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NYC makes history with new styrofoam ban

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Monday marked the first day New York City’s ban on styrofoam went into effect. From now on, the city will issue fines to businesses for selling single-use styrofoam products. 

The long-awaited ban formally started January 1, but the city granted businesses a six-month grace period prior to its enforcement. The new law prohibits products including takeout containers, cups, plates, and packing peanuts. Such a ban will most greatly impact the food industry, manufacturing companies, and retailers in the city.  

In lieu of styrofoam products, officials encouraged businesses to transition to compostable or recyclable alternatives, such as paper. However, there will be some exceptions, such as containers to store raw meat. 

Exceptions to the Styrofoam Ban

According to the New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY), small businesses with an income less than $500,000 can apply for an exemption. That is, if they can provide evidence that switching to foam substitutes will create too substantial a financial hardship, they will be exempt from the ban.

Ramifications for Businesses

Businesses caught selling or distributing styrofoam products will be fined $250 by the DSNY for their first violation, $500 for their second, and $1,000 for every one that follows. The department sent mailers to almost 130,000 businesses to warn them about the ban and provide help during the transition.

This law will make NYC the largest city in the U.S. to prohibit styrofoam. Other cities that have enacted laws banning the material include San Diego, Miami Beach, Seattle, and Washington DC. Maine and Maryland also have plans to implement legislation banning styrofoam in the coming years. 

“New York City’s ban on styrofoam is long overdue, and New Yorkers are ready to start using recyclable alternatives,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said upon announcing the ban last year. “There’s no reason to continue allowing this environmentally unfriendly substance to flood our streets, landfills, and waterways.” 

Reactions to the Styrofoam Ban

Many council members have praised de Blasio, a 2020 presidential candidate, for his commitment to making New York City more sustainable and environmentally-friendly. Earlier this year, the mayor announced a Green New Deal for the city with goals to make NYC carbon neutral by 2050, and also released a $10 billion infrastructure project aimed at protecting the city from rising sea levels spurred by climate change. 

Council members have praised Mayor de Blasio for his decision to ban styrofoam in NYC.
Council members have praised Mayor de Blasio for his decision to ban styrofoam in NYC.

de Blasio said in a statement that New Yorkers toss out 60 million pounds of styrofoam every year. He mentioned that this disposal leads to overflowing landfills and bolster the environmentally harmful petroleum economy. Further, the DSNY said styrofoam is harmful to the environment due to the difficulty associated with recycling it properly.

“We’re ending this dirty practice so we can ensure a cleaner, fairer future for our children,” de Blasio said. 

Conclusions

This ban acts as a major victory in the city’s fight against climate change. With a city as big as NYC taking such steps against reducing pollution, there’s hope others will as well.

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Sustainability

Miley Cyrus doesn’t want to have kids until the climate crisis is resolved. She’s not alone.

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As climate despair continues to grow, some have said they feel helpless; others have even said climate change has made them feel suicidal. Though Miley Cyrus isn’t on that level, she did recently said she doesn’t want to have kids until the climate crisis is resolved.

And she’s not alone. There’s actually an entire movement, BirthStrike, that shares the sentiment of not having kids due to the crisis. The movement is growing, and though Miley made no specific mention to it, she seems to embody at least some of its values.

Miley Cyrus Shares Her Thoughts with Elle Magazine

In a recent interview with Elle, Miley shared her thoughts on sustainability and climate change fairly extensively, saying:

“We’re getting handed a piece-of-shit planet, and I refuse to hand that down to my child. Until I feel like my kid would live on an Earth with fish in the water, I’m not bringing in another person to deal with that.”

We saw Miley’s angry rhetoric before: at one of her concerts, where she expressed her disdain for how human activity has damaged the environment. That speaks to her passion for the climate topic.

Later in the same Elle interview, Miley added:

“We just take and take and expect it to keep producing … it’s exhausted. It can’t produce.”

Though it’s unclear what she’s referring to specifically, her statement could be alluding to a number of things. For instance, she could be referring to the deforestation problem or how ocean pollution has affected marine habitats.

Miley Cyrus Isn’t Alone

Though most people’s decisions to have children aren’t affected by the climate crisis, Miley is far from being alone. BirthStrike is quickly gaining popularity, currently counting over 330 people as members of its organization.

To learn more about the organization, CNN spoke with 33-year-old British musician Blythe Pepino, who told the network:

33-year-old British musician Blythe Pepino is the founder of the BirthStrike movement.
33-year-old British musician Blythe Pepino is the founder of the BirthStrike movement. Image Credit: Linda Nylind/The Guardian

“I love my partner and I want a family with him but I don’t feel like this is a time that you can do that.”

The BirthStrike movement is grounded on two fundamental principles:

  1. Having kids would subject them to a deteriorating planet.
  2. Having kids would add to the emissions problem.

On an emotional level, the first point. And on a statistical level, since the typical person emits over 5 tons of carbon dioxide annually, one can understand the second point.

Miley echoes this sentiment, saying:

“I feel like that’s what all millennials are dealing with right now … We don’t want to reproduce because we know that the earth can’t handle it.”

But what really influenced her position on the climate crisis were the Californian wildfires, of which her family was a victim.

Wildfires Influence Miley’s Decision

The 2018 Woolsey fire caused over $6 billion in damages. Included in those damages was Miley’s $2.5 million Malibu home and some of her earliest songs. Miley took immediate action, and has accomplished a ton:

“After the Woolsey fire, I thought about how we helped more than 120 families who lost their homes. We’ve served nearly 1,300 homeless kids in Hollywood every year since 2014. And last year, we helped 270 kids find housing and provided 32,000 meals. That won’t burn down. That helped me become much more disconnected from things.”

The Woolsey fire burned Miley's $2.5 million Malibu home and some of her earliest songs.
The Woolsey fire burned Miley’s $2.5 million Malibu home and some of her earliest songs.

But despite a tremendous contribution from Miley, she can’t solve the wildfire problem alone (or at all, really). In part, that’s because the wildfire problem is everywhere. That’s where the helplessness comes from, as she shares:

“With natural disasters, you don’t get a choice. You surrender.”

To think from Miley’s perspective: “How can you expect your kids to do well if they can lose just about everything they have to a natural disaster?”

Conclusions

Regardless of whether you plan on having kids, a necessary consideration is whether the Earth can actually support them. Miley suggests that many millennials like her understand that it might be in everyone’s best interests to not bring up children in an age faced with the implications of climate change. That’s your decision to make.

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Sustainability

Guadalajara wakes up to 6 feet of hail…then it’s 83 degrees Fahrenheit again

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Just yesterday, Mexican officials said that a storm yielded some four feet of hail in the Guadalajara region. The hail storm reportedly damaged over 200 homes and swept away over a dozen cars. However, the temperature reached a high of 83 degrees Fahrenheit just later that day.

The State Government Helps Guadalajara

Guadalajara receives help from the state government.
Guadalajara receives help from the state government.

The state government acted quickly. Workers dragged businesses out of the hail. They also cleared streets and drainage systems.

Ramifications and Conclusions

Jalisco governor Enrique Alfaro was quick to correlate the hail storm with climate change. Translated from Spanish, Alfaro’s tweet can be understood as: “I was in the place to assess the situation and witnessed scenes I had never seen: hail more than a meter high, and then we wonder if climate change exists.”

Thus far, there are no reported fatalities or injuries as a result of the hailstorm. However, CBS reported that three adults may have developed hypothermia.

Strange Weather in Guadalajara

Granted that three adults may have developed hypothermia, it would be reasonable to believe that Guadalajara’s temperature was cold for at least the rest of the day. Weather reports showed that this was far from the case.

Within the same day of the hailstorm, Guadalajara reached a peak temperature of 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

In fact, at its highs, Guadalajara reached 83 degrees Fahrenheit.

But even preceding the hailstorm, Guadalajara saw temperatures around 88 degrees Fahrenheit. Further, current weather forecasts show that the city will see highs between 80 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 10 days.

Strange.

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Sustainability

70+ medical organizations declare climate change a health emergency

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Just in time for the Democratic presidential debates, over 70 medical and public health groups have implored politicians to act upon climate change. Going one step further, these organizations declared climate change “the greatest public health challenge of the 21st century.”

Priority Action Items

oil gas
Policy recommendations encourage reduction of fossil fuel reliance.

This urgent call to action detailed several actions these organizations believe are necessary to warrant meaningful change. For instance, some policy recommendations included strengthening U.S. commitment under the Paris Agreement and significantly reducing fossil fuel reliance. Further, some organizations believe shifting towards more eco-friendly modes of transportation is essential.

Organizations Endorse Climate Change Agenda

Leading health organizations, including the American Medical Association and the American Heart Association, endorsed the new climate change agenda.

The organizations wrote in their statement, “The health, safety, and well-being of millions of people in the U.S. have already been harmed by human-caused climate change, and health risks in the future are dire without urgent action to fight climate change.” 

Climate change, the groups said, is culpable for exacerbated cases of extreme heat, droughts, and perilous storms, floods, and wildfires, which have led to hundreds and thousands of deaths and displaced citizens after their homes were devastated.

Heat Waves Taking Lives

This week, citizens in Europe and parts of the U.S. were hit by a major heat wave. The other day, France experienced its hottest day ever recorded at more than 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Europe’s heat wave left a death count of two thus far.

Organizations’ Climate Agenda

Within the agenda, groups referred to a study conducted by the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health revealing emergency room visits for heat-induced illnesses rose 133% from 1997 to 2006. The groups also connected increases in diseases like asthma and vector-borne diseases such as West Nile virus that are indicative of poor environmental factors—such as air pollution and extreme changes in temperature—to climate change. 

Organizations increasingly getting involved in pushing climate reform.

The agenda also highlighted how climate change disproportionately threatens the well-being of the nation’s most vulnerable groups. Specifically, climate change impacts children, the elderly, pregnant women, and marginalized communities more heavily. Health professionals hope their frank characterization of climate change as a “health emergency” will prompt further conversation and actual political intervention.

Health Professionals Point Out Reality of Climate Change

However, many health professionals hope not only influence the actions of political leaders in the nation but everyday citizens as well. Ed Maibach of George Mason University believes the agenda will strongly influence voters in 2020.

“It’s incredibly helpful when health professionals point out the actual reality of the situation, point out that this is also a threat to our health and well-being now…and it’s likely to get worse, much worse if we don’t take action to address it,” Maibach said about the agenda. 

The Political Arena Recognizes Climate Change as a Mainstream Issue

Elizabeth Warren
Elizabeth Warren, among others, recognizes climate change as an emergency issue.

With the political climate heating up, it seems conversation on climate change is following it. In the first night of debates alone, four 2020 candidates declared climate change as the nation’s most pressing geopolitical threat. 

“Our existential threat is climate change,” presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke said. “We have to confront it before it’s too late.”  

Conclusions

The widespread consensus among the Democratic candidate pool on the need to prioritize climate change as an issue is reassuring. It is becoming significantly more possible America’s next president will help lead the way for a cleaner, greener future. For now, the nation’s top health organizations are striving to help pave that path. 

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