CO2 Benefits the “Rats and Cockroaches” of Marine World – Scientific American

CO2 Benefits the “Rats and Cockroaches” of Marine World

Ocean acidification may be driving a cascade of changes that drains marine biodiversity

By Adam Aton, ClimateWire on July 7, 2017

Beneath the waves, swelling levels of carbon dioxide could be boosting some species to ecological dominance while dooming others.
A study published yesterday in Current Biology suggests ocean acidification is driving a cascading set of behavioral and environmental changes that drains oceans’ biodiversity. Niche species and intermediate predators suffer at the expense of a handful of aggressive species.

Sea-level rise and coral bleaching often dominate discussions about how climate change affects the ocean, but a host of more subtle—and harder to research—trends also play a role in reshaping the world’s marine ecosystems. Among the most pressing questions is how fish react to rising levels of CO2, said Tom Bigford, policy director at the American Fisheries Society.

“The hurdles for behavioral changes are far lower than the hurdles for life and death,” said Bigford, who worked with fish habitats at NOAA for more than three decades.

Now, for the first time, researchers from the University of Adelaide in South Australia have cataloged the changing ways marine species interact with each other.

For three years, they observed marine environments near undersea volcanic vents where CO2 levels are high—providing a window into the future acidity of ocean water—along with adjacent areas of normal acidity. They also conducted behavioral experiments on fish from the different zones to test their responses to food and habitat competition.

Receding kelp means less habitat for intermediate predators, with about half as many near the volcanic vents.

But the acidified conditions proved to be a boon to what the researchers called “the marine equivalent to rats and cockroaches”—small fish with low commercial or culinary value.

Snails and small crustaceans can flourish in high-CO2 conditions, providing plenty of prey for those small fish. And their high risk-taking behavior and competitive strength, coupled with the collapse of predator populations, allowed them to more than double their population.

In water with higher CO2, the dominant species were willing to adapt to riskier habitats, preferring bare surfaces instead of turf while subordinate species were nearby.

Mimicked predator attacks also showed the dominant species adopted riskier behavior in higher-acidity water, fleeing shorter distances than the fish in water with normal acidity. Subordinate species showed no change.

Rare and specialist species are the most vulnerable to climate change, even though they “contribute disproportionately to [ecosystems’] functional diversity,” the researchers wrote.

To counter that diversity loss, the researchers suggested stronger fishing protections for predators.
Scientific American is part of Springer Nature, which owns or has commercial relations with thousands of scientific publications (many of them can be found at http://www.springernature.com/us). Scientific American maintains a strict policy of editorial independence in reporting developments in science to our readers.
© 2017 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc.

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Are Your Fireworks Causing Pollution? | Care2 Causes

By: s.e. smith
July 2, 2017
’tis the season for colorful, epic displays of fireworks – and my cat’s annual retreat behind the fridge. Americans use more 250 million pounds of them every year.

If you’re a fan of pyrotechnics shows, just thinking about fireworks probably conjures up a fond memory of oohing and aahing along with a crowd, as colors burst overhead and smoke drifts across the — hey, wait a minute.

Sorry, but I’m here to rain on your fireworks, because those delightful explosions come with a hefty dose of pollution. It doesn’t have to be that way, though — in fact, many municipalities are seeking out alternatives that allow residents to enjoy the fun, minus the environmental impact.
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Here’s the problem: Fireworks are made by combining gunpowder with metal that will react as it heats and ignites — that’s what causes the different colors and nifty visual effects. They also historically came packed with sodium perchlorate to act as an oxidizer to fuel that reaction. The explosion itself generates smoke as a byproduct of combustion, and along with it, tiny metallic particles that aren’t great for people — or animals — to breathe.

Researchers in Spain found that after major festivals, concentrations of strontium, copper, antimony, sulphur dioxide and lead, among many others, were much higher in urban areas than they should be. The pollution came not just from municipal fireworks displays, but also from members of the public who set them off in their backyards, just as millions of Americans do around the Fourth of July. They noted that poor quality control and questionable sources made some fireworks more hazardous than others.

Researchers have also found perchlorate in lakes after major fireworks displays. Surprisingly, the United States doesn’t actually regulate perchlorate content in fireworks, so companies have no particular reason to seek an alternative — unless consumers pressure them. Another source of pressure may be regional environmental agencies, which have the power to require permits from entities putting on major fireworks shows.

Between packaging, casing and other components, fireworks also generate a lot of litter. In the case of municipal displays, cities may have a contract clause requiring operators to clean up, but citizens feel no such obligations. The aftermath of a fireworks-laced weekend can include plastic and cardboard debris far and wide, from explosions as well as abandoned packaging.

The good news is that if you love the environment and explosions — like me — you actually can have your cake and eat it too. Researchers are developing less toxic oxidizers, as well as safer compounds that create dramatic color effects — and they’re even thinking about more eco-friendly shell casings. One of the biggest challenges the planet-loving crew faces comes in the form of the ubiquitous red firework, which is actually quite hard to create with eco-friendly compounds.

Disney uses compressed air to launch its fireworks, with the goal of achieving smokeless displays. That’s more enjoyable for theme park guests, but it also benefits the surrounding environment. It’s an important consideration for a business that puts on numerous shows annually.

One of the best sources for research into this issue may surprise you, because it’s the military.

Military personnel use flares that are very similar to fireworks in design, and as part of a goal to be a greener citizen, military researchers have been exploring cleaner burning materials and better packaging to reduce their environmental impact. One reason why? The military is still paying a high price for cleaning up pollution at abandoned bases across the United States, and it’s not eager to perpetuate the problem. In the short term, their work benefits civilian fireworks fans.

As you get ready to celebrate Independence Day, ask local officials about the fireworks used, and the specifics of the city’s contract with the company that puts on the show. If they aren’t using environmentally friendly options, ask why — and be sure to wear respiratory protection to the show. For those who love backyard shows — where it’s safe and legal — consider seeking out fireworks with biodegradable casings and look for products manufactured without perchlorate and other toxic compounds.
Photo credit: Kevin Muncie
Care2 Team Blog

It’s Time to Take America’s Plastic Fork Problem Seriously | Grist

It’s tine to take America’s plastic fork problem seriously
By Jenny Luna on Jul 3, 2017

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Whether for stabbing salads at our desks or slurping up late-night Thai, plastic cutlery has become a signature side to our growing takeout habit. It’s hard to say exactly how many forks, spoons, and knives Americans throw away, but in 2015 we placed nearly 2 billion delivery orders. If at least half those meals involved single-use utensils, that would mean we’re tossing out billions of utensils each year. They don’t just disappear: A recent study in the San Francisco Bay Area found that food and beverage packaging made up 67 percent of all litter on the streets.

Apart from being an eyesore, disposable cutlery endangers wildlife. A survey by four major environmental groups determined that plastic utensils ranked among the 10 most common trash items found in California — which contributes to a larger problem: The United Nations estimates that the oceans contain more than 8 million tons of plastic. As plastic breaks down, it can be mistaken for food by sea creatures, which can harm them and our seafood dinners.

A few options have surfaced in recent years. In 2010, a company in India started selling edible spoons and forks made from grains. Closer to home, California-based SpudWare’s forks are made from potato starch. But such alternatives, which cost about twice as much as plastic, still require a lot of energy and water to produce, according to Samantha Sommer, who runs a waste-prevention project for Clean Water Action. What’s more, not all major cities compost. And even if biodegradable or compostable utensils make it to a facility, there’s a chance they’ll end up in a landfill, says Robert Reed, a spokesman for the West Coast recycling and compost plant Recology. Depending on what they’re made of, he says, biodegradable utensils might not degrade completely; if they don’t, they could be plucked out of the pile and thrown away.

Perhaps diners should take a page from China, where environmental protesters publicized how the roughly 80 billion pairs of disposable wooden chopsticks produced each year eat up 20 million trees in the process. Greenpeace China launched a BYOC (Bring Your Own Chopsticks) campaign and worked with pop stars to promote reusable chopsticks as a trendy fashion accessory. As a result, disposable chopsticks were banned from use at many venues hosting events at Beijing’s 2008 Olympics.

Metal spoons have not yet graced American celebrity Instagram accounts, but maybe it’s time: Encouraging customers to bring in their own utensils helps businesses cut down costs and waste. A few years ago, Clean Water Action ran a test case with restaurant owner Francisco Hernandez of El Metate in San Francisco. The restaurant staff used to include plastic utensils with every order. Now, sit-down diners get metal forks, and disposables are in a countertop container for to-go customers who need them. Hernandez saved money that year — now he buys just one case of disposable forks each week instead of three — and he decreased his restaurant’s waste by more than 3,600 pounds. The change means El Metate has more to wash, but it’s likely that the water used to run his dishwasher (one gallon for every one-minute cycle) is dwarfed by the amount needed to make those plastic forks.

Still, a sea change might require more research and toothier legislation — something that worked in the fight against plastic bags. A 2013 study found that after San Jose, California, enacted a bag ban, there was nearly 90 percent less plastic in the city’s storm drains and almost 60 percent less in its streets than there had been before. Data like that helped California finalize a statewide ban — over the strenuous lobbying of plastics manufacturers — in 2016. Such legislation appears to be catching on: Chicago, Seattle, and Austin, Texas, have also enacted bag bans, and between 2015 and 2016, lawmakers proposed at least 77 state-level plastic bag bills. Given that success, here’s an idea: Charge a small fee for disposable utensils to help nudge consumers to make a habit out of carrying their own forks. Prettier streets, healthier oceans, and cheaper takeout? Sold.

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These Shocking Photos of the Disappearing Amazon Rainforest Are a Result of One Unnecessary Choice | One Green Planet


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Worm That Likes to Eat Plastic May Help Save Marine Species From Ocean Pollution | One Green Planet


Aleksandra Pajda
April 25, 2017

Now that we are facing the immense problem of plastic waste overflowing our planet, we almost wish something would just magically take care of all the dangerous trash finding its way onto streets and ocean waters. Well, while this solution may not yet exist – scientists have discovered that waxworms have a peculiar taste for plastic! But there is no magic whatsoever to the marvel of those little caterpillars – only the wonders of biology.

Scientists have reported that waxworms (Galleria mellonella) consume plastic at “uniquely high speed” and are able to break down even the toughest of them. During research, these worms proved perfectly able to eat through the infamously hard to break down polyethylene and did it 1,400 times faster than other organisms! According to scientists, the worm’s talent for breaking down such difficult materials lies in the potent enzymes in its saliva or gut – enzymes the worm uses to break down beeswax, which is similar to plastic in its chemical bonds.

What makes the news even more interesting, is it was discovered purely by accident. A biologist and amateur beekeeper, Federica Bertocchini, placed the worms temporarily in a plastic bag while cleaning out her hives and quickly noticed the holes that were appearing in the bag. During the following tests at Cambridge, 100 waxworms were released onto a plastic bag and holes began to appear after just 40 minutes!

Researchers claim that this discovery could be turned into a solution to the plastic problem on an industrial scale through a reproduction in large quantities of the specific enzyme that is responsible for breaking down the plastic. As reported by Independent.ie, Paolo Bombelli from Cambridge University believes that the newly discovered enzymes could be used to adapt recycling plants to biodegrade mass quantities of plastic and one day the enzymes could even be sprayed directly onto landfill sites or sea plants.

This thrilling discovery makes us hopeful for a breakthrough in the issue of plastic waste and the future of dealing with unrecycled trash. But let us not forget that, however uncannily great at eating plastic these waxworms are, they will not simply end our plastic problem. We currently dump around 8.8 million tons of plastic in the oceans every year – and around 700 marine species are threatened with extinction as a result. While these waxworms could lend these animals a hand, the responsibility to make conscious choices and take care of the world around us is still ours.

Native America, Environmental Groups File Lawsuit to Overturn Trump’s Keystone XL Permit

First Suit Filed for an Injunction Against Trump’s Keystone XL Pipeline Permit by Indigenous Environmental Network, North Coast Rivers Alliance
WASHINGTON – The Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN) and North Coast Rivers Alliance (NCRA) have filed suit in Federal District Court in Great Falls, Montana, challenging the Presidential Permit issued by President Trump allowing construction and operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
IEN’s and NCRA’s Complaint challenging the State Department’s approval of a Presidential Permit for the KXL Pipeline is available here: http://www.ienearth.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Complaint_for_Declaratory_and_Injunctive_Relief.pdf

Stephan Volker, attorney for IEN and NCRA, filed the suit on Monday, March 27th. The suit alleges that the State Department’s Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (“FSEIS”) fails to (1) provide a detailed and independent Project purpose and need, (2) analyze all reasonable alternatives to the Project, (3) study the Project’s transboundary effects, (4) disclose and fully analyze many of the Project’s adverse environmental impacts, (5) formulate adequate mitigation measures, and (6) respond adequately to comments. In addition, the FSEIS was irredeemably tainted because it was prepared by Environmental Resource Management (“ERM”), a company with a substantial conflict of interest. The suit also alleges that Trump’s permit violates the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act.
“President Trump is breaking established environmental laws and treaties in his efforts to force through the Keystone XL Pipeline, that would bring carbon-intensive, toxic, and corrosive crude oil from the Canadian tar sands, but we are filing suit to fight back,” said Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network. “Indigenous peoples’ lands and waters are not here to be America’s environmental sacrifice zone. For too long, the US Government has pushed around Indigenous peoples and undervalued our inherent rights, sovereignty, culture, and our responsibilities as guardians of Mother Earth and all life while fueling catastrophic extreme weather and climate change with an addiction to fossil fuels. The time has come to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shut down risky extreme energy projects like the tar sands that are poisoning our families, wildlife, water sources and destroying our climate.”
“Oil, water and fish do not mix. KXL poses an unacceptable risk to the Missouri River and its fisheries, including the nearly extinct Arctic grayling,” said Frank Egger, President of the North Coast Rivers Alliance (NCRA). “No oil pipeline is safe. One major oil spill, and the Missouri River and adjacent aquifers would be polluted for generations.”
“Because President Trump has turned his back on the Native American community and protection of our clean water, endangered fisheries, and indeed, survival of the Planet itself, we have asked the Federal Courts to order him to comply with our nation’s environmental laws,” said Volker. “We are confident that the courts will apply and enforce the law fairly and faithfully, and protect our irreplaceable natural heritage from the risky and unneeded KXL Pipeline. Alternatives including renewable energy and conservation must be given full and fair consideration to protect future generations from the ravages of global warming.”
Additional documents pertaining to the litigation can be obtained from the Volker law offices.
Copyright © 2017 · All Rights Reserved · Global Justice Ecology Project

Looking back at Standing…Rock How likely are oil spills to occur and what happens if they do!

The Standing Rock protests, which lasted for nearly a year, have come to an end. For months, members of the Sioux Tribe, along with protestors from around the country, held firm in a small encampment off the banks of the Missouri River, where they had gathered to protest the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL). At its peak, 10,000 people had gathered at the site in a show of solidarity, backed by 200 Native American tribes. Just north of the Sioux reservation lay burial grounds sacred to the tribe, which occupies land they claim was illegally sequestered in an 1886 treaty.
Driven by concerns that the pipeline might burst and contaminate local waters downstream, adjacent to the Standing Rock reservation, as well as pollute sacred sites to the North, the Sioux decried the pipeline’s construction, which had been undertaken without their consultation, technically illegal under U.S. law. Their numbers swelled throughout the summer, but as winter approached, conditions became dire. Despite a halt to the construction given by the Obama administration in September of 2016, the situation remained tense. Private security pepper-sprayed and allowed dogs to attack protestors, and several waves of arrests were made by local authorities. Enforcements were sent in to bolster the ranks of police on site, equipped with riot gear, military grade vehicles, pepper spray, beanbag bullets, and stinger balls.

Then, on the night of November 20, as protestors attempted to remove two trucks forming a barricade on a bridge, police responded by deploying tear gas, a hail of rubber pellets, and unleashing a water cannon on protestors in temperatures that dropped to well below freezing. Infuriated by the violence, 2,000 U.S. veterans pledged to travel to Standing Rock in order to offer their support and to act as human shields to ensure the safety of Sioux Tribe members and other protestors. Then, two weeks after the night of violence, the Army Corp of Engineers officially denied the final easement to Dakota Access, LLC, which, if given, would have allowed for the final completion of the pipeline. This was the major victory that protestors had been fighting for. Their work done, people left the camp in droves until only a few remained. Within days of President Trump’s election, however, executive orders were given to revive both the DAPL and the previously stalled Keystone Pipeline, effectively overturning everything that had been accomplished.

Their numbers dwindled, the Sioux Council willingly passed a resolution to close down the protest camps, not only due to eminent flooding now that the winter snows were beginning to melt, but also due to the burden the large influx of people had on nearby reservation towns. But the final order of eviction came from the Army Corp of Engineers, who gave the remaining protestors until February 22 of 2017 to leave; ten people were later arrested for failure to do so, marking the end and ultimate defeat of the protests that had taken place there.

With the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone Pipeline now eminent, what do we potentially have to lose?

How Common Are Oil Spills?
The day after Trump signed executive orders to revive the Keystone Pipeline and expedite the completion of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the very thing protestors had feared occurred in a small town in rural Iowa, where a pipeline carrying diesel fuel burst and began leaking onto farmland.

Though the pipe was only 12 inches in diameter, the contents of these pipes are under pressure, meaning that massive amounts of oil can spill out into the environment in a very short amount of time. This particular spill leaked upwards of 138,000 gallons of oil into the surrounding area. Nor was this an isolated event; the company that owns the pipeline, Magellan, has had several similar incidents in the last seven years alone.

In October of 2016, a Magellan pipeline transporting ammonia burst, killing one person and causing 23 households to be evacuated. In 2010, Magellan was required to pay $46,200 in reparations for a 5,000 gallon diesel spill that had leaked into a nearby stream, violating the Clean Water Act (a recent provision to the Clean Water Act is currently being attacked by the Trump administration). They were fined another $418,000 the same year for another oil spill in Oklahoma.

And that’s just one company. As of 2015, there are over 73,000 miles of crude oil pipeline in the United States. Since 2000, over 970,000 gallons of oil have leaked due to spills, 370,000 of which was unrecoverable by cleanup crews. Since 2010 alone, there has been a total of 4,269 pipeline incidents reported, 64 of which resulted in at least one fatality.

What Happens to the Oil That Remains in the Environment?
Crude oil spills are toxic to several types of living organisms, and while oils spills in marine and aquatic ecosystems cause the most damage, they can have severe deleterious effects on land as well. Contact with oil can negatively impact the degree to which mammals can insulate themselves, leading to hypothermia and death. Even a slight amount of oil on a bird’s feathers is enough to cause death as well. Several types of adverse effects can by caused by inhalation of fumes by animals, such as damage to the liver and lungs as well as the central nervous system. If an oil spill makes its way into a nearby body of water, such as a lake or river, it can cause massive die offs and pollute the drinking water of nearby residents.

Oil spills also pose a threat to endangered species, such as the whooping crane, whose wintering habitat was compromised in 2014 due to an oil spill in Galveston Bay. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates that 12 endangered species will be threatened by the Keystone Pipeline alone, including the American burying beetle, interior least terns, northern swift foxes, and pallid sturgeons.

What’s Next?
With the Dakota Access Pipeline slated to be up and ready for operation by April 1, it’s likely that the NODAPL protests have come to an end. But what the Sioux Tribe and other protestors accomplished was no small feat; by standing up for the environment and the rights of Native people, a disparate group of protestors made their voice heard and got the federal government to halt the completion of the pipeline along its scheduled path.

Even though that decision has been overturned, it brought national awareness to the issue and a momentum that can be used to fight against future projects. As the new head of the EPA begins to dismantle existing regulations put in place to protect the environment, the most helpful thing everyone can do is raise their voice. Contact your representatives to voice your concerns and vote in state, local, and federal elections.

Lead image source:Mike Shooter/Shutterstock

Protect Streams, Rivers and Our National Parks with Reasonable Funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program! – National Parks Conservation Association


https://secure.npca.org/site/Advocacy;jsessionid=00000000.app337b?pagename=homepage&page=UserAction&id=1819&autologin=true&AddInterest=1084&NONCE_TOKEN=35D8B385F78AC0CF28066E24EACCF52A#sm.00011uz5n918hfcuqye7f3zgq5cel

This Organization is Using Stunning, to the Point, Graphics to Teach Us About the Dangers of Plastic | One Green Planet


Carrying our groceries in plastic bags, drinking water from plastic bottles, how often do we really stop and think about where those convenient things came from and – more importantly – where they go once we are done using them? Unfortunately, most of the plastics we use end up in the oceans where it is driving around 700 marine species toward extinction. Seeing as we produce around 300 million tons of this material every year, if we hope to help these animals, we need to cut plastic – and STAT.

Luckily, public awareness about the problem of plastic is now greater than ever and social media, especially, is doing wonders for our collective environmental consciousness. Or, to be specific, it is the people behind such social media accounts that make all the difference – like the creators of Plastic Menace.

Plastic Menace is an organization whose mission it to get people to learn the truth about plastic. In order to help relay their message to the masses, Plastic Menace has an Instagram account full of stunning graphics illustrating important, and often unknown, facts about the production, use, and waste management of plastic.
The graphics draw attention to the many dangers of using PET bottles – something that is often completely overshadowed by convenience. Polyethylene Terephthalate, abbreviated as PET, is the most common material utilized for containers and bottles.

PET plastic contains harmful chemicals that tend to migrate from the plastic itself into the container’s contents, like our juices and sodas. That makes plastic bottles not only harmful for the environment but also very directly dangerous to our health.
Using plastic is a matter of convenience – but is it worth it? Once you know about the dangers associated with plastic, you will probably be more likely to choose better right? The problem is this information is rarely given due attention.

Plastic never really disappears – after hundreds of years it gets broken down into smaller parts, but it does not biodegrade. That means that once we throw plastic away, it is going to stay there, polluting our planet, virtually forever.

Plastic Menace also highlights how dangerous this material is to marine life. Around 8.8 million tons of plastic gets thrown into the oceans every year. Consequently, around 700 marine species are in danger of becoming extinct because of the various risks of plastic waste, like entanglement and ingestion.

Plastic waste is one of the most serious issues we have to face today, but thanks to groups like Plastic Menace, the facts and solutions are becoming more well-known to the public. Since spreading awareness is a key to mobilizing change, we hope that those fascinating graphics will reach as many people as possible! To keep up with Plastic Menace on Instagram, click here.
If you’re ready to start removing plastic from your daily routine, check out One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign for tips on how to do it!
Let’s #CrushPlastic! Click the graphic below for more information.

Petition · Asa Hutchinson: Stop the Plains All American Diamond Pipeline · Change.org


https://www.change.org/p/asa-hutchinson-stop-the-plains-all-american-diamond-pipeline/sign?utm_source=action_alert_sign&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=723344&alert_id=BKRsGEACvb_zUrQoZTdzxcaD%2Bm82pqj74cAOd6d4S4SCGQmFGRRl38%3D

Petition · Tell Amazon it’s time to adopt “waste-free” packaging · Change.org


https://www.change.org/p/tell-amazon-it-s-time-to-adopt-waste-free-packaging/sign?utm_source=action_alert_sign&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=722837&alert_id=kJwWDQnCua_4unhGQuWHIIG5oh050HO3P7XnxkGC7DaUp2WIhzzkGE%3D

Claim: Shell Tried to Hide Global Warming Research by Releasing a Public Documentary

Watts Up With That?

Shell Oil Shell Oil. By Catherine Hammond (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsGuest essay by Eric Worrall

Back in 1991, Shell Oil released a public documentary video which raised serious concerns about anthropogenic global warming. This hasn’t prevented The Guardian from trying to claim it is all part of the oil industry coverup.

‘Shell knew’: oil giant’s 1991 film warned of climate change danger

Public information film unseen for years shows Shell had clear grasp of global warming 26 years ago but has not acted accordingly since, say critics.

The oil giant Shell issued a stark warning of the catastrophic risks of climate change more than a quarter of century ago in a prescient 1991 film that has been rediscovered.

However, since then the company has invested heavily in highly polluting oil reserves and helped lobby against climate action, leading to accusations that Shell knew the grave…

View original post 566 more words

Stop Cutting Down Vital Wildlife Habitat

A new policy plans to eliminate massive amounts of waterside vegetation. The policy was enacted to fight bushfires, but would put endangered species at risk and reduce water quality. Take a stand for conservation and demand a repeal of this policy.

Source: Stop Cutting Down Vital Wildlife Habitat

Take action: Tell the Trump administration we won’t stand for more tar sands pipelines

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Enbridge, the company responsible for the biggest inland oil spill in the U.S. and part owner of the Dakota Access Pipeline, wants to double the capacity of tar sands coming to the US from Canada on its Alberta Clipper pipeline. Submit a public comment!

Source: Take action: Tell the Trump administration we won’t stand for more tar sands pipelines

Johnson & Johnson’s half-hearted switch from plastic to paper cotton buds isn’t good enough : TreeHugger

Johnson & Johnson’s half-hearted switch from plastic to paper cotton buds isn’t good enough
Katherine Martinko (@feistyredhair)
February 17, 2017

It’s only happening in half the world. The rest of us can keep using plastic sticks. (Don’t they know about ocean currents?)

This week, in response to consumer pressure, pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson changed its outdated recipe for cotton buds (also know as cotton swabs). From now on, some of them will be made with paper sticks, instead of plastic. This is an important change because there is no proper way to dispose of cotton buds. They cannot be recycled, so after use they’re either tossed in the trash or flushed down the toilet, ultimately ending up in waterways and along shorelines – forever.

According to the Marine Conservation Society, which conducts annual beach clean-ups in the UK, plastic cotton buds were the sixth most common plastic waste item found on British beaches in 2016.

Johnson & Johnson has recognized the unnecessary damage caused by its plastic sticks. Group marketing manager Niamh Finan told The Independent:

“We recognise that our products have an environmental footprint, and that’s why we’re working hard to continually improve and champion best practice in sustainability, in line with our company’s founding principles.”

Scottish environmental group Fidra, which has long campaigned against plastic cotton buds, heralds the decision as a great success. Stated in a press release published on its Cotton Bud Project website:

“The fact that cotton buds continue to be flushed down the toilet and escape through sewage works into the environment means it remains a problem. Switching cotton bud stems from plastic to 100% paper could provide a solution to this problem, combined with campaigns to raise consumer awareness about correct disposal methods. Paper stems should not be flushed but those that do reach the sewage system will become waterlogged and settle out of wastewater, never reaching our beaches.”

plastic cotton bud sticks
© The Great Nurdle Hunt/Facebook — Results of a beach cleanup day

There is something very strange, however, about Johnson & Johnson’s decision. The company is only switching from plastic to paper sticks in half the world. So stores in Europe will get paper-only sticks, but it seems that Australia, North America, and Asia will continue to stock plastic. Currently there is no mention of whether or not the change will be happening elsewhere.

It is an oddly localized response to a serious global crisis. Ocean plastic pollution is a problem of the commons – something for which we all must take responsibility, no matter where we live. In fact, responding naïvely by region doesn’t even work because places like the UK receive plastic trash from all parts of the globe. (Watch A Plastic Tide documentary to learn the tragic story of a community in Scotland where Asia’s garbage washes up daily.)

The other irritating thing is that cotton buds, whether plastic or paper, are an example of a utterly superfluous product – something we don’t even need to manufacture in the first place. Doing away with them altogether would be a better way of professing concern for the planet – not only for the oceans, but also for the cotton fields that soak up most of the world’s agrochemicals.
Ocean plastic pollution is a problem of the commons – something for which we all must take responsibility, no matter where we live.

One good thing to come out of the decision is reducing plastic production overall. Fidra’s press release cites research by British supermarket chain Waitrose, estimating this change will save 21 tons of plastic a year. But seriously, that’s “a mere drop in the ocean compared to the 4.8-12.7 million tons of total plastic waste that researchers calculate are entering our oceans every year.”

I haven’t bought cotton buds in nearly a decade; I suspect it’s similar for most people who care deeply about avoiding single-use disposables. Suffice it to say, this regional corporate decision doesn’t impress me all that much. Why can’t Johnson & Johnson, at the very least, make the transition to all-paper buds world-wide? That would be some real progress.
Related on TreeHugger.com:

“A Plastic Tide” film depicts shocking plastic pollution worldwide
Artist depicts humans entangled in plastic ocean waste
‘The Smog of the Sea’ is Jack Johnson’s new film about plastic pollution
Tags: Corporate Responsibility | Cosmetics | Cotton | Oceans | Plastics | Pollution | Waste

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