Investigation Launched Into Brazilian Oil Spill


Brazilian president Dilma Rouseff released a statement asking for an investigation into the recent oil spill near an expansive deepwater drilling project by Chevron. Rouseff called for an extensive inquiry into the possible causes and responsibility for an oil spill that was detected on Thursday, November 10th.

Chevron, one of six major worldwide oil companies, sent out an email before the presidential statement stating that oil sheen was viewed off the coast near Chevron Brazil’s Frade project, a deepwater drilling project. The sheen, caused by oil settling atop the water that appears to shimmer, is projected to range between 400 and 650 barrels, or about 16,800 – 27,300 gallons of gasoline. The sheen is in the Campos basis 230 miles northeast of Rio de Janeiro. 

Chevron’s own investigations utilizing underwater vehicles revealed a seep, an opening from which hydrocarbons are naturally released from underground. Chevron closed a well near the seeps and is still investigation their cause. Chevron was quick to notify authorities and relevant government agencies of the spill and pledged to work rapidly to minimize any potential environmental effects. 

In the wake of last year’s BP oil spill, oil companies and governments are reacting much more quickly and aggressively to prevent or contain possible oil spills. Though this recent Brazilian oil spill falls extremely short of the extent of last year’s spill, officials are taking no chances. Brazil is currently undertaking a massive deep sea oil plan that would substantially increase its current output of 2 million barrels a day. 


CA Attorney General Files Suit against Bottled Water Companies

On Wednesday, October 26th, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, filed suit against the three national companies, ENSO Plastics, the makers of the water bottles and two retail sellers of bottled water,  Aquamantra and Balance Water.

The lawsuit claims that the water bottles are mislabeled as being ‘biodegradable’ and do not decompose naturally as claimed. Labels on the bottles claim to have a microbial additive that would render the bottle biodegradable. The lawsuit asserts that this is wrong, that the microbial additive does not aid the breakdown process and instead only renders the bottles unrecyclable as the additive is considered a destructive contaminant that could pollute other recycled material.

Under a 2008 California law signed by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, no plastic food or beverage container can be labeled as biodegradable, degradable, or compostable. This year, governor Jerry Brown expanded the law to include all plastic products, from food and beverage containers to any other common plastic material. This lawsuit could potentially set an important precedent in the way companies and manufacturers of plastics label their products.

The mislabeling of products as being more environmentally friendly is a not a new occurrence, nor is this the first time a bottled water company has been sued. Earlier this year, Fiji water was sued for falsely claiming to be carbon-negative. With the rise of the ‘green’ movement and the increase in consumers leaning towards environmentally-friendly products, the practice of greenwashing, or deceptively misleading consumers into believing a product is more environmentally-friendly than it really is, has also increased.

There are several things you can do to avoid the misleading and environmentally harmful practice of greenwashing.

  • Stop supporting companies such as Fiji, Aquamantra and Balance that lie about the biodegradability and sustainability of their products. Stop buying their products until they stop deceptively labeling their bottles.
  • Stop purchasing single use water bottles overall. Buy a reuseable water bottle and drink tap water instead. Bottled water is in no way safer to drink that tap water, and is in fact much more environmentally wasteful and can even be harmful for human consumption.
  • Keep informed on which companies are actually environmentally-friendly and which are only marketing themselves as such. Greenpeace maintains a comprehensive site that details many companies deceptive marketing practices.


Help the Survivors of the Turkish Earthquake

On October 23, a 7.2 earthquake struck Turkey’s eastern region, heavily damaging the city of Ecris in the province of Van. 528 total fatalities have been reported, 455 from Ercis and over 4,000 more non-fatal injuries.

A week after the massive earthquake hit, Turkish authorities have announced an end to further search for survivors. Around 232 survivors were rescued from collapsed buildings and rubble. The earthquake destroyed over 2,000 buildings and homes leaving thousands without shelter. Survivors of the earthquake now left without homes face the incoming winter season and the accompanying freezing temperatures.

 The Turkish Red Crescent, the largest humanitarian organization in Turkey is attempting to gather resources and makeshift shelter for the dispossessed but faces lack of supplies and looting. 17 trucks carrying provisions for survivors have been looted by survivors worried about not receiving aid.

 For any concerned and wishing to help the survivors, there are a number of organizations accepting donations.

 The American Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross and the British Red Cross – All working in conjunction with the Turkish Red Crescent to provide shelter and other needed supplies for survivors. 

The Bridge to Türkiye Fund – Established in 2003, this organization helps provide educational assistance to children and families and on the ground rebuilding work.

 The Turkish Cultural Center Boston – Working with the Helping Hands Relief Foundation to provide necessities for the survivors. 


Cat Returns Home After 5 Years, Demonstrates Importance of Microchips

A calico cat named Willow was returned to her family in Boulder, Colorado after disappearing five years ago and reappearing 1,800 miles away in Manhattan. In 2006, Willow was accidentally lost to the Squires family during a home renovation. The family who lived in a coyote filled area believed her to have been lost to them. How she made the long journey remains unknown. In September 2011, a man found Willow on East 20th Street in Manhattan and turned her in to local animal shelter. Workers at the shelter were able to scan the microchip imbedded in her and use the information on it and the registration information associated with it to locate and contact her family. After more than 5 years and almost 2,000 miles, Willow was able to return to her home and family. 

This touching story however is not a reality for many families that have lost pets. The statistics on lost pets are startling. Every year between 5 and 7 million pets go into animal shelters across the country. Of those about 3-4 million are euthanized. The animal return rates are even more discouraging. Less than 2 percent of cats and 15-20 percent of dogs are returned to the owners. The majority of these returns were made possible by tags, tattoos or microchips. Microchiping a pet substantially increases the likelihood of it being returned to its home and family. Dogs with microchips have a much higher return rate at 52 percent while microchipped cats have a 38 percent rate.

The procedure itself is simple and non-invasive but should always be performed by a trained veterinarian. A small microchip enclosed in a glass cylinder no larger than the size of a grain of rice is inserted into the animal via hypodermic needle into the subcutaneous space between the animals shoulder blades, without the need for surgery or anesthesia. The animal rarely feels any pain or discomfort and the whole experience takes no more than a few seconds. 

Having a pet microchipped is not the end of the matter though. A few simple steps are required after the pet is microchipped to ensure its safety and usefulness.

  • After having a pet microchiped, ensure that the registration information on the chip is kept current. If you move and change address, ensure that the information registered to the microchip is changed to match the new address. Keeping current tag and microchip information increases the likelihood of return. 
  • During routine ch
    eck-ups, have the veterinarian check the microchip to ensure it has not moved. Though rare, microchip sometimes migrate to other sections of the animal.
  • When adopting a new pet, ask whether or not the animal is microchiped. If they aren’t, ask the seller to begin doing so.
  • Don’t forget to also maintain current tags and collars on pets. Microchips aid returning the pet if they are lost but not all people know to return found animals to shelters. Keeping current tag and microchip information increased the likelihood of return. 

Have your pet microchip and ensure that like Willow he or she can make it back to you safely.  



Obama Rejects New EPA Ozone Standards

On Friday, September 2nd, President Obama announced that he would abandon a proposed rule by the Environmental Protection Agency to alter the standards on ground-level ozone.  The new draft of the Ozone National Air Quality Standards would have set ground-level ozone standards from 75 parts per billion to 60 to 70 parts per billion. The current standard of 75 parts per billion was established in 2008 by former president George Bush.     

Ozone, a gas composed of three oxygen atoms is found in the stratosphere and the troposphere and depending on its location can be considered ‘good’ or ‘bad’. ‘Good’ ozone, found in the stratosphere, protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet rays. At the trophosphere, ground-level ozone is caused by a chemical reaction between oxides of nitrogen and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight and can cause a whole host of health problems ranging from minor chest pains, coughing, throat irritation to more serious issues like bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Environmentally, ground-level ozone can have many harmful effects including “reduced agricultural crop and commercial forest yields, reduced growth and survivability of tree seedlings, and increased susceptibility to diseases, pests and other stresses such as harsh weather.” Under the Clean Air Act, the presidential administration must review air pollution regulations every five years and set standards based on scientific research to protect public health.  The standards set in 2008 by the Bush administration were more stringent that the previous levels of 1997 but not up o the recommendations at the time. The standards are up again for review in 2013.

With his approval rating at 40%, President Obama has shown a pronounced shift in policy emphasis towards the faltering economy. The president rejected the new standard, electing to focus on the struggling economy rather than a key environmental issue, claiming that “the importance of reducing regulatory burdens and regulatory uncertainty, particularly as our economy continues to recover.” Many counties in the United States that would not meet the new standards would be forced to undergo costly restructuring estimating with enforcement of the new rule potentially costing between $19 and $90 billion. However, EPA figures placed the amount of money saved from pollution based health costs at $100 billion dollars in addition to the prevention of some 12,000 premature deaths.

The decision has trigger an outpouring of disappointment and anger. Some organizations such as the American Lung Association plan to challenge the decision in court with the ALA president, Charles D. Connor chastising of the administration, “Its final decision not to enact a more protective ozone health standard is jeopardizing the health of millions of Americans, which is inexcusable.”

Also to be seen is what effect this will have on President Obama’s reelection chances as this decision potentially upsets his environmental base.

Photo credit: