into an opportunity for renewal." #JustTransition#ReclaimActhttps://t.co/Qruiyo5dXj
However Appalachians decide they feel towards the Green New Deal—should it actually even makes it to legislation—some sort of environmental action needs to be done here, whether it’s done by government action or outside crusaders.
For more on the Green New Deal in Appalachia, check out the West Virginia Public Broadcasting’s podcast on it here.
West Virginia also known as the “Wild and Wonderful” state due to its abundance of wildlife could soon have that title jeopardized as climate change is impacting the state in more ways than one.
In June 2016, West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin declared a state of emergency for 44 West Virginia counties after flooding caused destruction, injuries, and in some case lives. This was the third deadliest flood on record for West Virginia which was due to heavy rainfall. In April 2018, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice issued a state of emergency again for 10 counties due to severe flooding experienced by heavy rainfall
If you keep up with politics, you’ll notice that our current president Donald Trump as well as his administration have made major changes for the EPA otherwise known as the United States Environmental Protection Agency which you can read more about on the National Geographic news page.
In short, our president and his administration took away a lot of plans that were put in action during President Barack Obama’s administration such as restrictions on greenhouse gases from coal plants which if you know anything about West Virginia, you’d know this was once primarily a coal state.
The reasons these plans were ultimately put into place was to try and slow down the toxic effects climate change is having on our environment. The structure of the state of West Virginia is mainly hills and rocky-mountains which according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is prime breeding ground for floods, especially flash floods like the ones we experienced in 2016 as well as 2018.
So how is the climate change bringing more rain? According to the EPA, West Virginia’s temperature has rose one half to one degree(F) in the last century which when you see it doesn’t seem like a lot but when you think about the fact that the temperature hasn’t increased that much in the billions of centuries the Earth has been here you have to think about what we as the human race are doing to make sure that there is still an Earth left for centuries to come.
As a West Virginia Native, I hold a special place for West Virginia in my heart which makes me sad to think of the fact that one day it might not be so wild and wonderful as we know it today. Global warming and its increase in rainfall for our state has already impacted us in so many ways within recent years it’s hard to tell if how long these country roads will be able to take us home.
Last month, news broke of the first rodent to go extinct due to man-made climate change. The Bramble Cay melomy, a small rodent native to Australia, was officially confirmed extinct by the Australian government on February 18th.
The reasoning behind its extinction has proven to be man-made climate change. According to National Geographic’s Brian Clark Howard, Ian Gynther from Queensland’s Department of Environment and Heritage Protection is one of many researchers who backs this claim.
“The key factor responsible for the extirpation of this population was almost certainly ocean inundation of the low-lying cay, very likely on multiple occasions, during the last decade, causing dramatic habitat loss and perhaps also direct mortality of individuals. For low-lying islands like Bramble Cay, the destructive effects of extreme water levels resulting from severe meteorological events are compounded by the impacts from anthropogenic climate change-driven sea-level rise.”
And although the extinction of the Bramble Cay melomy is something to talk about right now, this comic by First Dog on the Moon is a perfect illustration of how we never truly learn our lesson after we mourn the loss of a species.
While this extinction hasn’t taken place in West Virginia, or even on this continent, it’s a lesson and a warning of what is to come in the future if changes aren’t made, and an opportunity for us to reflect on the species closest to home that are in need of extra care.
To begin with, there are many species of bats that are endangered in West Virginia including: the Virginia big-eared bat, the gray bat, and the Indiana bat.
The Virginia big-eared batresides in parts of western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee, southwestern Virginia, eastern Kentucky, and southern West Virginia. In terms of what is endangering this bat in particular, humans are the direct result according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“The major causes of the species’ decline are loss of habitat, vandalism, and increased human visitation to maternity roosts and hibernacula. Virginia big-eared bats are extremely sensitive to human disturbance. Even slight disturbances can cause adults to abandon caves, abandon young, and force bats to use valuable energy reserves needed to survive hibernation.”
The gray bat is extremely rare in WV, and the only citing of it in Pendleton County was considered accidental, however, the state still recognizes it as an endangered species.
The Indiana bat resides in WV significantly more, with nearly 21,000 wintering here and dwelling in Pendleton, Tucker, Boone and Kanawha counties.
For these two species in particular, they are currently being threatened by white nose syndrome, a fungal disease that affects hibernating bats. According to the White Nose Syndrome Response Team, “It attacks the bare skin of bats while they’re hibernating in a relatively inactive state. As it grows, it causes changes in bats that make them become active more than usual and burn up fat they need to survive the winter.”
“With the disease’s appearance in the southern Appalachian region, white-nose syndrome has the potential to afflict the extremely rare, federally listed Virginia big-eared bat, whose range is limited to West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and North Carolina.
While it’s very difficult to visit the caves and hibernacula where these bats live due to the adverse and dangerous effects of human disruption, there are refuges set up across the nation that provide habitats for gray and Indiana bats in order to help ensure their safety and educate the public about them.
There are also many aquatic animals that are endangered in this state such as the Guyandotte River crayfish, the candy darter, and the diamond darter.
The Guyandotte River crayfish can only be found at two sites in at Pinnacle Creek and the Clear Fork streams in Wyoming County, WV.
“Crayfishes, including the Guyandotte River and Big Sandy crayfishes, play an important role in stream environments by recycling animal and plant matter and serving as food for other wildlife, including sport fish. Keeping streams healthy for crayfish also benefits people by ensuring clean water for drinking, wading and fishing. Ongoing erosion and sedimentation have made many streams within their historical ranges unsuitable for the crayfishes.”
“Nearly half of the 35 known candy darter populations have disappeared since the species was first described in 1932. Candy darter habitat historically declined when land conversion activities removed the forested and riparian habitat that sustained healthy stream conditions for the fish.”
Similarly, the diamond darter is in the same boat, with the only existing population of this species being found in the Elk River in WV. Unfortunately, it’s location is one of the reasons that it is being threatened. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service explains the effects of these darters inhabiting the Elk River.
“Coal mining, oil and gas drilling, timber harvesting, all-terrain vehicles, improper sewage treatment, and stream bank erosion all occur in the Elk River watershed. Together, these activities compound the amount and type of pollutants flowing into the river, reducing the water quality and degrading the habitat needed by diamond darters.”
While it isn’t registered as an endangered species, it’s important to highlight one threatened species close to home, the Cheat Mountain salamander, who went face to face with the threat of extinction and came out alive after the U.S. Forest Service rejected a 10-mile segment of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline.
Finally, the rusty patched bumble bee is another endangered species in the state. It previously had a long history in West Virginia and 27 other states, but it can now only be found in only 5.
“The threats to the rusty patched bumble bee primarily fall into one or more of six categories: pathogens, pesticides, habitat loss and degradation (loss of floral resources), effects of climate change, competition with non-native bees, and the effects of small population dynamics.”
When thinking about the causes behind what’s endangering these animals, mountaintop removal is high up on the list. In a recent lawsuit filed by The Center for Biological Diversity against the Trump Administration for refusing to release public records concerning coal mining and endangered species in WV, mountaintop removal is cited as detrimental to Appalachian fish, crayfish, mussels, amphibians and insects.
“More than 2,000 miles of streams in Appalachia have been degraded by this mechanized form of mining, which employs far fewer people than other forms and perpetuates poverty by causing permanent and irreversible damage to the landscape.”
Why does it all matter?
As humans and predators, it’s our responsibility to look after the less powerful things around us. Besides wanting to save the world that we live in, it’s important to be concerned about endangered species due to growing extinction rates documented by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“Normally, new species develop through a process known as speciation at about the same rate that other species become extinct. However, because of air and water pollution, forest clearing, loss of wetlands, and other man-induced environmental changes, extinctions are now occurring at a rate that far exceeds the speciation rate.”
So while the Bramble Cay melomy is now out of sight, we shouldn’t let it be out of mind. One of the key steps in not letting history repeat itself is in never forgetting about it, and by never forgetting about these other animals, by keeping up to date and educated on them, we are able to ensure their safety. We can never get this animal back, but we can use its memory as a powerful lesson in not forgetting about the creatures who need extra protection.
When you first see one of these bad boys, your first reaction is to probably think, “pollution.” Everybody has that first initial response to thinking that any smoke stack is what is killing the planet, or even worse, the cause to global warming. Power plants do put off a large amount of gases, that can be harmful to our health and the environment. However, in Morgantown that isn’t the case anymore.
Back in 2011, Longview Power Plant was commissioned, being of the ‘newest, cleanest, most efficient coal-fired power plant.’
What makes Longview more efficient, is that this plant releases less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, when compared to other power plants. Longview produces a percentage of its power by using natural gases. Not only does using natural gas provide a cleaner way for producing heat and electricity, it also is more economically friendly.
It doesn’t stop there though. Longview also announced that it plans to launch solar power panels, beginning in 2022. While WV falls behind when it comes to natural gas power plants, this will put the wild and wonderful state one step closer to becoming more green. The idea that a power plant that is used for electricity and heating is able to produce those usages with a solar panel and more natural gases, is every eco-friendly lover’s dream.
While this is a big step for the use of power in the state of West Virginia, hopefully it can bring other states to using more efficient fuels for their plants as well. By helping clean up these plants; these plants can help us clean up our Earth.