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10 Amazing Facts for Earth Day

Often when we're presented with facts about the environment, the numbers used can be so astronomically high, and the language so confusingly jargon-ish, that its tough for the average reader to care about the message.

In an attempt to avoid that type of article, I've compiled 10 interesting facts to consider this Earth Day -- the first five somewhat frightful, the last five providing a cause for celebration.

1. Many scientists say the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. For the sake of context, let that represent the life of a 46-year-old woman. She met humans (homo erectus) six to seven days ago, the Agricultural Revolution was just 52 minutes ago, and the Industrial Revolution started one minute ago. 

2. When critics point out that normal fluctuations occur that create climate change -- regardless of human interference -- they are right. But that doesn't change the fact that what we're seeing today is unprecedented, and there's likely more at play than normal global cyclicality.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency. 

3. Between 1960 and 2011, the sea level has risen between one and eight inches in many East and Gulf Coast locations.

 Source: Environmental Protection Agency. 

4. Flying creates enormous amounts of carbon emissions. When I calculated my own carbon footprint first without and then with the four flights my wife and I took over the past year, our footprint increased 31%! United Continental (NYSE: UAL  )  has already begun experimenting with biodiesels to offset this effect, with Solazyme providing some of the fuel. Check out your own footprint here.

5. Costa Rica has been named the happiest country in the world by the New Economics Foundation. Three variables were measured: self-reported happiness (on a scale of 1-10) was multiplied by average life expectancy, then divided by the average ecological footprint per capita. The United States came in 105th. 

6. Procter & Gamble (NYSE: PG  ) has a goal of converting 70% of all washing machine loads to cold water by 2020. If everyone used cold water for laundry, CO2 emissions in the U.S. would fall a full percent, and with companies devising detergents that are designed for use with cold water, more people are making the switch.  

7. Recycling creates six times as many jobs as landfilling. That's consistent with the success that Waste Management (NYSE: WM  )  has had in transforming itself from primarily a landfill operation to become the nation's top residential recycler, as it has continued to find new ways to profit from trash in a more environmentally friendly manner.

8. The first owner of a Chevy Volt drove 12,000 miles in his first two years with the car and only used up 26 gallons of gas! That's roughly 460 miles per gallon.

9. Since 1994, the number of farmers' markets available to folks in the United States has increased by 8.7% per year. That rate is accelerating, up almost 14% per year since 2008.

Source: USDA. 

10. Much has been made of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Not only have millions of species and indigenous peoples (who seem to live quite happily without taxing the earth) been eliminated, but the forest itself is a major source of oxygen for the planet. In 2012 Brazil announced that deforestation had reached its lowest levels ever -- down 27% from the previous year.  

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Read/Post Comments (14) | Recommend This Article (25)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 12:09 PM, Turfscape wrote:

    I've long said that there is gold (sometime literally) in American garbage. We throw out more wealth than some countries produce in a year. Recycling the solid materials is only the start. Extracting valuable gaseous elements for industrial use or power generation from expedited decomposition is the next intriguing field for waste/recycling companies.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 1:12 PM, thunderboltnova wrote:

    The earth is a living thing and it's raising its temperature to fight a virus called man.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 1:16 PM, Schneidku40 wrote:

    You may want to revise your #2, at least to say the levels of CO2 are unprecedented during the Holocene/modern history/recorded history/ice history. This level of CO2 is certainly not unprecedented in earth's history. The dinosaurs were walking around in CO2 levels that were likely somewhere around 5 times what it is now. 500 million years ago the CO2 levels 10-20 times what they are now. The average global temperature has also been much higher for most of earth's history.

    I'm not arguing here for or against human impacts on CO2 levels. Just pointing out some findings.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 2:38 PM, XXF wrote:

    Schneidku40 is absolutely correct. Both sides of this argument can take different time frames and show what appears to be a significant trend - 100 years shows terrible warming, 1,000 years shows very little change or, infact, a downward trend. And now, as shown, 1,000,000 years shows we're all about to die while 100,000,000 shows we've greatly decreased CO2.

    The actual truth is, of course, somewhere in between, but it is nearly impossible to have a conversation about what the truth actually is when both sides have ridiculous charts showing cherry picked data.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 2:59 PM, DividendsBoom wrote:

    "but the forest itself is a major source of oxygen for the planet"

    You could burn every tree and barely remove any oxygen from the atmosphere. The planet doesnt have a lack of oxygen problem. You could say that the forest stores a great deal of carbon that would otherwise be in the atmosphere.

    I do appreciate the article, but like the above statements on carbon levels, make your arguments without using fuzzy facts.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 6:15 PM, boone1112 wrote:

    Mr. Motley Fool:

    Your article is based on the same faulty logic that discusses corporations paying taxes.

    When you do not have actual facts the term, "Scientist/Democrats agree that there is Global Warming/Corporations do not pay enough Taxes." No facts just that they agree.

    Please state facts. Earthworms cause more CO2 than the entire human race, Scientists agree.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 8:20 PM, Kiffit wrote:

    Back in 2010, the WWF, the Zoological Society of London and the Global Footprint Network,

    put out 'The Living Planet Report', which suggested that despite huge regional disparities in wealth and resources, human populations had an ecological footprint one times the carrying capacity of the earth and that this was likely to rise to two times by 2030. The following 2012 report confirmed this finding.

    Even if these conclusions are only vaguely right, it would suggest that present economic and population growth targets are wildly unrealistic and that nature is likely to do to us what it does to any overly successful species that is taking too much out of the system.....

    Even Warren Buffet isn't going to be able to make a profit out of that one, unless of course he makes a plunge on the funerals business.

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 10:59 PM, NOTvuffett wrote:

    Ok, this argument has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. I know I can't convert any of the true believers but I will address some points, just for my own amusement.

    #1 the earth is about 4.6 bil years old, OK, granted.

    #2 the graph shows co2 concentrations fluctuating between a narrow range of values, and an obvious spike at the end. What the graph does not show is a correlation between co2 and temperature. We are currently living in what is called an inter-glacial period. These are typically much shorter than periods of massive glaciation. The catastrophe for man would not be a planet a little too warm, it would be one too cold to grow food for us humans. During the 650k yr period shown in the graph, there has been multiple cycles. We came out of the last cycle about 10K yr ago.

    Schneidku40 was exactly correct. The earth's co2 levels have been much higher in the past.

    If you assume the point #1 which I granted, that the earth is 4.6bil yr or so old, and you say when the earth was formed it was without life. Of course you would say that life sprang up from natural processes, not divine intervention. By logical extension a prebiotic earth would contain HUGE amounts of "greenhouse" gasses.

    #3 sea level rise. This is stupid beyond belief. The sky is falling!!!! The Atlantic is rising faster than the Pacific. It will make the planet spin off its axis, lol.

    #4 I feel guilty taking air travel. Ok, you take the slow boat to China. I am always confused about you people thinking bio-diesel is the answer when it uses food stocks for its production.

    I am getting tired of this.

    #9 Farmer's markets. What if I have a hankering for Kiwi fruit, or any other thing not grown in my area? should I feel guilty? Am I poisoning Gaia?

  • Report this Comment On April 22, 2013, at 11:46 PM, NOTvuffett wrote:
  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2013, at 9:47 AM, The1MAGE wrote:

    I find it really annoying how little people really know scientifically, and how easily they can be politically manipulated.

    I am in no way worried about the current trend in CO2 levels, or it's supposed impact on global temperatures. Yes it has an impact, but not barely what people are led to believe. (Plus it's effects are logarithmic, meaning an increase will have a smaller and smaller effect.)

    A 2-4% increase in humidity is like doubling CO2 levels. (Oh crap, I ran a humidifier all winter.)

    I am a little more worried about the Mercury in our oceans.

    If people didn't know, April 22 was chosen as Earth day to honor Vladimir Lenin.

    BTW I would love to own a Tesla Roadster.

  • Report this Comment On April 23, 2013, at 11:03 AM, Beanfarmer wrote:

    10. Ever is a broad term, the earth is 4.6 billion years old. I feel certain that Brazil's records do not go back quite that far.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 11:08 AM, x4x13x wrote:

    See reference below to a 1922 article in the Washington Post showing the dire condition of the Arctic Ocean warming. Current we are back to where we were then.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2013, at 11:00 PM, Waxgal wrote:

    I'm abit confused by some of the comments:

    -what's wrong with Farmers' Markets?

    -why is the rise of ocean levels not a concern?

    - yes mercury is a large threat.Is this a contest of which is the most serious threat?

    - why does the discussion over climate change always devolve into nasty political name calling?

    -Earth Day in honor of Lenin? really? Where do I find the background info on this?

    - Food stocks are renewable...hello?

    - and yes, cherry picking ought to be left to the farmers.

  • Report this Comment On May 03, 2013, at 4:49 AM, kiwi2go wrote:

    I am so tired of the same old "facts" that get trotted out on occasions like earth day, especially when they are just plain rubbish.

    I agree with NOTvuffett above and will add to his/her list with a #8:

    The Chevy Volt does not get 460 miles per gallon. You left out the coal burning power station that generated the electricity that charged the Volt before it left home. Go ahead and look up the Chevy Volt and see what the official site says and despite the marketing hype you can see the truth.

    Just a comment on #4 and biofuel (a subject I know a little bit about): Thanks to the greenies biofuel raised the cost of grain worldwide and the result was that millions of people couldn't afford to eat. But that's OK because at least Mr Stoffel isn't starving.

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