Thursday, December 6, 2012


You know the saying if it looks like a cat, purrs like a cat and moves like a cat, then it must be a cat. The question is would you have the same mentally when it comes to the food you consume?

Genetically Engineer (GE) salmon, also called “Frankenfish”by many, is not a cloned fish, but its DNA has been altered to produce the chosen characteristics, in this case a bigger and fast growing fish. In order to this, scientists have added the growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and the gene from an eel-like fish. Conventional salmon produces the growth hormone at some point in its life time; however, by adding the growth hormone to the GE salmon, it allows the fish to produce their growth hormone all year-round.

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Because the GE salmon has not been approved yet by the FDA, the altered fish has never been eaten before, thus it raises concern on the allergens that someone can get when consuming this fish, which by the way, once is approved by the FDA people will not know which salmon is the real deal and which one is the GE fish. The CEO of Aqua Bounty, Ron Stotish, which is the company producing the GE fish says that although the salmon is genetically engineer is very safe to eat due to the large amount of time they spent studying this fish, and that any allergens will not be any different from those of conventional salmon.

While population increases rapidly, the need to satisfy costumers’needs worldwide leads industries to get together with scientist to promote faster and bigger food products. Genetically engineer products have been created before such as vegetables; while many of us did not know the real source.

Once again, would you care to eat GE food products?

Written by: Flor D. Medina.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Keeping Global Warming a Secret

About two years ago ,and for the first time, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided that oil producers and refineries, steel manufactures, aluminum and home appliances companies should present the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and releasing this data to the public. These companies used to send gas emission data to EPA as gross estimate, however, EPA wanted this data to be separated as individual facilities, such as data emissions from transportation, electricity production and manufacturing. Up to this day these companies do not agree with such compliances and are fighting against this proposal from EPA. They believe that releasing such information to the public would reveal companies secrets, therefore competitors would know what happens inside their factories. In addition, they believe the public shouldn’t know anything more than what goes into the atmosphere. 

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Steven H. Bernhardt, global director for regulatory affairs for Honeywell International Inc, says EPA needs to reconsider this proposal otherwise company’s businesses would be damaged. Additionally, aluminum smelters asked EPA to keep 11 of 15 of the data fields confidential, and Koch Nitrogen Co. LLC, a fertilizer producer, thinks EPA’s proposal would only “misguide” the public, adding that “a single factory is unlikely to influence policy on a global problem.”  (Newsvine)

Other companies want EPA to require a third party for data verification, or to let companies argue on a case-by-case basis to keep some of the data confidential, they want this to be done so they don’t have to summit the data at all. EPA responded to these arguments by saying “it's necessary to make the data public in order for the companies' calculations to be checked.” This will give confidence to the public about the quality of each company’s data. The reality is that EPA wouldn’t ask for such data if the companies would measure the right amount of gas pollution emitted at its sources. The equipment to measure this amount is expensive so many companies opt for giving an estimated amount instead of an accurate.

The article also stays that the majority of companies don’t have a problem with giving this data to EPA, but they do not agree with having the information out for the public to see. The only polluting sector that does not have a problem with disclosing information and agrees with EPA’s proposal is electricity producers. In conclusion EPA is not backing up on its proposal. This is the first inventory of greenhouse gases ever made that will determine what limits need to be set and whether they are working to protect the environment.

Written by: Flor D. Medina Chavez.

Cappiello, D. (2010, October 28).  Companies fight to keep global warming data secret.

Monday, April 9, 2012

To trust or not to trust?

The article talks about climate negotiations that are currently been hold in Tianjin, China. The negotiation includes negotiators from more than 170 countries that got together with the purpose of finding a successor deal to the Kyoto protocol that will expire this year.  One of the biggest obstacles to a deal is China's behind-the-scenes obstructionism. China is the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, and it has no interest in helping craft the next Kyoto protocol, mainly because a new deal would mean accepting limits on its CO2 growth. To top that, China plans to open a new coal-fired power plant roughly every month for the next decade.

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Another issue is the talks between rich and poor nations on who pays for measures to address climate change, including clearness about emission reductions and for the rich to do more about the subject. The negotiation between countries focus into “come out with a package of small deals on direct issue, such as co-operation on clean energy technologies and rewarding developing countries for not cutting down rain forest” (Coonan), by doing this, there might be a bigger chance of having countries help to reduce green house emission knowing that they would receive something back. The article then adds that last year China promised it would cut its carbon emissions per unit of GDP by 40 to 45 percent by 2020 from the 2005 level. Once again, that’s a promised that all countries are waiting to happen. Trust is something that needs to be present in each country in order to develop a clear understanding between them and to commit to the pledges they have made in Copenhagen. Governments of each country should focus on securing such pledges of the emissions cuts that have already been proposed.

Written by: Flor D. Medina Chavez.

Coonan, C. (2010, October 05). China forum seeks elusive accord on climate change. The Irish Times. Retrieved from

Monday, March 26, 2012

Plants at Risk of Extinction

The following article, based on analysis made by the Royal Botanic Gardens, states the current high risk of extinction among one-fifth of the world’s plants. Plants are the lungs of the earth; they provide clean air, food and sometimes fuel, including medicinal properties that have help us discovered numerous vaccines and cures for diseases. However, current studies show that 22% out of 4,000 species are classified as threatened, including 33% of species that have not been completely study to be assessed.

The high rate of threatened species is mostly because scientists have base their studies on a narrow range of plants that have a limited genetic base. The article also estimates 380,000 plant species victims of habitat loss, to which it has been replaced for agricultural purposes. With species in tropical rainforest at high risk, the freezing seed bank at Kew’s Botanical Gardens has already collected around 1.8 billion seeds from around the world. The collection, which includes seeds from plants that have already been judged extinct, have currently be named and stored in underground cold rooms in case of future losses. Additionally, a study, known as the Sampled Red List Index for Plants, has been made in order to have an accurate knowledge of the rate of extinct plant species. Certainly, studies has been made in the past, however, they were mostly focused on the most threatened plants or particular regions in the world, which in reality there are thousands of species that have not been completely study or even discovered, with high significant value in the medical field and on the environment.  The article adds that “Plant-based remedies are the only source of healthcare in the world’s poorest countries” (Shukman, 2010) combating diseases such as malaria and leukemia.
It is important to collect seeds from different plant species and keep making studies so cases such as the olive tree from the South Atlantic island of St Helena that has completely disappear, with only few traces of dried pressing of its leaves, and some test-tube DNA sample currently kept in a freezer, won’t happen in the future.
St. Helena olive tree
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The article presents good information, giving thought to the most important aspects of the plant. The freezing seed bank has made a huge step on saving such species for future germination. I’m not sure if this freezing process has been done to threatened animal species but it would be a huge step due to their high chance of extinction. Hopefully is not too late to place these freeze species in their natural habitat. Consequently botanists could try first with few seeds and observe if they adapt to the habitat as well as its new surrounding environment.

Shukman, D. (2010, September 29). One-Fifth of World's Plants at Risk of Extinction. Environment correspondent, BBC News. Retrieved from

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Coral Reef Bleaching

The article presents a summary of studies that show a link between warm temperatures due to global warming and the outbreaks of coral diseases on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch program has examined this issue in previous studies, in which both warm and cold stress were significant to determine the susceptibility of corals to disease outbreaks.

Coral reefs provide food and shelter for fish and other marine life; therefore its lost would not only be affecting the environment but it would bring significant economical and ecological lost for people and communities. Coral reefs provide an estimated worth of $375 billion each year on different services. As a result satellite monitor of the sea surface temperature has been set in order to predict coral bleaching “where corals lose the symbiotic algae that give them their distinctive colors.” (NOAA) The satellite provides current data of reef environmental conditions, so when bleaching occurs, the monitoring can be used to trigger bleaching response plans and execute proper management decisions. NOAA is aware that any advance technical equipment would not be able to stop coral disease or bleaching unless we do something to decrease global warming, however, the NOAA program’s purpose is to give managers enough time to reduce human-use stressors in waters, such as diving, swimming, fishing and boating. Additionally, NOAA’ Coral Reef Watch program and the new experimental Coral Disease Outbreak Risk Map product, which provides a seasonal outlook of winter metrics and outbreak risk management, would offer focus on research efforts by providing a proper understanding of environmental factors that lead to these coral reefs outbreaks. Reports say that coral bleaching has been seen in Southeast Asia, the Indian and Pacific Ocean with a high potential in the Caribbean.

NOAA expects the warming to continue therefore increasing coral bleaching worldwide. The importance of these studies is that at least with the advance satellite equipment we would be able to have a better knowledge of the issue and do something about it. The product is currently been used in Australian waters, but as shown in the article, coral bleaching is expanding to other waters, therefore there are projects with the satellite equipment already set to be use in other areas. We could try to prevent more damages to the water, but we can’t stop the bleaching and outbreak of coral reefs unless we decrease the greenhouse gases.

Written by: Flor D Medina Chavez.


(2010, September 17). Coral disease outbreaks linked to cooler temperatures. Environment. Retrieved from
(2010, September 10). Coral Reef Watch Satellite Monitoring. NOAA Satellite and Information Service. Retrieved from


Monday, March 19, 2012

Threatened British Birds

Among the list of threatened species, there are 40 of Britain’s commonly know birds such as the skylark, the sparrow and the cuckoo that are part of this list.

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These birds are continually affected by different factors including “shortage of insects in the summer, lack of woodland management and change in farming practices.”(Ward)   In addition, the list of threatened bird species goes up to 100, but is the 40 assigned that need urgent action from different sectors. It’s important that we keep in mind that each species needs specific measures in order to grow, for example the bittern birds benefit from nature reserves, whereas birds of prey like the golden eagles and hen harriers are at risk from illegal persecution. Some of the factors that alter the reproduction of these species are climate change and habitat destruction caused by the replacing garden areas for parking spaces. Conservationist called for politicians, business leaders and the third sector to work together in order to save this 40 threatened species.

The good news is that out of the 40 bird species 18 of them, including the bittern and the red kite, are under a conservation work that needs to be kept so the recovery of such species can be successfully accomplish. Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSVP) believes that we need to come out with a new strategy that prioritizes bird species. Contributions have been asked, as well as ideas about managing the natural environment, particularly in the approach of budget cuts.

The key factor driving these species for a possible extinction is the changes in land use. As it has been mentioned above, each bird species needs different type of habitat. While some birds get use to the population growth, pollution and changes in their natural habitat; others die, stop reproducing or are attack by their own kind for habitat survival. Consequently, the number of threatened species keeps increasing.

Ward, V. (2010, October 04). RSPB draws up list of British birds in urgent need to protection. Wildlife. Retrieved from

Entre la lista de especies en peligro de extinción, hay 40 aves de Gran Bretaña comúnmente conocidas como la alondra, el gorrión y el cuco que forman parte de esta lista. Estas aves se ven afectadas por diferentes factores como "la escasez de insectos en el verano, la falta de manejo de bosques y el cambio en las prácticas agrícolas." (Ward) Además, la lista de especies de aves amenazadas se eleva a 100, pero son las 40 aves en la lista que necesitan una acción urgente por parte de diferentes sectores. Es importante que tengamos en cuenta que cada especie necesita medidas específicas para crecer, por ejemplo, el beneficio de las aves garza de las reservas naturales, mientras que las aves de presa como el águila real y el aguilucho de gallina están en riesgo de persecución ilegal. Algunos de los factores que alteran la reproducción de estas especies son el cambio climático y la destrucción del hábitat causada por la sustitución de las zonas ajardinadas por zonas de parqueo. Conservacionista llamaron a los políticos, líderes empresariales y del tercer sector para trabajar juntos con el fin de salvar a esta 40 especies amenazadas.
La buena noticia es que de las 40 especies de aves 18 de ellos, incluyendo el avetoro y el milano real, están bajo el marco de un trabajo de conservación que se debe mantener para que la recuperación de esas especies se pueda cumplir con éxito. Real Sociedad para la Protección de las Aves (RSVP) cree que tenemos que salir con una nueva estrategia que dé prioridad a las especies de aves. Contribuciones han sido pedidas, así como ideas sobre la gestión del medio natural, sobre todo en el enfoque de los recortes presupuestarios.

El factor clave que impulsa estas especies para una posible extinción son los cambios de uso del suelo. Como se ha mencionado anteriormente, cada especie de ave necesita tipo diferente de hábitat. Mientras que algunas aves se acostumbran al crecimiento de la población, de la contaminación y los cambios en su hábitat natural, otros mueren, dejan de reproducirse o atacan a su propia especie para la supervivencia del hábitat. En consecuencia, el número de especies en peligro de extinción sigue aumentando.


Ward, V. (2010, October 04). RSPB draws up list of British birds in urgent need to protection. Wildlife. Retrieved from

Wirtten by: Flor D Medina Chavez.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Distribution of Natural Resources

Water, an essential mineral of life, yet its distribution is always link to greediness and monetary value. Based on statistics the proportion of the world’s population that does not has sanitary drinking water is as many as 3 billion people, and 1.2 billion people doesn’t even have access to clean drinking water. As a result, more than 5 billion people die each year from preventable waterborne diseases. In fact, there’s a contrast in the rural population that shows that the minority of urban dwellers, around 14%, are lacking access to better sanitation. But “the issue is not whether urban dwellers have provision for sanitation at all, but whether they have a quality of provision for all members of the household (Michaud). 

This is a clear problem of money and distribution. A good example of greediness and lack of distribution is happening in Peru. I was doing a tour through the highlands behind the city of Cajamarca and the tour guy was saying that the most profitable gold mine in Latin America, Yanacocha, wants to expand the mine and explode the Quilish Mountain that serves the indigenous community as a water resource.

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This mountain is high enough that during rainy days it absorbs all the water from the earth and keeps it, so during summer time when there’s no water available, the community utilizes this water. The rock containing the gold is loosened by daily dynamite blasts, and then piled up and sprayed with cyanide solution. The solution that runs off is then processed to remove the gold. The mine is already affecting the environment of this community, if they get to explode the mountain there would be no water available for farmers, plants, and even the people that live in the rural area.

Cajamarca protest projects on Mount Quilish. Photo retrieved from:

The shortage and imbalance of water of suitable quality will become the most important factors in limiting future agricultural production as well as the availability of food in all parts of the world. What is happening in Peru is just an example of what happens in many countries. Nature gives us all the resource, even in the most remote place, yet we still manage to focus on the materialism and survival of those who can. The hungry masses of the world have come to depend upon dams for irrigation of cropland and a continued water supply. Instead, conservative water use practices such as drip irrigation and water re-use that should be practice as a long-term solution. We have the technology to process any water source for any use. It’s a matter of the governments of the world sitting down with the common goal of long term survival and setting up their priorities straight.


R. Schertenleib. (2005). From Convenient to Advance Environmental Sanitation. Water Science  and Technology, Vol51. Retrieved from

Michaud. (February 2001). Is Our Future Dammed?. Water Conditioning & Purification. Retrived from

Langdon, Shanna. (September 2000). Peru’s Yanacocha Gold Mine: The IFC’S Midas Touch?. Retrived from.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Puget Sound watershed

I used to live in rainy Washington State, although as I already mentioned IT ALWAYS RAINS, I still got the opportunity to see the beauty of the state that enables residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoor activities and landscape of this state. As a result, I thought it will be nice to talk a little more about the great Puget Sound, including topography, majors rivers, near cities, as well as environmental issues related to this watershed.
The Puget Sound watershed is located in Washington State, bounded by sub-alpine meadows of the Cascade and Olympic mountain. It covers nearly 42,800 square kilometers and consists of over ten thousand rivers and streams that drain into the Sound. Counties involving the Puget Sound watershed are Island, Jefferson, King, Kitsap, Mason, Pierce, Skagit, Snohomish, and Thurston. The watersheds going upstream are Strait of Georgia, Lower Skagit, Stillaguamish, Snohomish, Lake Washington, Duwamish, Puyallup, Nisqually, Deschutes and Hood Canal. Watersheds going downstream are Nooksack, Lower Skagit, Snohomish, Duwamish, Hood Canal, and Dungeness-Elwha.

Puget Sound is an estuary, in which fresh water from the watershed mixes with the salt water from the Pacific Ocean. The bottom of the Sound is made up of a series of valleys and ridges, which disrupt the movement of water and help it mix. Puget Sound is the second largest watershed that flows through abundant forestlands and wilderness, including the popular Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Some of the environmental issues that Puget Sound watershed faces are the increase of toxic compounds discharge into the water, such contaminants become bound to sediments, spreading to other areas and contaminating the food chain. The release of these contaminants has created serious health risk to humans and harm to marine plants and animals. As far as watershed groups, there are about 99 groups already established such as the Boeing Creek Watershed Outreach Program, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, American Rivers-Northwest Regional Office, etc.

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While searching the web I discovered important information about the increase of storm water runoff due to the development across the Puget Sound watersheds. As natural surfaces in Puget Sound watersheds have been covered with roads, homes and parking lots, populations of salmon, herring, bottomfish and many other fish have decreased, water quality has declined, shellfish beds have closed, and contaminated sediments have been washed into the near shore environment. As a result, citizens and organizations of the Puget Sound area need to be aware of what’s happening to their fresh waters while increasing volunteer groups and managing the preservation of watershed more effectively.

Anonymous. (n.d.). Welcome to Puget Sound. Key to the Fishes of Puget Sound. Retrieed from

Anonymous. (n.d.). Watersheds. Retrieved from

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Agriculture Expansion

Studies have shown that population growth causes some unbalances in the world; such as hunger, therefore the need to expand agriculture in order to feed human population is inevitable. The article presented talks about the recent increase in agriculture as well as the viewpoint of future intensifications. Agriculture food production has been doubling for the past 35 years, with a 6.87-fold increase in nitrogen fertilization, 3.48-fold in phosphorous fertilization, 1.68-fold in irrigated cropland, and a 1.1-fold increase in land cultivation. (Tilman) These changes would provoke dramatic impacts on the diversity, composition, and performance of the remaining natural ecosystem of the world. One of these changes to suffer the most would be fresh water and marine ecosystem with high rates of nitrogen and phosphorous release from agricultural fields.
Grain production such as wheat, maize, and rice has been one of the fields that have increased the most. Although grain production has decreased the rate of malnourished people in the world, we would still expect to see the world population rate to increase around 10 billion, therefore increasing the need to feed the population and livestock with the most common agricultural production, grain.
The article also explains the factors involved in the recent doubling of food production during the past 35 years. Among these factors is the higher-yielding strain of crops, increased use of herbicides and fungicides, as well as the high amount of nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers applied yearly worldwide.
In addition, doubling agriculture would have impacts on the existing nonagricultural ecosystems, such as forests on slopes and wetlands that help release water into streams and rivers. Agriculture depends on soil fertility, which would be destroyed when agriculture expands. The article then ends by stating that agricultural practices need to be modified in order to minimize environmental impacts, even though such practices would increase the cost of production.
Based on the statements made in this article, agriculture food production is facing a two way situation. One way is the fact that is almost impossible to stop agriculture expansion due to the increase in human population, on the other hand rate of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilization are increasing as well as the doubling amount of land irrigated. Therefore, the destruction of nonagricultural ecosystem would increase the rate of threatened species in the world. However, if we can properly manage both agricultural and nonagricultural ecosystem, the natural ecosystem would be able to sustain resources used by society, such as fish, timber, and others. 


Tilman, D., (1999, May 25). Global environmental impacts of agricultural expansion: The need for sustainable and efficient practices. Retrieved from

Human Dimensions of Global Change

Human dimensions of global change are surrounded by different questions, some of them without answers. Although it’s true that world’s climate changes naturally due to “the earth’s orbit and the way energy is received from the sun, volcanic eruptions and the way the ocean and the atmosphere work together” (Environment and Cleaner Living) we still can’t forget that human behavior is also one of the main reasons for this cause. By looking at the atmosphere through human history, we can clearly see that concentrations of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide increased rapidly around 1800, mostly due to industrialization. At the same time land use and land cover had also significant changes over longer periods of time. Human causes of changes have been happening over decades and the main reason is because humans need to meet the needs of a fast growing population.
However, and this is what intrigues me the most about this subject, the role of human population as the major cause of land cover, is in fact more complex. Several cases suggest that population growth and/or migration show a relationship with increasing rates of tropical deforestation. At the same time, others suggest that population growth wouldn’t need of deforestation if in fact there would be other process available as alternatives to land clearing such as employment. In addition, there’s supporting evidence that “only at higher population densities does one find more intensive and efficient use of land (National Research Council, pg 305).

On the other hand, political and economic structures limit individual choices on the management of land and resources, leading many peasants to overuse their land, opt for polluting technologies, or cut their forests. Therefore, after considerable understanding of human causes, is clear that there is no simple correlation between population and deforestation, or common property rights and resource degradation. There’s still to develop land management institutions that would act to local needs and diminish global change, such development is difficult to achieve but not impossible. If we can at least follow the Kyoto Protocol and keep the commitment as the European Union has offered, we can still reduce emissions by 2013 and later on in 2020.


National Research Council. (1999). Global Environmental Change: Research Pathways for the Next Decade. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

(2010). Causes of Climate Change. Environment and Greener Living. Retrieved from

(2010). Climate Change. Environment. Retrieved from