Nepal

April 29, 2015

The massive earthquake that hit Nepal this past weekend has created a great humanitarian need.  Charity Navigator has posted this short video and a list of vetted charities for those who would like to help.

Please read this report, which describes the role that vulnerability plays in a country’s ability to respond to such disasters.

Take care.

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Heroin

April 25, 2015

Syringe lying beside the road

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

To begin:  the syringe in the above photograph is labeled as having contained sodium chloride, which is used to flush IV lines and for hydration/electrolyte replacement.  There is no evidence whatsoever that this particular syringe was used for injecting heroin.  What is curious, though, is that the syringe was lying by the side of a road where other drug paraphernalia has been found in the past.  However, that may genuinely be just a coincidence.

Over the past few years, heroin use in Maryland has reached epic proportions and Governor Larry Hogan has convened the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force to suss out ways to cope with the problem.  (This link is to the announcement of the Task Force and contains a list of the agencies represented.)  Some statistics illustrate the scope of the problem:

  • In 2013, there were 464 heroin-related overdose deaths, greater than the number of homicides
  • Between 2010 and 2013, cases of heroin-related overdose deaths increased by 95 percent.
  • Preliminary data for 2014 shows that heroin-related overdose deaths are on pace to surpass those in 2013 by approximately 20 percent.
  • Heroin and opioid drug dependency has more than doubled in Maryland over the last decade.
  • The number of deaths in Maryland related to heroin and opioid drug dependency has increased by more than 100 percent in the last five years.
  • Some parts of Maryland have the highest per capita rate of heroin and opioid drug use in the United States.
  • In some regions of the state, an estimated one in ten citizens are addicted to heroin.
  • The number of heroin-related emergency room visits has more than tripled in Maryland since 2010.  (NOTE:  This list is from the “Heroin Facts” tab at the Heroin and Opioid Emergency Task Force link above.)

Quite a problem indeed.

 

Banner advertising "Buckwild Truck and Tractor Classic" sponsored by beer companies

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

However, it is important to recognize just how much another drug, alcohol, has been incorporated into our culture, as the above photograph illustrates.

Banner advertising a "Drug and Violence Awareness Expo"

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Interestingly, the banner shown above was attached to the same fence and just a few feet away.

Pile of empty beer cases laying on sidewalk.

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

In light of the heroin-related statistics posted above, it is important to recognize that when it comes to social problems, the statistics for alcohol-related mayhem also bear examination.  According to the Centers for Disease Control:

“Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death. This dangerous behavior accounted for approximately 88,000 deaths per year from 2006–2010, and accounted for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20–64 years. Excessive alcohol use shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years.”

Yes, there certainly is justification to be concerned about the increase in heroin-related overdoses and deaths.  At the same time, alcohol creates far more problems and is far more costly-I would invite readers to search for the statistics regarding the involvement of alcohol in domestic violence cases, traffic accidents, and lost job-productivity.  It is also significant to note the role the war in Afghanistan has played in the flooding of the world markets with relatively inexpensive, high-quality, heroin.

The main difference here is that alcohol has a much, much longer history in American culture-in the 1600-1700s it was often safer to drink than the water available, and it is a legal, albeit restricted, drug.  It is also a multi-billion dollar-a-year industry.  Can you imagine going to a sporting event and not being encouraged to drink alcohol?

Take care.

UPDATE:

The Baltimore Sun "Heroin Deaths" headline

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

This is the May 20, 2015 Baltimore Sun newspaper.

Lost Mates

April 22, 2015

Lost mauve-coloured fuzzy glove

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved,

Gloves are usually purchased in pairs.  This is a photo essay of several that have gone missing and have been left behind.

Lost pink glove lying in the road

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Lost purple glove lying beside the road

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

 

Lost glove covered with mud and debris

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

All of these were photographed on a the same day during an approximate two-mile walk.  One is left with the impression that this is a lot of missing gloves in what seems to be a relatively short distance-the last three were within a few hundred yards of each other.

Today is also Earth Day and is certainly a time to think about our stewardship of the planet.  Over the years this blog has featured many posts about trash, pollution, and the abandonment of the built environ-all of which leave scars, some more durable than others.  Climate change is another main theme herein and is arguably the main environmental issue of our time. Earth Day is important as it is one way to draw attention to such issues.  The problem is when they are ignored the other 364 days of the year.

Pepsi cup in the street

Copyright 2012 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Take care.

Longevity and Toxicity

April 17, 2015

April 13, 2014 original remnants of a plastic bag in a tree

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

No one really knows the longevity of plastic in the environment.  The above photograph was made on April 14, 2014 and was created with the intention of it being the start of a series of photographs to document the lifespan of this particular piece of plastic.  (Followers of this blog should recognize these first three photographs as they were part of an earlier post-thanks for reading.)  The following photographs were made on the dates indicated and are a continuation of the series:

April 24, 2014 remnants of the same plastic bag in a tree

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

April 24, 2014

November 12, 2014 remnants of the same large plastic bag in a tree

Copyright 2014 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

November 12, 2014

January 6, 2015 Plastic bag remains in a tree

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

January 6, 2015

 

March 21, 2015 Plastic bag remains

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

March 21, 2015

March 21, 2015 Plastic bag remains

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

March 21, 2015

It has been over a year now since its first appearance and while the original piece of plastic has been gradually shredded as a result of exposure to the wind and weather, it has proven to be remarkably resilient and doggedly persistent in its existence.  Given that plastic is a relatively new material, science has been unable to ascertain with any degree of certainty the exact longevity of the substance in the environ.  This first link is simply a list of the estimated lifespan of various materials, including plastic, when exposed to environmental conditions.  This second link provides a bit more detail about the difference between biodegradation, which plastic does not do; and photodegradation, which does affect plastic-this is a very important distinction and holds some of the keys to the long-term persistence of the plastic remains once in the environ.  This third link discusses some alternatives to conventional plastics that are a bit shorter-lived.

The longevity of plastic brings with it an additional concern:  the bioaccumulation of chemical toxins throughout the food chain. As explained here, plastic is not only made of chemicals that can prove to be toxic, the material also tends to absorb other chemical toxins already present in the environment.  Photodegradation makes plastic much more brittle and results in smaller and smaller bits of the material being distributed throughout the ecosystem.  This is especially notable and visible in the oceans, where the remains are then readily ingested by various species.  As those bits are consumed by creatures further up the food chain, the accumulated toxins also continue up the chain.  The larger the organism, the greater the risk of the bioaccumulation of higher quantities of these chemicals.

Humans like to think of themselves as being at the top of the food chain and our bodies become the final repositories of these chemicals.

On a related note, yesterday Dan Rodericks on WYPR’s “Midday” radio program did another episode of the “Midday on the Bay” series, which addresses environmental problems with the Chesapeake Bay.  Mr. Rodericks interviewed Michael Hawthorne of the Chicago Tribune who discussed the series of articles entitled “Playing with Fire”, which discusses another aspect of environmental exposure to toxic chemicals-flame retardants in this case.  Here is the link to the interview and here is the link to the article series.  This is the link to the Chicago Tribune video series mentioned in the interview.  This interview is especially worth a listen as it is important to heed the message regarding the behaviour of chemical-producing companies; the power, or lack thereof, of the EPA; and the efforts of citizens to bring about social change with regard to concerns over the long-term effects of chemical exposure.

Next Wednesday, April 22nd, is celebrated as Earth Day in the U.S. and this designation was originally created (in 1970) to bring heightened attention to these types of issues.  Here we are all those years later…

Take care.

Age

April 8, 2015

BW photograph of a knarled tree root.

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

All that is around long enough ages.

A short while after making the above photograph,  my feet went out from under me, gravity took over, and I was knee-deep in water.  Age robs one of agility…

BW photograph of a collapsed house

Copyright 2015 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

…and stability.

Take care.