Earth Health 001


Each week we are going to recap key moments and events around the world touching topics on climate change, the oceans, the state of plastic and other subjects that affect the health of our earth.

Amazon Employees Pledge to Walk Out Over Climate Change

Nearly 1,000 Amazon employees have pledged to walk out in protest of what they say is their company’s inaction on climate change. Amazon and its employees have butted heads over climate change before. During an investor meeting in May, more than 7,600 employees signed a letter asking the company for a plan to respond to climate change. The walkout is scheduled for September 20, prior to the Global Climate Strike, a week-long international event that encourages employees to walk out from their workplaces to raise awareness. Learn more HERE.

Saving California's Kelp Forest May Depend On Eating Purple Sea Urchins

Kelp forests off the coast of California are shrinking dramatically and it’s hurting the marine ecosystem. The cause of this, the purple sea urchin. These spiny creatures are mowing down California's kelp forests. Kelp is a vital part of the ecosystem. It provides food and shelter for numerous animals, including abalone, rockfish and sea otters. The problem began around 2014. Warmer ocean temperatures began affecting the reproduction of kelp. It's also when a disease killed off sunflower sea stars, a predator of purple sea urchins. The purple sea urchin population skyrocketed. Learn more HERE.

Microplastics Found In The Ocean And In Human Poop

On August 31st, 52-year-old French long-distance swimmer Benoît Lecomte and his nine-person "Vortex" sailing crew reached San Francisco after spending 80 days at sea and Lecomte spending much of the time swimming through garbage, specifically the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Lecomte described how when he first descended into the patch he saw "what looked like plankton, many small spots of reflective light. On closer look, it wasn't plankton, but instead small pieces of plastic or microplastic." This is all bad news because it's surreptitious, hidden plastic pollution, rather than obvious pollution. Things could look clear and fine at first glance, but only a closer and deeper look, like 10 meters deep, may reveal the true extent of the pollution. Smaller plastic pollution is not only tougher to detect and clear, it could more quietly make its way through the food chain up to you.

This brings us to the second microplastic news from the Labor Day weekend: a piece of poop study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Or rather a pieces of poop study. For the study, a team from the Medical University of Vienna in Austria (Philipp Schwabl, MD, Philipp Königshofer, DVM, Theresa Bucsics, MD, Michael Trauner, MD, and Thomas Reiberger, MD) and the Environment Agency Austria (Sebastian Köppel, Dipl-Ing, and Bettina Liebmann, PhD) asked eight healthy volunteers who were from 33 to 65 years old to give them poop. Each volunteer provided a single stool sample, in this case stool meaning feces rather than something that you usually may sit on (unless, of course, you typically sit on feces). The researchers then searched the stool samples for microplastics. Isn't science fun?

Every stool sample ended up having microplastics in it with a median of 20 microplastic pieces per 10 grams of stool. The microplastic pieces ranged from 50 to 500 micrometers in size. The researchers also found nine different types of plastics with polypropylene and polyethylene terephthalate being most common. Yes, plastics aren't just present in North Shore High School, the setting for the movie Mean Girls. They were present in the intestines of all eight volunteers.

Learn more HERE.