© 2016 by Rose Kincade. Candidate number P00009373

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The environment is an essential topic in my opinion.  Environmental science is the study of patterns and processes in the natural world and their modification by human activity. To understand current ecological problems, we need to consider physical, biological and chemical processes that are often the basis of those problems; such as biotic and abiotic factors. Biotic factors include the organisms themselves, their food, and their interactions with each other and their environment. Abiotic factors include such items as sunlight, soil, air, water, climate, and pollution. Organisms respond to changes in their environment by evolutionary adaptations in form and behavior while others die off from not being able to adapt. Much of this can be linked to human activity by what we introduce into our environment or ecosystem.

A possible impact humanity is having on the environment is global warming. Global warming (as defined by Wikipedia), also referred to as climate change, is the observed century-scale rise in the average or mean temperature of the Earth's climate system and its related effects. Multiple lines of scientific evidence show that the climate system is currently warming. But, is humanity responsible for this change? I do not ask this because I do not believe in climate change or that humanity is causing it to accelerate. I ask this to have you think about it.

Earth goes through glacial and interglacial cycles about every 10-20,000 years. Glacial periods are often referred to as ice ages which is a period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the earth surface and oceans, as low as 5-8 °C (9-14 °F), allowing massive glaciers to form and move out of the arctic regions. During the interglacial or warm period, the average global temperature of 23 °C (73 °F) melting the glaciers around the world. Currently, we are in one of these interglacial periods called the Holocene Period. With the last ice age occurring about 11,500 years ago, our planets current mean temperature is about 15 °C (60 °F), a far cry from the 23 °C (73 °F) of the PETM (Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum). Geologists and paleontologists think that during much of the Paleocene and early Eocene, the poles were free of ice caps, and palm trees and crocodiles lived above the Arctic Circle, while much of the continental United States had a sub-tropical environment.

So, let's say, for argument sake, that global warming is not an issue and focus on other, smaller points of the here and now, ones that are often considered part of the larger picture of global warming. Topics such as; oil drilling, fracking, alternative energy, Dakota pipeline, plastic products, and the Paris Climate Agreement, to name a few.

Let's start off with oil drilling, fracking, and coal mining. Right now, America gets twenty-eight percent (28%) of its total energy from oil, twenty-two percent (22%) from natural gas, and thirty-three percent (33%) from coal, consuming more than seventy percent (70%) of the world's production of these products annually.

Oil drilling on land or in the sea has many risks that can cause an environmental crisis and fracking is even more dangerous. With drilling on land, oil companies block migration routes, destroy hibernation spots, overturn the local ecology, and kill countless creatures with increased vehicle traffic. And, if this is not bad enough, there is the added vantage of oil leaks along massive pipelines approximately 63,000 miles nationwide. Oil leaks can destroy miles of environment for many years as in with the Dakota pipeline leak or the Prudhoe Bay oil spill. Fracking has all of these issues plus the added problem of possible gas leaks and explosions far beyond the original point. These explosions are caused when the fuels being extracted leak into cracks that can often spread miles before surfacing.

Offshore drilling has all of these problems and far more. Offshore drilling, the process of extracting oil and gas resources from underwater locations, including lakes, has been conducted at increasingly deeper and farther offshore sites in recent years, as shallow fossil fuel reserves and near-shore drilling locations have become exhausted. But, with deeper drilling depths comes increased danger including higher risks of accidents, spills, and fires, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many of the issues with drilling so deep come from the sophisticated equipment needed. Oil companies often have to invent new technologies to be able to reach the oil, and much of the time, these technologies do not go through the same testing process as with other fields.

So, how can we reduce these numbers to a more sustainable level? One option is the banning of plastics. People around the world use plastic bags, straws and plastic bottles for such a short time and then we dispose of it. While banning plastic worldwide will only reduce the demand for oil by four percent (4%), it will stop any further plastic ending up in the environment causing more harm.

When plastic is produced, it’s made from toxic materials such as benzene and vinyl hydrochloride. These chemicals are known to cause cancer, and the manufacturing byproducts contaminate our air and soil. The type of plastic that is the primary source of dioxin is PVC. Phthalates are another toxic chemical added to plastics to make them softer and more pliable. It is known to affect our fertility, disrupt our endocrine glands, congenital disabilities, and other health problems. The problem with phthalate is that they are not chemically bound to the products, so they’re easily evaporated into the air. That new “plastic” smell is the smell of phthalates off-gassing. Don’t sniff it!

Fossil fuels will not last much longer. According to some estimates, there are only about 50 years until there are no more Fossil fuels left to use on a widespread scale. We need to reduce our dependency on these waining fuels and start integrating alternative sources. Another option in energy use is alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, and geothermal energy. We have the means to sustain alternative energy sources now.

The world is split on the concept of global warming and with good reason. But, many other issues are provable facts that we need to focus on to ensure the future for our children and grandchildren. The first thing I plan on doing as president is to reestablish many of the deregulated systems that President Trump has insisted on being abolished. I will restore the US's commitment to the Paris Climate Agreement, and I will work on measures to promote alternative energy sources.

Environment