Keep close to Nature’s heart … and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. — John Muir
Of Interest to All
Legislature Votes on Fracking
Last month, Physicians for Social Responsibility published a report summarizing hundreds of peer-reviewed studies of fracking. It concluded that “fracking poses significant threats to air, water, health, public safety, climate stability, seismic stability, community cohesion, and long-term economic vitality.”
Research has found that two counties in Pennsylvania that were fracked experienced a 49% increase in cancer-related hospitalizations, the rate of birth defects increases significantly within 10 miles of a single fracked well, livestock in the vicinity of fracking die in large numbers, and fracking increases infant mortality.
Not to mention that one average fracked well uses enough water to last seven Floridians their entire lives.
We went into the 2015 legislative session with two resolutions and an ordinance. As of today, Floridian cities and counties have passed 53 resolutions and ordinances against fracking, representing 43% of the state’s population. By the time the session begins in January, we’re liable to have more.
Yet on Tuesday, the House Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources voted in favor of a bill that would throw the door to fracking in Florida wide open. HB 191 preempts home rule, leaving local governments powerless to restrict or prohibit fracking. It grants the oil and gas industry a trade secrets exemption, which would make it impossible to hold the industry accountable for the damage it does because it can’t be proven to be its source.
Nine of the 13 Representatives on the Committee voted in favor of the bill despite the fact that three of them represent counties that have passed anti-fracking resolutions.
Despite our accomplishments and the stunning data favoring a ban, we’re facing a very tough battle. The bulk of what we’ve achieved thus far has been the result of a small group of activists working overtime. We need to coalesce into a robust movement capable of standing up to those who are willing to sacrifice our health and well-being in order to satisfy the insane demands of the oil and gas industry. If we don’t, we’re gonna lose, and we’re going to get fracked.
If you’re serious about stopping fracking in Florida and aren’t already hearing from me on a regular basis, please email me at email@example.com and I’ll add you to my list of people who are willing to respond to legislative developments in order to keep Florida frack-free.
[It’s one thing to not care about your constituents wishes, but when you think about the negatives surrounding fracking, such as the secrecy of ingredients not being released to hospitals so doctors may have an indication as to what steps to take in the case of ingestion, it borders on criminal. I guess these people either don’t care or didn’t think about the fact that their kids are going to be drinking the water that fracking is bound to contaminate in Florida.]
President Obama rejects Keystone XL!
BREAKING NEWS: President Obama has rejected the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.
This is an incredible victory for our environment, for NRDC, and for dedicated activists like you, who have fought alongside us to prevail on the President and his State Department to slam the door on the Keystone XL for good.
President Obama had long promised to stop the Keystone XL if it would significantly worsen the dangerous carbon pollution that fuels climate change. Overwhelming evidence proved that it would.
Recently, TransCanada — the company behind the disastrous pipeline — asked the State Department to suspend its review of the project. But the State Department denied that request — and today, the President has taken the long-awaited step of rejecting the Keystone XL for good.
What an amazing victory for people power over Big Oil! For the past eight years, we moved the threat of tar sands from total obscurity to center stage in Washington. We turned what had been considered a slam-dunk, done deal into a flashpoint battle against the oil giants for our environmental future — and we won.
The decision to reject Keystone XL sets a powerful precedent for America’s clean energy future — which is especially critical as President Obama prepares for the international climate change talks in Paris in December. It’s more proof that we’ve reached the limit of feeding our fossil fuel addiction. That means keeping up the pressure to reject any fossil fuel project that endangers our communities and makes climate change worse.
It also means blocking Big Oil’s much larger plan for a full-blown Tar Sands Invasion from coast to coast, which would triple the production of filthy tar sands oil in Canada and send as much as 6 million barrels a day gushing into the U.S.
NRDC is fighting back to stop this industrial onslaught, reduce our reliance on climate-wrecking fossil fuels and help move America toward a clean energy future.
Two Dams Collapse at Brazilian Mine, Village Engulfed in ‘Thick, Red Toxic Mud’
Two dams collapsed at the Germano iron ore mine in Brazil’s state of Minas Gerais yesterday, unleashing “a deluge of thick, red toxic mud that engulfed a village,” according to RTE News. Dozens are missing, but the exact number of injured and dead are unknown.
Reuters currently reports 30 injured and two dead, while RTE News reports 50 injured and 17 dead. The death toll is expected to rise as recovery efforts have been hampered by the mudslides, which knocked out roads and cell towers.
“In reality there are a lot more [dead], but we can’t confirm any more than that. We don’t even know that we’ll find everybody,” said firefighter Adão Severino Junior.
“The organization is mobilizing every effort to prioritize care for people and the mitigation of environmental damage,” Samarco, the company that runs the mine, told GloboNews.
An employee for Samarco told GloboNews that there were reports of seismic activity in the area leading up to the incident, however the company’s press representatives said, “We can not at this time confirm the causes and extent of the incident.”
“The collapse paralyzed operations at the mine, a joint venture between Vale and BHP Billiton, the world’s top iron ore miners and raised fears of an expensive cleanup,” said Reuters.
Television footage showed a torrent of muck several hundred meters long that had swamped houses and ripped off their roofs.
The mud reached the intact roofs of some houses, atop of which stranded people waited to be rescued. Some homes appeared to have been swept hundreds of meters by the rushing wall of mud.
The village of Bento Rodrigues near the dam is practically buried, the fire chief said.
Dams are becoming increasingly dangerous as extreme weather events are on the rise. “Hundreds of thousands of dams across the planet pose risks in a climate changed world,” said Gary Wockner, an international river advocate based in Colorado, in an email to EcoWatch. “Whether it’s drought or flooding, most dams were engineered and built pre-climate change and may not be able to handle the extreme weather events that are likely to occur in the near future.”
A recent report, The Risk, Public Liability & Economics of Tailings Storage Facility Failure, bolsters Wockner’s argument. The report “demonstrates that catastrophic mine waste failures are increasing in frequency and severity because of—not in spite of—modern mining techniques, and will continue to do so until regulators and mining companies take active steps to prevent them,” according to the nonprofit Earthworks. The report found that half (33 of 67) of all serious tailings dam failures in the last 70 years occurred in the 20 years between 1990 and 2009.
“Our research shows that more mining waste disasters like Brazil’s Germano spill are inevitable,” said David Chambers, report co-author and director of the Center of Science in Public Participation. “If mining practices continue as usual, we are going to see more severe spills, more frequently. These spills each will cost the public hundreds of millions to billions of dollars to clean up—if cleanup is possible at all. And sometimes, like the Germano spill, they will cost people’s lives.”
The report, which came out in July, was conducted in response to the 2014 Mount Polley mine waste disaster in British Columbia (BC), another waste impoundment failure which released roughly 24.4 million cubic meters of mine tailings waste into the Fraser River watershed.
“An expert panel commissioned by the BC provincial government recommended the global mining industry make significant changes to how it handles mining waste,” said Earthworks. “To date those recommendations have been largely ignored.”
There are 839 mining waste tailing dams in the U.S. and 3,500 abroad, according the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the United Nations, respectively. According to Earthworks, these large dams have no oversight in the U.S. or on a global level.
Cole Mellino|November 6, 2015
See a video
Intracoastal dredging will ease navigation for super-yachts
Officials on Wednesday announced a new dredging project that will deepen a section of the IntraCoastal Waterway in a two-year project led by Cashman Dredging.
Officials on Wednesday said they’ve selected Cashman Dredging to deepen a section of the Intracoastal Waterway in a two-year project that will allow bigger boats to navigate the area.
The announcement came on the eve of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, billed as the world’s largest in-water boat show and known for offering yachts 80 feet and longer.
The $17 million dredging project will make it easier for super-yachts to take part in future boat shows and reach marinas and repair yards, officials said.
Cashman Dredging, of Quincy, Mass., already is known in Broward County for its recent dredging at the Dania Cut Off Canal. That $7 million project brought a $23 million economic benefit to Broward in the first full year after its completion, including nearly $11 million in extra revenues for boatyards plus spinoff business for hotels, restaurants and others, according to consultants Thomas J. Murray & Associates.
“That is but a small reflection of what is going to happen with [the Intracoastal] dredging,” County Mayor Tim Ryan told a news conference Wednesday at Lauderdale Marina on the Intracoastal.
The new venture will dredge a stretch of the Intracoastal from 17th Street Causeway to Sunrise Boulevard from 10 feet to 17 feet deep. The project is the largest yet for the Florida Inland Navigation District, a special state taxing district charged with managing and maintaining the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway.
“Vessels are getting larger, and they can go anywhere in the world,” said Mark Crosley, executive director of the district. The dredging will help greater Fort Lauderdale retain and expand a marine industry that had an economic impact estimated at nearly $9 billion in 2014 alone, recent studies have shown.
Plans for the Intracoastal dredging have been more than a decade in the making. Permits took years to obtain, partly because of requirements to minimize the effect on coral reefs, sea grasses and other aspects of the marine environment. Materials dredged will be towed away by barge, officials said.
The 56th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show runs Thursday through Monday and is expected to draw more than 100,000 people. Some $4 billion worth of boats, accessories and marine art will be displayed in seven venues including Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Hall of Fame Marina, Las Olas Marina, the Broward County Convention Center, Sails Marina, Fort Lauderdale Hilton and Pier 66 Marina.
For more information about the show, go to flibs.com.
Doreen Hemlock|Sun Sentinel
Nuclear waste site near St Louis threatened by landfill fire
Imagine you are a parent, and that out of the blue, you get a letter from your child’s school telling you not to worry — that they’re ready to evacuate or shelter in place if an underground fire at a nearby landfill reaches radioactive waste on the same property.
That’s pretty much what happened recently in suburban St. Louis.
Landfill fires are pretty common. But this one is different: It’s only about a thousand feet away from nearly 9,000 tons of nuclear waste — and there’s no barrier in between.
Hundreds of people packed a recent community meeting about the landfills, located in Bridgeton, Mo.
“I feel like so many people in St. Louis are not even aware this is going on,” says one attendee, Cole Kelley.
Mother-of-three Cole Kelley expresses her concerns about the landfills at a community meeting in October. Kelley lives in the St. Louis suburb of Ladue, about nine miles away from Bridgeton, where the landfills are located. She was one of about 500 area residents to attend the meeting.
Many of the people at the meeting didn’t know of the landfills’ existence, even though the fire started five years ago, and the radioactive waste was dumped back in the early 1970s.
Residents like Carmen Burrus and Shannon Walker came to the meeting with many questions: How can people get their children home safe from school? Why isn’t there discussion about mass evacuations?
Flares at the Bridgeton Landfill outside St. Louis burn off noxious fumes, including those generated by an underground fire that’s been burning since 2010. The “fire” is really a high-temperature chemical reaction that consumes the waste below the landfill’s surface.
Véronique LaCapra|St. Louis Public Radio|NPR|November 3, 2015
This bill could keep half of US fossil fuels in the ground.
Today, a game-changing climate bill was introduced in the U.S. Congress by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Bernie Sanders, along with five of their colleagues.
It’s game-changing because it’s the first bill to cut to the heart of the issue and keep fossil fuels underground, by cutting off all sales of coal, oil and gas from publicly owned lands. That’s 450 gigatons of carbon that would be kept underground — half of the fossil fuels in the entire United States, representing enough carbon to take us past major climate tipping points.
Because the climate movement has fought tirelessly for years to stop projects like Keystone XL, fracking, and Arctic drilling, Senators are lining up to demand that we keep fossil fuels in the ground. This is the new measure of climate leadership.
It’s crucial that we show that movement energy is turning the tide in Washington.
In short, this bill says that if it is wrong to wreck the planet, it is wrong for our government to be in the business of digging up coal, oil and gas from publicly-owned land. It also lays down a marker for both President Obama and whomever ends up being the next President: if you want to be a climate champion, keep fossil fuels in the ground.
Most climate legislation nibbles at the edge of the fossil fuel industry’s power — making them pay a little more here, financing some clean energy there. This one clearly states the scientific reality that we must keep 80% of fossil fuel reserves underground to avoid climate disaster. If we are going to avoid the worst effects of climate change, we need to keep publicly-owned fossil fuel reserves off-limits.
As this bill starts to make its way through Congress today, it’s important to note that President Obama has the power to make this happen too. An executive order would accomplish the same goal — banning fossil fuel extraction on public lands, and keeping all that carbon in the ground. The President could show his climate leadership and support for this bill by taking executive action now.
Keeping fossil fuels in the ground wasn’t even acceptable to talk about just a few short years ago; now it’s a bill in Congress with a long list of co-sponsors. A lot more is suddenly possible, and politicians everywhere should be taking note.
Keeping publicly owned fossil fuels off-limits would be an enormous victory, and the fact that it’s even on the table is an enormous testament to our movement’s growing power.
Trading Away our Food System with TTIP:
Food Regulations & Democracy at the Hands of Corporate Interests
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The rights of nations, states, and local governments to regulate threats to their citizens, ecosystems, and economies should be stronger than international trade ties that benefit large corporations. Yet, corporate interests are currently threatening these rights as the Unites States (US) works to develop two major international trade agreements: the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).
The lesser-known of the two trade agreements is TTIP, which is a proposed agreement between the US and the European Union (EU) aiming to harmonize trade between these major global economies in many sectors, including agriculture. TPP is a trade agreement being negotiated between 11 Pacific Rim nations and the US. Since this agreement is further along in the process, it has received much more attention.
Historically, harmonized trade standards for worker and environmental protections often default to the lowest common denominator. Ultimately, these low standards remove local and country-wide regulations that are in the best interest of people and the environment. Under such harmonized standards, local and national governments can no longer enact their own environmental or social justice laws, because they will be challenged under the trade agreement as “illegal barriers to trade.” Compounding the problem, many companies will only adhere to the often-weak legal minimum under such trade agreements to save money.
At the local level, these agreements favor corporate influence and economic gains over the people’s right to a participatory democracy.1
I. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)
TTIP is a proposed bilateral agreement that aims to remove “barriers to trade” and investment, increase market access, and liberalize trade between the US and EU.2 Both regions have struggled economically since the 2008 recession and look to TTIP to provide a much-needed jumpstart through a robust, yet exclusive international trade regime.3 One of the US’s main goals in the agreement is to increase US exports to the European Union and strengthen the US’s valuable agricultural markets.4 Since tariffs between the US and EU are already relatively low, this agreement focuses on other issues that impede trade, especially non-tariff and technical barriers to trade (NTBs).5 In this instance, NTBs are the varying food-safety rules and regulations that have been enacted by each nation.6 US Trade Representatives aim to use TTIP to remove NTBs— including (but hardly limited to) EU import regulations on emerging food and crop varieties (including GMOs), as well as restrictions on pesticides, antibiotics, and chemical washes of animals.7
Trade negotiators representing the US and EU plan to harmonize these varying standards and develop mutual recognition agreements between the two parties.8 It is important to note that these negotiations are taking place behind closed doors, preventing any sort of public participation or media coverage. Negotiators aim to reach the least trade-restrictive agreement possible.9
The most controversial aspect is likely to be the harmonization of food and agricultural regulations—especially those pertaining to genetically engineered (GE) crops (often called genetically modified organisms or GMOs).
Unfortunately, the least trade-restrictive standard will likely have little consideration for human and environmental health, and completely ignore cultural differences and the will of the people in each participating nation. Civil-society groups are concerned that harmonization will negatively affect public health, consumer rights, labor standards, and environmental standards on both sides of the Atlantic.10 While this agreement has the potential to affect intellectual property rights, labor rights, and environmental and chemical regulations, the most controversial aspect is likely to be the harmonization of food and agricultural regulations—especially those pertaining to genetically engineered (GE) crops (often called genetically modified organisms or GMOs).11
Environmental Impacts of TTIP12
Discrepancies between US and EU regulations expand beyond food safety and chemical standards. Climate issues, are another major area of divergence. The agreement is expected to increase the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to European countries as the EU is pushing “for national treatment for trade in gas.” Increased exports of LNG would increase the United States’ use of hydraulic fracturing, a method of extraction that is extremely harmful to the environment and the health of neighboring communities. LNG only continues our dependence of fossil fuels and fails to move us toward reliance on renewable energy sources, which will be key to lessening our strain on the climate. This is just one example of how TTIP will place a greater strain on our environment and natural resources. As the climate crisis becomes an even more pressing threat, countries must be allowed to regulate industry in the best interest of their people and the environment. Stipulations in TTIP, such as the increased corporate power through (ISDS), could challenge climate and environmental regulations, such as carbon or energy efficiency standards, as “barriers to trade”, prohibiting much needed protection of our environment.
II. Agriculture and GMOs in TTIP
TTIP lacks a provision dedicated specifically to food and agricultural trade. Instead, food and safety regulation is discussed in the section entitled “Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS).13 ” Due to the secrecy of the TTIP negotiations,it is difficult for the public to gain a full understanding of planned changes to our food systems. As of now, the only available information is draft text released by the EU.14 Though the draft text does provide some information (much of which sends up red flags, including the lack of regulation of new novel food products), according to those participating in the negotiating process the majority of the important details are in the unpublished annexes of the agreement. This lack of transparency makes it especially hard to monitor how the food and agricultural sectors will be impacted by the agreement in both the US and EU, though the impacts will undoubtedly be significant.15 And, while the regions generally have a great deal in common with respect to trade, they diverge when it comes to GMOs and food-safety regulations.16 In 2012, the EU exported $16.6 billion of food and agricultural products to the US, compared to the $9.9 billion of similar goods exported from the US to EU:17 This trade imbalance, attributable in part to the EU’s strict restrictions on GMOs and protection of specialty food items, is used by the US to justify the desire for regulatory coherence in this sector.
In the past, differing food standards have contributed to trade challenges, such as when the US brought the EU to trial at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for banning US hormone-laden beef.18 Since the US and EU have very different positions on food safety and regulation, especially regarding GMOs, the US is likely to challenge current EU legal restrictions on the sale and import of GMOs during TTIP negotiations.19 The US federal government and agricultural industry are largely pro-GMO because most large global producers of GE seeds and associated chemical inputs are based in the US and have close relationships with the Obama administration (and prior administrations) and members of Congress.20 There continues to be a revolving door between employees of agricultural companies and of government regulatory agencies, further influencing policy-making.21 Conversely, the EU has taken a more cautious approach to the relatively new GE technology at both the farm and national level, with both farmers and states rejecting GMOs. In order for TTIP to pass, both parties must reach a consensus on GMOs and agricultural regulations. To do this, negotiators must overcome a few major obstacles including: labeling requirements, laws restricting cultivation, and risk assessments for commercialization of GMOs must all be harmonized.22 TTIP will threaten local-level democratic processes currently in place to regulate health and environmental standards, such regulations will undoubtedly be considered “barriers to trade”.23
III. GMO Risk Assessment and Regulation in the EU and US
Applied to GMOs, Precautionary Principle protects against the still-unknown long-term consequences of biotechnology on human and environmental health.
The EU and the US have very different approaches to risk assessment and regulation of GMOs, the main reason for their divergent stances on their cultivation and labeling. The EU adheres to the Precautionary Principle for its approval of pesticides, GMOs, and other new novel technologies (including GMOs, cloned animals, and nano materials) and chemicals.24 This principle is strongly rooted in the EU’s founding Treaty of Lisbon and based on the belief that products and technologies should be regulated or prohibited until proven safe by conclusive and sound scientific evidence.25 Applied to GMOs, the Precautionary Principle protects against the still-unknown long-term consequences of biotechnology on human and environmental health.26
What is Substantial Equivalence?31
The Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology of 1986 exists as the only basis for the regulation of biotechnology and new novel crop varieties in The US. This regulation was established before the creation of GE crops and the performance of proper safety testing. The US government determined that GE crops varieties were inherently “substantially equivalent” to their traditional counterparts and provide no risk, and therefore require no extra review or testing. All new crop varieties go to market without government testing, and only a voluntary review process exists through which the very companies that created the crops submit their own findings and science to back their products. Despite the fact that that legally GE crops are deemed substantially equivalent to traditional crops, corporations have the right to patent these new novel varieties. This double standard shows that the crops are not equivalent but distinct from other crops.
Conversely, the US bases its GMO regulatory framework on cost-benefit analysis and assumes products containing GMOs are safe until proven otherwise. This position relies on outdated biotechnology regulations from 1986, which were drafted long before any GE varieties were ready for commercialization.27 US policies have always considered GMOs to be “substantially equivalent” to non-engineered crops and do not require safety inspections prior to public use and consumption.28
The US system does not take into account long-term costs to society due to environmental and public health problems related to GMO and corresponding pesticide use. Costs such as health care and the financial impacts of environmental externalities go unaccounted for in the current system.
After this invention entered US food supply in the mid-1990s, GMOs were rapidly adopted by the industry with support from the US government.29 Regulators, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and US Department of Agriculture (USDA), continue to base their decisions on outdated policies and questionable science conducted by the very biotechnology corporations being regulated. The US system does not take into account long-term costs to society due to environmental and public health problems related to GMOs and their corresponding pesticide use. Costs such as health care and the financial impacts of environmental externalities go unaccounted for in the current system.30
IV. Growing & Labeling GMOs
Regulations on growing GMOs in the EU are complex. In 2006, the US brought the EU to court before the WTO over the region’s GMO regulations. The WTO ruled that the EU cultivation bans on GMOs were illegal barriers to international trade. In 2011, after a few heated years of debate and international confrontation the EU removed the bans and has since determined that member states reserve the right to accept or refuse the EU’s approval of new GE crops.32 Many member states acted in violation of WTO regulations and voted to keep the bans in place, representing their citizens’ strong support for GE regulation.33 Due to the strong support of GMO regulation from consumers, farmers, and producers, only two GE crops have been approved for cultivation in the EU to date—a pest-resistant form of corn, and a potato used in the paper industry. In the EU, at least ten countries have either banned or placed a moratorium on the cultivation of GMOs. Other than the “generally recognized as safe” standard (commonly referred to as GRAS), there is no federal law in the US that regulates or restricts GMOs. In 2012, approximately 90% of all corn and soy grown in the United States was genetically modified, across an area of more than 170 billion acres.34
Many US farmers are pro-GMO as they are financially entrenched in the industry because of accumulated debt acquired in purchasing necessary inputs and technology for this system of agriculture.35 At the national level there is a political unwillingness to address this issue because of the biotechnology industry’s financial and political influence.36 Such political influence was only expanded after the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Elections Committee removed limits on campaign contributions, providing for unfettered financial influence on members of Congress from biotech firms.37
The labeling of GMOs in the two regions differs greatly. The EU has a strict policy that requires a disclosure on everything with more than trace amounts (.9%) of GE ingredients.38 Whereas in the US, no mandatory labeling exists. States are fighting hard battles to establish mandatory labeling, i.e. CA, OR, and VT, taking on the largest food, beverage, and biotechnology corporations as well as lobbying groups such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association.39 The battle to establish GMO labeling laws has now reached Congress with two different bills in circuit, one that directly represents the will of the people to label GMOs, and the other, which represents industry interests.40 Corporate interests are using the TTIP trade agreement to not only put a damper on US citizens’ efforts to establish labeling, but also force lower standards and new GE products on the EU;41 a wasted effort considering surveys show that opposition to GMOs in the EU is still quite strong and continues to go grow in the US.42
V. Impact on the People’s Democratic Voice
In many ways, TTIP ignores the concerns of the European and American people in favor of corporations and Western economic growth. The negotiations, which started in July 2013 and are expected to conclude in 2015, take place in secret.43 In the US, there will be no publicly available text of the agreement until the document is completed, submitted for Congressional approval, and signed into effect by the President.44 Additionally, in July of 2015 Congress granted President Obama Trade Promotion Authority, more commonly known as “fast track” authority, which prohibits Congress from making any changes to the agreement. This means Congress can only approve a given trade agreement under fast track with an up or down vote. Similarly, the completed TTIP document will not be released to the European public until it is considered by the European Council, signed by the EU President, and ratified by the European Parliament.45
Fast Track or Trade Promotion Authority is a Congressional action that entrusts the President with sole authority over amending a proposed trade agreement. Traditionally, Congress has the job of reviewing, amending, and approving a trade agreement prior to final approval. Fast Track removes this key step. In place, Congress is left with the ability to only approve or deny the agreement as it is presented. This authority impedes democratic decision-making and gives unparalleled authority to one person, the President. Congress has granted Presidential Trade Promotion Authority for any trade deals signed before July 1, 2018, with potential extension to July 1, 2021.
In the US, only the US Trade Representatives and the Trade Advisory Commission—largely made up of industry representatives—will have access to the draft TTIP text and dialogue with negotiators.47 Much of the suggested text and talking points coming from both the EU and US match suggestions made by biotech lobbying organizations and other major food lobbying organizations. 48 While there are many active non-governmental organizations and individuals working on the issues discussed in the agreement, they have been purposely excluded from negotiations. This highlights the corporate control of the food system and of much of the political process in the US. Whereas, the EU does have some participating industry representatives on the negotiating team, but it is more balanced with government officials and third parties than the US’s negotiating team.49 The EU has taken steps toward transparency by releasing draft versions of their negotiating text; yet, this does not include annexes containing key details or the US negotiating text.50
Polls show that the American public is largely in favor of labeling GMOs and yet the US government has failed to address the issue. With so many corporations represented in the US negotiations, it is improbable TTIP will accomplish this type of labeling regulation.51 For example, the defeat of the GMO labeling referendums in California and Washington in 2012, and in Oregon and Colorado in 2014, is largely attributed to the over $100 million pro-GMO anti-labeling campaign funded by the biotechnology industry.52 National or international agreements—like TTIP—override local and state efforts to effect change, which thwarts democratic decision-making process.53 Considering the polls and local efforts to regulate GMOs in both the US and EU, the omission of public participation in an agreement that has the potential to preclude these possibilities is a grave infringement of democratic rights. Despite the fact that GMO labeling regulation has been brought to a vote in almost half of US states, there has been no federal action on the issue.
Despite the fact that GMO labeling regulation has been brought to a vote in almost half of US states, there has been no federal action on the issue.
The current negotiations lack transparency, causing civil society groups to call on officials to release draft TTIP texts so that public debate can take place.54 At the same time, members of Congress are calling on the United States Trade Representatives and the President to release the text so that they themselves can view the proposed trade agreement prior to the approval process.55 It is essential that the public be involved in a decision-making process that will so drastically affect the health and well-being of the people and planet, and citizens’ ability to make democratic decisions at different levels of government. Both citizens in the EU and US are likely to lose democratic rights through this agreement.
Impacts on Workers’ Rights 56
Beyond concerns over the impact that TTIP will have on agricultural regulations and the environment as a whole, there are major implications for workers both in the EU, US, and around the world. In contradiction to claims from the White House and the European Commission, TTIP will not increase jobs, but is actually expected to outsource more positions, as past trade agreements have done. TTIP will also likely impact worker safety and health. Chemical regulations are oftentimes put in place to protect the work -force, especially agricultural and factory workers. However such regulations could be seen as “barriers to trade” and could be challenged through Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), potentially increasing worker exposure to toxins. Overall, the agreement is expected to lead to weaker labor standards. It is important that any trade agreement allows states to independently decide how to best promote the general welfare of its workforce, without the threat of corporate retaliation. Ultimately, this is another area where it is necessary that nations negotiate in the interest of the public rather than the private sector.
VI. Expected Outcomes
The long-term goal of the US and EU is for TTIP to shape future multilateral trade agreements and set the baseline for rules and standards.57 TTIP may accomplish this, but only through lowering of standards in the EU and preclusion of local and state efforts in the US to regulate agriculture, label GMOs, and support local farmers.
The major goal of TTIP is harmonization, resulting in countries importing products that fail to meet existing in-country standards.58 This ultimately undermines progress toward a more sustainable food system. This agreement also proposes a Regulatory Cooperation Council to serve as the decision-making body on regulations. This body would essentially supersede democratic decision-making, putting regulation in the hands of trade officials and not food safety officials.59 Ultimately, this process constrains county, state, and national governments from setting future safety standards higher than trade agreement rules.60
TTIP will lower standards for environmental health and long-term sustainability as the US challenges EU regulations on pesticides. Many of the approved US pesticides are known endocrine disruptors, and the World Health Organization deemed the most common agricultural pesticide, glyphosate (Roundup), a probable carcinogen.61 TTIP will likely include the weakening of standards and as part of regulatory coherence, will allow GE related products into European countries.62
While the majority of threats are to the EU system, the US is facing challenges to its “Buy America” government procurement program, which supports domestic purchasing.64 Local and state efforts to establish GE labeling, including laws established in Vermont, Maine, and various counties, would also be challenged.
Unlike most United Nations agreements, trade deals like TTIP are binding and enforceable. The hope of many corporations and business people is that TTIP, especially regarding food, will be fully enforceable through mechanisms of Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS).65 ISDS grants corporations the power to bypass domestic court systems and directly sue a nation in an international tribunal, creating a corporate court system acting in the best interest of private entities rather than the people.Ultimately, this will allow corporations to fight national policies that might infringe on economic gain, regardless of whether or not the regulations represent the best interest for and/or the will of the people. Nations are expected to reimburse corporations for all losses due to such “exclusionary” policies.66
This agreement will represent a united bloc of Global North influence on present and future WTO trade negotiations.67 TTIP is likely to go beyond the current WTO rules leading to even looser restrictions, especially related to food and agriculture.68 These reduced regulations will not just affect the negotiating parties, but will set a new international standard likely to influence and force developing countries to bend to the regulatory standards of the First World powers. If trade agreement infringement lawsuits through ISDS were to become the norm, it would present major issues as smaller and developing nations oftentimes cannot afford to pay such fees. It would also discourage these nations from implementing strong health and safety standards for fear of corporate retaliation.
Threats to EU Standards 63
When it comes to food and agriculture standards, the EU tends to have much more stringent and precautionary procedures protecting humans, animals, and the environment. Corporate entities are attacking EU’s high standards for convenience and economic gains. The expected threats to EU standards are:
- Increased approval of GE crops.
- Termination of labeling standards.
- Increase of antibiotics and hormones used in livestock production.
- Increase in livestock treated with chlorine washes, ractopamine, and arsenic.
- Reduction in animal welfare standards.
- Removal of pesticide regulations.
- Weakening of organic standards.
- Removal of geographic indicators/ regionally specific products.
Ultimately, the TTIP trade agreement will have negative global impacts on the people’s democratic voice and the growing movement for food sovereignty. Corporations and lobbyists are spending a lot of time and money to influence the final TTIP agreement to benefit their financial interests at the expense of environmental and public health. Unimpeded trade between the US and EU will also increase capital accumulation in these already wealthy economies at the risk of widespread social and environmental degradation; further exacerbating social disparity and inequity. Many of the proposed changes in TTIP thwart local decision-making and personal choice in favor of providing greater access to large corporations, including seed, chemical, and packaged food producers. Draft text shows that this agreement promotes American industrialized agriculture with the goal of pushing this intensified system abroad. TTIP blatantly ignores the will and concerns of both EU and US concerns over food safety, environmental health, and future sustainability. To put it simply, TTIP is likely to “undermine local decision making and innovative efforts to rebuild local economies in ways that are sustainable and fair.”69 Business as usual is not an option and that is why we must take action to put an end to the corporate control of our food system. Together we can stop TTIP.
- It is essential that our members of Congress vote against any trade deal that impacts our democratic rights and endangers the environment, food safety, and labor standards. Take action and sign a petition to let members of Congress know that you and many other citizens oppose TTIP and TPP. Visit the office of or call your local Congressional representatives and tell them about your concerns regarding not only the TTIP and TPP trade agreements. Visit http://www.greenamerica.org to take action.
- Take action to overturn Citizens United. This landmark legal decision by the Supreme Court—which abolished all campaign finance limits—will have lasting impacts on people and planet and puts the control of our government in the hands of wealthy corporations. Take one of the many actions from our allies, like Public Citizen and League of Conservation Voters, to call on the President and Congress to overturn this decision, taking a step to restore democracy.
- Get active on social media. Along with concerned civil society groups, many politicians at home and abroad are standing up against big business and bad trade deals. Join the movement by sharing the stories and spreading awareness in your community.
Victory! Washington Passes Wildlife Trafficking Initiative
This week an overwhelming majority of voters in Washington stepped up to pass a measure that will help stop the slaughter of nearly a dozen imperiled species threatened by the illegal wildlife trade.
Thanks to a ballot initiative kickstarted by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen over the summer, residents in the state got the chance to weigh in on the issue. Despite opposition, the Seattle Times reports the measure passed in every single county and led statewide 71 to 29 percent.
“Today’s victory is a step forward in the race against extinction. Thanks to the wisdom, compassion and determination of Washington voters, state authorities now have stronger tools to crack down on the illegal trade in endangered animal parts, which will help us save some of Earth’s most iconic creatures,” said Allen in a statement.
The measure, I-1401 , which is now being applauded as the toughest state law passed yet, will increase penalties for buying and selling products made from 10 species on the brink including elephants, rhinos , tigers, lions, leopards, cheetahs, marine turtles, sharks, rays and pangolins.
Passage of I-1401 also makes Washington the first state to have a voter approved law like this go into effect.
Similar laws have been passed in New York, New Jersey and California and now another ballot initiative is underway in Oregon, which will bring the issue to voters next year. If Oregon’s measure passes, the entire west coast will be a closed market for the wildlife trade.
As more states continue to move to protect wildlife, this week even more progress was made on the federal level. The House of Representatives voted to pass the Global Anti-Poaching Act, which addresses several areas intended to crack down on poaching and the illegal wildlife trade.
This legislation will put wildlife trafficking in the same category as drug and weapon trafficking, requiring the U.S. to identify the countries with the highest level of transit and consumption and expand international partnerships and enforcement efforts where they’re needed most.
“Time isn’t on our side. Each day of inaction means more animals poached and more cash for terrorists. This vital legislation holds foreign governments accountable by ‘naming and shaming’ the worst violators and adds greater consequences for traffickers in this illicit trade. And it presses the Administration to continue to provide important security assistance to African park rangers,” said Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who authored the bill.
Alicia Graef|November 5, 2015
Calls to Action
The Birds need you; sign the One Voice, One World petition today – here
Protect Historic Jamestown from Transmission Towers – here
Tell Congress to enact bird-safe building legislation – here
Birds and Butterflies
4 UK bird species join the IUCN list facing global extinction
The much-loved puffin could be one of those facing extinction
Four of the UK’s bird species, including the puffin and turtle dove, have t been added to the list of birds considered to be facing the risk of global extinction.
The latest annual revision of birds on the IUCN Red List, which has been announced by BirdLife International on behalf of the IUCN, doubles the number of UK bird species considered to be facing the risk of extinction to eight.
Shockingly, a further 14 UK species are considered to be Near Threatened, meaning that any further deterioration in their status could see them added to the red list too.
“This means that the global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores,” said Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Conservation Director. “The number of species facing extinction has always been highest in the tropics, particularly on small islands. But now the crisis is beginning to exact an increasingly heavy toll on temperate regions too, such as Europe.
“The erosion of the UK’s wildlife is staggering and this is reinforced when you talk about puffin and turtle dove now facing the same level of extinction threat as African elephant and lion, and being more endangered than the humpback whale.”
The global revision also captures the crisis facing other birds around the world, including vultures where several African species have been listed as Critically Endangered – one step away from facing global extinction. In Africa, vultures are facing persecution and they are regularly poisoned or trapped.
Examining the list of changes among the UK’s birds to this year’s red list, several themes emerge, including: deterioration in the fortunes of some seabirds, such as puffin and razorbill; an ongoing and increasingly intense threat to wading birds, such as godwits, curlew, oystercatcher, knot and lapwing; and an increasing deterioration in the status of marine ducks, such as common eider, joining velvet scoter and long-tailed duck as species of concern.
Gwyn Williams, is the RSPB’s Head of Reserves and Protected Areas. He said the assessment “is a warning that nature is in trouble, but with funding and the right conservation measures threatened species can recover”.
From Wildlife Extra
You Could See Thousands of Hawks in One Day
One of North America’s greatest natural spectacles is happening right now, all around you: the annual fall raptor migration.
Major hawk migration routes have become popular birding destinations. But chances are, there’s a migrating raptor near you, too. And your observations can help citizen science.
So, gather around the kettle. No, not a kettle on the stove: a kettle of raptors in the sky.
“Broad-winged Hawks can form kettles (birds that are circling on a warm air thermal that it looks like steam spiraling up from a kettle) of hundreds of birds to tens of thousands of birds on the mega days,” says Jason Bojczyk, Lead Hawk Counter for the Schoodic Institute’s Hawk Watch. “It truly is one of nature’s greatest spectacles.”
What is a Hawk Watch?
Every year people across North America gather to watch the fall hawk migration and record information about the raptors that they see.
One great example is at the Schoodic Institute’s Cadillac Mountain site in Maine’s Acadia National Park, where citizen scientists can see 5 species of raptor year-round and an additional 9 species of migratory raptors.
“The Sharp-shinned Hawk, is one of the most abundant species at most hawk counts throughout the country,” Bojczyk remarks. “You can see hundreds to thousands of these birds on a good day.”
The event is held on a mountain so that people have a better view of high-flying hawks and, with the aid of binoculars, identify them by their unique markings.
Data are collected and submitted Raptor Population Index, a collaboration between the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) and Bird Studies Canada to graph trends in North American raptor populations over time.
The RPI serves as an important baseline for raptor populations.
“By monitoring raptors over the long-term, trends can be attained as to whether a species is declining, stable, or increasing,” Bojczyk explains. “These trends become more powerful when other hawk counting sites in the region/state have these same trends established. For species that are declining we can focus on why this is happening and what is there that can be done about it.”
Why Is It Important?
Hawks, raptors and other predators play an important role in ecosystem health.
“Hawks help keep small mammal populations under control and vultures clean up the leftovers,” Bojczyk notes.
Raptors are also important indicators of ecosystem health because many species require large areas to forage and are sensitive to changes in the environment including human disturbance and environmental toxins.
“Raptors are fascinating for so many reasons, from the spectacle of migration itself, to raptors chasing each other, to Cooper’s Hawks displaying,” Bojczyk says. “There really are unlimited, amazing things about this facet of nature.”
From Around the Web
And raptors face many threats. The American Kestrel is in decline for reasons that are still poorly understood, the Peregrine Falcon is now recovering from DDT poisoning that harmed many birds, and climate change could play a role in future population dynamics.
“For example, Red-tailed Hawks used to migrate in much larger numbers in the east than they currently do, but are now staying further north through the winter, as they can find enough food,” Bojczyk explains.
Wind turbines also have an impact on raptors. And, though shooting raptors has become less common in the US in recent years, it remains a risk factor.
How Can You Get Involved?
Find a Hawk Watch site in your area. The season is nearing an end, so start looking today or make plans to attend next year.
For the Schoodic Institute’s Hawk Watch, you can show up at Cadillac Mountain any day from August 18 to October 31 between 9 AM and 2 PM.
If you want to get a head start, hone your identification skills by checking out HMANA’s hawk ID materials.
But there’s no need to prepare in advance, the experienced hawk watchers are there to help.
“Hawk watches are often in areas where “non-hawk-watchers” visit,” Bojczyk says. “If there’s a day with a steady migration, these “non-hawk-watchers” quickly fall for the activity and return for years to come, along with the desire to protect these birds.”
Lisa Feldkamp|October 20, 2015
Help Save the Florida Panther
Florida panther © Mark Conlin courtesy of Tallahassee Natural History Museum
Connecting Land for the Florida Panther
Watch a video about how we’re helping to protect Florida panthers.
Florida panthers are among the most endangered animals on the planet. Get the facts on the plight of panthers and how you can help. See the infographic.
Giving Panthers a Safe Place to Roam
The Nature Conservancy Florida continues to support panther conservation and acquisition of lands containing critical habitat. Earlier this year, the Conservancy, working with state and federal agencies, acquired a conservation easement to protect more than 1,528 acres at Black Boar Ranch. This key piece of land was facing development pressures. Securing this easement was a big win in our efforts to protect lands along the Caloosahatchee River that form a connected corridor of prime panther habitat through Central Florida.
The Florida Panther is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. About 180 cats remain in the wild. Most live around Okaloacoochee Slough, including the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge, near Naples. Panther do roam north of this area (one was seen in Georgia) but they haven’t bred or established home ranges north of the Caloosahatchee River. This is a critical obstacle to the panthers’ survival.
Panther must extend their range beyond the confines of their current territory to prevent extinction. Otherwise, as Doria Gordon, the Conservancy’s director of conservation, says, “The Florida panther will will remain endangered and at critical risk.”
The Conservancy is working to protect Florida panther and you can help. Click here to donate online, or text the word PANTHER to 97779 to make a quick and easy PayPal or credit card donation.
Why is panther habitat expansion so critical?
Their current habitat is simply too small and fragmented for the population to grow to a healthy and sustainable level. Panthers have reached maximum capacity within their home range, and, because they are solitary and territorial, panthers require large areas to hunt, breed and den successfully. Males defend territories of 200 square miles and a single female will establish her home range of 75 square miles within a male’s territory.
Envision an area the size of Hillsborough County sustaining only 5 panthers. Miami–Dade County, one of the largest in the state, would provide home to 10 panthers. This may seem daunting at first but the good news is that large, undeveloped stretches of land still remain within the state’s interior and protecting these lands may mean the difference between extinction and survival for the Florida Panther.
What is being done to help Florida Panther survival?
The Nature Conservancy is leading an effort to protect panther habitat by establishing links to connect existing green spaces. We’ve protected thousands of acres of prime panther habitat already within the Greater Everglades and land protected on the Caloosahatchee River has made the outlook brighter. Protected only hours before foreclosure, this land purchase secures a highly used passage for panther crossing the Caloosahatchee River and looking for new habitat. Without this property, extinction was a near certainty but with this link permanently intact, the Conservancy is determined to build on this foundation, by protecting and restoring key links north of the river up into central Florida.
How can you help Florida Panthers?
Our goal is to ensure permanent protection for 7,300 acres of prime panther habitat, which will link existing green spaces and panther habitat. To do this, we will need to raise $8 million dollars. We plan to leverage that with $21 million dollars of public conservation funding. This will allow us to permanently protect lands that link existing green spaces and create a larger protected home range for panthers to expand and grow. You can help by supporting opportunities for land protection and attending Conservancy events.
From Saturday, October 24 through Friday, November 20, 2015, a special art exhibition is being held in Miami featuring commissioned works focused on real and imagined endangered and extinct species and the relationship between wildlife people. All proceeds from the event will support the Conservancy’s efforts to protect panther habitat.
Get more details about the Leave No Trace exhibition.
What Other Threats Do Florida Panthers Face?
Beyond limited habitat, panther are threatened by disease, continued habitat loss, collisions with vehicles and aggression between panthers that fight over limited territory. Any combination of these factors can result in extinction of Florida Panthers.
Fun Facts about Florida Panthers
Did you know…?
- And you thought your mother loved you.
Panther mothers remain with their young for about one and a half to two years.
- A Florida panther would beat your high school track star any day…
Panthers can leap more than 15 feet and can run 35 miles per hour for short distances.
- …but not compete in a heavyweight boxing match.
Males weigh around 120 pounds and are 7 ft long from nose to end of tail. (Panther’s tails are 2/3 of their body length.) At birth, the cubs weigh just four to eight ounces! That’s less than a one-month-old house cat.
- Who says venison and bacon aren’t a delicacy?
Panthers’ diet includes deer and wild pigs.
- Learn more facts about Florida panthers.
The Nature Conservancy
In Response to FWF Study, FDOT to Fence Stretch of Alligator Alley Deadly to Panthers
In response to a study commissioned by Florida Wildlife Federation, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) recently announced it will be installing wildlife exclusionary fencing along the nine mile stretch of Alligator Alley from the Faka Union Canal Bridge to the Naples toll booth.
Since 2004, there have been an alarming 14 Florida panthers killed by collisions with vehicles. This nine mile segment is the deadliest highway for Florida panthers and the only section of Alligator Alley without wildlife exclusionary fencing.
In April 2015 Florida Wildlife Federation, alarmed by the increasing panther death count, commissioned a study by transportation ecologist Dr. Daniel Smith. He recommended fencing the nine miles and improving wildlife movement under the Miller and Faka Union Canals. Dr. Smith suggested new wildlife underpasses between the Miller Canal Bridge and Naples toll booth.
“Florida Wildlife Federation is very pleased with FDOT’s swift and optimal action to address panther deaths on Alligator Alley,” said Manley Fuller, President of Florida Wildlife Federation.
FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold expressed appreciation to Florida Wildlife Federation “for bringing this concern to our attention” and stated “FDOT supports Florida Panther recovery efforts.”
In addition to the exclusionary fencing, FDOT will reset the existing rubble riprap under the west side of the Faka Union Canal Bridge and both sides under the Miller Canal Bridge to create a 2ft wide pathway for wildlife use.
“It is important to maintain habitat connectivity for panthers and other wildlife because Picayune Strand State Forest is on the south side and Collier County’s North Belle Meade Natural Resource Protection Area is on the north side of this currently exposed stretch of Alligator Alley I-75,” said Nancy Payton, Southwest Florida Field Representative who spearheaded Florida Wildlife Federation’s successful campaign.
The Florida panther has been on the U.S. Endangered Species List since 1967. They once roamed across the entire southeastern United States. The only breeding population, estimated at 180 animals, is in South Florida.
Collisions with vehicles are the major cause of panther mortality. Twenty-three Florida panthers have been killed this year on Florida’s highways. Where fencing and underpasses are installed, the deaths drop to almost zero.
Florida Wildlife Federation
Millions of Dog-Coyote-Wolf Hybrids Now Roam Eastern U.S.
A new species combining wolves, coyotes and dogs is evolving before scientists’ eyes in the eastern U.S.
Wolves faced with a diminishing number of potential mates are lowering their standards and mating with other, similar species, reported The Economist. The interbreeding began up to 200 years ago, as European settlers pushed into southern Ontario, clearing the wolf’s habitat for farming and killing a large number of the wolf families who lived there. This also allowed coyotes to spread from the prairies, and the farmers brought dogs into the region.
Over time, wolves began mating with their new, genetically similar neighbors. The resulting offspring—which has been called the eastern coyote, or to some, the coywolf—now number in the millions, according to researchers at North Carolina State University.
Interspecies-bred animals are typically less vigorous than their parents, the Economist reported, if the offspring survive at all. That’s not the case with the wolf-coyote-dog hybrid, which has developed into a sum greater than the whole of its parts. At about 55 pounds, the hybrid animal is about twice as heavy as a standard coyote, and its larger jaws, faster legs and muscular body allows it to take down small deer and even hunt moose in packs in both open terrain and dense woodland.
An analysis of 437 hybrid animals found that coyote DNA dominates its genetic makeup, with about one-tenth of its DNA from dogs, usually larger dogs such as Doberman pinschers and German shepherds, and a quarter from wolves.
The animal’s cry starts out as a deep-pitched wolf howl that morphs into higher-pitched yipping, like a coyote.
The coywolf’s dog DNA may carry an additional advantage. Some scientists think the hybrid animal is able to adapt to city life—which neither coyotes or wolves have managed to do—because its dog ancestry allows it to tolerate people and noise. Coywolves have spread into some of the nation’s largest cities, including New York, Boston and Washington, DC.
The interbreeding allows the animal to diversify its diet and eat discarded food, along with rodents and smaller mammals, including cats, and they have evolved to become nocturnal to avoid humans.
Some of the animals are also smart enough to learn to look both ways before crossing roads.
Not all researchers agree the coywolf is a distinct species, arguing that one species does not interbreed with another, although the hybrid’s existence raises the question of whether wolves and coyotes are distinct species in the first place.
But scientists who have studied the animal say the mixing of genes has been much faster, extensive and transformational than anyone had noticed until fairly recently.
“[This] amazing contemporary evolution story [is] happening right underneath our nose,” said Roland Kays, a researcher at North Carolina State.
Travis Gettys|Raw Story|November 2, 2015
One-Third of World’s Orangutans at Risk From Fires in Sumatra and Borneo
Despite some rainfall in the last few days, thousands of fires continue to burn on the main islands of Sumatra and Borneo. Unlike previous years, when fires mainly impacted agricultural land, these fires, fueled by a particularly dry season due to El Nino, have swept into national parks and primary forests, the last refuges for so many iconic endangered species, such as orangutans, rhinoceros and tigers.
Local people fighting fires in Indonesia’s national park Tanjung Puting. Photo credit: Faqih Zabach
All these animals hover on the brink of extinction and now the odds have been tipped even further against them. It is estimated that a third of the world’s orangutan population is under threat with many already dying and orphans flooding into rescue centers.
Data released last week by Guido van der Werf on the Global Fires Emissions Database estimate emissions generated every day from the fires exceeds that of the average daily emissions for the entire U.S. economy. The U.S economy is 20 times the size of Indonesia’s. Van der Werf estimates that over just 3 weeks of burning, the fires in Indonesia exceeded the entire annual CO2 emissions of Germany.
These are staggering statistics and illustrate just how critical it is that the world pays attention, supports the Indonesian government to enforce a fire moratorium, provides sophisticated fire fighting equipment, and holds palm oil corporations and companies using palm oil in their products to account over plantation practices.
These figures are even more disturbing because the fires are in peatlands. Not only are tropical peatlands significant carbon storage areas but when they burn they emit up to 10 times more methane than fires in non-peat lands. Nancy Harris and others, including the World Resources Institute, suggest that when the emissions from both the draining of peatlands for plantations and the fires are taken into account the methane released is 200 times more than that emitted from fires in any other land areas.
Orangutan running from the fire.
This is not only an environmental disaster of massive proportions but also a humanitarian one which will have long-term economic repercussions for Indonesia. Estimates put the number of people affected by respiratory illness at 500 million across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.
So why is there so little press coverage or interest from the rest of the world in this catastrophe? Is it because it is man-made, driven by the palm oil and pulp and paper corporations as well as poachers and small farmers? Do we some how think this is not as news worthy as a hurricane or earthquake?
A mother and baby orangutan in the jungles of Indonesia. Photo credit: Shutterstock
While it may seem like this is a problem on the other side of the world we are all, as consumers, complicit in this crime. The supply chain is not always obvious and lack of product labelling often means we have no idea that our shampoo or crackers or toilet paper have such a devastating effect. If there is going to be any chance to save the rapidly disappearing mega fauna on our planet and to limit the damage from global warming then we have to start thinking that a problem over there is also a problem over here.
Marie Gale|Save Indonesian Endangered Species Fund|November 1, 2015
County Receives Grant for Informational Sea Turtle Signage
BROWARD COUNTY, FL – The Sea Turtle Conservancy has awarded Broward County a grant to design, produce, and install permanent informational sea turtle signs at public beach access points throughout the County. Installing educational signs at known nesting sites will help local sea turtle nesting populations by delivering information directly to beach goers informing those who may unknowingly be impacting nests. The signs will also serve as a tool to help reduce human manipulation and interference with sea turtle nesting sites by promoting safe practices. Municipalities will help identify priority locations based on the amount of pedestrian traffic and nesting activity within the vicinity of the access point.
Helpful points on the signs include:
- Turn off or cover any lights visible from the beach
- Remove all trash and beach furniture when you leave
- Fill in any holes in the sand
- Do not touch or disturb turtles, nests or hatchlings
- Observe nesting females from a distance and don’t block her return to the ocean
- Call 1-888-404-3922 or 954-328-0580 for more information or to report injured or dead turtles
These signs were funded in part by a grant from the Sea Turtle Grants Program. The Sea Turtle Grants Program is funded from proceeds from the sale of the Florida Sea Turtle License Plate.
Learn more at www.helpingseaturtles.org, and for more information on how to help create a more sustainable environment for sea turtles, please contact the Broward County Sea Turtle Conservation Program at 954-519-1255.DATE: October 8, 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Courtney Kiel|Environmental Planning and Community Resilience
Don’t Delist Yellowstone National Park’s Last 757 Grizzly Bears
Grizzly bears are iconic animals on the Yellowstone National Park’s landscape, so how can the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) consider delisting them from the Endangered Species Act? For its part, the FWS insists that the bears have recovered enough — today there are 757 bears compared to the 136 bears when the bears were first protected in 1975. But for American Indian tribes with deep cultural and spiritual connections to the grizzlies, the bears have not recovered enough. Some tribes insist that delisting the bear and opening them up to be trophy hunted is on par with with cultural genocide.
Hunting Tradition or Killing Tradition?
As reported in TakePart, a coalition of almost 50 tribes called Guardians of Our Ancestors’ Legacy (GOAL) has formed to oppose delisting the grizzly. A cofounder of the coalition, R. Bear Stands Last, describes the bear’s significance: “The grizzly was the first two-legged to walk upon this land…The grizzly is a teacher and was, in essence, the first medicine person who taught the curing and healing practices adopted by many peoples.”
The coalition also doesn’t believe that the bears have recuperated enough to lose their listing and expose them to trophy hunting. For instance, the lack of food sources, including whitebark pine and cutthroat trout, got the grizzlies relisted in 2009 after they were delisted in 2007. However, bear advocates notice that current berry subsets that the bears rely on are also in decline thanks to climate change. Less food is forcing the bears to venture out of the park and closer to humans. While the FWS might consider trophy hunting a viable solution, it doesn’t align with deep-seated tribal values. Bear Stands Last explains the tribal stance on trophy hunting:
For most associated with GOAL, eating a grizzly bear would be tantamount to cannibalism. These trophy hunters do not come from a hunting tradition, they come from a killing tradition.
Yet the FWS is advocating for this senseless killing tradition by fighting to get the grizzly bear delisted, in spite of tribal sovereignty, for over a year now. And the government agency has largely ignored the opposition from tribes. The FWS did send 2 rounds of letters to tribes, but that’s not enough under the obligatory tribal consultations under the Endangered Species Act. The FWS is planning more meetings and a tribal webinar asking for tribal input and concerns.
Too Many Bears or Too Many Cows?
According to Yellowstone Insider, 2015 has been a really bad year for the bears. More grizzlies are dying this year — 46 grizzly bear deaths so far compared to 20 to 30 deaths each year between 2013 and 2014, and around 50 deaths each year between 2010 and 2012. From September to October, on average, “one bear died every other day.” A stable bear population and decline in food sources, particularly whitebark pine, are also linked to the increase in bear deaths.
Unfortunately, 2015 is unique. Most of these bear deaths were at the hands of humans: “[H]umans were involved in over 80 percent of grizzly bear deaths this year. ‘Human-caused’ killings include both grizzly bears struck by cars as well as bears removed by management for trespasses, property damage, public safety concerns and old age.” Like other struggling wildlife, bears are forced to compete with livestock for limited space, and the bears will never win that competition: “Livestock grazing was the leading contributor to grizzly bear removals this year, with 14 bears killed after they were linked to sheep or cattle depredation.” Because in this country, animals that we can exploit for food or clothing take priority over necessary keystone species like grizzlies who are ecosystem engineers. It makes me wonder: are there really too many grizzlies (current estimates say 757 bears) or are there just too many cows (89.9 million cattle in the United States)? Reports also show that two cubs were relocated to the Toledo Zoo, even though captivity is no place for bears.
Please sign and share this petition demanding that grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park not be delisted. We may be their biggest threat, but we’re also their only hope.
Jessica Ramos|November 2, 2015
Lion populations half in key regions of Africa
The lion populations in much of Africa are in rapid decline, a new study suggests. Published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), the study estimates that lion numbers in West and Central Africa are declining sharply and are projected to decline a further 50% in the next two decades without a major conservation effort. Lion numbers are also declining, albeit less dramatically, in East Africa, long considered the main stronghold of the species. The study also shows that almost all lion populations that historically numbered at least 500 individuals are in decline.
A team of scientists from global wild cat conservation organization Panthera, Oxford University’s WildCRU, Grimsö Wildlife Research Station, IUCN Species Survival Commission Cat Specialist Group, and the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Behavior at the University of Minnesota estimated the trajectory of lion populations by compiling and analyzing regional population trend data for 47 different lion populations across Africa. The analysis showed that whereas most lion populations in West, Central, and East Africa are declining, increases in lion populations occurred in four southern countries: Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
Lead author Dr. Hans Bauer of WildCRU noted: “These findings clearly indicate that the decline of lions can be halted, and indeed reversed, as in southern Africa. Unfortunately, lion conservation is not happening at larger scales, leading to a vulnerable status of lions globally. In fact, the declines in many countries are quite severe and have enormous implications.” He continued, “If resources for wild lands cannot keep pace with mounting levels of threat, the flagship species of the African continent may cease to exist in many countries.”
Globally, lions are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, though the species is considered to be Critically Endangered in West Africa. The results of this study reaffirm the lion’s conservation status in West Africa and further suggest that regional assessments yield a more accurate picture of lion populations than do global assessments. Based on the data, the authors recommend that the lion be regionally up-listed to Endangered in Central and East Africa while populations in southern Africa meet the criteria for Least Concern.
Dr. Luke Hunter, President and Chief Conservation Officer of Panthera and a co-author, urged, “We cannot let progress in southern Africa lead us into complacency. Many lion populations are either gone or expected to disappear within the next few decades. The lion plays a pivotal role as the continent’s top carnivore,” he continued, “and the free-fall of Africa’s lion populations we are seeing today could inexorably change the landscape of Africa’s ecosystems.”
The authors note that conservation efforts in southern Africa are successful for a number of reasons, including low human density, significant resources, and perhaps most importantly, the reintroduction of lions in small, fenced and intensively managed and funded reserves. Dr. Paul Funston, Senior Director of Panthera’s Lion Program, said, “If we don’t address these declines urgently, and at a massive scale, the intensively managed populations in southern Africa will be a poor substitute for the freely roaming lion populations in the iconic savannahs of East Africa. In our view, that’s not an option.”
The study drew on the most comprehensive dataset so far compiled on the lion, which also informed the most recent Red List assessment of the species. Senior author Prof. Craig Packer of the University of Minnesota, who also serves on Panthera’s Scientific Council, said: “Estimating future population trends requires sophisticated forecasting techniques, and we performed one of the most comprehensive statistical analyses of conservation status over such a large scale. The results clearly indicate the need for immediate action across most of Africa.”
From Wildlife Extra
10,000 Mile Journey for Rare Rhino Brings Hope for His Species
In August, the Cincinnati Zoo announced plans to send its last Sumatran rhino home to Indonesia in the hope that he would find a mate and add to his species’ critically endangered population. Now his supporters are celebrating his safe arrival following a 10,000 mile journey.
In September, on World Rhino Day, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) warned that with fewer than 100 Sumatran rhinos left in the wild they’re likely to go extinct if drastic action isn’t taken.
According to the IUCN Species Survival Commission (SSC) Asian Rhino Specialist Group, the Sumatran rhino is now only found in a few sites in Sumatra, and only a handful of individuals are believed to exist in Kalimantan, Borneo.
Over the past few decades poaching and habitat loss have caused their disappearance from Bangladesh, Bhutan, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, India, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam, and they were most recently declared extinct in Malaysia.
Now hope lies on the shoulders of Harapan, aka Harry, whose travels to the Sumatran Rhino Sanctuary in Indonesia’s Way Kambas National Park ends the zoo’s breeding program, but also brings more potential for increasing their numbers.
Harry, who was born at the Cincinnati Zoo in 2007, is one of three born in captivity through the zoo’s breeding program, along with his brother Andalas, who is also now in Sumatra, and his sister Suci, who died last year.
“The departure of Harapan, the last Sumatran rhino outside of South Asia, is a pivotal moment in wildlife conservation history. He was born at the Cincinnati Zoo eight years ago and is now on his way to the far side of the world to pursue his only chance to breed and contribute to the survival of his species,” said Thane Maynard, Executive Director of the Cincinnati Zoo.
According to the zoo, Harry arrived safe and sound and will spend his first two weeks there in quarantine, but then he’ll have access to the sanctuary and it’s hoped he will soon find one of the three females at the sanctuary to mate with.
The ongoing losses of large species like elephants and rhinos isn’t just a tragic loss for these animals, both as individuals and as a species, but also impacts biodiversity and brings environmental problems that will in turn impact us all.
“It is hoped Harapan’s relocation will further accelerate conservation breeding of the species in captivity,” said Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, Chair of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group. “But the long-term future of the species will ultimately be decided by the actions of the Indonesian Government and civil society. We need effective collaboration between government agencies and conservation institutions, allocation of significant funds by the Indonesian Government and international donors, as well as strengthened support from the public.”
You can help by signing and sharing the petition urging Indonesia’s government to do whatever it takes to protect the last Sumatran rhinos and ensure they don’t go extinct.
Alicia Graef|November 3, 2015
November Is Manatee Awareness Month: Learn The Dangers They Encounter And How You Can Help (VIDEO)
Moving at just an average of three miles an hour, adult manatees are on the endangered list with problems of entanglements and also collisions with watercraft. November is the prime time for these problems when the sea cows move to warmer waters.
(Photo : Flickr Commons)
Slow-moving manatees, often referred to as sea cows, are an endangered species. November is an especially tough time for them as they move to warmer areas and are subject to collisions with watercraft.
November has been proclaimed as Manatee Awareness Month, but how much do you know about this odd sea creature? Chances are that if you don’t live in Florida, then not much. So let’s examine the manatee, often referred to as a sea cow, and get acquainted with the wonderfully slow, sweet creature.
For starters, they get pretty big! When grown, the manatee is about 10 to 12 feet in length, weighs about 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and has a good life span in the wild of 50 to 60 years, according to Defenders of Wildlife. No wonder they are referred to as sea cows; they are cow-sized, which is no surprise when you learn they are relatives of the elephant.
The Florida manatee is endangered as they face several threats. Manatees start searching for warm water shelters as the temperatures start to dip around November, and this is where a lot of their troubles begin.
They are subject to getting tangled in nets and anything else in the water. Marine Mammal Biologist Dr. Ann Spellman and Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley discuss how this happens and the effects on these sweet creatures in a wonderful video by Adopt A Manatee. Information is available at Save the Manatee Club.
The slow-moving sea creatures are subject to collisions with watercraft, which is their leading cause of death.
Florida residents and visitors are asked to go slow in manatee-prone areas and be aware at all times. Notice the signs along the waterways so you can avoid a collision with these sweet sea cows. They are simply too slow-moving to get out of the way.
“Manatees can’t tolerate cold water,” Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission spokeswoman Carli Segelson said, according to WFSU. “So, they start to seek warmer water, and therefore, they’re more active at this time. So, the Manatee Awareness Month brings that to people’s attention.”
“So, one of those things is to wear polarized sunglasses, so you can see below the surface of the water, and certainly, observe any speed zones,” she added.
Segelson said that they do wish for people to be able to enjoy the manatees, but the public is asked to be respectful of the endangered species and enjoy them from a distance.
Bee researcher silenced
A top USDA researcher has been suspended after publishing research linking pesticides to the deaths of bees and monarch butterflies.
The researcher was even threatened with termination for trivial violations, like failing to get a routine form signed by his supervisor.
Bees and butterflies are pollinators that are critical to our food supply, and they are experiencing a steep decline due to systemic pesticides. We can’t let this important research be silenced.
We’re demanding a full investigation into the pesticide industry’s influence over government research.
Jonathan Lundgren has been at the U.S. Department of Agriculture for 11 years, earning stellar performance reviews along the way.
He was so respected that the USDA actually named an award for outstanding research scientists after him.
But once his research started documenting the damage that pesticides were doing to bees and butterflies, he suddenly started facing severe reprimands and repeated suspensions.
The pesticide industry is freaking out, because the EPA recently imposed a moratorium on approving new bee-killing pesticides—and some of those pesticides have been banned in Europe and Quebec.
That’s why they want this research shut down.
But with bees dying by the millions, we can’t let scientists get silenced. That’s why we’re demanding a full investigation.
Margie Alt|Executive Director|Environment America|11/04/15
Illegal Logging is Destroying Protected Panda Habitat
Conservationists are calling for some big changes after discovering that illegal logging has destroyed thousands of acres of precious habitat for the Giant Panda in China.
A two-year investigation conducted by Greenpeace East Asia found that nearly 3,200 acres of forest in the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries have been illegally cleared.
The Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries consists of seven nature reserves and eleven scenic parks located in southwest Sichuan province. They are home to more than 30 percent of the world’s pandas. Fewer than 2,000 individuals are believed to live in the wild now, who are also under pressure from climate change and development.
The loss of more habitat, and particularly the destruction of an important migration corridor in the Qionglai Mountains in Ya’an, could have a devastating impact on the pandas and their ability to survive
The forests being cleared are also part of a UNESCO World Heritage site and are home to a diverse array of plants and animals, including endangered species like the red panda, snow leopard and clouded leopard.
Regulations were enacted in 1998, but business interests have been using a loophole in the law that allows for “low-yield” forests to be clearcut and turned into plantations. Unfortunately, the definition of what constitutes that type of forest is ambiguous, allowing for the continued destruction of old-growth forests for profit.
“In terms of forest conservation, the most pressing and most serious problem facing China right now is deforestation of natural forest in the name of improving low-yield timber forest,” said Zhou Lijiang, deputy chief engineer at the Sichuan Province Forestry Investigation and Planning Institute and key forestry regulations advisor.
According to Greenpeace, authorities tried to address the issue in 2012 with a further ban. But an investigation shows it’s clearly been ineffective. If the loophole isn’t closed, a third of China’s natural forests will face the risk of deforestation, even after the Natural Forest Protection Program is expanded nationwide in 2017.
The loophole is what has allowed these thousands of acres of forest surrounding the Fengtongzhai National Nature Reserve in Ya’an, inside the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, to be destroyed.
“The extent of illegal logging in this precious area is shocking. These findings seriously undermine the Chinese government’s efforts to preserve its and the world’s natural heritage,” said Pan Wenjing, Deputy Head of Forest & Ocean Unit, Greenpeace East Asia. “Greenpeace calls on national and local governments to put a stop to the destruction.”
Specifically, Greenpeace is calling on the State Forestry Administration and the Sichuan provincial government to take actions that include closing the loophole in current regulations, strengthening protection for panda habitat and increasing oversight to ensure no more of this valuable ecosystem is destroyed.
Hopefully, authorities in China will take swift action on behalf of Giant Pandas and other threatened species who will benefit from increased protection.
Alicia Graef|November 4, 2015
Understanding the Mysterious Pallas’ Cat
The Snow Leopard Trust has been surveying Mongolia’s Tost mountains with remote-sensor research cameras for many years in order to monitor the area’s snow leopard population. These cameras have also taken hundreds of photos of other species that share the same habitat, such as the Pallas’ cat – a small feline that is as elusive as the snow leopard, but even less well understood. We are excited to now share and analyze this valuable data in collaboration with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, and Sweden’s Nordens Ark Zoo.
In 2008, the Snow Leopard Trust launched the first-ever long-term study on snow leopard ecology in the Tost Mountains in southern Mongolia to address critical knowledge gaps for this elusive cat that is often referred to as the ghost of the mountain. Remote-sensor camera surveys have been an integral part of this study from the very beginning.
Nordens Ark has been an important partner of the study in the Tost Mountains since 2011. Starting this year, we have expanded this collaboration to include research on the smaller and equally elusive Pallas’ cat – a species whose ecology is virtually unknown, which has led our researchers to affectionately call it the ‘small ghost of the mountain’.
The expansion to include research on Pallas’ cats also includes a collaboration with the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and their connection with the Pallas Cat Working Group. By using the network and logistical support of Snow Leopard Trust and the expertise on Pallas’ cats at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, we will maximize the conservations efforts and use the resources in a way that that will benefit both species.
“Pallas’ cats are one of the least studied cats in the world and there is a large need for information on which to build conservation plans for this rare and elusive cat”, says Gustaf Samelius, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Assistant Director of Conservation. “The need for such information is illustrated by the fact that the distribution of Pallas’ cats is still largely unknown and that Tost mountains, where we have photographed this feline isn’t even included in current distribution maps”, he adds.
In 2014, Snow Leopard Trust researchers also found the Pallas’ cat on several research camera photos from Sarychat Ertash nature reserve Kyrgyzstan – the first ever photographic proof of its presence in that area.
The ‘Small Ghost of the Mountain’ also dwells in Kyrgyzstan’s Sarychat Ertash nature reserve
“That’s yet another sign that there’s a lot of work to do for us to understand this cat”, Gustaf says.
The objectives of the new collaborative study on Pallas’ cats are to help improve our understanding of the distribution and basic ecology of the species (e.g. association with other species) and to improve survey techniques by testing attractants to increase the likelihood of observing this rare and elusive animal.
The work will be based on camera studies and interviews. The first step is to work with the existing camera data from the Tost Mountains to screen for Pallas’ cats and to test animal recognition software as a means to screen the large number of photographs generated from camera studies (many of which may be blank of or “non-target” species such as goats and sheep).
Building on the experience from previous (snow leopard) camera studies, we also hope to do a camera study focused on Pallas’ cat in the Tost Mountains in the future.
The Snow Leopard Trust
America’s Only Jaguar Gets a Name: Tucson School Kids Announce ‘El Jefe’
A nationwide contest sponsored by the Center ended Monday with the announcement of “El Jefe” as the winning name for the only known wild jaguar in the United States, which lives just 30 miles from downtown Tucson.
El Jefe has been photographed more than 100 times by trail cameras in the nearby Santa Rita Mountains over the past three years — the first documented jaguar roaming wild in the United States since the 2009 death of famous jaguar Macho B.
The jaguar’s new name, Spanish for “The Boss,” is a nod to his place at the top of the food chain. Students at Tucson’s Felizardo Valencia Middle School, which has a jaguar for its mascot, cast votes for their favorite names last month and received instruction in jaguar biology and natural history.
“Like most people, the more these kids learned about the awesome power and majesty of the jaguar, the more pride and enthusiasm they showed,” said Randy Serraglio, a conservation advocate at the Center who worked with the students. “It’s just really inspiring to feel that energy and know that they care so much about this beautiful animal.”
Read more in the Arizona Daily Star and watch this video from Cronkite News.
Whistleblower Program to Stop Global Wildlife Devastation
An elephant is slaughtered every fifteen minutes for its ivory. By 2025, elephants will no longer exist in the wild.
Elephants are only one of the many species that wildlife trafficking will take from our planet. The illegal wildlife trade is valued at $19 billion per year. This global epidemic is on the rise, with the death of countless endangered species as the only end in sight. Case in point: Rhino poaching in South Africa increased 7,700 percent between 2007 and 2013, and a kilogram of rhino horn is sold for up to $65,000. Traffickers benefit from this high premium, operating covertly and in contravention of national and international laws that are rarely enforced.
Current estimates predict that at current rates lions will be extinct by 2025, tigers by 2035, and rhinos by 2036. Poachers and trafficking in ivory and other animal parts are driving these animals to extinction. This is part of an even larger global crisis which has caused the death of more than half of the world’s wildlife since 1970, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s figures.
The National Whistleblower Center is now leading a campaign to use whistleblowers to expose wildlife trafficking networks. As far back as 1981, Congress attempted to strengthen wildlife protection efforts by introducing whistleblower protections. They amended seven laws, including the Endangered Species and Lacey Acts telling several departments of the federal government to work with whistleblowers to stop wildlife crimes.
Yet, for over thirty years, the U.S. government has failed to implement these laws and create an incentive program for wildlife whistleblowers. The National Whistleblower Center is not waiting for the government to act.
Monetary reward laws work to encourage insiders to come forward with high quality information exposing essential details of corrupt enterprises. Since 1986, the DOJ, IRS and SEC programs have collectively recovered over $50 billion dollars. Whistleblower rewards provisions work. If the whistleblower provisions in the U.S. wildlife protection laws had been implemented, immeasurable devastation could have been prevented.
The National Whistleblower Center is determined to ensure the wildlife whistleblower laws are implemented.
National Whistleblower Center|Care2 Causes Editors|November 6, 2015
Wild & Weird
Sheep Flatulence Forces Airplane to Land
Last week a Singapore Airline Boeing 747 freighter carrying 2,186 sheep from Australia to Malaysia was forced to make an emergency landing in Bali when its fire-detection devices went off.
Once the plane was on the ground, investigators discovered that the fire alarm had been triggered by exhaust gases from the sheep, more commonly known as farts.
Sadly, according to Purdue University sheep specialist Mike Neary, sheep under excess stress — for example, during an international flight — experience intense gas bloating and other medical complications.
Read more at UPI.
Corps awards contract for C-111 South Dade project
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has awarded one of the three remaining construction contracts for the C-111 South Dade project, an Everglades restoration project in Miami-Dade County, Fla.
The $13.9 million construction contract was awarded to the Polote Corporation from Savannah, Ga., Oct. 29. The contract, known as Contract 8, involves constructing a detention area that will connect the C-111 South Dade project to the Modified Water Deliveries to Everglades National Park (Mod Waters) project.
“The northern detention area is an important piece of infrastructure that is needed to restore conditions in Everglades National Park,” said Lt. Col. Jennifer Reynolds, Jacksonville District Deputy Commander for South Florida. “It will allow additional water to flow into this vital ecosystem and will also enable us to have more operational flexibility in the southern portion of the system.”
The C-111 South Dade project will restore natural hydrologic conditions in Taylor Slough and the eastern panhandle of Everglades National Park while also preserving the current level of flood protection for agricultural lands in South Dade County. Once completed, the project will work in concert with the infrastructure constructed as part of the Mod Waters project and will create a hydraulic ridge that will help prevent ground water from seeping out of Everglades National Park. As a result, this will enable additional water flow into Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.
“We are pleased to see that the Army Corps has made their award to begin construction of the C-111 North Detention Area (or Contract 8). This is the last remaining component of the seepage management features that will allow us to begin restoring water flows to Northeast Shark River Slough, while mitigating for adverse flooding concerns,” said Pedro Ramos, Everglades National Park Superintendent. “This marks a new era in water management in the southern Everglades, which is critical to both ecosystem restoration and water sustainability.”
The project is currently 75 percent complete. Two construction contracts remain for the project and are scheduled to be awarded within the next two years. Construction and operation of the C-111 South Dade Contract 8 components are necessary to maximize restoration objectives of the Mod Waters project.
“This is the vital connection needed to enable portions of the Mod Waters Project and the C-111 South Dade project to operate more efficiently,” said Tom Teets, South Florida Water Management District Director of Everglades Policy and Coordination. “It also represents continued momentum in a year that has seen significant Everglades restoration progress.”
Construction and operation of these components are also necessary to raise the maximum operating limit of the L-29 Canal under Increment 2 of the G-3273 and S-356 Pump Station Field Test. The data collected during this water operations field test will assess how newly-operational project infrastructure integrates with the current water management system, and how to maximize ecological restoration objectives.
The information obtained from the first two increments will be used in the development of the Combined Operating Plan, a comprehensive integrated water management plan for the southern portion of the Everglades ecosystem. Increment 1 of the field test began Oct. 15 and is planned for approximately two years, with a minimum duration of one year.
Restoring historic water flows to Everglades National Park is a complex endeavor that requires many projects to work in concert. Two of these projects are the Mod Waters and C-111 South Dade projects. They are part of the Foundation Projects, which the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) builds upon to deliver essential restoration benefits to America’s Everglades.
Additional information on the C-111 South Dade project available at: http://bit.ly/C-111_SouthDade.
Water Quality Issues
Rising tide of interstate battles could swamp Supreme Court
A Texas bid to divert water from where the Kiamichi River flows into the larger Red River in Oklahoma was stymied by the Supreme Court two years ago. It was one example of interstate water disputes that are becoming increasingly common at the high court. Photo by Jeremy P. Jacobs.
Major decisions about how U.S. water is allocated among states are increasingly being made by nine lawyers who — according to one of them — “couldn’t know less about it.”
That was Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer’s take last year during oral arguments in litigation between Kansas and Nebraska over water from the Republican River.
The case was emblematic of what some see an alarming trend: the funneling of interstate water fights to the Supreme Court.
Lawsuits between states by rule head to the high court, which has “original jurisdiction” over such fights. And with a changing climate, growing populations and drought conditions ravaging the West, what was a trickle of water cases has become a steady stream.
There are four ongoing water fights at the Supreme Court — between Texas and Mexico, Florida and Georgia, Montana and Wyoming, and Mississippi and Tennessee. The court has also ruled on two others involving Texas and Oklahoma, as well as the Nebraska-Kansas dispute, in the past two years. In each case, one state is either claiming its upstream neighbor is drawing down a shared river or outright stealing water from beyond its borders.
These cases typically take years to resolve once they reach the high court, raising concerns about whether it’s best to leave crucial water-allocation decisions to the justices. But in large swaths of the country suffering shortages, water frequently becomes a hot-button political issue that makes compromise between states impossible. Litigation is the only option.
“It’s a matter of time before parties get disgruntled,” said Jen Pelz, the director of WildEarth Guardians’ rivers program. “It’s going to become a battle between the states.”
There are typically two types of interstate water disputes at the Supreme Court. The first involves a state claiming another is unfairly depleting river flows that should cross the border.
Consider Florida v. Georgia. Florida is claiming its northern neighbor is pulling too much water out of the Apalachicola River Basin to serve the booming Atlanta metropolitan area, depriving the Sunshine State of water that typically flows to the estuary that was once home to a robust oyster industry (Greenwire, Nov. 3, 2014).
Similarly, in Mississippi v. Tennessee, Mississippi claims a Memphis utility is sucking groundwater under the state border (Greenwire, June 29).
The second — and more common — type of lawsuit is challenges to interstate water compacts. There are more than 20 such agreements across the country, divvying up water from 20 watersheds — from the Colorado River to the Delaware River.
Water compacts have become fraught because many were negotiated by the states and ratified by Congress decades ago. In the current Texas v. New Mexico and Colorado case, for instance, Texas claims New Mexico is diverting too much water for irrigation out of the Rio Grande before it crosses the state line in violation of the 1939 compact (Greenwire, March 12, 2014).
Texas’ other recent water case at the Supreme Court, Tarrant Regional Water District v. Herrmann, similarly involved a dispute over a 1980 compact allocating water from the Red River, which separates the two states (Greenwire, April 22, 2013).
The Montana-Wyoming case likewise deals with an interstate water agreement, addressing Montana’s claims that Wyoming breached the Yellowstone River Compact.
Marathon legal battles
There is a long history of interstate water clashes at the Supreme Court.
In 1935, Arizona Gov. B.B. Moeur (D) deployed the National Guard to block construction of the Parker Dam on the Colorado River just below the Hoover Dam because the project would benefit Colorado and California.
As chronicled by author Marc Reisner in his 1986 history of water management in the West, “Cadillac Desert,” Maj. F.I. Pomeroy of the Arizona National Guard stayed at the proposed dam site for seven months. The project became an embarrassment for Interior Secretary Harold Ickes, who put it on hold while the state’s legal challenge played out.
Arizona, which had previously lost multiple attempts to block the Hoover Dam at the Supreme Court, prevailed. The high court sided with the state on the grounds that the project was not authorized by Congress. (After some concessions, however, the dam was built.)
About 20 years later, in 1952, Arizona again went to the Supreme Court to challenge California’s bid to install new pumps to expand its share of Colorado River water over the amount allocated by its compact.
Arizona v. California became one of the longest-running cases in Supreme Court history, with rulings continuing through 2006.
Arizona won again. The justices held that California couldn’t pull more water than it was allotted under the compact.
The latter Arizona case illustrates some of the concerns about water disputes ending up at the Supreme Court.
For one, they are seemingly interminable. Unlike most Supreme Court cases, where the high court issues a ruling within a calendar year of when it agreed to review the case, a different process applies to original jurisdiction lawsuits.
The court assigns a “special master” — typically a federal judge or well-regarded attorney — to conduct what amounts to a virtual trial.
Then the special master submits recommendations to the justices. But the states involved can object to those findings, filing “exceptions.” The justices can then hold oral arguments before accepting the special master’s report or agreeing to one side’s exception to it.
The whole process can lead to decades of hard-fought legal wrangling. The current Montana-Wyoming case was filed more than eight years ago and has yet to be resolved.
And, as Reisner wrote in “Cadillac Desert,” the Arizona-California lawsuit became so contentious that the special master in that case, New York attorney Simon Rifkind, had a heart attack in the middle of the proceedings despite only being in his 50s.
Attorneys who specialize in interstate water cases are confident — and worried — that this sort of litigation will become routine at the high court.
“They have been coming with more frequency, and it’s likely to increase in the future,” said John Draper, who has been representing states in water disputes for 25 years.
Is the system working?
Many interstate water agreements are outdated.
The 1922 Colorado River Compact, for example, allocates 16.4 million acre-feet per year to seven states. In the last 15 years, about 12 million to 14 million acre-feet has been actually coming down the river. (An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons — enough to cover an acre with water a foot deep, roughly a year’s supply for a family household.)
Jennifer Cornejo, a Houston-based attorney with the firm Vinson & Elkins who follows interstate water cases, said Supreme Court cases can drag on while states need an answer for their water needs.
“It’s completely drawn-out,” she said. “They are trying to get these issues addressed, but it takes so long and the problem is now.”
Others voiced concerns about whether it’s wise to leave such complicated water accounting to the justices.
L. William Staudenmaier, a Phoenix-based attorney with the firm Snell & Wilmer, was involved in the Texas-Oklahoma dispute. He left oral arguments wondering how much the justices were comfortable with pertinent details.
“My sense was that the justices were really struggling to understand the water issues in context,” he said. “I honestly think they are a little reluctant.”
Draper disagreed, arguing that states are often in intractable positions and an arbiter like the Supreme Court is necessary.
“The system is functioning appropriately,” he said. “Where you get changed circumstances and you have to figure out how an earlier compact should be applied to new developments, that’s where the court is needed. I’m pleased the court is not shy about taking on that responsibility. That really is its responsibility.”
He added that the Kansas-Nebraska dispute over whether Nebraska was taking too much water out of the Republican River for groundwater pumping showed that the justices can take a nuanced and shrewd approach to the cases.
The justices, he said, sought to enforce the 1943 compact as a contract — trying to determine its intent and how it applied to Nebraska’s groundwater irrigation scheme.
“That shows a quite robust approach to these interstate cases from the court,” he said.
Lengthy — and expensive — legal battles could incentivize states to work out their water issues on their own and avoid litigation.
Colorado River states, for example, drafted guidelines in 2007 for reduced allocations should a drastic shortage occur.
At the time, no one thought such a shortage would take place for decades, said Gary Wockner of the nonprofit Save the Colorado. It almost would have this year, though, if it hadn’t been for “miracle rains” in May.
If those guidelines need to be implemented, Wockner said, states may suddenly feel more litigious.
“Everyone sees an impending crisis,” he said. “But we haven’t hit the legal point of no return yet.”
Further, Draper noted that there was one troubling sign for state negotiations in the Kansas-Nebraska decision. The high court agreed with the special master and changed a water accounting procedure from what was originally agreed to by the states in the compact.
That holding, Draper said, could have a “chilling effect” on states’ willingness to renegotiate the terms of water compacts out of fear that the new terms could be eventually overruled or reversed by the Supreme Court.
Still, renegotiation seems to be what at least one Supreme Court justice would prefer.
Justice Breyer, again during the Kansas-Nebraska arguments, asked, “Is there any chance you all could work this out?”
The restoration of protections to the waters we love just survived a vote in the U.S. Senate — but just barely
Yesterday, polluters and their allies in the Senate fell just short of enough votes to overturn the Clean Water Rule, the historic protections we won together that will protect the drinking water sources for 1 in 3 Americans.
This was no accident. Thanks to your action and support, we helped send a clear message: Siding with polluters over the drinking water for our families and the waters we love is political suicide.
But they’re already on to their next attempt to gut clean water protections. Polluters and their allies in Congress are going to try to use a Gingrich-era legislative maneuver called the Congressional Review Act to block the Clean Water Rule. And it could happen as soon as today.
Doing so would fast track the vote, so they’d only need 50 votes to pass the clean water rollback in the Senate. And it would mean the EPA couldn’t take up a “substantially similar” rule in the future.
Thankfully, President Obama can, and has threatened to, veto any such bill from the Senate.  But getting enough votes in favor of clean water now is critical to sending a strong message and defeating future attempts to destroy the Clean Water Rule.
One thing is clear: Polluters are willing to try anything and everything to reverse the progress we’ve made.
Are we going to let them weaken our resolve? No way.
Right now, our team of organizers and advocates are:
- Focusing our grassroots firepower on bolstering senators who sided with clean water — as well as calling out those who voted to the wrong way.
- Mobilizing local elected officials in favor of clean water. No one knows better how important clean drinking water sources are than the state and municipal leaders responsible for making sure we have safe water to drink. We need to make sure they’re speaking out and being heard by the mainstream media and our leaders in Congress.
- Keeping the debate focused on what this issue is really about: Clean drinking water for our families. Protecting the rivers, lakes and streams we love. The public overwhelmingly supports strong clean water protections, and we’re organizing media events to stop our opposition from muddying the debate with false claims.
At the same time, we’re still organizing to get the attorneys general who are holding up the Clean Water Rule in the courts to do the right thing and drop the cases.
Together, we can defend clean water.
Margie Alt|Executive Director|Environment America
[Do they not realize that their parents, grandparents, kids and grandkids and all future generations will be drinking the water they are allowing polluters to pollute?]
House and Senate Tee Up Identical Water Bills
The House State Affairs Committee passed HB 7005 and the Senate Environment Preservation Committee passed SB 552. Both bills seem headed for quick passage into law.
Thanks to your advocacy last session, the sections of these bills dealing with the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and Estuary Water Quality were significantly improved. Springs protection falls short of our hopes and some improvements are being discussed.
Audubon’s Eric Draper told legislators that the bills improve existing laws dealing with cleaning up water pollution in Lake Okeechobee and the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
While introducing the bills, both the chair of the House and Senate committees talked about how the legislation reflects efforts to improve on last year’s work.
Last year, Audubon led vocal opposition to HB 7003 because it struck the 2015 deadline for meeting Lake Okeechobee water quality standards and replaced permits with a system of pollution reduction activities called Best Management Practices (BMPs). Non-regulator BMP programs have not proven to be successful in meeting water quality standards and are rarely enforced.
However, improvements made to the bills make it much more likely that agricultural producers and urban governments will step up pollution controls.
Notable improvements include:
Enforcement. The bills clearly say that pollution cleanup plans and required clean up practices are enforceable under the Florida law. The bills require that both the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation and the Florida Department of Agriculture write rules to show how the cleanup practices will be verified and enforced.
Goals and Milestones. The bills change the goal of the water quality plans from reducing pollution to achieving standards. Monitoring is required to make sure that progress is being
Accountability. If water is not getting cleaner as a result of the water quality plan, a reevaluation can force new rules, modifying the practices for better performance. If agencies miss goals for meeting water quality targets or for restoring freshwater flows to springs, rivers, and estuaries, they have to explain why and offer new solutions.
These bills, which have 38 sections of changes and newly proposed laws, are not perfect:
The state’s major polluter lobbying group (Associated Industries) is cheering about the bills.
Water utilities seem to like the bills because the state’s five water management districts will be forced to fund water development projects from anticipated state appropriations.
Springs advocates are disappointed in the bill because if falls short of the original version of last year’s SB 918.
The Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act is the name given to the section of SB 552 and HB 7005 dealing with springs.
A new section of law requires recovery and prevention strategies for Outstanding Florida Springs that are below or will fall below minimum flows. Springs advocates have pointed out that the bill creates some confusion by making it harder to adopt a protective regulation.
The new law also aligns protection of springs water quality with state cleanup programs and sets deadlines for putting programs in place.
The bills prohibit a short list of polluting activities within priority focus areas of Outstanding Florida Springs. This list does not include animal feedlots and effluent.
In all, the bills have much to like, some confusing changes, and too many efforts to avoid impacting those causing water pollution. Barring another legislative meltdown, these big bills are likely to be passed into law very early in the 2016 session.
Audubon Florida|November 2015
Great Lakes & Inland Waters
Shipwrecks posing threat to US waters, hold many unknowns
TOLEDO, Ohio – Dozens of shipwrecks scattered along America’s coasts are thought to be holding oil and certainly will start leaking someday as corrosion eats away at their tanks.
Preventing that just isn’t possible, experts say, because funding for such a huge effort doesn’t exist and there are too many unknowns about the locations of those wrecks and the cargo left inside. Some are simply too deep to reach.
A sunken tanker barge recently discovered in Lake Erie that appears to be occasionally seeping an oil-based substance near the Canadian border is believed to be one of 87 shipwrecks on a federal registry that identifies the most serious pollution threats to U.S. waters.
Most of those wrecks are along the Atlantic seaboard, torpedoed by German submarines during World War II.
Three out of every four wrecks on the list have been underwater at least seven decades, leaving them slowly rusting away. How fast isn’t known because research on corrosion rates is limited and each wreck is affected by varying depths, storms, currents and marine bacteria.
Past leaks have shown that the oil usually comes out in drips and drabs rather than gushes, lessening the worry of a full-scale catastrophe and the need for urgent action in most cases.
“Our coastlines are not littered with ‘ticking time bombs’ of oil,” said the risk assessment report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 2013. “Although there are definitely vessels of concern in our waters that should be assessed and monitored.”
While some of the wrecked vessels are monitored by the U.S. Coast Guard and visited by recreational divers, many remain a mystery.
Only about half the wrecks have been located and identified. And little is known about their current condition or how much oil they may still be holding.
“That’s always one of the big challenges when we look at these wrecks,” said Lisa Symons of NOAA, who wrote the study. “Some of these are wicked deep, and not in an area where you could do survey work.”
The biggest obstacle, though, is money.
The cost of removing oil and other fuels from wrecks found over the past two decades has ranged from a couple of million dollars to tens of millions.
The money comes from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund, which is overseen by the Coast Guard. It allows for $50 million to be spent annually on emergency spills and damage assessments, with any unspent amounts carried over. Last year, $62.4 million was spent from the emergency fund.
The money available isn’t nearly enough to remove all of the oil from wrecked vessels in U.S. waters, said Jacqueline Michel, a geochemist who has done extensive research on sunken oils and assisted with spill responses. “It would be gone in a minute.”
It’s not just a problem along America’s shores. The threat that shipwrecks pose in European waters, including the Mediterranean, Baltic and North seas, was the focus of a conference in early October in Gothenburg, Sweden.
“They have the same problem,” Michel said. “There’s no money until she starts leaking.”
JOHN SEEWER|ASSOCIATED PRESS
Offshore & Ocean
Marine sanctuary celebrates 25th anniversary
Twenty-five years after the formation of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, managers still face some of the same challenges, despite many successes.
The sanctuary turns 25 on Nov. 16.
The Florida Keys’ fragile coral reef faced many threats in the mid- to late 1980s, including threats of proposed oil drilling off Florida, deteriorating water quality, increasing occurrences of coral bleaching and seagrass die-offs and declines in reef fish populations.
Three major ship groundings on the Keys reef in an 18-day period in the fall of 1989 was the final blow that brought the national marine sanctuary designation to the Florida Keys coral reef tract.
The cumulative impacts of these threats and groundings prompted then federal House Rep. Dante Fascell and Senator Bob Graham to introduce bills in November 1989, calling for more protection of the Key’s reef. Congress passed the bi-partisan bill and on Nov. 16, 1990, President George Bush signed the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and Protection Act into law.
The act designated approximately 2,800 square nautical miles of state and federal waters in the Keys as the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
The formation of the sanctuary was not met with a warm reception by all in the Keys, and lost in a non-binding vote in Monroe County in 1996.
Twenty-five years later, sanctuary managers still struggle with water quality issues and coral and seagrass die-offs and the occasional push back from fishermen about over regulation.
However, they have been able to push large cargo ships further out from the reef line, halt the exploration for oil and natural gas off the Keys, protect some major fish spawning sites, encourage coral research and restoration efforts and set up a mooring buoy program to protect corals from anchoring.
While designated a national marine sanctuary in 1990, the management plan took seven years to craft and finalize.
The plan was being drafted by the first sanctuary advisory council, which began meeting in 1992, the sanctuary’s first Superintendent Billy Causey said. Despite the council being comprised of fishermen and other local stakeholders, there was vocal opposition from a group that called itself the Conch Coalition, comprised of commercial fishermen and treasure salvers.
“I have to give it to the Conch Coalition, they were clever,” Causey said.
The Conch Coalition started an aggressive anti-sanctuary campaign. The group lobbied local, state and federal elected officials to abandon the sanctuary plan. At sanctuary advisory council meetings, they dropped off painted coconuts with slogans such as “Say No to NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration).”
At one meeting in July 1992, they hung Causey and then sanctuary advisory council chair George Barley in effigy.
“It was a bad day,” Causey said. “Outside of my parents dying, that was one of the worst days of my life. These were guys that I knew and had fished with in the 1970s. It got my attention, but it was personal …. It was particularly hard on my family. My son attended Marathon High School and they would have these debates at school. It was my son against 33 others.”
Former Conch Coalition member and Key West attorney David Paul Horan said the group was fighting the formation because it gave the sanctuary superintendent too much power.
“The sanctuary superintendent would have been the new king,” Horan said.
The Conch Coalition successfully lobbied state fishery managers to keep control of state waters, which extend three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and 12 miles of the Gulf of Mexico, and it limited the power of the sanctuary superintendent, Horan said.
The final showdown was a November 1996 non-binding countywide election that called for the dissolution of the sanctuary. The sanctuary lost 55 percent to 45 percent. However, state and federal officials still supported the sanctuary and the creation of its first management plan, which went into effect July 1, 1997, according to Causey.
Horan was on the first Sanctuary Advisory Council, but quit after two years out of frustration.
“I figured if I couldn’t beat them, I would join them and try to effect change,” Horan said. “But I realized the council would never get out from under the control of the federal government …. I always did think the sanctuary played a role in protecting the health of the coral.”
Calm after the storm
Fears of massive closures were quelled as the initial sanctuary advisory council only set aside six percent of the sanctuary as fully protected zones known as ecological reserves, sanctuary preservation areas and special use areas. Also, the advisory council’s make up gave the recreational and commercial fishermen and dive boat operators a voice in sanctuary policy.
“I think there has since been a general acceptance of the sanctuary,” said Dive Key West dive shop owner Bob Holstein, who served on the sanctuary advisory council from its inception to 2011.
Holstein commended the sanctuary for establishing the Blue Star program, which rewards dive operators for encouraging and educating their clients on environmentally sound diving practices. Also, he praised the sanctuary for establishing a Keys-wide mooring buoy system that protects the coral from people improperly anchoring.
Sanctuary managers staved off a major revolt in 2000 when it looked to implement a closure of one the most popular commercial fishing spots and ecologically important spawning grounds in the southern Gulf of Mexico, Riley’s Hump in the Dry Tortugas.
Causey and state and federal fishery managers enlisted the support one of the Keys most revered commercial fishermen Peter Gladding to help build coalition for the closure. The process, known as Tortugas 2000, led to the formation of the 151-square nautical mile Tortugas Ecological Reserve.
The reserve has been hailed as a success by ecologists and fishermen. A long-term socioeconomic and scientific report found that overfished species such as black and red grouper, yellowtail and mutton snapper increased in presence, abundance and size inside the reserve and throughout the region, and annual gatherings of spawning mutton snapper, once thought to be wiped out from overfishing, began to reform inside the reserve. Also, the report stated commercial catches of reef fish in the region increased, and continue to do so.
The reserve is a production source for both the East and West Coast of Florida, as well as the rest of the United States, said Jerry Ault, a University of Miami professor who has done extensive research in the Tortugas.
Longtime commercial spear-fisherman Don DeMaria contended that the sanctuary has implemented many successes, but argued that the sanctuary has not gone far enough to protect the resource.
“The Tortugas reserves, especially Riley’s Hump, is without a doubt the sanctuary’s biggest success,” DeMaria said. “However, there have been a number of missed opportunities. The most glaring example is the multi-species spawning aggregation site near Western Dry rocks. Despite 25 years of debating this issue the sanctuary has done nothing to adequately protect this unique site.”
The sanctuary needs to do more to limit personal watercraft use and tours and cruise ships, DeMaria said.
Old wounds resurface
In 2011, the sanctuary embarked on its first review of its management plan since its inception. The sanctuary advisory council put together three working groups to come up with recommendations for possible changes to sanctuary rules.
Concerns about sanctuary managers formulating fishing regulations surfaced in 2013 when members of a sanctuary working group proffered a series of maps detailing closed fishing areas encompassing more than 100 miles. The move created a lot of distrust among Keys fishermen that sanctuary managers have yet to recover from, despite holding dozens of public meetings since to hear the concerns of fishermen.
Charter boat Capt. Brice Barr, who is the president of the Key West Charter Boat Association, said he supports the idea of the sanctuary but is concerned that sanctuary managers are delving too deep into fishery management. Those regulations fall under the jurisdiction of the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico fishery management councils and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC).
“It’s definitely a good idea and we need to protect what is here,” Barr said. “The sanctuary is good in a lot of ways, but they are spending too much time on fishery management when they should be focusing their efforts on the coral reef and water quality issues.”
The sanctuary is scheduled to release an extensive environmental impact statement of all of the possible management changes, which include closed areas, in 2016. The sanctuary will then hold another series of public hearings on possible changes. It is not known when the sanctuary will finalize and implement the changes.
The changes will set the regulations for the next 10 to 20 years, sanctuary Superintendent Sean Morton said.
“This is the product of over 70 meetings by the sanctuary advisory council and the working groups,” Morton said. “These alternatives were established in a very public forum. This process has been directed by the sanctuary advisory council in conjunction with the science and what we have learned from the current management plan.”
TIMOTHY O’HARA|Citizen Staff|keysnews.com
Southern Ocean ecosystems acidifying
As a result of increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, the chemistry of the Southern Ocean is expected to change so fast over the next few decades that tiny creatures at the base of the food web may soon struggle to form their shells. New research by scientists from UH Mānoa and the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF) finds that, for some organisms, the onset of such critical conditions will be so abrupt, and the duration of events so long, that adaption may become impossible.
The study, published this week in the journal Nature Climate Change, uses a number of Earth System Models to explore how the uptake of anthropogenic carbon dioxide and the resulting ocean acidification will affect the Southern Ocean over the next century. (Animation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68p9fMBrXlA&feature=youtu.be)
“The ocean acts as a gigantic sponge to absorb excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This process consumes carbonate ions, which are required by key organisms to build and maintain their calcium carbonate shells. If the carbonate ion concentration drops below a threshold – we call it under-saturation – these organisms must spend more energy to fight dissolution in these adverse chemical conditions,” explains Claudine Hauri, lead author of the study and a chemical oceanographer at both the International Pacific Research Center (IPRC) at UH Mānoa and the International Artic Research Center (IARC) at UAF.
One of the most threatened marine organisms is the pteropod, a tiny sea snail that serves as a staple for plankton, fish, whales and seabirds.
Not only is the concentration of carbonate ions projected to fall to dangerously low levels due to ocean acidification, but these conditions will become the new norm across large areas of the Southern Ocean.
“Our analysis shows that in large parts of the Southern Ocean, the duration of such under-saturation events will increase abruptly from one month to more than six months, in less than 20 years upon their onset, and could reach nearly year-long durations by the end of the century,” notes co-lead author Tobias Friedrich, climate scientist at IPRC.
“This is a clear warning sign. Given the projected rapid expansion and prolongation of these harmful conditions, it remains very uncertain whether pteropods and other vulnerable marine organisms will be able to adapt,” adds Hauri.
Concludes Axel Timmermann, co-author of the study and oceanography professor at IPRC, “The only way to mitigate the risks of ocean acidification to marine life and our food supply is to curb our carbon dioxide emissions.”
Graphs show duration of events today, in 2055, and 2095. Inset: Dissolving pteropod shell from acidified waters.
Read more at University of Hawaii.
University of |November 2, 2015
We’re Closer Than Ever to Creating a Vital Marine Sanctuary of the ‘Last Ocean’
Last month international leaders came very close to a vital agreement that would create one of the world’s largest protected ocean sanctuaries.
The icy Ross Sea, which lies some 4,000 km south of New Zealand and extends out from the Antarctic continent’s ice shelf, is often called the “Last Ocean” by conservationists as it is thought to be the biggest among the very last marine ecosystems on Earth that are considered “intact,” that is to say it is mostly untouched by pollution, fishing, and, so far, hasn’t been thrown off-balance by invasive species.
The Ross Sea region is thought to contain around 95 different unique species of fish, while a large proportion of different species of penguin also call the region home. According to the group Whale and Dolphin Conservation the area also contains a genetically distinct variety of orcas called “ecotype-C” which, it appears, are specially adapted to feed on Antarctic toothfish, a fish that is the top predator of its kind in the Ross Sea. It is also a crucial breeding ground for the endangered blue whale.
In addition, because it is the last largely untouched ocean of its size, scientists say the Ross Sea is doubly valuable because it provides them the now rare glimpse at how biodiversity should be working free of our involvement. If we want our oceans returned to a state much closer to that, as is believed to be desirable in order to cut climate change’s effects and ensure diversity of marine species, we will need to continue to study that habitat in detail.
As such, the United States together with New Zealand put forward the proposal to give the region what’s known as an MPA or Marine Protected Area classification. The classification would protect nearly 1.5 million square kilometers and would prevent world governments from sanctioning large-scale fishing operations (with some caveats), as well as ban them from polluting or otherwise degrading that habitat. The protection would not be total, and some exceptions could be carved out for specific and carefully controlled operations. However, it could put an end to things like Japan’s continued “scientific” whaling operations in the region which have killed hundreds of cetaceans, as well as curtail over-fishing in the area.
In order to designate the Ross Sea region as an MPA, all 24 member countries of the agreement and the European Union must all reach a consensus that the plans are both necessary and fair to all concerned. The plan has now been voted on five times since 2011, most recently on October 30, but has so far failed to find that all important consensus. However, one crucial thing did happen this year, with China saying it would agree to the plans. This marks the first time that China has been open to giving the region protected status and so this has been seen as a significant step forward.
“Up until now China has not been in favor of establishing this Marine Protected Area and through negotiation and discussion with them they have agreed to support the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area,” Evan Bloom of the US delegation told news organization AFP. “And that’s important because now only one country remains that isn’t supportive and so we’re closer. This is an important country to have gotten on board. So, for us, this is a pretty good result.”
Securing China’s support required that the no-fishing zone be reduced to 1.1 million square kilometers, which government officials seemed satisfied was a reasonable compromise that would still protect the specially adapted fish of the region and, crucially, the whales and other animals that feed on them. China had previously indicated it would increase its krill fishing operations in the region, so the fact that it has committed to this agreement and come to a compromise is no small thing. The move reportedly stems from President Obama committing the US to working with China on the proposals for the Ross Sea, again demonstrating the Obama administration’s desire to work with China to negotiate environmental policy.
The only hold-out on these plans now is Russia. Russia has said that it favors giving the region protected status but it wants an expansion of fishing rights in the area, though it has indicated that these latest changes are heading in the right direction. This is encouraging for a number of reasons, but not least of which is the fact that Russia also now seems open to potentially establishing a similar protected region in the East Antarctic, further serving to protect the 10,000 or so native species of the region.
Talks will continue into next year when another vote will be held. Feasibly, if a consensus can be reached by 2016 roll-out could begin shortly after.
Steve Williams|November 2, 2015
Why the Gulf of Maine’s Atlantic Cod is in Hot Water
The Gulf of Maine might be world-renowned for its seafood and iconic Atlantic cod, but climate change could change all of that. And a new study published in the American Association for the Advancement in Science shows that the Gulf of Maine’s cod fishery is, quite literally, in hot water.
Not Even 73% Quota Cuts Have Stopped the Cod’s Decline
More specifically, the region’s Atlantic cod fishery could collapse thanks to climate change’s unusually warmer waters. The Center for Biological Diversity reports the “fish have declined 90 percent since 1982, when monitoring began, and 77 percent in the past five years alone. Currently Gulf of Maine cod are at 3 percent to 4 percent of what a well-managed stock should be.” The Gulf of Maine is in a unique predicament the rest of the world can learn from. Temperatures in the region have increased faster than 99 percent of the global oceans. Unfortunately, the fishing industry hasn’t been able to effectively keep up with the impact of warmer waters. Management has called for quotas, but they aren’t enough to combat the effects of climate change.
The Gulf of Maine’s Atlantic cod was overfished, because fisheries didn’t factor in temperature changes. When fisheries started feeling the gradual heat of less cod, they tried to salvage the cod with a quota-based system that quickly proved ineffective: “[I]ncluding a 73% cut in quotas in 2013, spawning stock biomass (SSB) continued to decline.”
The problem is more than a warmer temperature. Temperature can affect the mortality in younger fish. The authors also suspect that depleted cod could also be linked higher predation during warmer times. More predators will migrate to the Gulf of Maine during warmer temperatures and expose the fish.
Fisheries really missed the mark with the Atlantic cod by not factoring in temperature changes: “The failure to consider temperature impacts on Gulf of Maine cod recruitment created unrealistic expectations for how large this stock can be and how quickly it can rebuild.” And now cod populations and economies are paying the price. In the end, the authors of the study warn that:
As climate change pushes species poleward and reduces the productivity of some stocks, resource managers will be increasingly faced with trade-offs between the persistence of a species or population and the economic value of a fishery.
More Than Economics
Maybe the emphasis needs to stop being on the economic importance of the cod. There’s no doubt that fishermen’s livelihoods are at stake. A 2013 story from The New York Times chronicles the industry’s downward spiral: when the cod industry was thriving in 2001, the industry made about $100 million, but projected harvest cuts in 2013 would yield only $55 million. Not much has improved since 2013.
However, Atlantic cod don’t merely exist to make our wallets and stomachs fuller. They actually serve an important function in our environment. Animal Diversity Web describes the cod’s function along the food chain: “Atlantic cod feed upon a variety of organisms such as invertebrates, crustaceans, and zooplankton. Larger marine organisms (i.e. sharks, seals) prey upon and consume Atlantic cod.”
Sadly, if climate change doesn’t finish off the fish, then we will. According to the IUCN Red List, the Atlantic cod has three major threats. While we’ve already discussed climate change, it’s not the biggest threat. Unsurprisingly, “the greatest threat to G. morhua is over-exploitation.” Finally, the species also “lost spawning grounds in parts of its range (Baltic Sea) due to oxygen deficiency.” The Atlantic cod is also vulnerable to being unintended bycatch victims in the fishing industry.
Jessica Ramos|November 3, 2015
Coral Disease Outbreak and Extensive Bleaching Imperil Florida’s Coral Reef Tract
Bleached coral (Meandrina meandrites) © Meaghan Johnson/TNC
The Florida Reef Tract, from the Dry Tortugas to Martin County, is experiencing a widespread outbreak of disease and bleaching that is threatening the reef’s long-term survival. The Florida Reef Resilience Program (FRRP), Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Park Service report that southeast Florida’s coral reefs are succumbing to stressors such as unprecedented levels of coral disease and higher than normal water temperatures that have resulted in extensive impacts and mortalities.
Disturbance Response Monitoring (DRM) teams have reported rapidly moving disease and high incidence of coral bleaching throughout the reefs. The frequency and severity of these events appears to be increasing. Among the many species of coral that are succumbing to disease and bleaching are pillar coral (Dendrogyra cylindrus) and boulder star coral (Orbicella annularis), both federally listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act.
Reports confirm rapidly occurring incidence of multiple types of coral disease, including black band, dark spots, white plague, and white plague-like disease throughout the reef tract. Widespread disease was first reported in Miami-Dade County and has now been documented from Biscayne National Park through northern Broward County. The disease event has a high infection rate – some sites in Broward County were reported as having as high as 80% of corals infected. Disease has moved so quickly that some diseased corals have died in as little as two weeks. This is particularly alarming since most corals only grow an average of 1-2 inches per year and it will take decades for the reef to recover from this loss.
“We’re seeing the resilience of the corals challenged by stressors including high temperatures and disease, resulting in a severe episode of damage and mortality throughout the reef tract. Florida’s beautiful coral reefs are critical to our tourism and fisheries industries – they provide essential habitat to support a range of biodiversity including many species of fish and invertebrates,” said Meaghan Johnson, The Nature Conservancy, FRRP.
Large scale mass coral bleaching occurs as a result of extreme sea temperatures, and are intensified by sunlight stress associated with calm, clear conditions. These factors cause coral to expel zooxanthellae, the symbiotic photosynthetic algae responsible for nutrient cycling within the coral as well as their color. Though corals may bleach, they are still alive and able to survive if stressful conditions subside quickly and they are able to regain their zooxanthellae. Temperatures of 86°F and greater, the threshold for coral bleaching, have been documented in the Keys and elsewhere over the past several months. The bleaching confirms predictions by NOAA models for August to October of this year, forecasting the worst coral bleaching event since a global mass bleaching event in 1998, which caused the death of 15-20 percent of the world’s coral reefs. Observations of coral bleaching have been reported throughout the Florida Reef Tract, from Dry Tortugas through Martin County. Based on climate predictions, current conditions and field observations, the threat for mass coral bleaching within Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and in southeast Florida between Miami-Dade and Martin counties has recently decreased from high to moderate. During October, a reduction in thermal stress is expected and a small decrease in water temperature has already occurred due to excessive amounts of wind and rainfall. Although conditions seem to be improving, initial recovery of bleached corals is expected to take weeks to months. Full recovery may take up to a year or more.
Bleaching, disease, and the current stressors to south Florida’s coral reefs are of great concern to the scientific and resource management community and require action. As part of a response plan, federal, state, nonprofit, and university scientists are working collaboratively, and have increased monitoring through October 2015. Coral tissue samples are being collected and research continues in the effort to define a conclusive viral or bacterial cause of white plague disease, determine contributory environmental factors and determine how the disease is transmitted. They are also working to identify areas of actively spreading disease and determine overall health of coral communities. Based on forecasts, observations, and the severity and scale of both the coral bleaching episode and disease outbreak, reducing local stressors is the only way to help Florida’s corals withstand these events. People can take action to support the recovery of the corals by eliminating any contact with the corals that could result from recreational boating and diving, diminishing the possibility of disease transmission by not following a dive at a site that has signs of disease with a visit to another site, and reducing further stressors to the corals such those that result from land-based sources of pollution, coastal construction projects, and harmful fishing practices.
nature.org/florida|Big Pine Key, FL | October 09, 2015
Wildlife and Habitat
FWRI Monthly Highlights
Greetings from the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute!
We hope you enjoy the new photo albums on Flickr, new videos on our YouTube channel, and Web updates to MyFWC.com/Research. We also invite you to keep up with us on Facebook and Instagram @FWCresearch!
Earlier this year, we shared a story of a rehabilitated Florida panther released at Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Researchers fit this panther with a GPS tracking collar and have been collecting data on its movements. From January to mid-June he traveled more than 800 miles across central Florida.
This type of panther research by the FWC is funded almost entirely by the “Protect the Panther” license plate. We thank the public for their continued support. Buy a panther plate today.
Flickr Photo Albums
Updates to MyFWC.com/Research
Our mission: Through effective research and technical knowledge, we provide timely information and guidance to protect, conserve, and manage Florida’s fish and wildlife resources.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission|11/02/15 Kevin Mathews|November 2, 2015
Planting in clumps boosts wetland restoration success
When restoring coastal wetlands, it’s long been common practice to leave space between new plants to prevent overcrowding and reduce competition for nutrients and sunlight
It turns out, that’s likely all wrong.
A new Duke University-led study, conducted to restore degraded salt marshes in Florida and the Netherlands, has found that clumping newly planted marsh grasses next to each other, with little or no space in between, can spur positive interactions between the plants and boost growth and survival by 107 percent, on average, by the end of one growing season.
In some test plots, plant density and vegetative cover increased by as much as 300 percent by season’s end.
“This is a really small design change that can yield greatly improved results, without adding to restoration costs or time,” said Brian R. Silliman, Rachel Carson Associate Professor of Marine Conservation Biology at Duke. “It’s essentially free success—higher yields at no added expense.”
Silliman and his colleagues published the new peer-reviewed research today (Nov. 2) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Their finding, which is applicable to a wide array of coastal restoration efforts worldwide, upends a 40-year-old theory borrowed from forestry that new plants—called outplants by restoration ecologists—need to be spaced well apart from each other to reduce competition and generate the highest growth rates.
“In a low-stress field or forest, that makes sense. But in the tough, volatile environment of re-developing coastal wetlands, it’s a different story,” Silliman said.
Like an overprotected child, a plant that is spaced too far from other plants and species in a restored wetland will experience not only fewer negative interactions but also fewer positive ones, which often outweigh the negatives, Silliman said. Left to fend on their own, small outplants will have more trouble resisting erosion, overcoming low oxygen levels in the soil, or surviving infestations and overgrazing by marsh herbivores, among other common threats.
“The bottom-line message is: A coastal wetland plant that is planted close to its neighbors will grow better than a plant that isn’t,” Silliman said. “Our findings clearly demonstrate that planting closely does not spur negative competition; on the contrary, it allows positive interactions to flourish, so plants can work together to survive.”
Convincing others to adopt this new approach may be a challenge. A survey conducted by Silliman and his team as part of their new study found that 95 percent of restoration organizations in the United States still adhere to the old forestry-based practice of dispersed planting. The old practice remains common in other countries, as well.
“In China, where coastal marshes have experienced massive die-offs recently from drought and overgrazing, people have tried unsuccessfully to restore them using the old paradigm that spaces out plants,” said Qiang He, a postdoctoral associated in Silliman’s lab. “It’s possible that changing planting designs could greatly improve the success of salt marsh restoration there, as clumping could protect plants from salt stress and overgrazing.”
“In the very near future, conservation will entail immense restoration projects on the scale of whole ecosystems, islands or cities. We won’t just be restoring them – we’ll be augmenting existing ecosystems and creating new ones to provide the services we need,” Silliman said. “Increasing our yields and decreasing our costs to achieve these goals must be a high scientific priority. This study takes a big step in the right direction by showing how harnessing positive interactions can increase restoration success.”
Phys.org|November 2, 2015
How to create a bat-friendly garden
Your garden can play a crucial role in bat conservation, says Shirley Thompson from the Bat Conservation Trust.
Here are her tips for how to ensure it does.
All of our UK bats eat insects, but different species have different preferences, and also different methods of catching their prey. To optimize the value of your garden to these flying mammals you need to attract a range of insects throughout the year.
Summer is the most energy-sapping time, especially for pregnant and lactating females, but spring and autumn are also crucial. Bats need to fatten up in autumn and refuel when coming out of hibernation in spring, so aim to have plants in flower from early spring to late autumn and beyond.
Colour and perfume are flowers’ advertising labels, with sweet nectar and protein-rich pollen serving as bait for insects. By offering a diversity of flowers, a greater diversity of insects will be attracted to drop in.
Tiny pipistrelle bats can only cope with the small insects that feed on flowers with shallow tubular florets, such as daisies and daisy-like flowers. In contrast, long-eared bats are able to take much larger prey, so may be seen hovering close to deeper flowers such as honeysuckle.
Bats feed at dusk and dawn, so try to include flowers that are obvious and advertise themselves to insects at this time. Pale and tall flowers are more easily seen in poor light, while some plants produce more scent in the evening to attract insects.
Many insect larvae feed on grasses, so leave a corner of your lawn uncut and natural where insects can feed and overwinter. A small native tree or shrub widens the menu.
Many insects spend the first part of their life in water as larvae, so a pond of any size, a marshy area or even a half-barrel ‘pond’ provides an additional attraction.
By following these straightforward steps you can make your patch an attractive dining place for bats, and have the immense pleasure of watching them enjoying your garden as much as you enjoy the spectacle of their aerial acrobatics.
From Wildlife Extra
Rat poisons endanger California wildlife
Researchers at the University of California released a study today indicating that rat poisons increasingly pose a significant risk for California’s imperiled Pacific fishers, small, forest-dwelling mammals that are protected under the California Endangered Species Act. The study shows that increasing numbers of fishers are being exposed to, and dying from, greater varieties of rat poisons, or rodenticides, found at illegal marijuana farms. It also affirms reports and data from across the state that rodenticides continue to poison and kill numerous California wildlife species.
“These poisons are silently killing our country’s most majestic wildlife by indiscriminately causing animals to literally bleed to death from the inside out,” said Jonathan Evans, environmental health legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s time to ban these poisons from the market to protect fishers, bald eagles, great horned owls and kit foxes from a painful, gruesome fate.”
Anticoagulant rodenticides interfere with blood clotting, resulting in uncontrollable bleeding that leads to death. These slow-acting poisons are often eaten for several days by rats and mice, causing the toxins to accumulate in their tissues and poisoning predators that eat the weakened rodents. Other types of rodenticides threatening wildlife include neurotoxins and poisons that calcify soft tissue.
Studies by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife have documented rodenticides in more than 75 percent of wildlife tested, including eagles, owls, bobcats, mountain lions, endangered San Joaquin kit foxes and 30 other wildlife species. Even after California took steps in July 2014 to reduce exposure from certain types of rodenticides, exposure and poisoning by rodenticides remains prolific.
The study released today was led by Mourad Gabriel, formerly at the University of California Davis and now at the Integral Ecology Research Center in California. Exposure rates in fishers to rodenticides increased from 79 percent in 2012 to 85 percent in the most recent study. Necropsies of fishers confirmed as many as six different rodenticides in one animal. Some of the chemicals found were considered safer alternatives to other commercially available rodenticides, but they nonetheless killed fishers.
“Fishers are the flagship species,” said Gabriel. “We have to think of so many species, like Sierra Nevada red foxes, spotted owls, martens — they all are potentially at risk. This is essentially going to get worse unless we do something to rectify this threat.”
Safe alternatives to rat poison can be used to address rodent outbreaks in homes and rural areas. Effective measures include rodent-proofing by sealing cracks and crevices and eliminating food sources in homes; providing owl boxes to encourage natural predation on farms; and utilizing traps that don’t involve these highly toxic chemicals. For more information visit SafeRodentControl.org.
Rat poison trap image via Shutterstock.
More information on the study, including photos and video, can be found here.
Center for Biological Diversity|November 5, 2015
Changing Climate Could Further Threaten the Endangered Snow Leopard
Cat lovers across the globe are celebrating World Snow Leopard Day on October 23rd to raise awareness for this endangered cat’s plight. Threats to the elusive feline range from poaching to the loss of habitat due to mining – and climate change may be emerging as yet another big challenge for the snow leopard.
The endangered snow leopard inhabits fragile high-mountain ecosystems across Central Asia – a part of the world that is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate. Scientists fear that large parts of these habitats could be impacted within the next few decades if the planet continues to warm at the current pace.
The snow leopard’s mountain ecosystem is particularly vulnerable to a changing climate.
According to a projection by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), average annual mean warming will be about 3 °C by the 2050s and about 5 °C in the 2080’s over the Asian land mass, with temperatures on the Tibetan Plateau rising substantially more.
Consequences for the peoples and ecosystems of Central Asia could be serious.
For example, a recent study estimates that about 30% of snow leopard habitat in the Himalaya may be lost and heavily fragmented. The frequency of extreme climatic events is expected to increase, exacerbating floods and landslides, affecting local livelihoods, and snow leopard habitats.
This trend is certainly worrying, but no reason to despair quite yet: “The snow leopard still has a future”, says Dr. Charu Mishra, the Snow Leopard Trust’s Science and Conservation Director, “but given that the cat’s habitat is likely to come under even more pressure in the coming decades, we need to make sure to protect as many snow leopard landscapes as we possibly can today. The more intact habitats there are, the better the snow leopard’s chances to survive the changing climate.”
Keeping snow leopard landscapes safe for the cats is a challenging task that requires multiple approaches.
“Obviously, protecting core habitats from immediate threats such as mining, poaching, or unsustainable trophy hunting of wild snow leopard prey species like ibex and argali is critical”, Charu Mishra says. “But it won’t be enough. The snow leopard is a landscape species; it needs very large habitats, so we also need to ensure that the cat can coexist with local communities in less protected areas. This will require a joint effort by authorities and civil society.”
The Snow Leopard Trust is partnering with communities in snow leopard habitat in the five main snow leopard countries, helping them secure and improve their livelihoods through livestock insurance and vaccination programs, the sale of handicrafts and other initiatives; winning their support for conservation.
On the political stage, SLT and other partners have been facilitating all the 12 range countries in implementing the Bishkek Declaration on the conservation of the Snow Leopard in 2013. These countries have since identified 23 landscapes to secure for snow leopards across the cat’s range under the Global Snow Leopard & Ecosystem Protection Plan.
In 2015, they’ve made further progress, forming a high-level steering committee and a permanent secretariat to manage this process, and have began work on management plans for these landscapes.
Looking for Strong Signals From Paris
While these efforts continue, the snow leopard conservation community will be looking to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris for a strong signal this December. It is of critical importance for the people and wildlife of Central Asia’s mountains that a strong agreement to combat climate change can be reached.
The Snow Leopard Trust
Wilt disease spreading, killing native Florida trees
Golden Gate resident, Franklin Adams checks one of his redbay trees that is dying from Laurel Wilt.
The disease is caused by a fungus that is transmitted by the exotic redbay ambrosia beetle.
It is killing redbay trees throughout the everglades and Florida. Photo: Andrew West/The News-Press
A microscopic beetle is beginning to devastate native Southwest Florida trees, and the bug could eventually turn its sights on the avocado industry.
The redbay ambrosia beetle is not quite 2 millimeters in length, but the tiny insect can take down 40-foot bay trees in a matter of weeks.
The Asian beetle and laurel wilt disease were first documented in 2004 in Duval County in northeast Florida. Some experts think the beetle was brought to America on a shipment of tainted wood.
They basically drill holes into bay and avocado trees and feed on an invasive fungus, which, in turn, spreads a disease known as laurel wilt. Some chemicals can kill the bugs on farm fields, but there is no known large-scale method of removing the region’s latest crippling invasive.
The remains of a redbay tree are left behind from an exotic Ambrosia beetle. Laurel Wilt, a disease that infects red bay trees and avocado trees is killing trees in the Southeast including the Everglades and Southwest Florida. This tree is Golden Gate resident Franklin Adams’ yard. (Photo: Andrew West/The News-Press)
Laurel wilt was found in Lee and Collier counties last year and is established in all but a handful of counties in the panhandle region.
“We’ve had a suspicion for about a year, that it was happening, they were dying, but apparently it can happen a lot sooner than that,” said Franklin Adams, a Golden Gate resident who has also seen the impacts of the disease in Big Cypress National Preserve. “They get into the white sap wood that’s under the bark. I haven’t seen one, but you see this sawdust and then you know they’re there. It disrupts the tree’s ability to function.”
Bay trees provide habitat for wildlife and produce a berry that’s eaten by a variety of birds and animals. Species found in Florida are similar to the bay leaf used to flavor soups and sauces.
The trees also have cultural and medicinal uses among indigenous cultures like the Seminole and Miccosukee.
The beetles spread at a rate of 20 to 30 miles a year, according to the University of Florida research, which also says the disease can be transmitted by hauling infected firewood into uninfected areas.
CHAD GILLIS|NEWS-PRESS.COM|August 5, 2015
Global Warming and Climate Change
Global warming continuing
Earth has just had the hottest January-September on record, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO) said today, adding that the average air and sea temperatures in September logged the greatest rise above monthly average in the 136-year historical record.
According to a press release from WMO, the Global Climate Report from the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the globally averaged air temperature over land and sea surface temperature for September was 0.90°C (1.62°F) above the 20th century average temperature. Record warmth was observed across much of South America and parts of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia.
The year-to-date globally averaged combined temperature of the air over land and ocean surface temperature was 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average, said in the report. This was the highest for January–September in the 1880? record, surpassing the previous record set in 2014 by 0.12°C (0.19°F), according to NOAA.
With strong El Niño conditions in place, the September globally averaged sea surface temperature was 0.81°C (1.46°F) above the 20th century average of 16.2°C (61.1°F). The highest departure for September on record, which beat the record in 2014 by 0.07°C (0.13°F), was 0.25°C (0.45°F) higher than the global ocean temperature for September 1997, preceding the peaking up of the last strong El Niño of 1998.
Earlier this year, WMO reported that the globally averaged temperature for the first half of 2015 was 0.85°C (1.53°F) above the 20th century average of 15.5°C, the hottest for such period on record.
An annual Statement on the Status of Global Climate will be released by WMO in November 2015, the UN climate change conference in Paris, COP-21, analyzing the combination of data. A summary of the global climate in 2011-2015 will be released at the same time, said in the WMO’s statement.
UN News Centre|November 1, 2015
Alaskan Farmer Turns Icy Patch of Tundra Into Booming Organic Farm
The negative impacts of climate change in Alaska are abundantly clear. At a Senate hearing earlier this year, Bernie Sanders called the Last Frontier a “canary in the coal mine” when it comes to climate change.
A field at Meyers Farm. Photo credit: Meyers Farm
It’s warming twice as fast as the rest of the U.S., and, as President Obama said during his visit to the state in September, the effects of that warming can be seen everywhere. Glaciers are rapidly melting, driving sea level rise. And if the permafrost continues to thaw, trapped carbon could escape to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane, and communities would face land subsidence.
But at least one Alaskan farmer has found a silver lining in this rapidly warming environment. Tim Meyers, who runs a 15-acre organic farm in Bethel, Alaska, admits, “I hate to say [it] but I guess I’m taking advantage of the fact that it is getting warmer.”
At the farm, which has been operating for more than a decade, “Meyers is growing crops like strawberries in greenhouses,” reports NPR. “But he says as temperatures warm due to climate change, it’s easier to grow things like potatoes, cabbages and kale right in the ground, outside.”
“Years ago, it was hard freeze and below zero up to the third week in May,” he says. “We haven’t had any of that this winter.”
Cole Mellino|November 3, 2015
Glacier National Park Could Be Glacier Free in Just 15 Years
I love our national parks. Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called them “the best idea we ever had.” And yet, like the rest of the planet, our parks are under siege from climate change. From bigger and bigger fires threatening Yosemite to rising seas disrupting the Everglades’ fragile ecosystem, the evidence is everywhere.
One of the most publicized indications of the problem, though, is the changing landscape of Glacier National Park. The park in northern Montana is rapidly losing its iconic glaciers. “In the mid-1800s, this Montana landscape was covered by 150 glaciers—today only 25 remain,” says National Geographic in the video below.
Dan Fagre, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist, tells National Geographic that the park will “be nearly glacier free by 2030, based on present warming trends.” That’s only 15 years away.
Watch National Geographic’s video of this majestic park melting away:
Cole Mellino|November 5, 2015
New report: Outlook grimmer on South Florida sea levels
NASA satellite photo of arctic ice around the North Pole.
New estimates paint a much bleaker picture for sea level rise in the last half of the century.
The outlook for South Florida’s rising sea levels has turned potentially catastrophic, as new long-term projections estimate the ocean will be six and a half feet deeper by 2100 under a worst case scenario.
The Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact, consisting of Broward, Palm Beach, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, calculated that seas could rise 31 inches by 2060, about two inches more than was estimated five years ago. It predicted seas up to 46 inches higher by 2075, enough to submerge a large chunk of coastline.
Even if seas rise three to five inches, which is expected within the next 15 years, South Florida would face a range of hardships, from endangered drinking water supplies to a degradation of public services.
“What we’ll see is systematically more flooding, deeper flooding and more pervasive flooding – and with lesser events,” said Jennifer Jurado, Broward County’s director of natural resource planning and management. “It will take less in the way of rainfall before you flood.”
Long-range predictions, which previously hadn’t extended to the turn of the next century, call for the sea to rise 78 inches at an accelerated rate. If the projections hold, much of this region would be underwater within the next 85 years unless greenhouse emissions are sharply reduced, the steady rise of the Earth’s temperature is stopped and arctic ice stops melting.
Jurado said evidence of the increased flooding can already be seen with heavy rains and King tides, particularly in the coastal areas of West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood and Miami Beach.
Other major impacts, some of which already are being seen:
• Increased sand and soil erosion, leading to more coastal flooding;
• Increased inland flooding, including areas west of Interstate 95, as a higher ocean would disable the stormwater drainage system;
• Saltwater intrusion in the Biscayne aquifer – South Florida’s primary freshwater supply – and local water supply wells;
• Increased pollution on land and in sea, the result of debris and hazardous materials released by flooding;
• Higher flood insurance premiums.
The updated projections are to be presented to each of the counties’ commissions before the end of the year. If they approve the Compact’s report, plans for buildings, bridges, transportation networks and other critical infrastructure projects could be amended, limited or denied based on the new sea level rise numbers. Projects expected to last more than 50 years could come under particular scrutiny.
Natalie Schneider, Palm Beach County’s climate change and sustainability coordinator, said for now county planners are mainly concerned with the impact on projects that might be built over the next few decades. Beyond that, she said, there’s too much uncertainty.
“All of this underscores the complexity that surrounds this whole issue,” she said.
The projections paint a much bleaker picture than was depicted in an earlier report compiled by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations sanctioned body, Jurado said.
“They had absolutely failed to integrate ice melt in the projections,” she said. “So everybody knew it was really conservative.”
Because of the uncertainty of how fast the seas will rise – and how much greenhouse gases will be curbed – the Compact predicted a wide-range of possibilities.
Specifically, it calls for sea levels to rise 3 to 5 inches by 2030, 8 to 31 inches by 2060 and 19 to 78 inches by 2100.
Although much of the globe will be subject to the same sea level increases, the fear is that South Florida will be particularly vulnerable to flooding because of its low level and because of strong ocean currents that run nearby, such as the Gulf Stream.
The Florida Department of Environmental Projection is currently is evaluating risk for vulnerable communities, said spokeswoman Lori Elliott.
“The department partners and coordinates with a number of local and state agencies to address the challenges of sea level rise statewide,” she said.
To slow down the rise, the environmental community calls for greenhouse gas emissions to be cut by about 80 percent by 2050.
There is strong evidence those emissions are causing an alarming increase in global temperatures: 14 of the 15 hottest years on record have occurred since 2000. This year likely will be the warmest year on record, “with 2016 a good bet to exceed even 2015’s warmth,” said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology for Weather Underground, the online weather site.
Further, greenhouse gas emissions nurtured several extreme climate events in the past year, including a highly active hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific, drought in East Africa and stifling heat waves in Australia, Asia and South America, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration said.
Jurado said action needs to be taken now to prevent the seas from rising to disastrous levels.
“We have to think about what we want the landscape to look like for the generation behind us,” she said.
Ken Kaye|Sun Sentinel
West Antarctica snow accumulation increased in the 20th century
Annual snow accumulation on West Antarctica’s coastal ice sheet increased dramatically during the 20th century, according to a new study published today (Wednesday 4 November) in the American Geophysical Union journal Geophysical Research Letters. The last three decades saw more snow build up on the ice sheet than at any other time in the last 300 years.
The research gives scientists new insight into Antarctica’s ice sheet. Understanding how the ice sheet grows and shrinks over time enhances scientists’ understanding of the processes that impact global sea levels.
The new study used ice cores to estimate annual snow accumulation from 1712 to 2010 along the coastal West Antarctic. Until 1899, annual snow accumulation remained steady, averaging 33 and 40 centimeters (13 and 16 inches) water, or melted snow, each year at two locations.
Annual snow accumulation increased in the early 20th century, rising 30 percent between 1900 and 2010 and the researchers found that in the last 30 years of the study, the ice sheet gained nearly 5 meters (16 feet) more water than it did during the first 30 years of the studied time period.
Read more at British Antarctic Survey.
Dr Liz Thomas|lead author|British Antarctic Survey|November 4, 2015
TORNADOES RIP THROUGH MICHIGAN’S THUMB
Officials say storm brought twisters that touched down
Jeff Friedland, director of St. Clair County Emergency Management, said in an email that the National Weather Service has confirmed that tornadoes touched down Friday morning in the Thumb.
“Along the line of showers, a few surges of stronger winds developed, which allowed three brief tornadoes to spin up,” Friedland wrote in an email. “Two of the tornadoes that occurred near Bad Axe and Yale were rated EF-0 with peak winds of 85 mph, and one near Applegate was rated EF-1 with peak winds of 90 mph.
“These three tornadoes doubled the previous number of November tornadoes in Southeast Michigan from 3 to 6 (since 1950). Two of the tornadoes occurred between 7 and 8 a.m., making these the first tornadoes to occur during this hour on record.”
One of the EF-0 tornadoes laid down a path of destruction a mile long and 75 yards wide, Friedland said.
Widespread tree damage, downed power lines and obliterated structures were reported in Sanilac, St. Clair and Huron counties early Friday.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Steven Freitag had said officials would be examining damage from Bad Axe to Sanilac County and into St. Clair County to determine if a tornado had gone through the area.
“Right now, it looks like a pretty powerful cold front that moved through and had some pretty powerful winds that transported to the ground,” he said.
While rain accompanied the high winds, there was no lightning or thunder.
Freitag said 73 mph winds were measured in Bad Axe. And, judging by the damage in St. Clair and Sanilac counties, winds reached 60 to 70 mph in the eastern parts of the Thumb.
Freitag said Saturday should be breezy, but nowhere near Friday’s high winds.
Darlene Etter of Sandusky raced to the corner of Marlette and Ruth roads in Washington Township early Friday after a family friend called to say his mobile home was destroyed in the storm.
“He called me and said something like, ‘I’m in the hallway looking out at the sky,’” Etter said.
She said he was sleeping when the storm hit, bringing a tree down and through the mobile home. He was not injured and was working with the Red Cross to find a place to stay.
Etter’s sister, Bonnie Erbe, said she was relieved no one was injured.
“It’s crazy how your life can change in a split second,” Erbe said.
Todd Hillman, director of Sanilac County Emergency Management, said five or six structures were damaged in the morning storm, with damage ranging from minor to leveled.
He said while it appeared to have been caused by straight-line winds, it is still under investigation by the National Weather Service. No injuries were reported in Sanilac County.
Kenockee Township Fire Chief Keith Berg said crews were called to Jeddo Road, between Kilgore and Duce roads, about 8:20 a.m. Friday for reports of a downed power pole.
Berg said it appeared a portion of a barn blew into the pole, taking it down.
Kirk Weston, St. Clair County Road Commission managing director, said Jeddo Road will likely be closed through Saturday evening as DTE repairs the power lines and debris is removed.
Berg said firefighters found two barns heavily damaged and a home with roof damage, with debris scattered as far as half a mile.
There have been no injuries reported.
DTE Energy Spokeswoman Erica Donerson said about 700 people in St. Clair County and about 300 in Sanilac County were without power as of Friday afternoon.
The number was down from earlier estimates of 4,000 people in St. Clair County and 1,000 in Sanilac County.
Donerson said, at the peak of the outages, about 38,000 people in southeast Michigan and the Thumb were without power. As of late Friday afternoon, about 10,000 people remained without power, many located in the Thumb.
LIZ SHEPARD AND BETH LEBLANC|TIMES HERALD
14 Extreme Weather Events Linked to Climate Change
Even though skeptics would disagree, weather and climate are clearly two different things. We know that the greenhouse gases emitted by human activities such as burning fossil fuels and land use cause global temperatures to rise over long stretches of time, but what effect does that have on the weather today?
Well, according to a new study, we can now pin at least 14 extreme weather events in 2014—including heatwaves, drought, wildfires and floods—on climate change.
The report, Explaining Extreme Events of 2014 from a Climate Perspective, published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, uses research from 32 groups of scientists from around the world. Scientists from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) served as four of the five lead editors on the report.
The study says, for instance, that the drought in East Africa, extreme rainfall in France, and heat waves felt on nearly every continent can be linked to climate change. However, though California’s wildfires have definitely increased over the years due to climate change, the study notes that there was no specific link to the wildfires last year.
As for the unusually frigid winter felt in many parts of the U.S. (remember the polar vortex?), the scientists suggest it was influenced not by climate change but by temperature variability.
“It is by no means a prevailing one-story-fits-all-events type of approach to this,” said Martin Hoerling, an editor of the report and a NOAA meteorologist, at a news conference. “It does require a specific analysis of each case on its own merit.”
For example, Brazil’s horrific drought, is not necessarily due to rising global temperatures but perhaps instead to an increasing population and water consumption.
“For each of the past four years, this report has demonstrated that individual events, like temperature extremes, have often been shown to be linked to additional atmospheric greenhouse gases caused by human activities, while other extremes, such as those that are precipitation related, are less likely to be convincingly linked to human activities,” said Thomas R. Karl, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information.
“As the science of event attribution continues to advance, so too will our ability to detect and distinguish the effects of long-term climate change and natural variability on individual extreme events. Until this is fully realized, communities would be well-served to look beyond the range of past extreme events to guide future resiliency efforts,” he continued.
The scientists have urged for more research in this area. “Understanding our influence on specific extreme weather events is groundbreaking science that will help us adapt to climate change,” said Stephanie C. Herring, lead editor for the report. “As the field of climate attribution science grows, resource managers, the insurance industry and many others can use the information more effectively for improved decision making and to help communities better prepare for future extreme events.”
Here are the study’s key findings across the world’s continents, with events that can be attributed to climate change in bold:
- Overall probability of California wildfires has increased due to human-induced climate change, however, no specific link could be made for the 2014 fire event
- Though cold winters still occur in the upper Midwest, they are less likely due to climate change
- Cold temperatures along the eastern U.S. were not influenced by climate change and eastern U.S. winter temperatures are becoming less variable
- Tropical cyclones that hit Hawaii were substantially more likely because of human-induced climate change
- Extreme 2013-14 winter storm season over much of North America was driven mainly by natural variability and not human caused climate change
- Human-induced climate change and land-use both played a role in the flooding that occurred in the southeastern Canadian Prairies
- The Argentinean heat wave of December 2013 was made five times more likely because of human-induced climate change
- Water shortages in Southeast Brazil were not found to be largely influenced by climate change, but increasing population and water consumption raised vulnerability
- All-time record number of storms over the British Isles in winter 2013-14 cannot be linked directly to human-induced warming of the tropical west Pacific
- Extreme rainfall in the United Kingdom during the winter of 2013-2014 was not linked to human-caused climate change
- Hurricane Gonzolo was within historical range of strength for hurricanes transitioning to extratropical storms over Europe
- Extreme rainfall in the Cévennes Mountains in southern France was three times more likely than in 1950 due to climate change
- Human influence increased the probability of record annual mean warmth over Europe, NE Pacific, and NW Atlantic
Middle East and Africa
- Two studies showed that the drought in East Africa was made more severe because of climate change
- The role of climate change in the Middle East drought of 2014 remains unclear. One study showed a role in the southern Levant region of Syria, while another study, which looked more broadly at the Middle East, did not find a climate change influence
- Extreme heat events in Korea and China were linked to human-caused climate change
- Drought in northeastern Asia, China and Singapore could not conclusively be linked to climate change
- The high west Pacific tropical cyclone activity in 2014 was largely driven by natural variability
- Devastating 2014 floods in Jakarta are becoming more likely due to climate change and other human influences
- Meteorological drivers that led to the extreme Himalayan snowstorm of 2014 have increased in likelihood due to climate change
- Human influence increased the probability of regional high sea surface temperature extremes over the western tropical and northeast Pacific Ocean during 2014
- Four independent studies all pointed toward human influence causing a substantial increase in the likelihood and severity of heat waves across Australia in 2014
- It is likely that human influences on climate increased the odds of the extreme high pressure anomalies south of Australia in August 2014 that were associated with frosts, lowland snowfalls and reduced rainfall
- The risk of an extreme five-day July rainfall event over Northland, New Zealand, such as was observed in early July 2014, has likely increased due to human influences on climate
- All-time maximum of Antarctic sea ice in 2014 resulted chiefly from anomalous winds that transported cold air masses away from the Antarctic continent, enhancing thermodynamic sea ice production far offshore. This type of event is becoming less likely because of climate change
Lorraine Chow|November 7, 2015
Genetically Modified Organisms
Monsanto’s ‘Cancer-Causing’ Glyphosate Endangers California’s Hispanic and Latino Communities
A new report finds that more than half of the glyphosate sprayed in California is applied in the state’s eight most impoverished counties. Monsanto’s glyphosate, commonly known as Roundup, is classified as a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization and may get a similar designation from the state of California in the coming weeks.
The analysis also finds that the populations in these counties are predominantly Hispanic or Latino, indicating that glyphosate use in California is distributed unequally along both socioeconomic and racial lines.
The report was released yesterday by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Environmental Health, El Quinto Sol de America, Californians for Pesticide Reform, Center for Food Safety and Pesticide Action Network.
“We’ve uncovered a disturbing trend where poor and minority communities disproportionately live in regions where glyphosate is sprayed,” said Dr. Nathan Donley, a staff scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “In high doses glyphosate is dangerous to people, and California can’t, in good conscience, keep allowing these communities to pay the price for our over-reliance on pesticides.”
The report, Lost in the Mist: How Glyphosate Use Disproportionately Threatens California’s Most Impoverished Counties, finds that 54 percent of glyphosate is applied in just eight counties, many of which are located in the southern part of the Central Valley. They are Tulare, Fresno, Merced, Del Norte, Madera, Lake, Imperial and Kern counties.
“The disproportionate concentration of glyphosate in our region is alarming and worrisome,” said Isabel Arrollo, executive director of El Quinto Sol de America, based in Tulare county. “It is imperative to protect the health of our communities, and any action to better protect health should not be dismissed as being premature. Health matters.”
Right now, California’s Environmental Protection Agency is deciding whether to formally add glyphosate to its list of known carcinogens under Proposition 65. Earlier this year the World Health Organization designated glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.
“No one should be needlessly exposed to chemicals like glyphosate, that may cause cancer and other health problems,” said Caroline Cox, research director at the Center for Environmental Health. “It’s especially troubling that communities of color who are already at serious risk from chemicals in their environment are the most likely to suffer from exposures to this dangerous pesticide. The state must take the lead in protecting all Californians from glyphosate.”
This new report aligns with a recent study by the California EPA that found Hispanics and people in poverty disproportionately live in areas of high pesticide use. A 2014 California Department of Public Health study showed that Hispanic children were 46 percent more likely than white children to attend schools near hazardous pesticide use.
The California Department of Pesticide Regulation has an obligation to ensure that pesticide programs and policies do not result in a racially disparate impact. Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and California Government Code § 11135 prohibit such racial discrimination.
“Rural communities and communities of color bear an unfair burden from use of Monsanto’s glyphosate,” said PAN Staff Scientist Emily Marquez, PhD. “Scientists around the globe have signaled that this is yet another concerning chemical in the toxic soup of pesticides that end up in the air, water and soil of communities on the frontlines of industrial agriculture. And it’s time for policymakers to respond.”
Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. and in the world. In 2012, more than 280 million pounds of glyphosate were used in the U.S. agricultural sector. Its use increased more than 20-fold on just corn and soy, from 10 million pounds in 1990, largely due to the widespread adoption of crops genetically engineered to withstand what would otherwise be fatal doses of glyphosate. Accordingly, glyphosate or its metabolites are now found on 90 percent of soybean crops and in air, water and soil samples around agricultural regions.
“Industrial agriculture has found a way to modify our crops so that they can survive large doses of a probable carcinogen, but whether humans can adapt in the same way is doubtful,” said Sarah Aird, Californians for Pesticide Reform’s acting executive director.
Full or partial bans on glyphosate have been adopted by France, the Netherlands, Sri Lanka and Colombia.
“The overuse of glyphosate in California and across the country is of increasing concern, especially in light of the World Health Organization’s recent conclusion that it is probably carcinogenic,” said Rebecca Spector, west coast director at Center for Food Safety. “In the short term, it is imperative that the state of California better protect vulnerable communities from exposure to this harmful chemical. In the long term, we need to shift our agricultural system away from chemically intense practices all together in order to safeguard human health and the environment.”
Center for Food Safety|November 3, 2015
8 Myths About Pesticides That Monsanto Wants You to Believe
Myths about pesticides are a testimony to the power of advertising, marketing and lobbying. Pesticide corporations, like Big Tobacco and the oil industry, have systematically manufactured doubt about the science behind pesticides and fostered the myth that their products are essential to life as we know it—and harmless if “used as directed.”
The book Merchants of Doubt calls it the “Tobacco Strategy”—orchestrated PR and legal campaigns to deny the evidence, often using rogue scientists to invent controversy around so-called “junk science,” for everything from second-hand smoke causing cancer to global warming to the hazards of DDT.
Here are eight of the seemingly plausible myths we hear from the “Big 6” pesticide corporations, including Monsanto, every day:
Myth #1: “Pesticides Are Necessary to Feed the World”
Reality: The most comprehensive analysis of world agriculture to date tells us that what can feed the world—and what feeds most of the world now, in fact—is small-scale agriculture that does not rely on pesticides.
Dow, Monsanto, Syngenta and other pesticide producers have marketed their products as necessary to feed the world. Yet as insecticide use increased in the U.S. by a factor of 10 in the 50 years following World War II, crop losses almost doubled. Corn is illustrative: in place of crop rotations, most acreage was planted year after year only with corn. Despite more than a 1,000-fold increase in use of organophosphate insecticides, crop losses to insects has risen from three-and-a-half percent to 12 percent (D. Pimental and M. Pimental, 2008).
More to the point, hunger in an age of plenty isn’t a problem of production (or yields, as the pesticide industry claims), efficiency or even distribution. It is a matter of priorities. If we were serious about feeding people, we wouldn’t grow enough extra grain to feed one-third of the world’s hungry—and then pour it into gas tanks.
Myth #2: “Pesticides Aren’t That Dangerous”
Reality: Pesticides are dangerous by design. They are engineered to cause death. And harms to human health are very well documented, with children especially at risk. Here are a few recent examples from the news:
An entire class of pesticides (organophosphates) has been linked to higher rates of ADHD in children
- The herbicide atrazine, found in 94 percent of our water supply, has been linked to birth defects, infertility and cancer
- Women exposed to the pesticide endosulfan during pregnancy are more likely to have autistic children
- Girls exposed to DDT before puberty are five times more likely to develop breast cancer
- The World Health Organization recently designated the key ingredient in the widely used herbicide Roundup a “probable human carcinogen”
A large and growing body of peer-reviewed, scientific studies document that pesticides are harmful to human health. The environmental damage caused by pesticides is also clear—from male frogs becoming females after exposure, to collapsing populations of bats and honeybees.
Myth #3: “The Dose Makes the Poison”
Reality: If someone is exposed to an extremely small amount of one ingredient from a single pesticide at a time, and it was a chemical of relatively low toxicity and exposure occurred outside any window of biological vulnerability, it might pose little danger. Unfortunately, that’s an unlikely scenario.
First, pesticide products typically contain several potentially dangerous ingredients (including so-called “inerts” not listed on the label). Second, we’re all exposed to a cocktail of pesticides in our air, water, food and on the surfaces we touch. The combination of these chemicals can be more toxic than any one of them acting alone. Third, many pesticides are endocrine disruptors—and even extremely low doses can interfere with the delicate human hormone system and cause life-changing damage.
Finally, the timing of exposure can be just as—if not more—important than the dose. Even extremely low levels of pesticides can cause irreversible, life-changing harm if they occur at a moment when organs or other systems are developing. One stark example from a recent study using MRI technology illustrates the point: children exposed in utero to the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos experienced lasting changes in their brain architecture.
It’s also important to understand that research used to determine the safety of a pesticide is funded and conducted by the corporations marketing the product, often leading to distortion of findings.
Myth #4: “The Government is Protecting Us”
Reality: Our regulatory system is not doing its job. More than one billion pounds of pesticides are applied every year on U.S. farms, forests, golf courses and lawns. Farmworkers and rural communities suffer illness throughout the spray season and beyond, and infants around the world are born with a mixture of pesticides and other chemicals in their bodies.
As as the President’s cancer panel concluded in 2010:
The prevailing regulatory approach in the U.S. is reactionary rather than precautionary. Instead of requiring industry to prove their safety, the public bears the burden of proving that a given environmental exposure is harmful.
The cornerstone of pesticide regulation is a fundamentally flawed process of “risk assessment” that cannot begin to capture the realities of pesticide exposure and the health hazards they pose. Environmental Protection Agency officials remain reliant on research data submitted by pesticide manufacturers, who do everything they can to drag out reviews of their products, often for decades. Lawsuits are pending to force the Environmental Protection Agency to abide by the law and speed up their reviews.
A better, common sense precautionary approach to protecting us would assess alternatives to highly hazardous pesticides rather than accepting public exposure to pesticides as a necessary evil. Such a shift will require fundamental federal policy reform. Meanwhile, state and local authorities are pressing for rules that better protect their communities.
Myth #5: “GMOs Reduce Reliance on Pesticides”
Reality: Genetically modified organisms are driving up pesticide use, and no surprise: the biggest GMO seed sellers are the pesticide corporations themselves. The goal of introducing GMO seed is simple: increase corporate control of global agriculture. More than 80 percent of the GMO crops grown worldwide
Monsanto, the world leader in patented engineered seed, would have us believe that its GMOs will increase yields, reduce environmental impact and mitigate climate change—and that farmers use fewer pesticides when they plant the corporation’s seeds. None of this is true.
On average, Monsanto’s biotech seeds reduce yield. In 2009, Monsanto admitted that its Bollguard GMO cotton attracted pink bollworm—the very pest it was designed to control — in areas of Gujarat, India’s primary cotton-growing state. Introduced in 1996, Monsanto’s Bollguard seeds, which include toxic traits from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), now account for half the cotton grown worldwide. In India, the productivity of Bt cotton has fallen while pesticide costs have risen by almost 25 percent, contributing to the tragic suicide epidemic among India’s debt-ridden farmers.
In 2009, 93 percent of U.S. GMO soybeans and 80 percent of GMO corn was grown from Monsanto’s patented seeds. “Roundup Ready” corn and soybeans, designed for use with Monsanto’s weed killer, mostly feed animals and cars rather than people. Now that weeds have developed resistant to Roundup, Dow and Monsanto are introducing GMO corn that includes tolerance of dicamba and 2,4-D, antiquated and dangerous herbicides prone to drift from where they’re applied on neighboring non-GMO fields and into neighboring communities.
Myth #6: “We’re Weaning Ourselves Off of Pesticides”
Reality: After 20 years of market stagnation, the pesticide industry entered a period of vigorous growth in 2004. The global pesticide market was worth approximately $46 billion in 2012 and continues to grow. It is expected to reach $65 billion by 2017, with the U.S. accounting for 53 percent of global use.
About 80 percent of the market is for agricultural use, but non-agricultural sales and profit margins are growing faster, driven by the rise of a global middle class adopting chemically reliant lawns and landscapes. In addition, the industry strategy of promoting GMO seeds, most of which are engineered to tolerate higher applications of herbicides, has driven increased sales of weed killers.
Myth #7: “Pesticides Are the Answer to Global Climate Change”
Reality: Multinational corporations are working hard to increase their market share by exploiting climate change as a sales opportunity. As of 2008, Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, DuPont, BASF and others had filed 532 patents for “climate-related genes,” touting the imminent arrival of a new generation of seeds engineered to withstand heat and drought. Their approach will further restrict the age-old practice of farmers saving seeds with desirable traits—a practice that may prove even more important as the climate changes in unpredictable ways and demands more, not less, farm-scale diversity.
In fact, evidence is showing that sustainable farming provides important solutions to climate change, with resilient systems that create far fewer greenhouse gases, promote on-farm biodiversity and create carbon sinks to offset warming.
Despite this latest gene-grab, none of these companies have yet been able to engineer any kind of yield-increasing or “climate-ready” seeds. Their promises to end world hunger through drought-, heat- and salt-tolerant seeds and crops with enhanced nutrition have proven empty.
Myth #8: “We Need DDT to End Malaria, Combat Bedbugs, etc.”
Reality: The resurgence of bedbugs in recent years has nothing to do with the 1972 ban of DDT. Bedbugs, like many mosquitos, are resistant to DDT—and they were decades ago, when DDT was still in use. In some cases DDT even makes bedbug infestations worse, since instead of killing them, it just irritates them, making them more active.
Resistance is also an issue for malaria-carrying mosquitoes. DDT had been abandoned as a solution to malaria in the U.S. long before it was banned for agriculture use.
Around the world, practitioners battling the deadly disease on the ground report that DDT is less effective in controlling malaria than many other tools. A small cadre of chemical advocates continue to aggressively promote widespread use of DDT to combat malaria, bedbugs—even West Nile Virus—despite its lack of effectiveness and growing evidence of damage to human health, even at low levels of exposure.
Pesticide Action Network|November 4, 2015
Is GMO Pork the Future of Our Food?
U.S. consumers are already widely skeptical about genetically modified (GMO) crops, but could genetically modified meat ever make it onto our plates? CBC News reports that, in addition to GMO salmon, there are two different varieties of GMO pork that are currently in development, raising questions about the future of our food.
Genetically engineered animals are not approved for consumption anywhere in the world, not only because the public is wary, but also because the industry is a regulatory minefield. However, before turning to GMO pork, let’s first consider GMO salmon.
If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves AquaBounty’s salmon, it will be the first GMO animal to enter the market. This salmon—engineered to grow twice the rate of its farmed counterpart—is heavily opposed by anti-GMO camps who have nicknamed the product “frankenfish,” because it’s made from genetic material of other fish, such as the ocean pout.
In case you’re wondering if GMO salmon will ever become a meal option, the company has been knocking on the FDA’s doors for nearly 20 years for approval. Still, GMO salmon and all GMOs products alike have been championed by proponents and many scientific minds as a way to feed our planet’s growing population, to ensure food security and to promote species’ survival.
On to pork. There are two genetically modified pigs that have been designed to improve pork production, CBC reports.
First, researchers at the University of Edinburgh are developing a pig that is “edited” with a warthog gene to resist African swine fever, a horrific disease that has no vaccine and that has caused the widespread slaughter of pigs across eastern Europe. Researchers estimated that this GMO pig could be commercially viable within five to 10 years if approved by the FDA.
Second, at Seoul National University, researchers have developed a “double-muscled” pig. By editing a single gene, these pigs have leaner meat and have a higher yield of meat per animal. As Nature reported, these pigs are being aimed at the Chinese market, where demand for pork is increasing.
As CBC observed, in contrast to GMO salmon, “the pigs aren’t ‘transgenic’—that is, they don’t contain genes from other organisms. That makes them unlike some genetically modified crops already on the market, which may contain genes from organisms such as bacteria.”
The health and safety issues surrounding GMO pork were recently discussed on the Canadian radio program The Current.
Jayson Lusk, an agricultural economist at Oklahoma State University, said on the show that these researchers are making pigs “aimed at addressing what we’d all probably agree are important problems.”
“There are risks with these technologies—there are risks with every technology,” he said. “There are also risks with not approving these technologies.”
However, he noted that the general public is wary of GMO products.
“I don’t think it’s necessarily a fear of genetic engineering—it’s a fear of uncertainty,” he said.
As genetic tinkering with crops and animals advances, we’ll be seeing many more stories like these. Besides GMO pigs, New Zealand researchers have genetically engineered a cow that produces B-lactoglobulin-free milk, which causes allergies and digestive and respiratory reactions in infants. In Minnesota, scientists have also genetically modified cows without horns to reduce the risk of injury to farmers and other animals.
U.S. Lawsuits Build Against Monsanto Over Alleged Roundup Cancer Link
Personal injury law firms around the United States are lining up plaintiffs for what they say could be “mass tort” actions against agrichemical giant Monsanto Co that claim the company’s Roundup herbicide has caused cancer in farm workers and others exposed to the chemical.
The latest lawsuit was filed Wednesday in Delaware Superior Court by three law firms representing three plaintiffs.
The lawsuit is similar to others filed last month in New York and California accusing Monsanto of long knowing that the main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was hazardous to human health. Monsanto “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers and the general population that Roundup was safe,” the lawsuit states.
The litigation follows the World Health Organization’s declaration in March that there was sufficient evidence to classify glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
“We can prove that Monsanto knew about the dangers of glyphosate,” said Michael McDivitt, whose Colorado-based law firm is putting together cases for 50 individuals. “There are a lot of studies showing glyphosate causes these cancers.”
The firm held town hall gatherings in August in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Nebraska seeking clients.
Monsanto said the WHO classification is wrong and that glyphosate is among the safest pesticides on the planet.
“Glyphosate is not a carcinogen,” company spokeswoman Charla Lord said in an emailed statement. “The most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product contradict the claims in the suits.”
Roundup is used by farmers, homeowners and others around the globe and brought Monsanto $4.8 billion in revenue in its fiscal 2015. But questions about Roundup’s safety have dogged the company for years.
Attorneys who have filed or are eying litigation cited strong evidence that links glyphosate to non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). They said claims will likely be pursued collaboratively as mass tort actions.
To find plaintiffs, the Baltimore firm of Saiontz & Kirk advertises a “free Roundup lawsuit evaluation” on its website. The Washington, D.C. firm Schmidt & Clark is doing the same, as are other firms in Texas, Colorado and California.
One plaintiff in the Delaware lawsuit, Joselin Barrera, 24, a child of migrant farm workers, claims her non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) is related to glyphosate exposure. Elias de la Garza, a former migrant farm worker and landscaper diagnosed with NHL, has a similar claim. Both live in Texas.
The third plaintiff is Judi Fitzgerald, a horticultural worker diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. The Virginia resident joined the Delaware case after asking for dismissal of a similar lawsuit initially filed in federal court in New York.
Monsanto is also fending off claims over its past manufacturing of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which the WHO classifies as known carcinogens.
At least 700 lawsuits against Monsanto or Monsanto-related entities are pending, brought by law firms on behalf of people who claim their non-Hodgkin lymphoma was caused by exposure to PCBs that the company had manufactured until the late 1970s.
Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Missouri; Editing by Richard Chang
TransCanada Asks State Department to ‘Pause’ Review on Keystone XL Pipeline
In a letter to Sec. John Kerry yesterday, Canadian oil company TransCanada asked the State Department to “pause” its review of the Presidential Permit application for the Keystone XL pipeline.
“We are asking State to pause its review of Keystone XL based on the fact that we have applied to the Nebraska Public Service Commission for approval of its preferred route in the state,” Russ Girling, TransCanada’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “I note that when the status of the Nebraska pipeline route was challenged last year, the State Department found it appropriate to suspend its review until that dispute was resolved. We feel under the current circumstances a similar suspension would be appropriate.”
In the letter, TransCanada writes:
In order to allow time for certainty regarding the Nebraska route, TransCanada requests that the State Department pause in its review of the Presidential Permit application for Keystone XL. This will allow a decision on the permit to be made later based on certainty with respect to the route of the pipeline.
For nearly seven years, tens of thousands of people have been demanding that President Obama reject the Keystone XL, a proposed tar sands pipeline connecting Alberta, Canada with Gulf Coast refineries that would carry 800,000 barrels per day across the breadbasket of America to be refined, exported and burned.
In response to TransCanada’s announcement, Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club said, “TransCanada sees the writing on the wall, and is trying to run out the clock in hopes that the next president will not weigh climate science in his or her decision about the dirty Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.”
“Today, tomorrow or next year, the answer will be the same: Keystone XL is a bad deal for America, our climate and our economy,” said NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer. “Secretary Kerry should reject TransCanada’s request for delay, and President Obama should immediately reject the Keystone XL pipeline once and for all.”
The fight against Keystone XL has seen an unprecedented wave of grassroots actions in every state in the U.S. This map from 350.org shows more than 750 #NoKXL actions, big and small, that have taken place to stop the pipeline since 2011. They range from impromptu events when President Obama was in town, to days of action with hundreds of participants, to tens of thousands of people gathering in Washington, DC.
“The Keystone XL pipeline has been defeated by the movement with an assist from the markets,” said Stephen Kretzmann, executive director of Oil Change International.
Lindsey Allen, executive director of Rainforest Action Network agrees. “Sustained grassroots opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline has put TransCanada on the run. It is urgently important that President Obama reject Keystone XL without further delay. KXL isn’t about TransCanada. It’s about the president’s climate legacy.”
As TckTckTck puts it:
Construction of the controversial pipeline became less and less likely this year following the Obama administration’s veto of a bill that demanded the president approve the project.
Meanwhile with evidence showing the pipeline would produce just 35 permanent jobs in the U.S. while putting a large swath of the country at risk of a catastrophic oil spill and that over reliance on the volatile tar sands market fueled an economic recession in Canada, any dubious economic claims for pushing the project through have proven to be false.
In Canada, projects connected to the tar sands lost political momentum first when Alberta voted out their provincial conservative government after 44 years of rule, and again when Canada elected Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister to replace climate laggard Stephen Harper.
Bill McKibben says this latest tactic by TransCanada is “one of the great victories for this movement in decades.”
Stefanie Spear|November 3, 2015
We Must Hold Exxon Accountable for Deceiving the Public on Climate Climate
I’m still trying to process recent revelations in the LA Times and the Pulitzer-winning Inside Climate News about the extent to which ExxonMobil has worked to deny climate change. It knew about the threat of a planet warmed by burning fossil fuels as far back as the 70’s, and while publicly denying these risks, built them into its business plans. Wait, what?!
To make matters worse, ExxonMobil‘s climate denialism isn’t just a thing of the past–it’s ongoing.
While deeply shocking, it’s sadly not surprising: Greenpeace has been exposing ExxonMobil’s climate denialism for more than a decade. Yes, it’s outrageous, but now we need to turn that outrage into action to get governments and citizens to hold ExxonMobil and other fossil fuel companies legally accountable for the damage their activities have caused.
How do we know ExxonMobil is still blocking climate action?
For one, ExxonMobil remains a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). This corporate “bill mill” pushes climate-denying legislation on lawmakers through closed-door meetings. Greenpeace USA research revealed that ExxonMobil donated at least $1.6 million to ALEC between 1998 and 2012. A quarter of that money went to efforts to fight policy on climate change. ExxonMobil donated again to ALEC in 2014 and although ALEC’s secrecy prevents us from knowing exactly what the money went toward, we can bet it didn’t help action on climate change.
Then there’s Willie Soon, the scientist who had insisted for years in published papers and in front of Congress that rising temperatures were merely the result of solar activity, not man-made climate change. Soon’s credibility was all but destroyed this year, when an investigation by Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center revealed that Soon had failed to mention the more than $1 million in fossil fuel donations he’d received for his research, including money from ExxonMobil. (The kicker? ExxonMobil had claimed in 2007 that it was no longer funding climate deniers like Soon.)
If a fossil fuel company like ExxonMobil continues to fight action on climate change even after years of its hypocrisy being exposed, what will it take to stop it?
The answer is legal action. Just like the tobacco companies that denied the harmful effects of smoking, ExxonMobil won’t stop unless it’s forced to. If that leaves you feeling even more frustrated, read on for how Greenpeace is working to make it happen!
Last month, Greenpeace Southeast Asia, Filipino typhoon survivors and local community organizations filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. The complaint demands the launch of an immediate investigation into the responsibility of major fossil fuel companies, including ExxonMobil, Chevron, BP and Shell, for their human rights impacts resulting from climate change.
It’s an impact Filipinos know all too well. In 2013, the country was rocked by super typhoon Haiyan, a national disaster in which more than 6,000 Filipinos lost their lives and almost two million were left homeless. Intense and destructive storms like Haiyan are likely to become more common as the climate crisis intensifies. Scientists have already linked the high impact of Hurricane Sandy in New York to climate change. And while the complaint to the Commission on Human Rights is not a legal action, an investigation by the Commission could uncover evidence needed for future lawsuits.
Closer to home, Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley, as well as Senator Sheldon Whitehouse and Representatives Ted Lieu, Mark DeSaulnier, Peter Welch and Matthew Cartwright have all called for federal investigations into what Exxon (as the company was known back in the 80’s) knew and how it denied climate change. To make sure ExxonMobil is now held accountable, we’ve teamed up with just about everybody in the environmental movement to tell the Department of Justice to investigate. You can add your voice to the outcry right here.
This kind of case has been won before, and we can do it again.
In 2006, a federal court determined that the tobacco industry had knowingly conspired to undermine the science that proved its products were harmful to health. Sharon Eubanks, the lead Department of Justice attorney on that case, has come out saying she thinks a similar argument against the fossil fuel industry could win in court today.
The Department of Justice hasn’t yet responded to calls for an investigation. And state attorney generals, who’ve also won major cases against Big Tobacco, have been similarly silent. But the evidence against Big Fossil Fuel is building. With enough pressure, government officials, tasked with protecting the public and fighting corporate fraud, will have to act. So let’s roll up our sleeves and get to work.
Annie Leonard|November 3, 2015
Fracking Companies Warned to Scale Back Operations Linked to Earthquakes or Get Sued
Weitz & Luxenberg, in partnership with Public Justice, served a Notice of Intent to Sue today on behalf of the Sierra Club, demanding four energy companies operating in Oklahoma scale back operations that have been linked to increasing seismic activity in the area.
The notice formally requests that Sandridge Exploration and Production, New Dominion, Chesapeake Operating and Devon Energy Production Company substantially reduce the amount of production waste they are injecting into ground wells in Oklahoma or face further legal action.
Despite clear and compelling evidence linking the fracking and oil industries to the increasing number of earthquakes in Oklahoma, these companies continue to operate in a way that threatens the health, environmental, aesthetic and economic interests of the people of this state.
It is time these companies take responsibility for the impact they are having on their surroundings and change their operations to protect the future of Oklahoma.
Seismic activity has been steadily increasing in frequency and intensity in Oklahoma, and has recently been linked to the growing volume of production waste that is injected into the ground by oil and fracking companies. Prior to 2009, Oklahoma recorded a maximum of 195 earthquakes in any given year. By 2014, seismologists recorded more than 5,000 earthquakes and, in 2015, experts predict there will be more than 6,000. Since late 2009, the rate of magnitude 3.5 or larger earthquakes in north central Oklahoma has been almost 300 times higher than in previous decades.
At the same time, the total volume of production waste injected into ground wells has grown from two billion barrels in 2009 to more than 12 billion barrels in 2014. The four companies listed in the Notice of Intent to Sue contributed more than 60 percent of the total volume of production waste injected into ground wells in Oklahoma in 2014.
The Oklahoma Geological Survey determined in the spring of 2015 that “the majority of recent earthquakes in central and north-central Oklahoma are very likely triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells” and that “seismologists have documented the relationship between wastewater disposal and triggered seismic activity.” The U.S. Geological Survey also fully supports this conclusion.
Weitz & Luxenberg, Public Justice and the Oklahoma Sierra Club are formally requesting that the four companies take immediate steps to reduce the amount of production waste injected into ground wells to levels deemed safe by experts. They are also asking that the companies reinforce structures that current forecasts show could be damaged or destroyed by large earthquakes and establish an independent earthquake monitoring and prediction center to analyze and predict the relationship between the injection of production waste and increased seismic activity.
If these companies are not willing to modify their operations and protect the safety of the community in this area, the citizens of Oklahoma will sue in federal court. The companies have 90 days from service of the Notice to remedy their violations. If they do not, suit will be filed in federal district court after those 90 days.
Robin Greenwald|Weitz & Luxenberg|November 2, 2015
Industry-Backed Fracking Bill Clears Florida House Panel
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations, allowing natural gas and oil to be released.
A bill that would create a new regulatory structure in Florida for oil and gas drilling, including the controversial practice known as “fracking,” easily passed a House panel Tuesday despite roughly 50 environmentalists on hand to oppose the measure.
The House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee approved the bill (HB 191), filed by Rep. Ray Rodrigues, R-Estero, and Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, on a straight party-line vote of 9-4.
Fracking, short for hydraulic fracturing, involves injecting water, sand and chemicals underground to create fractures in rock formations, allowing natural gas and oil to be released.
The bill would set up a state permitting process for fracking and require oil and gas companies to register the chemicals they use on a national website. It would also require the companies to inform the state Department of Environmental Protection of chemicals they inject into the ground — after the fact, not before. And it would set aside $1 million for a study on the impact of fracking.
“I believe that it improves our environment here in Florida,” Rodrigues said.
Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, is sponsoring a similar bill (SB 318) in the Senate.
The proposal is backed by the Florida Petroleum Council, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which contend that fracking would be a boost to jobs and energy independence.
“It’s transformed America,” Dave Mica of the Florida Petroleum Council told the House panel. “It’s made us an energy-producing nation. It’s showing up in the prices your constituents pay at the pump.”
“Will this create jobs in Florida? Of course it will,” said Brewster Bevis of Associated Industries of Florida.
But opponents said the bill is deceptive and that fracking would dirty the state’s groundwater and damage the health of people who live near drilling operations.
“At its core, it’s legislation designed to facilitate fracking in Florida,” AFL-CIO spokesman Rich Templin said.
Tallahassee immunologist Ron Saff said people living near fracking wells are getting sick.
“Sure, I think fracking will create more jobs … for grave-diggers, morticians and funeral directors,” Saf said.
But Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, disagreed about risks associated with fracking.
“It’s been proven already that fracking is a safe process,” he said. “Now, are some of the chemicals dangerous? Absolutely. But so are so many of the things we use on a daily basis.”
The bill would also ban local governments from imposing fracking regulations, and critics warned against that as well, saying the provision would deprive local governments of self-determination.
“I really thought that was a cornerstone of conservative principle — the idea of smaller government and local control,” Templin said. “This legislation takes that away.”
But Rodrigues said he is working with the Florida Association of Counties and the Florida League of Cities to address their concerns with the bill. Florida has long had oil drilling in parts of Southwest Florida and the Panhandle.
Opponents of the bill expressed little confidence that the state Department of Environmental Protection would hold violators accountable.
But after public comment ended, Rep. Jennifer Sullivan, R-Mount Dora, scolded the environmentalists for basing their stand on “emotion and opinion” rather than trying to make constructive changes to the bill.
“You can’t always stand against things,” Smith agreed. “Progress is going to happen.”
Margie Menzel|News Service of Florida|Nov 4, 2015
[The following is an excerpt from a “Sierra Club News” article by David Cullen.]
Why the bill is so bad:
The breadth of opposition to the bill reflects how bad it is. Not only does it preempt local communities from adopting or enforcing regulations – including zoning – that interfere with anything to do with oil and gas (not just fracking), it also uses a definition that excludes acid fracking techniques which are most likely to be used in Florida because of our limestone and dolomite geology. Therefore, the bill exempts acid treatments from any new regulation – there’s none in the bill and none will be allowed by local governments.
Also, citizens will not be able to find out what toxic chemicals are being injected into the ground because they can be hidden from them by way of the Trade Secrets Act (Chapter 688 of the Florida Statutes.) First responders and medical personnel will not have the information either. (At the federal level, first responders and medical personnel can get trade secret information when dealing with employees injured on the job but there is no provision for that in HB 191 or in Chapter 688.)
Sponsor Rodrigues claims fracking won’t be permitted until a study called for in the bill is complete and any impacts on aquifers are addressed in rulemaking. But the bill does not link permitting to the study. Also, the study is limited to the same very narrow definition of “high-pressure well stimulation” that excludes acid treatments.
World’s Largest Floating Wind Farm Gets Green Light
Offshore wind has come a long way in recent years, in large part because of how heavily the UK has invested in the technology. But most of this development has been with conventional wind technology, which requires that the turbines be mounted to the seafloor or lakebed in relatively shallow water.
Floating turbines have been deployed, but so far only in small-scale projects, such as the one built and operated by the Fukushima Wind Offshore Consortium. But that could all change soon, now that Norway’s Statoil has been approved to build the first floating wind farm off the Scottish coast. It will be the UK’s first floating wind farm and the world’s largest to date, with five floating turbines producing 6 megawatts each in waters more than 328 feet deep.
The project, known as Hywind Scotland, will be located near Buchan Deep, approximately 15-18 miles off the coast of Peterhead in Aberdeen. The farm “could eventually generate 135 gigawatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to power nearly 20,000 homes,” reports Edie.net.
Statoil is touting its experience in installing and operating floating offshore oil and gas platforms as part of its credentials for the project. “Hywind has been designed as a slender cylinder structure, chosen as the most feasible and economical concept for a floating wind turbine,” says Statoil. The company developed and installed the world’s first floating full-scale wind turbine in 2009.
The turbines will be “attached to the seabed by a three-point mooring spread and anchoring system” and “are interconnected by cables, one of which exports electricity from the pilot farm to the shore at Peterhead,” explains The Guardian.
Floating turbines have many attractive benefits, according to Renewable Energy World:
A key advantage of using floating wind platforms is that they allow developers access to previously inaccessible waters where there is stronger yet less turbulent winds—helping to reduce the overall cost of wind energy.
Another benefit is that floating platforms can generally be commissioned and assembled at the quayside, without the need for heavy-lift jack up or dynamic positioning (DP) vessels, further reducing the cost and risk of deployment activities.
“Eliminating offshore lifting operations also provides for decreased weather window restrictions on installation,” says Craig Andrus, Senior VP—Europe at Principle Power.
The fact that foundations are not necessary with floating technology also means that piling activities and sea life disturbance can be minimized—greatly reducing negative environmental impacts. Moreover, reduced geotechnical requirements mean that core sampling is only needed to test the seabed ahead of appropriate anchor selection, as opposed to the necessity of core sampling at every pile site.
According to research from the Carbon Trust, floating wind turbines could reduce the price of offshore wind to less than $150 megawatt-hours (MWh), and larger projects such as Hywind may drop the price even lower to $130-145 MWh. The current average price is $172 MWh.
“Floating wind represents a new, significant and increasingly competitive renewable energy source,” Statoil’s executive vice president for new energy solutions, Irene Rummelhoff, told The Guardian. “Statoil’s objective with developing this pilot park is to demonstrate a commercial, utility-scale floating wind solution, to further increase the global market potential.”
“We are proud to develop this unique project in Scotland, in a region that has optimal wind conditions, a strong supply chain within oil and gas and supportive public policies,” she added.
You may have heard of Aberdeen in the news, as it is the proposed location of another wind farm: Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm. The project has been stalled for years because Donald Trump, who has a golf resort in Aberdeen, sued the Scottish government over its approval of the wind farm. Trump lost the appeal in June, but he has vowed to appeal before both the UK Supreme Court and the European Courts.
Here’s Statoil’s explanation of the Hywind Scotland concept:
Cole Mellino|November 3, 2015
This is how to stop oil drilling in the Amazon
There is growing scientific consensus that, to avert climate chaos, we must leave at least 80% of all fossil fuels in the ground. Thus, Amazon Watch’s goal for the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris is to stop all new oil drilling in the Amazon!
Indigenous leaders from the Amazon have the solution – they are already protecting many of the most biodiverse places on Earth from oil drilling – and they are calling on all of us to stand with them as they risk their lives to make ending fossil fuel extraction in the Amazon a global priority.
The first step is to put the solution on to the global stage by accompanying indigenous leaders to deliver their call the most important climate conference ever in Paris.
Amazon Watch is working closely with indigenous leaders to defend their rights and ensure they make a profound impact in Paris. Unfortunately, it’s not just as simple as buying a ticket. These front line environmental and human rights defenders find their very lives and livelihoods threatened as governments and companies criminalize their actions to defend their forests and sacred lands.
We will make sure indigenous leaders are heard in Paris – both inside and outside the negotiations.
Together we will #KeepItInTheGround in the Amazon!
Leila Salazar-López |Executive Directorfirstname.lastname@example.org|11/03/15
Florida Power and Light wants expensive boondoggle
Hold onto your wallets, because Florida Power and Light is about to rack up another giant bill that customers will end up paying for.
You may remember that FPL already got state approval to charge customers for up to $500 million that the company is investing in “fracking” (gas drilling) projects in Oklahoma and other states.
FPL also got state approval to charge customers for more than $241 million in “advanced recovery costs” for two more nuclear reactors at the company’s aging Turkey Point plant in Miami. The reactors have not been approved by regulators, and they might not ever get built. But thanks to a special guarantee, FPL customers will pay regardless.
Now comes news that FPL is trying to get customers to foot the bill for another expensive, dubious project – a new power plant near Lake Okeechobee that’s projected to cost a whopping $1.2-billion.
A billion here, a billion there, and we end up paying the costs every month for the rest of our lives. The price tags are so high, our children and our grandchildren will still be paying.
The kicker is that the power plant that FPL wants to build near Lake Okeechobee is not even necessary. This project is an expensive boondoggle that should be voted down.
Before FPL builds the Okeechobee boondoggle, the company has to first get approval from the state’s Public Service Commission. The PSC is notoriously lenient and accommodating to the state’s utilities, so chances are good that it will rubber-stamp FPL’s massive new power plant project, just as it rubber-stamped both the “advanced cost recovery” for the Miami nuclear power plant and the hundreds of millions of dollars for FPL to speculate on out-of-state fracking.
This is why we citizens need to make noise to stop this. We need to tell the PSC that enough is enough. The national association of utility experts – called the North American Electric Reliability Council – has set a specific standard for how much overbuilding any utility should be allowed to do. Under that national standard, FPL would never get away with this project.
FPL is trying to lock in corporate profits by manipulating Florida’s arcane regulatory process, and we consumers end up as the losers. FPL continues to choose expensive options rather than more common sense, economical solutions, like serious energy efficiency efforts. Under state regulations, FPL makes a guaranteed 10 percent profit by building power plants, whether we need the plants or not. The company makes less money when people cut their electricity use by using more insulation, more energy efficient appliances and installing rooftop solar arrays to get power from the sun.
To shield its corporate profits, FPL has been sidelining energy efficiency efforts for years. Right now, FPL is among the corporate giants bankrolling a Constitutional amendment for the 2016 ballot that would crush independent companies who want to put affordable rooftop solar on Florida homes.
Instead, FPL wants to make sure that its corporate monopoly owns gas pipelines and gas power plants so they can sell us FPL power.
FPL’s corporate public relations professionals are trying to portray the Okeechobee plant as part of a greener, innovative energy future. It is true that the plant would burn natural gas, which burns cleaner than coal. But FPL’s public-relations spinners miss the real point: Florida’s greener, innovate future isn’t going to happen by building more big, expensive power plants.
David Guest|Managing Attorney|Florida office of Earthjustice
An unprecedented victory
Today marks the biggest victory against the oil industry that we’ve ever been a part of.
Today the President heeded your calls and finally put an end to the Keystone XL pipeline.
And what’s more, he set a new precedent that all energy projects should follow for years to come.
The President said today that the Keystone XL pipeline should not be built because it would exacerbate our climate crisis. That may be the very first time such a decision has been made on this scale, by anyone…but it won’t be the last.
We all know the President has not always lived up to the standards we have set. But now when it comes to the Keystone XL pipeline, with no reservations, we can say he has. He’s stood with us against Big Oil and against a pipeline that many thought was inevitable just a couple years ago.
There will be time for picking at the details, for pushing the President to make the next important decision, to continue to protect our climate and communities.
Let’s celebrate a movement that has grown into a powerful force for change. Let’s celebrate the landowners along the pipeline route that stood up, came together, and fought back. Let’s celebrate the wonks who wrote countless reports to show anyone that would listen why rejecting this pipeline was a no brainer. Let’s celebrate the farmers and ranchers and Native American tribes and bird doggers and public commenters and petition signers and protesters and blockaders and everyone else who has come together and wouldn’t quit.
We’ve turned a new page today. Our vision of a safe climate future has become just a little bit more hopeful.
There is still so much more to do. But for now, we raise our glasses to you, valiant pipeline fighters. We won this round.
Steve, Elizabeth, David, Lorne, Matt, Hannah, Greg, Farhiya, and Alex|Oil Change International
Exxon’s Climate ‘Scandal’ Escalates As NY Attorney General Issues Subpoena
Seeking to find out exactly what Exxon knew and when the oil giant knew it, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued the corporation an 18-page subpoena seeking four decades of documents, research findings and communications related to climate change, according to news reports on Thursday.
InsideClimate News, one of two outlets whose investigative reporting spurred the inquiry, said the subpoena delivered late Wednesday “seeks documents from Exxon … related to its research into the causes and effects of climate change, to the integration of climate change findings into business decisions, to communications with the board of directors, and to marketing and advertising materials on climate change.”
According to the New York Times, which broke the news of Schneiderman’s probe on Thursday: “The focus includes the company’s activities dating to the late 1970s, including a period of at least a decade when Exxon Mobil funded groups that sought to undermine climate science. A major focus of the investigation is whether the company adequately warned investors about potential financial risks stemming from society’s need to limit fossil-fuel use.”
Following the reporting by InsideClimate News and the LA Times, presidential candidates, elected officials, climate leaders and advocacy groups have all called for investigations into Exxon’s corporate behavior.
“‘Exxon Knew’ just joined the category of truly serious scandals,” said 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben on Thursday. “Just as New York’s Teddy Roosevelt took on the Standard Oil Trust a century ago, New York’s attorney general has shown great courage in holding to account arguably the richest and most powerful company on Earth. We hope that other state attorney generals and the federal Department of Justice and the Securities Exchange Commission will show similar fortitude.”
Describing the subpoena development as “groundbreaking news,” Greenpeace executive director Annie Leonard echoed McKibbens’ call for other entities to follow suit. “The door is now open for the Department of Justice to initiate a federal investigation,” she said, “as people have repeatedly called for on different fronts.”
Now, at least, there’s little chance of this issue going away. “I went to jail a few weeks ago because I was worried this great reporting from InsideClimate News and the LA Times might disappear,” McKibben added, referring to his Oct. 15 act of civil disobedience at a Vermont gas station. “I’m not worried about that anymore.”
Deirdre Fulton|Common Dreams|November 6, 2015
Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board Denies Application to Build ‘Green City’ Beyond UDB
The Miami-Dade Planning Advisory Board unanimously rejected the Green City development’s application Monday to build beyond the urban development boundary.
Green City is a proposed development of over 11,000 residences and 3.5 million square feet of retail and public service space in West Kendall. In order to build, the developers would have first needed approval to extend past the urban development boundary, and to change the land’s zoning from agricultural to residential.
The urban development boundary is designed to keep urban sprawl from overtaking natural areas. Although outside the UDB, the Green City plans are within the urban expansion area, which is the land prioritized for development if the UDB must be expanded.
Celeste de Palma, Everglades policy associate with Audubon Florida, argued that building outside of the urban development line encroaches on the Everglades, and could be potentially harmful to the environment.
“We’re paying billions of dollars to do Everglades restoration because it would make this county, and actually this region, more resilient to sea level rise,” explained de Palma.
Denying the application “would ensure that our main economic asset, which is our environment, stays protected for longer,” she added.
Tropical Audubon Society submitted a letter signed by 30 community and environmental groups to the Planning Advisory Board in opposition to the UDB expansion.
Supporters of Green City argued that population growth necessitates building beyond the UDB.
Ann Pope, a consultant for Green City, asserted that the development could be done sustainably, and would encourage people to walk rather than drive. Pope said the West Kendall area is severely lacking employment opportunities and entertainment options for residents.
“We have no downtown, no real job centers, no sense of place, and no real identity,” Pope said.
About 30 West Kendall residents attended the meeting — some advocating for the development, some in opposition.
Julie Dick, Everglades Law Center attorney representing Tropical Audubon Society, said there is already enough land within the UDB to meet residential and commercial needs, and that “increasing urban sprawl is a real risk.”
Dick cited threats to water supply and endangered species living in the area, as well as concerns about worsening traffic congestion.
The Green City application would also change how frequently the UDB is expanded.
Garett Rowe, board member and planning supervisor at the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, said this change would “create a perpetual need for UDB expansions.”
Rowe spoke in accordance with the staff recommendation to deny the application, stating that there is currently enough land within the UDB to accommodate growth, and the Green City application does not provide enough information on how to meet residents’ transportation and public service needs.
The Planning Advisory Board voted unanimously to deny the Green City application, and to not pass it on to the Board of County Commissioners
Audrey Armitage|Nov 2, 2015
EPA announces plans to halt agricultural use of chlorpyrifos.
We have some very good news to share. Last Friday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced plans to halt agricultural uses of the neurotoxic insecticide chlorpyrifos.
This is a huge win for children’s health.Tens of thousands of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) supporters spoke up about the harms of chlorpyrifos over the course of our campaign — and together, we made an important difference.
Between mounting public pressure, ever-stronger science, and legal action from PAN and our partners, EPA could simply no longer avoid taking action.
This ban will make a tremendous on-the-ground difference for public health.
Once the rule becomes final — and we’ll make sure it becomes final — children across the country will no longer have their intelligence undermined by this brain-harming chemical that today shows up in the air they breath, the water they drink and the food they eat.
Farmworkers and families in rural, agricultural communities will also be protected once this insecticide is out of the fields.
We know the pesticide industry (especially Dow, which manufactures chlorpyrifos) will be pushing back as EPA finalizes this rule. And we’ll be working to ensure the farmers who currently rely on chlorpyrifos get the support they need to put safer alternatives in place.
We’ll keep the pressure on to ensure our food and farming system is healthy for all.
Pesticide Action Network
EPA Study Finds Elevated Particulate Levels in Air on Train Platforms at Chicago Union Station
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released an air quality study that documents elevated concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5) in ambient air on train platforms at Union Station in Chicago. The concentration of PM2.5 in air on the train platforms was 23 – 96 percent higher than concentrations recorded on nearby streets on the days that monitoring was conducted last summer. The study also found that the highest concentrations of PM2.5 occur during rush hours. Higher particulate concentrations were found at the south platforms than at the north platforms, and particulate levels are highest near locomotives.
PM2.5 is a mixture of small particles (2.5 micrometers in diameter and smaller) and liquid droplets. When inhaled, fine particles can reach deep into the lungs and may enter the bloodstream. Inhaling PM2.5 can cause serious health effects – especially for young people, the elderly and those with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Diesel exhaust from locomotives also contains carbon monoxide, benzene, formaldehyde, nitrogen oxides and other harmful pollutants.
EPA studied air quality at Union Station over a three week period during June and July 2015. Scientists used portable air monitors on publicly accessible platforms to measure concentrations of PM2.5 in the air at various times between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. EPA took similar measurements at street level near the station. EPA conducted 64 platform tests and 35 background tests.
EPA is discussing the results of the study with Metra, Amtrak and representatives of several buildings with ventilation systems that impact air quality at Union Station. Short-term options to improve air quality on the train platforms include optimizing the existing ventilation systems above Union Station and changing operational procedures. Long-term options include installation of additional ventilation systems and measures to reduce particulate emissions.
More information on the Union Station air study can be found at:
Joshua Singer|epa.gov,|November 5, 2015
The new imperative in buildings, cleaner air!
A study just published by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has linked a building’s indoor air quality directly to its occupants’ cognitive function. Cognitive function is defined as the cerebral activities that lead to knowledge including acquiring information, reasoning, attention, memory and language.
The revolutionary finding of this study is that lowering indoor air levels of carbon dioxide and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) improves human cognitive function. In other words: Cleaner air makes us smarter!
This amplifies the issue of CO2 as a pollutant to a new level. It brings the issue inside our homes, offices and schools. It creates a significant motivation to reduce indoor air pollution by reducing CO2 and VOC levels.
Impacts on competitive advantage, building owners, lawyers and smartphones
To this economist focused on 21st-century mega trends this study shouts out business and societal questions around “competitive advantage.” It suggest that a business with superior indoor air quality will have higher performing work associates. It suggests that a business with superior indoor air quality will be more effective in messaging, and winning, customers.
The study presents a radically new real estate value proposition. It suggests that buildings with superior indoor air quality will sell for more money and win higher leasing levels.
Modern high-rise office buildings image via Shutterstock.
Read more at ENN Affiliate TriplePundit.
Bill Roth|Triple Pundit|November 6, 2015
EPA: VW cheated on Audi, Porsche
Volkswagen Group not only cheated emissions regulations on diesel cars, but also installed a “defeat device”in some SUVs as well, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleged Monday.
The revelation raises questions about the breadth of the automaker’s response to the scandal since the EPA first accused the company of cheating on emissions regulations on diesel cars on Sept. 18. After the initial accusations, Volkswagen Group quickly admitted t hat it had flouted regulations on up to 11 million cars worldwide, such as certain versions of the Jetta, Passat, Golf and Beetle. The new allegation broadens the scandal to more than 10,000 new vehicles in the U.S.: the 3cylinder diesel engine versions of the 2014 Volkswagen Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne, and the 2016 Audi A6 Quattro, A7 Quattro, A8, A8L, and Q5.
The German automaker is a small player in the U.S. auto market, so the worldwide figure could be much higher. The additional vehicles could expose the automaker to more than $375 million in Clean Air Act penalties — on top of the $18 billion in penalties the company could incur from diesel car violations.
“We have clear evidence of these additional violations and we thought it was important to put Volkswagen on notice and to inform the public,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
EPA officials said they discovered the additional cheating while testing Volkswagen’s vehicles. They have found nothing similar while conducting tests of other companies.
Volkswagen engineers took a sneaky approach when fitting these vehicles with the “defeat device” software, the EPA alleged.
When the vehicles are undergoing federal emissions tests, software activates a “temperature conditioning mode” to fool regulators, Giles said.
“At exactly one second after the completion” of those tests, Giles said, the vehicles flip back into “normal mode” and continue emitting nitrogen oxides at high levels.
The company is already embroiled in a crisis that has spawned a U.S. Justice Department criminal probe, a cascade of consumer lawsuits, the EPA’s ongoing investigation and various probes in Germany.
NATHAN BOMEY AND CHRIS WOODYARD|USA TODAY
Enter the age of electric buses
There’s plenty of movement on electric buses in Florida. In October, the mayor of Miami-Dade County, which operates of the state’s largest bus fleet, vowed to convert most if not all of it to electric while Sierra Club leaders looked on.
Two weeks later, 35 Sierra Club members and supporters with stickers demanded electric buses at Pinellas County’s transit board meeting and won a commitment to evaluate them in the next six months.
You’ve seen electric cars, Now get ready for the age of all-electric buses. No smelly diesel fuel. No noise. No emissions. It’s not a vision. It’s here.
Shocking Photos of Green Sea Turtle Killed by Ingesting Plastics and Other Marine Litter
A green sea turtle was found dead on a beach in Sai Kung, Hong Kong, with its stomach and intestines filled with plastic and other marine debris, underscoring the growing crisis of ocean pollution.
The greatest threat to green sea turtles, which are endangered, is the commercial harvesting of their eggs, poaching and bycatch (unintentional capture from fishing).
However, this recent incident in Hong Kong highlights the disturbing fact that human-caused trash is a growing threat to aquatic life. As the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) told the Hong Kong Free Press, this is the first time that a green sea turtle in Hong Kong has been found dead from ingesting marine litter.
According to Hong Kong newspaper Stand News, the turtle was found by a local woman named Mandy Wong, who immediately notified the Agricultural, Fisheries and Conservation Department upon discovery. When she returned to the site the next day, she was surprised to find that the turtle’s body had been torn apart (perhaps by a dog) with the turtle’s stomach and intestines filled with trash.
Dee Hwa Chong, senior fish researcher at the Ichthyological Society of Hong Kong, told Chinese newspaper Ming Pao that the turtle had died from ingesting plastic litter that can tear apart its digestive tract and block its intestines, preventing the turtle from taking in food.
The WWF’s Coastal Watch conducted a comprehensive survey on marine litter on coastal habitats in Hong Kong from July 2014 and May 2015, and concluded that plastic trash is a severe threat to all marine ecosystems.
“During all of the surveys, we observed various organisms entangled in debris which caused injury or death, like ‘ghost nets’ (fishing nets which have been cast adrift). We also found fish bite marks on pieces of plastic litter,” said Patrick Yeung, Coastal Watch project manager. “The pollutants absorbed by marine animals will potentially bioaccumulate along the food chain, which will eventually damage the marine ecosystem, affect fishery resources and human health. It is imperative that we tackle the marine litter problem at its source immediately.”
Green turtles are a protected species in Hong Kong and listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. According to Conserveturtles.org, the current population of nesting females is estimated to be between 85,000 and 90,000.
It’s clear that we must reduce our plastic footprint as this pollution chokes the entire marine food chain, from plankton to much larger creatures.
Roughly 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans every year, and according to a recent study, 60 percent of this waste comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. As these economies continue to grow and demand more plastic goods, it’s projected that plastic consumption in Asia will increase by an astonishing 80 percent to surpass 200 million tons by 2025.
Last week, EcoWatch reported that a dead sperm whale was found off the coast of Taiwan with vast quantities of plastic bags and fishing nets filling its stomach.
Lorraine Chow|November 2, 2015
[Please, let’s recycle responsibly.]
Scuba Divers’ Haunting Photos Show Devastating Impact of Ocean Trash on Marine Life
Many of us know about the staggering levels of ocean pollution, but not all of us have seen a giant sponge sliced through by fishing line or have tugged back armfuls of trash lurking deep underwater.
Now, through a striking photo campaign, Beneath The Waves, from the Project AWARE Foundation—a global community of scuba divers who are working toward trash-free oceans—we get to see how our oceans are treated like trash dumps up close and personal, and why action must be taken immediately.
For the past month, divers from around the world have been uploading photos of marine debris onto Twitter, Instagram and Project AWARE’s website to bring attention and urge for solutions to this transnational issue.
Why scuba divers? Well, few people know the scourge of ocean pollution better than they do.
“We’re citizen scientists, educators, philanthropists and advocates. We’re united together under a common passion, respect and desire to protect our ocean,” Project AWARE said in a statement from the campaign.
“Divers see firsthand the devastating impact rubbish can cause on ocean wildlife,” the foundation continued. “With more than 1 in 10 species affected by marine debris threatened with extinction, our actions to protect are more urgently needed than ever before.”
In the photos below, divers share their unique and haunting view of underwater life affected by pollution. Some of the most devastating photos are of marine life such as whales, rays and crabs trapped in discarded fishing line, bottles and other debris.
Removing “mooring lines” tied to coral by inconsiderate boats at Soyak Island. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
Grey Whale … almost got free. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
Juvenile Green turtle found in a ghost net on a beach, Alphonse Island, Seychelles. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
Divers are taking action through #DiveAgainstDebris. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
Dead Green turtle, caught in the netting of a Fish Aggregating Device (FAD), Alphonse Island, Seychelles. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
The beach at Chirebon, Indonesia. Photo credit: Project Aware
Dive Downbelow, Richard Swann. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
This octopus had claimed this bottle of beer and PVC pipe as refuge. I just couldn’t convince him to move out and find a more natural environment. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
Entangled spider crab. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
Look Close. The Fishing line is still hanging there and sliced the giant sponge. Photo credit: Project AWARE Foundation
The efforts from this 30-day campaign led to the second Our Ocean 2015 conference, which was held in Chile Oct. 5-6, in which topics such as illegal fishing, marine plastic pollution, ocean acidification and climate change were discussed. The first conference was held last June in Washington, DC, as an initiative of Secretary of State John Kerry.
You can see more photos of marine debris as well as upload your own at this link here. You can also participate on social media using the hashtag #BeneathTheWaves.
Lorraine Chow|October 15, 2015
Phosphate giant Mosaic agrees to pay nearly $2 billion over mishandling of hazardous waste
Mosaic Fertilizer, the world’s largest phosphate mining company, has agreed to pay nearly $2 billion to settle a federal lawsuit over hazardous waste and to clean up operations at six Florida sites and two in Louisiana, the Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
“The 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste addressed in this case is the largest amount ever covered by a federal or state . . . settlement and will ensure that wastewater at Mosaic’s facilities is properly managed and does not pose a threat to groundwater resources,” the EPA said.
The EPA had accused Mosaic of improper storage and disposal of waste from the production of phosphoric and sulfuric acids, key components of fertilizers, at Mosaic’s facilities in Bartow, New Wales, Mulberry, Riverview, South Pierce and Green Bay in Florida, as well as two sites in Louisiana.
The EPA said it had discovered Mosaic employees were mixing highly corrosive substances from its fertilizer operations with the solid waste and wastewater from mineral processing, in violation of federal and state hazardous waste laws.
“This case is a major victory for clean water, public health and communities across Florida and Louisiana,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance.
Mosaic CEO Joc O’Rourke said the company is “pleased to be bringing this matter to a close” and pledged to be a good environmental steward. The Minnesota-based company was formed in 2004 by a merger of IMC Global with the crop nutrition division of Cargill.
Mosaic officials in Florida said the EPA investigation and negotiations for a settlement have been going on for eight years over practices that everyone in the phosphate industry was doing as well.
The settlement with the EPA, the Justice Department, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will have no impact on Mosaic’s continued employment or on its future mining expansion plans in DeSoto, Hardee and Manatee counties, they said.
Thursday’s settlement will become final upon approval by the court. The first step in this process is a 30-day public comment period, which is now open, said Julia Valentine, an EPA spokeswoman.
First discovered by an Army Corps of Engineers captain in 1881, Florida’s phosphate deposits today are the basis of an $85 billion industry that supplies three-fourths of the phosphate used in the United States. Although phosphate mining provides a major financial boon to the small communities in which the mines are located, it also leaves behind a major environmental mess.
The miners use a dragline with a bucket the size of a truck to scoop up the top 30 feet of earth and dump it to the side of the mine. Then the dragline scoops out the underlying section of earth, which contains phosphate rocks mixed with clay and sand.
The bucket dumps this in a pit where high-pressure water guns create a slurry that can be pumped to a plant up to 10 miles away.
At the plant, the phosphate is separated from the sand and clay. The clay slurry is pumped to a settling pond, and the phosphate is sent to a chemical processing plant where it is converted for use in fertilizer and other products. The sand is sent back to the mine site to fill in the hole after all the phosphate is removed.
A byproduct, called phosphogypsum, is slightly radioactive so it cannot be easily disposed. The only thing the miners can do with it is stack it into mountainous piles next to the plant. Florida is such a flat state that the 150-foot-tall “gyp stacks” are usually the highest point in the landscape for miles around. They contain large pools of highly acidic wastewater on top.
“Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector,” Giles said. “Reducing environmental impacts from large fertilizer manufacturers operations is a national priority for EPA.”
Mosaic’s production of pollution is so great that in 2012, the Southwest Florida Water Management District granted the company a permit to pump up to 70 million gallons of water a day out of the ground for the next 20 years. Mosaic is using some of that water to dilute the pollution it dumps into area creeks and streams so it won’t violate state regulations.
The EPA investigation was prompted by a 2003 incident in which the Piney Point phosphate plant, near the southern end of the Sunshine Skyway bridge, leaked some of waste from atop its gyp stack into the edge of Tampa Bay after its owners walked away.
That prompted EPA to launch a national review of phosphate mining facilities, Valentine said. That’s how inspectors found workers were mixing the corrosive substances from the fertilizer operations with the phosphogypsum and wastewater from the mineral processing, she said.
That mixing was something everyone in the industry did, according to Richard Ghent of Mosaic’s Florida operations. The EPA said that violated both state and federal law and put groundwater at risk. It has previously gotten settlements from two other companies, one of which, CF Industries, has since been taken over by Mosaic.
Despite the mishandling of the waste, Debra Waters, Mosaic’s director of environmental regulatory affairs in Florida, said the company has seen no change in the area’s groundwater, which EPA officials said was correct.
The fact that the negotiations have been going on for so many years, Waters said, “should indicate that there’s no imminent threat.”
The company will invest at least $170 million at its fertilizer manufacturing facilities to keep those substances separate from now on. Mosaic will also put money aside for the safe future closure of the gypsum stacks using a $630 million trust fund it is creating under the settlement. That money will be invested until it reaches $1.8 billion, which will pay for the closures.
The South Pierce and Green Bay plants, both in Polk County, will soon shut down, with the closure of the gyp stacks already underway, Waters said.
Mosaic will also pay a $5 million civil penalty to the federal government, a $1.55 million penalty to the state of Louisiana and $1.45 million to Florida, and it will be required to spend $2.2 million on local environmental projects to make up for what it has done.
Mosaic, which runs television ads touting its importance in growing crops to feed the world, has donated to both the Florida Republican and Democratic parties, and to state lawmakers such as Rep. Dana Young, Rep. Jake Raburn and Rep. Ben Albritton.
The company has previously run afoul of the EPA on its air pollution standards. Meanwhile, though, it was rated one of the top 50 employers in America based on salary and job satisfaction. Mosaic employs about 1,200 people in Hillsborough County alone.
CRAIG PITTMAN|Staff Writer|Tampa Bay Times|October 1, 2015|Times staff writer Katie Mettler contributed to this report.
Is It Time to Publicly Shame Water Wasters?
A lot of people become environmentalists out of the goodness of their hearts, but not everyone has a natural inclination to go green. For those who don’t feel a personal responsibility to the planet, perhaps some public shaming is in order?
Amidst a drought crisis that shows no signs of stopping, that’s precisely what Los Angeles is considering. In addition to instituting loftier fines for water-wasters, local officials are giving serious consideration to starting to publish a list of the city’s worst conservationists in order to embarrass them into reducing their water use.
LA wouldn’t be the first to try this scheme. Bronson Mack, a water manager in Nevada told the Guardian that this approach has shown success in his state. He referred to the resulting list as a “who’s who of influential people” in the region, people who tend to assume that the rules – even if just unwritten social rules – don’t apply to them.
It only makes sense that the rich and powerful are wasting the most water. They are the people who can afford to pay the highest water bills, have the largest lawns to water, etc. This problem is even more prominent in Los Angeles where celebrity culture dominates. Actors, musicians and CEOs like to flaunt their wealth and don’t give much thought to how much water their compounds are running through, until that detail starts getting scrutinized by the press.
For what it’s worth, Felicia Marcus, the chairperson of California’s water board has said she has no objections to local municipalities adopting shame tactics. A couple of counties in northern California have already tried releasing the names of residents who exceed recommended water use, leaving the more recognizable names on that list to answer to the public.
What about privacy rights, though? Not being a conservationist isn’t a crime, so what business does the government have in singling out individuals? Last month, the media jumped on a man now referred to as the “Wet Prince of Bel Air,” a guy who used nearly 12 million gallons of water in a year, an amount that should have covered nearly 100 homes. Though this particular offender remained anonymous, given the internet’s angry response, it’s more than likely that he would have received backlash if his name or address were published.
Officials in Nevada said they gave offenders a one-month warning that they were about to be outed for their lack of conservation. Whether to avoid public ridicule or out of genuine guilt, a lot of the people soon-to-be on the list then contacted authorities to cooperate in developing a more efficient water use plan for their homes. If drought shaming is to move forward, it seems appropriate to first give people a chance to mend their ways.
One big problem with the proposed shaming is that it appears to focus on private residents rather than businesses. Even some of the most water reckless mansions don’t come close to the water use by major companies. With agriculture alone accounting for 80 percent of the water used in the state, we’re kidding ourselves if we say individuals are causing the bulk of the drought problem. Targeting people seems pointlessly vindictive if California is going to give commercial properties a pass on the same sort of infractions.
Kevin Mathews|November 2, 2015
Big crack opens in Wyo. thanks to wet spring
A rainy spring in central Wyoming has left a gaping hole in the Earth, courtesy of Mother Nature and gravity.
“The Crack,” as it’s being called, opened up at the end of September. Hunting guides scouting for antelope discovered the massive tear in the ground, which is hundreds of yards long and at least 100 feet deep in some places.
Employees of SNS Outfitter & Guides service took photos of their discovery and then got busy with hunting season. When they came up for air last week, they posted the photos on the company’s Facebook page.
Experts say water running through the hillside loosened the dirt, and gravity did the rest. It poses no danger to people or structures — it’s on state-owned land in the middle of a private cattle ranch.
The wet spring in Wyoming meant more water than usual saturated the ground. There’s no oil drilling, fracking or other development occurring for more than 20 miles in any direction, and experts say it appears simple physics is responsible: The dirt got wet and slid.
Martin County commissioners to consider $31M septic-to-sewer switch
Martin County commissioners Tuesday will consider a $30.7 million project to help stop septic system sewage from polluting the St. Lucie River, the Indian River Lagoon and reefs off the St. Lucie Inlet.
The project would switch 2,145 residences in three areas — Old Palm City, the Golden Gate neighborhood and North River Shores — from septic systems to nonpolluting sewer systems.
Two of the areas — Old Palm City and Golden Gate — also were the focus of a septic study by researchers from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute at Fort Pierce.
Brian Lapointe, a Harbor Branch research professor, said researchers collected algae from ditches, the river and offshore reefs and used chemical properties known as “tracers” to determine it was fed by nitrates and phosphates in sewage from septic systems.
Sewage from septic tanks is “a significant contributor, in fact a primary contributor, to nutrients damaging the estuary and the reefs offshore,” Lapointe said.
Septic tanks are not necessarily “the largest single source” of pollution, he later said. “There can be multiple ‘primary sources’ of pollution: agriculture, fertilizers, sewage, industrial discharges, atmospheric deposition, etc.”
LAKE AT FAULT
Like some other Treasure Coast environmentalists, Gary Goforth, a Stuart environmental engineer, contends periodic Lake Okeechobee discharges account for the lion’s share of contaminants in the St. Lucie.
Between 2002 and 2013, lake discharges contributed an average of 542,915 pounds of nitrogen and 58,233 pounds of phosphorus a year to the estuary, Goforth said.
The 33.7 billion gallons of water discharged from Lake O between Jan. 16 and May 27 this year dumped 404,400 pounds of nitrogen, 42,900 pounds of phosphorus and 4.5 million tons of sediment in the St. Lucie, he said.
The lake contributes large amounts of nutrients some years, Lapointe agreed. In fact, a study he led during massive discharges in 2004 and 2005 called water from Lake O “the 800-pound gorilla in the room” as far as causing pollution in the estuaries.
MAKING THE SWITCH
The county’s proposed septic-to-sewer project would include 1,078 residences in Old Palm City and 775 in Golden Gate, neighborhoods deemed “hot spots” of septic pollution, as well as 292 in North River Shores, which was chosen because about 450 homes there already have been switched. The county also expects to get a $1.5 million grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to help with the switch in North River Shores.
Homeowners will be able to switch from septic tanks to a vacuum collection sewer system.
How it works: Wastewater from a group of homes flows by gravity to a collection tank; the waste is sucked by vacuum from the tank to a sewage treatment plant. A generator at the plant would make sure the flow didn’t stop during power outages.
Costs for the vacuum system range from around $12,300 to about $14,300 per home; costs for a traditional gravity-fed sewer system would range from about $19,300 to more than $21,000.
Under the project being considered by commissioners, homeowners would pay 70 percent of the cost and the county would pay 30 percent, said John Polley, the county’s utilities and solid waste director.
Making the switch would be mandatory, Polley said, because part of the county’s share of the cost would come from fees generated by the new customers, “and without new customers there would be no revenue.”
Tyler Treadway|TCPalm|Oct. 30, 2015
[I am happy that Broward County saw fit to switch from septic to sewer systems in my area. Over the next 30 years, the cost will be recouped in septic tank cleaning alone, without considering drainfield maintenance, or replacement. By far, the largest factor is there is no more environmental damage from seepage, plus I was able to retain two 750 gallon tanks to capture rainwater for irrigation.]
Coming Clean: Maine Points the Way to a Stronger Democracy
Maine Points the Way to a Stronger Democracy
Between the fractious debates and the perpetual polling, you might think all eyes are glued on November 2016 — and an election that’s still a year away. But there was an election this year, and an important outcome in one state points to how we can improve elections in 2016 and beyond.
Mainers set an example for the rest of the country by passing an accountable elections referendum. The new law does just what it sounds like — holds politicians accountable to voters instead of wealthy special interests. It strengthens the state’s Clean Elections Fund, increases fines and penalties for those who break election laws, and requires that political ads list the top funders who paid for them.
Why are reforms like this so important to the Sierra Club? Because a healthy democracy is essential to a healthy environment. Otherwise, wealthy individuals and corporations rooted in polluting industries will continue to flood our political system with big money — spending unprecedented amounts on campaign contributions to politicians with dismal records on votes for clean energy and climate action.
The Sierra Club’s Maine Chapter has been at the forefront of this fight for democracy since at least 1996, when Maine voters passed the nation’s first clean elections law. Since then, Mainers who previously could not have afforded to run for office and win have succeeded against the handpicked candidates of deep-pocketed special interests. And with the playing field leveled between big polluters and everyone else, Maine passed important environmental legislation such as the Maine Climate Change Act in 2003 and the Kid-Safe Products Law in 2008 — proof that good elections can lead to better policy.
To help get the referendum passed, the Sierra Club engaged our members and supporters (we have over 15,000 of them in Maine), worked hard to educate voters on the connection between clean elections and a clean environment, leveraged our voice through letters to the editors in local newspapers, and most important, turned out voters on Election Day.
For all that, though, we absolutely could not have succeeded without our partners in the Democracy Initiative. Together we formed an unbeatable coalition of workers, teachers, community leaders, environmentalists, and other democracy-loving Mainers to show what’s possible when we join forces.
And you can bet we aren’t going to stop with the Pine Tree State. The Sierra Club will continue working with our allies in the Democracy Initiative to take the fight for better elections to cities and other states around the country. Learn more and find out how to get involved at sierraclub.org/democracy.
Michael Brune, Sierra Club|11/04/15
9 Women Who Are Saving the Planet
What happens when a group of intelligent, educated, optimistic and driven women put their talents to work? They save the planet, that’s what.
Meet the women who are at the forefront of the animal rights and environmental movements, changing the world for the better every single day like
a girl a boss.
1. Jane Goodall
In the early 60s when the idea of a woman’s career was to have a secretary job, Jane Goodall packed her things and moved to a tent in Africa to observe chimpanzees in the wild. She had no college degree or credentials but she was committed and in just a few months she was able to make new findings that changed anthropology. She also bonded deeply with the primates to which she would dedicate most of her life.
Today, at 81-years-old, Goodall travels 300 days out of the year doing talks and speeches to spread her message about the importance of conservation and emphasizing personal responsibility to get others to care and do their part. Meanwhile, her nonprofit, the Jane Goodall Institute, which she founded in the 70s, has 19 offices worldwide and works nonstop to conserve and protect natural habitats all over the world.
2. The Black Mambas
A group of 26 young local women called The Black Mambas patrol Greater Kruger national park in Africa to protect the wildlife living there from poachers.
In a place where there was a clear divide between the rich trophy hunters in the park and the poverty outside its boundaries, the women got the community surrounding the park involved in conservation instead of having to contribute to poaching to earn enough to put food on the table.
It may sound like a dangerous job but the women are up to it.
“I am a lady, I am going to have a baby. I want my baby to see a rhino, that’s why I am protecting it,” said Leitah Michabela who’s been a Black Mamba the last two years. “Lots of people said, how can you work in the bush when you are a lady? But I can do anything I want.”
3. Dr. Sylvia Earle
Oceanographer Dr. Sylvia Earle is also known as ‘Her Deepness’ for her accomplishment holding the deepest-dive record for her 1250-foot free dive. The Library of Congress calls her ‘A Living Legend’ but her actual current job title is National Geographic Explorer in Residence.
Earle has spent over 60,000 hours underwater, spoken before Congress about defending our oceans and even though she was named chief scientist for NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) in 1990, she abdicated the title after one meeting so she could get more accomplished as a private citizen.
The documentary ‘Mission Blue’ on Netflix chronicles her story and her desire to make everyone understand that “the ocean is dying. No ocean, no life. No ocean, no us.”
4. Gabriella Cowperwaith
Gabriela Cowperwaith doesn’t consider herself an animal activist but through her work directing ‘Blackfish’ she has unintentionally led one of the biggest animal rights campaigns of the last five years.
The documentary filmmaker has directed, produced and written a number of movies in her 12 year career and started her work with ‘Blackfish’ “as a mother who had just taken her kids to SeaWorld” and was curious on why the whales were showing violent behavior towards their trainers.
Her film exposed the cruelty inflicted upon the whales by the theme park and since its release in 2013, SeaWorld’s attendance has plummeted, along with its stock, revenue and public image. Still, Cowperwaith says her goal is never to change people’s minds.
“I trust that once audiences are armed with the truth, they will make the best decisions by themselves and their families,” she told CNN.
5. Cindy Lowry
Cindy Lowry has dedicated more than 25 years as an environmental activist to protecting and saving marine wildlife and the marine environment. She is most known for being the driving force in saving the lives of three whales that got caught in the Alaskan ice in 1988.
The ordeal, which recently was retold in the feature film ‘Big Miracle’ with Drew Barrymore playing Lowry, changed the then executive director of Greenpeace in Alaska’s life and put her in the national spotlight.
“There were these two holes [in the ice] and even the larger of the two was only just large enough for two [of the three] whales to breathe,” Lowry recalled to Discovery News. “[We] walked over there and my immediate thought was, ‘God, this is when you wish you were Superman and could just go in and scoop them out of there.’”
In a time before smart phones when a picture of the whales could have gone viral, Lowry had to call everyone from the Governor’s office to the U.S. Coast Guard and National Guard to get someone to cut the ice so the whales could swim back into the ocean.
After the whales were set free, one of them came up to her and blew on her face as a form of thank you. She still thinks of those whales but today Lowry, a self proclaimed eternal optimist, works to protect marine ecosystems from the installation of offshore developments for renewable energy, as well as oil and gas.”
6. Stella McCartney
When you grow up as the child of Paul McCartney and Linda Eastman McCartney, it’s no surprise you’ll be a vegetarian and an animal lover.
The now super successful fashion designer grew up in an organic farm in Sussex with sheep, horses and a vegetable garden. She was raised “to respect animals and to be aware of nature, to understand that we share this planet with other creatures” as she told in a 2009 interview with The Guardian, and she kept those values in adulthood.
Leather and fur are completely verboten at the Stella McCartney brand, making it a favorite of eco-conscious celebrities like Anne Hath[a]way. The brand’s boutiques are eco-friendly, with wood flooring taken from sustainably managed forests, repurposed vintage furniture, and powered by renewable energy sources.
McCartney also worked with her family to launch the Meatless Monday initiative that encourages meat eaters and specially schools to ditch the meat once a week for the environment.
7. Kinessa Johnson
Poachers may try to illegally hunt wildlife, specially rhinos, but Kinessa Johnson is making their plans a lot harder. The Afghanistan veteran from Yelm, Wash., hunts poachers before they can strike and kill animals.
Her hunting is not violent, though. Even though she is very much armed, as her Instagram account shows, her work with Veterans Empowered to Protect African Wildlife (VEPAW) consists or spotting and detaining poachers, not hurting them. She is also part of a group that trains other park rangers to catch and detain the wildlife killers.
8. Carol Buckley
Carol Buckley has been working with elephants in captivity for more than 30 years.
As the co-founder of The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, the first natural habitat refuge for sick, old and needy elephants, she has saved 24 elephants. As the president and CEO of Elephant Aid International, she works with governmental agencies and private organizations to develop stronger regulations protecting the welfare of elephants in captivity.
Since 2013 Buckley has been traveling to Asia installing chain free fences that allow elephants to roam instead of living their lives in captivity.
“There’s an incredible shift in their posture and in their eyes when they go chain-free,” Buckley told Care2 earlier this year. “Most of them are present during construction so they know what’s going on. One of the ways they survive in chains is that they check out. They’re not there mentally but when they’re freed they lighten up and their heads lift up higher. They play!”
9. Suzy Amis Cameron
Suzy Amis Cameron is all about decreasing our carbon footprint to save the environment.
“For 25 years, I’ve dedicated myself to learning all I can about the environment and its health. The more I discover, the more I realize that my health and actions are intimately, intricately, intertwined with the biosphere,” she explains in her website. “This has led me to want to do everything in my power to understand and champion sustainable values, from what we wear, to how we teach our children, to the food we eat.”
The environmental advocate is vegan and got her very famous husband, James Cameron, to make the diet switch as well. Nine years ago, she cofounded MUSE School in California, the first school in the country to have a 100 percent plant-based lunch program and that puts great emphasis on environmental consciousness.
In New Zealand, she’s founded Food Forest Organics, a vegan marketplace and cafe. In the U.S. she started the Red Carpet Green Dress challenge that urges designers to create eco-friendly fashion.
Natalia Lima|November 5, 2015
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