Humans Are to Blame for These Environmental Disasters

Humans have changed the environment drastically, especially in the last century. As our population has grown, so has our effect on our natural world. Much of that impact has, unfortunately, been negative.

Since our population has begun booming, we’ve made gradual changes to the environment — as well as caused some large, environmental disasters that have caused acute harm both to the environment and human health.

An environmental disaster is an event caused by human activity that’s damaging to the environment. This differentiates it from a natural disaster, which occurs due to natural processes.

Our planet and humankind have seen many environmental disasters in the recent past, but a few stand out as especially costly in terms of money, environmental damage and human health impacts. Here are five of the most catastrophic.

  1. The Dust Bowl

The dust bowl, which occurred in the 1930s in the Southern Plains of the United States, is a well-known environmental disaster. Drought, coupled with rapidly expanding poor agricultural practices, caused dust storms that ripped away the fertile soil of the semi-arid region and created “black blizzards” that reached heights of up to 10,000 feet in the air.

The event made the region virtually uninhabitable and worsened the economic difficulties of the Great Depression. It also inspired lawmakers to pass bills promoting responsible farming practices. It was years before rain finally returned to the region, eventually restoring the plains.

  1. Chernobyl

The Chernobyl disaster is infamous as the most devastating event involving a nuclear power plant in the planet’s history. In 1986, one of the reactors at Chernobyl in Ukraine exploded, spewing huge amounts of radiation into the air.

The explosion itself killed two workers, and more died in the hours following the event. Twenty-eight workers died in the next four months, as did many emergency responders. The radiation may have caused an increase in instances of thyroid cancer in the region.

The radiation also killed all the trees in the area, and the site is still largely off-limits due to fears about the impacts of lingering radiation.

  1. Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

When oil spills from a tanker, pipeline or other source, it can harm wildlife and ecosystems and contaminate groundwater and soil, as well as impact human health. The destruction of plant life associated with oil spills can increase erosion by as much as four times the normal amount.

One of the most infamous oil spills occurred in 1989 in Alaska’s Prince William Sound. An oil tanker, called Exxon Valdez, hit a reef that tore open the hull and allowed 11 million gallons of crude oil to spill into the water. The leak killed an estimated 250,000 seabirds, 2,800 otters and 300 harbor seals. You can still find oil under beaches near the location of the accident.

  1. London Smog

Smog is a common occurrence in cities around the world, but in 1952 in London, it reached unheard-of levels of severity. For five days, a heavy fog merged with sulfurous fumes from coal fires, power plants and vehicle exhaust.

The incident killed around 12,000 people, hospitalized 150,000 and killed thousands of animals. To this day, it remains one of the largest air pollution events in history. It led to the eventual creation of the UK’s Clean Air Act of 1956, which limited the use of coal in cities.

  1. The Bhopal Disaster

Industry makes our modern life possible, but also comes with environmental risks. In 1984 in Bhopal, India, the worst industrial disaster of all time killed approximately 25,000 people.

On Dec. 2, a chemical plant began leaking a deadly gas known as methyl isocyanate (MIC). Safety systems were not functioning properly, so 27 tons of the gas spread throughout the city.

Many thousands of people died within the next few days of respiratory failure, cardiac arrest and other health problems. The disaster also killed many animals and plants in the area and contaminated the groundwater. Toxic elements still remain at the site today due to improper cleanup.

These environmental disasters had a devastating impact on their local environments, animals and people, and may have also contributed to global issues. As we move forward, we must strive to learn more about our natural world and do our best to protect it.

7 Health Benefits of Chocolate — Backed by Science!

If you like chocolate, you’ll be happy to know that in moderation, this tasty snack is actually good for you. No, this isn’t us just trying to find a way to justify our chocolate habit — there’s some actual science here! Whether you like the occasional Snickers bar or just can’t get enough of dark chocolate, here are some of the science-backed health benefits of cocoa.

First, a Disclaimer

Don’t rush out to the grocery store just yet. It’s important to know what type of chocolate to look for. Some types of chocolate have different health benefits, while others might not have any benefit at all.

First, make sure your chocolate is real instead of what is known in the industry as compound chocolate, which uses cocoa powder for chocolate flavoring but has no cocoa butter in the product. It’s easier for some manufactures — cocoa butter can be difficult to work with in large batches — but it isn’t good chocolate. If your ingredients show other forms of fat, like vegetable oil or soybean oil instead of cocoa butter, skip the candy bar.

Now, on with the show!

1. Chocolate Helps Your Heart

Chocolate can be a great tool to help you mend a broken heart, but it can also help keep your ticker healthy. One study, completed over nine years by Swedish scientists, found that one to two servings of dark chocolate every week helped to reduce the risk of heart failure in adults.

It wasn’t Hershey bars these individuals were eating, though — milk chocolate is so heavily processed that it doesn’t contain the kind of beneficial components dark chocolate does. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, which help to protect the heart when eaten in moderation. These are the same antioxidants that are found in things like red wine, onions and tea.

2. High-Quality Tasty Nutrition

Believe it or not, a bar of high-quality dark chocolate can help you get a good portion of your daily recommended value for minerals like iron, magnesium, copper and manganese. A 100-gram portion also contains 11 grams of fiber.

Now, you don’t want to eat 100 grams regularly — that equals about 3.5 ounces, or 600 calories worth of chocolate — but even a small portion offers a host of nutritional benefits.

3. Candy Helps You Lose Weight

This might sound like we’re making stuff up, but it’s true: Dark chocolate in moderation can help aid weight loss. This is due to the fact that it is more filling than milk chocolate — due in part to that higher fiber content we mentioned a moment ago — and it also helps to lessen your craving for other sweet, fatty or salty foods that could make it harder to stick to your diet.

4. Keep That Cholesterol in Check

One of the main components in chocolate, cocoa butter, is a fat — and we’ve been told for years to avoid fat because it can be detrimental to our cholesterol levels. As it turns out, though, dark chocolate can help to both raise HDL — the good cholesterol — and lower total LDL in men with already elevated cholesterol.

The flavanoids in dark chocolate also help to prevent LDL from oxidizing. When bad cholesterol reacts with free radicals, it becomes oxidized and starts damaging tissues.

5. Pack It With Your Sunscreen

This is a benefit that only appears after you eat chocolate for a while — 12 weeks, minimum, according to researchers — but eating dark chocolate regularly can help to protect your skin from sun damage. This is no replacement for sunscreen, but regular chocolate consumption can more than double your minimal erythema dose or MED. This is just a fancy term for the amount of sun exposure it takes before you start to get sunburned.

The flavanoids in dark chocolate help to improve blood flow to the skin. They can also help increase skin density and overall hydration. Don’t skip your sunscreen, though — this might be an added level of protection, but it won’t keep you from getting sunburned during a day at the beach.

6. Not Just Good For The Body

In addition to helping with skin and heart health and cholesterol, chocolate has also shown signs of being good for your brain. Studies have shown that chocolate can help improve blood flow to the brain, which can help improve brain function. This benefit has been primarily studied in young adults. It has also been shown to help improve cognitive function in elderly patients who suffer from cognitive impairments.

7. Candy to Prevent Diabetes — Not as Crazy as It Sounds

People with diabetes are generally told to avoid candy and other sugars, but dark chocolate could actually be the key to help diabetic patients regulate their symptoms or prevent diabetes from developing at all. A small study out of Italy found that patients who ate dark chocolate every day for 15 days displayed reduced insulin sensitivity.

The amount of chocolate that was consumed during the trial equaled about 480 calories, so it’s important to consider the amount of chocolate you’re eating. However, if it can help reduce insulin sensitivity, it might be worth it to add a square or two of dark chocolate to your diet.

Chocolate isn’t as bad for you as your dentist or doctor might be telling you — eating high-quality dark chocolate in moderation can be a great way to improve your health over time. Just make sure you’re eating your chocolate in addition to a healthy diet.

How This Hurricane Season Is Affecting U.S. Oil

Just when it seemed U.S. oil couldn’t be stopped, hurricane season 2017 arrived to rain on parade. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association predicts 2017 will bring 11 to 17 tropical storms and up to four massive hurricanes between June and December.

For offshore oil platforms, signs of a nasty season mean it’s time to baton down the proverbial hatches. When weather forecasters predict conditions like this seasons, all non-essential personnel are evacuated from platforms to ensure their safety. While this is a drill that rig operators have been through in the past, every storm is different, and you can’t be too prepared for the chaos a hurricane can bring.

Preparing for the Storm

Making an offshore rig ready to sustain a hurricane is a delicate balancing act between protecting the employees who work on the platform and safeguarding as much oil production as possible.

The very real impacts that hurricane season can have on production make every last operating hour crucial, so personnel essential to rig operation are allowed to remain aboard until a few days before the storm. Sometimes it can be less than a day, but well-trained crews know how to stay professional even under pressure because failure could mean a natural disaster.

Within a few day of the storms arrival, drilling stops and all personnel are evacuated. Drill ships that are in the potential path of the storm are relocated to safe waters. The unpredictable nature of storms makes it necessary to stop operations even outside of the direct path of the hurricane.

Technology is the biggest asset oil manufacturers have in the fight against storms like Harvey, Irma and Jose. Modern oil rigs are equipped with GPS systems that allow supervisory staff to monitor their positions during and after the storm and locate them should the rig be pulled away from its drilling location by storm surges.

Restarting Operations

This year’s flurry of storms poses a grave threat to America’s prominent position in the global oil market because of its impact on multiple critical areas for US oil production. Hurricane Harvey struck Texas’ gulf coast, which is home to 45 percent of American refining capacity.

Add to that the offshore operations in the Gulf, which account for 17 percent of crude oil production, and now the rigs struck by Irma and Jose, and you have the makings of a disaster.

Once again, technology will be essential in restoring production capacity as quickly as possible. Many offshore rigs are designed around lean manufacturing principles. Assuming they can endure the winds and waves, that should help get oil production on its feet as quickly as possible.

Lean manufacturing practices focus on reducing waste in the form of motion, downtime, over-processing and four other potential inefficiencies. By allowing an oil rig to continue producing up to days before a storm hits, and restart operations with minimal crew, these practices can help recover days of production time.

Assessing Damage

No amount of preparation can guarantee that sensitive equipment won’t be damaged in the course of a storm, which is why drilling companies practice special flyover and assessment procedures to determine if offshore sites are safe to send personnel back to following a massive storm.

Remobilization, or “re-mob” as it’s called, is the process of gathering all company assets and ensuring they’re safe to continue work before beginning drilling operations again. Following an assessment by helicopter, small teams are dispatched to rigs and ships to determine if everything is in working order.

The ability to track every single asset using GPS makes the process of finding ships and platforms simpler than it was in the past, but the real challenge comes in repairing damaged equipment after a storm. It can take days or weeks to repair complex extraction equipment with crews sometimes working round-the-clock to get a significant drilling facility back online.

Ultimately, the small teams can bring rigs and ships back online. Once operational, assets can begin receiving more personnel. It’s a race against the clock every time, and this year it looks like those assessment crews are going to get more than their fair share of practice.