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chasing answers newsletter #11
The wrong pills, plastic is everywhere, and amazing bamboo
“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” - Horace Mann
Welcome to the crew for all you new subscribers, and welcome back for you old pros.
I hope everyone had a great week.
Personally, mine got off to a rough start. Or at least an awkward one.
As a former personal trainer and self-proclaimed fitness addict, I start every day the same way. I stumble into the dimly lit kitchen at 5:00 AM, go straight to the refrigerator and grab a protein shake that I made the night before, and then make my way to my "vitamin cabinet," as my wife calls it, to down half a GNC worth of pills.
Typically there is nothing in the cabinet except my vitamins and supplements. But unbeknownst to me, my wife had put a few things of hers in the cabinet. As I was putting the bottles back (after already taking all the vitamins), I noticed one that wasn’t familiar. I spun it around and walked closer to the small light in the kitchen. The label read "Prenatal Multivitamin/Multimineral for Pregnant or Nursing Women."
Pregnant or Nursing Women??? I'm neither of those.
I legitimately started to panic for a minute. I don't even know what the fuck is in prenatal vitamins.
I wasn't sure if I should just put the bottle back and pretend as if nothing happened. Or if I should force-feed myself hydrogen peroxide mixed with ice cream like I had to do with my dog when he raided my daughter's Easter basket full of chocolate.
After reading the label on the back of the bottle and having a minute to regain my composure, I decided it was safe to pretend nothing happened and start my week.
Hopefully, your week started a little smoother. 😁
Now, let’s get to the goods
Plastic is everywhere.
A new study found microplastics, the tiny pieces of plastic often smaller than a grain of rice, in fresh snow in Antarctica. Nineteen sites across the Ross Ice Shelf were sampled, and microplastics were found in all 19 of them, with an average of 29 microplastic particles per liter of melted snow.
Researchers concluded that much of the plastic most likely came from clothing and equipment used by scientists at local research stations but that some of it could have come from as far as 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) away.
The fact that plastic is taking over the environment is no secret. Last week I wrote about the documentary The Story of Plastic, which explains how this global epidemic is unfolding before our eyes.
But just thinking about the fact that 19 out of 19 samples from Antarctica, a place whose population max's out at 5,000 during summer months, had plastic in them makes me wonder just how bad it would be if we tested snow samples from around our homes. The same snow my daughter loves to eat as it falls. My guess is it would be much worse, and that's a really depressing thought.
This study is more proof that plastic is a real problem that we need to address together as a planet.
If you would like to dive deep into the study and its findings, you can check it out here.
Now that we've covered some negative news for the week let's talk about something positive.
I've long been aware of using bamboo as a sustainable alternative to many other materials. Most of you have probably heard of or seen bamboo flooring, toilet paper, or even bed sheets. They are all more sustainable versions of those specific items.
I didn't realize just how amazing bamboo is until recently when I read the section on bamboo in Paul Hawken's book Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation.
Bamboo has the opportunity to play a huge role in reversing the climate crisis.
It is easy to grow, as it regenerates without seeding when harvested and requires no irrigation, no pesticides, and no fertilizers. Certain species can grow up to thirty inches in a day.
The most significant benefit may be the carbon that bamboo can sequester.
As Paul states in the book,
"A forest of giant bamboo has been shown to store roughly 134 tons of carbon per acre over a sixty-year period."
That's more than a similar-sized group of fast-growing trees.
The secret to bamboo's ability to store carbon is in its roots. Many species of bamboo grow from rhizomes, which are horizontal roots known for their quick growth.
Paul explains bamboo's ability to store carbon below.
"While the average life span of an individual bamboo culm is less than ten years, the roots can live for decades, storing carbon. The key is cultivation. Unmanaged bamboo doesn't grow as robustly as managed stands, storing less carbon as a result. Trimming and selective harvesting give bamboo room to grow, enhances the carbon dioxide–capturing capacity of a given stand, and doesn't harm the root system. Silica structures called phytoliths are abundant in the cells of bamboo plants. Phytoliths seal carbon inside themselves. The silica is highly resistant to degradation, so when bamboo trunks or leaves fall to the ground, the stored carbon continues to be sequestered, often for thousands of years, long after the bamboo itself has decomposed. The climate impact could be significant. The sequestration potential from phytoliths is estimated to be 750 million tons of carbon dioxide per year if half of the 10 billion acres of potentially arable land were used to grow bamboo. A recent study indicates that this total may be higher when phytoliths found in belowground bamboo trunks and root systems are included."
This is all great news!
Bamboo is also much more versatile than I realized. In addition to flooring, toilet paper, bed sheets, and even clothing, bamboo can be used in place of other building materials. It has greater tensile strength than steel and greater compressive strength than concrete.
Bamboo can also play a huge role in restoring degraded ecosystems. Its roots can help stabilize damaged land and prevent future wind and water erosion. It has been used for this purpose for years in China and India.
My takeaway from this small section of Paul Hawken's book is that bamboo will almost certainly need to play a massive role if we are to slow and eventually reverse climate change. But it is great to know that there are potential solutions out there.
If you would like to learn more about bamboo's potential role in reversing climate change and get a better overall picture of what needs to be done in our lifetime to avoid a climate disaster, I highly recommend Regeneration: Ending the climate crisis in one generation.
That’s it for this week.
Here’s to a great week ahead for everyone and hopefully a better Monday morning for me. 😉
As always, I would love to hear from you.
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