Snowstorms are blazing through the United States, and the most reliable method of clearing out the roads is salt. However, although dumping tons of salt onto the asphalt makes driving in snowy and icy conditions much safer, it comes with a cost – the environment and human health. The United States has been using de-icing salt since the 1930s and over the past fifty or so years, its use across the country has tripled. The Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in New York estimates that more than 20 million metric tons of salt are poured on US roads each winter, and the environmental costs are growing.
About 70% of the US population lives in regions that experience snow and ice. Surely, many people are familiar with the flashing trucks on the highway signaling “SALTING IN PROGRESS.” Road deicing salts reduce vehicular accident rates in these regions by more than 78% but have led to dramatic increases in freshwater salinity. Road salt or de-icing salt is halite, the mineral form of sodium chloride. It is a form of table salt and a naturally mined mineral used to melt ice. Table salt, unlike road salt, is purified for the daily use of human consumption. In contrast, road salt still contains impure minerals. Its color is typically gray or brownish.
Research conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency has found that “As snow and ice melt on roads, the salt washes into soil, lakes and streams, in some cases contaminating drinking water reservoirs and wells. It has killed or endangered wildlife in freshwater ecosystems, with high chloride levels toxic to fish, bugs and amphibians.”
The salty runoff contaminates groundwater affecting human health, vegetation, crops, and much more. The chlorides from the salt are infiltrating lakes, streams, and groundwater – harming local fauna, wildlife, and is also incredibly damaging to aquatic life and ecosystems. Unnatural materials when used in abundance can create something called dead zones in aquatic ecosystems which essentially suffocates all surrounding life. According to Wisconsin Salt Wise, one teaspoon of salt is all it takes to make five gallons of water toxic for freshwater organisms.
Furthermore, rock salts cause rusting and damage to various materials and infrastructures. Long-term exposure to the salt causes rust damage to vehicles and transportation systems. Cracking and separation of concrete and roads also occurs from salt infiltration. These salts erode masonry and stone therefore, using salt to remove snow and ice from concrete pathways or patios will likely lead to signs of damage.
It is clear that salting roads has caused and is continuing to cause a substantial amount of damage to the environment. That being said, there are several non-toxic alternatives available to de-icing salts.
Researchers at Washington State University published a study in 2019 indicating that grapes are an excellent sustainable alternative for road salt. After a two-year lab study, the de-icing compound made of grape skin extract surpassed conventional de-icing methods, including road salt. Not only does this grape skin substance generate better results, it also produces zero waste. It is said that this method even outperforms the runner-up environmentally friendly blend of salt brine and beet juice.
Cities in New Jersey, Minnesota, and Canada have been using beet juice in their de-icing practices. Beet juice requires salt brine to melt the ice. But when mixed with salt, beet juice helps the salt mixture in melting ice at lower temperatures. Regular salt works up until the temperatures reach 25 °F, whereas beet juice works well until 5 °F. This mixture uses less salt, which means less corrosiveness on the road and surrounding environment.
Electric and gas-powered snow blowers are also commonly mentioned alternatives to melting ice with salt. Electric and gas-powered snow blowers can help remove snow entirely from walkways, driveways, and more. However, the drawback with this method is that it is mainly only suitable for smaller properties and common areas; they also are not as effective for big patches of snow.
Another notable alternative is brine from pickling foods. According to the National Geographic, pickle brine is better for the environment (than salt) because it prevents ice from sticking to the road, making it easier to remove. Pickle brine would also dramatically reduce the amount of chloride permeating water systems – a reduction of up to 29%. It is used as a pre-treatment before snowfall since it prevents snow and ice from bonding to the pavement. The ice is then easily chipped off and removed, which is something that rock salt is not able to do on its own.
Several options exist for an eco-friendlier way of melting snow and ice off our roads. Just one switch would not only make driving and walking safer, but it would also protect wildlife and prevent the negative human health impacts. Many states and local cities have taken it upon themselves to implement better de-icing methods however a stronger push needs to be made in this direction – especially since twelve states currently use a salt and sand mixture with a rate that typically falls within a range of 250 to 300 pounds per lane mile during snow and ice conditions.
‘Effects of nuclear war globally catastrophic’, new study warns.
A nuclear war could lead to a ‘nuclear ice age’, plummeting global temperatures, eradicating a vast proportion of sea life and largely implicating global food security, a new study indicates.
Researchers at Louisiana State University in the US conducted several computer simulations in an Earth System Model to assess the impacts of regional and global nuclear wars on oceans. The study, which examined the potential consequences of
conflicts between the US and Russia, as well as Pakistan and India, revealed that in every scenario, smoke and soot from firestorms would release into the upper atmosphere, obstructing the sun and plunging temperatures at an average of 13F (-11C) within just one month.
Cheryl Harrison, assistant professor and lead author of the study, said the impact would be all-consuming.
“It doesn’t matter who is bombing whom. It can be India and Pakistan or NATO and Russia. Once the smoke is released into the upper atmosphere it spreads globally and affects everyone,” she told Bloomberg.
“We can and must, however, do everything we can to avoid nuclear war. The effects are too likely to be globally catastrophic,” she added.
The simulations involved testing the impacts of the US and Russia bombing cities and industrial sites with 4, 400 nuclear weapons weighing 100 kilotons or Pakistan and India detonating 500 of the explosives.
Alan Robock, Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University, said he hoped the study would “encourage” greater action to thwart the threat.
“Nuclear warfare results in dire consequences for everyone. World leaders have used our studies previously as an impetus to end the nuclear arms race in the 1980s, and five years ago to pass a treaty in the United Nations to ban nuclear weapons. We hope that this new study will encourage more nations to ratify the ban treaty.”
The research warned that a US and Russia conflict may lead to permanent increased Artic sea ice extent and volume.
A UN report also warned of the rapid “global collapse” of civilisations, partially induced by global conflicts, unless urgent steps were taken to address the issue.
The latest American study follows a warning to British troops by the army’s top general to prepare to “deter Russian aggression with the threat of force”. Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Russia Foreign Minister, Sergie Lavrov said a Third World War would involve nuclear weapons and destruction would not be limited to Eastern Europe.
Ocean temperatures could fall, and sea ice expand by six million square miles, affecting trading as major ports, such as Tianjin in China would be occluded.
Reversing the damage would take decades, the study warned.
A report from the thinktank Stockholm International Peace Research Institute said that the global nuclear arsenal, since the cold war, is expected to increase drastically in the next few years and reversal this amid tensions between Russia and Ukraine is unlikely.
John Erath, senior policy director for the Centre for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, warned earlier that NATO was only capable of blocking an “extremely limited attack” if Russia were to launch a ballistic missile.
As record temperatures hit the UK, scientists claim that frequent and intense heatwaves are the result of human-induced climate change.
Chlorine Gas Leak in Jordan Port City Kills Thirteen People
- A gas leak in Aqaba, Jordan killed at least thirteen people and injured more than 250. A storage container carrying between 25 and 30 tonnes of chlorine gas fell as it was being exported to Djibouti, releasing the gas.
- A video of the incident on state TV shows the container being dropped onto the deck of the ship and a yellow colored gas spreading through the air as people try to evacuate. The accident seems to be a result of the crane malfunctioning.
- If chlorine is inhaled at high levels, it can cause life-threatening damage. A nearby beach in Aqaba was evacuated as a safety precaution, and residents who live in the nearest residential area, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) away, were advised to stay inside and close windows.
- Jordan’s Prime Minister Bisher al-Khasawneh traveled to Aqaba and visited some of the injured at the hospital. He also formed a team led by the interior minister to investigate the incident.
The world is ageing at a rapid pace and there will be consequences
There are more old people in the world than there are young people. Both developed and developing countries have to be ready to take the huge burden of the rising population of older people.
According to 2019 data from the UN, the proportion of people aged 60 and over will be 1 in 6 by the year 2050. However, a more recent observation by the WHO shows that the world might reach these statistics much sooner; that is, by 2030. And by 2050, the population of over 60 will double to almost 2.1 billion people.
This demographic change has already occurred in some developed countries. In Japan, the median age is 48 years old, and this makes Japan’s population the oldest in the world. By 2060, there will be one elderly person for each person of working age.
Similarly, there are already more people aged 60 and over in Europe and North America than young people under the age of 15. Germany is another example. It is predicted that by 2050 the population of the income-generating population will fall from 55 million to less than 40 million.
The change is greatest in developed countries because of low mortality rates as well as low fertility rates. This means new children are not being born while the healthcare of the country is improving, so people and children live longer.
The data for the population of the world in 2020 already shows that the population aged 65 and older is 727 million, whereas the population under 5 is 677 million.
There are many consequences of this change. The biggest is the increase in the dependent population, which will affect the economy of the country. Most people over the age of 60 are retired, so they depend on pensions while the younger income-generating population is responsible for providing the money through taxes. The taxes will need to increase to meet the demands of the older generation. Not only that, the government has to spend more money on the older generation who don’t earn on their own rather than invest in developing the country.
There will also be a rise in chronic illnesses which will affect the allocation of healthcare facilities as right now there is more focus on infectious diseases. Since there will be an increase in the older generation, there will be even less informal care from the remaining younger family members. Elderly abuse is already an issue, but there will be a rise in this form of abuse as well.
Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said, “There will be very few children and lots of people over the age of 65, and that makes it very difficult to sustain global society.”
Adding, “Think of all the profound social and economic consequences for a society with more grandparents than grandchildren.”
For many reasons, in America, most women are staying child-free or having children later in life. The biggest reason is the expense required to raise children. Since 2007, the birth rate for women in their 20s has fallen by 28%, shows data.
Similarly, in England and Wales, the percentage of women in their 30s without children rose from 18% in 1975 to 50% in 2020.
Unless more work is done to replace the population and prevent population shrinkage by encouraging people to have more children, the economies of many countries need to prepare for a boost from the older population.
UN: Total Societal Collapse is Looming
The UN Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction assesses systematic risks for the future. Apart from other risks from natural disasters, economic shocks and climate change, the risk of “global collapse” of civilisation has increased even more, it said.
Why is this collapse getting so close now? It is directly linked with the interference of human activities with natural systems, or “planetary boundaries”. The planetary boundary is a concept that involved nine processes that regulate the stability and resilience of the Earth system. If these boundaries are stretched, it will reduce the “safe operating space” for human habitation .
There have been many goals to reduce the impact of climate change and built resilience. Such as the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030; and the Sustainable Development Goals and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Most of these goals have to be reached by 2030, and we are dangerously behind the schedule. The result is a world where people cannot survive.
Too Late to Change?
According to a 2015 report, the world has already gone past the safe operating zone of four boundaries. These are climate change, land system change, biochemical flows, and novel entities. According to Professor Will Steffen of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, two more boundaries are close to reaching their limits. These are ocean acidification, and freshwater use.
The UN report states “the human material and ecological footprint is accelerating the rate of change. A potential impact when systemic risks become cascading disasters is that systems are at risk of collapse.”
The war in Ukraine and the pandemic due to Covid-19 are just the beginning. If we don’t make immediate changes, the consequences could be much worse. Global risks like climate change are already having a huge impact on the world. Global Catastrophic Risk (GCR) events are more likely to happen now than ever. These are defined as a “larger than hemispheric area and produce death tolls of many millions and/or economic losses greater than several trillion USD,”
Is this irreversible now? The UN report believes that change is still possible. We just need “to transform systems now. To build resilience by addressing climate change and to reduce the vulnerability, exposure, and inequality that drive disasters,” it says.
Over a Million Homes Without Power Due to Severe Storm in Canada
- A powerful thunderstorm in Southern Canada caused over 900,00 homes to lose power. Ontario’s power company Hydro One claims it would take several days to reconnect every home.
- The strong winds of the storm destroyed trees, disrupted traffic, damaged homes, and saw emergency services swarmed with calls for help.
- Among the casualties are four people who were killed by falling trees as well as a woman who died due to a boat capsizing in the Ottawa River.
- Firefighters and utility workers removed tangled power lines and phone poles in media circulating in Canada. The town of Uxbridge, which lies just north of Toronto, declared a state of emergency as the storm left “significant damage in its wake.”
Californian Coast Engulfed with Fires yet Again
- A brushfire has burned about 200 acres of land in Orange County, California.
- It has set ablaze 20 mansions, valued at around 20 million dollars, in the area and damaged 11 others.
- More than 130 houses have been evacuated. The long drought and global temperature rise has been causing such fires in the regions’ recent history.
- 550 firefighters have been at work trying to control and push back the fire from burning more land. 2 firefighters have been injured doing so.
- The fire has only been 25% contained but worries and evacuation grows as the coming days’ temperatures are predicted to rise over 100 degrees Celsius.
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