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Our Daily Planet: The Ray brings solar road to , Saying goodbye to Koko and the 15-year-old bringing awareness to plastic pollution
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By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

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Friday, June 22nd, 2018

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A rest stop at The Ray.  Photo: Curbed
Experimental Solar Road In Georgia Is Paving a New Way

The first solar roadway in the U.S. debuted on an 18-mile stretch of I-85 in southwestern Georgia.  It's called the Ray C. Anderson Memorial Highway, and the asphalt is a living laboratory now known as The Ray -- it offers a vision of how highways could look and function in the future.  A small section of the roadway leading to the Visitor's Center is paved with solar panels and serves as a testing ground for solar roadway technology.  It also houses the state’s first solar-powered PV4EV (photovoltaic for electric vehicle) charging station, and that opens up the length of I-85 between the Alabama border and Atlanta to electric vehicles. In addition, this fall thousands of solar panels will line the roadside of the interstate, and Georgia will become the third state in the nation to pilot a so-called “right of way” solar farm. Highways generate 5 million tons of CO2 emissions nationally each year and there were 35,000 fatalities on them in 2015 alone. 

The Ray's goal for all highways s simple:  zero deaths, zero carbon, and zero waste Grasses and plants on the side of The Ray provide pollinator habitat (as we reported this week bees currently lack habitat), carbon sinks, and soil stabilization.  They have also installed a roll-over WheelRight Tire Pressure Monitoring System at the Visitor's Center that sends drivers a text message with critical information about their tire pressure & tread depth, which improves both gas mileage and safety on the road.  And they are developing solar-powered, lighted and smart "dots" on the highway to warn drivers of hazards and collect important data for the Georgia Department of Transportation to maintain the road.

Why This Matters:  The Trump Administration and Congress continue to promise ambitious infrastructure plans, and investments in roads and transportation will certainly be included.  Hopefully, road projects in the future will incorporate these new technologies to make our highways safer and more sustainable.  Looking ahead, Allie Kelly, the Executive Director of The Ray says, “We’re at a tipping point in transportation.” Kelly believes that “[i]n five to ten years, we won’t remember a time when we invested a dime in infrastructure spending for a road that only did one thing.”  
Allie Kelly Executive Director of The Ray.  


Interview of the Week:  Hannah Testa

Hannah is a 15-year-old honors student from Cumming, Georgia who travels the world to advocate for reducing plastic pollution and animal welfare issues.  

ODP:  Your work focuses on plastic pollution and on animal welfare.  Why these issues?  Do you think these issues are of particular interest to your generation? 

HT:  I have always had a passion for and loved animals.  Plastic pollution affects animals and has such a huge impact on our oceans.  Animals are disappearing in our lifetime, mostly due to human actions, and if we don’t act now, our children and future generations may not get a chance to see them.
ODP:  You helped to persuade the Georgia legislature to declare February 15 as plastic pollution awareness day in Georgia.  What made that lobbying campaign successful?  Was there a specific tactic in that campaign that was most effective? 

HT:  I have really learned the power of networking, and through connecting with others to listen to their input and seek their advice, we were able to make the event possible.  And the day was successful because we were able to engage the media and we received a lot of media attention, which is exactly what we wanted because we wanted the public to learn about plastic pollution.
ODP:  What did you do on Plastic Pollution Awareness Day?  What was the most important outcome in your view?  

HT:  The most important outcome was the media attention we received.  The first Plastic Pollution Awareness Day on February 15, 2017 involved the reading of a resolution on the Senate floor, as well as a room at the Capital where we had mermaids dressed in plastic debris passing out materials, a 9’ x 8’ quilt with 600 patches where people could write down their pledge to reduce their plastic footprint, and artwork from both professionals and students.  The other fun thing we did to attract attention was a large plastic car that drove around the Capital. Local news stations in Georgia covered the event and was seen by over 300,000 viewers so that was 300,000 viewers that now have information that hopefully they will put into action and share with their circle of friends.
ODP:  You are now working to get the Georgia legislature to enact a ban on ivory sales.  What is the key to winning in the legislature and what are your chances for success? 

HT:  The key to winning will be getting bipartisan support for the bill and getting NGOs and citizens to let their representative know they support the bill.  There are at least 7 states that have enacted a similar bill, and our language mirrors these bills, so our chances should be fairly good if citizens call their representatives, and I am hopeful we will be successful in the 2019 legislative session. 
ODP:  What is the best way for the environmental movement to encourage young people your age to become active in the movement? 

HT:  50% of the world’s population is under the age of 25, and this generation is left with several environmental crises that past generations have made, and we have to do something before it is too late for the planet to recover.  The key to engaging this large group of people is to educate them because once you have touched their heart and their mind, they will likely take action. 

Keep it up Hannah - we love your mission and your passion for it.  You inspire us! You can learn more about Hannah and all her work here. 
CNN interview of Hannah Testa in 2017 on Plastic Pollution


INTERPOL's Wildlife Trafficking Bust

Thousands of live animals along with thousands of pounds of illegal meat, ivory, pangolin scales and timber were seized in a monthlong global crackdown on the illegal wildlife trade by international police organization INTERPOL. EcoWatch noted that the seizures to date include:
  • 43 tons of wild meat (including bear, elephant, crocodile, whale and zebra)
  • 1.3 tons of raw and processed elephant ivory 27,000 reptiles (including 869 alligators/crocodiles, 9,590 turtles and 10,000 snakes)
  • Almost 4,000 birds, including pelicans, ostriches, parrots and owls
  • Several tons of wood and timber
  • 48 live primates
  • 14 big cats (tiger, lion, leopard and jaguar)
  • The carcasses of seven bears, including two polar bears
 The San Luis Obispo Tribune added that some 1,400 suspects were identified worldwide, Interpol said. Two flight attendants were arrested in Los Angeles carrying live spotted turtles to Asia in personal baggage, said INTERPOL Both suspects have been charged with smuggling protected species.

Why This Matters: Global crime syndicates smuggle plants and animals across borders and take advantage of corrupt officials to traffic wildlife. Wildlife crime is the fourth largest crime by value in the world, it's worth $150 billion a year and is only behind narcotics, counterfeiting, and human trafficking in value. Operation Thunderstorm (as its called), revealed that wildlife traffickers use the same smuggling routes as other criminals, "often hand-in-hand with tax evasion, corruption, money laundering and violent crime," according to INTERPOL Secretary General Juergen Stock. Hopefully, the bust sends a signal to wildlife traffickers that the authorities are honing in on their routes and operations.  


Hero of the Week: Koko the Gorilla (1971-2018)

The world is mourning Koko the lowland gorilla who passed away in her sleep on Tuesday according to Gorilla Foundation's Facebook page

As NPR reported, throughout her life, Koko's abilities made headlines. After she began communicating with humans through American Sign Language, she was featured by National Geographic — and she took her own picture (in a mirror) for the magazine's cover. That cover came out in 1978, seven years after Koko was chosen as an infant to work on a language research project with the psychologist Francine "Penny" Patterson. In 1985, the magazine profiled the affectionate relationship between the gorilla and her kitten: Koko and All Ball. Her ability to interact with people made Koko an international celebrity. But she also revealed the depth and strength of a gorilla's emotional life, sharing moments of glee and sadness with researchers Patterson and Ron Cohn.

There's been an outpouring of love for Koko online including from celebrities like Betty White:



Recycling Can Be Confusing.  Graphic: City of Davis, CA
Recycling Made Easy

Only 21% of what we throw away in the U.S. actually gets recycled. And we are just like you -- always trying to recycle properly but never sure that we have gotten it right.  Modern Farmer and Ecowatch sought out advice from the experts -- our friends at Recycle Across America.  And we at ODP have boiled down all you need to know about how to recycle food and drink containers.  
  • CHECK: with your town to see if there are any special rules
  • CLEAN:  rinse before you recycle -- and don't recycle food-soiled paper (think greasy pizza boxes)
  • PUT BACK/REMOVE LIDS:  some big systems allow plastic bottles with lids, but for everything else they must come off 
  • TRASH: everything else -- unless your town allows aluminum foil, styrofoam and plastic wrap
  • DON'T RECYCLE:  anything compostable -- those items cannot be recycled -- and won't biodegrade in your compost bin at home either
  • BAG: recyclables and trash in clear plastic bags or better yet paper bags or recycling bins

The Recycle Across America big 3 rules of thumb are: (1) Use as few plastic bags as possible and recycle them at the store, not at home; (2) recycle as much as possible; and (3) when in doubt, throw it out because recycling the wrong things only makes recycling harder.  

Why This Matters:  As the Washington Post pointed out in a story on Wednesday, the U.S. has a big trash problem and it's only going to get worse.  As we have reported, China stopped taking the U.S.'s recycling on January 1 of this year.  The Post reports that researchers now estimate that we will have an extra 37 million metric tons of waste by 2030 and we are not prepared to deal with it -- not yet.  It is more important than ever to reduce, reuse and properly recycle our trash.  

To Go Deeper Into Recycling: Here are some additional guidelines from Recycle Across America.  And the NY Times also published this simple guide.  



One Cool Thing: Summer Solstice from Space

The 2018 summer solstice occurred at 6:07 a.m. Eastern Time on June 21, marking the longest day of the year and the first day of astronomical summer in Earth's northern hemisphere. The June solstice is the exact moment each year when the Northern Hemisphere reaches its greatest possible tilt toward the sun. The sun's direct rays reach their northernmost position with respect to Earth's equator, along the Tropic of Cancer, at 23.5°N latitude. 

This visible imagery, captured by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's GOES East (GOES-16) satellite on June 21, 2018, shows the pattern of Earth's illumination by the sun just before the solstice. Notice how the daylight terminator, the shadow that separates day and night across Earth, appears highly slanted.

This weekend is the first official weekend of summer and we hope you get outside to enjoy our country's countless natural wonders. We also ask that while you share this special season with your family and loved ones that you don't forget those who are detained and separated from their families in our own country due to their pursuit of the American Dream. We're heartbroken at the images we've seen this past week of children being ripped from their parents and forced into detention centers. One of the best ways to help migrant families is to post their bail and the nonprofit RAICES is collecting donations to do just this and help reunite families. We hope you consider making a donation and we'll be back in your inbox Monday morning. 
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