Archive for 'Mr. W'
If you have just stumbled upon this blog, note that our class no longer meets and will no longer be adding new content. Feel free to click around and see all that we’ve learned about environmental science this year. -Mr. W
After watching Who Killed the Electric Car (2006), we took a look at some of the new plug-in electric cars from Chevy, Ford, Nissan, and Tesla now on the market. Are electric cars really the answer for ending our dependence on foreign crude oil? Could it be that simple? This Daily Show clip (8 minutes) is one of my favorites on the history of American president’s trying to get us to cure our addiction to oil:
So, your text had a section on carbon offsets, but we never discussed it in class. There are many companies out there now marketing carbon offsets to reduce your “carbon footprint.” Terrapass is a popular one. You can offset one year’s worth of air travel (an estimated 8,000 pounds of carbon emitted) for just $50.60 as of 5/5/2011. Your money goes to support wind farms and methane capture projects-that’s how the carbon is “offset.” Some companies will even plant trees to offset carbon produced by your lifestyle.
So, does this approach mitigate (lesson) global climate change or encourage “cheating?” Watch this clever parody of carbon offsetting by a couple of Brits:
*If you want to learn more, visit www.cheatneutral.com
So, what do you think?
*Try www.carbonfootprint.com to for a carbon calculator if you want to assess how much carbon dioxide results from your lifestyle.
As we approach the final day before the AP exam, have you reviewed the nutrient cycles? Knowledge of these cycles is critical-they tie everything together. In the fall we learned primary reservoirs, key chemical reactions, and anthropogenic impacts. I also had each of you write a creative short-story of a cycle. Here is a good one by MiriamA:
To be consistent is Carl’s game. His friends even go as far as to call him a connoisseur of consistency. But even the existence of a consistent Carbon molecule can be quite stressful. Sometimes, the mundane routine of Carl’s daily reality was overpowering: wake up, realize he’s stuck in a rock, think about eating breakfast, but realize he’s in a rock, take a nap, consider breaking out of his rock prison, and then realizing he is stuck. In a rock. Repeat for millennia.
Carl’s predicament made him pretty bored. His life seemed doomed to be forever consistent, when all of a sudden, Carl realized his rock was on top. Way on top: Consistent Carl was king of the lithosphere. Through weathering, Carl’s little piece of sedimentary rock was exposed and divided. Centuries went by; he was trod on by wooly mammoths, rained on incessantly, rolled by the wind down hills, and pushed back up them by construction trucks as gravel. And just when our friend Carl could no longer take the inconsistency of his new life, the greatest change yet struck him: Lichen was Carl’s new immediate neighbor. Carl’s rock was broken down by lichen into the soil. Carl was excited to be returned to the soil once more, but to his surprise…he was RESPIRATED.
As Carl considered changing his vacation response on his email back to his classic signature of “-You’re Favorite Boring Molecule”, Carl had yet another wake up call. His neighbor Lichen (fondly known as DJ Breakdown) had used energy to break him down, and had respired in the process, releasing Carl airborne as CO2 into the atmosphere.
Feeling like a new molecule, Carl was in ‘CO2 Tattoo Parlor’, inking in his newfound freedom, when he felt himself being pulled eastward over a body of water. He was newly surrounded by other, unfamiliar, yet similarly liberated CO2 molecules (some with ‘Stairway to Heaven’) inked across their covalent bonds), bumping about in the atmosphere. Back in his consistent days, Carl had attended school with perfect attendance, and thus new that the amount of CO2 in the air pocket he was in was greater than that in water, and that he would soon be diffused below the water’s surface. As he mentally prepared for the big plunge, Carl was yet again surprised when he was intercepted by a surface-dwelling aquatic organism and used for photosynthesis.
When the surface-dweller decayed, Carl was yet again released by the help of decomposers. He floated down, down, down, past his previously airborne friends who had arrived at the same place he had through diffusion. He bumped in H20, and formed Carbonic Acid. Carl, who had never been part of such a demanding relationship before, could barely recognize himself. The change kept going when he was transformed into bicarbonate, and then met Calcium. Before Carl knew it, he was part of Calcium Carbonate; planted on the bottom of the ocean floor as part of a coral reef. Carl had come a long way since his rock days, and was here to stay. He bought a new desk, got a haircut, and moved in for a while.
But what happened to some of Carl’s tattooed friends? Some of them were diffused, some of them decayed, but some were used in photosynthesis in photosynthetic organisms on the surface of the water. When that producer was eaten, the consumer respired to use glucose, and released the CO2 back into the atmosphere. They were airborne once more (‘Free Bird’ was added to the covalent bonds), but that did not last long. The CO2 was used once again for photosynthesis on the shore, helping a tree to grow. Years and years passed, and Carl’s friends went with the decaying tree to the soil, where they were broken into smaller and smaller pieces. And like Carl’s favorite book, Life Swap, Carl’s friends settled down over the millennia for a nice consistent life as sedimentary rock.
A little summary of pathways also by MiriamA:
Released to atmosphere
Used by plants for photosynthesis
Plants eaten by consumers
Higher level consumers eat those consumers and respire, returning to atmosphere
Co2 travels on over to a large body of water
Diffuses into the ocean (high to low)
Used by surface dwelling creatures, respire, returned to atmosphere
Where it is used by plants for photosynthesis
Turn into sedimentary rock again………
Diffused Co2 meets up with H20, makes carbonic acid, which turns into bicarbonate
Bicarbonate meets with calcium to make calcium bicarbonate
Precipitates, becomes coral!!
Degraded coral is impacted together, turns into sedimentary rock
So, do you remember the steps of the carbon cycle? Do you remember the formulas for these forms of carbon? Do you recall all the ways humans alter this cycle?
I know things are winding down, but I was amazed by all the recent news stories that deal with our units of study. At this point in the course, reading the news is a way to study. This AP exam is constantly being rewritten as new research is published or new environmental disasters occur! Check out any that interest you:
BBC: BP oil spill: The environmental impact one year on (yes, it’s been a year already!)
NPR: Washing Away The Arctic Coastline (more on sea level rise)
HAPPY EARTH DAY!
If you did notice lately, it is very “hip” to “green.” I’m watching my favorite Thursday night NBC comedy shows, and seeing all these public service announcements for “green week.” Heck, even the NBC peacock logo is green this week! Check out NBC’s slick website: http://www.nbc.com/Green/
And, FOX is getting in on the act too. Check out their slick website: http://www.fox.com/greenitmeanit/
This type of public relations stuff is called “greenwashing.” Here’s a definition (can’t find or recall the source):
Greenwashing is the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy.
So, why is what NBC or Fox doing this week considered sorta sly? Well…do you think the network executives are doing it for the network or us (or both)? You decide.
If you want to know more, here are a few “watchdog” sites that monitor greenwashing:
So, be a smart consumer, not all that is green is good. ANY group can claim to be green-there is no government standard! Love to discuss any of this with any of you here or in class one day…can you think of other examples you’ve seen?
Since it was such a busy week with prom and since most of you met your scribe post obligations during the energy project, I did not assign scribes over the last few days. So, here is a collection of links from last year’s class on Global Climate Change for those that missed class:
*Since did not have a scribe for ozone day, I pulled this post by alum Kelly Cox ’10 out of the archives.
Today during the second half of class, we discussed ozone, or O3.
The first thing to recognize when discussing ozone is that there is good ozone, and there is bad ozone. You MUST be able to distinguish between the two of these!
Good ozone (O3) is responsible for absorbing and blocking about 95% of harmful UV radiation from the sun in the stratosphere (NOT the troposphere). Good ozone is what we want to maintain in the stratosphere, obviously. Without it, humans and plants are exposed to UV-A and UV-B, which penetrate through the skin and cause DNA to lose electrons. This leads to tumors called carcinoma and melanoma. Without good ozone, we are also at risk of cataracts, severe sunburn, skin cancer, lower crop yields, and less phytoplankton which the food chain depends on.
Bad ozone is a main component of photochemical smog, and obviously we want to minimize the amount of bad ozone that is released into the atmosphere. Bad ozone irritates the eyes, nose, and lungs, and damages plant’s leaves.
One of the most common misconceptions about ozone is that there is a “hole” in the ozone layer. In reality, the issue at should be referred to as “ozone thinning.” The ozone layer varies in thickness and concentration throughout the stratosphere. Thick is obviously better because it can better protect us from UV radiation. Here is a diagram showing the varying concentrations of ozone in the stratosphere but NOTE: No where is there a “hole” or complete absence of ozone!!!
The “hole” is the largest or the most thinning occurs during the spring months (September-October) in Antarctic.
CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) were discovered in 1928, and at first they were considered “the dream chemical” because they were useful and versatile, yet they weren’t explosive or dangerous, or so they thought. They were used for coolants in refrigerators, propellants in aerosol cans, and in plastic bubble packaging. But in 1974 research proved a reaction of CFCs in the stratosphere, which was destroying good ozone. When UV light hits CFCs, the chlorine in the atmosphere is free and reacts with O3 causing these series of reactions:
Cl + O3 –> ClO (unstable) + O2 ClO + O –> O2 + Cl….. then this Chlorine continues to react with O3 creating a vicious cycle where good ozone is being removed from the stratosphere. Once this discovery was made, a large movement to remove all CFCs from the market quickly began. Here is a good description of this reaction that takes place in the stratosphere that Mr. Willard sent me (I’m not sure who to credit this??):
The Montreal Protocol has been very successful in eliminating CFCs in most products. Almost every country has signed on to it now, and ozone remediation is working, but slowly.
We had a few folks out visiting schools Friday, so here is the scoop. After reviewing the energy unit tests, I briefly reviewed the structure and composition of the atmosphere. Then, I did a brief into to tropospheric air pollution. The Clean Air Act (originally enacted in 1970) has been one of our most successful environmental laws. This law empowered the EPA to establish the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), for certain air pollutants. There are 6 main pollutants for which the EPA has set standards: NO2, O3, SO2, CO, Lead, and PM (particulate matter or SPM, suspended particulate matter). These are MINIMUM standards for acceptable air quality! Here’s the memory trick I offered the class:
Question: How do you remember the list of air pollutants monitored by the NAAQS developed by the EPA?
PM (particulate matter or spm)
Get it? you would need a noseclip to protect yourself from the NOSCLP air pollutants…haha.
*Here is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful interactive web site that gives you details on the health effects of each (you should have this on pg. 4 of Chp 17 Study Guide also but check it out): http://hank.baaqmd.gov/cleanairprimer/IIIA3.html
You all are probably more familiar with the Air Quality Index (AQI). The AQI is set by the EPA and is based on primarily on measurements of particulates and ground-level ozone. An AQI value over 100 is considered unhealthy (orange). You are most familiar with this when the weather man gives you a color value for today’s air quality (click here for that scale). Ozone is the biggest concern, since that is a clue photochemical smog is forming. Cities that spend too many days in the upper index ranges can be penalized by the federal government withholding highway improvement funds. Charlotte has had some issues with during our summers lately! You can see North Carolina AQI “forecasts” here.
If you thought the photo by Richard Box of the “leaky” high voltage transmission lines was neat, you can check out more of his photography here. I thought that was an interesting intro to a subject your book seems to ignore-how the electricity gets from all those different types of power plants to your home:
Image source (and article on how there are plans to replace our “dumb” grid with a “smart” one): http://newsone.com/nation/associated-press/obama-administration-will-spend-3-4-billion-toward-smart-power-grid/
You need a basic working knowledge of “the grid” if you are going to make sense of some of the free response math questions on the AP exam. If you missed class, the best makeup lesson I can offer is to go through the web pages of How Power Grids Work at HowStuffWorks.com.
*Someone else has scribe duties for the energy math problems covered in class today, so look for another post soon.