Petition: 119 Animals Have Died at Buenos Aires EcoPark

by: Care2 Team
recipient: Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta

68,449 SUPPORTERS – 70,000 GOAL
When the Buenos Aires Zoo shut its doors in 2016, the majority of the city’s residents said “good riddance.” The zoo had been widely panned by both the public at large and city officials for being cruel and “degrading” to the animals it held in captivity. The zoo, located in a busy intersection, caused the animals undue stress and housed them in less than par enclosures.

So when the mayor announced that he would close the park and turn it into an EcoPark there were signs of hope. The EcoPark would hold fewer animals with better enclosures and care, as well as serve as a refuge for rescued animals.

But these grandiose dreams have all but disappeared. The new EcoPark has a dismal record and animal activists now wonder if anything has changed at all.

Last month, two of the parks iconic animals succumbed to tragically avoidable deaths. 18-year-old Jackie the giraffe had colic and a perforated ulcer. Ruth, a rare white rhino, died of a plethora of infections. Unfortunately, their deaths aren’t unusual. Since the zoo closed two years ago, more than a hundred have died, and more than 20 have escaped.

Animal activists, including the zoo’s former director, thinks animals continue to die because of gross negligence.

The promise of an Ecopark where animals can live better and freer seems to be one that Buenos Aires has yet to keep. And if that’s the case the entire enterprise should be shut down and the animals should go to a real sanctuary where they will have the best life possible.

Please sign the petition and tell Buenos Aires mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta that it’s time to shut down this animal house of horrors. Tell him to close EcoPark.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/936/470/821/

Photo credit: Leonora Enking / Flickr

 

Advertisements

Petition: Grieving Orca Mom Highlights the Plight of Southern Resident Killer Whales

by: Care2 Team
recipient: Gov. Jay Inslee

41,248 SUPPORTERS -45,000 GOAL
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple weeks, you’ve probably heard about Tahlequah, part of the the southern resident killer whale (SRKW) clan, that for nearly 20 days, has been carrying around her calf which died shortly after birth. Researchers, conservationists and animal lovers have been transfixed by the drama, and mourning with Tahlequah over her tragic loss.

The death of the calf is an ominous sign for a clan of orcas that only numbers around 75 and is the only killer whale population protected by the Endangered Species Act.

The SRKW clan of whales is split into three related pods that live within the Salish Sea off the coast of Washington. The pods — J, K and L — vary, in size and have different habits but are part of the same extended family and communicate using sounds used by no other killer whale population.

Tahlequah is part of the J pod, but she isn’t the only pod member whose well-being has worried the public. This week researchers discovered that Scarlet, another killer whale from the same pod, looked severely malnourished. And yesterday an emergency mission was put in motion to deliver antibiotics to the ailing whale.

Scarlet and Tahlequahs struggle is symbolic of the plight of the entire SRKW population. The clan has experienced a remarkable and currently unexplained decline over recent decades. Between 1995 and 2001 for example, they lost more than 20% of their population.

Scientists currently have several theories as to why they are disappearing including lack of prey, stress caused by whale watching boats and exposure to high levels of toxicants.

While researchers race against the clock to find the actual causes, what can’t be delayed is action to help these amazing creatures. The governor has promised to take action to save the SRKW population, but we need keep pressure on to ensure that everything is done to protect these beautiful marine mammals.

Sign the petition and tell Gov. Jay Inslee that you want Washington state to do all it can to save the southern resident killer whales.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/595/758/511/

 

Petition: 95% of Lemur Species Could Disappear From This Earth if Madagascar Doesn’t Take Action to Save Them

by: Care2 Team
recipient: President of Madagascar, Hery Rajaonarimampianina

45,478 SUPPORTERS – 50,000 GOAL
Madagascar is one of the world’s richest nations in biodiversity but they may not be able to carry that title for much longer. One of their most famous animals, the lemur — a primate found only on the east African island, is under threat. And without immediate action, nearly every species of lemur could be lost.

According to a new study, of the planet’s more than 110 species and subspecies of lemur 105, a full 95% of them, qualify as critically endangered, endangered, or vulnerable to extinction in the wild; making them the most at risk mammal on the planet.

Imagine if 95% of all humans ceased to exist on Earth.

Lemurs are under attack from all sides. The island nation has lost nearly 80% of its forests since the 1950s. One study suggests that between 2005 and 2013, 2.47 million acres of forest were cut down. That’s an area only slightly larger than the island of Puerto Rico. With so much deforestation, the lemurs are losing habitat at an exacerbated rate.

What’s more depressing is that while they are losing habitat due to logging, mining, and agriculture, they are also being hunted for food. They are killed for bushmeat by villagers but are also sold in some of the country’s nicer restaurants in urban areas. Restaurant-goers can use special code words to order the dish that is technically illegal albeit all too abundant.

While laws are on the books to stop deforestation in protected forests and penalize killing lemurs rampant corruption, bribe-taking and other factors mean that many culprits get off scot-free, or if they go to court they are rarely penalized.

It’s time for Madagascar to ask itself, do they want to be the nation that let their own, unique natural heritage disappear from the Earth when they had a chance to stop it? Are they willing to take conservation seriously in order to save this unique species and ensure that it can live on for centuries?

The country must take serious action and change policy to bring lemurs back from the brink. That means punishing those responsible for illegal mining, clear cutting and poaching to the fullest extent of the law.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/543/353/808/

 

Petition: Why Is Peru Illegally Slaughtering 15,000 Dolphins Each Year?

by: Kevin Mathews
recipient: Vice Minister Javier Fernando Miguel Atkins Lerggios

46,140 SUPPORTERS – 50,000 GOAL

A new report by the Animal Welfare Institute finds that over 100,000 cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises and small whales) are intentionally killed each year by fishers so they can be chopped up for bait. This inhumane practice is most common off the coast of Peru, where fishers catch up to an estimated 15,000 dolphins.

These dolphins aren’t just being killed, they’re being brutalized. Once they’re pulled on to the boat, they’re stabbed with harpoons and knives and left to slowly die in agony.

Hunting dolphins is already against the law in Peru, but the lack of enforcement isn’t preventing the fishing industry from carrying on with killing dolphins and the like anyway. Though there have been some initial efforts to fix this problem, it’s going to take a serious commitment from Peru to scare this thriving black market out of existence.

That’s why we’re calling on Vice Minister Javier Fernando Miguel Atkins Lerggios, the man in charge of fisheries and aquaculture in Peru, to commit himself to aggressively

If undercover investigations by conservation groups can discover how prevelant this practice is, surely some government stings can catch the fishing industry in the act, too.

Protect the dolphins, Peru!

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/103/306/410/

 

Petition: MUTILATED DESERT TORTOISE NEEDS OUR HELP IN NEVADA, FILE FELONY CHARGES OF ANIMAL CRUELTY!, Nevada

by: Robert Wannberg
recipient: Angela Bello, Christi Kindel NYE COUNTY, NEVADA DISTRICT ATTORNEY 1520 E Basin Ave # 107, Pahrump, NV 89060 Phone: (775) 751-7080, Nevada

903 SUPPORTERS in Nevada
45,362 SUPPORTERS – 50,000 GOAL

On July 17, 2018 Phillip Peng was arrested in Pahrump, Nevada possessing an endangered wild desert tortoise that he had mutilated and kept on a leash.

PENG used a power drill to make 2 holes through the shell of the tortoise where he attached a metal leash. The tortoise was also found in a deep container of water when PENG was arrested and the animal was fighting to avoid drowning. A tortoise does not swim. A herpatologists that examined the animal stated the drilling of holes into its shell would have caused extreme pain and suffering, hundreds of nerves connect to the shell. The shell had also been fractured. Further, part of the nails in its feet had been worn off from it trying to escape the cable tether. Peng stated he kept the tortoise in this condition for about four years.

Peng was also charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon after allegedly pointing a gun at someones head, False Imprisonment and Carrying a Concealed weapon without a valid permit. It is well documented that those committing animal cruelty often escalate to committing crimes against humans.

The Nye County , Nevada Sheriff arrested PENG on two counts of felony animal cruelty. Subsequently, the Nye County, Nevada District Attorney dropped the one charge and only filed one misdemeanor charge of animal cruelty when the Nevada Animal Cruelty law applicaple substantiates a felony charge. (Case 18CRO3572)

It is just and proper when applying the Nevada State law in this case, (N.R.S. 574.100 (1) (a) 6 (a) that the Nye County Nevada District Attorney, Angela Bello and Christi Kindel, (filing Deputy) reconsider the charges and that the crimes committed by PENG be elevated to felony animal cruelty because they are, in fact, felony animal cruelty.

The crimes committed and the allegations and admissions made by PENG are torturous and outrageous.
The Nevada Desert Tortoise is a federally protected and endangered animal. The only way to prevent and reduce animal cruelty is to hold people properly accountable that commit it.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/865/207/525/

 

Petition: Justice for Daisy and Tallulah, the Horses Stabbed 27 Times in Hinckley

by: Care2 Team
recipient: Leicestershire Police

48,624 SUPPORTERS – 50,000 GOAL
Daisy and Tallulah were minding their own business in a field in Hinckley, United Kingdom. Perhaps they were grazing or swatting away flies with their tails when out of nowhere they were attacked by unknown perpetrators wielding knives.

Daisy, a 7-year-old Shetland pony, and Tallulah, a 6-year-old miniature horse, were subsequently stabbed a total of 27 times. When their owners Brian & Donna Poole found them later they both were in serious pain. Daisy had been stabbed in the face while poor Tallulah had to endure nearly 20 different cuts delivered by some vile human being.

This isn’t an isolated incident, two other ponies belonging to the Pooles were attacked with a bottle and pelted with stones and eggs just three months ago. This time, the attack was much more violent. If it is the same attacker as last time, it seems like their acts are escalating.

Someone is harassing and abusing helpless animals in the Hinckley area and they must be caught, and not just for the safety of the animals. People who commit violence against animals are likely to move on to humans. This potentially dangerous menace must be taken off the streets.

Please sign the petition and tell Leicestershire Police to continue their search for the horse attacker and prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law.

https://www.thepetitionsite.com/644/617/167/justice-for-daisy-and-tallulah-the-horses-stabbed-27-times-in-hinckley/

 

“Do We Really Evaluate Each Being On The Basis Of A Monetary Value?” Comment Deadline Tonight 11:59 PM Eastern Time

Mining Awareness +


Re: Cost Considerations in Rulemaking Docket ID: EPA-HQ-OA-2018-0107 Agency: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Proposed Rule Comment Deadline August 13th, 11.59 pm: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=EPA-HQ-OA-2018-0107

One comment submitted by the public:
I continue to be surprised and dismayed at the notion that money must be the determining factor in decision-making re: the preservation of health of all living organisms. Do we really evaluate each being on the basis of a monetary value?

I realize that consideration of the costs and benefits in the process of rule making may be a tool used by “decision-makers”. However, I want to reiterate that the human impact of decision-making needs to be the first consideration.

I refuse to have my life reduced to a monetary formula.” https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EPA-HQ-OA-2018-0107-0057

Many more comments are found at the regulations web site. A more detailed comment is here: https://miningawareness.wordpress.com/2018/08/11/trump-epa-cost-benefit-analysis-pre-rulemaking-comment-deadline-is-monday-august-13th-11-59-pm-eastern/

The above is separate from, but related to, the Thursday, August 16th…

View original post 32 more words

Plastics aren’t just polluting our oceans — they’re releasing greenhouse gases

by Emily Hunter

I’m a French-Canadian postdoctoral scholar at the University of Hawaii, Manoa and part of the School of Ocean and Earth Science & Technology (SOEST). As part of our team’s research, we found that, as plastic decomposes, it is producing a new source of greenhouse gas pollution not included in previous climate models. These emissions are only expected to increase — especially as more plastic is produced and accumulated in the environment and degrades over time.

Researchers from the University of Hawaii, Manoa have discovered startling new evidence that the plastics on land and in the ocean release greenhouse gases as they break down. In this article, scientist Sarah-Jeanne Royer tells us about what she found in the field and why it’s now even more important to break free from plastic. © Sarah-Jeanne Royer

Greenhouse gases have a direct impact on climate change — affecting sea level rise, global temperatures, ecosystem health on land and in the ocean, and storms, increasing flooding, drought, and erosion. Most plastic is created from natural gases, so the release of greenhouse gases from plastic waste might not seem surprising. Even so, the University of Hawaii is actually the first group publishing data about the link between greenhouse gases and plastic in the environment.

Of particular concern is a type of plastic called low-density polyethylene, which is the highest emitter of climate-wrecking greenhouse gases. It’s commonly found in the most produced, used, and discarded single-use plastics making their way into our oceans and waterways today. Our research shows that as this plastic breaks down in the ocean, the greenhouse emissions increase dramatically — up to 488 times morethan in pellet form, the term used to describe ‘raw’ plastic before it’s been made into an end product like a bag or water bottle.

Unfortunately, that’s not all. Plastics exposed directly to sunlight in the air — like on land at beaches, coastlines, fields, and playgrounds — make an even greater contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. So while we urgently need to keep plastics out of the ocean to stop the negative impacts of pollution on marine life and coastal communities, that’s not enough. On land, discarded plastics still release greenhouse gases and contribute to climate change even while no one is watching.

 

This research has big implications for waste management as well as potential climate change impacts. Plastic pollution is already reaching crisis levels, and this new information only makes the problem more urgent to address — and fast. Considering the amounts of plastic washing ashore on our coastlines, along with the amount of plastic exposed to environmental conditions, to protect our planet against climate change, we need to stop plastic production at the source.

Greenpeace UK Oceans campaigner Tisha Brown holds up plastic straws collected during a beach cleanup activity on Freedom Island, Philippines.

Sarah-Jeanne Royer is a French-Canadian postdoctoral scholar at the University of Hawaii, Manoa and part of the School of Ocean and Earth Science & Technology (SOEST). To learn more about her research on plastics and greenhouse gas emissions, read the full published report here

https://www.greenpeace.org/new-zealand/story/plastics-arent-just-polluting-our-oceans-theyre-releasing-greenhouse-gases/

An army of deer ticks carrying Lyme disease is advancing. It will only get worse.

grist.org
By Kristen Lombardi and Fatima Bhojani on Aug 11, 2018
23-29 minutes

This story was originally published by the Center for Public Integrity and was co-published with Mother Jones. It is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Maine’s invasion came early this year. In recent hotbeds of tick activity — from Scarborough to Belfast and Brewer — people say they spotted the eight-legged arachnid before spring. They noticed the ticks — which look like moving poppy seeds — encroaching on roads, beaches, playgrounds, cemeteries, and library floors. They saw them clinging to dogs, birds, and squirrels.

By May, people were finding the ticks crawling on their legs, backs, and necks. Now, in midsummer, daily encounters seem almost impossible to avoid.

Maine is home to 15 tick species but only one public health menace: the blacklegged tick — called the “deer” tick — a carrier of Lyme and other debilitating diseases. For 30 years, an army of deer ticks has advanced from the state’s southwest corner some 350 miles to the Canadian border, infesting towns such as Houlton, Limestone, and Presque Isle.

“It’s horrifying,” says Dora Mills, director of the Center for Excellence in Health Innovation at the University of New England in Portland. Mills, 58, says she never saw deer ticks in her native state until 2000.

The ticks have brought a surge of Lyme disease in Maine over two decades, boosting reported cases from 71 in 2000 to 1,487 in 2016 — a 20-fold increase, the latest federal data show. Today, Maine leads the nation in Lyme incidence, topping hot spots like Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Deer-tick illnesses such as anaplasmosis and babesiosis — a bacterial infection and a parasitic disease similar to malaria, respectively — are following a similar trajectory.

The explosion of disease correlates with a warming climate in Maine where, over the past three decades, summers generally have grown hotter and longer and winters milder and shorter.

Today, Maine leads the nation in Lyme incidence, topping hot spots like Connecticut, New Jersey, and Wisconsin.

It’s one strand in an ominous tapestry: Across the United States, tick- and mosquito-borne diseases, some potentially lethal, are emerging in places and volumes not previously seen. Climate change almost certainly is to blame, according to a 2016 report by 13 federal agencies that warned of intensifying heat, storms, air pollution, and infectious diseases. Last year, a coalition of 24 academic and government groups tried to track climate-related health hazards worldwide. It found them “far worse than previously understood,” jeopardizing half a century of public health gains.

Yet in Maine, Governor Paul LePage — a conservative Republican who has questioned the science of global warming — won’t acknowledge the phenomenon. His administration has suppressed state plans and vetoed legislation aimed at limiting the damage, former government officials say. They say state employees, including at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), have been told not to discuss climate change.

“It appears the problem has been swept under the rug,” says Mills, who headed the Maine CDC from 1996 to 2011. In the 2000s, she sat on a government task force charged with developing plans to respond to climate change; those efforts evidently went for naught. “We all know this response of ignoring it and hoping it goes away,” she says. “But it never goes away.”

In an emailed statement, LePage’s office denied that the governor has ignored climate change. It cited his creation of a voluntary, interagency work group on climate adaptation in 2013, which includes the Maine CDC. “To assume … that the governor has issued a blanket ban on doing anything related to climate change is erroneous,” the statement said. A recent inventory of state climate activities performed by the group, however, shows that most of the health department’s work originated with the previous administration.
Tripling of vector disease cases

Climate’s role in intensifying diseases carried by “vectors” — organisms transmitting pathogens and parasites — isn’t as obvious as in heat-related conditions or pollen allergies. But it poses a grave threat. Of all infectious diseases, those caused by bites from ticks, mosquitoes, and other cold-blooded insects are most climate-sensitive, scientists say. Even slight shifts in temperatures can alter their distribution patterns.

In May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a tripling of the number of disease cases resulting from mosquito, tick, and flea bites nationally over 13 years — from 27,388 cases in 2004 to 96,075 in 2016. Cases of tick-related illnesses doubled in this period, accounting for 77 percent of all vector-borne diseases. CDC officials, not mentioning the words “climate change,” attributed this spike partly to rising temperatures.

Heedless officials like LePage are one reason the government response to the human impacts of climate change has been so sluggish. But discord within the health community has stymied action, too, according to interviews with more than 50 public health experts and advocates, and a review of dozens of scientific studies and government reports. State and local health department employees may believe climate change is happening but don’t necessarily see it as a public health crisis, surveys show. Many find it too taxing or nebulous a problem to tackle.

“Like most health departments, we are underfunded and our list of responsibilities grows each year,” wrote one investigator from Arizona, echoing the 23 professionals who responded to a Center for Public Integrity online questionnaire.

The fraught politics of climate change also loom large. Chelsea Gridley-Smith, of the National Association of City and County Health Officials, says many local health departments face political pressures. Some encounter official or perceived bans on the term “climate change.” Others struggle to convey the urgency of threats when their peers don’t recognize a crisis.

“It’s disheartening for folks who work in climate and health,” says Gridley-Smith, whose group represents nearly 3,000 departments. “When politics come into play they feel beat down a little.”

This reality is striking in Maine, among 16 states and two cities receiving a federal grant meant to bolster health departments’ responses to climate-related risks. Under the program — known as Building Resilience Against Climate Effects, or BRACE — federal CDC employees help their state and local counterparts use climate data and modeling research to identify health hazards and create prevention strategies. National leaders have praised the Maine CDC’s BRACE work, which includes Lyme disease.

But the Maine CDC employees declined requests to interview key employees and didn’t respond to written questions. Instead, in a brief email, a spokesperson sent a description of initiatives meant to help people avoid tick bites and Lyme disease. Sources close to the agency say the LePage administration is concerned about tick-related illnesses but not their connection to climate. In its statement the governor’s office said this relationship “is of secondary concern to the immediate health needs of the people of Maine.”

The ticks, meanwhile, continue their northerly creep. In Penobscot County — where the Lyme incidence rate is eight times what it was in 2010 — the surge has unnerved residents. Regina Leonard, 39, a lifelong Mainer who lives seven miles north of Bangor, doesn’t know what to believe about climate change. But she says the deer tick seems “rampant.”

In 2016, her son Cooper, then 7, tested positive for Lyme disease after developing what she now identifies as an expanding or “disseminated” rash, a classic symptom. Red blotches appeared on his cheeks, as if he were sunburned. The blotches coincided with other ailments — malaise, nausea. Weeks later, they circled his eyes. The ring-shaped rash spread from his face to his back, stomach, and wrists.

Leonard says Cooper could barely walk during his 21-day regimen of antibiotics. His fingers curled under his hands. He stuttered. The thought of being bitten by another tick terrifies him to this day.

“At this rate,” Leonard says, “we’re all going to end up with Lyme.”
‘A huge epidemic’

The spread of Lyme disease has followed that of deer ticks. The incidence of Lyme has more than doubled over the past two decades. In 2016, federal health officials reported 36,429 new cases, and the illness has reached far beyond endemic areas in the Northeast to points west, south, and north.

The official count, driven by laboratory tests, underplays the public health problem, experts say. In some states, Lyme has become so prevalent that health departments no longer require blood tests to confirm early diagnosis. The testing process — which measures an immune response against the Lyme-causing bacteria — has limitations as well. It misses patients who don’t have such a reaction. Those who show symptoms associated with a later stage — neurological issues, arthritis — can face inaccurate results. The CDC estimates the actual caseload could be 10 times higher than reported.

Dr. Saul Hymes heads a pediatric tick-borne disease center at Stony Brook University on Long Island, a Lyme epicenter since the disease’s discovery in 1975. He’s noticed a change: Patients file into his office as early as March and as late as November. Often, they appear in winter. Deer-tick samples collected from 2006 to 2011 at the university’s Lyme lab show a jump in tick activity in December and January.

States where Lyme hardly existed 20 years ago are experiencing dramatic changes. In Minnesota, deer ticks and the illnesses they cause appeared in a few southeastern counties in the 1990s. But the tick has spread northward, bringing disease-causing bacteria with it. Now, in newly infested areas, says David Neitzel, of the Minnesota Department of Health’s vector-borne disease unit, “We haven’t been able to find any clean ticks. They’re all infected.” Minnesota ranks among the nation’s top five states for Lyme cases; it places even higher in incidence of anaplasmosis and babesiosis.

A similar transformation is under way in Maine, where the 2017 count of 1,769 Lyme cases represented a 19-percent increase over the previous year. Anaplasmosis cases soared 78 percent during that period, babesiosis 42 percent.

“It’s quite a remarkable change in a relatively short period,” says Dr. Robert Smith, director of infectious diseases at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Researchers at the hospital’s vector-borne disease laboratory have tracked the deer tick’s march across all 16 of Maine’s counties since 1988. Through testing, they’ve identified five of the seven pathogens carried by deer ticks. That’s five new maladies, some life-threatening.

Betsy Garrold, 63, lives on 50 acres amid dairy farms in Knox, a rustic town of 900 in Waldo County, where the Lyme incidence rate is three times the state average. A retired nurse midwife, Garrold says she long viewed the disease as many in the health profession would: mostly benign when treated with antibiotics. In 2013, she tested positive for Lyme after a red, brick-shaped rash covered her stomach and legs. She lost her ability to read and write and struggled to form a simple sentence.

“It was the worst experience of my life,” says Garrold, who previously had weathered bouts of tropical intestinal diseases.

Lisa Jordan, a patient advocate who lives in Brewer, just southeast of Bangor, says she’s already inundated with phone calls from people stricken by Lyme. On her cul-de-sac, she counts 15 out of 20 households touched by the disease. Three of her family members, herself included, are among them. “It’s a huge epidemic,” she says.
A vector-borne ecologist collects ticks at a site in Maine. John Ewing / Portland Press Herald / Getty Images
‘Disease emergency’ in Canada

The link between Lyme disease and climate change isn’t as direct as with other vector-borne diseases. Unlike mosquitoes, which live for a season and fly everywhere, deer ticks have a two-year life cycle and rely on animals for transport. That makes their hosts key drivers of disease. Young ticks feed on mice, squirrels, and birds, yet adults need deer — some suggest 12 per square mile — to sustain a population.

Rebecca Eisen, a federal CDC biologist who has studied climate’s influence on Lyme, notes that deer ticks dominated the East Coast until the 1800s, when forests gave way to fields. The transition nearly wiped out the tick, which thrives in the leaf litter of oaks and maples. The spread of the deer tick since federal Lyme data collection began in the 1990s can be traced in part to a decline in agriculture that has brought back forests while suburbia has sprawled to the woods’ edges, creating the perfect habitat for tick hosts.

Eisen suspects this changing land-use pattern is behind Lyme’s spread in mid-Atlantic states like Pennsylvania, where the incidence rate has more than tripled since 2010. “It hasn’t gotten much warmer there,” she says.

But climate is playing a role. Ben Beard, deputy director of the federal CDC’s climate and health program, says warming is the prime culprit in Lyme’s movement north. The CDC’s research suggests the deer tick, sensitive to temperature and humidity, is moving farther into arctic latitudes as warm months grow hotter and longer. Rising temperatures affect tick activity, pushing the Lyme season beyond its summer onset.

Canada epitomizes these changes. Over the past 20 years, Nicholas Ogden, a senior scientist at the country’s Public Health Agency, has watched the tick population in Canada spread from two isolated pockets near the north shore of Lake Erie into Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Ontario, the front lines of what he calls “a vector-borne disease emergency.”

Scientists say ticks can use snow as a blanket to survive cold temperatures, but long winters will limit the deer tick, preventing it from feeding on hosts and developing into adults. In the 2000s, Ogden and colleagues calculated a threshold temperature at which it could withstand Canada’s winter. They surmised that every day above freezing — measured in “degree days,” a tally of cumulative heat — would speed up its life cycle, allowing it to reproduce and survive. They mapped their theory: As temperatures rose, deer ticks moved in.

By 2014, the researchers had published a study examining projected climate change and tick reproduction. It shows higher temperatures correlating with higher tick breeding as much as five times in Canada and two times in the northern United States; in both places, the study shows, a Lyme invasion has followed.

The Canadian health agency reports a seven-fold spike in Lyme cases since 2009. “We know it’s associated with a warming climate,” Ogden says.

The U.S. EPA concluded as much in 2014, when it named Lyme disease an official “indicator” of climate change — one of two vector infections to receive the distinction. In its description, the EPA singles out the caseloads of four northern states, including Maine, where Lyme has become most common.

Maine researchers have found a strong correlation between tick activity and milder winters. According to their projections, warming in Maine’s six northernmost counties — which collectively could gain up to 650 more days above freezing each year by 2050 — will make them just as hospitable to deer ticks as the rest of the state.
Maine’s governor nixes climate change research

Research like this is crucial, experts say. Yet the federal government has failed to prioritize it. From 2012 to 2016, the National Institutes of Health spent a combined $32 million on its principal program on climate change — 0.1 percent of its $128 billion budget, says Kristie Ebi, a University of Washington public health professor. NIH spending has gone up in the past two fiscal years, to an average of $193 million annually. But that’s still less than the $200 million Ebi says health officials need annually to create programs that will protect Americans. And NIH spent 38 times as much on cancer research during the two-year period.

Congress has done little to fix the problem. Last year, U.S. Representative Matt Cartwright, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, sponsored legislation calling for an increase in federal funding for climate and health research and mandating the development of a national plan that would help state and local health departments. The bill, sponsored by 39 House Democrats, is languishing in committee. Sources on Capitol Hill say it has no chance of advancing as long as climate-denying Republicans hold a majority.

The only federal support for state and city health officials on climate change is the CDC’s BRACE grant program. George Luber, chief of the CDC’s climate and health program, considers it “cutting-edge thinking for public health.” He intends to expand it to all 50 states, but funding constraints have kept him from doing so.

Republicans in Congress have tried repeatedly to excise BRACE’s $10 million budget, to no avail. Its average annual award for health departments has remained around $200,000 for nearly a decade.

The modest federal response has shifted the burden to state and local health departments, most of which have “limited awareness of climate change as a public health issue,” according to a 2014 Government Accountability Office report. Of the two dozen responding to the Center’s questionnaire, only one said her agency had trained staff on climate-related risks and drafted an adaptation plan.

By contrast, BRACE states are hailed as national models for climate health adaptation. In Minnesota, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont — where deer ticks and their diseases are moving north — health officials have modeled future climate change and begun education campaigns in areas where Lyme is expected to rise.

Dora Mills, the former Maine CDC chief, oversaw the department’s bid for a BRACE grant in 2010. State epidemiologists already were surveying tick-related illnesses, but no one was asking why deer ticks were spreading or which areas were in jeopardy.

One year later, the department launched a program prioritizing vector-borne disease and extreme heat. Some employees worked with experts to model high-heat days and analyze their relationship with heat-induced hospital visits, among other activities. Much of the funding went to climate scientists and vector ecologists, who looked at the relationship between deer ticks and warming temperatures and did a similar study involving mosquitoes. They planned to develop a broader tick model that would examine the climate and ecological processes underlying the spread of Lyme disease in Maine and project its future burden.

By 2013, the administration of Governor LePage, elected in 2010 as a denier of what he called “the Al Gore science” on climate change, was clamping down. Norman Anderson worked at the Maine CDC for five years and managed its climate and health program. He recalls department public relations officials warning him not to talk about his work and refusing to green-light his appearances.

Eventually the governor eliminated the department’s climate change research. Scientists say they had to replace their ambitious modeling plan with rudimentary activities and spend their remaining BRACE funds on “tick kits” — complete with beakers of deer ticks in nymph and adult stages — to distribute to school children.

“Governor LePage said, ‘No one is doing climate change research,’” says Susan Elias, a vector ecologist at the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute who worked on the tick-climate research and is developing the broader model for her Ph.D. dissertation. “That message came down from on high through official state channels.”

LePage’s office defended the governor’s decision, arguing that scientists studying the relationship between climate and disease “are best funded in research settings such as large universities,” not the Maine CDC.

LePage did approve a proposal by the Maine CDC to renew its BRACE grant, but only after narrowing the scope. Employees had to abandon planned climate research related to the health impacts of extreme weather and worsening pollen, records show. Their heat research yielded results — indeed, the threshold at which officials issue dangerous heat advisories was lowered from 105 to 95 degrees Fahrenheit after their analysis had found it didn’t protect Mainers’ health. But employees had to scrap their heat-response plans nonetheless. The only BRACE work that LePage approved involved Lyme prevention.

In 2014, Anderson, frustrated by what he calls the “repressive” environment, quit the Maine CDC. The department’s larger “strategy around climate and health had just been whittled away,” he says.
‘Trying to plug holes in the dam’

Today, the Maine CDC’s climate and health program amounts to little more than a half dozen initiatives on ticks and tick-borne diseases. Health officials have developed voluntary school curricula and online campaigns targeting the elderly, for instance. They’ve launched training videos for school nurses and librarians.

The department’s “main prevention message is encouraging Maine residents and visitors to use personal protective measures to prevent tick exposures,” it said in a 2018 report.

That report, filed by the Maine CDC with state legislators, hints at the department’s myopic focus on the accelerating public health problem. Its vector-borne disease work group, consisting of scientists, pest-control operators, and patient advocates, has extensive knowledge on ticks and tick-borne diseases, yet has no mandate to draft a statewide response plan, members say. Its published materials make no mention of Lyme’s connection to climate change.

Sources close to the Maine CDC say the prevention work is the best it can do with limited resources. At $215,000 a year, the BRACE grant — which totals $1.1 million over five years — isn’t enough to cover a 38,385-square-mile state with 1.3 million residents, they say. No state money is directed toward the surge in tick-related illnesses.

LePage’s office cites the governor’s leadership in building an $8 million research facility at the University of Maine, which opened last month. The laboratory — the product of a ballot initiative in 2014 — houses the university’s tick-identification program. Director Griffin Dill considers it a major upgrade from the converted office in which he logged tick samples for five years. It will enable him to expand tick surveillance and test ticks for pathogens. Still, he’s candid about the bigger picture.

“We’re still so inundated with tick-borne disease,” Dill says. “We’re trying to plug holes in the dam.”

Already, another threat is looming. Scientists consider the Lone Star tick a better signal of climate change than its blacklegged counterpart — it has long thrived in southern states like Texas and Florida but is advancing northward. In Maine, tick ecologists have logged samples of the Lone Star species since 2013. Dill has surveyed fields and yards in search of settled populations, dragging what looks like a white flag on a stick over brush. He says the tick isn’t surviving Maine’s winters — yet.

It may be bringing new and unusual diseases here nevertheless. Patty O’Brien Carrier suffered what she describes as a bizarre reaction — itchy hives, a reddened face, a swollen throat — twice before learning that she has Alpha Gal Syndrome, a rare allergy to meat. In February, lab tests identified its source: a Lone Star tick bite. A “ferocious gardener” from Harpswell, 37 miles northeast of Portland, O’Brien, 71, believes she was bitten in her yard. She spends her time in the dirt surrounded by roses, daisies and other perennials. She notices more ticks in her garden, she says, much like she notices the ground thawing earlier each spring.

In November, O’Brien pulled a bloated tick from her neck. It was as large as a sesame seed, concave-shaped and bore a white dot on its back — just like the Lone Star. “Its face was right in my neck and its legs were squirming,” she says. “It was quite disgusting.”

Now O’Brien performs the same ritual every time she goes outside: She applies tick repellant on her clothes and skin. She fashions elastic around her pants, and pulls her knee socks up. She adds boots, gloves and a hat.

“It’s like a war zone out there,” O’Brien says, “and I cannot be bitten by another tick.”

https://grist.org/science/an-army-of-deer-ticks-carrying-lyme-disease-is-advancing-it-will-only-get-worse/