How to Save the Environment in Three Easy Steps

Dec 7, 2009
by: jdonohoe

Disclaimer: I know this post is really long and daunting, but please PLEASE read it as I think it's pertinent to every one of us. Let's save the world.

On Sunday evening, my mom and I drove up to Park City to hear Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. expound upon the state of our environment. The opening remarks were made by Louie Psihoyos, whose film "The Cove" won an audience award at Sundance in 2009. "The Cove" is about the systematic killing of dolphins in a Japanese town and the resulting mercury poisoning problem. As apex predators at the top of the food chain, the dolphins accumulate all the mercury working its way up the food chain. Once killed, the dolphin meat is given to local schools where students are forced to eat it, making them sick.

   Some towns around Minamata had populations where 30% of the children were thought to have either cerebral palsy or mental retardation. The real culprit was found to be mercury poisoning from a nearby plastics plant that was dumping mercury waste into the water system.

                -from The Cove's website,

At this point, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. took the reigns. He explained that the vast majority of the mercury which is bioaccumulating in the oceans, rivers, lakes, and streams of the world comes from coal-burning power plants and other carbon fuels. This is a worldwide problem, affecting the United States as much as Japan or any other nation. Recent studies show that no freshwater fish living in the United States currently has safe levels of mercury, says RFK. Mercury is a factor in many of the health problems that make our generation the "sickest ever" according to nurses that Kennedy had spoken with. Mercury has a proven correlation to the huge increase in the incidence of Autism in recent years, a disease that was virtually nonexistant in previous generations. Not only is the mercury accumulating in the bodies of fish, dolphins, and pregnant mothers, it has also been a staple in vaccinations since their conception decades ago. Finally, in 2003, the Center for Disease control made mercury-free vaccinations an option. However, nearly all of the flu shots given this year, which were strongly suggested and in some cases mandated by the white house, contained mercury.


According to the CDC, 1 in 6 American women now has so much mercury in her womb that her children are at risk for a grim inventory of diseases: autism, blindness, mental retardation, heart, liver, and kidney disease, that's one of the costs of burning coal.

                  -Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in an interview on CNN,

So, what can we do to combat this metallic killer? Kennedy says that we need a complete overhaul of our national energy system. This nation could achieve complete independence from coal, nuclear, and fossil fuels, and the nations which we depend on to give them to us. All we need he says, is the courage to do it. He uses the example of the British Government's decision to outlaw slavery completely in the 19th century, despite concerns that the nation would fail without the labor it depended on. Instead, entrepreneurs and inventors rushed in to capitalize on the burgeoning industry. The outcome was the industrial revolution. Kennedy says we could experience a similar kind of economic prosperity with a similar leap of faith. With an initial investment into creating ways to harvest free, clean, natural energy, he says, we could ensure national independence and solve the economic problems, killing two birds with one stone. For instance, he states, a square 75 miles per side in the American Southwest filled with solar panels could power the entire nation. The wind power in North Dakota is capable of similar productivity. Kennedy also told us that every year, 20% more people die from coal-related health problems than were killed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. And that's every year!!!! We need to do the right thing, and it's simple. All we need is a national grid system to transport electricity. Kennedy says the only thing keeping farmers in North Dakota from putting wind turbines on their farms is that the energy cannot effectively be transported elsewhere. With a new national network as easy as, say, telephone lines or the internet, we would be on our way to complete energy independence. As Kennedy says,


environmental prosperity always equals economic prosperity.

So let's do the right thing. It is so simple, economically, and environmentally sound. Of course, many of you are probably thinking, like me, "Hey, a lot of this stuff sounds like what we read in Unspun!  So check out Kennedy's website and the Cove's website, and then go see Kennedy yourself when he returns to Utah in March!


So, if you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to read this post, feel free to let me know what you think.


wow i knew tat all shots had

nourh's picture
Submitted by nourh on Mon, 2009-12-07 23:53.

wow i knew tat all shots had problems but i never knew that they wold afffect newborns=O but tat means if we take da flu shots it affects da babies but if we dont take da flu shot then we get sick-.- i think tat da world is gonna die soon if we dont start doing something about it. tatz a big topic tat evry1 needs 2 know about

Joe- I have to say, I never

Submitted by npuoy on Tue, 2009-12-08 20:04.


I have to say, I never knew how much of an effect mercury can have to us and our environment. It is truly disgusting that mercury-infected dolphin would be given to school children. And dumping mercury wastes into water systems? Are people crazy? Mercury has been here for a while now that many of our scientists and engineers and doctors etc, should know the effects.

One cold fact that really stuck out to me from your post is when the CDC says "1 in 6 American women now has so much mercury in her womb that her children are at risk for a grim inventory of diseases: autism, blindness, mental retardation, heart, liver, and kidney disease, that's one of the costs of burning coal."  I feel a little violated reading this because I could one day bear children; it's ridiculous how this can all be stopped by just one small move but it's like so many people are blind the issue.

Our parents and grandparents' generations have made bad decisions. But I really believe that if our generation wants to fix it, we can. I like the comparison to the Industrial Revolution because out of the revolution were lots of great advancements and achievements. It is also true that "environmental prosperity always equals economic prosperity". You are right on when you say the only thing we need is courage. I feel like many politicians or high ranking leaders only have one thing on their minds right now: how much our economy is suffering. It would be expensive to totally convert but if you really think about it, we can save so much in the end and be prosperous just as the quote says. I just hope our generation can take the initiative to fix our past generations' mistakes. Thanks for a great post!


Dear Nyakuiy, Thanks for

Submitted by jdonohoe on Thu, 2009-12-10 20:19.

Dear Nyakuiy,

Thanks for reading my post! One thing I want to clear up that I don't think I made clear in my original post is that most of the Mercury isn't dumped into the water systems by a pipe or anything like that, it's mostly released into the environment and then comes down as acid rain, working its way into the water system. Nevertheless, still quite unhealthy. I agree with you when you talked about our generation fixing the mistakes of our parents and grandparents; there is still hope. One study that Kennedy mentioned was of a lake near a coal power plant that was being shut down by the EPA. In the five years after the plant was shut down, the mercury levels in the lake decreased so drastically that it went from one of the most dangerous lakes in the state of Florida to one of the safest. It just goes to show that with a little work, we still can make a difference. It's not too late.


Joe, Even as greenhouse gas

Submitted by Craig.Domeier on Sun, 2009-12-13 20:39.


Even as greenhouse gas production becomes the focus of many drives to preserve the environement, your post brings attention to another problem with the heavy usage of fossil-fuels. I appreciate your (and by extension Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.'s) attempt to increase awareness and dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs. Coal and other dirty energy sources cause a whole gamut of serious local and global environmental problems. According the same website for The Cove that you cited:1

A United Nations study in 2003 states that through the burning of fossil fuels, like coal and cement plants, mercury is rising in the environment at the rate of 1.5 – 3% per year, or about 3-5 times since the industrial age.

However, I have some issue with your post's (fortunately) brief deviation into a discussion of mercury in vaccines., coming from the same people that brought us unSpun, address this head on:2


For instance, we’ve heard from people concerned about the vaccine containing thimerosal, a preservative that contains mercury and that has long been the subject of suspicion without a lot of scientific support. FDA regulations prevent adding thimerosal to primarily pediatric vaccines. The H1N1 vaccine is not specifically formulated for children, and the multidose version – but not the single-dose version – does contain thimerosal. However, the CDC stresses that even flu vaccines with thimerosal should pose no danger to children.


The thimerosal anxiety stems from the fact that it contains ethyl mercury, which is related to the type of mercury (methyl mercury) that can be harmful in food. Thimerosal was removed from pediatric vaccines mainly as a precautionary measure – a 1999 FDA review found that most children’s mercury exposure from thimerosal-containing vaccines would be well within the guidelines for methyl mercury, and ethyl mercury may be less likely to affect the brain, especially in the dosage one would get from a vaccine. But the move to phase out thimerosal piqued concern from some parents and activists, who posited a link between mercury in vaccines and developmental disorders like autism.


A 2001 report by the Institute of Medicine found that the idea that thimerosal exposure could lead to developmental disorders was "biologically plausible" but "is not established and rests on incomplete and indirect information." A 2004 report went a step further and recommended rejecting the hypothesis that thimerosal caused autism. The biological mechanism that would account for the causal connection is theoretically possible, IOM said – but only theoretically. Numerous other studies also find no link between thimerosal and developmental disorders. Ironically, thimerosal is added to vaccines to keep them from being tainted. Multidose vaccines require repeated needle insertions, which can push bacteria into the vial. Thimerosal prevents bacterial contamination of vaccines, which can cause illness and toxic shock.

The U.S. made several key decisions where it sacrificed speed for the sake of safety in the H1N1 vaccine. One was using the traditional egg method of production as opposed to newer methods. Another was getting more single-dose vaccines, as reported in the Wall Street Journal:3 

...the U.S. request for a greater amount of its vaccine order in single-dose syringes was slowing the process.

The U.S. government wanted more single-dose syringes because they contain only very small amounts of thimerosal, a mercury-containing substance that causes concern among some people, he said. Multidose vials contain more thimerosal.

Your post rightly put the focus on coal and other destructive industrial practices. If these were addressed effectively, our mercury problem would be much closer to a solution. Thanks for the thoughtful and relevant post.

 -Craig Domeier




Joe I totaly agree with you

Submitted by Hhu on Thu, 2009-12-17 10:18.

Joe I totaly agree with you the way people have been doing all those years have affect us so much that sooner or later people will stop doing things like those and start cleaning up their mess. this issue might have us alot later on because people are still using cars insted of taking the bus to work.


WJimenez's picture
Submitted by WJimenez on Thu, 2009-12-17 11:17.


Dear Joe, I like you post,

jcheng9's picture
Submitted by jcheng9 on Thu, 2009-12-17 13:36.

Dear Joe,

I like you post, How to Save the Environment in Three Ways, because it provides nice and important information to save our plaent from gobal warming and also it informs us about the ways we can save our earth. It also descibes how much we can save our planet.

One sentence that \your wrote that stands out for me is, "Once killed, the dolphin meat is given to local schools where students are forced to eat it, making them sick. " I think this is sick because this is disgusting. If i were given food like this, I would start a rebellion or a protest to stop dolphin killing.

Another sentence that stands out for me is, "Mercury is a factor in many of the health problems that make our generation the "sickest ever" according to nurses that Kennedy had spoken with." This sentence stands out for me because many people don't really understand all the harm that mercury can cause to people and also how bad they would feel from the after effects.

Your post reminded me of something that happened to me. I was invited by my friends to a little meeting or a show about global warming. They described how acid rain is destroying lots of things and causing harm.

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to reading more of your posts because I liked how much information you put into it.

This comic is basically saying that  global warming is caused by humans not because of heat or basically nature.

Frank & Ernest

 This makes me think that global warming is mainly cause by humans. The heat is all created by humans and the heat has nothing to do with global warming. This makes me rethink a lot of stuff like how humans are pretty evil and how we sometimes just sit there and watch each day pass by us. Only a small amount of the entire population on earth is trying to save the earth. You might recycle, but does that really help? You might not increase the amounts of waste and also the chemicals released into the ground and the air, but can you stop global warming from recycling? Globalw amring can only be stoped if we cool the earth and make sue it stays cool.