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Our planet needs spring cleaning
by Larry Wilson
Feb 07, 2011 | 728 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
When it gets to be spring, many people clean up their yards from the accumulated debris of the past winter’s onslaught. Thank goodness my back yard is only so big. Come to think of it, our Earth is also only so big.

The issue of global warming is kind of like tackling that springtime cleanup project. Yes, there are those who say global warming is not a reality. Let’s say for the moment they are right. Where is the harm in cleaning up our environment? After all, we need to make the Earth last for a long, long time to come. If you watch any animal, they don’t mess up their living area if they can help it. We should follow their example.

One example that is very evident is in our upper atmosphere. Jet airplanes create contrails of water vapor and exhaust. They are all at about 30,000 to 40,000 feet above the ground. The other day I looked into the sky and couldn’t believe all the contrails I saw in the upper atmosphere. I don’t know how many appeared and then disappeared before I took notice, but when I looked there must have been 20 or more contrails in various stages. The upper atmosphere constantly is pumped with jet exhaust and its resulting residue. How long will it take until our atmosphere is full to the tipping point, as some scientists say it is?

I have gone to airports around the country and enjoyed watching planes take off and land. It makes me feel like a little kid watching them. There have been times when the airplane turns and I am blasted with a huge dose of hot exhaust from the jet engines, which includes the aroma of jet fuel. Jet fuel is just another form of kerosene, perhaps a little more refined. I also marvel at the ability of a jetliner, weighing tens of thousands of pounds, to be able to achieve flight. It takes a lot of energy to accomplish that feat.

Airliners fly using instrument flight rules and the routes they follow are created by radio signals from sites called variable omni range, or VORs. If you have noticed that airliners seem to fly the same paths it’s because they are flying on victor highways, as they are called, comprised of radio signals on various frequencies all around the world.

My point is that all this exhaust coupled with the residue from the jet fuel lingers in the air. There is no magic scrubber that takes away the residue or cools the air to its previous temperature. I’m not condemning airplanes. I enjoy flying as much as the next guy, but we really should be trying to find a different way of flying without gunking up the upper atmosphere.

A little more down to earth, maybe we can’t do anything to alleviate the upper atmosphere problem ourselves short of just stopping air travel altogether, but we could all be recycling our waste in our own homes. Here in the Reno area we have the opportunity to recycle glass, paper and metals of various kinds in our weekly trash pickup. We are even given receptacles in which we can conveniently put the recyclables on trash pickup days.

Many areas have even gone to banning plastic grocery bags since they are not biodegradable and are creating a mess wherever they are in use. Many packaging materials could also be either eliminated or drastically reduced as well. In short, we need to work smarter rather than harder to preserve the beautiful blue marble we call home.

Even if global warming isn’t a real phenomenon, if we quit messing in our mess kit, the Earth could heal itself of all the wrongs man has dealt it over the centuries, but it never will heal if we don’t give it a chance by doing our part.

Larry Wilson is a 50-year resident of Sparks and a retired elementary school teacher. He can be reached at
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