Sunday, October 4, 2009

GREEN LIVING: Isn't There An "i" In Environment?‏

by Knight Pierce Hirst

Neighborhood organizations across the U.S. are using a new weapon to help the environment - seed balls. Developed in Japan, the balls are made of drought-resistant seeds native to the area mixed with mulch and kneaded into red terra-cotta clay. Red terra-cotta clay doesn't affect plant growth, but it protects the seeds from birds and rodents. When the balls are dry, they're dropped on dirt piles and thrown into abandoned lots. After 3-5 rains the balls break down and the seeds germinate. With city resources strained, citizens are improving their own environments - and having a ball.

Officials in the small English village of Navestock - 25 miles northeast of London - are considering a unique way to improve their environment. Complaints from residents about drivers speeding through the village have resulted in requests for speed bumps. However, instead of providing speed bumps, the village officials proposed not filling potholes. According to one councilor, that would help return many smaller roads to their original status of country lanes. The plan would be to fill potholes on certain roads to encourage use and leave potholes on other roads as speed deterrents - saving both lives and money.

To save lives the American Lung Association's 2009 "State of the Air" report warns there are times when air is unhealthy in almost every major city. In fact, 60% of Americans live in cities with unhealthy air. The 5 most ozone-polluted cities are Los Angeles-Long Beach-Riverside, California; Bakersfield, California; Visalia-Porterville, California; Fresno-Madera, California; and Houston-Baytown-Huntsville, Texas. Although the last 9 reports show that the Los Angeles area has the highest levels of ozone pollution, Los Angeles has seen improvement in its air quality for the past decade. Maybe it's improved enough to be able to see what else needs to be done.

Leaves can help see what needs to be done. Leaves collect microscopic particles of pollution generated by humans. Particulate air pollution is a dangerous mix of chemicals caused by power plants and vehicle engines burning fossil fuels. When inhaled, this fine dust can inflame lungs and invade bloodstreams, livers and brains. According to scientists at the University of Lancaster, leaves - over a 7 to 10-day period - can accurately reflect ambient pollution levels and show concentrations can fluctuate by a factor of 10 or more within several city blocks. If leaves can be used worldwide as street-level, pollution monitors, we'll have another reason to look up to them

Knight Pierce Hirst has written for television, newspapers and greeting cards. Now she writes a 400-word blog. KNIGHT WATCH, a second look at what makes life interesting, takes only seconds to read at

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