Sand from Greenland’s Global Warming Can Help World Make Concrete

(p. A8) A few miles up the Sermilik Fjord in southwestern Greenland, the water has abruptly turned milky, a sign that it is loaded with suspended silt, sand and other sediment.

It is this material — carried here in a constant plume of meltwater from the Sermeq glacier at the head of the fjord — that Mette Bendixen, a Danish scientist at the University of Colorado, has come to see. As their research boat moves farther into the murky water, she and several colleagues climb into a rubber dinghy to take samples.

Dr. Bendixen, a geomorphologist, is here to investigate an idea, one that she initially ran by colleagues to make sure it wasn’t crazy: Could this island, population 57,000, become a provider of sand to billions of people?

Sand for eroded beaches, potentially from the Rockaways to the Riviera. Sand to be used as bedding for pipes, cables and other underground infrastructure. Mostly, though, sand for concrete, to build the houses, highways and harbors of a growing world.

The world makes a lot of concrete, more than 10 billion tons a year, and is poised to make much more for a population that is forecast to grow by more than 25 percent by 2050. That makes sand, which is about 40 percent of concrete by weight, one of the most-used commodities in the world, and one that is becoming harder to come by in some regions.

But because of the erosive power of ice, there is a lot of sand in Greenland. And with climate change accelerating the melting of Greenland’s mile-thick ice sheet — a recent study found that melting has increased sixfold since the 1980s — there is going to be a lot more.

“It’s not rocket science,” Dr. Bendixen said. “One part of the world has something that other parts of the world are lacking.”

For the full story, see:

Henry Fountain. “Melting Greenland Is Awash in Sand.” The New York Times (Thursday, July 4, 2019): A8.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 1, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

A Resource Is a Weed You Have Figured Out How to Use

(p. A1) With its warts, a messy sap that can sicken livestock and a tendency to grow in tall, mangy clumps that crowd out other plants, milkweed doesn’t enjoy a history of immortalization in oil paint.

. . .

(p. A10) Some makers of winter clothing are touting the white wispy floss in milkweed pods as a plant-based insulating material. Some forecasters say milkweed could yield $800 an acre this year, which Vermont farmers say is better than they get for most commodities.

. . .

Jaunty enough for the city and practical enough for the weekend cabin, he says, the “refined Canadian parka” sells for $850, the same as Quartz’s duck-down jacket. He says down is still popular but milkweed attracts customers intrigued by a “plant-based” insulator. “We were shocked by the interest we got.”

. . .

Milkweed’s sartorial use harks at least to World War II, when overseas supplies of kapok, an insulating fiber, were cut off. As a wartime substitute, the U.S. rallied civilians to pick milkweed pods for life jackets, says Gerald Wykes, a historian at the Monroe County Museum in Michigan.

After the war, for the most part milkweed went “back to its roots” as a humble weed, he says, because the ornery plant proved challenging to tame as a crop that could be grown in rows and harvested mechanically. The handpicking that went on in the war “wasn’t terribly efficient,” he says, and the rising use of synthetics lessened interest in all natural fibers.

Recently, says Ms. Darby, farmers have improved machinery that is designed to gently pick off milkweed pods without damaging the whole plant.

And milkweed has recently sprouted back into favor in some quarters because of its role not just as a green stuffing option but also as the key source of food for caterpillars of the embattled monarch butterfly.

For the full story, see:

Jennifer Levitz. “This Winter’s Hot Fashion: Parkas Stuffed With Vermont Weeds.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 27, 2017, and has the same title as the print version.)

James Knott Exposed the EPA’s Doctoring of Water-Test Results They Used to Indict Him

(p. A9) James Knott helped build a better lobster trap.

Though the world didn’t beat a path to his door in Northbridge, Mass., Mr. Knott eventually persuaded most manufacturers of lobster traps to use his product—plastic-coated wire mesh—rather than wood to make their devices.

. . .

He built a business, Riverdale Mills Corp., that employs more than 150 people and has withstood price competition from China and a 1997 raid by pistol-packing agents of the Environmental Protection Agency. Then came an indictment alleging Mr. Knott violated the Clean Water Act by dumping acidic wastewater. He fought back, providing evidence that the EPA had doctored water-test results. The charges were dropped.

“What am I supposed to do—lay down and get stomped on?” he asked in a 2001 interview with the television news show “60 Minutes.”

. . .

When he was indicted by a federal grand jury in the water-pollution case in 1998, Mr. Knott faced a possible prison term of six years. He hired a retired FBI handwriting analyst, who found EPA test records had been altered to show an illegal degree of acidity in the wastewater. The government soon dropped its charges.

Mr. Knott fought a long and ultimately fruitless battle to require the government to reimburse him for his legal costs.

For the full obituary, see:

James R. Hagerty. “Entrepreneur Helped Create a Better Lobster Trap.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Aug. 24, 2018): A9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date July 27, 2018, and has the title “James Knott Pioneered Modern Lobster Traps and Fended Off the EPA.”)

Plastic Bags Have Lower Carbon Footprint Than Paper or Cotton Bags

(p. B5) The backlash against single-use plastic has engulfed straws, bags and takeout containers, but the plastics industry is fighting back, arguing alternatives can be worse for the environment and disruptive for businesses.

. . .

Critics of bans say single-use plastic bags are often used several times, and that they can be recycled at many supermarkets.

The American Progressive Bag Alliance, a trade body for plastic-bag manufacturers, is battling proposed bag bans in states including Maine and New Jersey.

. . .

The APBA highlights a U.K. government analysis that found paper bags must be used three times for their carbon footprint to drop below that of single-use plastic bags made from high-density polyethylene—or HDPE—and cotton bags 131 times. The study measured the impact of making paper bags by counting the use of energy and palm oil, and the disposal of ash from production. It said growing cotton and producing yarn depletes natural resources, emits damaging chemicals and depletes oxygen in water bodies.

The trade group, which says bans aren’t successful at reducing overall waste, said a study found thicker, reusable plastic bags wound up in Austin’s waste stream after the Texas city banned single-use plastic bags in 2013.

. . .

Some companies feel caught in the middle. McDonald’s Corp. scrapped plastic straws in the U.K. last year but now faces a backlash. Over 44,000 people recently signed a petition calling for the chain to bring back plastic straws, complaining that paper replacements go soggy and make it hard to drink milk shakes.

Others point to their use of plastics as a sustainability selling point.

Garçon Wines—a London-based firm that makes flat plastic wine bottles that fit through a mail slot—said its recycled bottles are 87% lighter than glass and shaped to allow more wine to be shipped in the same space, reducing emissions.

For the full story, see:

Saabira Chaudhuri. “In Plastics War, the Industry Fights Back.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, May 21, 2019): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 20, 2019, and the title “In Plastic-Bag Wars, the Industry Fights Back.” Where there are minor differences in wording, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

High Palladium Prices Incentivize More Mining and Search for Substitutes

(p. B13) Palladium prices are at their highest level in nearly two decades, as investors bet that rising global growth will buoy automobile production and stoke demand for the rare metal.

. . .

Longer term, the auto industry may consider switching to platinum in gasoline engines if the price of palladium continues to climb, some market participants said.

Shree Kargutkar, portfolio manager at Sprott Asset Management, said he thinks platinum provides a better long-term value alternative to palladium given palladium’s sharp rise.

Still, changes in the automotive industry don’t pose an immediate threat to the rally, he said. Those shifts and mining companies’ efforts to bring more areas of supply on line to capitalize on higher prices are likely to take years.

“We’re not at a point where the palladium bulls have something to worry about,” he said.

For the full story, see:

Ira Iosebashvili and Amrith Ramkumar. “Palladium Soars on Hopes for Growth.” The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017): B13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Oct. 23, 2017, and the title “Palladium Prices Soar in Sign of Global Growth and Auto Demand.” Where there are minor differences in wording, the passages quoted above follow the online version.)

Environmentalist Regulations Inspire Vigilantes to Destroy Fairy Houses

(p. A10) Monhegan and a growing number of other environmentally conscious locales are fighting the scourge of fairy gardens, miniature habitats built by children and young-at-heart adults to attract tiny mythical creatures.

Typically they include a pint-size house with a path leading to its entrance and surrounded with small plants. The houses can range from rustic lean-tos handmade from twigs, bark and pebbles to store-bought plastic castles accompanied by LED lights, artificial plants, colorful glass beads and a family of fairy figurines.

On Monhegan, it is easy to run afoul of the regulations, which forbid picking living plants or using anything brought from the shore. No items are to be used “from your pockets,” including coins, food and anything plastic.

It is also easy to run afoul of Ms. Durst, a retired computer consultant who, like several other like-minded vigilantes, calls herself a “stomper” and has crushed many a fairy house over the years.

. . .

Julie Cole, . . . , is something of a scofflaw. She oversees a 5,564-member fairy-garden discussion group on Facebook, sells fairy furniture online and teaches fairy-gardening classes near her home in Jefferson, Ohio. “It’s a true taste of serendipity to be along a trail and see a little fairy door on a tree,” says Ms. Cole. “I can’t imagine anyone not liking that, but there’s always someone.”

For the full story, see:

Ellen Byron. “‘Fairy Houses’ Are Violating Building Codes.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, July 18, 2018): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date July 17, 2018, and the title “Hey Tinkerbell, Get Your Fairy House Up to Code or It’s Coming Down.”)

Gardeners Describe Benefits of Global Warming

(p. A15) When Times readers were asked to describe how they saw climate change affecting their area, several people reported that they were already changing their planting habits due to balmier winter conditions.

“I am now able to grow perennials that were once two temperate zones south of me,” wrote William Borucki, of Buffalo.

Raynard Vinson, of Hampton, Va., wrote: “I overwinter plants that once had to be dug up and protected.”

For the full story, see:

NADJA POPOVICH. “As Climate Changes, So Do Growing Zones, and What Plants Will Thrive Where.” The New York Times (Wednesday, MAY 29, 2019): A15.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date MAY 23, 2019, and has the title “How Climate Change May Affect the Plants in Your Yard.”)