9-Year-Old Starts Initiative to Help Protect America’s National Monuments

Derek Kendzor, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

In 1906, the Antiquities Act was established to preserve “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” Nearly 130 such national monuments are recognized today, but their status isn’t as safe as nature lovers might hope. In an effort to ensure protected sites stay protected, 9-year-old Robbie Bond launched a nonprofit called Kids Speak for Parks.

As the Huffington Post reports, Robbie formed the group after learning that 27 national monuments are under threat from the U.S. government. The president issued two executive orders in April, calling for a review of a list of monuments to see if they should be stripped of their titles. The Vermillion Cliffs, the Sonoran Desert, and Papahānaumokuākea in Robbie’s home state of Hawaii could all be made vulnerable under the initiative.

Robbie believes these monuments shouldn’t be messed with, and he’s spreading his message of conservation by visiting all 27 of them. He and his parents have made stops at Carrizo Plain and Giant Sequoia in California and Bears Ears national monument in Utah so far and they plan to visit sites in Nevada and New Mexico next. Along the way, Robbie will be sharing photos and updates from his journey with hopes of inspiring an "army of fourth graders" to join his crusade.

"You can’t get the parks back once they’ve been taken away, and I want our national parks and monuments to be available for my kids and for future generations," Robbie said in a video announcing the project.

You can follow Robbie’s U.S. tour on the Kids Speak for Parks Facebook page and on his website.

[h/t Huffington Post]

How Waffle House Helps Measure the Severity of a Natural Disaster

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iStock

There are a lot of ways the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assesses and addresses the severity of a natural disaster. Meteorology can predict movement patterns, wind gusts, and precipitation. Resources are dispatched to areas hit hardest by torrential weather.

But when the agency needs an accurate, ground-level gauge for how a community is coping during a crisis, they turn to Waffle House.

Since 2004, FEMA has utilized what former administrator Craig Fugate called the “Waffle House Index.” Because the casual dining chain is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, tracking to see if a location is closed or working with limited supplies can help inform the agency as to whether affected areas are ailing or taking steps toward normalcy.

“If a Waffle House is closed because there's a disaster, it's bad,” Fugate told NPR in 2011. “We call it red. If they're open but have a limited menu, that's yellow ... If they're green, we're good, keep going. You haven't found the bad stuff yet.”

For FEMA, the ability to order a plate of smothered and covered hash browns is an important analytic. If a Waffle House is having trouble getting stock, then transportation has been interrupted. If the menu is limited, then it’s possible they have some utilities but not others. If its locations have locked their doors, inclement weather has taken over. The chain’s locations would normally stay open even in severe conditions to help first responders.

The company has opened a Waffle House Storm Center to gather data in anticipation of Hurricane Florence, a Category 2 storm expected to touch down in the Carolinas this week. But not all locations are taking a wait-and-see approach. One Waffle House in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina has already closed due to the looming threat, making it the first red dot on the Index.

[h/t CNN]

Cigarette Butts Are the Number One Source of Ocean Trash

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iStock

The health consequences of smoking have been well-documented, but cigarettes can continue to do harm long after they've been stubbed out. As Business Insider reports, cigarette butts account for the largest source of trash in the world's oceans, outnumbering plastic items like straws and water bottles.

Even with cigarette sales sharply declining in recent years, the amount of litter they produce remains significant. It's difficult to recycle filters and often dangerous to throw them in the trash with flammable materials. With public ashtrays scarcer than they once were, many smokers opt to leave the remains on the ground.

Most filters contain cellulose acetate, a non-biodegradable type of plastic. So instead of breaking down over time, the waste washes into streams, rivers, and, when they're disposed of on beaches, directly into the sea.

The Ocean Conservancy estimates that roughly 60 million cigarette butts have been collected from the ocean since the 1980s. Unlike other waste items that pollute the ocean but often get more attention, including plastic bags and six-pack rings, cigarette filters can inflict serious damage on marine life. They contain many of the same chemicals as full cigarettes, including nicotine, lead, and arsenic.

Some unusual initiatives to clean up cigarette butts have been proposed over the years, including training crows to collect them and using them to pave roads, but real change needs to start with cigarette smokers. Instead of leaving them on the sidewalk, filters should be extinguished and safely stored until there are enough of them to send to a special recycling center that handles difficult-to-recycle materials. TerraCycle will even send you a special recycling receptacle designed for collecting cigarette ashes and filters.

[h/t Business Insider]

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