We are more connected with garbage than we think

The theory that Earth is a globe with a finite space is not new. We are more connected with garbage than we think. We are leaving a heritage to future generations with culture, technology and also garbage. In some cases we are basically putting our garbage under the rug (landfills). If the rug is the ocean imagine how hard will be in the future when next generations will have to deal with it, cleaning our garbage.

We consider ourselves the superior animal, however in most of the cases we are incapable of take care of our own garbage. Are we pigs? No, pigs don’t dump they garbage elsewhere. They live with their own garbage. Sometimes I don’t get it. How can we consider ourselves superior if we are not able to handle our own garbage? Why people still think that garbage will disappear if left on the streets. Every product we use has to come from a place and has to go somewhere. It does not matter the size or the material. In most of the cases the products, after they are used, go to a landfill or a recycle factory. However there are cases where they are left in the streets or dumped in the wrong place. Is it really hard to put garbage in the correct place? Last year I wrote a post about a recycle day for electronics in my neighbourhood and one of my neighbours dumping his old TV in the back alley. Now, I’ve been taking some pictures to prove my theory: we are not that intelligent and we are leaving our dirty culture to future generations. Every piece (small or big) of garbage that we leave is our direct responsibility.

I am optimistic because there are a few amount of people trying to do the right thing and most important: they are teaching children how to take care of the environment. Children are learning already that what we are doing with the environment is not right.

Recycling and reusing clothes

The conversation about recycling and the environment are not new. Normally we do our job with plastic bottles and the correct recycle bin. But how about our clothes? What we should do with it? Is there a way to recycle clothes? Fortunately the answers is yes, there is a way to recycle “some” clothes. There are some companies doing this as Patagonia and H&M. In particular H&M Has a recycling program and released a campaign to receive clothes donations:

Here are some facts. Most of clothes end in the landfill. Why? Some of the reasons are similar to my post about how to recycle an old blender. I didn’t know anything about until I realized that I had so many clothes. Then I started a little research in the Internet. Here is what I’ve found:

  • According to a new report from the Council for Textile Recycling (CTR), the average American throws away 70 pounds. of clothing every year, which equals roughly 191 T-shirts…per person. Collectively, that’s approximately 3.8 billion pounds of waste.
  • Cotton is the world’s most commonly used natural fiber and is in nearly 40 percent of our clothing. It has a clean, wholesome image long cultivated by the garment industry. But the truth is that it is a thirsty little plant that drinks up more of its fair share of water. It is also one of the most chemically dependent crops in the world. While only 2.4% of the world’s cropland is planted with cotton, it consumes 10 percent of all agricultural chemicals and 25 percent of insecticides. Some genetically modified varieties, which are resistant to some insects and tolerant of some herbicides, now make up more than 20% of the world’s cotton crop.
  •  So far Existing cotton recycling methods make poor-quality fibers, and there is no efficient way to recycle garments of mixed materials, so the vast majority of clothes end up in landfill. In addition, the production of cotton destroys farmland and pollutes waterways.
  • Synthetic polyesters and nylon are made from petrochemicals, a byproduct of oil refining which increases our need and reliance on oil and increases harmful pollution which affects us all.
  • Dyes are creating a chemical Fukushima in Indonesia. The Citarum River is considered one of the most polluted rivers in the world due in great part to the hundreds of textile factories lining its shores. It also uses a lot of fresh water and the dye wastewater is discharged, often untreated, into nearby rivers, where it reaches the sea, eventually spreading around the globe.

One day I had to move. It is only when the moving happens one realizes that accumulation is not really necessary. We are used to buy new stuff even when we don’t really needed. Also sale is kind of a magic word. I must confess I was like that too. Until the day I needed to move. I checked my closet and I though: why do I have so many clothes? Then I started to pack my stuff. Gosh, it was a lot of stuff. A couple of luggage only with my clothes. I had so many clothes that some of them I didn’t  even remember I had. After that day my life and habits were changed. Instead of buy things that I don’t needed nor I used much, I started to spend money only on necessary stuff.

I have a procedure that works for me in order use my clothes until the very end. The procedure could be extended to other products. I started with clothes and at the end I had a feeling of joy. Joy because at the same time I was able to achieve goals such as:

  • my money was being well used
  • I wasn’t wasting
  • If a had to donate I was helping someone else
  • I was doing sort of recycling, reusing.

I know, for each person will work differently, but here is what I do and I hope it would help more people to achieve similar feelings of joy and also to recycle and reuse some clothes.

The first step is: stop the waste and only buy clothes you REALLY need and you will use a lot. Someone could say, but every time I buy clothes they’re necessary. Really? For me, every time I saw something I wanted to buy (mainly shirts) I asked myself: do I really need this? How many shirts/pants/shorts do I have at home? Are those clothes in my home really that useless? Do I have to buy new ones or I can still wear a little bit more? If I the answer was yes then I would buy otherwise no. It worked like magic. I started to buy only things I really needed. I was happy because I was not being wasteful and mainly because I was saving money.

The second step: to solve the problem at home. Too many clothes to wear. I divide clothes into categories. For example the shirts are divided into two categories: shirts (or pants, shorts, etc) to use normally at home and shirts to go out. The shirts to use at home are those shirts that are not really new. These are the ones losing color, with some stains, etc. The shirts to go out are the ones that I use to go out at night, to work (if the work needs a better dressing code), to play my shows (also work), etc. How will this division help? For some people the division is already a process to see which clothes will be donated. Some of the shirts could not fit anymore because it shinkred or the body magically changed (someone gained/lost weight). There are lot of old but usable t-shirts, blue jeans, ball caps and more that you may not want … but someone else does. Also, when deciding to donate clothes, ask yourself, if you were at a store would you buy it again?

After the division the goal is to wear clothes more, starting with the old ones. I know it is kind of contradictory, but why? The logic was simple, to use new clothes I had to use a lot the old ones until they’re not wearable anymore. When the clothes are not wearable anymore I replace that piece for one of the new ones (which at that time was not really new but as I wasn’t using it is kind of new).  There are some good reasons for that. First I spent money buy them. Second I don’t like to waste and it doesn’t matter my financial situation. Third if I buy something and I don’t really use I have the combined feeling of waste and bad investment.

After the clothes are not wearable, is there another way to reuse (recycle)? Yeap, there are some ways to reuse some of the clothes. The main idea here is: please don’t throw old clothes in the garbage. Here are some examples (ok, I know, some of them are good, some of them are really good and some of them are not that good):








Here are more about the topic:






Dumping Old TVs

Last weekend something really interesting happened. One of my neighbors decided to dump his old TV in the back alley. Very interesting decision, considering that two weeks ago there was a recycle day for electronics one block from our place (which by the way had an awesome response from the neighborhood as you can see in the picture).

I was asking myself, why did someone just dumped the TV there? Did the person knew about the drop off?  Well, I considered some of these possible reasons:
1-The TV was working until that specific day and then it stopped working, so the person had to buy another one and dumped the old one somewhere.
2- The person didn’t know about the drop off.
3- The TV was working and the person wanted that someone to use it. So the person dumped the TV in the back alley expecting that someone will reuse it.
4- The person didn’t care about recycling and environment.

The first reason seems reasonable, except the fact that there are specific places to throw old TVs. I know, those places sometimes are not obvious as I wrote here, but the majority of electronics appliances have a symbol showing they won’t belong to normal garbage.

 The second reason is very unlikely considering that there were posters informing the drop off inside and outside the building and also posters around our neighborhood. Also there are drop off days in our neighborhood (minimum twice per year), so I think it is possible to store the TV and wait for the next drop off.

The third reason is indeed a great act. I do the same sometimes but not with monsters super heavy old TVs. I do with books, DVDs or clothes. Super heavy TVs are not easy to transport. Besides how someone would know that the TV is working perfectly? Adding a sign? I had a similar experience before. I owned an old heavy TV (few years ago). I put my TV in my storage and I put add an ad in a website offering the TV for free. So a couple of days later a guy came and picked up the TV. Of course I don’t even want to comment the fourth reason.

Later during the day, I was at my apartment and I heard some bangs outside. A homeless guy was trying to open the TV (probably there was something valuable to sell inside the TV ). The guy did his job and of course left the TV there in multiple pieces. After the “service” it was clear that the TV would go to a common garbage landfill. It is not the correct option because those TVs have poisonous metals and frequently those metals will contaminate aquifers.


This is how the TV was after the “service”

I started to think whose fault is this? The former TV owner? The homeless guy? The government (of course, blaming the government is kind of default always)? I am not sure, but that is the reason i am writing this post. There are alternative solutions. I gave here some possible reasons to dump an old TV in a common trash and some possible solutions to drop off the TV in the right place.  I know is not easy but I hope to spread more the message make the world a cleaner place.

Where Should My Broken Blender go?

A couple of weeks ago I tried to use my blender and it did not work. My first thought it was, I need to get a new one. It could be a small problem easy to fix. However, as the majority of the world population, I don’t know how to fix a blender (or any electronic product) so i have to find someone to do that for me. Normally the cost to fix a blender is similar to buy a new one. Ok, I know, I am being cheap and that is not environmental friendly but I am not in that eco-level yet. It is a working in progress.

However, to feel “less guilty” about the situation i thought, is the blender recyclable? Should i throw it in the regular garbage? I am trying to reduce the amount of garbage that i generate and the amount of garbage that I throw in the regular garbage (which goes to the landfills). First, it is obvious that the blender should not go to the regular garbage. Why? Because all those products have a label saying so. Why? These products are made of different materials, and some of them are harmful to the environment. It can pollute water, food and cause diseases in animals and humans.

Second, where should i dispose the blender? In my recyclable bin? No. But where? I searched a bit in the Internet. I found some places where it is possible to dispose some electronic equipments, but unfortunately it was not for kitchen appliances but for computers, remote controls, tv, etc. I searched a little bit more and then I finally discovered that in the city where I live there is a program where in certain locations it is possible to dispose the blender. In the end I did the right thing and my old blender went to the right place. I used one of the neighbourhood programs to collect electronics.

I live in a building with around 20 suites, and it is not hard to find electronics inside our normal garbage can. Why? Do the people know about the recyclable program? Are they lazy ? All these products have a label showing they should not go to regular garbage. Well, I didn’t know about the program until I started to look for the right place to throw my old blender. Surprisingly, here in my city an environmental fee is charged every time an electronic product is sold to support the program.


What are the consequences of not dispose this kind of garbage in a proper way? An example (which only scratches the surface) is this documentary about the plastic pollution in the ocean called “Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. Most of these products are made of plastic with a combination of poison metals. Most of the plastic that has ever been created since the 19th century is still somewhere on our planet. So if it never goes away, where does it go? And If they are threw into the sea? Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, accumulating plastics from three distant continents. 

Once I heard an old tale about a huge forest fire. All the animals of the forest were running away from the fire except for a little bird. The bird was diving into a lake close to the forest trying to hold as much water as possible and coming back in the direction of the fire. When he was flying above the fire he flapped its wings to release all the water he was holding, which it was normally a few drops. When an elephant saw the bird he asked: “Are you stupid? You know you will never end that fire”. The bird answered: “I am doing my part, if all the animals do the same we can fight the fire and save whatever we can of our forest”.

Sometimes I think, destroy a little less doesn’t protect anything. There are billions of people in this word. Millions of them are throwing garbage in the wrong place (including some of my neighbours) but I am trying to do my part and I know I am not the only one.

Next step… Where should my old bass strings go?

Would you like to know more and help?



Does ‘Being Green’ Mean ‘Saving Money’? Well, Not always….

It is not new that plants help the environment, but I’ve been trying to read more news on the internet about helping the environment in general and I must confess that I am bored. If you google any site talking about environment you will find someone talking about climate change and CO2 and another one saying that CO2 is not causing climate change. It is like have your own soccer team or political party, it is not science any more. Look this article talking about green roofs. This article talks about the advantages and disadvantages (including costs and maintenance) of the roofs (which are not cheap by the way). However, there is one last part in the last line where it says something about “cooling the planet”. Damn it! You go to the commentaries and global warming this, CO2 that. Sometimes you can find even more radical ideas as we should not eat meat because the carbon footprint. Ok, yeah, we should also breath less to release less CO2 and we also should hold our farts because of the releasing of methane (another and even more powerful greenhouse gas). So, are we missing the point? Could we please focus on the benefits versus disadvantages of green roofs? Are we saving the planet using a green roof? I doubt it. However it is an interesting idea, and could be applicable considering the costs/maintenance. They need to be adapted to each place and situation  and of course for some places they can’t be economically viable because they probably need more maintenance than traditional roofs. So a balance must exist.

Credit: Arild Vågen – Own work

Another interesting idea is the use of rain gardens to help the runoff problem. Runoff is the portion of rainfall, snowmelt, and/or irrigation water that runs over the soil surface toward the stream rather than infiltrating into the soil. Each soil type has an infiltration rate (the amount of water able to enter the soil in a specified time period) and infiltration capacity (the upper limit of infiltration rate). However in urban areas the infiltration rate could be close to zero because of the impervious areas (roofs, driveways, parking lots, pavements, compacted soils). Consequently the runoff in urban areas is large and it is a major component of flash floods. In addition runoff flows can pick up soil contaminants such as petroleum, pesticides, fertilizers, trace metals, etc.

The rain gardens capture the initial flow of storm water and reduce the accumulation of toxins flowing directly into natural waterways. Thus the stormwater soaks into the ground instead of flow directly to storm drains.  In addition, they help to control erosions due the excessive runoff. Similarly to green roofs, rain gardens have to be adapted to place and situation. For example, native plants are recommended (for both) because they are more tolerant of one’s local climate, soil, and water conditions.

A place which has a rain garden and a green roof is more environmental friendly and it is also helping to save the world, right? Well, it is important to remember the costs and maintenance of these products. Be green does not mean cheap or easy. However the advantages of green roof and rain garden such as energy savings, runoff and pollution reduction, temperature control should also be considered. Maybe you won’t save the world but you can save a few bucks and have a better lifestyle. Besides, it is St. Patrick’s day, so green is the official color.

More about:





Living Architecture Backgrounders


How is Artificial Intelligence Helping the Environment?

Recently, one of the most intelligent man alive, the theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, said in an interview: “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race.”. Should we be afraid of Artificial intelligence (AI) because the machines could take over the human race (similarly to the terminator)? For the environmental science point of view, AI so far has been really helpful. First what is AI? There are different definitions, but one of my favourites is:

[The automation of] activities that we associate with human thinking, activities such as decision-making, problem solving, learning…
(Hellman 1978)

Thus, it is basically the use of machines (e.g. computers) to solve problems and to help complex decisions. There is a branch of AI called machine learning (ML). It is a scientific discipline which studies computational algorithms that can learn from data. One of the applications of the ML algorithms is to use some particular data to perform classification and numerical regression. But how is ML helping the environment?

Satellites (remote sensing) generate thousands of data every day. Images around the globe with different frequencies band (infrared, microwave, visible to the human eye, etc), time and scales. But How useful can be those images? One example is to detect phytoplankton in the ocean. Phytoplankton are important components to sustain the aquatic food web. The importance of them is beyond of being food for krills. Accurate estimates of chlorophyll concentrations (consequently phytoplankton) are essential for estimating primary productivity, biomass, etc.

Image Credit: NASA

Image Credit: NASA

It is possible to use satellites to detect phytoplankton presence in the ocean due the concentration chlorophyll in the surface water. Each frequency channel has a purpose. For example, at certain wavelengths, sand reflects more energy than green vegetation while at other wavelengths it absorbs more (reflects less) energy. However, even using satellites this is not a easy task. Aerosol concentrations could affect the ocean colour viewed from the satellite. Further complications arise when there are also suspended sediments,and/or dissolved organic matter from decayed vegetation in the water. In addition coastal water quality gradually degrades from increased pollution and human activities. To overcome those problems, ML algorithms such as artificial neural networks and support vector machines are used to automatically classify (separating chlorophyll from aerosols, pollution, etc) and detect the presence of phytoplankton in the ocean.

Credit: Nasa

It is also possible to use remote sensing to classify and detect land cover applying the same algorithms to identify and classify different types of vegetation including forests, dead trees in the forest, forest fires, portion of regenerated trees after forest fires, etc. With accurate information is possible to avoid more deforestation, track urbanization, mitigate diseases, understand and control ecosystems, planning, etc.


These are only small samples of how AI is used in environmental sciences. There are so many contributions that is unfair to give only a few examples about the topic.

More about:



William Hsieh (2009). Machine Learning Methods in the Environmental Sciences Cambridge DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511627217

Keiner, L., & Yan, X. (1998). A Neural Network Model for Estimating Sea Surface Chlorophyll and Sediments from Thematic Mapper Imagery Remote Sensing of Environment, 66 (2), 153-165 DOI: 10.1016/S0034-4257(98)00054-6

Schiller, H., & Doerffer, R. (2005). Improved determination of coastal water constituent concentrations from MERIS data IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing, 43 (7), 1585-1591 DOI: 10.1109/TGRS.2005.848410

Dash, J., Mathur, A., Foody, G., Curran, P., Chipman, J., & Lillesand, T. (2007). Land cover classification using multi‐temporal MERIS vegetation indices International Journal of Remote Sensing, 28 (6), 1137-1159 DOI: 10.1080/01431160600784259

Changes in the Water Cycle Expected with Climate Change. Are We Doomed?

Everybody know we are evolving as human beings. Is this true? When I see how clean water has being handled I have some questions. More than a billion people across the globe don’t have access to safe water. Every day 3900 children die as a result of insufficient or unclean water supplies. The situation can only get worse as water gets ever more scarce. The world without clean water. How many times I’ve heard that. The humankind is polluting, wasting, diverting, pumping, and degrading the clean water that we have. On top of that, water has being privatized. Why? Because is becoming rare and only what is rare is valuable! The rampant over-development of agriculture, housing and industry increase the demands for fresh water well beyond the finite supply, resulting in the desertification of the earth. There are companies now saying why don’t we bottle it, mine it, divert it, sell it, commodify it. Corporate giants force developing countries to privatize their water supply for profit. Wall Street investors target desalination and mass bulk water export schemes. Corrupt governments use water for economic and political gain. Military control of water emerges and a new geopolitical map and power structure forms, setting the stage for world water wars. The following two documentaries show how the problem is affecting countries in the world. It is interesting how two documentaries show the same topic. They complement each other.

So, why can we be friends with nature? Is there any hope? According with this recent paper from nature climate:

Adaptation of water resources management will help communities adjust to changes in the water cycle expected with climate change, but it can’t be fixed by innovations alone.

The paper talks about the Pangani River, where the Tanzania Electric Supply Company has three hydropower plants. There, climate change is affecting the water cycle, changing precipitation amounts and droughts duration which is altering the way farmers, pastoralists and Tanzania’s energy company are managing water. All over the world new techniques and planning have been developed. The urban and rural development plans (sometimes) are moving away from large, static projects by combining sustainable approaches of engineering and ecology.

For the Pangani River, leaders adjusted water allocation policies with the changing needs of the communities. Still, they made water availability for ecosystems a main priority by maintaining at least a minimum flow of water to wetlands, riparian forests and mangroves to provide water for wildlife including fish, plants for medicinal use, timber and fruits, for example. Then, as the region’s population swelled, water uses for urban city centres were balanced with the needs of subsistence farmers, pastoralists and the Tanzanian energy company. That same kind of flexibility is the hallmark of the new thinking on water management. Rather than relying on large, long-lived concrete infrastructure, often built all at once and designed based on historical climatic conditions.

It makes sense. Rather than isolating water management issues within a single field, such as engineering or hydrology, the team to solve these problems should include economists, hydrologists, policymakers and engineers. Solutions have been proposed such as the redesigning of water treatment plants that can accommodate extreme rainfall, and the adding of city orchards and grassed bio-swales (which resemble marshy depressions in the land) to slow the flow of storm water from sidewalks. They will act as green sponges all over the city. Thus the water gets soaked up avoiding pumping every time it rains.

Another good example comes from Japan where it is possible to be sustainable (of course I am not talking about the Japanese nuclear power stations). Over centuries they reshaped the land where people and nature could remain in harmony. For the Japanese, it is important that they have a special word for it, satoyama, villages where mountains give way to plains. The satoyama landscape is a system in which agricultural practices and natural resource management techniques are used to optimize the benefits derived from local ecosystems. In the Satoyama villages, each home has a built in pool or water tank that lies partly inside, partly outside its’ walls… A continuous stream of spring water is piped right into a basin, so freshwater is always available. People rinse out pots in the tank and clean their freshly picked vegetables. If they simply pour the food scraps back in the water, they risk polluting the whole village supply. However, carps do the washing up there scouring out even the greasy or burnt pans. Cleaned up by the carp, the tank water eventually rejoins the channel. This documentary talks about the Satoyama villages:

In the Satoyama villages the products obtained (including food and fuel) help safeguard the community against poverty, but without degrading the land, water or other resources. Of course documentaries have a bias towards the ideas which they want to show but can you spot the difference? Also, is water public or private? Am I saying no more bottled water? Am I saying everybody should live in a Satoyama village? No. However I balance must exist between extraction and use. We need to reinvent ourselves.

Do you have anything to say? I’d like to hear your opinion.

More information:



Click to access e_satoyama_pamph.pdf

Journal References:
Palmer, L. (2014). The next water cycle Nature Climate Change, 4 (11), 949-950 DOI: 10.1038/nclimate2420

Dr. Agr. Kazuhiko Takeuchi,Robert D. Brown Ph.D., Dr. Sci. Izumi Washitani, Dr. Agr. Atsushi Tsunekawa, Dr. Agr. Makoto Yokohari (2003). Satoyama, The Traditional Rural Landscape of Japan Springer Japan DOI: 10.1007/978-4-431-67861-8

And the Water Pollution Continues…

Do you remember the post about China and Brazil water pollution? The newspaper which before reported the problem returned to the same place 10 months later . Do you want know how is the place now? Take a look:

Image Credit: Guga Matos/ JC Imagem

For me what is more disturbing are the flags on the sides. The flags are electoral propaganda. Yeah it is time for new elections. The candidate paid someone to put the flags there because it is a really busy area.

Image Credit: Guga Matos/ JC Imagem

Is this a poor place? Well, it is hard to say because it was one of the host cities during the world cup. World cup host cities are not chosen randomly. They are normally big cities with infrastructure. Yes, there is infrastructure. Just take a look at the stadium they built for the world cup called arena pernambuco:

Arena pernambuco. Foto credit: Sergio Dutra.

Arena pernambuco. Foto credit: Portal da copa

What? It doesn’t make any sense. In addition one of the biggest soccer stadiums in Brazil is located not only in the same city but in the same neighbourhood of the polluted water channel.

Arruda Stadium. Image credit: Jrnicolas

However the stadium didn’t fit in the fifa standard so the government decided to build a new one (instead of renovate the old big stadium) . Stadiums and world cup are the priorities now of the governments but in the future when water will be a value commodity the priority is likely to change. Check this documentary called FLOW for love of water:

Irena Salina’s award-winning documentary investigation into what experts label the most important political and environmental issue of the 21st Century – The World Water Crisis. Salina builds a case against the growing privatization of the world’s dwindling fresh water supply with an unflinching focus on politics, pollution, human rights, and the emergence of a domineering world water cartel. Interviews with scientists and activists intelligently reveal the rapidly building crisis, at both the global and human scale, and the film introduces many of the governmental and corporate culprits behind the water grab, while begging the question “CAN ANYONE REALLY OWN WATER?”

Nuclear Power: a Possible Solution for Global Warming. Really???

That’s what I first heard. It is clean because it does not release CO2. Indeed, nuclear power plants produce energy without the releasing of large CO2 amount but is it really clean? I tried to learn a bit more about the topic. I won’t get into the details about how nuclear power is generated, I think this wikipedia text does a good job explaining how it works:

Just as many conventional thermal power stations generate electricity by harnessing the thermal energy released from burning fossil fuels, nuclear power plants convert the energy released from the nucleus of an atom via nuclear fission that takes place in a nuclear reactor. The heat is removed from the reactor core by a cooling system that uses the heat to generate steam, which drives a steam turbine connected to a generator producing electricity.

So the key factor is basically the nuclear fission:

nuclear fission is a process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts. The fission process often produces free neutrons and photons (in the form of gamma rays), and releases a very large amount of energy even by the energetic standards of radioactive decay.

An induced fission reaction.


The products of nuclear fission are on average far more radioactive than the heavy elements which are normally fissioned as fuel (for example Uranium), and remain so for significant amounts of time. Thus, is it nuclear energy safe? The world had 434 operable reactors with 66 others currently under construction. Statistically, considering the number of reactors and number of accidents, nuclear power plants are not really unsafe. Well, statistics is powerful and should be used carefully. Each nuclear accident could  represent environmental concerns of  hundreds of years (maybe thousands depending of the element and nuclear decay process). Therefore, only one accident can lead to catastrophic environmental consequences.

I started watching a movie about the Chernobyl accident and then I found more documentaries including nuclear power accidents, nuclear footprints and nuclear waste. It was an amazing journey. I hope these movies help you to understand more about this technology which is amazing but at the same time scary. Personally, after all these movies I though: “Wow, coal energy is kind of cleaner when compared to nuclear energy.”. It is important to mention there is a debate about the use of Thorium instead of Uranium or Plutonium in the nuclear power plants.  The claim is that Thorium is cheaper, safer and also abundant. Well, soon we will see the reality of these claims.

Into Eternity

This wasn’t the first movie that I saw about the topic but it was the most impressive for me. It was for me the scariest because of the time-dimension of the problem and the solution. 100,000 years. Wow, 100,000 years!

Every day, the world over, large amounts of high-level radioactive waste created by nuclear power plants is placed in interim storages, which are vulnerable to natural disasters, man-made disasters, and to societal changes.

In Finland the world’s first permanent repository is being hewn out of solid rock – a huge system of underground tunnels – that must last 100,000 years as this is how long the waste remains hazardous.

Once the waste has been deposited and the repository is full, the facility is to be sealed off and never opened again. Or so we hope, but can we ensure that?

And how is it possible to warn our descendants of the deadly waste we left behind? How do we prevent them from thinking they have found the pyramids of our time, mystical burial grounds, hidden treasures? Which languages and signs will they understand? And if they understand, will they respect our instructions?

While gigantic monster machines dig deeper and deeper into the dark, experts above ground strive to find solutions to this crucially important radioactive waste issue to secure mankind and all species on planet Earth now and in the near and very distant future.

Is Nuclear Energy Safe? Nuclear Energy Risks and Consequences

Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima: This original Earth Focus investigative report looks at the untold stories behind three of the world’s largest nuclear disasters.

Discovery Channel – The Battle of Chernobyl (2006)

This documentary analyzes the Thursday 26th April 1986 when one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in northern Ukraine, exploded. The plant, just 20 km away from the town centre, was made up of four reactor units each generating an output of 1,000 megawatts. The reactor in question exploded due to operational errors and inadequate safety measures and the meltdown was directly linked to routine testing on the reactor unit’s turbine generators.

More than 200 people died or were seriously injured by radiation exposure immediately after the explosion. 161,000 people had to be evacuated from a 30 kilometer radius of the reactor and 25,000 square km of land were contaminated. As time went on millions of people suffered radiation related health problems such as leukemia and thyroid cancer and around 4,000 people have died as a result of the long-term effects of the accident.

Nobody was prepared for such a crisis. For the next seven months, 500,000 men will wage hand-to-hand combat with an invisible enemy – a ruthless battle that has gone unsung, which claimed thousands of unnamed and now almost forgotten heroes. Yet, it is thanks to these men that the worst was avoided; a second explosion, ten times more powerful than Hiroshima which would have wiped out more than half of Europe. This was kept secret for twenty years by the Soviets and the West alike.

Uranium – Is It A Country? Tracking the Origins of Nuclear Power

This is a documentary that takes a look at the footprints of nuclear energy. In Europe nuclear energy is more and more often celebrated as saving the climate. Clearly, nuclear power plants need uranium.

The aim is to comprehensively illustrate the opportunities and risks posed by nuclear energy, whilst paying particular attention to uranium mining. Australia has the world’s largest deposits of this resource. They go to the “land down under” to exemplify where uranium comes from, where it goes to and what is leftover from it.

The Fukushima Nuclear Accident

Examines the incident, aftermath and implications for the adoption of Nuclear energy in other countries. From ‘Four Corners’, an Australian investigative program on the ABC.




The New Norm: Environmental Accidents

I was writing a post about nuclear energy when an environmental accident happened in British Columbia, Canada. So I decided to postpone for one more week the nuclear energy post to make a comment about the accident.  First this is what happened.

In 04/08/2014 a copper-gold mine wastewater spilled into creeks, lakes, and flowed into central B.C. river systems. Debris and effluent flowed into a lake from the tailings pond, where waste from the mine’s chemical and mechanical operations was being stored. The wastewater and tailings sediments has contaminated several lakes, creeks and rivers in the region. Approximately 10 billion litres of water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metals-laden fine sand has been released. This is so big that I can’t even pay attention on the numbers. Because of that, a complete water ban has been issued for the interior community of BC. Therefore, the water is not appropriate for drink, swim, etc.

Image credit: Cariboo Regional District/Facebook

The company said:

.. the tailings are not acid-generating and the water is alkaline with a pH of roughly 8.5, but it could not confirm the exact quantity and composition of the discharged wastewater.

Humm good. But what are exactly the company disposals? According with Canada’s National Pollutant Release Inventory in 2013  the mine’s byproducts are:

  • Arsenic (and its compounds): 406 tonnes
  • Lead (and its compounds) 177 tonnes
  • Nickel (and its compounds) 326 tonnes
  • Vanadium (except when in an alloy): 5,047 tonnes
  • Zinc (and its compounds): 2,169 tonnes
  • Cadmium (and its compounds): 6 tonnes
  • Cobalt (and its compounds): 475 tonnes
  • Phosphorus (total): 41,640 tonnes
  • Copper (and its compounds): 18,413 tonnes
  • Antimony (and its compounds) 14 tonnes
  • Manganese (and its compounds): 20,988 tonnes
  • Mercury (and its compounds): 3 tonnes
  • Selenium (and its compounds): 46 tonnes

Honestly a statement like “tailings are not acid-generating…” is ridiculous. On the next day dead fish and devastation were spotted in the region. It is only the beginning because Mount Polley mine tailings pond breach followed years of government warnings. They had 5 warnings in 14 inspections. What???? No, not in Canada, a first world developed country. But Indeed, it is true. Negligence? Inaction? Is It really hard to explain. Well, disasters like these often spawn comments calling for the immediate shutdown of all mines, forestry and industry. Is it the solution? Just, remember,  in general we need the products that the raw materials from these industries provide to manufacture computers, tvs, cellphones, tablets, cars, etc. Also they provide employment, revenue and taxes that pay for the majority of health care and education. Ops, this is getting complicated.

Image Credit: Gary Zorn/Ecotours-B.C

To find solutions for the problem is not really easy because the governments are dependent of these industries and vice-verse. However i have a theory. My theory is recycle more and waste less (???). Well, but think about it. I blogged before about waste and consumption.These companies are necessary because our lifestyle. Would you give up of your actual lifestyle? Should we revert to a simple life of ride horses?  How about eat fruits and share fish with the bears? I doubt it. However these companies are driven by demand and supply. If we start to recycle more and waste less the demand will decrease, so some of the companies won’t be more necessary. Ok if the population doesn’t grow, etc, etc, remember the problem is not that simple.

Do you remember that old computer sitting on the garage? Or that old cellphone? I can guarantee that both have some amount of the same material that is byproduct of Mount polley mine. I know, the amount are really small, but normally these products go to normal garbage to be buried or burned. That is the part which doesn’t make sense to me. Why burn something that can be used again? How about the jobs, revenues, taxes? I think this could be re-allocated to recycling companies, or companies that recycling our waste. It is only a theory. Far from the truth. We have to be realistic and accept that we live in a waste culture. Unfortunately, I believe that zero waste is not possible, but I also believe that we can reduce the waste drastically and respect more the environment. These are small steps but with big consequences.

More about the accident: