A burnt area of forest in the State of Para, Brazil, in the Amazon basin, on August 27, 2019. The same ocean warming that’s expected to drive a busy Atlantic hurricane season is also seen making the Amazon drier, leading to more fires.Photograph by Joao Laet, AFP/Getty Images
The 2020 fire season in the Amazon rain forest could be far worse than in 2019, researchers say, partly because of the same climate conditions that are fueling an active hurricane season to the north.
Last August, a spate of enormous, human-set fires in the Amazon sent smoke billowing over the Brazilian city of São Paulo, turning day into night and prompting an international outcry. But while those fires were unusualand alarming, the situation could have been far worse if the Amazon had been in a drought.
Unfortunately, drier-than-average conditions are exactly what’s beingforecastfor the southern Amazon this year, thanks in part to an unusual buildup of heat in the tropical North Atlantic, thousands of miles away.
That oceanic heat has also caused the Atlantic hurricane season to get off to a record fast start, a harbinger of what is predicted to be an unusually busy season. Some research suggests a causal link between hurricanes themselves and bad Amazonian fire years — although that is a matter of greater debate.
“What I think is happening is the ocean is forcing both of those conditions,” says Chris Landsea, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Hurricane Center. “It’s forcing active Atlantic hurricane years, and at the same time causing fires to be likely in the Amazon.”
A perfect firestorm
Doug Morton, a NASA Earth scientist who co-created a seasonal fire forecast for the Amazon, says the rain forest faces the “perfect storm” of conditions for fire this year. Those include a ramp-up in deforestation—a key driver of fires in the Amazon—and broader patterns in the oceans and atmosphere that could lead to drought.
During the first six months of 2020, an estimated 1,184 square miles of forest were deforested—a 25 percent increase compared with the first half of 2019. Jos Barlow, a conservation scientist at Lancaster University, says if the accelerated pace of deforestation continues, nearly 6,000 square miles of forest could be logged by the end of the year, since the most intense logging season is now commencing. That would mark the highest rate of deforestation since 2005.
Amazonian landowners typically set fires to clear land for ranching and farming, although many fires are also set in public forests by people attempting to claim new land. “I’m afraid everything points to this being another very bad year for deforestation,” Barlow wrote in an email. “And unlike 2019, these clearance fires used to burn the felled forests are likely to be aggravated by a drier-than-usual climate,” meaning they could grow faster, become harder to control, and even escape into virgin rainforest.
Indeed, seasonal forecastsindicatelarge swaths of the Amazon could be plunged into drought as the dry season, which began in June and runs through November, progresses. That’s due, in part, to ocean temperatures far to the north, which form a key part of the basis for Morton’s fire forecast.
According to Yang Chen, an Earth scientist at the University of California, Irvine, who developed the forecast with Morton, temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic are currently “way above average.” When that part of the ocean is especially warm, it triggers a northward shift in the Intertropical Convergence Zone, a belt of low-pressure air that delivers intense, rainmaking thunderstorms to the tropics. If this rain belt shifts further north ahead of the southern Amazon’s dry season, it causes the dry season to start earlier and be even drier than usual.
“In previous years, when the tropical north Atlantic Ocean was warm — in 2005 and 2010 — that triggered record droughts across the Amazon,” Morton explains. “And with those droughts came fires.”
A direct link to hurricanes?
Warm tropical North Atlantic waters also fuel hurricanes, which sends moisture to the west and then north on prevailing winds instead of south. In fact, research that Morton and Chen published in 2015 shows that active Atlantic hurricane seasons and severe Amazonian fire seasons go hand in hand. While both phenomena correlate with heat in the tropical North Atlantic, they correlate more strongly with one another.
Morton believes that indicates a causal link between the two. When tropical storms and hurricanes form, he says, “they take the moisture that would otherwise flow onto the South American continent… and drive it toward the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard of the United States. Essentially, it’s taking moisture away from the Amazon.”
Chen is less convinced that Atlantic hurricanes trigger drought in the Amazon directly, although he agrees that both “share the same reason,” namely, excessive heat in the tropical North Atlantic and its impact on weather patterns.
Landsea, of the National Hurricane Center, is also unconvinced of a direct causal link between greater numbers of Atlantic hurricanes and Amazon drought. He points out that hurricanes are “very transient events. They only last for a few days, and only account for a small percentage of the rainfall in the Carribean.” But he agrees that there’s “certainly an association” between the two phenomena.
Either way, the 2020 hurricane season should serve as a red flag for the Amazon : There have already been six named tropical storms in the Atlantic, a record for this point in the season, which only began on June 1. And hurricane activity is expected to ramp up as summer wears on and heat builds across the tropical Atlantic.
“We are anticipating it to get very busy,” Landsea says.
Unprecedented victory for Standing Rock Sioux Tribe after four-year legal battle
Owners of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) must halt operations while the government conducts a full-fledged analysis examining the risk DAPL poses to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, a federal judge ruled today. The court decision delivered a hard-fought victory to the Tribe, which has been engaged in a high-profile struggle against the Dakota Access Pipeline since 2016.
Photograph by David Chancellor, National Geographic Read Caption
New invasions are hitting just as growing season gets underway, threatening millions with hunger.
By Haley Cohen Gilliland Photographs by David Chancellor PUBLISHED May 12, 2020
“These…swarms…are terrifying,” Albert Lemasulani narrated breathlessly as he recorded a video of himself swatting his way through a crush of desert locusts in northern Kenya this April. The insects, more than two inches long, whirred around him in thick clouds, their wings snapping like ten thousand card decks being shuffled in unison. He groaned: “They are in the millions. Everywhere…eating…it really is a nightmare.” null
Lemasulani, 40, lives with his family in Oldonyiro, where he herds goats that survive on shrubs and trees. He’d previously heard of locusts only from stories passed down in the community. That changed earlier this year when the largest invasion of the voracious insects in decades descended on East Africa. With their seemingly bottomless appetites, locusts can cause devastating agricultural losses. An adult desert locust can munch through its own bodyweight, about 0.07 ounces, of vegetation every day. Swarms can swell to 70 billion insects—enough to blanket New York City more than once—and can destroy 300 million pounds of crops in a single day. Even a more modest gathering of 40 million desert locusts can eat as much in a day as 35,000 people.
A large swarm of locusts descends on acacia trees in northern Kenya in April. Swarms can swell to 70 billion insects—enough to cover New York City 1.5 times—and to decimate 300 million pounds of crops in a single day.Photograph by David Chancellor, National Geographic
This is the worst “upsurge”—the category of intensity below “plague”—of desert locusts experienced in Ethiopia and Somalia for 25 years and in Kenya for 70 years. The region’s growing season is underway, and as the swarms have grown while the coronavirus complicates mitigation efforts, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates up to 25 millionEast Africans will suffer from food shortages later this year. null
Some 13 million people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea already suffer from “severe food insecurity,” according to the FAO, meaning they may go without eating for an entire day or have run out of food altogether.
“We fear for our future because these kinds of swarms will mean we don’t have anything to feed our animals,” Lemasulani says. Farmers are equally worried about their crops. “We pray God will clear the locusts for us. It’s as terrifying as COVID-19.” null
In the beginning
Desert locusts flourish when arid areas are doused with rain, because they seek to lay their eggs in damp, sandy soil near vegetation that can sustain the young until their wings develop enough for the insects to forage farther afield.
A dead locust sits on a tree branch. Desert locusts can grow to about four inches long and live for three to five months. Their life cycle consists of three phases: egg, hopper, and adult. Locusts are often solitary, but under the right conditions, they breed exponentially and transform into social, or “gregarious,” creatures, which change color and form large, destructive swarms. Until 1921, people believed that gregarious locusts and solitary desert locusts were two different species.
Desert locusts tend to feed on green vegetation and can pick plants bare, including this bush in northern Kenya. The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization warns that if they migrate further into agricultural areas, millions of people could face hunger.Photograph by David Chancellor, National Geographic
Albert Lemasulani, a Kenyan pastoralist, has voluntarily tracked locust swarms for the Kenyan government and the FAO since the insects appeared near his hometown of Oldonyiro, in northern Kenya, in January. They’re typically controlled with pesticides, but because locust swarms can move up to 80 miles a day, simply finding them can be a challenge.Photograph by David Chancellor, National Geographic
Usually, when locusts have space to spread out, they actively avoid one another. But in favorable circumstances, desert locust populations can multiply 20-fold every three months. Crowding together as a result of this increased breeding triggers a behavior change. No longer loners, they turn into social or “gregarious” creatures, forming large swarms.
Recently, conditions for procreation and migration have been not just favorable—but ideal. In 2018 and 2019, a series of cyclones that scientists link to unusually warm seas rolled in off the Indian Ocean and soaked a sandy desert in the Arabian Peninsula known as the Empty Quarter. A locust boom followed. null
“We often think of deserts as environments that are very harsh and low productivity, which they are a lot of the time,” says National Geographic grantee Dino Martins, an entomologist, evolutionary biologist, and executive director of the Mpala Research Centre in northern Kenya. The center is working to sequence the desert locust’s genome to to learn what environmental and genetic factors may prompt the locusts’ transformation from solitary to gregarious. “When [deserts] have the right conditions, they can flip, and you can move to a situation with lots of biological activity. That’s basically what we’re seeing now,” he says.
This valley is on the locusts’ route, which is largely determined by the wind.Photograph by David Chancellor, National Geographic
By June 2019, large swarms were on the move, traveling over the Red Sea to Ethiopia and Somalia. Aided by uncommonly heavy rains that buffeted East Africa from Octoberto December, the insects spread south to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania.
Frozen desert locusts stored at the Mpala Research Centre are kept on hand to study. Scientists there are working to help sequence the insect’s genome. “The desert locust is an enigmatic creature who leads a two-faced life,” says Dino Martins, executive director of the research center. On the one hand, it’s “a pretty unremarkable, ordinary grasshopper struggling to survive, and, when better conditions allow…[it’s] a voracious, upwardly, and onwardly mobile beast.” Desert locusts have one one of the largest genomes known of any animal, he says.
Ivy Ngiru, the center’s research lab manager, inspects frozen desert locusts. Scientists hope that sequencing the desert locust’s genome will allow them to better understand what genetic and environmental variables prompt the locusts’ transformation from solitary to wildly social, swarming creatures.Photograph by David Chancellor, National Geographic
Since the locusts first reached East Africa, favorable breeding conditions have continued, and the swarms have expanded. “I can’t tell you if it’s by 20 times, but [the population] is much bigger,” says Cyril Ferrand, Resilience Team Leader for East Africa at the FAO, which monitors the desert locust situation globally.
When the first wave of locusts arrived in the region in late 2019, most of last year’s crops had reached maturity or been harvested. But the timing of the current, so-called “second generation”—an even more massive wave—is especially worrisome.
That’s because East Africa’s primary growing season begins around mid-March, and the emerging plants are particularly vulnerable to locusts, says Anastasia Mbatia, the technical manager of agriculture at Farm Africa, a charity that works with farmers, pastoralists, and forest communities in East Africa. “When [locusts] feed on the germinating leaves, the crop cannot grow,” she says. “Farmers would need to sow seeds again.” But a second planting in the weeks ahead likely would not be successful, as the best growing weather has already passed.
Spraying for relief
To stem the explosion of locusts, governments often spray pesticides—either from the air or directly on the ground. FAO’s Ferrand says sourcing such chemicals during the COVID-19 pandemic is a challenge. “We have had delays in supply. That means managing the [pesticide stocks] today is a very different reality because there are fewer planes moving globally,” he says.
Desert locusts tend to fly during the daytime and roost in the evening. Lemasulani says he tries to locate them in the afternoons, so pesticide sprayers have the best chance of finding them.Photograph by David Chancellor, National Geographic
Even more difficult in places such as Kenya that have little experience with gigantic locust invasions is deciding where to spray. Depending on the winds, which largely determine locust flight patterns, a swarm might travel 80 miles in a day. (In 1988, desert locusts were found to have crossed from West Africa to the Caribbean in just 10 days.)
To chase down these highly mobile swarms, the FAO is relying increasingly on information provided by local people, including Lemasulani, who began voluntarily tracking locust swarms in January.
Drawing on an extensive network of contacts who call him when they spot pockets of the insects, Lemasulani hires motorbike taxis to speed him to swarms. When he finds them, he enters their coordinates in a mobile phone app called elocust3m that was released in late February by David Hughesand his colleagues at Penn State University’s PlantVillage program, an open access public resource for smallholder farmers. Hughes developed the app at the request of the FAO, whose field staff have operated a similar tracking program on specialized tablets since 2014. The data are then shared with the government, which can decide how best to react.
Until recently, when PlantVillage began paying him a stipend to cover his transport and telephone costs, Lemasulani paid for his locust scouting out of his own pocket. (His travels have been exempted from COVID-19 restrictions, as are training sessions for new elocust3m volunteers—residents in areas where swarms are expected—who nonetheless must wear masks and stay six feet apart.)
As Lemasulani wraps a red shawl around his shoulders to protect himself from the rain that has begun to fall outside his home, he says over video chat, “I come from a poor family background and got sponsored by the Catholic church in Oldonyiro though my primary and high school years. I was sponsored by a person I have never met. There is no way I can pay my sponsor back, but I feel noble giving back to my community.”
Sign Petition: We Could See This Country’s Entire Rainforest Disappear in Our Lifetime 10-12 minutes by: Care2 Team recipient: The Government of Madagascar
But a new report from Nature Climate Change found that the cumulative effects of global warming and deforestation within that time will be enough to eliminate 100% of Madagascar’s rainforest. Every last inch of the island country’s rainforest will be gone. Many folks alive today would see this heartbreaking eventuality happen in their lifetime. Sign the petition today and urge the Government of Madagascar to take the strictest possible measures to protect its rainforests! While Madagascar alone is not responsible for human-induced climate change, its government can certainly take action against the potential massive loss of plant and animal life from deforestation. Contributing researchers to the shocking study suggest that “protected areas will help to mitigate this devastation while environmentalists work toward long-term solutions for ending runaway greenhouse gas emissions and resulting climate change.” To make the situation even more alarming, 80-90% of animal and plant species in Madagascar exist in its rainforest. If we fail to save this habitat, there will be a subsequent massive, irreversible loss of diversity and life. Of Madagascar’s 101 different lemur species, only 5% are not are not at risk of extinction in the near future. The ruffed lemur, described as a “cornerstone species” because of the critical role they play in bolstering the survival of other animals and plants, is critically endangered. As daunting as this may seem, we must use this study as an incentive. Please sign the petition and make the Government of Madagascar hear us – they must impose strict deforestation protections on their rainforest before it’s too late!
Sign Petition: This Country Lost 60% of Its Rainforests in One Year and No One is Doing Anything About It
by: Care2 Team recipient: Ghanian Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation Scientists sometimes refer to rainforests as the “lungs of the Earth.” The millions or perhaps billions of trees that populate the world’s rainforests consume huge amounts of carbon dioxide and in turn, produce life-giving oxygen. Yet, it is no secret that over the past decades these collections of towering plants have been toppled in staggering numbers. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in Ghana, where the country has seen its forests disappear by a rate unmatched by any other. According to a study by Global Forest Watch, in just one year (2017-2018), the amount of forests lost in Ghana increased by a jaw-dropping 60%. Sign the demand Ghana take action to save their rainforests. In fact, so bad has deforestation become, that the country, once one of the world’s largest exporters may now have to import it to feed local supply. Rainforests globally hold biodiversity that is unrivaled. The Ghanaian rainforests provide habitat and shelter for animals on the brink of extinction including the mountain gorilla and the grey parrot which, despite being commonplace in pet stores, in the wild is disappearing fast. The main cause of their forest destruction is cocoa farming. Ghana is one of the world’s largest producers of cocoa and farmers have toppled entire swaths of the rainforest to make room for more cocoa plantations. These, and deforestation due to large and small scale mining, especially of bauxite leave the jungles of Ghana vulnerable from all sides. And yet, Ghanian government officials are doing nothing to stop the impending destruction of their natural heritage. According to Quartz, the government has recently signed a deal with China to allow mining in exchange infrastructure and a ban on small scale mining has been inexplicably lifted. Meanwhile, the agency that is supposed to safeguard environmental standards has been crippled by corruption. This is unacceptable. With the recent news that the world stands on the cusp of losing over 1 million species to extinction, it is now more imperative than ever that countries crack down on the practices that destroy the habitats where these animals live. Practices like mining and uncontrolled cocoa farming.
Wolves have been demonized and misunderstood for much of human history. Because wolves are highly politicized animals, common misconceptions about wolves can cause real harm. Helping to correct misinformation is an effective way to help wolves. pic.twitter.com/kCKlDNwuao
Gaborone (Botswana) (AFP) – More than 100 elephants have died in two months in Botswana’s Chobe National Park due to drought, which has also affected wildlife in other countries in the region, the government said Tuesday.
Several southern African countries are enduring one of the worst droughts in decades, caused by months of over-average temperatures and erratic rainfall.
The drought has wilted grasslands and dried up water holes, making it increasingly difficult for animals to survive.
Botswana’s environment ministry said it has recorded a spike in the number of elephant and other animal deaths since May.
“More than one hundred elephants are estimated to have died naturally in the past two months,” the ministry said in a statement, adding that 13 deaths were recorded just this week.
In neighbouring Zimbabwe, Its wildlife agency has recorded at least 55 elephant deaths over the past month due to lack of food and water.
Preliminary investigations in Botswana have also suggested some of the elephants may have died from anthrax.
“Due to the severe drought, elephants end up ingesting soil while grazing and get exposed to the anthrax bacteria spore,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The animals are also travelling long distances in search of food which leaves some highly emaciated, ending in death.”
Anthrax is an infectious disease found naturally in soil. It is generally contracted by herbivores and is a common cause of death for both wild and domestic animals around the world.
The environment ministry said it would be burning “anthrax related carcasses” to prevent the disease from spreading to other animals.
It warned the public not to touch any animal carcasses they might find and report them to the authorities.
EVANSVILLE, Ind., July 22 (UPI) — Scientists across the country are scrambling to understand why monarch butterflies are disappearing at such an alarming rate as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers listing the butterfly as endangered.
North America’s largest population of monarchs, which migrate between Mexico and the Midwest, has fallen 80 percent, from a billion in the 1990s to 200 million in 2018.
A smaller monarch population in the western United States that migrates between California and the Pacific Northwest is disappearing even faster, dropping from 1.2 million in the 1990s to just 30,000 last year — a 98 percent drop.
“That is a catastrophic decline,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, which is based in Arizona. “They might not be able to bounce back.”
Faced with those numbers, the Fish and Wildlife Service is several years into a massive review of North America’s butterflies to determine if they qualify for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.
“We have a species status assessment team that is modeling threat evaluations,” said Georgia Parham, a spokeswoman for the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest office, which is leading the review.
“We’re are also soliciting evaluations from monarch experts, and we’ve also launched a monarch database that anyone can enter information into,” Parham said.
The agency plans to announce its findings in December 2020.
But many scientists say conservation efforts cannot wait that long. Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity, which petitioned the service to list the monarchs as endangered in 2014, and the Monarch Joint Venture are spearheading conservation programs based on the latest available science.
That science, they are quick to admit, is incomplete.
Scientists cannot say for certain why monarchs are dying. Several unrelated phenomena could be killing them.
“There are several hypotheses for the decline, all of which are probably contributing to some degree,” said Andrew Myers, a doctoral student at Michigan State University’s Department of Entomology who studies monarchs.
Finding precise causes are difficult, in part because monarchs are migratory insects.
They clump together on tree branches in the mountains of Mexico to hibernate during the winter — turning those forests orange. When it warms, they fly north to lay their eggs on milkweed plants growing throughout the Midwest.
They can then travel as far north as Canada in search of the nectar from flowering plants. And when the weather turns cold, they return to Mexico.
Climate change might be disrupting their long migrations, Meyers said. Urban sprawl could be choking out flowering plants. And the Mexican forests in which the insects overwinter are being logged, which undoubtedly is a threat to their survival.
“Any one of those things is enough to wipe out the monarch population,” Curry said.
But the timing of the eastern population’s decline could be the most telling, she said, because it seemed to begin around the same time as the first herbicide-resistant crops were introduced to U.S. agriculture.
These crops were genetically engineered to survive the application of certain herbicides, allowing farmers to spray those chemicals on their fields and kill off other plants without harming their crops.
One of the plants these herbicides are especially effective at killing is milkweed — the sole food monarch butterfly larvae can eat.
“What happens to milkweed in the Midwest is incredibly important to the monarch population,” said Ian Kaplan, a professor of entomology at Purdue University.
Researchers at Iowa State University and the University of Minnesota in 2013 estimated nearly 60 percent of the milkweed had disappeared from the Midwest landscape since 1999. That decline coincides with an increase in herbicide resistant crops.
Monsanto introduced the first herbicide-resistant soybean plant, called RoundUp Ready soybean, in 1996, followed by a RoundUp Ready corn in 1998. Today, about 90 percent of the corn and 94 percent of the soybeans grown in the U.S. are herbicide resistant, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The monarch butterfly did fine in croplands before RoundUp Ready crops,” Curry said. “That allowed more RoundUp to be sprayed, and that killed more milkweed in agricultural fields.”
Many of the monarch conservation efforts revolve around planting more native milkweed in public spaces, parks, private lands and on the edges of agricultural fields in hopes those plants replace those lost to agriculture.
But it is unclear how big of an impact that is having because scientists still don’t understand how other factors — like pesticide use — contribute to the insects’ decline.
With that in mind, entomologists like Kaplan are devising new studies every year to obtain a more detailed picture of what is happening to monarch larvae in their shrinking habitat.
Kaplan recently conducted a study at Purdue that measured the volume of pesticides present on wild milkweed growing near Midwestern agricultural fields.
“In Indiana, it’s hard to get very far from a corn field,” Kaplan said.
His study found pesticides on wild milkweed throughout Indiana, and although the amount tended to decline the farther from an agricultural field the researchers got, they still found pesticides on milkweed plants more than a mile away.
“Some of these pesticides are very hard to escape from,” Kaplan said.
Kaplan is now studying the impact the various pesticides he found on native plants have on the monarch larvae. He hopes to complete that study sometime this fall.
Elsewhere, researchers at Michigan State University are looking at monarch larvae predators, like lady beetles, ants and spiders.
“Since monarchs have lost their milkweed host plants in agricultural fields, they are now relegated to milkweed growing in grasslands in places like roadsides, fallow fields and agricultural field edges,” Meyers said.
“These areas have more diverse and abundant communities of predators, which results in naturally low survival of monarch eggs and caterpillars to adulthood. I am trying to determine which predators contribute most to monarch egg and caterpillar mortality and specific ways that these interactions take place,” he said.
“The work could eventually lead to grassland management practices that reduce predation pressure on monarchs.”
More work needs to be done, scientists say, but it is possible early conservation efforts are yielding results.
Last year, for this first time since scientists started tracking the butterfly more than 20 years ago, the eastern Monarch’s population increased.
It is impossible to know if that was because of efforts to plant more milkweed in the Midwest, or if other unrelated conditions helped the insect.
“We’re waiting to see if it is a trend, or a one-year thing,” the Fish and Wildlife Services’ Parham said.
But researchers and conservationists are pushing ahead.
“People can help right now by planting native milkweed,” Curry said. “That’s only one of the problems. It’s milkweed loss, it’s urban sprawl, it’s climate change, it’s insecticide use. It sounds really big and overwhelming, but we have to start somewhere.”
This area of the US Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake dates from the Manhattan Project. Common sense, as well as eye-witness testimony, indicate that there are underground facilities, as well as above ground ones. We can only speculate as to the extent of the underground network. There are likely old mines in the area, as well. Most likely old mines were expanded and turned into underground tunnel-test facilities. The original M 6.4 earthquake was centered in the area of the Skytop Rocket Propulsion Test Facility, described further below. The quakes appear to be apart from known earthquake faults, or at least apart from any major ones. They are almost entirely within the Naval Air Warfare Center, China Lake. CalTech estimated that the original M 6.4 earthquake in the area of Skytop was at a depth of 8.7 km (more shallow the USGS). An article written by Dr. Jennifer Andrews…
Oceans are in trouble. Overfishing, pollution, warming, acidification and poaching are a few issues we face. These insults do not recognize political boundaries. With a myriad of issues dominating headlines daily, we must raise our voices to say: “Ocean health must be a priority; without healthy oceans, life on earth is unsustainable.”
Wherever you are, take just a few minutes to pick up some trash. Sea Save Foundation is working hard to stop this glut of plastics and trash “upstream” with laws that stop single use plastic pollution, but today we need you to help us clean up. Parks, waterways, beaches, underwater everywhere. Please take a pix and post it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with our hashtags (below) so we can repost!
#GetTrashy #MotionForTheOcean #SeaSave
Motion for the Ocean
We want to encourage you to take action. We need some “Motion for the Ocean”. You can be involved in a worldwide virtual movement. If we all pitch in the results will be great! You do not have to drive, march or organize. You can MULTITASK! Enjoy a beautiful day with friends and family, and take 15 minutes to clean up and then post! You’ve Got This!
The Morganza Spillway is seen with a few bays open on Sunday morning May 15, 2011 in Batchelor, La. The Army Corps of Engineers could open the spillway again — for the third time in its history — on June 2 because of rising water on the Mississippi River.
By Mark Schleifstein, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune
Heavy rains expected in the Midwest portion of the Mississippi River Valley during the next week have prompted Army Corps of Engineers officials to warn interests within the Morganza Floodway portion of the Atchafalaya River Basin that the Morganza Spillway structure could be opened as soon as June 2.
More than 5 inches of rain is expected to fall across parts of Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa over the next seven days, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
The river will crest at 62 feet on June 6 at Red River Landing, only a foot and a half below that location’s all-time high crest, according to Wednesday’s forecast by the weather service’s Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center, based in Slidell.
Red River Landing is only about 16 miles above the Morganza Spillway.
Forecast rainfall in the Midwest could total more than 5 inches during the next seven days, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
Forecast rainfall in the Midwest could total more than 5 inches during the next seven days, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center.
Red River Landing is one of several locations along the river where records have been set or about to be set for the number of days above flood stage. At Red River, the record is 152 days, set in 1927, the year of the great Mississippi River Flood. On Wednesday, the location had seen 146 days above flood stage this year.
This chart shows how many days various locations have seen river heights above official flood stages, and how that compares to record flood stage years.
This chart shows how many days various locations have seen river heights above official flood stages, and how that compares to record flood stage years.
The forecast also calls for the river to remain at 16.7 feet at the Carrollton Gage in New Orleans through June 19, well into the beginning of the 2019 hurricane season. Water heights aren’t predicted to rise in New Orleans because the corps already has opened a number of bays in the Bonnet Carre Spillway, which funnels part of the river’s water into Lake Pontchartrain.
But it’s the rising river at the Morganza location that has the corps worried, said spokesman Ricky Boyett on Wednesday evening.
“We have not made a decision on operation (of the spillway) but we did send a notice this evening to stakeholders that have a role in Morganza,” Boyett said in an email response to questions about the rising river.
“Based on the current forecast – specifically projected rain in the valley over the next several days – we could encounter the potential of overtopping the Morganza Control Structure,” he said, adding that the spillway structure – which contains 125 gates that are opened and closed by two cranes rolling on special tracks atop the structure – “cannot be safely operated if overtopped.”
“There are a couple of factors regarding safety that we must consider, but primarily it is unsafe for our personnel. Additionally, the structure is designed to hold back water, but was not designed to be operated while overtopped,” he said.
Boyett said the corps believes the overtopping might occur even before the river reaches a flow speed of 1.5 million cubic feet along the structure, which is the usual trigger for opening gates. “Based on today’s data, that could occur as soon as 5 June.”
But Boyett said the corps could move more quickly to open the structure because it agreed to a “slow opening” strategy to help with evacuating wildlife from the broad floodway leading from the spillway into the Atchafalaya River basin, after the spillway’s opening during a 2011 high river threatened a variety of wildlife species, including protected Louisiana black bears.
The slow opening also expected to reduce scouring in the tail bay area, where the water is released into the floodway, which also occurred in 2011.
The forebay – mostly farmland on the river or batture side of the structure – has been flooded for months during this year’s unusually long high-water season.
Boyett stressed that the decision to open Morganza still will depend on the actual rainfall that occurs over the next few days in the Mississippi floodplain upriver.
Meanwhile, the corps, local river forecast center hydrologists, and the National Hurricane Center’s storm surge prediction team have been conducting a series of drills to assure they can all predict the consequences of storm surge from an early tropical storm or hurricane attempting to push up what will be a near-full river bed through June, and now possibly well into July.
Barges and tugs lines the west bank levee of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Pairsh on Sept. 10, 2005, left there by storm surge that moved up the river during the storm.
Barges and tugs lines the west bank levee of the Mississippi River in Plaquemines Pairsh on Sept. 10, 2005, left there by storm surge that moved up the river during the storm.
During both Hurricane Isaac in 2012 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, surge pushed well upriver, swelling the river significantly. But in both cases, the river was at 3 feet or less when the surge moved upriver.
Hurricane Isaac, which became a Category 1 storm with top winds of 80 mph before making landfall at Southwest Pass on Aug. 28, caused the Mississippi to rise to 9.5 feet in New Orleans, from a height of only 3 feet on Aug. 26.
Hurricane Katrina, which was a Category 3 storm with top winds of 125 mph when it made landfall at Buras on Aug. 29, 2005, caused the river to swell to at least 15.24 feet that day before the gage stopped measuring water heights. Several barges ended up beached near the top of the river levee in Algiers, which was then about 17 feet above sea level. On Aug. 27, the river height was only about 3 feet.
“An elevated river is obviously a concern,” said Jamie Rhome, the National Hurricane Center’s lead surge forecaster, during a May 17 interview. “In this case, projections have the river keeping up during the first few weeks of the hurricane season and we have that factored into operational readiness along the coast.”
The testing has included making sure the surge modeling systems used by the center are operating properly, and how they would handle early storms forming in the Gulf, which will have different characteristics from storms occurring later in the hurricane season.
Using the modeling results and applying information about how the river will react to incoming surge – how the weight and speed of the river’s fresh water moving south will in part lessen the effect of the surge moving north – officials have been running case studies aimed at developing strategies for forecasting surge effects on the river, and the kinds of warnings that might have to be given to both emergency managers who have to plan for evacuations, and to the public, Rhome said.
“We look at the output collectively as a team,” he said. “How to interpret the results, what to do, what decisions are made.
“We have several warning tools in our toolbox, and we have to determine which one is most appropriate to clearly address the risk,” he said.
“Thankfully, we have one of the most advanced and interactive river forecast centers in Louisiana,” which has provided key information about how the high river’s water flow will affect surge heights in the New Orleans area and farther upstream, he said.
Mark Schleifstein covers the environment and is a leader of the Louisiana Coastal Reporting Team for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook: Mark Schleifstein and Louisiana Coastal Watch. Twitter: MSchleifstein.
This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.
Earth’s climate is full of terrifying feedback loops: Decreased rainfall raises the risk of wildfires, which release yet more carbon dioxide. A warming Arctic could trigger the release of long-frozen methane, which would heat the planet even faster than carbon. A lesser-known climate feedback loop, though, is likely mere feet from where you’re sitting: the air conditioner. Use of the energy-intensive appliance causes emissions that contribute to higher global temperatures, which means we’re all using AC more, producing more emissions and more warming.
But what if we could weaponize air conditioning units to help pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere instead? According to a new paper in Nature, it’s feasible. Using technology currently in development, AC units in skyscrapers and even your home could get turned into machines that not only capture CO2, but transform the stuff into a fuel for powering vehicles that are difficult to electrify, like cargo ships. The concept, called crowd oil, is still theoretical and faces many challenges. But in these desperate times, crowd oil might have a place in the fight to curb climate change.
The problem with air conditioners isn’t just that they suck up lots of energy but that they also emit heat. “When you run an air conditioning system, you don’t get anything for nothing,” says materials chemist Geoffrey Ozin of the University of Toronto, coauthor on the new paper. “If you cool something, you heat something, and that heat goes into the cities.” Their use exacerbates the heat island effect of cities — lots of concrete soaks up lots of heat, which a city releases well after the sun sets.
To retrofit an air conditioner to capture CO2 and turn it into fuel, you’d need a rather extensive overhaul of the components. Meaning, you wouldn’t just be able to ship a universal device for folks to bolt onto their units. First of all, you’d need to incorporate a filter that would absorb CO2 and water from the air. You’d also need to include an electrolyzer to strip the oxygen molecule from H2O to get H2, which you’d then combine with CO2 to get hydrocarbon fuels. “Everyone can have their own oil well, basically,” Ozin says.
The researchers’ analysis found that the Frankfurt Fair Tower in Germany (chosen by lead author Roland Dittmeyer of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, by the way, because of its landmark status in the city’s skyline), with a total volume of about 200,000 cubic meters, could capture 1.5 metric tons of CO2 per hour and produce up to 4,000 metric tons of fuel a year. By comparison, the first commercial “direct air capture” plant, built by Climeworks in Switzerland, captures 900 metric tons of CO2 per year, about 10 times less, Dittmeyer says. An apartment building with five or six units could capture 0.5 kg of CO2 an hour with this proposed system.
Theoretically, anywhere you have an air conditioner, you have a way to make synthetic fuel. “The important point is that you can convert the CO2 into a liquid product onsite, and there are pilot-scale plants that can do that,” says Dittmeyer, who is working on one with colleagues that is able to produce 10 liters (2.6 gallons) a day. They hope to multiply that output by a factor of 20 in the next two years.
For this process to be carbon neutral, though, all those souped-up air conditioners would need to be powered with renewables, because burning the synthetic fuel would also produce emissions. To address that problem, Dittmeyer proposes turning whole buildings into solar panels — placing them not just on rooftops but potentially coating facades and windows with ultrathin, largely transparent panels. “It’s like a tree — the skyscraper or house you live in produces a chemical reaction,” Dittmeyer says. “It’s like the glucose that a tree is producing.” That kind of building transformation won’t happen overnight, of course, a reminder that installing carbon scrubbers is only ever one piece of the solution.
Scaling up the technology to many buildings and cities poses yet more challenges. Among them, how to store and then collect all that accumulated fuel. The idea is for trucks to gather and transport the stuff to a facility, or in some cases when the output is greater, pipelines would be built. That means both retrofitting a whole lot of AC units (the cost of which isn’t yet clear, since the technology isn’t finalized yet), and building out an infrastructure to ferry that fuel around for use in industry.
“Carbon-neutral hydrocarbon fuels from electricity can help solve two of our biggest energy challenges: managing intermittent renewables and decarbonizing the hard-to-electrify parts of transportation and industry,” says David Keith, acting chief scientist of Carbon Engineering, which is developing much larger stand-alone devices for sucking CO2 out of the air and storing it, known as carbon capture and storage, or CCS. “While I may be biased by my work with Carbon Engineering, I am deeply skeptical about a distributed solution. Economies of scale can’t be wished away. There’s a reason we have huge wind turbines, a reason we don’t feed yard waste into all-in-one nano-scale pulp-and-paper mills.”
Any carbon capture technology also faces the sticky problem of the moral hazard. The concern is that negative emissions technologies, like what Carbon Engineering is working on, and neutral emissions approaches, like this new framework, distract from the most critical objective for fighting climate change: reducing emissions, and fast. Some would argue that all money and time must go toward developing technologies that will allow any industry or vehicle to become carbon neutral or even carbon negative.
This new framework isn’t meant to be a cure-all for climate change. After all, for it to be truly carbon neutral it’d need to run entirely on renewable energy. To that end, it would presumably encourage the development of those energy technologies. (The building-swaddling photovoltaics that Dittmeyer envisions are just becoming commercially available.) “I don’t think it would be ethically wrong to pursue this,” says environmental social scientist Selma L’Orange Seigo of ETH Zurich, who wasn’t involved in this research but has studied public perception of CCS. “It would be ethically wrong to only pursue this.”
One potential charm of this AC carbon-capture scenario, though, is that it attempts to address a common problem faced by CCS systems, which is that someone has to pay for it. That is, a business that captures and locks away its CO2 has nothing to sell. AC units that turn CO2 into fuel, though, would theoretically come with a revenue stream. “There’s definitely a market,” Seigo says. “That’s one of the big issues with CCS.”
Meanwhile, people will continue running their energy-hungry air conditioners. For sensitive populations like the elderly, access to AC during heat waves is a life or death matter: Consider that the crippling heat wave that struck Europe in August 2003 killed 35,000 people, and these sorts of events are growing more frequent and intense as the planet warms as a whole. A desert nation like Saudi Arabia, by the way, devotes a stunning 70 percent of its energy to powering AC units; in the near future, a whole lot of other places on Earth are going to feel a lot more like Saudi Arabia.
So no, carbon-capturing AC units won’t save the world on their own. But they could act as a valuable intermittent renewable as researchers figure out how to get certain industries and vehicles to go green.
Before taking those spent coffee grounds to your yard, learn the facts about giving your garden a caffeine fix.
As clocks spring ahead to daylight saving time, that lost hour of sleep sends most of us reaching for a second cup of joe. In addition to a caffeine jolt, those extra cups create lots of used coffee grounds — at home and in shops around the country. If your favorite barista is bagging grounds to go for garden use, hit the pause button before you grab a few bags. Learn what you need to know about using coffee grounds in the garden.
If you tune into the grounds-for-gardens channel, you’ll learn that people count on used coffee grounds to do all kinds of things. Spread on planting beds like mulch, grounds are said to repel cats, fertilize soil, kill slugs and keep weeds at bay. A coffee mulch is also rumored to beckon earthworms and acidify soil. Other gardeners work coffee grounds into beds, swearing it aerates and acidifies soil.
Just the Java facts
There’s limited research on using coffee grounds in the garden, and much of what has been done involves:
tests to determine if grounds are acidic (mostly they are)
what happens as grounds break down (they eventually shift from acid to more or less neutral pH)
testing grounds on various agricultural crops (it either enhances or deters growth, depending on the plant)
As with most rumors, even the ones about coffee grounds contain a grain of truth. While coffee grounds have not been found to repel or kill pests, they do have some antimicrobial properties. In very specific controlled research conditions, grounds have suppressed some diseases (fungus rots and wilts) on spinach, bean, tomato and cucumber. Could you replicate those conditions in a garden setting? Likely not.
In terms of fertilizing soil, coffee grounds do have significant nitrogen content, which means they can help improve soil fertility. But because they also affect microorganisms in soil, plant growth and possibly soil pH, you don’t want to rely on coffee grounds as plant food.
Several independent pH tests on coffee grounds show that they tend to be acidic. In most cases, the grounds are too acidic to be used directly on soil, even for acid-loving plants like blueberries, azaleas and hollies.
Coffee grounds inhibit the growth of some plants, including geranium, asparagus fern, Chinese mustard and Italian ryegrass. Conversely, grounds (used as mulch and compost) improve yields of soybeans and cabbage. In other cases, grounds inhibit seed germination of clovers (red and white) and alfalfa. On the flip side, coffee grounds enhance sugar beet seed germination. The effects of coffee grounds on seeds and plants is variable, unreliable and tough to call.
Coffee Grounds for Gardens
So what’s the right course of action with coffee grounds? Follow these tips for the best success in repurposing grounds in your garden.
Compost ‘em. The safest way to use coffee grounds is adding to compost. Take care to add grounds so that they comprise only 10 to 20 percent of your total compost volume. Any higher, and they might inhibit good microbes from breaking down organic matter. Another way to approach this volume is to add 4 parts shredded leaves to 1 part coffee grounds (by weight). Some folks still suggest adding lime or wood ash to the compost to offset the initial acidity of the grounds. You can do that, but it’s not really necessary. If you want to do it, aim for a ratio of 1 cup of lime or ash to 10 pounds of grounds.
Spread thinly and cover. Using coffee grounds as a thick mulch isn’t a great idea because they tend to compact, forming a barrier that doesn’t let air or water pass. If you want to spread grounds on soil, use a thin layer (half an inch, tops) covered with a thicker layer (2-4 inches) of organic matter, such as shredded bark, wood chips or compost.
Shift soil pH. If your goal is to acidify notoriously alkaline soils west of the Mississippi River, take a soil test first to know your soil’s pH. If you need to acidify it, dig grounds into soil to a depth of 7 to 8 inches.
Probably because he knew so much about nuclear power from the US nuclear Navy; had helped clean-up the Chalk River Nuclear Disaster in Canada, while serving in the US Navy, and was US President during the Three Mile Island Nuclear Meltdown, Jimmy Carter tried to get massive investment in renewables research (NREL). He even had solar panels put on the White House. Had Carter had his way, we would not even be discussing nuclear power today. Nor would we be worried about climate change. Instead Reagan got in and funding was cut for renewable energy. Reagan pulled the solar panels off of the White House. Forty years after Three Mile Island, instead of 100% renewables, we have dirty everything coups by Trump, Putin, and others: dirty energy, dirty money, dirty old men. As the history of humanity makes clear, with abuse and exploitation of…
by: Mighty Earth
recipient: Bank of China and Sinohydro
The Tapanuli orangutan–the rarest primate in the world–is on the cusp of being obliterated by two Chinese state-owned entities. The Bank of China is funding and Sinohydro is building a dam that would permanently slice up the Tapanuli’s only habitat, and lead it to a near-certain fate of extinction.
The Tapanuli was first identified in 2017, a finding which drew headlines throughout the world. It marked the first time since 1929 that a new Great Ape species was discovered. The Tapanuli is one of just eight species of Great Ape worldwide (including humans).
With a population of just 800, the Tapanuli is already struggling to survive. It is facing dire threats from poaching, deforestation, and climate change. The Chinese-backed dam in the heart of their habitat would doubtless prove itself a death knell they can no longer overcome.
To save the Tapanuli, we must convince the Bank of China and Sinohydro to stop the Batang Toru dam. Following a widespread day of protest in 14 countries, Bank of China announced their intention to reevaluate the project. Given that the dam would permanently fragment the Tapanuli’s only habitat, any objective analysis would conclude that this orangutan has virtually no chance of survival if construction proceeds.
In all of written human history, no species of of Great Ape has ever been brought to extinction. This could soon no longer be the case.
Clearing for the dam has already begun. The next few weeks and months mark our best–and only–chance to save the Tapanuli before it’s too late.
Tell Bank of China and Sinohydro: Save the Tapanuli orangutan. Stop the Batang Toru dam.
Thousands of rare plant and animals species are in danger due to soybean deforestation. Sign the petition to demand that the government act to protect its tropical rainforests and the species that call them home.
Katherine Martinko feistyredhair January 11, 2019
The balloon bubble is about to get popped as the anti-plastic movement gathers force.
When a night club in the Philippines announced that it would host an enormous balloon drop on New Year’s Eve in an attempt to break a Guinness World Record, there was international outrage. The spectacle was decried by Greenpeace Philippines as “nothing short of an arrogant and senseless enterprise” and the Climate Reality Project blasted it as “wasteful, unsustainable, and ecologically apathetic.”
The club, Cove Manila, was initially defensive, saying the event would be held indoors and, because the 130,000 balloons were made of biodegradable latex, they would be recycled afterward. But then the government’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources sent a letter to the night club, asking it to reconsider. A spokesperson urged the club to “redirect their efforts towards more sustainable, environmentally-friendly activities that the majority of Filipinos will enjoy and be proud of.” Shortly after, Cove Manila said it had voluntarily canceled the balloon drop.
This interesting news story is a sign of changing times and a glimpse of a not-so-distant future in which balloons will be reviled in much the same way as disposable plastic straws are now. This night club is not the only place where balloon-centered events are no longer allowed. Last year Clemson University announced it would end the tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before football games. The anti-balloon website Balloons Blow has an ongoing list of “balloon releases averted.” The Associated Press describes other newly implemented limitations:
“In Virginia, a campaign that urges alternatives to balloon releases at weddings is expanding. And a town in Rhode Island outright banned the sale of all balloons earlier this year, citing the harm to marine life.”
What’s unique about balloons, however, is that there’s no obvious replacement for them, unlike straws, which can be recreated in paper, metal or glass and work in exactly the same way. Balloons – unless we go back to the days of inflated pig bladders… just kidding! – must cease to exist for now, and we have to learn that it’s still possible to have a fun party without them. (The Cove Manila people did. They still had an awesome New Year’s Eve bash.)
It’s important, too, not to fall for the greenwashed ‘biodegradable latex’ label because it means very little. As Quartz reported about the Cove Manila controversy, “Purchasing, transporting, inflating, and discarding 130,000 rubber orbs, even if they are made from earth-friendly latex, results in significant waste.” While latex is biodegradable in theory, every balloon reacts differently depending on where it lands. And you can’t avoid the fact that you’re still sending trash up into the air to fall back to earth at some point, to the detriment of wildlife. There’s no way to make this OK other than to stop doing it. (Read more about why latex balloons are not environmentally friendly.)
I predict this is something we’ll be seeing a lot more of in the next year. First it was the Straw Wars; next up are the Balloon Battles.
When I think of all the hours that are spent looking at stupid stuff on screens instead of paying closer attention to the real world, the one we take for granted; trees, nature, water, and air, I wonder, “why is this happening?” All it would take would be a little (okay, a whole lot of!) people with passion and energy to make a difference. Wouldn’t it? It seems as if we humans have been stuck in a passive inertia vortex for too long, one that allows the problems to heap up and mount ever higher. We are drowning in our own discordance with nature.
Ignoring the “real world” is to ignore life’s positive energy, the tremendous gift of will to live, one that flows from the universe bringing us health, happiness, and vitality. To me, that is what Sustainably is. Want to feel better about this? Well, now you can…
Sandals Resorts is set to eliminate all styrofoam from its 19 Sandals and Beaches-branded resorts across the Caribbean, the company announced this week.
The company said the elimination of styrofoam was particularly important in the Caribbean, with its abundant marine life.
Ocean pollution continues to grow daily and the fact that cooperations are starting to recognize this is extremely important. A recent study found that 100% of all sea turtles tested on seven species of sea turtles across three different oceans all had micro plastics inside of them which also includes styrofoam.
In the first decade of this century, we made more plastic than all the plastic in history up to the year 2000. And every year, billions of pounds of plastic end up in the world’s oceans.
“As we enter the New Year, it’s incredibly important to our Sandals family that environmental sustainability remains a key priority,” said Adam Stewart, Deputy Chairman of SandalsResorts International. “After eliminating plastic straws, stirrers, laundry bags and gift shop bags last year, we’re choosing to eliminate Styrofoam from our resorts. We’re proud that many of the islands in which we operate are also making this shift to ensure that future generations can enjoy the beauty of the Caribbean.”
The company also said it would explore ways to eliminate other plastic across its resorts this year.
While this is move is a positive step, a much bigger change than having almost 20 resorts ban an item is needed. Most top notch resorts such as Sandals have programs in place that already due handle waste very well but trash and plastic can be found littering the pristine beaches of the Caribbean.
To take the next step, we need to push the countries such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and others to ban single-use plastics and styrofoam altogether.
When Hurricane Florence flooded the Carolinas in September, the rivers turned from blue to a sickly gray. The water ran so thick with soil, dead leaves, and pollution that you could see murky ink blots forming from outer space. Duke Energy admitted that the intense floodwaters had caused a breach in one of its dams, setting loose a gross sludge known as coal ash — a toxic byproduct of burning coal.
Laden with arsenic, lead, mercury, and other toxins, coal ash tends to be stored near low-income communities and communities of color. For this reason, Mother Jones reporter Julia Lurie noted that the sludge has “quietly become one of America’s worst environmental justice problems.”
Scientists have found a new, unlikely tool to help track the spread of coal ash contaminants: fish bones. Researchers at Duke University discovered that the pearlescent, calcified structure in a fish’s inner ear — known as the otolith — can provide a picture of coal ash contamination in rivers and lakes.
Looking at the otolith under a microscope, you can see a new layer laid down for almost every day of the fish’s life, says Jessica Brandt, the lead author of the new Duke study. “They grow like tree rings,” Brandt says. The layers contain a lot of information, from the fish’s age to its migration patterns — as well as if and when it came across coal ash contamination.
This knowledge could help researchers track changes over time with more accuracy and ease. “If you go and collect a water sample at any given point, you’re only getting information for the time of collection,” explains Brandt, who is also a researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The scientists from Duke examined fish from two North Carolina lakes with a history of coal contamination, Mayo Lake and Sutton Lake (the lake that was contaminated by coal ash from a Duke Energy plant during Florence). In the wake of the hurricane, Duke Energy claimed that the leaked coal ash posed no environmental or health risks. But experts aren’t convinced.
“The fact that we are finding fish, which is the top of the predator system, with a ‘fingerprint’ suggests that the system is already affected by coal ash,” said Avner Vengosh, one of the authors on the study and a professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke University. Exposure to coal ash can lead to cancer and a number of other long-term health problems.
Vengosh’s previous research on coal ash was used in a lawsuit in 2017, when a judge ordered the Tennessee Valley Authority to clean up coal ash that had been leaking into nearby rivers in eastern Tennessee for decades. The ruling was recently overturned by a higher court. Still, the more we know about coal ash contamination, the better. Perhaps the pearly, inner ear of fish could also prove to be a useful tool for protecting people from the dangers of coal ash.
The problem with paper receipts
Katherine Martinko feistyredhair November 7, 2018
They seem so innocuous, but they’re becoming an environmental nightmare.
In recent months, the one statement I always make at checkout counters – “I don’t need a bag” – has been joined by another – “No receipt, please.” I began doing this after learning about the harmful effects of thermal paper, the shiny smooth paper that most retailers now use to print receipts.
Thermal paper uses heat rather than ink to form letters and numbers, and it relies on bisphenol A to do so. (If you scratch a receipt and see a dark line, then you know it contains BPA or its common substitute BPS.) BPA is a hormone disruptor and is absorbed through the skin, which means that even reaching for a receipt poses a risk of contamination.
Turning down receipts at the time of purchase also saves me having to deal with all those annoying slips of paper that fill up my wallet. I used to be amazed at how many I’d unearth every few months, but when you think about it on a global scale, the amount of receipt waste is staggering. In the UK an estimated 11.2 billion receipts are handed out annually, costing around £32 million to make and generating 1.5 billion pounds of waste.
To make matters worse, thermal paper cannot be recycled. Its only ‘safe’ destination is the landfill, because the recycling process would only release more BPA into the environment and cause further damage. Stop and chew on that for a minute. All that contaminated trash, just so you can remember six months down the road that you paid $3.50 for a crappy muffin and weak coffee at a truck stop somewhere.
Now, I understand that not all purchases are an unmemorable as that muffin-coffee combo. Many others, particularly more expensive ones, do require proof of purchase, so what are the alternatives?
Digital receipts, emailed from retailer to customer, are becoming more common. But this can also mean handing over your email address, which enables a company to inundate you with promotional material. Whenever I feel I have to do this, I make sure to say I don’t want to receive any other communication.
Google Pay, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay can be used on your smartphone to make small purchases. As Sanjana Varghese writes for Wired, some retailers are moving to plug-ins such as Flux, which “creates an itemized record of a user’s transactions.” Similar apps include Transaction Tree and Yreceipts.
Be selective about the receipts you accept. Only take receipts for items that you know may have a higher chance of needing to be returned, or that you can claim as a business expense, or that come from cash transactions that can’t be tracked online. For example, I’d take a receipt for a pair of shoes, but not for a meal eaten out or even groceries.
Track your expenses elsewhere. Don’t use receipts to keep track of your expenses. Make a habit of writing down that information in a special place that you can reference any time. For me, that’s in my phone, but a small notebook could do the job too. As soon as I leave a store, I add the amount to my monthly expense tally with a brief description.
Ask stores to reconsider their system. If you’re a regular shopper at a store that uses thermal paper, bring it up in conversation. It doesn’t hurt to ask and educate. After all, if every store finds that customers are rejecting their receipts, they will be more inclined to come up with an alternative.
Veronique Barbossa, the co-founder of Flux, is absolutely right when she tells Varghese, “Paper receipts are non-recyclable, consume oil, trees, and water, and they don’t fit into the digital lifestyle that we currently have.” They seem nearly as outdated as paper cheques, which I haven’t owned in several years because e-transfers make life so much easier.
It’s not a problem that’s going to be solved overnight, but it is something I suspect we’re all going to start hearing more about.
They seem so innocuous, but they’re becoming an environmental nightmare.
The two largest global brands of capsule coffee, Nespresso and Keurig, are regarded by many as environmental nightmares. Billions of the throwaway nonrecyclable plastic products currently clutter waste dumps, waterways and city streets. Both inventor of the “K-cups” John Sylvan and former Nespresso CEO Jean-Paul Gaillard have publicly bemoaned the environmental consequences of the products they once championed. Sylvan has stated that the disposable (but not biodegradable) coffee capsule is “like a cigarette for coffee, a single-serve delivery mechanism for an addictive substance.”
The comparison between cigarette butts and capsule coffee is surprisingly fitting. Both butts and capsules are intentionally designed to be convenient, single-use products. Both are also nonbiodegradable and unrecyclable. As pervasive and polluting as cigarette butts are, however, the e-waste from e-cigarettes presents an even more apt comparison.
As a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco with a background in environmental philosophy and public health, I became curious how the waste stream of e-cigarettes has passed completely outside the regulatory radar.
A Smoking Gun?
San Francisco’s Pax Labs, maker of the market-leading electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) Juul, thinks of its product as a “Nespresso machine, if Nespresso still made great coffee.” It also describes its e-cigarette as a “gun.”
The product has soared in popularity, particularly among teenagers. In September Dr. Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, called Juul smoking among teens an epidemic.
While the health outcomes for e-cigarette vapor versus an inveterate capsule coffee drinker vary greatly, both “disruptive” products present lingering harms to the environment greater than the products they replace.
The legacy of cigarette butts imparts a dark story. An estimated two-thirds of cigarette butts are littered, clogging sewer drains, blighting city parks and contributing to estimated cleanup costs of US$11 billion yearly for U.S. litter alone. Cigarettes are environmentally irresponsible by design, and yet e-cigarettes pose an environmental threat of considerable proportions. Instead of merely being thrown away, these complex devices present simultaneously a biohazard risk with potential high quantities of leftover or residual nicotine and an environmental health threat as littered electronic waste.
Their endocrine-disrupting plastics, lithium ion batteries and electronic circuit boards require disassembly, sorting and proper further recycling and disposal. Their instructions do not say anything about disposal. Electronic waste (e-waste) already presents a daunting environmental quandary and is notoriously difficult to recycle. When littered, broken devices can leach metals, battery acid and nicotine into the local environment and urban landscape.
A Preventable Environmental Health Disaster
A main question public health regulators must face is: How are these new devices being disposed of? Are e-cigarettes being thrown away carelessly, like cigarette butts? Or disposed of in special electronic waste facilities, like smartphones? Preliminary results from litter pickups give mixed results. Juul pods are found routinely littered, especially where young people congregate. But because of the double-bind of e-cigarette waste being both electronic waste due to the components and hazardous waste due to the nicotine liquid residue, currently there is no legal way to recycle them in the U.S. The Office on Smoking and Health and the EPA need to coordinate their regulations to allow for the safe recycling and waste minimization of these products.
More than 58 million e-cigarette products were sold in the U.S. (not including those sold in vape shops or online) in 2015, 19.2 million of which were disposable e-cigarettes. A 2014 study found that none of the surveyed e-cigarette packages contained disposal instructions.
The major transnational tobacco companies so far primarily sell throwaway, one-use “closed” system products. Vuse and MarkTen, owned by Reynolds American and Altria, respectively, are two leading U.S. e-cigarettes, and both are closed systems. While these products may prevent nicotine poisoning in small children, their environmental health harms may be significantly larger due to their expendable design.
Most independent vaporizer manufacturers sell open, or reusable, systems, which are more popular with longer-term users and possibly more effective to quit than traditional cigarettes. In other markets, however, like the U.K. and Japan, transnational tobacco companies British American Tobacco (BAT) and Japan Tobacco International have begun to heavily market open systems.
BAT’s website on the disposal of their Vype e-cigarette warns “electrical waste and electronic equipment can contain hazardous substances which, if not treated properly, could lead to damage to the environment and human health.” So neither open nor closed systems are environmentally sustainable.
The World Health Organization, in its report Tobacco and Its Environmental Impact: An Overview, recently noted the “quieter but shockingly widespread impacts of tobacco from an environmental perspective.” Article 18 of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control states that all signatory parties “agree to have due regard to the protection of the environment and the health of persons in relation to the environment in respect of tobacco cultivation and manufacture within their respective territories.” It is time to close the loop and pay increased attention to tobacco product disposal as well.
As regulatory agencies continue deciding how to regulate e-cigarettes, not only should the immediate health effects and secondhand effects of the products be taken into account, but I believe the environmental effects of these products should be too.
The mounting environmental impact of the single-use nonrecyclable coffee fad has left coffee capsule Keurig inventor John Sylvan regretting his invention. Will apocryphal e-cigarette inventor Hon Lik ever have a similar reckoning regarding the mountains of e-cigarette e-waste? Let’s hope it never gets to that point.
Dr. Hendlin is an environmental philosopher and public health policy researcher with over 12 years experience in tobacco control.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
Carey Brown started this petition to Draper City Mayor Troy Walker and 5 others
Mining and other gravel pits are a significant culprit in polluting local air quality. Local research and environmental organizations show Geneva Rock has knowingly distributed fugitive dust and crystalline silica into our air.
As stated by Utah Physicians for a Healthy Environment, “Fugitive dust is composed of harmful particulate matter and often heavy metals including uranium and arsenic. Crystalline silica present in this dust can cause chronic, irreversible lung disease and lead to lung cancer.” These substances are toxic to humans and a major cause of lung disease and other respiratory conditions, including asthma. These diseases are detrimental to all residents, and especially children, pregnant women, and the elderly.
By allowing Geneva Rock to expand, the city of Draper is prioritizing illegal business practices and greed over it’s residents health and well-being. Geneva Rock has not supplied an environmental impact report, and has repeatedly and knowingly broken the law. See http://uphe.org/priority-issues/reducing-dust/
Similarly, Geneva Rock’s expansion is a potential danger to homes and safety in Draper. The close proximity of explosive charges, large construction machinery, and natural human error has the potential to dismantle the integrity of the Point of the Mountain and the home and lives that live on it. Because the Point is a large sand bar, by continuing to dig and disrupt its foundation, Geneva Rock is putting the lives of Draper residents and their homes at risk.
Geneva Rock’s plan discourages the economic growth and development the state of Utah is proposing with Silicon Slopes. Credible companies will not move to Utah with our unhealthy environment. Additionally, tourists and outdoor enthusiasts flock to the Point annually. In order to retain and attract these groups, the city needs to vote no to the Geneva Rock expansion. We need to protect are best, natural asset for social growth and integrity.
We stand united with the residents of Draper and oppose Geneva Rock’s proposal to rezone their mining operations into the Point of the Mountain.
House Destroyed, Homes Evacuated After PA Pipeline Explosion |
Posted on September 11, 2018 by GJEP staff Leave a Comment
A gas pipeline explosion “sent flames shooting into the sky” in Center Township, Pa. on Monday morning, according to WPXI News.
“A massive gas explosion shook parts of Beaver County early Monday, destroying a house, garages and multiple vehicles and bringing down six high-tension electric towers” reported the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The Energy Transfer Partners pipeline, according to industry news source Natural Gas Intelligence, had only been placed into service last week and exploded due to “torrential rain and saturated ground.”
One resident stated that their “house started shaking. The sky was pure red from the flames shooting.”
Someone else told reporters that “It sounded like a jet was taking off.”
Appalachians Against Pipelines Facebook
According the the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, “Energy Transfer’s reputation in Pennsylvania over the past few years has been dominated by its Mariner East 2 project, which involves laying a pair of pipelines across the southern part of the state to ferry natural gas liquids from Ohio to refineries and export terminals near Philadelphia. The effort has yielded dozens of environmental violations, drilling mud spills into creeks and streams, and a series of construction stops ordered by regulators that have delayed the pipelines’ in-service dates.”
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