Till now man has been up against Nature; from now on he will be up against his own nature. ~Dennis Gabor
Extinction is forever
Florida panthers need our help. After nearly 50 years of focused conservation efforts to bring them back from the brink of extinction, they are making a slow and steady comeback, but habitat loss continues to threaten their survival.
Click here for video
Simply put, panthers need more connected conservation lands. And the most important thing you can do to help panthers right now is to sign our petition to the Florida Legislature urging them to protect panther habitat.
Before lawmakers come back to Tallahassee for committee meetings next week, urge them to use Amendment 1 funds to buy Panther Glades, expand the boundaries of existing panther refuges, and purchase more conservation easements from ranchers.
Unless we act now to protect panther habitat, they’ll slip back towards extinction.
We can’t allow that. Please ADD YOUR NAME to our petition urging lawmakers to protect Florida panthers by protecting the conservation lands they need to survive.
For our panthers,
Aliki Moncrief|Executive Director|Florida Conservation Voters
1st International Environmental Youth Symposium 2015 to be held in Atlanta, Ga.
Contact Information: Dawn Harris Young, (404) 562-8421 (Direct), (404) 562-8400
ATLANTA – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and its Global Partners will host the first International Youth Environmental Symposium
at the Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center in Atlanta, Ga. on October 2, 2015.
The theme for the symposium is “One World, One Environment”.
The event aims to connect students and scholars from across disciplines and cultures to form lasting networks of research and governance.
Together with current stakeholders from universities, government and the industry, participants will discuss the environmental challenges of today to find the solutions of tomorrow.
Who: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy
What: 1st International Environmental Youth Symposium 2015
When: October 2, 2015
Where: Sam Nunn Atlanta Federal Center
61 Forsyth St. SW
Atlanta, Ga. 30303-8960
The goal of the conference is to provide opportunities for students, faculty members, administrators and other environmental and
sustainability stakeholders, to develop partnerships, network, and collaborate on sustainable environmental practices.
The Symposium will also help to facilitate further dialogue among campus representatives who are committed to
experiencing that environmental sustainable principles are woven into their campus community fabric.
The Symposium will host environmentally related speakers from the around the global (Germany, France, Brazil, and Ghana), academia, industry,
and the EPA. The Symposium is open to academic deans and college and university faculty, students, government, and industry.
Please see symposium agenda for a complete list of experts and presentations:
***Interested media should e-mail an RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 404-562-8421.
Please include your name, media affiliation and contact information.
Connect with EPA Region 4 on Facebook: www.facebook.com/eparegion4
And on Twitter: @USEPASoutheast, #EcoYouth2015
Join Us at the Florida Fracking Summit
The Center for Biological Diversity and allies are pleased to invite you to the 2015 Florida Fracking Summit in Fort Myers Oct. 27-28.
So what do you say — ready for the challenge?
The oil and gas industry is pushing forward with extreme oil extraction in Florida — so we need you to step up.
The fracking boom in other parts of the country has led to documented environmental degradation and harms to public health.
These toxic practices are the very same ones currently proposed
on thousands of acres in our state, including in parts of the Everglades.
At the two-day conference, experts will address the many harms of oil and gas extraction on air, land, water and human health.
We’ll discuss current federal and state laws, local government actions and concrete ways you can get involved.
You may not think you’re ready to lead, but after this conference you will. Join us in Fort Myers Oct. 27-28 at the Florida Fracking Summit.
Captive Wildlife Reminder RE: Wildlife Importation
Dear Captive Wildlife Stakeholders,
As a reminder, in addition to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) Captive Wildlife Import permit,
an Official Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (OCVI) from a veterinarian is required for importation of wildlife into the State of Florida.
More information can be found in Chapter 5C-3, FAC. https://www.flrules.org/gateway/ChapterHome.asp?Chapter=5C-3 and
For additional information please contact the Florida Department of Agriculture at www.FreshFromFlorida.com or call 850-410-0900.
For questions regarding FWC’s regulations for importing captive wildlife, please visit http://myfwc.com/license/captive-wildlife/import/
or call the Captive Wildlife Office at 850-488-6253.
Big Data & Decision Making Conference
On December 8 & 9, 2015 Florida Earth will be hosting an international conference on Big Data & Decision Making: The Future of the Water Space, at the University of Florida in Gainesville. This confer
On December 8 & 9, 2015 Florida Earth will be hosting an international conference on Big Data & Decision Making: The Future of the Water Space, at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
This conference will bring together experts from all over the world to address practical methods of data management and downsizing,
so that decision makers in water-related endeavors can have functional tools with which to make comprehensive and meaningful decisions.
Highlights of the conference include keynote speakers including:
Peter Williams, CTO of Big Green Innovators, IBM
Mr. Peter Williams, Ph.D. serves as the Chief Technology Officer of Big Green Innovations at International Business Machines Corp.
He is responsible for assembling, maintaining and developing the portfolio of businesses included, and technologies used.
His particular focus areas have been PV technologies; developing greenhouse gas reduction solutions and services; and most intensively,
water management solutions, covering entire water resources, utility infrastructures, and enterprise water management.
Mr. Williams is IBM Distinguished Engineer. He has been heavily involved in creating the intellectual foundation for IBM’s “Smarter Planet“ initiative.
Steve Bourne, Atkins
Steve Bourne is a professional engineer and software developer at Atkins.
He has 17 years of water resources research, engineering, and software development experience involving geographic information systems (GIS),
climate research, water resources decision support system design, and software development and training.
Currently, his responsibilities at Atkins include project management and information solutions design, development, and implementation.
Recent projects include the BMP Assessment Tool, North Slope Decision Support System, WIEB Grid Tracker, StormCaster, and Asset Master Planner.
Greg van der Vink, Terrametrics and Princeton University Gregory E. van der Vink was a visiting faculty member in the Department of Geosciences
between 1991 and 2015, teaching courses in environmental decision making and investigating natural hazards.
As the President and CEO of Terrametrics, van der Vink’s specializes in predicting human responses to environmental
change that impact poverty-reduction efforts and that are precursors for conflict.
Terrametrics is a firm specializing in poverty reduction, conflict mitigation, and environmentally-sustainable economic growth in the developing world.
Robert J. Lempert (Invited), Rand Corporation
Robert Lempert is a senior scientist at the RAND Corporation and director of the Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition.
His research focuses on decision making under conditions of deep uncertainty, with an emphasis on climate change, energy, and the environment.
Lempert and his research team assist a number of natural resource agencies in their efforts to include climate change in their long-range plans.
He has also led studies on national security strategies and science and technology investment strategies for clients such as the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
Conference sponsorships are available at http://floridaearth.org/datasponsor.
The Hilton UF Conference Center is the conference site and has a special rate of $129 per night. Click on the Hilton logo to go directly to the hotel reservation page.
Of Interest to All
Shell stops drilling in the Arctic
After months of fighting Shell’s efforts to drill in the Arctic, it’s time to celebrate: the Fossil Fuel Empire announced that it will stop drilling!
As the Arctic drilling season came to a close this morning, Shell announced that it failed to find enough oil and gas to warrant further exploration. It will seal its exploration well and remove all equipment and personnel.
Now, we need you to make sure that once Shell’s out, it stays out!
This is a victory for the people and wildlife of the Arctic, and for our climate. The Obama Administration green-lighted Shell’s plans every step of the way. President Obama may have done the wrong thing, but every email, letter, and phone call you sent to the President helped show our strong opposition to Arctic drilling. That opposition provided enough uncertainty to convince Shell it wasn’t worth continuing.
After the Obama Administration gave Shell permits to discharge pollution into the ocean, threaten walruses and polar bears, and risk a large oil spill, Shell’s decision to cease exploration for the foreseeable future is welcome relief.
Shell’s decision also gives the Obama administration a chance at redemption — but we have to keep up the pressure. It’s time to put a stop to Arctic drilling once and for all. President Obama has the authority to do just that.
NASA: Signs of flowing water on Mars
Official says ‘Mars is not the dry, arid planet we thought”
A NASA spacecraft circling Mars has found evidence of flowing water on the Red Planet’s surface — and in our time, not in some dim and more verdant past.
New data reveal that Earth’s close neighbor boasts multiple seeps of salt-laden water that were wet, or at least damp, as recently as last year. The water might be many times saltier than Earth’s ocean, but there could be enough of it to provide a bonanza for humans exploring the surface.
“Mars is not the dry, arid planet we thought of in the past,” NASA planetary science chief Jim Green said Monday. “Under certain circumstances, liquid water has been found on Mars.”
Until now, “we thought of the current Mars as a barren, extremely dry and cold desert,” said SETI Institute planetary scientist Janice Bishop, who didn’t take part in the research. “What is new and exciting here is that this provides evidence for liquid water on Mars in the current environment.”
Eons ago, Mars had enough water to fill enormous lakes and rivers. But scientists prospecting for the wet stuff in recent decades had to content themselves with ice at the planet’s poles, small amounts of water vapor in the atmosphere and water locked up in minerals in the Martian soil. The wet Mars of billions of years ago seemed to have become a desiccated world.
But five years ago, researchers spotted mysterious dark streaks running down the warm slopes of Martian craters and mountains. The lines disappeared in the cold season and reappeared in the warm season, like spring freshets on Earth.
They looked tantalizingly like a sign of liquid water, but landslides or dust couldn’t be ruled out, said study co-author Scott Murchie of the Applied Physics Laboratory.
So Murchie and his colleagues had NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter take a closer look.
Along the mysterious lines, the spacecraft detected the signature of waterlogged molecules of perchlorate, chemicals made up of chlorine and oxygen, the scientists report in this week’s Nature Geoscience.
Something is moistening Mars’s ample deposits of perchlorate, said study leader Lujendra Ojha, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology. And that something must be liquid water.
Maybe the perchlorate itself is pulling water vapor out of the Martian atmosphere. Or maybe water from melting ice flows down hillsides and soaks the perchlorate in the soil. Or maybe water is trickling out of an aquifer.
The amount of water could be huge: The scientists estimated that one dark line contains, at a minimum, enough water to fill 40 of the enormous swimming pools used for international competitions.
Traci Watson|USA TODAY
Recall Alert: Contaminated Cucumbers
We tend to criticize the FDA a good bit here at Living Well, but not without good reason.
But there is one thing they do that I think deserves to be commended: their Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts.
FDA.gov is almost impossible to navigate without getting a headache. But with the Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts, you can have all the crucial information about food, drug, and supplement recalls delivered directly to your email. You can adjust the timing so you get the updates immediately, daily or weekly.
As I don’t watch the news, it’s one email I make sure to read to stay in the loop on food recalls.
And for good reason: There is at least one salmonella- or listeria-tainted food being recalled each month. And many times, more than a few.
This month’s major outbreak: contaminated cucumbers.
Recently, at least 580 people suffered food poisoning and three people died from cucumbers tainted with salmonella.
These cucumbers were produced in Baja California, Mexico, by Fat Boy produce and distributed in 30 U.S. states.
The biggest problem is that these cucumbers are largely unmarked. They don’t have labels on individual cucumbers showing the Fat Boy brand. But they were packed into cartons sporting the brand name:
Another brand of cucumbers is being recalled for potential salmonella contamination as well: Limited Edition cucumbers produced by Andrew & Williamson Fresh Produce, of San Diego, California.
These cucumbers also have a wide distribution, to states including Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.
Again, these cucumbers won’t be individually marked with the Limited Edition brand, but it will be on the carton they come in.
The recall is still ongoing so you’ll have to do your due diligence. Be sure to ask your grocer where they got their cucumbers. Or just avoid cucumbers altogether for a while.
Every year, approximately 42,000 cases of salmonella poisoning are reported. But not all cases are reported, so the actual number of infections may be closer to a million or more, and it is estimated that approximately 400 people die each year from acute salmonella poisoning.
Salmonella is especially harmful and can be fatal in young children, elderly people, pregnant women, or those with weak immune systems. If you or your loved ones fall into any of these categories, take extra caution.
Symptoms of salmonella poisoning include diarrhea, abdominal pain, and fever six-72 hours after eating the contaminated food. Chills, headache, nausea, and vomiting can also occur, and symptoms can last up to seven days.
Long-term side effects from salmonella poisoning include reactive arthritis, which is characterized by joint pain, eye irritation, and painful urination. It can also lead to aortic aneurysm, ulcerative colitis, and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth.
Cooking meats to the proper temperature can reduce the risk of foodborne illness.
For raw vegetables like cucumbers, you definitely want to give them a wash, but that still may not be enough to get rid of all the bacteria on the produce.
Your best bet is to make sure you take care of yourself to keep your immune system in tiptop shape and to stay abreast of food recalls. And whenever I’m worried I may be eating something sketchy, I’m sure to take an oregano oil capsule or two.
Other foods recalled this month for salmonella or listeria contamination include specific cheeses, fresh sliced apples, and Safeway deli sandwiches made with cucumber.
The full recall list also includes foods that have been found to have undeclared food allergens, as well as recalled dietary supplements. If you or a loved one have a severe food allergy, I highly recommend you sign up to get the recall alerts to protect yourself from mislabeled food.
You can sign up for FDA’s Recalls, Market Withdrawals and Safety Alerts here.
Jasmine LeMaster|Living Well Daily|9/30/15
Georgia Aquarium Won’t Be Getting Wild Belugas From Russia
In a huge victory for captive cetaceans, a federal court has denied the Georgia Aquarium’s latest attempt to bring 18 wild-caught beluga whales from Russia to the U.S. for public display.
Unfortunately, with a low success rate for breeding and a captive population that won’t sustain itself without new babies, aquariums are going to have to look to the wild to keep their exhibits open and that’s just what Georgia Aquarium has been doing.
The controversy surrounding this case began back in 2012, when the Georgia Aquarium tried to get a permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to import the belugas, who were captured in Russia’s Sea of Okhotsk between 2006 and 2011.
Had the permit been approved, it would have marked the first time in 20 years that the U.S. allowed anyone to bring in wild caught cetaceans specifically for public display.
The belugas in question were supposed to go to six different facilities including the Georgia Aquarium, and SeaWorld parks in Florida, Texas and California, along with the Mystic Aquarium and the Shedd Aquarium under breeding and loan agreements – although earlier this month even SeaWorld changed its stance and announced it would not accept any of them because it pledged not to take any wild-caught cetaceans.
Fortunately, in 2013 the NMFS denied the permit after concluding that the Georgia Aquarium hadn’t met the criteria for import under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), citing concerns about the impact captures would have on wild populations, the demand it would create for further captures and imports that a few were still young enough to be dependent on their mothers.
Despite the decision, consequences of the import and strong public opposition – more than 55,000 people signed a Care2 petition asking it to stop trying – the Georgia Aquarium didn’t take no for an answer and has been fighting to get them ever since, arguing they have a right to import them and arrogantly stating that “maintaining a sustainable population of beluga whales in human care is essential to the survival of belugas everywhere.”
Now advocates for these belugas, and organizations including the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Cetacean Society International and Earth Island Institute, which intervened on their behalf, are celebrating a huge win.
In a ruling handed down this week, a federal judge sided with the NMFS, which means the Georgia Aquarium is not getting its hands on these belugas.
“We are thrilled with the court’s ruling,” said Dr. Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist at AWI. “The MMPA was enacted to protect marine mammals from harm and exploitation and that is exactly what it has done in this case. The US will thankfully not be part of the unsustainable and inhumane trade in belugas out of Russia.”
According to a statement from AWI, supporting organizations are still working to get the NMFS to declare this population of belugas as depleted under the MMPA in an to stop any further captures and increase conservation efforts that will protect them in the wild.
Alicia Graef|September 30, 2015
Science is endangered at USFWS
This week, the Union of Concerned Scientists released a blistering report that shows that many scientists working at the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) are gravely concerned by the direction the Service has taken. The survey showed that many government scientists are prevented from doing the critical work of protecting imperiled species by political and business interference. In particular, some at the agency described repeated instances of the Service ignoring their own experts to defer to state wildlife agencies.
The survey of thousands of government scientists found that more scientists at FWS than at any other surveyed government agency feel that political and business interests play an inappropriate role in decision making. More than seventy percent of scientists that responded said that the level of political influence within their agency is too high–with nearly one in five saying the FWS does not adhere to its scientific integrity policy.
Recent proposals from FWS have demonstrated the disastrous impact of this extreme deference to state interests. The proposed stripping of protections of nearly all of the gray wolves in the lower 48 states, the sudden reversal of proposed protections for wolverines, and newly-conceived barriers to public participation in the listing process are just a few of the ramifications of the culture currently in place within the Service.
In order to help the FWS to be able to administer the Endangered Species Act as it is written, the Service must assert its role in safeguarding imperiled species. Just this week, two western governors appeared before Congress to declare that they planned to pursue further state influence in listing decisions. The environment created by this culture of collaboration over science weakens the Service and pushes imperiled species closer to extinction.
The feedback provided by the government scientists was shocking in their appraisal of the agency. Among the comments:
- The whole agency is embarrassed about regulating the ESA and tries to downplay its role.
- The current “leadership” of FWS has sold out a “conservation career” for “career conservation and advancement.” Specifically, there is a evolving culture of deference to anyone and everyone with an opinion (especially State Directors), often to the exclusion of the agency’s own experts.
- Most decisions I’m aware of: wolf, wolverine, American burying beetle, mussels, were the result of political interference.
- We need to stop hiring “hook and bullet” biologists and managers who have little understanding of ecosystem management.
- This agency does not like to regulate.
- We currently have a system that encourages robotic behavior, and “apologists” – people who are embarrassed that we administer and enforce the ESA and MBTA.
- Service leadership seems to think collaboration trumps science when making policy decisions related to endangered species management.
The long, proud history of this agency–and of the Endangered Species Act–should not be allowed to be cast aside for political points. The first step to regaining internal and public trust in the FWS is for Director Ashe to exert his agency’s role under the Endangered Species Act and make science-based listing decisions. Please take action by learning more about the report and asking Director Ashe to reject future inappropriate interference in endangered species protection decisions.
Leda Huta|Executive Director|Endangered Species Coalition
Calls to Action
Tell the Obama Administration to revoke Shell’s Arctic drilling permits – here
Please weigh in now to help clean up dirty trucks and cut global warming pollution – here
Tell the EPA to label glyphosate as cancer-causing and begin the process of regulating its use – here
Stop Tragic Koala Die-Off – here
Stop Monsanto’s Desperate Plan to Kill GMO Labeling – here
Stop The Legislature From Telling Communities They Can’t Regulate Fracking – here
Tell Congress it’s time for America to take the climate crisis seriously – here
Please tell your lawmakers to stop the damage and save the Land and Water Conservation Fund – here
Tell FWS Director Dan Ashe to stop playing politics with species protections and carry out the Endangered Species Act. – here
Stop the slaughter – ban the ivory trade now – here
Tell the Obama Administration- No new oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico – here
Stop the hydropower industry bill that is bad for rivers, clean water, and communities – here
Save Threatened Bird from Shellfish Industry Expansion – here
Tell Congress- Give Native Americans back their sacred land – here
Birds and Butterflies
Huge victory for birds in the Arctic
Last night, Shell announced that it was suspending its efforts to drill in the Arctic Ocean for the “foreseeable future.” This is great news, and something that the bird lovers of Audubon Alaska can be proud of having helped make happen. Audubon’s team of supporters, chapters and employees led efforts to document the incredible values of the Arctic Ocean and emphatically made it clear to Shell that oil development wasn’t worth the risk of an oil spill. This Audubon Alaska fact sheet details the wildlife values of the Chukchi Sea as well as the dangers of oil spills.
With Shell’s decision, the Obama Administration has a number of opportunities coming up in the next year to protect the Arctic Ocean from future development. Jim Adams, Audubon Alaska’s Policy Director, said: “First, this is great news for wildlife and for the many, many people who told Shell that Arctic Ocean oil and gas development was unacceptable. Now, let’s put a halt to Arctic Ocean oil and gas leasing and make sure no other company plants its drilling rigs in the Arctic Ocean.”
Congratulations to all of the people who helped discourage Shell from taking its Arctic Ocean development plans further, and thanks from the walrus, eiders, bowhead whales, and other wildlife of the region!
David Yarnold|President and CEO|National Audubon Society|9/28/15
Despite Losing 90 Percent of its Population, Feds Say Sage Grouse Not Endangered
Last week the Obama administration said the sage grouse will not be listed as endangered and will not be afforded federal protection, despite the fact that its population has plummeted in recent years. Instead the sage grouse’s future rests in a gray area of state-specific efforts and restrictions where the livestock, energy and construction industries (who have largely contributed to the bird’s decline) are responsible for its survival.
The Sage Grouse Population “Has Plummeted by Up to 90 Percent”
What’s all the fuss about this chicken-like bird? It depends on who you ask.
Conservationists see a bird in peril who gauges the health of our ecosystems. As reported in The Washington Post, scientists estimate that the sage grouse’s population “has plummeted by up to 90 percent as drilling and mining operations disturbed its habitat.” The bird lost 56 percent of its historic range, and its population is down to 200,000 to 500,000 individuals from millions. The bird’s sagebrush habitat is also home to 350 other species. Erik Molvar, a wildlife biologist with WildEarth Guardians, described the Obama administration’s decision to the Post as:
The sage grouse faces huge problems from industrial development and livestock grazing across the West, and now the Interior Department seems to be squandering a major opportunity to put science before politics and solve these problems.
Sage grouse advocates also argue that the administration’s “solution” is missing “key conservation measures.”
If you asked the livestock, energy and construction industries about the sage grouse, you’d probably get a different perspective. They see the bird as an obstacle to present and future development. The bird’s territory spans 11 different states and 165 million acres — acres that are also ranches, residential homes and oil and gas gold mines. As the Post reports, over half “of the land that makes up sage grouse habitat is owned by the BLM and Forest Service,” and “1,100 ranchers who farm more than four million acres” are farming on sage grouse habitat; you can bet they have a vested interest in the bird’s status. If the sage grouse had been listed as endangered, Utah estimated that it would’ve lost over $40 billion in economic production from oil and gas. And what’s been a free-for-all dynamic until now could’ve ended if the sage grouse was federally protected.
The Plan to “Save” the Sage Grouse
So what’s the plan to “save” the sage grouse if it’s not federally protected? The three main industries decided to step up for the sage grouse by following state-led efforts and restrictions now that they’re practically being forced to.
Here are some of the ideas to “save” the sage grouse:
– Oil and gas companies told their employees to avoid driving at night, so they don’t interrupt the bird’s breeding hours.
– BLM is creating buffer zones around the bird’s habitat to reduce noise for the easily spooked sage grouse.
– There are plans to suppress cheatgrass, or an invasive grass species that’s driving the bird’s decline by taking over the bird’s sagebrush habitat.
– The industries considered planting slow growing sagebrush that will take years to grow.
– There is talk of using fences with white reflectors instead of the typical barbed wire fences that would pierce the birds trying to fly through it.
The federal government said it will continue monitoring the bird, and it’s set to review the sage grouse’s listing in five years. But they might have to reevaluate the decision much sooner: two Nevada counties and mining companies have already filed a lawsuit against some restrictions citing “total destruction of certain businesses.” Idaho’s governor, Republican Governor C.L. “Butch” Otter, has filed a similar lawsuit resisting the restrictions; Governor Otter’s lawsuit speaks volumes about the viability of state-led conservation efforts — if we can’t trust a governor to uphold these restrictions, then who can we trust to put the sage grouse’s survival before state and economic interests? Leave it to states and big business NOT to care about the sage grouse.
Jessica Ramos|September 29, 2015
To download the free Audubon Bird Guide, go to: www.audubon.org/apps
(Having trouble viewing this email? View it as a Web page.)
The FWC has updated the “Panther Pulse” page with mortality information through Sept. 28, 2015 as of 3 p.m. This information can be viewed at: http://www.floridapanthernet.org/index.php/pulse/.
Biologists gain valuable information by examining panther remains. Report injured or dead panthers to the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-FWCC (3922).
FWC announces details of 2016 Python Challenge™ with partners
Building on the success of its 2013 Python Challenge™, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida Inc.(Foundation) this week announced additional details of the 2016 Python Challenge™, a conservation effort that includes public outreach on invasive species and a month-long competition to remove Burmese pythons from public lands in Florida.
The Challenge will take place in a larger geographic area than the 2013 Python Challenge. The FWC is working in coordination with several state and federal land management agencies, including Everglades National Park, to provide access to additional public land areas during the competition.
According to Everglades National Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos, “We look forward to expanding access into the Park and to providing more opportunities for members of the public to become approved authorized python agents. I hope that our increased participation this year will engage the public and highlight the scientific work that is being done to care for our public lands.”
The dates of the python removal competition in south Florida are set for Jan. 16- Feb. 14, 2016. Participants will be able to sign up as an individual competitor or as part of a team of up to five people.
“We’re launching the 2016 Python Challenge™ because Burmese pythons continue to be a significant issue in the Everglades,” said FWC Commissioner Ron Bergeron. “We hope these efforts will increase sightings and removal of pythons over the long-term in this valuable ecosystem.”
The aim of the 2016 Python Challenge™ is to promote Everglades conservation through invasive species removal, and the FWC and the Foundation are also increasing opportunities for the public to receive training so they can help. Training events will teach participants how to identify, report and then safely and humanely capture Burmese pythons.
“The Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida is proud to partner with the FWC and Everglades National Park on this exciting conservation program,” said Foundation Chairman Rodney Barreto. “If you are interested in learning more or want to help promote or sponsor the 2016 Python Challenge™, we encourage you to visit the Python Challenge website.”
Details about upcoming training events, competition rules, registration, prizes and events will be posted at PythonChallenge.org as they are finalized.
To report nonnative fish and wildlife, call the FWC’s Invasive Species Hotline at 888-IVE-GOT1 (888-483-4681), report your sighting online at IveGot1.org or download the IveGot1 smartphone app.
For more information on Burmese pythons and other nonnative species in Florida, go to MyFWC.com/nonnatives.
U.S. President Barack Obama and People’s Republic of China President Xi Jinping agreed Friday to end the domestic commercial trade of ivory in their respective countries. This historic accord comes at a time when as many as 35,000 elephants are poached each year for their tusks to supply the world’s growing ivory demand. “We are seeing an important, public commitment from the world’s two largest economies to work together to bring an end to the elephant poaching crisis,” says Dr. Patrick Bergin, African Wildlife Foundation CEO and member of the White House Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. “President Obama and President Xi are sending a clear message that they intend to throw the weight of their countries behind the elephant crisis.” As part of this agreement, the two governments will cooperate in bringing additional training, technical expertise, information sharing and public awareness to the wildlife trafficking crisis.
Manatee Mortality Updates
The 2014 January and February manatee mortality reports have been finalized.
The finalized tables have been posted and the information can be viewed at
The manatee mortality web search is currently offline, but will be updated when it is available again.
Leatherback Visits Bay Area
One of the first confirmed sightings of an endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle this season occurred on Saturday, Aug. 15th near Pedro Point in Pacifica, Calif. Leatherbacks, like the one spotted, migrate across the entire Pacific Ocean, over 6,500 miles each way, to feed on jellyfish along our Pacific Coast. Captain Roger Thomas of the Salty Lady, a sport fishing boat, spotted the leatherback coming up for air, and passenger Peter Winch captured the sighting with his camera.
Turtle Island won protections for these gentle giants in 2001 with the formation of the Pacific Leatherback Conservation Area, which prohibits deadly drift gillnet fishing between peak turtle times along the California and Oregon coasts. This designation has drastically reduced the number of leatherback deaths in the fishery. The sighting of this leatherback along with a recent sighting of an entangled dead leatherback helps demonstrate the need for continued and increased protections. Sadly, the sighting of the dead leatherback shows we still have work to do to protect this species off our California Coast.
Turtle Island helped draw attention to this amazing species by getting our State Assembly member to introduce legislation that made the leatherback the official marine reptile of California, celebrated on Oct. 15th as Pacific Leatherback Conservation Day.
Turtle Island Restoration Network|9/29/15
MITIGATION PROJECT CREATES MANATEE REFUGIA
A component of the Picayune Strand Restoration Project in southwest Florida is plugging the canals north of Port of the Islands Marina, causing an impact to the existing warm water refugia for manatees populating this area in the Faka Union Canal. A refugia is an area where special environmental circumstances enable a community of species to survive.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) negotiated a solution with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to mitigate the impacts in accordance with the Marine Mammal Act. By constructing an oxbow along the Faka Union Canal just south of the marina, the warm refugia in the marina will be functionally “replaced.” This Manatee Mitigation Project taps into the warm groundwater in the bottom of the deep pools of the oxbow, providing a warm refugia for the manatees during cold snaps from December through March.
SFWMD staff strategically scouted for manatees and worked with other state and federal resource agencies and the building contractor to develop a safe, approved and successful blasting plan. Take a look at the video.
The Picayune Strand Restoration Project will re-establish natural sheetflow to enhance wetlands in the 55,000-acre Picayune Stand and provide more natural freshwater inflow to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The project includes constructing three pump stations with spreader canals, plugging 40 miles of canals and removing 227 miles of roads.
It’s Not Just Shark Fins; Trade In Shark Meat Is Up 42%
Last month, Care2 members witnessed a huge victory when almost 180,000 members signed a petition demanding that UPS stop shipping shark fins.
UPS listened; the company had a conversation with the World Wildlife Fund and subsequently tweeted that it was banning the shipment of shark fins.
This was an awesome success, but as petition author Chris Maddeford wrote in his petition, “Shark populations are declining around the globe, with over 140 species of sharks listed as endangered, threatened, or near threatened by extinction.”
Now a new report from the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finds that the market for shark meat increased a horrific 42 percent between 2000 and 2010.
“We had a sense that the shark meat trade was increasing,” said one of the report’s authors, Shelley Clarke of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission. “The magnitude of the increase and the extent to which it is concentrated in Brazil for shark meat, and Korea for skate and ray meat, were striking.”
According to the report, the total value of the worldwide trade in shark meat and fins is nearly $1 billion.
“These species are in global crisis,” said Luke Warwick, acting director of the global shark conservation campaign for The Pew Charitable Trusts, which was not affiliated with the study. “Because sharks grow slowly, mature late, and bear few young, they can’t recover from depleted populations quickly enough, especially if they continue to be killed at a rate of about 100 million, year after year.”
All About Sharks
Sharks, skates and rays are all Elasmobranchs, which are a subclass of Chondrichthyes, or cartilaginous fishes. This means they have a skeleton made of cartilage, rather than bone.
Their population is declining rapidly, making them endangered, largely due to overfishing and getting caught in fishing gear. Some species have lost 99 percent of their population. As apex predators, they are at the top of the food chain; without them, the entire food chain is affected.
Ironically, the same laws that were intended to help sharks by reducing the shark fin trade could also be increasing the trade in shark meat. That’s because these laws now encourage using the entire shark instead of chopping off its fins and throwing the rest back into the ocean. In fact, the report suggests that the anti-finning regulations are specifically responsible for a “considerable” expansion in the market. Interestingly, the report reveals that the market for shark fins is quite different from the market for shark meat.
Saving Sharks And Their Relatives
Since most nations don’t keep statistics on specific shark species, it’s hard to know exactly which sharks are most threatened. A first step, which FAO is advocating, would be to require countries to keep more accurate data.
Even worse, a lack of standards means that a box labelled “shark meat” could contain parts from any shark species, whether dried, frozen or fresh. In the worst case scenario, shark products don’t even merit a unique name; instead, they are labeled as “unidentified fish.”
Some action has already been taken: last year the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species protected five shark species and all related manta rays. In addition, ten new shark sanctuaries have recently been established.
But most regulation doesn’t cover shark’s close relatives, the rays and skates, which comprise 75 percent of the U.S. catch of this family. According to Sonja Fordham, president of the nonprofit Shark Advocates International it is “legal and commonplace” to cut the wings off of live rays and skates. These fish “are being fished as heavily, and are more threatened and much less protected,” she added.
Clearly, in order to conserve all members of the shark family, these fish need to be covered by any new legislation and, most importantly, labels must be species-specific, and data collection needs to improve. These are some of the goals of the FAO report; with the increase of detailed data will come the ability to track the trade in shark meat more efficiently.
Hopefully, this will happen sooner rather than later, while there is still time to save the world’s sharks.
Judy Molland|September 29, 2015
Supermoon Sparked Rhino Killing Spree as Poaching Numbers Skyrocket
Sunday’s supermoon lunar eclipse was absolutely beautiful, but it was also deadly for some African wildlife. Eight rhinos were killed over the weekend at a South African park, Hluhluwe Game Reserve, according to wildlife officials. This puts the death toll for poached rhinos in the area up to 86 for the year. The total for all of 2014 was 99.
“Full moon periods are known as the dreaded ‘poachers’ moon,” said Simon Bloch of South Africa’s Times, because the brightness of the moon helps poachers
hunt without the use of artificial lighting, which can give away their position to wildlife officials. Photo credit: Shutterstock
Wildlife officials worry that the death toll this year will be even higher than last year because South Africa is “going into summer months, where it gets light at 4:30 a.m. and only dark after 7:30 p.m. now to January,” rhino conservationist Dex Kotze told The Dodo. Kotze is the founder of Youth 4 African Wildlife and one of the strategists for Global March for Elephants, Rhinos and Lions in Johannesburg, which is taking place around the world this weekend.
“The extra light really assists the poachers,” Kotze explains. “There is just so much more time for poachers to be in out in the veld/bush with weather conditions playing in their favor.”
The killing spree this past weekend was, no doubt, brought on by the supermoon. “Full moon periods are known as the dreaded ‘poachers’ moon,” said Simon Bloch of South Africa’s Times, who initially reported on the killings. He told The Dodo “at least six of [the eight] killings took place over the exact period of the supermoon lunar eclipse, which lasted from sunset on Sunday to sunrise on Monday. At least six of the rhinos had their horns hacked out of their faces. Four died from lethal chemical darting; two others were shot by a rifle.”
Wildlife killing often increases during full moons because it allows for increased visibility “thus eliminating the need for unnatural light sources such as flashlights in the bush, which could give their positions away to watchful eyes—it makes it easier to see one’s quarry/target,” said Bloch.
Bloch says the reserve has tried to crack down on poaching, but has little to show for it. “There are some exceptionally dedicated and skilled anti-poaching rangers,” he says. “However, insufficient man-power and budget expenditure makes it difficult to keep rhinos safe from criminal syndicates that operate with inside information, and have the bush-craft skills and weaponry to infiltrate the expansive reserves, which are protected wilderness areas.”
Wildlife poaching has become a massive problem worldwide. Despite heightened awareness of the problem, Louie Psihoyos, award-winning director of The Cove and Racing Extinction, says the “wildlife trade is second only to the drug trade.”
The killing of Cecil the Lion this summer sparked intense Internet outrage, but the problem is truly rampant. Many efforts are being undertaken to put a stop to the illegal trade, including commissioning fake elephant tusks and fitting them with GPS tracking devices, using drones to survey large areas and even using 3-D printers to manufacture fake rhino horns.
Rhinos’ numbers have plummeted worldwide in recent years as poaching has skyrocketed. The Western Black Rhinoceros was declared extinct in 2011. Currently, the Black Rhino, Javan Rhino and Sumatran Rhino are listed as critically endangered. “In Africa, Southern white rhinos, once thought to be extinct, now thrive in protected sanctuaries and are classified as Near Threatened,” says the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
“But the Northern white rhino subspecies is believed to be extinct in the wild and only a few captive individuals remain in a sanctuary in Kenya,” adds WWF. “Black rhinos have doubled in number over the past two decades from their low point of 2,480 individuals, but total numbers are still a fraction of the estimated 100,000 that existed in the early part of the 20th century.” From 2010 to 2015, 4,714 rhino deaths have been reported in South Africa alone, according to Oxpeckers, a group of investigative environmental journalists.
And it’s not just rhinos, of course. Many other species are on the brink of extinction. The killing of two elephants in Zakouma National Park in Chad in August had many wildlife conservationists concerned. It’s the first time an elephant had been killed by poachers in the park in more than three years. Poaching decimated the elephant population there in the early 2000s. Their numbers dropped from some 4,000 in 2006 to just 450 today.
And earlier this year, 68 elephants were killed by armed militants in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 60 days. The militants have aggressively moved into the poaching business to use money from illegal ivory to buy food, weapons and ammunition. At the African Elephant Summit this year, delegates from various Asian, European and African countries predicted that African elephants could go extinct within decades if something doesn’t change.
Cole Mellino|September 30, 2015
700 Beehives Hang Off This Rocky Cliff to Boost Dwindling Bee Populations
The Shennongjia Nature Reserve in central China has an unusual approach to boost the country’s dwindling bee population: a sky-high, vertical apiary.
Roughly 700 wooden beehives hang from a cliff 4,000 feet above sea level on a mountain in the conservation area. According to People’s Daily Online, this vertigo-inducing “wall of hives” is meant to attract the area’s wild bees into settling in the boxes, as it mimics their natural habitats.
To get to the boxes, beekeepers have to climb to each one individually. The hives contain thousands upon thousands of bees.
As you might know, global food production is dependent on pollination provided by honey bees and other pollinators. But in some parts of China, bees have virtually disappeared, forcing some farmers to pollinate their crops by hand with feather dusters.
The website Xinhua.net reported (via The Daily Mail), that in China’s north and north east, bees have become extinct. Other areas in China are also seeing bee populations decline, the publication said.
It is suspected that neonicotinoids, a class of pesticides known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species, is a major factor in overall global bee population declines. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 1,121 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines.
As beekeepers and conservationists around the world try to solve the plight of colony collapse disorder, this extraordinary apiary in in the Far East seems to be seeing some success, The Daily Mail reported.
Why build an apiary on a mountain? According to the National Commission of the People’s Republic of China for UNESCO, the Shennongjia Nature Reserve is unique in that its location has several different climates zones in a single area—subtropical, warm temperate, temperate and cold temperate—which allows for a rich variety of fauna and flora (as well as ample pollen) to grow.
Along with the bees, approximately 1,131 species of plants grow in the reserve, along with 54 kinds of animals, 190 kinds of birds, 12 kinds of reptile and 8 kinds of amphibian.
The commission said that the main cash income of the farmers living in the reserve is “mainly based on a diversified economy by raising cattle, pigs and beekeeping as well as collecting the Chinese herbal medicine etc.”
See a short Video
Lorraine Chow|September 30, 2015
45,000 Acres Protected for Rare Butterflies in Midwest, Great Lakes
Two rare prairie butterflies — the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling — now have some of their most important habitat protected. The skipper (lost from 65 percent of its historic range) was protected under the Endangered Species Act as part of our historic 2011 agreement to speed decisions on 757 species around the country. The Poweshiek skipperling was also added to the endangered species list because it shares habitat with the skipper and is missing from 95 percent of its historic range.
Both of these inch-long, orange-and-brown butterflies have been hurt by the widespread loss of their native prairie habitat. That’s why it was important this week that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized protection for 19,903 acres for the Dakota skipper in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. The Poweshiek skipperling received 25,000 protected acres in Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas.
Read more in our press release.
Center for Biological Diversity|9/30/15
[Still no help for the Florida Panther.]
Lifesaver for 49 Hawaiian Plants, Animals
On Tuesday, as part of the Center for Biological Diversity’s 757 settlement agreement, 49 species were proposed for Endangered Species Act protection by the Fish and Wildlife Service. From the band-rumped storm-petrel to the orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly and Maui reedgrass, these Hawaiian plants and animals are threatened by a combination of habitat destruction, invasive species and climate change.
“Many of these species are on the brink of extinction, so I’m relieved to see them moving toward the protection they desperately need,” said Loyal Mehrhoff, the former field supervisor of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office and now recovery director at the Center.
With more endangered species than any other state, Hawaii’s on the front lines of the extinction crisis. The Center petitioned for protection of 27 of the 49 species in 2004; many of them have been waiting years for protection. Our 757 species agreement has already resulted in endangered species protections for 142 species and proposed protection for another 66, including these.
Read more in our press release.
Four Plants in South Florida’s Vanishing Pine Rocklands Closer to Protection
A step up for plants threatened by rising seas: The Center for Biological Diversity’s landmark 757 agreement also pushed the Fish and Wildlife Service to announce Monday that four increasingly rare plants in Florida may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection.
The Big Pine partridge pea, wedge spurge, sand flax and Blodgett’s silverbush have all lost pine rocklands habitat to development and are now at risk of being swamped by sea-level rise, which could be as much as 3 to 6 feet in South Florida by 2100. The four plant species have been candidates for listing since 1980; the next step is a full status review by the Service.
“It’s amazing these four plants have survived the development that’s destroyed nearly all pine rocklands habitat,” said Jaclyn Lopez, our Florida director. “Endangered Species Act protection will help reverse their decline.”
Read more in our press release.
Bees are dying by the millions, and the USDA just called for the repeal of one of the few limits on bee-killing pesticides currently on the books.
This is outrageous: The U.S. Department of Agriculture just called on the EPA to *weaken* protections for bees.
You read that right. Bees have been dying by the millions—bees that we depend on to pollinate the majority of our biggest food crops.
But instead of leading the charge to protect the bees, which our entire agricultural economy depend on, the USDA is pressuring the EPA to repeal one of the few protections we’ve put in place.
We’re calling on Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to say no to the pesticide lobbyists and help protect the bees.
After years of watching bees die off by the millions, last year President Obama established a special task force to come up with a plan to save the bees.
And now we’re finally starting to see action, with the preservation of some bee habitats and some initial limits placed on the use of bee-killing pesticides. It’s not nearly enough—but it’s a start.
But it seems even these small steps are too much for the pesticide industry. They’ve lobbied against action to protect the bees from the start—and now the Department of Agriculture is taking their side.
It’s time for Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to prioritize the protection of the pollinators that farmers rely on—not pesticide industry lobbyists.
Elizabeth Ouzts|Regional Program Director|Environment Florida
18 African Elephants Destined for US Zoos
Three US zoos have just announced a ‘Conservation Partnership’ with Swaziland officials to relocate 18 African elephants to the Dallas Zoo, Sedgwick County Zoo in Kansas, and the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium in Nebraska. These three AZA accredited zoos, now working in partnership with each other, have applied for permits for the import.
The reason (justification) given for the import by the zoos? They claim that degraded landscape due to elephant foraging, unprecedented drought conditions, and not enough land for both the elephants and critically endangered rhinos in Swaziland, make this import and subsequent elephant slavery necessary. According to the non-profit, Big Game Parks Trust in Swaziland, the elephants need to either be exported or killed as a solution.
While Swaziland may truly be in a dire situation, the truth-spin by the zoos is mindboggling, with each zoo claiming heroic, 11th hour efforts saving life threatened elephants from being killed. This is not a conservation partnership, it is a profit partnership, being sold as a rescue mission.
Each zoo will take six elephants, and each zoo will spin its predictable tale of lies and manipulated facts, while 18 more innocent elephants are stolen from their homelands and families, and sold off as commodities to the endlessly greedy and exceedingly out of touch zoo industry. All this will be done under the well crafted lie of conservation.
Stay tuned for more updates and what you can do to help.
For more information for now, click here.
In Defense of Animals|10/01/15
First ‘Glowing’ Sea Turtle Discovered in Solomon Islands
Some corals are known to “glow” underwater, as do some jellyfish, eels and more than 180 other fish species.
And now, for the first time ever, it was discovered that reptiles also have the ability to light up like a Christmas tree.
In July, a glowing hawksbill sea turtle — a critically endangered species – was discovered in the Solomon Islands by David Gruber, a marine biologist.
Gruber was on an expedition funded by the TBA 21 Academy, whose mission, according to its website, is to “reimagine the culture of exploration, opening a new chapter in the history of art at sea.” His intention was to film bioflourescent corals and small sharks.
Biofluorescence, as National Geographic explains, is “the ability to reflect the blue light hitting a surface and re-emit it as a different color.”
This is not the same as bioluminescence, which is the ability of animals to emit their own light through chemical reactions or host bacteria.
One night as Gruber was filming a coral reef, the hawksbill sea turtle appeared “from out of the blue,” he said in a National Geographic video. He described the turtle as looking like a “bright red and green spaceship.”
Gruber’s diving partner, TBA 21 Academy Director Markus Reymann, said in the video that he’d never seen a turtle that calm. “He was just hanging out with us. I was loving the light.”
Scientists have only been studying bioflourescence for about 10 years. “As soon as we started tuning into it, we started finding it everywhere,” Gruber said. “First it was in corals and jellyfish, then it was in fish – and there it was, this UFO.”
Most bioflourescent animals display only one color, usually green or red. Corals can display both colors – and apparently, so can sea turtles, although Gruber said the red could be from algae on the shell.
The reason why the hawksbill is bioflourescent remains a mystery. “We know they have really good vision. They go on long and arduous migrations,” Gruber said. He said they could glow to find or attract each other.
It could also be a defense mechanism to protect themselves from predators. Alexander Gaos, director of the Eastern Pacific Hawksbill Initiative (ICAPO), a nonprofit working to bring this species back from the brink of extinction, told National Geographic bioflourescence could serve as a kind of camouflage.
Hawksbills are already sometimes difficult to spot because their shells blend in with their rocky reef habitat, Gaos said.
According to ICAPO, hawksbills are the only species of sea turtle with “a brilliantly colored, keratinous shell consisting of overlapping (imbricated) scutes, colloquially referred to as a tortoise shell.”
Sadly, its unique shell is what has driven the hawksbill to near extinction. Along with the dangers facing all sea turtles, such as getting caught in fishing nets and tangled in plastic bags and other marine pollution, the hawksbills are the only species killed for their shells. For centuries, tortoiseshell was used in jewelry, combs, ornaments and other items.
In 1977, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) treaty generally put an end to the tortoiseshell trade. Japan continued to import the shells until 1991, when it stopped doing so to prevent a U.S. fish embargo. Unfortunately, the tortoiseshell trade still continues underground, according to ICAPO.
Because the hawksbill sea turtle is now one of the rarest species on Earth, finding the reasons for its bioflourescence will be extremely difficult. Gruber will instead study the green sea turtle, which is closely related to the hawksbill but not as close to extinction.
“What’s even more sad about this is these turtles have such a storied history, and now they’re critically endangered,” Gruber said.
But there is some encouraging news: Hawksbill sea turtles are showing signs of recovery in the Arnavon Islands, according to a study earlier this year by the Nature Conservancy. Because of conservation efforts, their population has doubled over the past 20 years.
And that’s something we can all glow about.
Laura Goldman|October 1, 2015
15 September 2015
Corridors for Jaguars
Picture a sleek jaguar tracking a deer through the forest, camouflaged by large spots on its coat (called rosettes) that mimic the dappled sunlight streaming through the trees. Native to North and South America, jaguars are one of the most powerful big cats on the planet. Yet significant habitat loss and fragmentation threaten the survival of these beautiful predators in the southwestern United States.
Jaguars are the largest cat in North and South America and the third-largest in the world after lions and tigers. On average, jaguars weigh 120 to 200 lbs. and the males can tip the scales at a whopping 300 lbs. At four to six feet long (not including the tail) and about three feet tall, jaguars are solid, stocky and powerful. Jaguars are solitary apex predators, putting them at the top of the food chain, where they play an important role in stabilizing the ecosystem.
For jaguars to establish new populations in the U.S., the cats must be able to travel safely across the border from their range in Mexico, and through southern Arizona and New Mexico. Protecting these vital migratory corridors is essential to jaguar conservation. After decades of working to support jaguar recovery and advocating for greater protections, Defenders and other conservation groups succeeded in getting the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to designate 764,207 acres (1,194 square miles) of much-needed jaguar critical habitat in Arizona and New Mexico, which the agency finalized in March 2014. However, a recent lawsuit could strip much of these habitat protections for jaguars in New Mexico. A coalition of New Mexico ranching interest groups filed a lawsuit challenging 51,400 acres of critical habitat in the Peloncillo Mountains and 7,714 acres in the San Luis Mountains. Removing such large swaths of protected habitat simply isn’t acceptable. So Defenders is joining the case to support FWS’ designation of jaguar critical habitat to protect these important corridors.
Historically, jaguars had a wide ranging habitat in the U.S. extending from southern California to the Grand Canyon and across Texas, but deforestation, draining wetlands and hunting by intolerant ranchers drove the cats south, restricting their range to the southernmost edge of Arizona and New Mexico. Jaguars’ current habitat ranges from the southwest U.S. hugging the border, south through Mexico, Central America, and the northern tip of Argentina. The cats prefer forested habitat for camouflage and climbing and streams for swimming, but their build enables them to crawl through and blend into the scrub brush habitat, characteristic of the southwest U.S.
Since jaguars were nearly wiped out from the U.S. in the 20th century, sporadic sightings over the past twenty years in the Peloncillo and San Luis Mountains have excited wildlife-lovers across the country. These sightings emphasize the importance of protecting the very habitat that is now being challenged. Instead of intolerance, we need to encourage coexistence between ranchers and wildlife, including large predators like jaguars. The FWS’ designation of critical habitat for jaguars will help ensure a “right of way” into the U.S. for these amazing cats, and it must be defended.
Anne Russell Gregory|Conservation Law & Endangered Species Coordinator|Defenders of Wildlife
Wild & Weird
Bees’ tongues are getting shorter because climate change
If you think about iconic symbols of climate change, you’ll probably picture a polar bear, emaciated, and clinging to a precariously small chunk of ice. You’re probably not thinking of a bumblebee, flitting about an alpine meadow with a shorter-than-average tongue. And yet, according to new research from Nicole Miller-Struttmann from SUNY College at Old Westbury, these shrinking tongues speak volumes about how nature’s most intimate partnerships might change in a warming world.
In the central Rockies, there are many species of bumblebee, and some have unusually long tongues for their body size. These are adaptations to the deep tubes of certain flowers like Parry’s clover and alpine skypilot, allowing the bees to lap at nectar that smaller-tongued species can’t reach. The tubes, in turn, are adaptations to the long bee tongues, providing exclusive access to nectar in exchange for exclusive pollination services. Both partners are locked in a co-evolutionary dance, held together by beautifully fitting tongues and tubes.
Recently, all has not been right with this dance. Miller-Struttmann’s colleagues, who have been studying the local bees and flowers for decades, started to notice weird changes. Long-tongued bees, which have been declining in many parts of the world, had become relatively rarer in the Rockies, too. Meanwhile, foreign species from farther down the mountainsides were encroaching on their terrain.
To work out what was going on, the team measured the tongues of the two most common bumblebee species, caught at three Colorado mountains in recent years. They then compared these lengths to those of specimens collected from the same mountains between 1966 and 1980.
These archived bees (has-bee-ns?) revealed that the tongues of these species have become 0.61 percent shorter every year, and are now just three-quarters of their former glory. “We were really surprised at the strength of the result,” says Miller-Struttmann. “We obviously asked the question but we weren’t expecting such a large response, especially over just 40 to 50 years.”
Why have the long-tongued bees evolved into long-ish-tongued bees? The team ruled out several possibilities. The bees weren’t becoming smaller overall, at least not to a degree that explained their shrinking tongues. Shorter-tubed plants hadn’t taken over the mountainsides; herbarium collections revealed that they are no more common now than they were in the 1960s. And immigrant bees from elsewhere in the mountains weren’t ousting the locals from their usual long-tubed flowers.
The best remaining explanation is that the changing climate of the Rockies has shifted the balance of flowers than the bees depend upon. Jennifer Geib from Appalachian State University, who was involved in the study, says, “Our field sites are part of what ecologists describe as high-altitude desert.” That is: they’re really dry. And they’ve become drier in the last 60 years, as summers have become 2 degrees C warmer.
Water evaporated more quickly from the soil. Winter snowfalls started thawing out earlier, depriving plants of precious meltwater during the growing season. Many wildflowers that were already eking out a living on the brink of drought were pushed over the edge. On Pennsylvania Mountain alone, the team calculated that “millions of flowers were lost.” As such, today’s bees face about 60 percent less food than their predecessors from the 1970s.
The long-tubed flowers weren’t especially affected, but there were fewer of them — and not enough for long-tongued specialists to subsist on. So the long-tongued bees were forced to broaden their diets, drinking nectar from flowers of every length. Since they were now competing for resources that many other species could plunder, their long tongues no longer conferred any special advantages. So evolution, ever-thrifty and economical, selected for individuals with shorter tongues.
“That’s a really neat discovery,” says Jeremy Kerr from the University of Ottawa, who also studies pollinators. “I haven’t seen other research that suggests we’re likely to see rapid evolution in bumblebee [traits] because of climate change.” Kerr’s own research shows that North American and European bumblebees are being crushed out of their normal ranges by warming climates, seemingly unable to expand into more suitable pastures.
Miller-Struttmann’s study suggests that bees might be able to persist within these contracting habitats by changing their foraging habits and evolving accordingly. How they fare in the long term is anyone’s guess. Certainly, the widespread decline of long-tongued bees, and bumblebees more generally, is a poor portent.
This isn’t the only mutualism at risk in a warming world. In warmer oceans, corals eject the algae that they depend on for photosynthesis, depriving them of both the energy they need to construct their mighty reefs, and the source of their color. Starving and alone, they become weak and ghostly versions of themselves.
Meanwhile, carpenter ants, a hugely successful group with around 1,000 species, depend on bacteria inside their cells to supplement their diets with important nutrients. These microbes are also sensitive to temperature, and it’s possible that a warmer world would crush these ants — and the many other insects that depend on supplementary microbes — into ever narrower niches.
And what of the long-tubed flowers, now decoupled from their partners in pollination? “Alpine plants are very long-lived, so any effects of reduced pollination efficiency from the recent past would likely not be seen in their populations for some time,” says Geib. “But if climate-change models are accurate, these plants are likely to face a multitude of synergistic pressures in the future, including drought, and increased competition as the ranges of lowland species shift upward. The combination of these pressures, coupled with decreased pollination, could forecast a troubled future.”
Ed Yong|25 Sep 2015
Water Quality Issues
MAJOR EVERGLADES WATER QUALITY PROJECT SET TO START OPERATIONS
A-1 FEB will be first project completed for the State’s Restoration Strategies plan
With water starting to flow across its 15,000-acre footprint, the A-1 Flow Equalization Basin (FEB) is close to becoming the first project completed as part of the State’s Restoration Strategies plan to improve Everglades water quality.
The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) will operate the massive, shallow reservoir to help deliver water at the right time and in the right quantity to treatment wetlands that remove nutrients before the water reaches the Everglades. The A-1 FEB features a system of 21 miles of earthen levees and 15 water control structures – 10 with solar power – and will hold up to 60,000 acre-feet of water.
“Completing this significant project and continuing progress on others is how we achieve water quality goals,” said Jeff Kivett, SFWMD Director of Operations, Engineering and Construction. “The A-1 will soon be fully operating and providing its intended critical restoration benefits to the Everglades.”
How Florida uses its water
Florida is known to be the wettest state in the nation, but a 13-day winter cold front in 2010 sent two Hillsborough towns into a water management crisis.
Excessive groundwater pumping by strawberry farmers spraying to keep their produce alive caused wells to dry up, sinkholes to open and the amount of water available to neighboring households to plummet.
Since then, the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud, has taken a hard look at the cumulative effects of groundwater pumping, said Claire Muirehead, water use permit evaluation manager.
“We need to be able to provide water supply for the people that we have in our state now, but we also need to make sure that there is available water supply for future generations while also protecting the environment,” Muirehead said.
Florida pulls almost 15 billion gallons of water per day from fractures and pores beneath the Earth’s surface and from existing surface water, according to data compiled by AP-APME from the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Use Information Program. About 14 billion gallons are used each day in households and factories and for irrigation, livestock, aquaculture, thermoelectric power plants and mining.
Hillsborough County is the biggest consumer, drawing 1.9 billion gallons per day and using 1.6 billion gallons per day on its power plants.
Sarasota and Manatee, by contrast, are among the counties that pump the least amount of groundwater each day. Public consumption and irrigation are the biggest draws.
Public water use in Sarasota County requires about 31.3 million gallons per day, while irrigation takes 10.3 million gallons, according to the USGS. data. The county is now focusing on preparing for population growth, said Christopher Cole, Sarasota County’s public utilities planning supervisor.
“It’s always been a challenging process,” Cole said. “I have reports that go back to the late ’60s talking about planning for future water supply to meet future demands.”
Manatee County, with a large swath of agriculture remaining, swallows 126.5 million gallons on a daily basis, with 84.9 million gallons going to irrigation. It is the ninth largest user of irrigated water in the state. Palm Beach and Hendry top the list.
The statewide picture
Statewide, electric power plants are among the largest users of water.
They boil the precious resource to drive their steam-driven turbine generators, then use it to cool their power producing equipment and the hot water before discharge. They also use water for scrubbing and other forms of pollution abatement.
The counties that pull the most water are the ones fueling and cooling thermoelectric plants. The fact that power plants are such gluttons for water is why they are built along lakes and rivers. But since the 1970s, power plants have relied increasingly on reclaimed water from sewage plants.
“We now have 10 power plants in the district using reclaimed water and we are continuing to encourage anyone who has a power plant to use reclaimed water,” said Anthony Andrade, Swiftmud’s reuse coordinator.
The Big Bend plant in Apollo Beach uses it. So does the City of Tampa’s waste-to-energy facility on McKay Bay and the Duke Energy plant in Bartow.
“The wonderful thing about Florida is that farms and power plants need that water in different seasons,” Andrade said. “Power plants need it most in the summer when it rains and lot, and farms need it in the winter when it’s dry.”
Florida’s five water management districts have encouraged use of reclaimed water across industries in order to reduce demand for groundwater pumping and promote water conservation.
“We have to balance the water use between the environment and our needs,” Cole said. “We can’t use all the water and not leave any for nature.”
Jessica Floum|Herald-Tribune|September 28, 2015
EPA Messed Up Big Time…And the Navajo Need Your Help
The Navajo Nation continues to suffer from the Animas River mine spill. First their main water supply was contaminated and now EPA contracted companies have deliver tainted water to Navajo farmers.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) failed in its mission “to protect human health and the environment” this summer when it allowed three million gallons of toxic mine waste to spill into the Animas River. Worse yet, recent reports indicate that EPA was aware that such a spill was imminent and still did little to warn area residents. And for the Navajo Nation, who depend on the Animas for irrigation and drinking water, the EPA’s failures didn’t stop at the river’s edge.
Since the spill, the EPA was supposed to take care of downstream communities, including Navajo farmers, by delivering clean water. But when the EPA’s contractor showed up, the water for nine Navajo farms in Colorado and New Mexico was tainted with oil. In one video, Navajo President Russel Begaye’s hand comes up brown and oily just after running it through a water delivery container. He responded, “This is totally unacceptable. How can anybody give water from a tank that was clearly an oil tank and expect us to drink it, our animals to drink it and to contaminate our soil with it?”
The Navajo farmers urgently need a delivery of clean water for their citizens and farmers, and want to have independent contractors and testing verify it’s safe before they give the water to their crops, animals or families. But with many Navajo citizens living at or below the poverty line, they’re asking for our help to raise $10,000 for clean water this fall.
In some cases, many Navajo farmers have had no choice but to use tainted water to irrigate their crops. But once they started using water delivered by the EPA’s contractor, they complained that it was, “rust colored, smelled of petroleum and slick with oil.” But without the water delivered by the EPA they have no choice but to “pray for rain,” and with historic droughts punishing the Southwest, that option may not have high success.
You can’t blame the Navajo for losing confidence in the people who delivered fresh water in the same trucks they’d just used to deliver oil to fracking wells. As the old saying goes, “fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” The Navajo don’t have the time to be fooled again. It’s critical that they have access to clean water now. Their crops are dying, their livestock are suffering and they’re fighting to sustain their entire way of life. Without your help, this toxic situation could get even worse.
Great Lakes & Inland Waters
Lake Mich. seeing plunge in salmon
State’s fishing industry is at risk with population decrease, experts warn
They are the king of the Great Lakes sport fish, luring thousands of anglers to Michigan waters every year for a chance to try to land them — and helping fuel a multibillion-dollar fishing and boating tourism industry.
But the Chinook salmon’s numbers are plummeting in Lake Michigan because of a combination of natural forces, unnatural invasive species, and the state Department of Natural Resources’ own efforts to dial back the population and prevent a more permanent population crash as happened in Lake Huron about a decade ago.
The salmon population on Lake Michigan is down 75 percent from its 2012 peak, said Randy Claramunt, a DNR Great Lakes fishery biologist based in Charlevoix.
A leading cause is a reduction in alewives, a silvery fish up to 10 inches long that is the salmon’s primary prey on the Great Lakes. The alewife population has been decimated by invasive zebra and quagga mussels that have changed the nutrient dynamics of the lakes.
And the salmon population matters for Michiganders, whether they fish or not: The DNR estimates fishermen spent $2.4 billion in fishing trip-related expenses and equipment in the state in 2011.
“We all have a stake — it’s not just the charter boat captains who do this for a living,” said Denny Grinold, owner of Fish ‘N’ Grin Charter Service in Grand Haven. “Coastal communities, hotels, shopping will all be impacted.”
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center in Ann Arbor conducts annual trawling and acoustic surveys on Lakes Michigan and Huron, looking at the populations of prey fish for the Chinook salmon and other sport fish.
“In recent years, basically what we’re seeing is record- or near-record low biomass of alewife,” said Science Center research fishery biologist David Warner. He attributes that to the record numbers of Chinook salmon on Lake Michigan in 2012, and their voracious appetite.
Since reintroducing Chinook salmon to the Great Lakes in 1966, the DNR has collected eggs and sperm from salmon migrating into rivers and streams to spawn every fall. The eggs are fertilized and raised in hatcheries, and juvenile fish — called fingerlings — are then stocked in the lakes in the spring to help boost naturally reproducing salmon populations.
The DNR has reduced stocking rates since 1999, from 7 million to 2.5 million Chinook salmon, as it saw the alewife populations sink.
The goal now is “to try to bring a better balance between salmon and the prey population in the lake,” Claramunt said.
“We’re back to 1970 stocking levels; we almost can’t go any lower,” he said.
In addition to stocking cuts, naturally spawning salmon from that peak year of 2012 also dropped dramatically, due in part to unusually warm conditions and shallow, inaccessible spawning streams that year, Claramunt said. The number of salmon surviving from the spawn that year dropped from 6 million to 1 million, he said.
Further complicating matters, the extremely cold winters of 2013 and 2014 increased the stress on alewife populations.
“We need the warm summers, good precipitation in the spring, and the nutrients coming out into the lakes and getting offshore — like this year,” Claramunt said. Why don’t the Chinook salmon feed on another small fish that are thriving in t he zebra and quagga mussel-changed lake environment — the invasive round goby? While lake trout and steelhead are doing just that, “Chinook are just hard-wired to feed on alewives,” Claramunt said.
“They are meant to feed in open water on open schools of prey fish. They aren’t bottom-feeders, and that’s where the round goby go.”
The DNR has worked closely with state commercial and sport fishing groups on what to do in Lake Michigan.
“They said, ‘Prevent a crash that will keep the fishery down for a decade or more. Take action if you can,’ ” Claramunt said.
A reduced salmon population is a tough reality, but most fishermen understand, Grinold said. “The bottom line is, we don’t want w hat happened on Lake Huron to happen on Lake Michigan,” he said. “To avoid that collapse, this is something we may have to live through for awhile.”
In Lake Huron, DNR officials had an indicator of problems in the lake by 2003, Claramunt said. By 2005, the salmon population had collapsed, and hasn’t recovered.
“The consumption that happened by predators exceeded the ability of alewife to reproduce at a rate that was sustainable. And you had a crash,” Warner said. “Historically, there was a larger biomass of alewife in Lake Huron than there was in Lake Michigan.”
Despite the cuts in DNR salmon stocking and natural spawning, Grinold said fishing charters don’t seem to be down in his area.
“Only time may tell whether or not that impacts clients booking charters; whether they are satisfied with five, seven fish or less; or do they expect those double-digit figures they may have had a couple of years ago.”
There are signs a salmon crash can be averted in Lake Michigan, Claramunt said. After 2013 and 2014 were “a bust,” alewives appear to have rebounded this year.
KEITH MATHENY|DETROIT FREE PRESS
Crystal River Works to Save Manatees and the Local Economy
Crystal River, Fla., is the self-proclaimed “home of the manatee.” An estimated 300,000 tourists visit Crystal River each year, many of them to see and experience the graceful manatees, the giant herbivores often referred to as “sea cows.” For a town with a population of only 3,100, such an influx of people represents an important economic boon for everyone in the area.
The geography and ecology of the Crystal River region is perfect for manatees, which often weigh up to 1,300 pounds. Because of their low metabolic rate, they can’t tolerate water temperatures below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so as the gulf waters cool in autumn, the manatees migrate to warmer environments. The city of Crystal River is located on Kings Bay, which is connected to the Gulf of Mexico by the Crystal River, designated a “Florida Outstanding Waterway.” Kings Bay, about five miles inland, is fed by numerous small and large springs and maintains a year-round temperature near 72 degrees, which is perfect for manatees and tourists. The estimated winter count of manatees in Kings Bay is about 700—more than 13 percent of the Florida manatee population, according to recent studies.
The iconic manatees, pleasant climate, scenic beauty and fishing afforded in Crystal River make it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and snowbirds. The economy is built on naturalism and tourism, so when it became apparent the local ecosystem was being threatened by pollution, community leaders acted decisively to “clean up their act” and reverse the tide of degradation. They took a thorough approach and addressed several problems that were polluting their waterways. Today the bays, springs and rivers in the area are on the mend, the manatees are content, and the tourists just keep coming.
The story of Crystal River’s environmental awakening began more than 10 years ago and involves several related initiatives. Not long after the turn of the millennium, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection discovered that Kings Bay was becoming “nitrogen impaired.” The abundance of nitrogen in the water was causing abnormal algae blooms. The particular type of algae in Kings Bay is called Lyngbya, a fibrous algae that threatens the natural habitat of the manatee and other aquatic life in the bay.
“The algae growing in Kings Bay floats at the surface for a few days and then settles to the bottom to form a mat that contains high concentrations of nitrogen,” says David Burnell, Crystal River’s city manager. “This mat, which can be six inches to four feet thick, prevents the normal growth of sea grass and other vegetation that manatees like to eat. It destroys their natural habitat and will eventually cause the manatees to die off. It’s also harmful to other aquatic life.”
Biologists have known for some time that high levels of nitrogen in surface waters often are the result of human waste, sometimes caused by an abundance of nearby septic tanks or leaky sewers. Other major contributing factors may include animal waste and fertilizer runoff. If these nitrogen sources are eliminated, the water will likely stabilize, and algae growth will subside. Mother Nature will restore the water to a healthy balance, and the local aquatic life will again thrive.
“We’re a waterfront community that has been blessed with natural environmental beauty,” notes Burnell. “We have to solve our environmental problems to remain economically viable. We didn’t just address the septic-tank issue, we also changed fertilizer ordinances. We repaired gravity sewers to prevent leaks, and we partnered with Duke Energy to use reclaimed water at their plant to help protect the local aquifer. For a small community, we spent a lot of money, and now we are seeing positive results.”
Seeping Septic Tanks
An important step in the Kings Bay restoration effort was a two-phase vacuum-sewer installation. The project’s goal was to rid the area of nearly 600 aging septic tanks that were contaminating groundwater and contributing to nitrogen buildup in the bay. Many of these tanks weren’t located within the city of Crystal River, but rather in Citrus County, so a lot of cooperation between city and county governments was required.
“The vacuum-sewer projects were actually in the county, not the city of Crystal River,” explains Burnell. “The city had the ability to receive a grant that was unavailable to the county. The city was eager to do this project, because a septic-tank abatement program would affect the water quality in Crystal River. It was mutually beneficial.”
Burnell said about 85 percent of the construction work was funded by grants; the remaining 15 percent is covered by a 10-year assessment of county residents, which was met with mixed reviews when first presented to property owners.
“We had a number of town hall meetings, and most of the public’s concerns were addressed at these meetings,” notes Alan Garri, P.E., an engineer with Greenman-Pederson Inc. (GPI) in Ocala, Fla., which was hired to complete the design and manage construction of the vacuum-sewers project. “We explained what we wanted to do and why, and how it would benefit property owners and property values. Most people went from being opposed (to the project) to supportive. A lot of folks were dealing with septic systems that were in disrepair, so they understood the benefit of having a new sewer system. For the most part, the initiative was well received.”
Although the need for a new sewer system was generally acknowledged, the concept of installing vacuum-sewer technology was met with reluctance by taxpayers and local public-works officials.
“I didn’t know what a vacuum sewer was when I got here in 2010,” admits Burnell. “In topography like ours, it makes a lot of sense. If I were developing infrastructure for our entire city from scratch, I would likely choose vacuum sewers.”
In Crystal River, as in many coastal communities, the water table is high and the terrain very flat. Gravity sewers require sufficient grade or multiple lift stations to move wastewater. This can mean digging deep trenches, dewatering, and a lot of disruption for home and business owners. The cost of installing a gravity sewer to serve the citizens with septic tanks was prohibitive, so engineers began looking for alternatives.
“The original engineers for this project looked at low-pressure systems (grinder pumps), gravity sewers and vacuum-sewer technology. They chose vacuum sewers, because it was more cost effective,” says Garri. “Vacuum technology allows you to lay the sewer collection lines in shallower trenches. Plus, we can operate the entire system with only two vacuum stations. We would have needed multiple lift stations for a gravity sewer, so the operations and maintenance costs would be higher.”
There was some reluctance to vacuum sewers, because vacuum technology hadn’t been utilized in this region of the state before. Engineers and public-works personnel turned to AIRVAC for advice and support. “AIRVAC has been great to work with,” adds Burnell. “They provided instruction and testing during the installation, and excellent training on how to operate and maintain the system.”
A New Experience
Garri, who began working on the project in 2008, worked with AIRVAC personnel to fine-tune the system’s design prior to construction, which occurred in two phases. It was his first experience with vacuum sewers.
“One of the interesting things I learned about vacuum sewers is that they are gravity assisted,” Garri notes. “The collection lines have a sawtooth profile. Vacuum pressure in the lines assists gravity to help move sewage slugs along to the treatment plant. This type of innovative design allows for the vacuum sewer mains to be installed at a much shallower depth than gravity sewers. The sawtooth profile also allows vacuum pumps to operate more efficiently than traditional force-main or grinder pumps, due to gravity assistance. These characteristics really reduce maintenance costs in the long run.”
Garri also explained that a grinder-pump system was ruled out because the individual grinder pumps would have been located on each individual’s private property, creating an access nightmare for public-works personnel. The valve pits for the vacuum sewer are located in the right of way, so there are no access issues.
Vacuum sewers also presented another significant benefit: they don’t leak. Collection lines maintain constant vacuum pressure, so there’s no infiltration or exfiltration; no sewage escapes into the environment, and no groundwater enters the collection system. If a leak occurs, it can be quickly located and isolated, and because the lines are in shallow trenches, repairs can be made quickly with no large excavation equipment.
No More Apprehension
Installation of the vacuum sewers began with the construction of two vacuum stations in residential areas. The stations emit no odors and were designed to blend in architecturally with the surrounding homes. “When you drive up to them, they look very much like houses,” notes Garri.
Two collection lines proceed outward from each vacuum station. The lines were tested each night to ensure they would maintain vacuum pressure, and AIRVAC sent engineers periodically to answer questions and help solve minor installation problems. Shallow trenches dug by small excavators allowed the crews to work with little disruption to the neighborhoods.
The first of two phases went online about three years ago. Much of phase two went into service 18 months ago. Veolia Water Technologies Inc., a water and sewer-management company, maintains the city’s wastewater system and was tasked to maintain the new vacuum sewer.
“I was a little apprehensive at first,” says John Morris, Veolia’s field supervisor in Citrus County. “I had experience with gravity sewers and low-pressure grinder systems, but vacuum sewers were totally new to me.”
AIRVAC provided training at the company’s Rochester, Ind., headquarters as well as some onsite training in Crystal River. Now, after three years of comparison, Morris says vacuum technology is his preferred sewer-conveyance system. “If I had one choice for sewers, I’d choose vacuum sewers,” he notes. “It gives me the least amount of problems of the three sewer systems I work on. Vacuum sewers are easy to maintain, and AIRVAC supports us very well.”
Morris said his daily vacuum-sewer routine typically begins with about 15 minutes at each of the two vacuum stations. A quick check of the gauges and routine maintenance is all it takes. If vacuum pressure is lost anywhere in the system, it typically shows up at the vacuum station. “If we ever have any problems, they are usually very easy to fix,” he notes.
Morris also appreciates that with vacuum sewers he never comes into contact with raw sewage. He also likes that vacuum pumps are easily accessible, and there are no confined spaces to deal with, as with gravity sewers. He notes that vacuum stations have emergency generators that kick in when power is lost, so there’s never a disruption in sewer service. There are only eight emergency generators to serve the city’s 67 lift stations, so power outages cause significant disruption to service for gravity and low-pressure systems.
Today, it’s clear that Kings Bay is on the mend. “We are now trending in a positive way with regard to nitrogen,” adds Burnell. “Our waters are now very close to dropping below the nitrogen-impairment level.”
No single solution led to this improvement. Removing hundreds of septic tanks helped, as did relining much of the city’s leaky sewer system and instituting new regulations on fertilizers. The combined effect has been to significantly reduce the amount of nitrogen entering the local waterways and groundwater. That’s excellent news for local residents, manatees and the entire economy of Crystal River.
Steve Gibbs|September 30, 2015
Offshore & Ocean
A New Way to Manage Our Oceans’ Fisheries
Fish scientist Jason Link says he often feels like he’s living the classic chocolate factory episode of the 1950s TV show “I Love Lucy,” in which Lucy and Ethel can’t wrap candies as fast as the conveyor belt spits them out.
“It’s analogous to fisheries management,” says Link, whose mission at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) is to improve how ocean resources are regulated. “We’re trying to keep up with rules on individual species whose populations are frequently changing. Our conveyor belt is moving faster and faster.”
Link’s job—similar to mine at The Pew Charitable Trusts—is to advocate for a more effective, efficient approach to setting fishing rules, one that takes a big picture view. Instead of establishing catch limits on one species at a time, Link and I want decision-makers to focus on the ecosystem and consider what fish eat, what eats them, their habitat needs, and other conditions that affect fish populations. Our mission is to persuade people that a method called ecosystem-based fisheries management (EBFM) is the way to go.
“We’ve been managing fisheries on a species-by-species basis. We haven’t been looking at the way that fish and other marine life interact with one another and the impacts on the broader system of removing one or more species from the mix,” said Link, whom I’ve known for 10 years. “It’s really clear we’re missing information that could improve the way we’re managing ocean ecosystems. The oceans are constantly changing. We need adaptive management tools to be able to handle these shifts, particularly climate change.”
Link became interested in the ocean as a child when he found it fun to memorize the scientific names of sea creatures. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in biology from Central Michigan University and a doctorate in biological sciences from Michigan Technological University.
After graduation, he debated whether to pursue a career in academia or a more hands-on scientific path. His choice became a little clearer after he attended both an academic conference and a fisheries meeting. At the conference, he engaged in research talk and was handed a pass for a wine and cheese reception followed by a ballet performance. The fisheries meeting featured on-the-water stories and a casual happy hour.
And so the down-to-earth outdoorsman chose what felt right. He’s been with NOAA Fisheries for nearly 20 years, now in a position focused solely on promoting and researching ecosystem-based management. From his base at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, he spreads his message across the country to fishing groups, fishery leaders, academics, conservationists, scientists, and anyone else who will listen. He reports that most people agree that we need to shift to EBFM—but have questions on how to get it done.
“The perception is that the technical basis for doing EBFM is beyond us. However, there are actually tools and methods that can allow us to implement it,” says Link, who spent many years working on computer models that map out food webs to show how predators and prey interact. Link, who moves fluidly from discussing dense science with experts to using simpler language to carry his message, recently teamed up with a colleague to identify other misconceptions about EBFM in an article in the journal Fisheries, “Myths That Continue to Impede Progress in Ecosystem-Based Fisheries Management.” It may not have been this summer’s sizzling beach read, but in fish circles this was hot stuff.
The six myths are:
1. Myth: No one knows what EBFM is or how to get it done.
Fact: The concept is getting more traction and is already in practice in some places. For example, protecting habitat or fish spawning sites are ways to implement EBFM.
2. Myth: The existing fishery management system has to change dramatically to incorporate EBFM.
Fact: More than 90 federal rules already allow for EBFM, and there is nothing to stop fish managers from incorporating it.
3. Myth: There’s not enough scientific information on the ecosystem to know how to manage fisheries in a way that minimizes impacts to the environment.
Fact: It’s not necessary to know every detail. The key is to consider more factors about the ecosystem—beyond just the status of one species—when setting fishing rules.
4. Myth: EBFM means fishermen will be allowed to catch fewer fish.
Fact: EBFM will improve the health of ecosystems, leading to more catch and stability in regulations and the economy.
5. Myth: This management theory is a naive attempt to steward fisheries in a contentious, political, and complex system.
Fact: EBFM is pragmatic because it helps managers meet objectives of multiple parties through an improved system of balancing trade-offs and the needs of all parties.
6. Myth: There aren’t enough resources to make EBFM happen.
Fact: There is evidence to suggest that EBFM may actually reduce administrative complexity and the costs of fisheries management.
Put simply, Link says, EBFM should help address fishery issues that are only growing more complicated.
Taking the “I Love Lucy” comparison further, he explains the importance of seeing the big picture. “Maybe chocolate isn’t the only thing to worry about. Maybe we also have to deal with licorice or gum drops. And the room is warming. And the chocolate is melting, and there are more people coming into the room to eat it.”
It’s food analogies like this that help Link connect with his audiences. He’s feeding his EBFM message to people far and wide. And I hope everyone is hungry to learn, because ecosystem-based fisheries management can help conserve our ocean resources while providing abundant fishing opportunities and seafood for generations to come.
The Pew Charitable Trusts|September 27, 2015
Partnership on Lake Worth Lagoon Restoration Efforts Help Southeast Florida Coral Reefs
A Proclamation Ceremony was held on May 5, 2015 in recognition of the support and partners of Grassy Flats Restoration Project.
The Grassy Flats Restoration Project is part of SEFCRI Local Action Strategy to reduce land-based sources of pollution. This effort was conducted by Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management and restored 13 acres of valuable estuarine habitat in Lake Worth Lagoon through innovative techniques to cap muck sediment. The fine muck sediment is easily suspended into lagoon waters and transported out the adjacent inlets into the nearshore marine environment.
These sediments in the water column can block sunlight from reaching the seafloor and eventually settle out, blanketing the reefs. Excessive sedimentation on corals can cause direct mortality through burial (smothering), suppress the recovery of surviving adult colonies through increased competition with algae, and reduce the rate of coral larval settlement and early larval survival.
Turbidity reduces photosynthetic ability by limiting the penetration of sunlight though the water column. The muck also inhibits the growth of estuarine vegetation, which is known to help reduce pollutants and stabilize sediments in the Lagoon.
Palm Beach County and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will be coordinating a community volunteer event later this fall to vegetate this newly restored area by planting 3,000+ mangrove seedlings and 25,000 cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) plugs.
Jennifer Baez|Coordinator|Land-Based Sources of Pollution
Preparation Begins for Coral Reef Restoration Project Offshore of Fort Lauderdale
The M/V Clipper Lasco and M/V Spar Orion Grounding Sites Stabilization and Rehabilitation Project will restore coral reef resources (not required by mitigation or regulation) and promote habitat recovery at two ship grounding sites offshore Fort Lauderdale, FL. The M/V Spar Orion, an approximately 594 ft-long cement freighter, and the M/V Clipper Lasco, a 561 ft-long bulk carrier, both independently grounded on inner reef in approximately 30 feet of water in May 2006 and September 2006, respectively. Recent site visits indicated that these sites have only experienced limited regrowth of stony corals and gorgonians. This is partially due to the presence of loose rubble which is continually moved around the area, preventing growth and development. Therefore, direct management action is needed to stabilize the loose rubble and rebuild the substrate to more closely mimic the surrounding reef. This will allow for natural recovery as well as provide an area for restoration through transplantation of stony corals and gorgonians.
In order to achieve these goals, a project team of resource trustees such as local, state, and federal agencies, as well as local experts were brought together. Olsen Associates, Inc. was hired in the summer of 2013 to develop a conceptual engineering plan, secure permits, finalize a design plan, assist with the construction bid process, and provide construction oversight. Additionally, Olsen subcontracted Coastal Eco-Group, Inc. to complete a thorough Biological Assessment and Environmental Assessment, and assist with the permit applications and construction oversight. Before construction, all stony corals and gorgonians greater than 5 cm in diameter that are in the area will be relocated. The construction contract has been awarded to Callaway Marine Technologies, Inc. who will complete the rubble relocation and boulder and grout placement.
The project will be in full swing by the end of this summer. On-site coral relocation has begun and is primarily funded by The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s (FWC) Marine Estuarine Subsection. FWC has contracted Dr. Dave Gilliam at Nova Southeastern University to lead the relocation work along with members from FWC’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute. Partnering with FWC for funding support has been a great help in moving this project along and their efforts are much appreciated. Preliminary preparations are currently underway with Callaway Marine who will start the construction immediately after the coral relocation is complete. Future goals include restoration actions by transplanting (out-planting) nursery corals [e.g. Staghorn coral (A. cervicornis)] and corals of opportunity, as well as gorgonian clippings and sponges into the grounding sites, but additional funding will need to be secured. This project is the first of its kind in the southeast Florida region, and will be a learning experience for all involved to help pursue more restoration efforts in the future.
Mollie Sinnott|Response Coordinator|Reef Injury Prevention
[In Broward County’s typical way, Port Everglades, administered by the County, is preparing to smother the reef with sediment from blasting and dredging in the Port’s entry channel.]
New Zealand Announces it Will Create a Texas-Sized Marine Life Reserve
Many nations are attempting to preserve and encourage their marine habitats, and now New Zealand’s Prime Minister has announced an ambitious project to create what could be one of the world’s largest marine reserves.
Under the plans, the Kermadec region, a subtropical arc of small islands, would be designated as the host of the sanctuary which, in total, will span 620,000km². For comparison that’s just a little short of the size of the U.S. State of Texas which comes in at about 696,241 km².
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key issued a statement announcing the region’s designation as an ocean sanctuary, saying:
“The Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary will be one of the world’s largest and most significant fully-protected areas, preserving important habitats for seabirds, whales and dolphins, endangered marine turtles and thousands of species of fish and other marine life. It will cover 15 per cent of New Zealand’s Exclusive Economic Zone, an area twice the size of our landmass, and 50 times the size of our largest national park in Fiordland. As well as being home to a wide range of marine species, the Kermadec region is one of the most geographically and geologically diverse areas in the world. It contains the world’s longest underwater volcanic arc and the second deepest ocean trench at 10 kilometres deep.”
The sanctuary will require legislation to make the designation official, but it may meet some resistance. Given that the region will be completely protected from mining and fishing operations we can expect some push back as legislation is drawn up over the next year. Indeed, the fishing industry–which, according to the Guardian, takes around 20 tons of fish a year from the area–has already signaled it may oppose the move, and that it is particularly concerned about what this might do to tuna fishing which is a part of the industry that continues to struggle anyway.
George Clement, chairman of industry body Seafood New Zealand, told Reuters that: “With no forewarning from government, the industry needs time to consider the full implications.”
Reuters notes that the more serious threat to the plans may come from international mining operations. Nautilus Minerals, a Canadian mining firm, is currently awaiting a permit to begin operations in the Kermadec region, while many other companies from the U.S. to China all have interest in the region, meaning that pressure to abandon or modify the total ban on mining may be high.
Still, environmental campaigners have welcomed the move. The Pew Environment Group tells the BBC that the sanctuary will result in New Zealand’s protection for marine environments going from 0.5 percent under current regulations to around 15.5 percent, a jump that will have a significant long term positive impact for both species diversity and numbers. ”It’s an extraordinary achievement for all New Zealanders and for the people of the Pacific Islands,” Pew’s campaign director Bronwen Golder is quoted as telling the BBC.
What is interesting here is that, arguably, this sanctuary could actually be good for the fishing industry. Overfishing has radically depleted fish stocks, to the point where some species may never recover. By creating safe areas like this, fish stocks may have a chance to replenish, while protecting marine habitats from mining operations is crucial for maintaining the delicate ecosystems that exist in our oceans. Given that mining is highly damaging to the environment anyway, New Zealand’s decision to not cater to the industry in this instance is also encouraging.
Furthermore, and even while taking steps to protect land habitats, many world governments have all too often ignored marine life and what energy and fishing operations have done to those precious ecosystems. That New Zealand’s government is taking steps to create such protections, albeit after years of campaigning, is a much needed step that the rest of the world will need to emulate if we are to protect some of most beautiful habitats and animal life, as well as the people and industries that depend on them.
In the short term New Zealand’s plans may also encourage other nations toward bold action, an example that is vital ahead of the Paris climate change talks this December.
Steve Williams|October 1, 2015
Paul Watson: If the Ocean Dies, We Die!
A few people have asked me to explain just why it is that humanity will die if the ocean dies.
Billions of people depend upon the ocean for food and I’m not talking about restaurants, sushi bars and fish markets in New York, Paris, London, Tokyo or Sydney. I’m talking about extremely poor people whose lives actually depend upon catching fish.
But food being taken from the ocean is the least of the factors that will kill us.
The ocean is the life support system for the planet, providing 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe and regulating climate. The ocean is also the pump that allows us to have fresh water. It is the driving force, along with the sun, of the global circulation system that transports water from the land to the sea to the atmosphere and back to the land again.
Plankton—the most important group of plants and animal species on the planet (excluding bacteria). Plankton populations have been diminished by 40 percent since 1950, yet there is now commercial exploitation by Norwegian and Japanese fishing corporations to extract millions of tons of plankton for conversion to a protein-rich animal feed.
Every year 65 billion animals are slaughtered to feed humans and some 40 percent of all the fish caught are converted to fishmeal to feed pigs, chickens, domestic salmon, fur-bearing animals and cat food. With fish populations diminishing, the corporations are looking to replace fishmeal with a plankton paste.
Is cheap fishmeal for domestic animals worth robbing the planet of our oxygen supplies?
Where does oxygen come from? Some 50 percent comes from the forest that we are rapidly cutting down. The rest comes from the sea.
Some of this oxygen is produced by seaweeds and sea grasses, but the vast majority of the oxygen is produced by phytoplankton, microscopic single-celled organisms that have the ability to photosynthesize. These tiny creatures live at the surface layer of the ocean (and in lakes and rivers) and form the very base of the aquatic food chain.
During photosynthesis, phytoplankton remove carbon dioxide from sea water and release oxygen. The carbon becomes part of their bodies.
Providing oxygen and sequestering carbon dioxide is the major contribution of plankton, along with forming the foundation for the entire oceanic food chain.
The fish- and animal-killing industries are robbing the seas of oxygen production for short-term profits.
This is one of the things that most likely will not be discussed at the climate change conference in Paris in two months.
Other factors diminishing plankton are acidification from excessive carbon dioxide, pollution, habitat destruction and the radical diminishment of whale populations.
The whales are the primary species that fertilize the phytoplankton. For example, one blue whale defecates three tons of nitrogen and iron-rich feces a day, providing nutrients to the phytoplankton. In return the phytoplankton feed the zooplankton, the fishes and ultimately everything that lives in the sea.
In order to restore phytoplankton populations we need to restore whale populations and we need to abolish the industrialized exploitation of biodiversity in the ocean. We also need to have governments end all subsidization of commercial fishing operations.
The reality is that there are simply not enough fish in the sea to continue to feed an ever-expanding human population. It is a simple concept to understand—more humans eating fish, directly or indirectly (i.e. fishmeal), contributes to further diminishment of fish.
This diminishment means diminished supplies, resulting in increased subsidization to provide more efficient technology to extract even more of the diminishing supplies. Unless the subsidies are cut, this diminishment will result in collapse. I call this the “economics of extinction.”
There must be a global moratorium on all industrialized fishing. And there must be a global cessation on the killing of whales. We need to return whale and fish populations to pre-exploitation levels. The focus must be on revitalizing biodiversity in the sea in order to address climate change and diminishment of phytoplankton oxygen production.
Will it cost profits? Absolutely. Will it costs jobs? Absolutely. But are jobs and profits really worth destroying the planet’s life support system?
Strangely, to many of the world’s politicians, the answer to that question is yes.
The solutions to climate change are simple but, unfortunately, the solutions are not what anyone will be discussing in Paris in two months, at least not at the gathering of world leaders.
The solutions are:
- An end to the ecologically destructive greenhouse-gas-producing animal slaughter industry that emits more greenhouse gases annually than the entire transportation industry.
- A global moratorium on all industrialized fishing operations.
- An end to the killing of whales by anyone, anywhere for any reason.
The collapse of ocean biodiversity and the catastrophic collapse of phytoplankton and zooplankton populations in the sea will cause the collapse of civilization and most likely the extinction of the human species.
And that is why when the ocean dies, we all die!
Paul Watson|October 1, 2015
Dying seagrass and ‘yellow fog’ signal trouble for Florida Bay
The seagrass in Florida Bay is dying, a sign that the ailing bay could be going from bad to catastrophic.
Years of flood control on top of a prolonged drought wilted the bay over the summer, making already hot water twice as salty as it should be. When scientists hustled out to investigate last month, they found miles of dead seagrass: up to 6 square miles in Rankin Bight and 7 square miles in meadows around Johnson Key, a flat once famed for redfish and snook. A cloud of sulfur had spread in water just off the Flamingo Visitor Center, leaving behind a stinky stain scientists call “yellow fog.” It may cover 25 square miles already.
But what really concerns them is this: the last time the bay looked so bad, a massive algae bloom followed. The bloom lasted for years, turning gin clear water a sickly pea green and unleashing a scourge in Everglades National Park that anglers and scientists still regard as a turning point for the bay.
Imagine if a third of Yellowstone National Park suddenly died.
To emphasize the severity of conditions, scientist Fred Sklar, who monitors the Everglades for the South Florida Water Management District, titled a presentation made last month, “Florida Bay Conditions: Another Perfect Storm?”
“I don’t think there’s anything we can do to stop this. The question might be, is there something we can do to slow it down,” he said. “The train is moving and the only thing we can do is put roadblocks in the way.”
Seagrass scientists who began monitoring the bay in 1995 after the unprecedented bloom threatened to derail the region’s $723 million fishing industry are just as worried.
“It looks like this die-off will be every bit as extensive as the episode in the 1980s,” said Paul Carlson, a marine ecologist with the state’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute in St. Petersburg, who investigated the earlier crash. “There’s places where dead turtle grass…covers the bottom a foot deep.”
And it’s not just the grass that’s suffering. In July, when salinity peaked at 65 parts per thousand, toadfish that lurk on the bay bottom waiting to ambush prey died in Rankin Bight, said Chris Kelble, an oceanographer with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.
“My hypothesis is they don’t swim away like other fish and the double whammy of extreme high (salinity) and temperature just took them out,” he said.
This year’s winter fish counts turned up no freshwater minnows, the first link in a complicated food chain. Sea trout, a fish perfectly engineered to reflect the health of the bay, failed to show in last’s year count. Researchers caught juveniles this year, but in numbers “nowhere near where they should be or where their numbers have been in the past,” Kelble said.
How the bay got to this point is as much about human meddling as mother nature. For decades, water managers have been struggling to undo damage from the C-111 canal, which was built in the 1960s to barge rocket engines from Homestead to the coast and shifted a vital flow of Everglades water away from northeast Florida Bay.
Another factor may also be at work: climate change.
With models showing a 10 to 20 percent decrease in rainfall over South Florida, heat waves and droughts will likely become more common, making water scarcer and creating Florida Bay’s equivalent of a California wildfire. Climate forecasts also call for fewer hurricanes, which help flush out salty water by stirring up the bay.
“It’s just like the fire analogy in the west,” said Ben Kirtman, a climate scientist at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School for Marine and Atmospheric Science. “The water managers will have to make decisions based on that.”
And that means the fight for water — and whether to save the fish or keep the farms or both — could become more heated.
“That’s sort of the elephant in the room that we don’t really talk about,” he said.
Because it is such a complex ecosystem, scientists have struggled to understand how to fix the bay. At 850 square miles, it is actually made up of about 24 different basins, divided by mud banks. Each basin has its own distinct level of salinity, influenced by water from the Everglades, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, along with years of man-made changes going back to Flagler’s plans to build a railroad across the bay and drain coastal marshes in an attempt to lure ranchers to the mosquito-infested wetlands. Knowing the right mix of groundwater and surface water could be the key to keeping salinity in check, Sklar said. But so far, the balance remains uncertain, he said.
What scientists do know is that to avert an algae outbreak, they need to get it right before time runs out. In the 1980s, a massive die-off spread across five basins. Five years later, an algae bloom unfolded. Most likely, the dead seagrass loaded the shallow bay with nutrients that triggered the bloom.
It took more than 12 years for the grass, considered a key indicator of the bay’s health, to begin recovering. The grass is also critical to maintaining the ecosystem: the rolling meadows provide both food and shelter for sea life and stabilize the muddy bottom to keep water clear.
“These kinds of things have probably been happening periodically over time,” said Margaret “Penny” Hall, a state seagrass expert overseeing a team investigating the die-off. “It’s not a new phenomenon, but there was a perfect storm where it took off in 1987, probably exacerbated by water management decisions.”
After the 1980s disaster, the state began monitoring 17 spots in the bay, trying to understand what set of conditions might trigger a die-off. They focused on turtle grass, which was hit hardest and grows more slowly, and shoal grass, which can grow faster in harsher conditions. Knowing which grass grows where can give them a good idea of what’s going on in the water. In 1997, as grass began recovering, researchers found the amount of shoal grass had taken over western Rabbit Key basin after the turtle grass died. Overall, shoal grass more than doubled, an indication of harsher conditions.
Over the summer, on the heals of a dry winter that spiked salinity in Taylor Slough, a biologist at Everglades National Park spotted what she suspected was the beginning of a die-off and contacted the researchers who had studied the 1980s event, Carlson said.
When Hall’s team got there, they found two of the five basins hit hardest in the 1980s dead or dying. A third showed signs of trouble.
They think this is what happened: Without rain, the hot water turned saltier and heavier, creating a kind of lid, trapping sulfur in mud and keeping oxygen out. Seagrass can normally tolerate low levels of sulfide, the sulfur that occurs naturally in the mud. But the higher levels caused it to die. Once dead, the decaying grass released even more nutrients and continued the cycle.
“The sulfur is both cause and affect,” Carlson said.
Had more restoration projects been complete, scientists believe the extra water would have helped buffer the harsh drought. But lack of funding, bureaucratic delays and the demands of competing interests have delayed work that might have brought more water south.
This summer, for example, when the U.S. Corps of Army Engineers announced plans to conduct a two-year test on a series of canals, gates and flood control structures to restore water flows, the agency enraged environmentalists by opting for a plan environmentalists say favored farmers. The Corps decided to continue using a pump to keep farmland dry, a decision the Everglades Law Center called as “arbitrary and capricious as it is based on unsupported assertions.”
“We should be doing everything we can to benefit the bay right now,” said staff attorney Julie Dick. The Corps was unable to say whether an environmental study would be done when reached late Friday.
Even with restoration, park superintendent Pedro Ramos said the bay “relies on higher rainfall, which we have not been getting.”
And given climate change projections, he worried that keeping the bay healthy will only become more difficult.
“Things are changing for sure,” he said in a text message. “New territory for everyone, including scientists, and weather seems to just be getting more and more difficult to forecast.”
Recent rain — September had more than 10 inches — is may help some, but also changed conditions too quickly. Monitors at Buoy Key show salinity in parts per thousand dropping from the mid 40s to the high 30s in the last few days. Normal ocean conditions are 30 parts per thousand.
But scientists worry the bay is already in a downward spiral — and anglers have long reported seeing fewer fish.
“It’s the largest fish kill I’ve ever seen in the park,” said Capt. Dave Denkert, a guide who has fished the bay since the 1970s and spotted dead pinfish and snapper through out the summer. “It goes from real salinity to almost completely fresh. It’s extreme one way and extreme the other. It all has to come together.”
When conditions go bad, some fear the fish will simply leave. Already the stock of bonefish, a catch that draws anglers from around the world, are “below the 30 percent threshold considered sustainable,” said Jerry Ault, a University of Miami fish ecologist, who warned that Florida Bay may be a microcosm of bigger problems to come.
“You get to where you really listen to the fisherman because they’re usually the first ones to find something wrong,” Hall said. “They may not know the name of the seagrass, but they know what it looked like.”
Jenny Staletovich|Miami Herald
Wildlife and Habitat
World’s Largest Wildlife Corridor to Be Built in California
Earlier this month an obscure Los Angeles area regional public lands agency—the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority—announced the first stages of a five-year plan to build one of the largest wildlife corridors in the world. The goal is to create a natural looking bridge that will allow a small cougar population in the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area the chance to escape north into much larger public lands, while at the same time allowing northern mountain lions the chance to move south and help out the badly inbred and lethally infighting Santa Monica cougars.
Although a young female from the Santa Monica Mountains, P33, did successfully cross Highway 101 in March this year, her escape north is a rare event. Photo credit: Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
The proposed bridge will leap over Highway 101, an eight-lane, east-west freeway in LA’s northern suburbs that sees 175,000 car trips a day. The bridge will be built at Liberty Canyon in the suburb of Agoura and when completed will be 200 feet-long and 165 feet-wide. It will be landscaped to blend in with the brushy hills and sound walls along the edge of the bridge will “mitigate traffic noise and block light in order to make the crossing more conducive to wildlife,” says the project study report. The bridge will extend beyond the 101, reaching over an access road south of the highway, necessitating the construction of a tunnel. Estimated cost of the entire project: about $57 million.
Despite the report’s dull bureaucratic language—mountain lion sex is blandly described as “the exchange of genetic material”—at its heart the proposed Liberty Canyon wildlife corridor represents an astonishing effort to reverse decades of suburban sprawl and fragmentation of the region’s surviving open spaces.
The campaign’s iconic poster boy is the famous “Hollywood lion,” also known by its wildlife ID number, “P22.” In 2012, P22 crossed two major freeways and migrated roughly 40 miles from the Santa Monica Mountains along the coast to Los Angeles’s 4300-acre Griffith Park on the city’s eastside. There he took up residence, feeding on the park’s mule deer and soon became a national celebrity of sorts.
Beth Pratt was one of P22’s earliest and most ardent fans. Pratt, the California executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, was fascinated by the lion’s story and contacted wildlife biologists studying the Santa Monica Mountains cougars. One of those biologists was Dr. Seth Riley, who from 2002 to 2012 led a National Park Service team that trapped some 42 cougars: 26 from the Santa Monica Mountains, five from the Santa Susana Mountains north of 101 and the rest from throughout the region. All of the cougars were fitted with GPS transmitting collars. The cougars trapped north of 101 mostly survived. But the 12 young males from the Santa Monica Mountains did not make it. They tried to disperse, going right up to the edges of the region’s freeways. Four who tried to cross died in the effort. Five who turned back were attacked and killed by older male lions. One was shot by police; one died from unknown causes.
The only young male from the Santa Mountain Mountains to escape death was P22—and he is not considered an example of successful dispersal because he will never breed. “The [Santa Monica Mountains] are a population sink,” the park service’s Riley concludes. “The Santa Monica Mountain cougar population is not going to survive in the long run. For mountain lions, there is only room for ten-ish adults. That’s not enough genetically or even demographically. One male hit by a car and one killed by rodenticide and poof, you’re done.”
Beth Pratt became taken with P22 as an icon for all the trapped lions. “I’m a shameless marketer,” she admits. “I saw how P22 could be the absolute poster child. People just love him. Once people get focused on his specific story—the lonely bachelor—you can talk about mountain lions in general.”
For Save LA Cougars’ campaign image, Pratt chose a photo of P22 taken by Steve Winter that appeared in the December 2013 issue of National Geographic. Winter used trail cams equipped with infrared and motion detectors to photograph P22 at night as he hunted in the Hollywood Hills. Pratt picked a photo of P22 facing the camera and appearing relaxed, not at all like a powerful predator. This facial portrait became the model for a tattoo on her left shoulder.
The full body shot of P22 was then adapted for the campaign as a cardboard cut-out. Comedian Rainn Wilson of Soul Pancake fame introduces a YouTube video by saying, “My good friend and homeboy P22 is stuck in Griffith Park!” A montage of clips shows P22 in a convertible, standing on a swimming pool float, riding a kayak down the LA River and taking the merry-go-round in Griffith Park. He’s even become a cartoon character. “You have to anthropomorphize ,” Pratt argues. “It’s not a bad thing. You want people to relate, to have day-to-day relationships with animals. Otherwise, we won’t save them.” At the same time, she worries about her portrayal. “The cat is thinking, ‘What is Pratt up to now?’ He’ll eat me someday.”
Save LA Cougars has already raised $1 million and needs to raise and additional $3 million by April 2018 to pay for a detailed project design and environmental reviews of the proposed bridge for wildlife. Once these documents are completed, the project is considered to be “shovel ready” and eligible for federal funding. A major lobbying effort by the region’s political leaders to help fund the project is anticipated.
P22’s celebrity stature makes the proposed Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing a perfect LA story. But this isn’t just about the glamour of charismatic megafauna. Wildlife advocates say the campaign to fund and build the wildlife corridor is essential to bring attention to a second and less famous, trapped cougar population in the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange and San Diego counties, to the south.
Chris Basilevac , director of the Nature Conservancy’s land protection program in Southern California, explains: “That [proposed] crossing has lands already protected on both sides of the 101 freeway. If they can pave the way there with Caltrans [the California highway agency] and other sources, that helps our chances a lot to make it happen down here.” Basilevac has worked for 11 years buying land along a major north-south corridor, Interstate 15, in the hope of creating a regional network of crossings for mountain lions and other animals.
“It’s an emotional roller coaster,” Basilevac says of his efforts to purchase lands. In Orange and San Diego counties, he says, “only a small percentage of the sellers are conservation-minded.” Basilevac deals mainly with investors who bought parcels (about 15 to 100-acres in size) as investment properties and are looking for profits. If they bought at the height of the last real estate boom, their property is often appraised at less now. According to its bylaws, the Nature Conservancy cannot pay more than appraised value. “It’s really a matter of trying to make them an attractive offer. Sometimes we ask them to sell at less than appraised value and try to find a way to make it up, say by making a charitable contribution as a tax write-off.”
Exactly which lands Basilevac and the Nature Conservancy target for buying is informed by the research of wildlife veterinarian Winston Vickers. Vickers works as a UC-Davis based researcher under contract for the Nature Conservancy and several Orange, San Diego and Riverside county transportation and public lands agencies. Vickers and his associates track mountain lions in the Santa Ana Mountains (which run north-south) and the eastern Peninsular Ranges (which run east-west) and intersect the Santa Ana’s near Temecula, in south Orange County. From early 2001 through Dec. 2013 Vickers’s team captured and radio collared 43 lions in the eastern Peninsular Ranges east of I-15 and 31 in the Santa Ana Mountains west of I-15.
Not a single cougar of the 43 collared in the eastern Peninsular Range successfully crossed I-15 to the west into the Santa Ana Mountains during the entire 13-year study. Among the 31 lions tracked in the Santa Ana Mountains, only one, M86, was found to have genes that originated among the eastern cougars. Although three of his descendants are still alive, that’s not enough to overcome the Santa Ana cougars’ genetic bottleneck and isolation. Thus the small population of lions in the Santa Ana’s—no more than 17 to 27 animals at any given time—suffers from the same crisis as do the Santa Monica Mountain cougars. The annual survival rate for that population is even less—56.5 percent. Unless the I-15 can be fitted with underpasses or bridges of some kind, then the Santa Ana Mountains population is “at risk for demographic collapse,” says Vickers.
While Basilevac negotiates with landowners along I-15 to buy land for wildlife corridors, Vickers and his team try to keep the Santa Ana mountain population alive by reducing the high number of animals killed each year crossing the 241 toll way along a stretch of public lands in Orange County. They are building a 11-13-foot-high, 7-mile-long fence to keep cougars and their prey, mule deer, from crossing the toll way and instead channel them into a few underpasses.
When I met Vickers and his assistant, Jamie Bourdon in August, they were fitting Bushnell Trail cameras to the telephone poles at what are called “jump-out” ramps—places where animals who somehow get onto the toll way can jump back into the hills. Jamie wore a White Panther Party t-shirt complete with a pouncing panther logo, a design from the late 1960s. At the time, the White Panther Party was founded as a far-left, culturally revolutionary companion to the Black Panther Party. In 2015, Bourdon’s t-shirt serves the same function as Pratt’s tattoo—a statement of totemic kinship.
While Bourdon stood on a ladder and began to focus the infrared and motion-detector triggered cameras, Vickers bent over at the waist, dangled his arms and shuffled up and down the earthen ramps, performing what was in essence a ritual “deer dance.” No doubt both men saw the dance in the service of science, necessary to aim the trail cams and accurately record which animals used a ramp to escape. But no one from a hunting-gathering society would be confused: Vickers’s deer dance honored the mule deer and their cougar predator.
The intense scientific monitoring and the sophisticated engineering behind the fences, underpasses and bridges is but the physical embodiment of an important cultural change. In Southern California, wild dreams are being acted out in the effort to boost the cougar’s chances of survival. The conservation efforts symbolize that if we let the mountain lions die on the freeways and in their confined territories, then we will also lose part of ourselves.
James William Gibson|Earth Island Journal|September 27, 2015
Now We Can Watch Africa’s Epic Wildlife Migration Live From Anywhere
Every year hundreds of thousands of animals in Africa embark on a migration so vast it’s considered one of the greatest wonders of the natural world.
The migration, which is the largest migration of land animals on earth, includes thousands of wildebeests, gazelles and zebras as they follow the rainy season across the plains, traveling in a circular path of more than 1,000 miles from the Maasai Mara Reserve in Kenya to the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania before starting the cycle over again. They face numerous obstacles along the way from heavy concentrations of lions to making it across the Mara River unscathed by crocodiles.
While seeing it in person might be a once-in-a lifetime kind of opportunity, not everyone is going to get the chance. Now, thanks to technology, for the first time we can watch nature take its course live from anywhere in the world.
Starting this week, the migration will be broadcast live from the ground and will include commentary by experts, along with the opportunity for viewers to ask questions and get answers in real time.
The event is being shared in partnership by Make It Kenya and HerdTracker, an app launched by safari operator Discover Africa that tracks the location of migrating herds using Google Maps in an effort to give tourists the chance to catch the otherwise unpredictable action on trips.
Watching these massive herds travel is also a reminder of the importance of keeping undeveloped corridors open for wildlife, particularly migratory species who need to move freely.
“We are running out of space worldwide due to the increase in human numbers and this has an effect on everything and not just the migration,” said Carel Verhoef, the co-founder of HerdTracker. “Luckily for now, the pressure on the environment has not yet had an impact on the migration or its numbers, but development and loss of habitat and space is always a concern.”
The migration will be live-streaming in twice-daily segments through October 5. You can sign up on HerdTracker to get an alert for when streaming is about to start and catch it on HerdTracker’s Youtube page, or using the Periscope app. In case you miss it live, stunning images of wildlife are being posted on Discover Africa’s website and footage will also be archived on YouTube.
Alicia Graef|October 2, 2015
FWC works with partners on waste management to reduce human-bear conflicts
Suggested Tweet: FWC works with partners on waste management to reduce human-bear conflicts: http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/FLFFWCC/bulletins/117e3f0 @MyFWC #conservation
Photos available on FWC’s Flickr site. Go to: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjxNr5SK
FWC works with partners on waste management to reduce human-bear conflicts
To reduce human-bear conflicts, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is working with multiple partners to achieve a comprehensive approach to dealing with waste management issues related to black bears.
FWC Commissioners at their Sept. 2 meeting in Fort Lauderdale were updated by staff on cooperative efforts underway to work with local governments and waste management companies to help residents secure their garbage and prevent bears from using it as a food source.
The FWC identified 14 counties with the highest level of human-bear conflicts that will be the focus of “Bear Wise” efforts like securing waste, educating residents and businesses, and responding appropriately to bears in communities. Human-bear conflict calls in Florida have increased by 400 percent over the past decade.
“It’s important we’re all working together united with the 14 counties in moving forward on bear-proof containers,” Commissioner Ron Bergeron said. “We can live with bears in sustainable populations. We can reduce bear conflicts by up to 95 percent in Florida. We have to be responsible, all of us.”
The update provided Commissioners and the public with a framework of the approaches that will be used as the FWC moves forward on this issue. The agency plans to finalize its new Waste Management Action Plan, implement the comprehensive approach to waste management and bears, and continue working closely with partners on solutions. Last June, Commissioners signed a Waste Management Resolution and approved a policy paper explaining the need for comprehensive waste management to address human-bear conflicts and improve public safety.
“Our cooperative work with partners in local governments and waste management companies is essential to reducing human-bear conflicts in Florida,” said Dr. Thomas Eason, director of the FWC’s Division of Habitat and Species Conservation. “Many partners already are helping by providing accessible, affordable options for residents to secure their garbage from bears. However, we must broaden these efforts in order to maintain public safety and achieve a more sustainable coexistence with the state’s black bear population.”
“In addition to our efforts with waste management, we have worked with our partners to eliminate the harvest of palmetto berries on state lands,” Bergeron said. “These berries are a critical food source for Florida black bears and other wildlife. By having abundant natural food sources in the woods, and eliminating garbage attractants, we can keep bears out of neighborhoods, which will benefit bears and improve human safety.”
Recent changes to the bear feeding rule and penalties are currently in effect. These changes strengthened prohibitions and increased penalties for feeding bears and are part of the FWC’s comprehensive approach to managing human bear interactions.
For more information on how the FWC is working to conserve bears, visit MyFWC.com/Bear.
Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission sent this bulletin at 09/03/2015
Indigenous Community’s Fight to Save Canada’s Boreal Forest
A metal-hulled outboard motorboat took me the last two hours of my three-day journey to one of the last intact forests in North America, in Canada’s Boreal forest. In the end, I traveled more than 3,000 miles, including a substantial amount of time in a white van with a poor suspension system, experiencing every bump on some very long and bumpy logging roads.
After that long journey—which also included two flights, a 20-hour drive and a helicopter ride—I finally reached the traditional lands of the Waswanipi Cree First Nation. I stood where few humans have ever stood, in one of the last intact forests, in the Broadback Valley.
I made this journey alongside the Cree because even its incredible remoteness has not protected this forest from exploitation.
I endured these three days of intense travel with a mission: to reach one of the last intact forests in Canada, help the Waswanipi Cree First Nation shine a light on the threats to this special place and amplify their leadership in protecting it. Ninety percent of the Waswanipi Cree territory has been logged and fragmented. They are simply asking to leave the last 10 percent alone and intact.
By definition, intact forests have no roads, clearcuts or powerlines, but that does not mean they are devoid of human presence. Quite the contrary—the forest where I stood had been cared for and harvested by the Cree for generations.
The pristine, clear water, miles of dense forest, bald eagles overhead and moose and bear along the shores—all of this special place is at the heart of Cree culture. This is the land the Waswanipi Cree community have fished and hunted on for generations. Elders in the community—including Don Saganash, one of our hosts—each manage areas of this forest delineated by traplines.
This is a healthy place, shaped by local knowledge and stewardship over time. Clearcut logging threatens a connection to this land forged over thousands of years.
Clearcut affected forest in Cree territory, Northern Quebec. Photo credit: Greenpeace
Despite its remote location, logging companies in Canada are eager to log here, including Don’s trap
Don’s father hunted and practiced his traditional way of life here and Don hopes to pass this trapline to his son. Now he’s not sure that he’ll be able to. Don has repeatedly stood up to ambitious logging companies and has said no to their expansion plans. He was offered money and gifts in exchange for his sign-off and still said “my land is not for sale.”
Greenpeace has had a relationship with Don and the Waswanipi Cree for years. We proudly stand in support of the entire Cree community calling for the protection of their land. The elders withholding consent has been enough so far to keep their forest standing.
But the Cree have petitioned the Quebec government to permanently protect their land, to stop the onslaught of logging companies from trying to infiltrate. The Quebec government recently protected other lands nearby, but not here. Until this land is safe—and safe for good—the fight against exploitation and for traditional culture will continue.
Lessons I Will Carry With Me
My week with the Cree was intense in many ways. As with my long journey there, I had three long days of travel heading back in which to reflect.
The first thing that I will carry with me is how important it is to keep intact forests safe. There are plenty of quantifiable reasons to keep a forest—for wildlife and for the carbon they store that would otherwise add to our climate crisis. But more than that, these are areas where the Cree are able to thrive and practice their traditional culture. Without the forest, they will lose so much more than the trees, they will lose their identity.
There is a special kind of pureness and beauty that only intact forests hold. These are places that hold the future for the Cree people. It was emotional to stand somewhere so purely beautiful and at the same time experience heartbreaking sadness as I fear this place will not exists for Don Saganash’s children and my children both to see.
The second thing I will carry with me is more personal. I proudly stand up next to the Cree. I was humbled by their welcome and am proud to share their story. These are people that have overcome tremendous hurdles to protect their identity. They deserve to live their lives and thrive. They deserve to have a say on what happens to their traditional land.
I will work hard to be a good ally, advancing their story and their future. The kind of person I want to be is one that will not sit idly by as the Cree fight. I want to be the person that stands next to them and does all that I can.
I will also carry with me immense gratitude for our hosts. I am grateful to Stanley, who made his hunting camp on Lake Quenonisca available to us; to Stanley, Don and the entire team from Waswanipi, who were patient and knowledgeable as they watched us Greenpeacers scurrying around and delicately pointed out the more effective way to cut a log, catch a fish or start a fire.
I’d say they have a few stories themselves to tell.
Most of all, I will carry with me gratefulness that places like the Broadback Valley in the Canadian Boreal forest still exist and that Indigenous People like the Waswanipi Cree are still there. Our world is safer, healthier and richer because of them.
line, where I stood just weeks ago.
Amy Moas|Greenpeace|September 24, 2015
Climate action requires halting Europe’s unseen import: deforestation
Between 1990 and 2008, Europe cut down an area of forest the size of Portugal. Why didn’t Europeans notice? Because these trees weren’t disappearing on European soil — they were being cleared in tropical forests far away, to grow crops for European markets.
According to the U.N. Environment Program, 80% of all deforestation is caused by agricultural expansion. A large portion of this is caused by major economies that are “importing” too much deforestation in the form of products like soy, palm oil, beef, coffee and cocoa. Global demand for these products is booming, and this is threatening forests that are vital to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Conservation International (CI) is encouraging the European Union to lead the way in favor of deforestation-free agriculture products. On September 21, CI Europe is organizing an event at the European Parliament in Brussels to call for action ahead of the very important U.N. climate summit taking place in Paris in December.
So far 61 countries have announced their commitments to help reach a global climate agreement in Paris — including major economic powers like the U.S., China, the EU and Japan. Yet all these nations are missing a critical element in their plans: tackling emissions they generate outside their borders.
More farms, fewer trees
Science tells us that the only way to avoid catastrophic climate change is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 60% by 2050. Unfortunately, current commitments won’t be sufficient to reach this goal. Part of the problem is that developed countries are displacing some of their emission-intensive activities to developing countries, instead of greening their own consumption patterns.
For example, between 1990 and 2008 the EU managed to officially reduce its emissions by 19.2%. Yet according to a study funded by the European Commission, over the same period, it became the largest importer of deforestation in the world. This contributed to a global surge in emissions as demand for agricultural commodities encouraged the large-scale clearing of tropical forests from the Amazon to Indonesia — and increasingly Africa — to make way for farm and pastureland.
Protection and good management of forests could be 30% of the solution to climate change. Disregarding this fact ignores the elephant in the room.
If the EU wants to remain a leader in global efforts to fight climate change, it cannot limit its ambition to reducing emissions within its borders. Rather, it must do something about its massive consumption of commodities whose production directly contributes to climate change.
A booming global demand for agricultural products is not all bad news. In supply countries, agricultural expansion creates jobs and helps people emerge from poverty. However most governments in these countries are becoming aware about the need to reduce deforestation to protect the climate — and their own economic interests.
Finding another way
In most developing countries the cost of cutting emissions from deforestation is relatively low. Sustainable intensification methods (also known as “climate-smart” agriculture practices) allow farmers to increase crop yields while decreasing deforestation. For example, Brazil has prevented more emissions since 2005 than the entire EU by reducing deforestation in the Amazon, partly through the soy moratorium that ruled that soy should be grown on already degraded land, rather than clearing standing forests for production. The solutions exist, but they require strong political will and adequate investment in planning, governance and technology.
It is time for countries to stop pointing fingers at climate conferences and work together to tackle emissions. On agriculture and deforestation, both producers and consumers have to face their responsibilities. Governments of developing countries need to show leadership, but they cannot be expected to take all the action on their own. If they don’t receive adequate political, technical and financial support from donor countries in favor of sustainable production, it’s likely their domestic emissions will remain too high.
In the last few years, several multinational companies have committed to deforestation-free supply chains. It is time for the EU and other major economies to do the same. There are three very useful steps they can take:
- Give a clear political signal by announcing an action plan to stop “importing deforestation” with clear criteria to favor sustainable supply chains.
- Provide more help to developing countries to modernize their agriculture practices so they can increase production without cutting more forest.
- Contribute to sustainable management of remaining forests. Not cutting the forest is good; making sure it remains intact long term is better. This can be achieved with mechanisms like REDD+, which bring financial resources to help keep tropical forests standing.
As the Paris climate conference approaches, the world’s major importers of agricultural products need to commit. The EU is well placed to take a leading role. It is the largest trade power in the world, and the improvements it’s already made to the timber industry have already shown that regulating supply chains is possible.
We hope to see EU leaders come to Paris with a clear message that Europe wants to move away from importing deforestation, and wants to solve this issue in win-win partnerships with all nations involved. Such an announcement would increase the chances of an ambitious climate deal in Paris — something we all need.
Jean-Philippe Palasi|September 20, 2015
Global Warming and Climate Change
World’s richest reef system could soon succumb to climate change
Scientists are predicting the demise of most of the world’s coral reefs by as early as 2050. The Coral Triangle is the richest of them all and could be the first to go.
The publication last week of the Worldwide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) Living Blue Planet report painted a bleak picture of the state of the world’s oceans: marine populations, including reef ecosystems, have halved in size since 1970 and some species are teetering on the brink of extinction. Coral reef cover has declined by 50% in the last 30 years and reefs could disappear by as early as 2050, the report says, if current rates of ocean warming and acidification continue. WWF estimates that 850 million people depend directly on coral reefs for their food security – a mass die-off could trigger conflict and human migration on a massive scale.
100 million of these reef-reliant peoples live in the Coral Triangle – singled out in the report as “richer in marine natural capital” than anywhere else on earth. Currently, fisheries exports from the Coral Triangle – which encompasses the waters of Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste – amount to around $5bn (£3.3bn), including 30% of the global tuna catch, and a lucrative trade in live reef fish for food markets, which is worth nearly $1bn (£655m). But there are serious questions about the sustainability of these fisheries.
A report by Greenpeace published on Monday called out 13 Indonesian and eight Philippines tuna canneries, which it says are failing in three key areas – supply chain traceability, sustainability and employee equity. All but one of the businesses surveyed were graded ‘poor’ and none were classified as ‘good.’ Most of these canneries supply brands in the EU, America, Japan and the Middle East.
The live reef fish for food trade – which has a huge market in Hong Kong and mainland China as well as other southeast Asian cities – has sent stocks of key reef predators such as grouper plummeting in many parts of the Coral Triangle. As with tuna, the industry is poorly regulated and destructive fishing methods like cyanide capture – where a milky solution of potassium cyanide is squirted into reefs to stun fish – remain popular across Indonesia and the Philippines.
But the severest threat is to the reef ecosystems themselves. 85% of reefs in the Coral Triangle are classified as threatened, significantly higher than the global average of 60%. The bioregion’s vulnerability to climate change was further underscored in a report on biodiversity redistribution caused by warming seas that was published in Nature Climate Change on 31 August. It is thought that some marine ecosystems will be able to balance themselves out as temperature changes cause species to migrate from one area to another. But the report authors singled out the Coral Triangle as being especially vulnerable to ‘high rates of extirpation’ (ie complete species eradication) based on a key climate model produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
In the face of these threats, The Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries & Food Security (CTI-CFF), a multilateral partnership between Coral Triangle countries, NGOs and the Asian Development Bank, is developing collaborative action plans to try and sustainably manage the bioregion’s natural capital. Nature based tourism – thought to be worth $12bn – has become a key priority, since it dovetails with the urgent need to protect key seascapes in the Coral Triangle.
Raja Ampat off the coast of West Papua, thought to be the global epicenter of biodiversity, is one example of a successful collaborative strategy, bringing together local government, communities, tourism operators and non-profits to manage its ecosystems sustainably. In Malaysia, WWF has been working with government agencies to gazette a 1m-square hectare marine reserve off the north coast of Borneo. The Tun Mustapha marine park aims to balance the needs of various stakeholders from industrial fishers to local communities to tourism businesses within a sustainable framework, rather than strictly controlling a very small zone, which was the prevailing model for marine reserves in the past.
But in the face of the slow-moving juggernaut of global warming, it’s difficult not to regard these measures, worthy as they are, as akin to putting a plaster on a gunshot wound. Only around 4% of the world’s ocean is ‘designated for protection’, compared to between 10-15% of its land surface; many marine reserves are poorly managed and enforcement can be non-existent. There is an urgent need to establish more and to shore up existing ones across the Coral Triangle to maximize the benefits of coral reef ecosystems in the short to medium term.
The UN Sustainable Development Summit is taking place in New York this weekend and oceans are on the agenda for the first time. Hot topics include over fishing, food security for island states and pollution. Action in these areas is needed at the very least so as not to exacerbate the impact of the elephant in the room – climate change. Should warming hit the 2C threshold – a target that’s come to be seen somewhat arbitrarily as an upper limit, but that many scientists now regard as unachievable – most reefs will likely be devastated by coral bleaching, according to the IPCC.
The big decisions will be made of course in Paris at COP 21 at the end of November. On Tuesday, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) stated that existing pledges by the international community would only be enough to cap global temperature increases at 3C by the end of the century.
“3C is much better than 4-5C, but it is still unacceptable,” she said. A cap of 3C may represent progress, but for the Coral Triangle and for reefs around the world, it could be catastrophic.
Johnny Langenheim|24 September 2015
Pope calls for Climate Change Policies
History was made in the United States as Pope Francis became the first pontiff to address a joint session of Congress. In a powerful speech, His Holiness referred to stewardship of our planet as the “common good.” And that makes sense since Earth is the only home we have and taking care of it requires collective action.
Pope Francis also issued a challenge to our Congress when he said, “I call for a courageous and responsible effort to redirect our steps, and to avert the most serious effects of the environmental deterioration caused by human activity. I have no doubt that the United States — and this Congress — have an important role to play, now is the time for courageous actions and strategies.”
The pontiff’s call to action deserves a response: How will our lawmakers respond to the pope’s challenge?
Unfortunately, many of our lawmakers have not responded kindly to the actions of President Obama or the Environmental Protection Agency to tackle humanity’s greatest challenge. Some lawmakers like Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) even skipped the Pope’s speech because of his stance on climate change. Gosar stated, “If the pope plans to spend the majority of his time advocating for flawed climate change policies, then I will not attend.”
We’ve also witnessed lawmakers’ attempts to delay, de-fund and debunk the President’s Clean Power Plan, and some have even contacted international leaders to convince them not to cooperate with the President on any global climate deals. That’s why we need to contact our elected officials and press them on what they plan to do besides dismiss the proposals of their political adversaries. Who knows, maybe there will be some divine intervention and even the most recalcitrant elected officials will actually step up to the pope’s challenge.
The word pope comes from the Latin Pontifex, which means “greatest bridge builder.” Today Pope Francis attempted to build a bridge between our Congress and the courage it will take to stop climate chaos. And we have seen signs even before his visit that his message is resonating. This month nearly a dozen House Republicans broke rank with their leadership and will call for action on climate change.
Amen, that’s a great start, but it will take more than a baker’s-dozen to secure the common good. We will need as many lawmakers as possible heeding the pope’s call and coming up with plans of their own to save our climate, our planet and each other.
Global Warming Blamed For South Florida Severe Flooding
MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Global warming is being blamed by some for the more severe than usual flooding in South Florida.
At a summit on climate change in Miami being hosted by former Vice President Al Gore, both Gore and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson pointed to the coastal floods.
“Climate change is a reality, and we’re seeing it today on the streets of Miami beach,” said Nelson.
Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine called on the world to take a lesson from the flooding in South Florida.
“When they see Miami Beach being affected by sea level rise due to climate change, I think that wakes up a lot of people around the world,” Levine said. “Whatever happens on Miami Beach, the world knows about it.”
Miami Beach resident Carmen Rincon slogged through water to get to her car.
“It’s terrible, terrible,” Rincon said. “I am very worried about what is going to happen after this.”
During the high tide Sunday night, Miami Beach closed southbound Indian Creek Drive between 40th and 29th streets. The city plans to close it again during the high tide periods over the next couple of days – Monday at 10:28 p.m. Tuesday; and 11:03 a.m. and 11:18 p.m. Wednesday.
Another problem spot was along Chase Avenue.
“We still have street flooding, even in a neighborhood where we have pumps that are online and working,” said Robert Wolfarth. “It’s not just this neighborhood. It’s North Beach, it’s South Beach, it’s from the east to the west.”
Collins Avenue also experienced serious flooding. Despite the city’s storm water pump project, the problem for many beach residents is not fixed.
“The pumps were for storm water,” said commission Deede Weithorn, “Not necessarily for what we call, these are ‘King Tides’ which are high tides based on the moon.”
But there’s an even bigger problem than pumps being overwhelmed by water.
“The pumps are working backwards in some areas, basically they are not taking the water, they’re bringing the water up through the drainage and basically flooding our streets,” said Marcos Aleman, with Atlantic Coast Drilling.
Gary Nelson|September 28, 2015
Shark culling and overfishing may be contributing to climate change
New research has found that sharks play an important role in preventing climate change, warning that overfishing and culling sharks is resulting in more carbon being released from the seafloor.
A paper published in the journal Nature Climate Change has found that the culling and fishing of sharks and other large fish is leading to an overabundance of their prey, such as turtles, stingrays and crabs.
Larger numbers of these marine creatures means that vegetation which stores carbon is being eaten in greater quantities.
“Sharks, believe it or not, are helping to prevent climate change,” said Dr Peter Macreadie, an Australian Research Council Fellow from Deakin University and one of the paper’s authors.
Several years ago researchers found that carbon is stored in blue carbon ecosystems in the marine environment.
“They are the seagrasses, the salt marshes, the mangroves and they’re among the most powerful carbon sinks in the world,” Dr Macreadie said.
“So they will capture and store carbon at a rate 40 times faster than tropical rainforests like the Amazon and they’ll store that carbon in the ground for millennial time scales.”
He said as predators were culled and overfished, other marine life consumed more and more vegetation.
“Turtles, crabs, certain types of worms, stingrays — these animals that are overabundant to do with loss of predators used to keep their numbers in check,” Dr Macreadie said.
The researchers used Cape Cod in Massachusetts as an example of where this process had been observed.
“There had been overfishing in the region, so a lot of the big fish had been removed and then what we saw was an increase — a remarkable increase, a huge increase — in the number of crabs that bury and borrow down in the system, in the salt marsh which sequestered all this carbon,” Dr Macreadie said.
“And we’d found that in an area there, the crabs had become so abundant that they had pretty much destroyed the salt marsh, and it was a small area, it was only 1.5 square kilometres, but it liberated 250,000 tonnes of carbon that had been stored in the ground.”
Release of ancient carbon would have ‘catastrophic’ effect
He said with the culling of huge numbers of sharks and other top ocean predators, researchers had discovered many other examples of this occurring.
“There’s been some 90 per cent loss of the oceans’ top predators and so we’ve learnt this link between sharks and other top predators and the cascading effects they will have down to other animals in those ecosystems that are eating themselves out of house and home.
“They’re eating the blue carbon ecosystems that have sequestered so much carbon and this is causing release of ancient carbon as a consequence.”
Dr Macreadie said it would have a catastrophic effect on the environment.
“We’ve only just scratched the surface here,” he said.
“These blue carbon ecosystems are so critical for sequestering carbon and they support these important food webs, and when these food webs are disrupted it’s a bit like playing a game of Jenga — you pull out a few pins and the whole thing falls apart.
“If we just lost 1 per cent of the oceans’ blue carbon ecosystems, it would be equivalent to releasing 460 million tons of carbon annually, which is about the equivalent of about 97 million cars.
“It’s about equivalent to Australia’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
“So I think it’s time to take a good look at the way in which nature helps mitigate climate change for us and trying to do everything we can to let that natural process operate in full force, and if sharks are a part of that, if predators and a part of that we need to take that into consideration.”
Sarah Sedghi|The World Today||29 Sep 2015
Three Ways Climate Deniers Cherry-Pick Facts about Climate Change
Find out the strategies climate deniers use to cloud the climate change consensus, and how to set the record straight.
For years, oil companies and special interest groups have financed campaigns to make people doubt the reality and seriousness of climate change, funneling money into conservative non-profits, think tanks, politicians, and climate-denial front groups. Let’s take the industrial businessmen and political moguls, the Koch brothers, who have invested tens of millions of dollars over the last fifteen years in efforts to deny climate change.
With the support of Big Oil companies and their allies, a small but vocal group of climate deniers has become as pesky as mosquitos on a summer night. The mystery is how. After all, the facts are clear and when you consider that 97 percent of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is real, it’s hard to believe that anyone could claim anything else with a straight face.
So how have a few well-funded voices managed to mislead – or at least confuse – millions and block progress on one of the most important issues of our time? One thing these deniers have been good at is cherry-picking facts and misrepresenting data to tell a story with some of the most important points conveniently left out. Imagine a guy buying drinks for everyone at the bar – without mentioning he just mugged a stranger for the cash. You get the picture.
We decided to take a closer look. We hope that by calling out deniers’ strategies, we can begin to debunk their myths and get back to the reason we’re all here: to spread truth and implement climate change solutions.
1. Misrepresenting Data
A common climate denier tactic is focusing on a specific year in a data set, usually one that happens to be an outlier. A great example of this is the year 1998.
Nineteen-ninety-eight was one of the hottest years on record thanks to an unusually strong El Niño. That means when you pull a subset of climate data from 1998–2012 (as deniers often do), you’re starting at a record high point. And when you look at the years that follow – years that vary naturally in temperature with some falling well below the 1998 peak – the upward trend in temperatures wasn’t as visually obvious.
Visual data can be purposefully skewed or misrepresented. Let’s look at the chart below, which shows the global air temperature changes from 1998–2012. The red trend line on the chart isn’t a trend at all — it’s simply connecting the two dots on either side of the chart that show two yearly averages of global air temperature change. A trend line on this chart should, in fact, trend upwards. And if we started this chart with the year 1999, it would look quite different.
Or if we zoom out even further, we see an even more obvious increase in average temperatures over time.
2. Cherry-Picking Facts
This is an especially tough one to crack because climate deniers often cite factual statistics. And factual statistics are factual statistics, right? Except when the statistics are taken out of context or missing pertinent information, making it hard to have an informed rebuttal ready.
Let’s take this statistic that’s often cited out of context: “The global mean temperature was 58.3 degrees Fahrenheit in 1998 (14.6 degrees Celsius) according to NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. In 2012, it was 58.2 degrees (14.56 Celsius).”
The obvious conclusion here is that global warming stalled or even stopped during this period. And if you look at changing temperatures in just these 14 years, it does look like they rose at a slower rate than they did over the longer period from 1951—2012.
But remember, 1998 was an unusually hot year, which skews the analysis. Plus, when scientists looked at the data again in 2014 after two more years of rising temperatures, the overall picture changed. With a higher average temperature as an endpoint in 2014, the graph shows that overall average temperatures from 1998—2014 rose at nearly the same rate as in the second half of the twentieth century.
The bottom line: global warming didn’t stop between 1998—2012. Far from it. And if someone cites 1998 temperatures to make a point about climate change, chances are there are some missing facts.
That’s why it’s important to remember that when climate statistics are cited, context and complete data are necessary to understanding the full picture.
3. Dwelling on the Weather
Everyone loves to talk about the weather. It’s a safe-zone, and people care about it because it has a direct impact on our feelings and mood. One especially common tactic is for climate deniers to dwell on weather patterns over the course of a few days or even a year to make the case that climate change isn’t happening.
“You know its freezing outside, right?” they might say, or “How can there be global warming when there’s a polar vortex?”
Weather patterns will always vary, causing temperatures to be higher or lower than average from time to time, depending on factors like El Niño and other ocean processes, cloud variability, volcanic activity, and other natural cycles.
It’s the long-term range (30-plus year cycles) that scientists look at to determine real changes in the climate system, and the changes scientists see are unmistakable. It’s time for climate deniers to stop focusing on the day-to-day weather as an excuse for why the Earth isn’t warming. This will only harm us in the future.
Now You Know
So the next time you hear someone stating climate statistics that attempt to show the Earth isn’t warming or harping on the blizzard outside, you’ll be able to recognize if they are cherry-picking facts or skewing data. Just remember: all the data you need to prove them wrong can be found in the blink of an eye on reputable websites like NASA and NOAA. Or, if you really want to get your point across, you can always send them this article (just don’t expect a holiday card next year).
Heavy rain, snow wreak havoc around Alaska
Heavy rain and wet snow wreaked havoc on much of southern Alaska on Tuesday, flooding homes and roads. A large swath of Alaska has been under advisories for storms, heavy rain, wind and flooding since the weekend.
On Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning for Anchorage, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Arctic Valley, Eagle River and Potter Marsh. According to NWS, rain over the previous 24 hours “caused streams to rise sharply.”
“Heavy rain has also caused ponding of water on many roads in the Anchorage Bowl and Glenn Highway,” NWS wrote.
NWS warned drivers not to attempt to drive across flooded streets and suggested finding alternate routes to travel.
“It takes only a few inches of swiftly flowing water to carry vehicles away,” NWS said.
NWS meteorologist Mike Ottenweller said the NWS Sand Lake office recorded 1.48 inches of rain in the last 24 hours. Stevens Anchorage International Airport recorded 1.65 inches of snow in the last 24 hours.
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said the wet weather has kept her agency busy.
“Our Anchorage maintenance crews have been working on patching the potholes which are forming in the rain,” McCarthy wrote in an email Tuesday night. “They are also unplugging storm drains and clearing ditches as they become clogged. DOT&PF maintenance forces also removed rocks from the Seward (past Potter Marsh) around 4 a.m. and around the same time helped drain a small lake forming in the road on A Street.”
In an updated forecast issued by NWS at 4:17 p.m., the rain was expected to turn into snow at lower elevations by Tuesday evening. Lower elevations can expect one to two inches of snow, NWS wrote.
But on Anchorage’s Hillside, the rain turned into wet, sticky snow earlier in the day. Joshua and Karli Breduig of Arizona drove to the Glen Alps Trailhead at the base of Flattop Mountain just to find the snow.
Joshua Breduig appeared determined to have a snowball fight. While Karli Breduig explained why the couple plans to move to Anchorage soon, she stopped mid-sentence to avoid a snowball.
The couple took a few pictures and then headed off on a snowy adventure.
In a Bear Valley park, Casey Cawson lay on the ground making snow angels with her tongue poking out of her mouth in an attempt to catch snowflakes.
The East Anchorage 3-year-old heard her mother, Gene Cawson, talking about the snow Monday night and didn’t forget.
“She’s been talking about playing in the snow since last night. She came into my room last night and told me she couldn’t sleep because she was ‘too excited’ about it. So I’ve been driving around looking for snow.”
NWS isn’t predicting snow in the Anchorage area for Wednesday, but on Tuesday morning NWS meteorologist Dave Snider said there could be light accumulations in the middle of the night or in the early morning.
“People could wake up to an inch or two on the ground that could go away — there could be some snow flurries during the morning commute,” Snider said.
Six roads in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough were flooded Tuesday night and at least 10 homes or cabins were surrounded by water in the area of North Burrow Street and River-Aire Drive in Willow, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough reported, adding that some residents chose to leave their homes.
Willow Creek was running at roughly 10 times the volume it had last week and 3 feet higher, at nearly 5 and a half feet, according to a U.S. Geological Survey gauge. Roiling brown water carried logs downstream near Willow-Fishhook Road, eating away at a few roads and flooding others. Mat-Su Borough road crews posted road closure signs at various potentially impassable roads, including West Deneki Drive.
Just off Deneki, Kevin Vance had a creek where his driveway usually was Tuesday afternoon and more water running from Willow Creek through his yard. Vance and his family were getting ready to move their two horses to higher ground from a creekside paddock.
But Vance said that, at least as of mid-afternoon, flooding didn’t seem as bad as several years ago and he wasn’t too worried. His home is one of the oldest on the creek, he said. “It’s been high before.”
To the south, Houston Mayor Virgie Thompson said Tuesday that one home was threatened, with two more near rising water. She said neighbors in the affected area reported water over the banks of the Little Susitna River near North Maid Marion Drive in Houston.
Emergency officials were monitoring high water along the Little Su in Houston and near Schrock Road.
Carol Gibbs lives along the Little Su off Schrock and told her husband to get ready to move to a neighbor’s property on higher ground if necessary.
“Pack up the dogs, the food, important stuff, and let the rest go,” Gibbs said. She was at the Three Bears on Pittman Road on Tuesday, showing videos of the river eating through her backyard.
Gibbs wasn’t too worried about her home but had already lost property.
“Land is land, and God’s gonna take it,” she said.
“The Talkeetna River, Montana Creek, Willow Creek, and Little Susitna River will begin to fall more sharply during the day Wednesday,” the National Weather Service reported shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Much of Southeast Alaska is under a coastal flood warning amid heavy rains.
“With the ground saturated from rainfall overnight, a majority of the remaining rain will run off into area rivers and streams,” forecasters wrote. “This will cause rapid rises on the rivers and streams and flooding will be possible from early this morning through late Tuesday night.”
At sea, a storm warning is in place for the Gulf of Alaska near Kodiak through Tuesday night, with winds up to 50 knots and seas reaching 18 feet expected in the area. According to Ahsenmacher, a low system moving into Prince William Sound and propelling the Gulf of Alaska storm was expected to produce nearly hurricane-force winds in the region Tuesday.
“We’re looking at maybe 60-70-mile wind gusts across Kodiak Island by this evening,” Ahsenmacher said. “This strong wind will eventually drift off and subside in the eastern part of the Gulf.”
Small craft advisories were in place along much of Alaska’s northern and western coast Tuesday, with winds from 25 to 35 knots and seas from 5 to 12 feet expected from Barrow to Bethel. Much of the Aleutian Islands and the waters off Southeast Alaska are under gale warnings from Tuesday into Wednesday, with peak gusts from 20 to 35 knots expected.
Megan Edge,Chris Klint,Zaz Hollander|September 29, 2015
How to prepare for a hurricane
Not sure what to do before, during or after a hurricane? We’ve got you covered for when you need to batten down the hatches.
If you’re familiar with hurricane history, you know that anyone living along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico needs to know how to prepare for massive tropical storms.
And because hurricanes pose a variety of threats — flooding, high winds, storm surges, tornadoes — it is important to prepare in advance and to follow the hurricane safety tips from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other emergency management officials.
Before a hurricane
- Pack an emergency preparedness kit that will meet the needs of you and your family for three days. The kit, of course, will be handy in the wake of any natural or man-made disaster. An emergency preparedness kit needs to include food and water for each member of your family for three days, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, spare batteries, first aid kit, can opener, toilet paper, garbage bags and plastic ties for personal sanitation. A complete list of recommended items for an emergency kit can be found at Ready.gov, FEMA’s emergency preparedness website.
- Store emergency supplies in an easy-to-carry plastic storage container or duffel bag, making them easy to grab and go should local emergency management officials order an evacuation.
- In addition to the essentials in the emergency preparedness kit, pack sleeping bags or blankets, paper towels, books, puzzles, board games and special foods that will make a stay in a shelter more comfortable.
- Board up windows using 5/8” marine plywood. Using tape on windows won’t prevent them from breaking.
- Fill the gas tank of your car.
- Know emergency routes and make transportation arrangements. Identify a place away from home where you can go if you have to leave.
- Get a supply of cash.
- Turn your refrigerator and freezer to the coldest setting so that food will last longer should the power go out. Keep the doors closed as much as possible to hold in the cold.
- Gather and store inside anything that might turn into a missile: lawn furniture, lawn art, garbage cans, tools.
- Fill your bathtubs — and other large containers — to make sure you have a supply of water for cleaning and flushing toilets. This is in addition to your supply of drinking water.
- Follow directions regarding evacuation, especially if you live in a mobile home, a high-rise building, on the coast or in a floodplain.
During a hurricane
- Brace external doors.
- Close interior doors.
- Close all curtains and blinds, even if you have plywood over the windows.
- Wait out the storm in an interior, windowless room or closet on the ground floor.
- If the power is out, use flashlights instead of candles.
- Listen to news and weather reports.
After a hurricane
- Check everyone for injuries. Administer first aid, but don’t move anyone seriously injured unless they are at risk for further injury.
- Be alert to hazards created by hurricane damage such as broken glass and downed power lines.
- Stay off flooded roads.
- When returning to your home if you’ve been evacuated, walk carefully around the outside and look for damage such as loose power lines and gas leaks. Do not enter the house if it is still surrounded by floodwaters or if you smell natural gas.
- Throw out any food that was not kept at proper temperatures or that was exposed to flood waters.
- Take photographs of damage to your house and the contents to show when filing an insurance claim.
This story first appeared on MNN in August 2011. It has been updated to reflect additional information.
Clint Williams|October 1, 2015
Joaquin hits Bahamas with 130 mph winds
Separate ‘life-threatening’ storm threatens Southeast
Hurricane Joaquin battered the Bahamas on Thursday as the U.S. braced for its arrival, as well as historic floods from another weather system.
Regardless of what Joaquin does, an equal concern in the U.S. is a “historic, potentially life-threatening rainfall event expected this weekend” in the Southeast from a separate weather system, the National Weather Service said.
States along the East Coast were bracing for the worst. New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina all declared states of emergency ahead of the predicted bad weather. Forecasters are still uncertain whether Joaquin will make landfall along that Coast.
Joaquin will move northward much of this weekend, roughly paralleling the coast, AccuWeather said. There is a nearly equal possibility that the storm will make landfall along the Mid-Atlantic coast or New England coast or that it will veer out to sea.
“Residents of the Carolinas north should be paying attention and monitoring the storm; there’s no question,” Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist with the National Hurricane Center, told the Associated Press. “If your hurricane plans got a little dusty because of the light hurricane season, now is a good time to update them.”
Ahead of the storm, heavy rains were already soaking much of the eastern U.S. from a stalled front, the National Weather Service said. The rains “are likely to continue for the next few days, even if the center of Joaquin stays offshore,” the weather service said.
Parts of the Carolinas could see over a foot of rain this weekend.
“The resulting inland flood potential could complicate preparations for Joaquin should it head toward the coast, and even more substantial inland flooding is possible,” the weather service said.
Flood watches have been posted in the Carolinas and in Virginia.
Joaquin, with maximum sustained winds increasing Thursday afternoon to 130 mph, lashed the central Bahamas with hurricane-strength winds that extended as far as 45 miles from the eye, the National Hurricane Center in Miami reported.
As of 2 p.m. EDT, the center of the storm was passing over Samana Cays, Bahamas, and moving southwest at 6 mph. It was forecast to turn toward the west-northwest Thursday night, followed by a turn toward the north and an increase in forward speed Friday, according to the hurricane center.
Joaquin was expected to produce rain accumulations of 10 to 15 inches over the central Bahamas; isolated amounts of 20 inches are possible. The Bahamas Department of Meteorology warned of the possibility of flash floods and surf and dangerous rip currents, the Bahamas Press reported.
DOYLE RICE AND DOUG STANGLIN|USA TODAY
Torrential rains pound Southeast
Torrential rains that brought flooding to much of the historic peninsula district of Charleston, South Carolina, on Saturday lashed huge parts of the Southeast, giving the region little consolation from the fading threat of Hurricane Joaquin as it moved away from the East Coast.
Police shut down traffic onto the low-lying historic downtown area of Charleston between the Ashley and Cooper rivers. Abandoned cars dotted many roads as cars stalled out.
Retail stores along King Street, a main shopping area in the port city, lined sandbags along the sidewalk as protection from the threat of rising water.
As rain totals by early morning quickly eclipsed the 21-year old record of 3.28 inches for Oct.3, forecasters predicted several more inches for Saturday and extended a flash flood warning until late afternoon.
Officials warned residents to avoid driving in the afternoon during high tide. Heavy rain was forecast for the area into Sunday.
“We cannot stress the importance of not driving around police barricades,” the weather service in Charleston tweeted. “Never drive into an area where water covers the road.”
Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen told the Associated Press that officers were going door-to-door to advise residents to voluntarily evacuate areas at risk.
“Where we normally are dealing with flooding for a few hours, we’re dealing with it in days here, so it’s going to be significantly different,” Mullen said. “It’s impacting much more of the city. We’re seeing areas flood today that did not traditionally flood.” The weather service warned of a high risk of “widespread excessive rainfall” over large parts of South Carolina, far northeastern Georgia, southwest North Carolina and far eastern Tennessee.
The torrential rain is being generated by an unusual confluence of weather events — a stalled front near the East Coast, tropical moisture flowing from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, and the effects of the outer edge of Hurricane Joaquin.
The weather service forecast as much as 10 inches of rain in those areas, with some isolated cases of 15 inches or more. It said the threat of significant flooding in South Carolina and southeast North Carolina would continue for a few days.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency warned of the possibility of flash flooding in areas of the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic through Sunday. The rain came as forecasters said Hurricane Joaquin was no longer a threat to the region.
Doug Stanglin|USA TODAY|Contributing: Jessica Estepa
Genetically Modified Organisms
Activists Arrested at Genetic Engineering World Headquarters of ArborGen
Attempt made to inform ArborGen of quarter of a million petition signers rejecting GE Trees
Police in Ridgeville, South Carolina arrest Anne Petermann (on ground, left) and Ruddy Turnstone (right) after the Campaign To Stop GE Trees activists attempted to inform ArborGen CEO Andrew Baum that over 250,000 people have signed a letter rejecting genetically engineered trees.
Ridgeville, SC (28 September 2015) – A plan by activists to inform Andrew Baum, President and CEO of ArborGen that over 250,000 people signed letters and petitions  rejecting Genetically Engineered (GE) Trees was interrupted when police arrested the two people who intended to deliver that message.
Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project and Coordinator of the international Campaign to Stop Genetically Engineered Trees, Anne Petermann, and Global Justice Ecology Project’s GE Tree Campaign organizer, Ruddy Turnstone were stopped by police and arrested.
The letters and petitions rejecting GE Trees and international protests mark a growing concern about the dangers of GE Trees and the threats they pose to the environment. ArborGen is developing genetically engineered loblolly pine trees with no public input, no risk assessments and no method for the public to receive information about ArborGen’s activities.
5 Next Steps in the War Against Monsanto and Big Food
“If governments won’t solve the climate, hunger, health and democracy crisis, then the people will … Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis and the crisis of democracy.” — Dr. Vandana Shiva, speaking at the founding meeting of Regeneration International, La Fortuna de San Carlos, Costa Rica, June 8
Degenerate (verb): To decline from a noble to a lower state of development; to become worse physically and morally; (noun) a person of low moral standards; having become less than one’s kind …” — New Webster’s Dictionary, 1997 Edition
Welcome to Degeneration Nation.
After decades of self-destructive business-as-usual—empire-building, waging wars for fossil fuels, selling out government to the highest bidder, lacing the environment and the global food supply with GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, toxic sweeteners, artery-clogging fats and synthetic chemicals, attacking the organic and natural health movement, brainwashing the body politic, destroying soils, forests, wetlands and biodiversity and discharging greenhouse gas pollution into the atmosphere and the oceans like there’s no tomorrow—we’ve reached a new low, physically and morally.
Distracted by know-nothing media conglomerates and betrayed by cowardly politicians and avaricious corporations, homo sapiens are facing and unfortunately in many cases still denying, the most serious existential threat in our 200,000-year evolution—catastrophic climate change, compounded by deteriorating public health and the dictatorial rise of political elites and multinational corporations such as Monsanto.
Unless we move decisively as a global community to transform our degenerative food, farming and energy systems, we are doomed.
To reverse global warming and re-stabilize the climate, we will need not only to slash CO2 emissions by 90 percent or more, taking down King Coal and Big Oil and converting to renewable sources of energy, but we must also simultaneously remove or draw down 100-150 ppm of the excess (400 ppm) CO2 and greenhouse gases that are already overheating our supersaturated atmosphere. How do we accomplish the latter? Through regenerative agriculture and land use.
Fortunately, this is possible because more and more consumers are connecting the dots between what’s on their dinner plates and what’s happening to Planet Earth. They, along with environmentalists, animal rights, food justice, climate and health activists, have created a global grassroots movement aimed at dismantling our destructive, degenerative industrial food and farming system. And despite Big Food’s desperate attempts to maintain the status quo, this powerful movement is escalating the war on degeneration.
Under Siege, Big Food Fights Back
On the food, natural health and anti-GMO fronts, our battles for a new regenerative (non-GMO, non-chemical, non-factory farm, non-fossil fuel) food, farming and land use system are educating and energizing millions of people. The profits of the big junk food, chemical and GMO corporations are falling, while demand for organic and climate-friendly grass fed foods continues to skyrocket.
In the last quarter Monsanto’s profits fell by 34 percent, while the company’s highly publicized attempt to buy out agri-toxics giant Syngenta fell flat, in no small part due to the “worst corporation in the world” reputation that the global Millions Against Monsanto Movement has managed to hang around Monsanto’s neck.
In the U.S., the growing power of the anti-GMO movement has forced the passage of a game-changing mandatory GMO labeling law in Vermont. The Vermont law will go into effect July 1, 2016, forcing national brands to either remove GMOs from their products or label them. The Vermont law will also make it illegal to label GMO-tainted foods as “natural.” Many national brands have already begun removing bogus “natural” or “all natural” claims from their packaging.
Consumer pressure on Whole Foods Market has likewise forced the organic and natural products giant to declare that all 40,000 foods, including meat and take-out, in Whole Foods Market stores will have to be labeled as GMO or GMO-free by 2018. Other chains, such as the rapidly growing Natural Grocer, have already gone GMO-free.
While a number of major food brands and chains, such as Hershey’s and Chipotle’s, have already begun removing GMOs from their products, the impending Vermont law has created panic among the Biotech Bullies, with Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association attempting to ram through the passage of the draconian, highly unpopular DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act (H.R. 1599) in Congress, even though 90 percent of Americans want GMO foods labeled.
The DARK Act will nullify the Vermont GMO labeling law and take away the long-established constitutional right of states to label foods and regulate food safety. But such a blatant attack on states’ and consumer rights will also likely create a major backlash. Even the mass media has warned that the forced passage of the DARK Act, either through Congressional vote or more likely, a backroom-deal rider inserted into a Federal Appropriations bill, will likely enrage health-and environmentally-conscious consumers. As Fortune magazine reports, Big Food may indeed be able to ram through the unpopular DARK Act, but this outrageous maneuver will likely lead to “a classic case of winning the battle and losing the war.”
The Global Grassroots Swarm: Next Steps
Now that we’ve stung Monsanto and Food Inc. (corporate agribusiness) with thousands of campaigns, boycotts, protests, litigation and legislative efforts, what are our next steps in the great 2015 Food Fight?
1. Defeat the DARK Act
Every major anti-GMO and alternative food and farming network in the U.S. is now mobilizing against the DARK Act, which has already passed the U.S. House of Representatives 275-150. We must mobilize, as never before, to stop this outrageous bill in the Senate. But we must also be prepared for dirty tricks, a secret rider inserted into one or more Congressional Appropriations Bills that will not require an open debate or vote in the Senate. And if, despite all our efforts, the DARK Act becomes law, we must be prepared to carry out our own skull-and-crossbones labeling by aggressively testing all of the major (non-organic) U.S. food brands, including meat and animal products and by exposing the GMOs, pesticide residues, antibiotics, hormones and growth promoters that make these degenerate foods unfit for human consumption. Following our exposure of Food Inc.’s dirty little secrets, we must then launch an ongoing boycott to drive these foods off the market.
2. Expand and Deepen the Message
We need to change our campaign message from “Boycott and Ban GMOs” to “Boycott and Ban GMOs, as well as the toxic chemicals, animal drugs and factory farms that are an integral part of the industrial/GMO food and farming system.” GMOs in processed foods are a major threat to our health and the environment, but they are only part of the problem of our degenerate food system. Polls consistently show that U.S. consumers are equally alarmed by the toxic pesticides, antibiotics and synthetic hormones in non-organic foods. We need to emphasize that GMOs are pesticide delivery systems and that GMOs are not only found in most processed foods and beverages, but they are also found in nearly all non-organic, non-grass fed meat and animal products. Every bite of factory-farmed meat, dairy or eggs, every sip of factory-farmed milk, not only contains GMOs, but also the toxic pesticides, antibiotics and animal drugs that are slowly but surely destroying public health. We also need to point out that every time you pull up to the gas pump, you are filling up your tank with not only greenhouse gas-emitting gasoline, but Monsanto’s chemical-intensive, soil destroying GMO corn ethanol as well.
3. Frame the Fight
The battle must be framed as degenerative versus regenerative agriculture and land use. Even before GMOs hit the market in 1994, in the form of Monsanto’s Bovine Growth Hormone, America’s industrial food and farming system was terrible for human health, the for the environment, farm animals and rural communities. If we somehow managed to get rid of all GMOs tomorrow, our (non-organic) food system would still be degenerating our health, biodiversity, water quality and most importantly, our climate. The industrial food and farming system, with its destructive deforestation and land use, is the number one cause of global warming and climate disruption. But at the same time as we expose the hazards of industrial food and farming we must spread the good news that regenerative agriculture is not only better for our health, but that it can fix the climate crisis as well, by sequestering in the soil several hundred billion tons of excess atmospheric carbon over the next two decades. We need to cook organic, not the planet. This requires a new message and a broader coalition beyond simply “GMO-free.”
4. Get Ready to Go to War
Given how desperate Monsanto and Big Ag have become, we must prepare for any eventuality. The reason Big Food and Big Biotech are escalating the war against consumer choice and food safety is because a critical mass of the public no longer believes the lies. Monsanto and Big Food understand full well that they are losing the battle for the hearts and minds and consumer dollars of the majority, not only in the U.S. but globally. That’s why they are pushing the DARK Act and negotiating secret international trade deals, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, deals that would take away consumer rights to label and ban GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics and other dangerous animal drugs. This is no longer simply a food fight, but a war. We need to step up our public education, grassroots mobilization and most importantly, our marketplace pressure and boycotts.
5. Join Forces
We must link together the food, farm, forest, climate and economic justice movements. The climate crisis, even though many people don’t understand this yet, is the most important issue that humans have ever faced. The food and farm movement needs to move beyond single-issue campaigning to challenge the entire system of industrial agriculture, junk food, ethanol production and factory farming. We need to educate people to understand that industrial food and farming, GMOs, destructive deforestation and land use and mindless consumerism are the major causes of global warming and climate destabilization. There will be no GMO-free or organic food on a burnt planet. At the same time the climate movement must move beyond its 50-percent solution (reducing and eliminating fossil fuel emissions), to the 100-percent solution of zero emissions plus maximum carbon sequestration in the soils and forests through regenerative organic agriculture, planned rotational grazing reforestation and land use.
The hour is late, but we, the global grassroots, still have time to mobilize and act, to regenerate the system before it further degenerates us.
Ronnie Cummins|September 28, 2015
Center for Food Safety Update
Together, we passed a landmark genetically engineered (GE) foods labeling law in Vermont. Now, the giant food and chemical corporations are dispatching their armies of lawyers to try and defeat it in court. They want to continue to engineer our food and stop our right to know what’s in it. Next week, the hearings begin.
Since 2013, CFS’s legal team has been instrumental in helping pass and successfully defend the Vermont GE labeling law. This work resulted in a great victory earlier this year, when the federal district court upheld this groundbreaking law. But, now, the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, Snack Food Association, and other plaintiffs have appealed the decision, trying to halt the law’s implementation.
So we’re heading back to court on October 8th – and I’ll be there to defend your right to know.
As we have in many other states, CFS advised the State and Vermont groups on the crafting of the legislation for several years leading up to the GE labeling law’s passage in 2014, and has defended the Vermont GE labeling law in court since May 2014.
The Vermont case has huge implications for the rest of the country. Why? Because it’s the first case challenging any state labeling law and as such will set a legal precedent.
Winning this case will establish that state GE labeling laws are lawful, rejecting industry’s claims that they have a constitutional right to keep the public in dark about whether their food is genetically engineered, or that such state laws are preempted by federal law. This ruling could put to rest Big Food and Chemical’s claims that state GE labeling is unlawful. Vermont’s mandatory labeling policy will likely set the stage for more states to introduce and adopt labeling laws.
In addition to the Vermont law, CFS’s legal team is defending several other laws in court, and we have a history of winning: earlier this year, CFS won our case in Jackson County, Oregon to protect that county’s prohibition on GE crop cultivation. We are also currently defending similar laws in other counties.
George Kimbrell|Senior Attorney|Center for Food Safety
Roundup is “known to cause cancer”
Chemical giant Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup, has all but obliterated the monarch butterfly population. To be more precise, the Center for Food Safety has said that the monarch population has declined by 90 percent in less than 20 years!
And it doesn’t stop there. The key ingredient in RoundUp, glyphosate, has been linked to a host of environmental and health issues. The effects of it are so dangerous that California just became the first state to announce its intent to label glyphosate as a chemical “known to cause cancer.”
The evidence against Monsanto’s Roundup is mounting.
Glyphosate doesn’t just kill weeds. The chemical has also been linked to a rise in celiac disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, cancer and others conditions. Despite these findings, the EPA still considers the chemical to be safe. This could have something to do with Monsanto’s corporate lobbyists and the company’s financial backing to fight against regulations like these for years.
The benefits for Monsanto are not enough to justify the potential long-term risks glyphosate and Roundup pose to our health and the environment.
Last month, 30,000 SierraRise activists raised their voices to stop a dangerous merger between Monsanto and Syngenta. Without this combined action, the new monster corporation would have owned more than 35% of the world’s seed supply and had more power to put our food, health and the environment in danger.
Now it’s time to help strike another devastating blow to Monsanto before its too late.
Speak up now to protect our crops and the planet from Monsanto’s toxic Roundup. Tell the EPA to label glyphosate as a known carcinogen.
Monsanto Sued by Farm Workers Claiming Roundup Caused Their Cancers
Two separate U.S. agricultural workers have slapped lawsuits against Monsanto, alleging that Roundup—the agribusiness giant’s flagship herbicide—caused their cancers, and that the company “falsified data” and “led a prolonged campaign of misinformation” to convince the public, farm workers and government agencies about the safety of the product.
The first suit, Enrique Rubio v. Monsanto Company, comes from Enrique Rubio, a 58-year-old former field worker who worked in California, Texas and Oregon. According to Reuters, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in 1995, and believes it stemmed from exposure to Monsanto’s widely popular weedkiller and other pesticides that he sprayed on cucumber, onion and other vegetable crops. Rubio’s case was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Sept. 22.
That same day, a similar lawsuit, Fitzgerald v. Monsanto Company, was filed in federal court in New York by 64-year-old Judi Fitzgerald, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2012. She claims that her exposure to Roundup at the horticultural products company she worked for in the 1990s led to her diagnosis.
The plaintiffs have accused the company of falsifying the safety of the product and putting people at risk.
Fitzgerald’s suit states:
“Monsanto assured the public that Roundup was harmless. In order to prove this, Monsanto championed falsified data and attacked legitimate studies that revealed its dangers. Monsanto led a prolonged campaign of misinformation to convince government agencies, farmers and the general population that Roundup was safe.”
The main ingredient in Roundup, glyphosate, was listed as a possible human carcinogen six months ago by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization.
One of Rubio’s attorneys expects more lawsuits against the company, which is the world’s leading producer of glyphosate, will follow.
“I believe there will be hundreds of lawsuits brought over time,” said attorney Robin Greenwald, who brought the case.
Monsanto has furiously denied these claims and says its products are safe.
“Decades of experience within agriculture and regulatory reviews using the most extensive worldwide human health databases ever compiled on an agricultural product contradict the claims in the suit which will be vigorously defended,” spokeswoman Charla Lord told Reuters.
The agricultural and biotech company is battling a string of negative health and safety accusations.
Earlier this month, California’s Environmental Protection Agency issued plans to list glyphosate as known to cause cancer.
Additionally, an appeals court in Lyon, France upheld a 2012 ruling against Monsanto, in which the company was found guilty of the chemical poisoning of a farmer named Paul François. Monsanto plans to appeal the decision to a higher court.
Lorraine Chow|September 30, 2015
How to Tell if Produce is Organic in 2 Seconds
If you’re unsure about the nature of supermarket produce, here’s the giveaway.
Some people have strict standards about eating organic fruits and vegetables. Some supermarket produce sections are poorly labeled or in enough disarray that knowing what was grown in which way can be challenging. If either of these fates have ever befallen you, meet your friend, the PLU sticker.
PLU (or Price Look Up) codes are the 4- or 5-digit numbers on produce stickers that have been used by supermarkets since 1990. They represent a globally standardized system implemented by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS), a group of national produce associations from around the globe. While the long-term objective of the organization is to improve the supply chain efficiency of the fresh produce industry, consumers can glean information from the codes as well.
The PLU number indicates produce items based on a number of factors such as commodity, variety, growing methodology (e.g. organic), and size. Numbers are assigned by the IFPS after rigorous review at both national and international levels.
Joy/flickr/CC BY 2.0
The system is based on 4-digit codes that are within the 3000 and 4000 series. The numbers are assigned randomly, that is, each digit does not imply anything specifically, just an overall identification number. As an example, a small Fuji apple has the code of 4129, a large Fuji apple has the code 4132.
At the supermarket that may not be so helpful in and of itself, until you know this: If the 4-digit number is preceded by a 9, it indicates that it was grown organically. 94416 in the photo above? An organic large Anjou pear; a conventionally grown large Anjou pear would be 4416. So any 5-digit number that starts with a 9 identifies the produce as organic.
At one point the 4-digit number preceded by an 8 indicated a GMO product, but that system is being discontinued because, according to the IFPS, those PLU codes never made it to the retail level anyway and the organization needs more digits to assign for incoming code requests. (I’m guessing I’m not the only one here that would love such an easy way to identify GMO produce, alas.)
Basically, the PLU codes can be helpful to consumers in a few ways. Primarily, as an easy way to identify conventional versus organic produce at the market. But they can also come in handy when you get home and aren’t sure what variety of something you may have purchased. What in the world was that perfect pear? Just type in the sticker’s code at the IFPS database and voila.
All of this said, if you shop at a farmers market, produce there will not be wearing a sticker. But you can also find out in two seconds whether or not the item is organic. Ask the farmer, they’ll tell you much more than a sticker can.
This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.
Melissa Breyer|TreeHugger|September 29, 2015
Monsanto’s new genetically engineered (GMO) corn spells even more trouble than the company’s infamous Roundup Ready GMO corn.
These GMO crops are genetically engineered to survive when sprayed with herbicides designed to kill surrounding weeds. Monsanto has been altering crops to withstand Roundup for years, but over time the weeds have adapted. Now these “super weeds” won’t die with just a spray of Roundup.
Monsanto’s solution? More herbicides!
But spraying more chemicals threatens our food and environment — this is not a solution!
To tackle the super weeds, this new GMO corn has been altered to withstand not only Roundup, but also the herbicide dicamba — a harsh chemical that threatens the health of the public, the livelihoods of farmers and the environment. We don’t need more chemicals on our food! Say no to new GMO corn!
Another dangerous feature of dicamba is that it’s particularly “drift prone” — meaning that it is more likely to move after it’s sprayed. Dicamba would threaten nearby fields, which is a big problem for neighboring crops that AREN’T dicamba-resistant!
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering Monsanto’s new GMO corn proposal right now and is accepting public comments. We are calling on the USDA to complete a full environmental review before they move forward — a perfectly reasonable request considering we don’t know how this GMO corn will impact farm workers or the general public in the long run, or how making a crop resistant to multiple chemicals will impact the corn.
If the USDA can’t prove that the corn is safe to grow, they should not approve it at all!
We know we don’t need another GMO corn, and we don’t need more chemicals sprayed on our crops.
Caitlin Seeley George|Online Campaign Organizer|Food & Water Watch
Nothing brightens a Monday morning like this kind of news: “Shell pulls the plug on Arctic exploration.” With a single headline, the fight to protect the Arctic from a major offshore oil spill has reached the best kind of ending.
With hindsight, though, maybe the news isn’t really that surprising. Shell’s decision to push forward with exploratory drilling in the Arctic was so unpopular that even another oil executive criticized it. And that’s nothing compared with the outrage it sparked around the nation. Who could forget the sight of hundreds of activists in Portland and Seattle swarming Shell’s drilling ship with kayaks and dangling from the St. Johns Bridge to block the departure of its icebreaking ship?
Although the Obama administration chose to allow Shell to pursue its leases, the writing was on the wall. Shell acknowledged as much when it said that a “challenging and unpredictable” regulatory environment was part of the basis for its decision. Translation: With each passing year (and Shell’s timetable for Arctic development was measured in decades) resistance was only going to increase, and Shell was going to face even greater losses than the $7 billion it had already sunk into the project. All along, the real question was how long it would take for someone to wake up and pull the plug. Today, we got our answer.
This is a big victory, but I’m ready to predict that it won’t be an anomaly. Yes, oil corporations are some of the richest and most powerful in the world. Yes, they have virtually unlimited resources for launching lies, rejecting reality, and fully funding fear. And yes, there will likely be future foolhardy attempts to drill in the Arctic, whether it’s by Shell or other companies. But over the long haul, we are going to keep winning victories like this one. That’s because, as Shell just demonstrated, Big Oil often acts like its own worst enemy.
Here’s another recent example: In California, the oil lobby managed to kill a proposed legislative goal of reducing oil consumption 50 percent by 2030. As a columnist for the Sacramento Bee wrote: “Using millions of dollars, the [oil industry] consultants warned people in misleading television ads and mailers that there would be rationing and that minivans could be banned.” He also noted: “The oil industry spent no less than $17.2 million on California state campaigns in the 2013-14 election cycle. That kind of money guarantees a great deal.”
But in its desperation to preserve its near monopoly on transportation, what the oil industry really did was light a fire under Governor Jerry Brown. “This is one skirmish,” he said, “but I’ll tell you it’s increasing the intensity of my commitment to do everything I can to make sure we reduce oil consumption in California. My zeal has been intensified to a maximum degree.”
Can there be any doubt that California will continue setting the standard for climate action in the U.S. — while outperforming the nation in job and gross domestic product growth at the same time? My money is on the governor’s zeal, and the movement behind that will make sure no politician’s zeal ever wavers.
Then there is what’s happening up north in Canada. The rush to cash in on dirty tar sands is a case study in reckless greed on a scale so monumental that it becomes impossible to ignore. Yet, this year, voters in Alberta, which is ground zero for tar sands, ended 44 years of Conservative party rule, bringing in a new premier who has pledged to strengthen environmental regulations and take action to curb the province’s rapidly rising greenhouse gas emissions.
Of course, the outrage over tar sands began reaching critical mass more than a year ago, when opposition to the KXL tar sands pipeline helped inspire the largest climate rally in history. And just last week, Hillary Clinton announced that she, like her fellow contenders for the Democratic nomination, is opposed to Keystone XL. Once again, we can see the tide turning.
Still, notwithstanding victories like today’s, the challenge of going up against Big Oil remains daunting. But when you combine the growing promise of clean energy and clean vehicles with the growing power of a diverse, multi-generational movement with the propensity for oil corporations to trip over their own greed, the playing field begins to look a lot more level and the future beyond oil starts to look a lot nearer.
Michael Brune|Sierra Club|September 28, 2015
Public lands are not for private profits
America’s public lands are being sold at bargain prices for oil, coal and gas extraction — making the world’s wealthiest companies richer, and making the world’s climate crisis worse.
Some of the world’s richest energy companies — like ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and Arch Coal — are exploiting and degrading America’s public lands and offshore waters, causing serious harm to the health of communities and sending massive carbon pollution into the atmosphere through increasingly extreme extraction methods. Today, more than 65 million acres of public lands are already leased to the fossil fuel industry — that’s 55 times the size of Grand Canyon National Park! Mining, drilling, and fracking for coal, oil, and gas on publicly owned lands accounts for an astonishing one-quarter of the United States’ climate change emissions.
The federal government enables this destruction at a tremendous cost to the U.S. taxpayer by selling off our national forests, grasslands, deserts, oceans, and sacred heritage sites for pennies on the dollar — incredibly, for as little as $2 an acre. The antiquated and opaque federal fossil fuel leasing program transfers vast amounts of public wealth into private hands by auctioning off public lands and offshore waters for corporate profit.
Today, Rainforest Action Network is releasing a groundbreaking new report, Public Lands, Private Profits, that pulls back the curtain on this corporate giveaway of America’s treasured public lands. For example, just 15 huge fossil fuel companies — such as Shell, Chevron and BP — control 36% of leased federal land. These “Filthy 15” dirty energy corporations generate millions of dollars of profit every year by abusing our shared national resources, shaping our environmental future for generations to come. Between them, they’re responsible for a horrific legacy of environmental disasters: offshore oil spills, explosions, pipeline ruptures, and household water contamination, resulting in multi-million dollar settlements.
President Obama has the constitutional authority to issue an Executive Order to immediately end the outdated practice of fossil fuel leasing on public lands and offshore waters. With a stroke of his pen, he could stop bankrolling wealthy energy corporations, prevent environmental destruction, preserve the heritage of Indigenous sacred sites, and slow the disastrous effects of climate change. He could keep a staggering 450 billion tons of carbon pollution out of the atmosphere — almost half of all potential emissions from remaining U.S. fossil fuels. By contrast, the president’s Climate Action Plan, if fully implemented, would keep less than 6 billion tons of carbon out of the air. If President Obama wants a truly lasting climate legacy, he should end fossil fuel leasing on public lands.
Ruth Breech|Climate and Energy Senior Campaigner|Rainforest Action Network|9/28/15
What’s next after Keystone? Fighting fossil fuel extraction on public lands
Earlier this month, in New York City, 350.org — the organization most associated with the campaign against Keystone XL — nearly filled the 2,090-seat opera house at the Brooklyn Academy of Music for headliners Bill McKibben and Naomi Klein to talk about climate change. That many people listening to a couple of nonfiction writers discuss an environmental problem is an impressive feat. The audience cheered loudly throughout and you could feel the political power in the room.
At one point, McKibben put on the screen above the stage a list of major sources of fossil fuels that must stay unreleased if we are to keep below 2 degrees Celsius of warming and avert the most catastrophic effects of climate change. Almost all of the examples, such as a massive coal deposit in Australia, were abroad. But there was one in the U.S.: federally owned deposits of oil, gas, and coal offshore and on public land.
You could say that was a hint about what will succeed the fight over Keystone as the next major grassroots anti–climate change effort: calling for a presidential ban on extracting fossil fuels offshore and on federal land. “The public lands stuff is emerging as a big focus for all of the groups,” says Karthik Ganapathy, a spokesperson for 350.org.
Now that Hillary Clinton has announced her opposition to Keystone, the pipeline proposal that seemed like it would never go away now looks like it finally will. The pressure on President Obama to reject it has filtered upward from the climate activists to Obama’s own former secretary of state and his party’s likely nominee to succeed him. Obama is expected to announce his decision on the pipeline in a matter of weeks or months, and it’s widely believed that he’ll say no.
And so that raises a question: What is next? So much energy has gone into stopping this pipeline and so much activist capacity and awareness has been built up to fight it. Stopping the pipeline is only one small part of the larger agenda to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Climate scientists say that 80 percent of the world’s fossil fuels that are already held in reserve by fossil fuel companies cannot be burned if we are to stay below 2C. The Canadian tar sands that Keystone XL would have connected to U.S. pipelines are only one small part of that.
In fact, with the Keystone saga having dragged on longer than anyone expected, environmental groups have already begun their pivot toward focusing on public lands. They have formed the Keep It in the Ground coalition, which includes many of the same groups — 350.org, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club — that led the national fight against Keystone. It also includes groups working to protect individual areas such as the Arctic Ocean and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.
About half of unexploited fossil fuels in the U.S. are on federal lands or in federally controlled offshore waters, and 91 percent of those have not (yet) been leased, according to a report commissioned by Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biological Diversity. (The remainder are on private land, so the president does not have direct control over whether they’re drilled or mined.) If all the currently unleased federal fossil fuels were exploited and burned, they would produce 319 to 450 billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, which at the high end would constitute “more than a quarter of the total global emissions that can be released if the world is to limit global warming below 2°C.” The report concludes, “The potential emissions from unleased federal fossil fuels are incompatible with any U.S. share of global carbon limits that would keep emissions below scientifically advisable levels.” Already, over the last 10 years, burning fossil fuels from federal leasing has produced nearly 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
On Sept. 15, the Keep it in the Ground coalition sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to take executive action to stop all leasing of fossil fuels from federal lands and waters. The member groups also plan to send the letter out as a petition, hoping to get 1 million signatures. They write:
With the stroke of a pen, you could take the bold action needed to stop new federal leasing of fossil fuels, and to keep those remaining fossil fuels — our publicly owned fossil fuels — safely in the ground. …
The science is clear that, to maintain a good chance of avoiding catastrophic levels of warming, the world must keep the vast majority of its remaining fossil fuels in the ground. Federal fossil fuels — those that you control — are the natural place to begin. Each new federal fossil fuel lease opens new deposits for development that should be deemed unburnable.
But thus far Obama has been a disappointment to climate hawks on the issue. As their letter to Obama notes, “Your administration alone has leased nearly 15 million acres of public land and 21 million acres of ocean for fossil fuel industrialization.”
In addition to the fact that these leases need not be sold at all, environmental and public interest advocates are outraged that they are being sold at such low prices. The prices do not even reflect current market prices for the fossil fuels or the social cost of the conventional pollution spewed through their extraction, transportation, and combustion, much less the federal government’s own calculations of the social cost of carbon emissions’ contribution to climate change. They are also often being sold in non-transparent, non-competitive bidding processes. All this adds up to billions of dollars in annual corporate welfare for dirty energy companies.
In March, the Obama administration finally took its first baby steps toward addressing this perverse state of affairs. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said that her department, which manages federal lands, will consider how to reform its fossil fuel leasing programs to better serve the public interest and align with the administration’s climate change goals. But it seems like Jewell is only talking about possibly charging a little bit more for leases. After all, combatting climate change isn’t Obama’s only goal when it comes to energy policy: He is also committed to ramping up domestic production of all forms of energy. That’s why he has not only kept selling off leases for coal mining and oil and gas drilling on federal land, he has even opened up new, highly sensitive areas to drilling, such as the Arctic Ocean.
Two weeks ago, Jewell responded dismissively to the Keep It in the Ground coalition’s letter to Obama. Speaking at a press event hosted by The Christian Science Monitor, she said, “We are a nation that continues to be dependent on fossil fuels. … There are millions of jobs in this country that are dependent on these industries, and you can’t just cut it off overnight and expect to have an economy that is, in fact, the leader in the world.”
Greens reacted exactly as you would expect. “It’s really disappointing to see Secretary Jewell echoing industry talking points to defend fossil fuel extraction,” said Friends of the Earth President Erich Pica in a statement. “If she were serious about fighting global warming, she would use all the power under her discretion to keep fossil fuels in the ground.”
Jewell’s reasoning is certainly flawed. The fact that the U.S. must still burn some fossil fuels as it transitions to clean energy doesn’t mean it has to sell off more leases to extract them. The world’s fossil fuel companies already have proven reserves that contain five times more oil, gas, and coal than we can burn without destroying the atmosphere, so why sell them even more? And if supply were scarcer, prices for fossil fuels would go up, making cleaner alternatives more economically viable and helping them get adopted faster.
There are also practical, strategic reasons to organize on this issue. Like Keystone, it is a straightforward and easily digestible call to arms. It is also something the president can do without Congress — which is critical, because Republicans have ensured through gerrymandering that they will control the House of Representatives through 2022. “What made Keystone [opposition] so successful for the climate movement was it was an easy and simple ask for the president,” says Marissa Knodel, climate change campaigner at Friends of the Earth.
The tactics will also mimic those of the Keystone campaign, including civil disobedience. In Seattle and Portland this summer, kayaktivists and others associated with Greenpeace protested and even temporarily blocked Arctic-bound Shell vessels. Greenpeace is a member of the Keep it in the Ground coalition, and other members organized solidarity actions all over the country. “You will start to see direct action in the streets around every single time there is a public land leasing decision,” says Knodel. “This is going to be the next Keystone.”
The chances of success under Obama look slim. In an interview published in Rolling Stone last week, Obama defended his fossil fuel leasing policies, arguing they are economically and politically pragmatic. “Knowing there’s still going to be some energy production taking place,” Obama said, “let’s find those areas that are going to be least likely to disturb precious ecosystems, and let’s raise the standards — meaning making them more costly — but not shut them off completely, and that allows me then to have a conversation not with folks who are climate deniers, and not with folks who are adamant about their right to drill, explore and extract anywhere, anytime, but with those folks who are of two minds about the issue.”
So climate hawks are already leaning on the candidates who hope to become the next president. And if it’s a Democrat, they may have a fighting chance. Although Bernie Sanders hasn’t addressed the issue, he’s a climate hawk with strong anti-corporate bona fides. Martin O’Malley has proposed an ambitious climate agenda that includes refusing to issue offshore oil drilling permits and increasing fees for fossil fuel leases on land. Hillary Clinton has come out against Arctic drilling and for charging more for fossil fuel leases. Although activists are pushing for a complete ban on leasing, charging more for the leases might actually accomplish the same goal if the prices are raised enough to fully account for the social cost of carbon, because then the leases might be too expensive for companies to buy them.
While it’s unlikely, considering Obama and Jewell’s comments, that the current administration will raise fossil fuel leasing prices that much, never mind ban leasing altogether, climate hawks are holding out hope. With each passing day of his administration, it seems that Obama is taking climate change more seriously. As he told Rolling Stone, “What’s happened during my presidency is each time I get a scientific report [on climate change], I’m made aware that we have less time than we thought, that this is happening faster than we thought.”
Says Knodel, “The president’s visit to Alaska and the Clean Power Plan show he wants to be seen and remembered as a leader on climate change. So I’m optimistic that he’ll do something bigger to address not just emissions but the source of emissions, which is fossil fuels.”
Ben Adler|28 Sep 2015
New Report Exposes Hidden Fracking Subsidy on Public and Tribal Lands
A new, peer-reviewed report from Friends of the Earth brings to light one of Big Oil’s most overlooked subsidies: royalty-free flaring on public and tribal lands.
Bakken flaring gas at night. Photo credit: Joshua Doubek / Wikimedia Commons
As the fracking boom spreads across the country, companies eager to tap profitable shale oil are burning away—or flaring—natural gas in record amounts. This practice increases air pollution and sends climate-busting carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere. Last updated 35 years ago, existing federal guidelines allow widespread flaring on public and tribal lands that is almost always exempt from royalties.
“Royalty-free flaring is both a dangerous addition to climate disruption and a de facto subsidy for the oil industry,” said Lukas Ross, climate and energy campaigner at Friends of the Earth. “For over a century Big Oil has been subsidized to the hilt with everything from tax breaks to royalty free-leasing. To that list we can now add natural gas flaring—and it has to stop.”
Focusing on the national epicenter of the flaring boom in North Dakota’s Bakken shale, the report, “A Flaring Shame: North Dakota & the hidden fracking subsidy,” uses data directly from Bureau of Land Management to reveal the exact amount of gas wasted by individual companies.
- Between January 2007 and April 2013, the BLM permitted the royalty-free flaring of 107,573,228 mcfs of natural gas on North Dakota public and tribal lands, producing carbon dioxide equivalent to the annual emissions of more than 1.3 million cars and wasting an estimated $524 million worth of resources.
- Although more than 50 operators received royalty-free gas, a single company—Harold Hamm’s Continental Resources—was responsible for more waste than all of the others combined, burning a grand total of 55 million mcfs of gas producing carbon emissions equivalent to more than 360 million gallons of gasoline.
- The venting of natural gas releases methane, a greenhouse gas 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide over a 20-year time frame. In North Dakota Marathon Oil vented the most of any single company with 962, 812 mcfs, equivalent to the annual CO2 emissions from more than 35,000 homes.
“As the Obama administration prepares new rules to tackle venting and flaring, it has the opportunity to end this subsidy for good,” said Ross. “For the sake of taxpayers and the climate, this loophole must be closed.”
The original data provided by the BLM is available here.
Friends of the Earth|September 30, 2015
5 Ways to Stop Supporting Big Oil
Shell just abandoned their controversial project to drill for oil in the fragile Alaskan Arctic. While this is something to celebrate, we all need to look in the mirror when it comes to creating demand for such efforts, as Americans still top world oil consumption. Here are a few ways we can stop abetting Big Oil in ruining the environment.
1. Walk, ride your bike or take the bus. Seriously.
Environmentalists have called for people to use alternative transportation for years, but most of us still aren’t listening. According to Green Car Reports, we take only one in five trips without hopping behind the wheel. While interest in cars is waning, especially among millennials, more than 70 percent of petroleum goes toward transportation. That’s an average of 374.74 million gallons a day of gasoline.
Granted, public transportation can be patchy depending on where you live and walking or biking places can sometimes feel dangerous or impractical. As New Zealand activist Meghan Hughes notes, we live in an oil-dependent society. But times when we can, we should avoid driving. And if we can’t, taking steps to drive with more efficiency, like keeping tires properly inflated and disposing of inefficient cars in Cash for Clunkers programs, can save 46 billion barrels of oil, Grist reports.
2. Watch what you eat.
As sustainable food advocate Michael Pollan notes, “When we eat from the industrial food system, we are eating oil and spewing greenhouse gases.” In fact, he continues, with all the petroleum-based pesticides, farm equipment and processing, packaging and transportation, food production is the second highest consumer of fossil fuels in the country.
Eating locally can help because the food travels less than the typical 1,500 miles a meal takes to get to your plate. Those with lower incomes should know that they can use food stamps at their community farmers markets—and buy twice as much produce thanks to a kickback called “Double Up Food Bucks.”
3. Recognize products with hidden oil.
Alongside most plastics, companies secretly put oil in more than 6,000 products including aspirin, crayons and polyester. While its use has become ubiquitous in most households, we can take creative solutions to avoid at least some of the damage. For instance, try drinking water to relieve headaches, using beeswax crayons to draw with and buying clothing made out of natural fibers instead.
Also, while its use of petroleum is not exactly hidden, when you do use a car, recycle the used motor oil. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, it only takes 1 gallon of used oil to produce 2.5 quarts of new oil, compared to 42 gallons of the crude stuff.
4. Support legislation and politicians who support renewables.
While many voters want their legislators to care for the environment, politicians vary in the quality of their execution on that goal. The Sierra Club released a report earlier this year that reported on various representatives’ support of sustainable energy in Congress. Reelect the ones that make the cut.
You can also sound off personally on pending legislation regarding drilling and other oil issues online. Perhaps with enough support, situations like California’s recently failed bill on reducing petroleum use will have a chance.
5. Use existing information.
Hundreds of pieces advise on how to reduce U.S. oil dependence. Read some. The information isn’t new, and it isn’t any less relevant than when it was first published. Care2 walks you through more simple things you can do to use less oil here. If enough of us make an effort, we can reduce our use of this nonrenewable resource.
Emily Zak|September 30, 2015
[don’t forget, plastic is a by-product of the oil industry. If we can cut down on our use of plastic, we can avoid dumping long-lived plastic in our landfills, rivers, lakes and oceans as well as oil consumption.]
Municipal Fracking Bans
Fracking has been a hot topic in Southwest Florida this past year, with Bonita Springs outright banning the practice within their city limits this past summer with a unanimous vote by the City Council. In doing so, they were aware there was a chance they could open themselves up to lawsuits by those wishing to access resources within their borders. However, a response to the actions of the numerous Florida municipalities like Bonita that have taken a stand against fracking, whether through bans or proclamations, may not be coming through the courts. Instead, the response could be arriving by way of the Florida Legislature.
On September 17, Ray Rodrigues, the Republican Representative of District 76 in the Florida House, filed HB 191. The bill, titled “Regulation of Oil and Gas Resources” seems specifically targeted at the trend of municipalities using home rule to determine what extraction processes can or can’t be used within their boundaries.
“Preempts regulation of all matters relating to exploration, development, production, processing, storage, & transportation of oil & gas; declares existing ordinances & regulations relating thereto void,” the first lines of the summary reads, and the implications seem clear should this make it to the floor and be voted into law: the state can preempt a city’s right to self-govern when it comes to fracking.
A similar bill was filed in the Florida Senate by Senator Garrett Richter, titled SB 318, which also aimed to preempt local ordinances regarding oil and gas extraction processes. This will mark Representative Rodrigues’s third attempt to pass a bill regarding the regulation of oil and gas extraction. The previous two efforts failed.
Fracking (popular shorthand for Hydraulic fracturing) is the well-stimulation process of fracturing rock with pressurized liquid, in order to free natural gas and oil from deep rock formations below the surface of the earth.
Representative Rodrigues says that the bill is meant get out in front of fracking in the state of Florida, and impose regulations and oversight on any sites that are constructed.
“What we learned based on the Hughes Well in Collier County is that there were no requirements for fracking now as far as permitting goes,” Rodrigues said. “All a company had to do was get permitted for conventional oil extraction.”
Rodrigues said that new gas regulations were needed so that the fracking process had to go through permits, and “give the DEP the ability to look at a company’s background in not just Florida, but other states, and give DEP the authority to deny a permit.”
He also states that the bill will have language that would require the companies to disclose the chemicals they put into the ground to the government. However, controversy arises at this point, as the information on some of those disclosed chemicals is not made available to the public due to their proprietary nature.
“Everything gets turned over to DEP,” Rodrigues said. “Legally the state cannot disclose a trade secret. Bottom line is the trade secret protection exists in Federal law and state law.”
Rodrigues is unaware of any state that exempts these laws.
He also feels that the recent municipal bans on fracking are examples of cities exceeding their reach. “The state already retains authority for regulation,” Rodrigues said. “Counties and municipalities do not have the authority to grant or deny permitting in this area.”
“We saw some environmental groups encourage the municipalities to use the powers they have for zoning, to do a backdoor attempt at banning fracking,” Rodrigues said. “That’s an abuse of the limited jurisdiction that municipalities have in this arena.”
Bonita Springs Mayor Ben Nelson disagrees with Rodrigues’ take on the issue.
“I can’t help but believe they’re aware we’re not real happy about it,” Nelson said. “This is pretty repugnant to happen to any city. More so, to make this somehow retroactive to where it wipes out any existing ordinances that are relating to that, I’m not sure I’ve seen that even happen before. We expected something to come out of this, but this seems kind of aimed at what we did.”
“We’ve worked really well with the Senator (Richter) and Representative (Rodrigues) in the past on quite a few different issues,” Nelson said, and he did have a brief phone discussion with Rodrigues on Monday, September 21. He noted that they respectfully disagreed on how much sovereignty a municipality should be able to exercise in situations like these. “I’m hoping that we’ll work through this, too, and allow these city’s ordinances to stay intact.”
“We’re a municipality, in an urban area,” Nelson said. “Do you really think we shouldn’t have a say? Fracking really should come within the realm of a municipality’s ability to regulate. That’s not asking a lot.”
“We thought we had the ability and right to do what we did, and we clearly did,” Nelson said, even though he thought that fracking would never take place within his City’s limits. His aim for the ban was to remove uncertainty that could be caused by speculation. “If people want to move somewhere, and there’s speculation that we may one day have fracking within our community, maybe they won’t move here.”
Nelson feels that a debate still needs to take place on the issues of municipal needs versus the needs of the state, but says that the debate in regards to fracking in Bonita Springs “is over.”
John Scott, Group Chair of the Sierra Club Calusa Group, was also concerned about the bill’s language and what it may mean to municipalities in Florida.
“It actually has stronger language than last session’s bill in eliminating home rule,” Scott said. “You know how people talk about states’ rights, and there should be a same type of thing with local rights. We shouldn’t be told by the state that we can’t ban a particular extraction practice in a community if we don’t want it, and obviously fracking and using acid in stimulation are really bad environmental practices that could affect our drinking water.”
“If you toxify an aquifer, you can’t clean it up,” Scott said, referring to the potential harm chemicals used in fracking could cause if they leaked into drinking water supplies.
In terms of state authority versus municipal authority, Scott was skeptical about the state’s desire to give proper oversight to any fracking projects.
“It’s all well and good if the state would deny permits, but if you checked the number of permits submitted, 39 have been applied for and 37 have been approved,” Scott said. “The state rubber stamps them. If we had a strong state-level DEP that took this matter seriously, it wouldn’t be such a problem.”
Harvard Researchers Hail Cost-Effective Battery That Could Store Surplus Wind and Solar Power
The dream of a home battery—cheap, durable, safe and as big as you like—that could store solar or wind power is a step nearer reality.
Researchers from Harvard University in the U.S. report that they have tested a “flow battery” that uses cheap and abundant chemical elements, can be operated with plastic components, will not catch fire and can operate at 99 percent efficiency.
Such batteries could be used to save and store surplus wind and solar power, which could then be used at times when neither form of renewable energy can deliver.
The latest advances are based on technology already tested by the same engineers, but made more attractive with a switch to chemical components that are non-toxic, non-flammable and safe for use in homes and offices.
Typically, flow batteries have exploited a metal, such as vanadium, dissolved in acid to deliver electrical action.
Kaixiang Lin, a chemistry student at Harvard, Michael Marshak, now assistant professor of chemistry at the University of Colorado, Boulder and colleagues report in Science journal that, instead of costly and difficult-to-handle metals, they have tested naturally-occurring, carbon-based molecules called quinines for the negative electrolyte component of the battery.
They had started their experiments with bromine-based electrolyte for the positive ions, but bromine is toxic and volatile. So they replaced it with a non-toxic, non-corrosive ion called ferrocyanide.
“It sounds bad because it has the word cyanide in it,” Dr Marshak says. “Cyanide kills you because it binds very tightly to iron in your body. In ferrocyanide, it’s already bound to iron, so it’s safe. In fact, ferrocyanide is commonly used as a food additive and also as a fertilizer.”
The combination of a common organic dye and a cheap food additive in alkaline, rather than acidic solutions, meant that the researchers could increase their battery voltage by 50 percent.
It also means—at least in principle—that a domestic residence could store its own surplus solar or wind power and keep the refrigerator or the central heating running after sunset or on windless days. How much a house could store would depend only on the size of the tanks that held the two electrolytes.
“This is chemistry I’d be happy to put in my basement,” says Michael Aziz, a professor of materials and energy technologies at Harvard, who has led the research. “The non-toxicity and the cheap, abundant materials placed in water solution mean that it’s safe. It can’t catch fire—and that’s huge when you are storing large amounts of electrical energy anywhere near people.”
The improved flow battery stores energy in liquids contained in external tanks (here in red and green). Photo credit: Kaixiang Lin / Harvard University
The storage problem has consistently been held against investment in solar and wind energy, but a safe, cheap and capacious technology could change the economics of renewable power generation.
Paradoxically, another group of researchers from the same university have, in the same week, argued that the storage shortfall might be a non-problem.
Hossein Safaei and David Keith, of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard, report in the Energy & Environmental Science journal that the supply of wind and solar power could be increased tenfold without any additional storage.
Even though wind and solar power deliver energy intermittently, relatively-low carbon gas turbines and zero-carbon sources—such as nuclear, hydropower and biomass—could be used to make up the shortfall.
The researchers do not argue that better batteries would be of no advantage. Their case is that the absence of better batteries need not and should not, stop investment in renewables.
They are not the first to argue this. At least one group has calculated that the U.S. could get 99 percent of its energy from zero-carbon sources.
“We’re trying to knock out a salient policy meme that says you can’t grow variable renewables without a proportionate increase in storage,” Professor Keith says.
“We could cut electric sector carbon emissions to less than a third of their current levels using variable renewable, with natural gas to manage the intermittency. But this will require us to keep growing the electricity transmission infrastructure.”
Tim Radford|Climate News Network|September 30, 2015
The Cost of Land Degradation? $10 Trillion a Year
We’ve long known that land degradation caused by unsustainable production and overconsumption comes at a high cost to people and the planet. Now researchers have estimated just how high that cost is: up to $10 trillion a year.
To come up with that number, 30 international research and policy institutes spent four years studying the economics of land degradation. They assessed a range of tangible ways that people benefit from nature, such as food, clean water, climate and disease regulation, nutrient cycling and poverty reduction, and determined how much these “ecosystem services” are worth in today’s economy. Beyond the lost benefits, land degradation is predicted to force 50 million people from their homes.
As much as 75 percent of this decline is from changes to land in just the past 15 years — much of which is the result of expanded agriculture, industrial development and drought. We need to rapidly shift to more sustainable practices, including eating less meat and keeping fossils fuels in the ground, before we take on any more environmental debt we can’t afford.
Read more in ScienceDaily.
Center for Biological Diversity|9/30/15
Army Corps awards second contract this year for Kissimmee River Restoration
From the Army Corps Press Release:
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has awarded its second construction contract this year for the Kissimmee River Restoration project, a large-scale Everglades restoration project spanning through Highlands and Okeechobee counties.
The $4.7 million construction contract was awarded to BCPeabody Construction Services Inc. of Tampa, Fla. on Monday (Sept. 28). The contract, known as the C-38 Reach 3 Backfill and Bass Embankment Degrade contract, will involve backfilling a portion of the channelized Kissimmee River (C-38 Canal) within the upcoming months.
“Backfilling portions of the C-38 Canal will restore pre-channelized conditions along the Kissimmee River and provide valuable ecological benefits,” said April Patterson, Jacksonville District project manager. “It will enable native plants and animals to return to the area and also restore the floodplain to its natural hydrologic function.”
Once backfilling begins, navigation will be interrupted for approximately 1.5 miles along the channelized Kissimmee River beginning at the US 98 bridge and extending south. It is anticipated that backfilling operations will take approximately one year to complete. Access to the river will remain open at the Istokpoga, S-65C and S-65D boat ramps. However, navigation through the construction zone will be prohibited during this time period.
This is the second construction contract awarded for the Kissimmee River Restoration project this year. The MacArthur Ditch Backfill construction contract was awarded Jan. 15, 2015 to Herve Cody Contractor from Robbinsville, North Carolina and is currently 22 percent complete.
“Only two additional construction contracts need to be awarded for the Kissimmee River Restoration project, Reach 2 Backfill and S-69 Weir, both of which are scheduled to be awarded within the next two years,” said Patterson. “The entire project is scheduled to be completed in 2019.”
The Kissimmee River Restoration project is a congressionally authorized undertaking sponsored by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District. Once completed, the Kissimmee River Restoration Project will restore more than 40 square miles of river-floodplain ecosystem, including almost 20,000 acres of wetlands and 44 miles of historic river channel.
Additional information on the Kissimmee River Restoration project available at: http://bit.ly/Everglades_KRR
Florida Water Daily|September 30, 2015
How 3,000 holes in the dirt can save a barren land — and alter a social landscape
The temperature hovered near freezing as farmer Katrina Schwartz and I stood before 3,000 shallow holes stretching as far as the eye could see.
A sudden freeze had recently hit Leliefontein, a town in the South African region of Namaqualand, after a long drought, causing major livestock losses for farmers. Land had turned barren; degraded by plowing and dominated by kraalbos and renosterbos, unpalatable plants that quickly dominate the landscape, soil restoration was an urgent priority.
Hence the freshly dug holes.
But this pitted landscape — aimed at catching water and reducing erosion — is about more than rejuvenating barren soil. These tiny holes, it turns out, are small blows against a stubborn social divide in South Africa.
The great divide
Namaqualand, in the west of South Africa, is a landscape of vast open spaces, fields of wildflowers, extreme weather and poor (but tough) farming communities. Local livelihoods are threatened by increasing droughts in summer and freezing cold winters, degraded natural resources, disappearance of wildlife caused by agriculture and mining, and increased poverty — evidenced by rising unemployment levels. Land ownership here is highly polarized by race, gender and culture.
In 1956, thousands of of South African women led a landmark march against apartheid, chanting “Strike a woman and you strike a rock.” This march shook the political landscape and centralized women’s role in democratizing the country; it helped inspire a constitution that enforced human rights and gender equality, promising a better life for all South Africans. Yet decades later, things have not changed as much as many had hoped.
In communities like Leliefontein, traditional land systems and social norms have long favored men as landowners. There are some women farmers, though most farmers and herders are men. Other women in the region have frequent contact with the natural environment, where they collect veldkos (wild food such as roots, bulbs and berries), medicine and fuel wood.
Twelve years ago, when Conservation International (CI) began working in the region, human rights and gender equality were not talked about here. But as we began to talk with local communities, we saw an opportunity to effect broader change.
A new agreement
To encourage communities to take better care of their land, CI formed conservation agreements with local farmers, the majority of whom, like in most countries, are male. Under these agreements, farmers commit to reduce livestock numbers to improve rangeland conditions and to protect fragile wetlands. In return, they receive incentives such as medicine, animal feed and training to improve the health of their livestock.
As part of the agreements, men were required to attend meetings and training workshops, but most of them could not, tending to their fields or working away from home. So the women of Leliefontein began attending the meetings on behalf of their male relatives.
The result: Women began to directly influence decision-making in the community.
“I first attended the meeting and saw the training opportunities, and decided to attend all of them to learn more about farming,” Katrina Schwartz said. Women also began to benefit from the conservation agreements themselves, drawing them more actively into farming and rangeland activities.
The conservation agreements don’t just target natural resources. Supported by the government, they also have a social aspect, aimed at reducing unemployment, increasing gender equity and helping teach valuable skills through ecosystem restoration.
The restoration team digs micro catchments near Leliefontein, South Africa. (© CSA)
The “holes” project on the degraded rangeland is just one example of this restoration work. Schwartz led a team of 26 mostly female workers in the placement and digging of these holes 20 centimeters (8 inches) deep, which are meant to fight erosion. Called “micro catchments,” the holes are covered with red sawdust from recently felled invasive poplar trees. The holes slow the speed of runoff water, allowing more time for the water to absorb into the soil and creating a more suitable environment for native seedlings to germinate. Over the next three years, we aim to restore 274,676 hectares (678,739 acres) of communal rangeland.
Having women like Schwartz on our side has slowly brought about a dramatic change in Namaqualand — for women, men and the fragile ecosystem. After villagers started asking questions about the funny holes in the ground, Schwartz and her team were educating their community the finer points about erosion, water retention and the benefits of improved grazing.
Thanks to their salaries as restoration workers, these women are now breadwinners, and their interaction with livestock and pastureland has been transformed: They can now identify edible plants and treat animal diseases — improving the quality of the stock and enabling the women to negotiate higher prices for their animals.
As the African proverb says, “If you educate a woman, you educate a nation.”
No change overnight
Not everyone sees these changes in the community as beneficial. When a recent survey in Leliefontein asked men what they think women need in order to become more involved in farming, some echoed stereotypes that women lack the physical strength to work with stock and should stick to traditional food- and fuel wood-gathering activities.
These sentiments are not enough to stop the change that has begun. But with new changes come new questions.
The government employment guidelines require that 60% of workers in all government-funded projects be women — but how sustainable is gender equality when we attach quotas to it? If some women are going to work while their unemployed husbands stay at home, is that really better than the other way around? And what of the discontent of young unemployed men?
Government programs that focus on job creation and skill building are usually short-lived. What will it mean for these women when the contracts come to an end, especially those who don’t have livestock? How can we ensure that those lands will continue to be managed sustainably — and that communities will continue to benefit?
Being a black woman born and bred in Namaqualand, I know that as with racial tensions, addressing deep-seated gender inequalities won’t happen overnight. Each community presents a unique set of opportunities and people through which change can happen.
But village by village, women like Schwartz are proving that they are a force to be reckoned with.
Esther Engelbrecht|September 16, 2015
From rice to shrimp: How one unlikely crustacean is helping to save the Amazon
Editor’s note: Deforestation accounts for nearly 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. As the world’s nations prepare for the U.N. climate change summit in Paris in December — their milestone for creating a global climate agreement — Conservation International (CI) is demonstrating that one of the most effective solutions may also be the simplest: leaving trees standing.
Shrimp ponds replace a section of rice paddies in the San Martín region of Peru. The water from the ponds is cycled into the paddies
downhill, conserving water and reducing the need for fertilizers. (© Conservation International/photo by Alejandra Naganoma)
Around the world, shrimp farms are getting a bad rap: Widespread destruction of mangrove forests that protect villages from storms. Inefficient water use. Disease.
Yet in the Peruvian rainforest, CI and partners are changing the way shrimp is raised — and helping farmers produce more food without clearing more trees.
It all began about five years ago, when CI started co-managing the Alto Mayo Protected Forest (AMPF), a national park that spans 182,000 hectares (almost 450,000 acres). Previously, resources to patrol the forest had been scarce, and 1,200 families were already living and farming inside its borders. Most of the families were migrants, drawn to the AMPF for its vast and “unclaimed” tracts of land.
“Early on, we decided that the families living within the forest’s boundaries would stay,” says Percy Summers, director of CI’s Sustainable Landscapes Partnership (SLP) in Peru. “But we needed to shift their presence from threatening the forest into being an ally.” This involved providing tools and incentives to reduce deforestation and improve their farming practices — but the incentives also ran the risk of attracting even more farmers into the protected area.
“For the plan to work inside [the AMPF], we needed to provide benefits for those living outside of the protected area as well,” Summers says. “When we looked around, we saw all these rice paddies. So we thought, ‘How can we work with the rice farmers?’”
That’s when Summers and his team found Amazonicos por la Amazona (AMPA), a nonprofit already working in nearby Tarapoto to develop shrimp ponds and a solid supply chain connecting local farmers with high-end restaurants in Lima. Due to the rising popularity of Amazonian cuisine, gourmet chefs in the city often serve dishes that feature the wild freshwater crustaceans. However, the Peruvian government has placed a national ban on the sale of wild shrimp from January to March — in accordance with the species’ reproductive cycle — to ensure a reliable stock from year to year.
Summers began working with AMPA to discuss the feasibility of converting rice paddies to shrimp ponds. By raising shrimp on land that had already been cleared for farming — and continuing to grow rice — locals could increase their incomes and the amount of food they produce while eliminating the need to cut down more trees, and also provide shrimp during the off-season.
Sweetening the deal
“We began surveying rice farmers in the area surrounding the AMPF to gauge their interest,” Summers says. “This is an option that contaminates less, recycles the water used in the shrimp ponds to fertilize the rice paddies and reduces the times during the year when the rice is inundated, thus reducing incidences of mosquito-borne dengue and malaria.” To make things even sweeter, shrimp is three times as profitable as rice.
This wasn’t enough, however, to convince the rice farmers — many of whom had been let down by similar projects in the past. “When we first started the project, nobody believed in us,” says Kelvin Navarro, AMPA’s technician working on the project. “Most people hadn’t even seen a shrimp before.” In order to get the farmers on board, the team held workshops, shared photographs, videos and diagrams, and eventually cooked shrimp from a small test crop and dined with potential beneficiaries. “Now,” Navarro says, “people call me every day.”
The perfect protagonist
The first beneficiaries to receive shrimp were Paulino Morrufo Delgado and his son Nilder. On the day I visit, they are preparing to introduce 20,000 hatchlings into the first pond. Morrufo, a wiry, weathered man with a blue baseball cap and an easy smile, stands on the bank of his freshly dug pond and talks logistics.
“[CI] isn’t the only group to come to us with an alternative to rice,” the elder Morrufo says. “In 2002, there was a macadamia project. A lot of us bought into it, and eventually they abandoned us. There wasn’t a market. If there’s no market, then that’s that.”
That’s why Summers and his team have placed as much importance on ensuring a secure market as developing the shrimp ponds themselves. Not only is the market for pond-raised shrimp wide open for three months of the year, but the team anticipates that the market for other sustainably raised, small-scale produce is on the rise as well.
“We believe the restaurant is an important vehicle for promoting conservation and consciousness in Lima, and shrimp is the easiest way to enter that market,” Summers says. “The idea is that when the restaurant begins buying shrimp to promote a farm-to-table product, they will create a demand for other local products. Then they can say, ‘This entire plate came from one producer,’ and they can tell the story of that producer and how he came to conserve the environment.”
Morrufo makes the perfect protagonist for the restaurant’s story. “I’m not a pessimist,” he says. “After the bad, you can have something good, no? Maybe I didn’t believe it in my youth, but now I believe I can have a future, and at my age, at 72 years old.” He extends his arms, as if to take in the ponds, the stream and his fields all the way down to the road.
At Morrufo’s feet, little green bean seedlings poke out of the embankment surrounding the pond. The dirt requires vegetation to prevent erosion when the rains come, and the Morrufos have ensured that no plant, and no space, is without purpose. Beans, shrimp, rice. As we walk back to the house, his son points out banana trees, mandarins and guavas camouflaged along the edge of the jungle behind their house. And coffee? “Look, it’s right there,” he laughs. The more one diversifies his crops, Nilder explains, the more security he has in the face of a bad season.
As we say goodbye and thank the Morrufo family, it seems that the road to supplying a complete, sustainable gourmet meal in Lima might not be so far away.
Paulina Jenney|September 1, 2015
Florida Forever Plan Approved, Environmentalists Encourage More Land-Buying
State Cabinet officials approved Florida Forever’s annual work plan Tuesday. It includes several dozen plots of environmentally sensitive land.
Florida Forever is the state’s land conservation program, and Eric Draper of Audubon Florida says preservation is an important investment.
“Florida forever represents an opportunity for us to be able to make sure that the people who come to Florida have an opportunity to experience our beauty as a state,” Draper says.
In the coming year, state officials are focusing on about fifty high priority projects.
“I just want to point out a couple,” Draper goes on, “right on the top of the list is Adams ranch. I can’t think of a more important place to invest money right now.”
The Adams ranch is a 40,000 acre plot stretching across multiple counties. The owner, Bud Adams has been putting pieces of the property into agricultural easements for years. He’d like to put the entirety into the state’s hands, but it might be difficult in light of funding.
Gary Clark represents the Department of Environmental Protection on the council that oversees Florida Forever, and he explains how they evaluate projects.
“The division of state lands 2015 annual work plan focuses on the projects which protect Florida’s water resources, have funding partnerships, are conservation easements, present unique acquisition opportunities, or are substantially complete,” Clark says.
The thread running through many of these? They’re on the less expensive side. In his last budget proposal, Governor Rick Scott asked for $150 million for land acquisition and management, but after a budget fight the appropriation for acquisition was only about $17 million.
Audubon Florida wants Scott to push for $150 million in the next budget, too. But so far he’s not committing to anything.
“As you know the session is going to be coming early this year, so we’re working through that budget now,” Scott says, “hopefully we’ll continue to see our revenues grow as we—as you see our economy turning around, where we’ve added now 917,000 jobs. So I’m optimistic that we’ll have another good budget.”
And all this comes in the wake of Amendment One, a constitutional provision seen as a way to push Florida Forever back toward pre-2008 funding levels. Between 1990 and 2008, lawmakers gave the program 300 million dollars a year.
Nick Evans|Sep 2, 2015
Moms Clean Air Force sent a whopping 120,000 comments to EPA demanding a rule that would reduce the ozone that contributes to smog—a dangerous pollutant that especially harms the lungs of our children and our elderly.
Today, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced a rule that will reduce the allowable level of ozone in our air from 75 parts per billion to 70 ppb.
This is not as strong a protection as we had hoped it would be. This rule is at the least protective end of the range recommended by EPA’s science advisors. We wish EPA had gone further.
However, we cannot lose sight of the new rule’s significance. It is an improvement over the standard of 75 ppb that we have been living with for 7 years.
Moms Clean Air Force is glad, finally, to have a new standard. It joins recent historic achievements: America’s Clean Power Plan, the new mercury regulations, and the “good neighbor rule” that keeps states from polluting their neighbors’ air.
Our air is safer because of the work that was begun decades ago, when America’s Clean Air Act was signed into law. Since 1970, dangerous air pollution in the U.S. has been cut by 70%. And, in that time, our economy has grown by more than 240%. Don’t let polluters—who have spent tens of millions of dollars fighting this rule—tell you that clean air regulations cripple the economy. There is absolutely no proof of this.
All of us at Moms Clean Air Force—and all of you, our members—will continue to fight hard to get the best protections for our children’s, and for everyone’s, health.
Dominique Browning|Co-Founder and Senior Director|Moms Clean Air Force
Community and Environmental Groups Herald Improvements in New Oil Refinery Pollution Standards
All U.S. refineries must measure benzene in communities for the first time
EPA’s standards will give many communities a first look at how much cancer-causing benzene local refineries are releasing into the air, along with other important new health protections. This is a true legacy that this Administration can be proud of.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today released new air standards, tightening restrictions on the pollution oil refineries can emit, reducing the health risks millions of Americans face from breathing toxic air.
Port Arthur, Texas, is surrounded by eight major oil and chemical companies. Data collected by the Texas Cancer Registry indicates that cancer rates among African Americans in Jefferson County, where Port Arthur is located, are roughly 15% higher than they are for average Texans, and the mortality rate from cancer is more than 40% higher. More photos of refineries »
The new rule establishes first-ever national “fence line” monitoring requirements that direct refineries to install air monitors “on the fence” where pollution leaves oil refinery property and pours into neighboring communities. The monitors will measure the dangerous pollutant, benzene, and if benzene is too high, refineries will be required to take action to reduce their emissions.
Some 150 petroleum refineries nationwide spew out more than 20,000 tons of hazardous air pollutants each year, including chemicals linked to cancer such as benzene and toluene.
According to the EPA, the new rule reduces cancer risk and the threats of other health hazards significantly for more than one million Americans by preventing thousands of tons of toxins from being released into the air every year.
Other improvements include:
- New monitoring and operating requirements to minimize pollution from the harmful burning of waste gas, called flaring.
- Tighter control requirements on emissions from various parts of refineries like delayed coker units and storage tanks.
- Removal of an unlawful loophole, which enabled refineries to get away with dangerous, uncontrolled releases of pollutants when refineries are starting up, shutting down, and malfunctioning.
EPA took action to review and update these standards as a result of a 2012 settlement in a lawsuit filed by Earthjustice and the Environmental Integrity Project on behalf of community and environmental groups in California, Louisiana, and Texas when the EPA missed its deadline under the Clean Air Act to review toxic air standards for oil refineries.
Groups involved in the case are heartened to see the EPA finally take action that is more than 10 years overdue. These standards are especially needed to bring new protections for public health to all exposed communities, which are disproportionately lower income and communities of color, in which children are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposure. Yet they also highlight the need for the EPA to keep working to further strengthen protections for communities from refineries’ pollution and the health and safety hazards they cause.
The groups emphasize that further work will be essential to fully implement the new standards and ensure that all refineries eventually use the best available monitoring technology in place at some facilities to assure communities the protection from pollution that all Americans deserve.
The EPA should have:
- Required monitoring technology that would offer reports on air pollution in real time (instead of requiring just passive sampling that collects data on two-week averages).
- Set a lower, more protective level of benzene at which corrective action will be required.
- Prohibited all uncontrolled air pollution emissions from pressure relief valves and other similar devices.
- Prohibited the routine use of the burning of waste gas, through flaring, which releases hundreds of tons of pollution into the air.
EPA has significantly underestimated the harm communities face from refineries because it has not updated its approach to follow the best available current science on the real-world impacts communities face from pollution. Every extra case of cancer in affected communities is too many.
Lisa Garcia, Earthjustice Vice President for Healthy Communities, called the new standards a definite benefit for communities but said further strengthening is needed. “EPA’s standards will give many communities a first look at how much cancer-causing benzene local refineries are releasing into the air, along with other important new health protections. This is a true legacy that this Administration can be proud of,” she said, adding, “We will keep fighting so that all refineries comply with the standards and ultimately are required to use the best available safeguards from hazardous pollution so all Americans, from all walks of life, get the protection they deserve to prevent cancer and other safety hazards caused by refinery pollution, before they happen to our children and to our families.”
“We applaud EPA for adopting new regulations that will reduce toxic emissions from refinery flares and better protect communities from unnecessary exposure. The changes, requiring better monitoring and operation of refinery flares are common-sense requirements and are long-overdue. At the same time, we believe that EPA underestimated the full toxic burden from refineries and that the Agency should have updated its risk analysis to account for its recent findings that flares and other refinery sources release significantly more pollution than previously reported,” said Sparsh Khandeshi, staff attorney, Environmental Integrity Project, which filed the 2012 lawsuit along with Earthjustice.
Lisa Garcia|Earthjustice|Vice President for Healthy Communities|September 29, 2015
EPA moves to restrict ozone emissions
Environmentalists, business groups alike find fault
WASHINGTON The Obama administration put new restrictions on smog-causing ozone production Thursday — rules that business groups denounced as job killers yet some environmentalists say don’t go far enough.
The new rules are designed to “protect people’s health, as well as the environment,” said Gina McCarthy, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
While praising the new restrictions as steps in the right direction, the American Lung Association urged the administration to go further in cutting the ozone pollutant that has been linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
“We will continue to push toward a stronger standard that both follows the science and fully protects health,” said Harold P. Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. Manufacturing groups, noting that ozone is a byproduct of power plants, factory smokestacks and vehicle tailpipes, said that the restrictions aren’t as bad as they could have been but will restrict their activity nonetheless.
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, called the rule “overly burdensome, costly and misguided” and said it will “inflict pain on companies that build things in America — and destroy job opportunities for American workers.”
The new rules, issued just ahead of a court-ordered deadline, would restrict ozone production to 70 parts per billion, lower than the current 75 parts per billion but at the higher end of options considered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The American Lung Association and other groups had urged the EPA to go as low 60 parts per billion.
The new rules came after battles between the Obama administration and congressional Republicans about other new environmental regulations covering coal-fired power plants and small bodies of water.
David Jackson|USA TODAY
EPA Announces $7 Million in Funding to Reduce Diesel Emissions from School Buses
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 28, 2015
EPA Announces $7 Million in Funding to Reduce Diesel Emissions from School Buses
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is announcing the availability of approximately $7 million in funding for rebates to public and private school bus fleet owners for the replacement and retrofit of older school buses. Replacing these buses that have older engines will reduce diesel emissions and improve air quality.
“Our kids spend a lot of time on the school bus, and buses spend a lot of time in our neighborhoods and schoolyards. They are a national symbol of safety,” said Janet McCabe, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “Significantly improving school bus fleets across the country with retrofits, replacements, and idle reduction practices is imperative in meeting the Agency’s goal of reducing children’s exposure to air toxics.”
New to this year’s program is the option of implementing retrofit technologies. Fleet owners can install Diesel Oxidation Catalysts (DOC) plus Closed Crankcase Ventilation (CCV) systems to reduce emissions by up to 25 percent, and they can replace older buses with newer ones that meet the latest on-highway emission standards as in previous EPA rebate programs. EPA will pay up to $3,000 for each DOC plus CCV, and between $15,000 and $25,000 per replacement bus, depending on the size.
Applicants may request up to 10 buses for replacement and up to 10 buses for the retrofit option on each application. Fleets with more than 101 buses currently in operation may submit two applications.
Many of the nation’s school buses are powered by diesel engines. EPA standards for new diesel engines make them more than 90 percent cleaner than older ones, but many older diesel engines remain in operation and predate these standards. Older diesel engines emit large quantities of pollutants such as particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). These pollutants are linked to health problems, including aggravated asthma, lung damage and other serious health issues.
Public school bus fleets and those owned privately but contracted with a public school system are eligible to apply for rebates to replace school buses with engine model years of 2006 or older. They may also apply to install DOC plus CCV technology on school buses with engine model years 1994-2006.
EPA will accept applications from September 28 to October 30, 2015.
This is the third rebate program offered under the Diesel Emission Reduction Act (DERA) reauthorization to fund cleaner school buses. Nearly 25,000 buses across the country have already been made cleaner as a result of DERA funding.
To learn more about the rebate program, applicant eligibility and selection process, and informational webinar dates:
Questions may be directed to email@example.com
Connect with EPA Region 4 on Facebook: www.facebook.com/eparegion4
And on Twitter: @EPASoutheast
CONTACT: Dawn Harris Young (News Media Only) Harrisfirstname.lastname@example.org 404-562-8421 404-562-8327
email@example.com (Non media only)
Volkswagen CEO Resigns as NOxGate Crisis Spirals
In Germany, Dr. Martin Winterkorn has resigned as CEO of Volkswagen Group AG. No successor has yet been named.
The VW board indicated that a new CEO will be named by Friday, and that further changes in personnel would happen rapidly as an investigation into a scheme to defraud emissions regulators on NOx emissions unfolds.
“I am shocked by the events of the past few days,” Winterkorn said in a statement distributed via the company website. “Above all, I am stunned that misconduct on such a scale was possible in the Volkswagen Group.
“As CEO I accept responsibility for the irregularities that have been found in diesel engines and have therefore requested the Supervisory Board to agree on terminating my function as CEO of the Volkswagen Group. I am doing this in the interests of the company even though I am not aware of any wrong doing on my part.
“Volkswagen needs a fresh start – also in terms of personnel, I am clearing the way for this fresh start with my resignation. I have always been driven by my desire to serve this company, especially our customers and employees. Volkswagen has been, is and will always be my life.
“The process of clarification and transparency must continue. This is the only way to win back trust. I am convinced that the Volkswagen Group and its team will overcome this grave crisis.”
As Biofuels Digest reported, a six-year Volkswagen scheme to defraud emissions regulators, uncovered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and disclosed publicly in recent days, is leading to more investigations.
In Washington, EPA issued a notice of violation of the Clean Air Act to Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. alleging that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 carry a “defeat device” which circumvents EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants.
Specifically, the EPA alleges that a sophisticated software algorithm on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test.
The German Government is denying reports that it “knew about VW emissions rigging but did nothing to stop it” according to a report in the UK’s Daily Telegraph. The charges stem from allegations by the German Greens that the government knew of the emissions controls devices, which prompted an ambiguous answer from the government until Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt flatly denied personally knowing of the scheme, without denying that the government as a whole was uninformed.
In Italy, regulators are not waiting on calls for an EU-wide investigation and have launched their own.
VW, meanwhile, confirmed that as many as 11 million of its cars are carrying “defeat devices” designed to evade pollution controls. The company said it has established a 6.5 billion euros pool to cover costs associated with the scandal, which could include fines, recalls or other measures aimed at restoring public trust in VW.
Volkswagen Group share prices have fallen 35 percent this week, trading at $109.50, down from a high of $169.50 last week.
In Washington, the EPA has not yet ordered a recall of as many as 482,000 vehicles equipped with defeat devices, but is expected to do so.
Biofuels Digest previously reported on earlier announced investigations in South Korea and Switzerland, and reaction from components maker Bosch, who said it was VW’s role to integrate and design the use of any component it ordered for its vehicles.
This article was compiled from reports by Biofuels Digest and was reprinted with permission.
Jim Lane|September 24, 2015
Volkswagen scandal is a sorry sign of the times
Volkswagen was caught cheating on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency emissions tests by installing “defeat devices,” which allowed its diesel vehicles to pass nitrogen oxide emissions checks but spew up to 40 times allowable pollutants once they were completed. The scandal has resulted in plummeting share prices, CEO Martin Winterkorn’s resignation and up to $18 billion in fines, as well as recalls, stop-sale orders, impending lawsuits and possible criminal charges.
Beyond the betrayal and legal and financial issues, the effect on global pollution is massive. Volkswagen is the world’s largest automaker by sales, and as many as 11 million of its diesel vehicles are implicated. According to the Guardian, “The rigging of emissions tests may have added nearly a million tons of air pollution by VW cars annually — roughly the same as the UK’s combined emissions for all power stations, vehicles, industry and agriculture.”
Nitrogen oxide pollution creates particulate matter that causes respiratory problems and is linked to millions of premature deaths every year worldwide. It’s also a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide and so contributes to global warming.
The Volkswagen debacle is bad enough in itself, but it also raises questions about automaker practices, pollution, emissions standards and testing and the implications of our rampant car culture. Volkswagen cheated on regulations designed to protect human health and the environment, and the consequences are increased rates of asthma, lung disease, cancer and death. But it’s not just diesel cars and it’s not just vehicles from one company. Cars kill and harm millions of people every year, with accidents, pollution, climate change and other environmental damage. And car-makers have in the past resisted safety improvements such as seatbelts and air bags.
Illegally rigging vehicles to pass emissions tests hurts everyone, but legal loopholes create similar problems. Just look at SUVs. I did a quick count of the many passing my office during the afternoon, and almost all contained a single driver — no passengers or even pets! Under emissions laws in Canada, the U.S., Japan and elsewhere, SUVs are classified as “light-duty trucks” and are subject to less strict emissions standards than cars. Yet, most people treat them the same as cars.
This creates incentives for manufacturers to produce more heavy vehicles or even to design cars as trucks, such as Chrysler’s PT Cruiser. According to the Economist, “As vehicles above 3.8 tons were long exempted from the American regulation, manufacturers started producing enormous vehicles such as the Hummer to avoid any fuel-economy rules.”
Even with fuel-efficiency improvements, vehicle emissions have more than doubled since 1970 and will increase as demand rises in countries like China, India and Brazil, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Studies show that because fuel efficiency makes it less expensive to drive, people drive more. Clearly, we need better solutions.
It’s easy to say it starts with individuals. We can all find ways to reduce private automobile use. But individuals aren’t entirely to blame for our fossil-fuelled lifestyles. Incentives, regulations, policies and infrastructure are needed to create the necessary shift away from reliance on wasteful, inefficient transportation and fuel options.
We’ve seen many positive developments in recent years. In my hometown, Vancouver, and many other cities, car-sharing programs and cycling and pedestrian infrastructure are expanding rapidly. Hybrid and electric vehicle technologies are making great inroads. Recognition of the need for efficient public transit is also spreading around the world. And fuel taxes and carbon pricing have been proven effective at reducing reliance on private automobiles.
Taxing fossil fuel consumption may be more efficient than emissions standards because, as the Economist points out, fuel taxes encourage people, especially those who drive a lot, to buy more efficient cars and to drive less. And, “A fuel tax does not rely on dubious testing nor does it create distortive loopholes.” Revenue from taxes can be invested in cleaner transportation alternatives or, as with B.C.’s carbon tax, used to reduce income taxes or provide rebates to people with lower incomes.
It’s outrageous that a car manufacturer like Volkswagen would stoop to devious practices to get around laws designed to benefit all people, but in our car-driven culture, it’s not entirely surprising — just another signal that it’s time to rethink the way we move ourselves around.
By David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington
25% of Fish Sold at Markets Contain Plastic or Man-Made Debris
Roughly a quarter of the fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained man-made debris—plastic or fibrous material—in their guts, according to a study from the University of California, Davis and Hasanuddin University in Indonesia.
The study, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, is one of the first to directly link plastic and man-made debris to the fish on consumers’ dinner plates.
“It’s interesting that there isn’t a big difference in the amount of debris in the fish from each location, but in the type—plastic or fiber,” said lead author Chelsea Rochman, a David H. Smith postdoctoral fellow in the Aquatic Health Program at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “We think the type of debris in the fish is driven by differences in local waste management.”
“Waiter, There’s Some Plastic in My Fish”
The researchers sampled 76 fish from markets in Makassar, Indonesia and 64 from Half Moon Bay and Princeton in California. All of the fragments recovered from fish in Indonesia were plastic. In contrast, 80 percent of the debris found in California fish was fibers, whereas not a single strand of fiber was found in Indonesian fish.
Indonesia has little in the way of landfills, waste collection or recycling and large amounts of plastic are tossed onto the beaches and into the ocean. The problem is made worse by a lack of purified drinking water that forces its residents to drink bottled water.
“Indonesia has some of the highest marine life richness and biodiversity on Earth and its coastal regions—mangroves, coral reefs and their beaches—are just awash in debris,” said co-author Susan Williams, a professor with the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory who has worked on projects in Indonesia for the past several years. “You have the best and the worst situation right in front of you in Indonesia.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. has highly advanced systems for collecting and recycling plastics. However, most Californians wash their clothing in washing machines, the water from which empties into more than 200 wastewater treatment plants offshore California. The authors theorize that fibers remaining in sewage effluent from washing machines were ingested by fish sampled in the state.
“To mitigate the issue in each location, it helps to think about local sources and differences in waste management strategies,” Rochman said.
It Takes Guts
The scientists emphasize that the plastic and fibers are found in the fishes’ guts. That means humans are likely to ingest the debris only if the fish is eaten whole, as it is in Indonesia or such as with sardines and anchovies, rather than filleted. However, researchers are still studying whether chemicals in plastic can transfer into the meat.
Marcus Eriksen, co-founder of 5 Gyres Institute, caught this fish from the bank of the Mississippi River, which had particles of plastic in its stomach. Photo credit: Marcus Eriksen
The study was funded by a UC Davis Outreach and International Program SEED Grant, the National Science Foundation’s Graduate K-12 and IGERT programs and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Superfund Research Program.
University of California, Davis|September 30, 2015
Styrofoam-eating worms can fight plastic waste
Mealworms are able to safely subsist on a diet of polystyrene, researchers have found, raising hopes for more effective ways to rein in the worldwide plague of plastic pollution.
Researchers have discovered that darkling beetle larvae, aka mealworms, can subsist on Styrofoam. (Photo: Yu Wang/Stanford University)
Plastic waste is piling up in ecosystems around the world, especially oceans. One of the most vexing types is Styrofoam, as well as other polystyrene foams, which are rarely accepted by recycling programs and can take centuries to break down. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 2.5 billion plastic-foam cups are discarded every year.
Like other plastic, polystyrene is dangerous to many animals that mistake it for food. But according to new research, at least one animal can safely eat this ubiquitous litter. That animal — the larvae of darkling beetles, better-known as mealworms — is now raising hopes that nature may yet give us a hand cleaning up our mess.
Scientists at Stanford University have discovered that mealworms can subsist on a diet of Styrofoam and other polystyrene, which is then biodegraded by microbes in the worms’ digestive systems. This is among the first detailed evidence of bacteria degrading plastic in an animal’s gut, the authors say, and if we can figure out the details, it could be a game-changer for our efforts to manage plastic waste.
“Our findings have opened a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem,” says co-author Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer at Stanford, in a statement.
The researchers gave Styrofoam to 100 mealworms in a lab setting, where the larvae ate between 34 and 39 milligrams per day. They converted about half of that material into carbon dioxide — as they would any food source — and excreted most of the rest as tiny pellets that reportedly resemble rabbit droppings.
Mealworms that ate a steady diet of Styrofoam remained as healthy as those fed bran flakes, the study’s authors report, and their droppings are even safe enough to use as soil for growing crops. Yet while all the signs are promising so far, the researchers will still keep track of the how these plastic-eating mealworms fare over time — and how they affect larger animals that eat them.
In previous research, Wu and others found that waxworms (the larvae of Indian meal moths) also harbor gut microbes than can biodegrade polyethylene, a plastic commonly used in trash bags. But the new research seems particularly promising, given the durability and abundance of polystyrene, as well as the apparent lack of toxic byproducts from mealworms after they ingest it.
“There’s a possibility of really important research coming out of bizarre places,” says Craig Criddle, an engineering professor who leads a team of Stanford researchers in an ongoing collaboration with Chinese scientists to investigate the biodegradation of plastics. “Sometimes, science surprises us. This is a shock.”
Now that mealworms have pulled off this feat, the researchers hope to learn what else the larvae can eat. They plan to study whether microbes in mealworms and other insects can break down plastics such as microbeads or polypropylene, a common ingredient in products ranging from textiles to car parts. By studying this process in detail, their goal is to devise more potent enzymes for breaking down plastic waste, or to produce plastics that are easier to biodegrade.
They’re also looking for “a marine equivalent of the mealworm,” they add, to take a bite out of the roughly 8 million tons of plastic that enter Earth’s oceans every year.
It’s encouraging that mealworms and other bugs might make a dent in plastic waste, but they’re still no substitute for recycling, the researchers say. The U.S. produces about 33 million tons of plastic every year, only 10 percent of which is recycled. It would take a lot of larvae to eat the remaining 29.7 million tons, so as Wu tells CNN, the immediate answer to our plastic problem is to throw less away.
“We need to be better at recycling,” he says. “We shouldn’t waste plastic anywhere.”
Russell McLendon|October 1, 2015
Major Fertilizer Producer Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC to Ensure Proper Handling, Storage & Disposal of 60 Billion Pounds of Hazardous Waste
Manufacturer committing close to $2 billion in funding to address environmental impacts from fertilizer production
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) today announced a settlement with Mosaic Fertilizer, LLC that will ensure the proper treatment, storage, and disposal of an estimated 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste at six Mosaic facilities in Florida and two in Louisiana. The settlement resolves a series of alleged violations by Mosaic, one of the world’s largest fertilizer manufacturers, of the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which provides universal guidelines for how hazardous waste must be stored, handled and disposed. The 60 billion pounds of hazardous waste addressed in this case is the largest amount ever covered by a federal or state RCRA settlement and will ensure that wastewater at Mosaic’s facilities is properly managed and does not pose a threat to groundwater resources.
At Mosaic’s eight facilities in Florida and Louisiana, hazardous waste from fertilizer production is stored in large piles, tanks, ditches and ponds; the piles can reach 500 feet high and cover more than 600 acres, making them some of the largest manmade waste piles in the United States. The piles can also contain several billion gallons of highly acidic wastewater, which can threaten human health and cause severe environmental damage if it reaches groundwater or local waterways.
Under the settlement, Mosaic Fertilizer will establish a $630 million trust fund, which will be invested until it reaches full funding of $1.8 billion. These funds will cover the future closure of and treatment of hazardous wastewater at four Mosaic facilities—the Bartow, New Wales and Riverview plants in Florida and the Uncle Sam plant in Louisiana—as well as the long-term care of those facilities and three additional facilities that are already undergoing closure. The Mosaic Company, Mosaic Fertilizer’s parent company, will provide financial guarantees for this work, and the settlement also requires Mosaic Fertilizer to submit a $50 million letter of credit.
Mosaic will also spend $170 million on projects to reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing and waste management programs at its facilities and $2.2 million on two local environmental projects. Mosaic will also pay a $5 million civil penalty to the United States and $1.55 million to the State of Louisiana and $1.45 million to the State of Florida, who joined EPA and DOJ as plaintiffs in this case.
“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. “Mining and mineral processing facilities generate more toxic and hazardous waste than any other industrial sector. Reducing environmental impacts from large fertilizer manufacturers operations is a national priority for EPA, as part of our commitment to pursuing cases that have the biggest impact on protecting public health.”
“This settlement represents our most significant enforcement action in the mining and mineral processing arena, and will have a significant impact on bringing all Mosaic facilities into compliance with the law,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Moreover, through this settlement, we establish critical financial assurance to cover the enormous closure and care costs at all these facilities. This sets the standard for our continuing enforcement of RCRA in the entire phosphoric acid industry. And, it reflects our emphasis on working jointly with impacted states.”
The alleged violations in this case stem from storage and disposal of waste from the production of phosphoric and sulfuric acids, key components of fertilizers, at Mosaic’s facilities in Bartow, Lithia, Mulberry and Riverview, Florida and St. James and Uncle Sam, Louisiana. Mosaic failed to properly treat, store, and dispose of hazardous waste, and also failed provide adequate financial assurance for closure of its facilities.
As part of EPA’s National Enforcement Initiative for mining and mineral processing, the agency has required phosphate fertilizer production facilities to reduce the storage volumes of hazardous wastewaters, ensure that waste piles and ponds have environmentally-protective barriers installed, and verify the structural stability of waste piles and ponds.
Mosaic has committed to spending approximately $170 million over the next several years to implement an innovative reconfiguration of their current operations and waste management systems. The development of these of industry-leading technologies will optimize resource efficiency and decrease the amount of raw materials required to produce fertilizer. This case spurred Mosaic to develop advanced engineering controls and practices to recover and reduce some types of acid wastes that result from fertilizer production, which will reduce the amount and toxicity of the waste materials stored at Mosaic’s facilities and the severity of potential spills while cutting Mosaic’s costs for treating material at closure, which would otherwise have been categorized as hazardous waste.
Under the settlement, Mosaic will also fund a $1.2 million environmental project in Florida to mitigate and prevent certain potential environmental impacts associated with an orphaned industrial property located in Mulberry, Florida. In Louisiana, Mosaic will spend $1 million to fund studies regarding statewide water quality issues.
Mosaic produces phosphorus-based fertilizer that is commonly applied to corn, wheat and other crops across the country. Sulfuric acid is used to extract phosphorus from mined rock, which produces large quantities of a solid material called phosphogypsum and wastewater that contains high levels of acid. EPA inspections revealed that Mosaic was mixing certain types of highly-corrosive substances from its fertilizer operations, which qualify as hazardous waste, with the phosphogypsum and wastewater from mineral processing, which is a violation of federal and state hazardous waste laws.
A consent decree formalizing the settlement was lodged yesterday in the U.S. District Courts for the Middle District of Florida and the Eastern District of Louisiana and is subject to a 45-day public comment period in Louisiana, a 30 day public comment period in Florida and approval by the federal court.
For a copy of the consent decree, visit http://www.justice.gov/enrd/consent-decrees
Julia P. Valentine|U.S. EPA Media Relations
5 Myths About Shelter Cats That Are Completely Wrong
My local pet store is always crowded on Saturday mornings, when the nearby shelter brings its adorable kittens and cats, in the hopes that they will be adopted. Yet however lovable the animals are, some people hesitate because they’ve heard all kinds of myths about shelter cats, most of them just plain wrong. Let’s clear up a few misconceptions.
1. Shelter Cats Are Damaged Cats
It’s a common belief that there must be something wrong with cats that are up for adoption. Not true! Most cats end up in a shelter when their owner can’t keep them anymore; there may be financial issues, a divorce, or even a death. Whatever the problem, it becomes impossible for this person to keep caring for a kitty. In other words, these cats are often homeless through no fault of their own, and they are healthy, active animals hoping someone will take them home.
Photo Credit: thinkstock
2. It Takes A Long Time To House-Train A Shelter Cat
Along with the idea of shelter cats being damaged comes another myth: those cats are in shelters because they behaved badly, so their owners kicked them out of their homes. Again, not true. Even if a cat was brought to a shelter due to a behavior problem, there could be many reasons for that, including the previous owner’s treatment of the animal. In addition, most rescues and shelters work with cats to socialize them with other animals and often use foster homes to accustom them to both other pets and children. Don’t assume the worst about shelter kitties.
3. I Could End Up With The Wrong Kitty
This is unlikely to happen with a good rescue or shelter, since shelter workers strive to make sure your cat adoption goes smoothly and that you and their cat are a good match. This is, after all, their main objective, and since they spend a whole lot of time with their cats, they take pride in matching you up with the right kitty companion. They also may do follow-up visits; when I adopted my wonderful black cat Jaspar from a shelter in Los Angeles, a volunteer visited my home several times to make sure everything was going smoothly. To further ensure you get the right cat, many rescues even specialize in specific types, such as small cats, bigger cats, or particular breeds of cat.
4. Shelters Will Make Me Jump Through Hoops To Adopt A Cat
It’s true that there are certain procedures to follow, but this is to protect both the cat and the companion. Shelters want to make sure that their kitty is going to the best possible home; the staff working with those animals come to know them well, and want the best for them. Adopting Jaspar involved several visits to the shelter, a detailed application form to fill out, a staff member visiting my home to make sure it was suitable for Jaspar, a waiting period of 24 hours, and finally signing a contract and paying a fee. At age 14 months, Jaspar had already been abandoned twice in his life, so I understood why it was important to make sure I would be a good mom. That said, if you don’t like the way a shelter is treating you, you can always try a different shelter or rescue.
Photo Credit: thinkstock
5. A Shelter Cat Probably Has Health Issues That I’ll Have To Pay For
In my experience, quite the opposite is true. When I adopted my adorable but feisty cat Jake from a rescue in Rockville, Maryland, he had already been seen several times by a veterinarian. As a kitten, he had suffered some respiratory problems; these had been treated and I was given all the details of his medical history. I never had any health issues with him. That’s unusual, since most animals will have a health problem at some point, but I was happy to know that he had received excellent health care before he became mine. If you’re concerned, ask the people at the shelter how they evaluate the animals that come to them. Be sure to get a written copy of the evaluation and any veterinary care to keep as part of the animal’s medical record.
Have fun selecting your shelter cat!
Judy Molland|September 27, 2015
Former WWII Bomb Shelter Now World’s First Underground Farm
It’s probably the last place you would think of for growing food, but about 100 feet below London, the one-year old startup Growing Underground is producing what it calls “sustainable and mouth-wateringly fresh micro greens and salad.” It’s the world’s first subterranean farm. The site, a bomb shelter during World War II, was abandoned for 70 years until entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring came along.
Growing beds are stacked on top of each other inside this former World War II bomb shelter. Photo credit: Zero Carbon Food
Once fully operational, it’s estimated that the system will be able to produce between 11,000 and 44,000 pounds of produce each year. “The whole system runs automatically, with an environmental computer controlling the lighting, temperature, nutrients and air flow,” Steven Dring, co-founder of the parent company, Zero Carbon Food, told Bloomberg.
The company says, “using the latest hydroponic systems and LED technology, our crops can be grown year-round in the perfect, pesticide-free environment that these forgotten tunnels provide.” The company is currently growing radish and mustard leaf and also grows watercress, Thai basil, rocket, red vein sorrel, red amaranth, pea shoots, mizuna, micro rocket, garlic chive and coriander.
Growing Underground claims it is carbon neutral and is working on certification. And it touts a number of other environmental benefits. “Our hydroponics system uses 70 percent less water than traditional open-field farming, and because all the nutrients are kept within the closed-loop system we run no risk of contributing to agricultural run-off,” says Growing Underground. They’ve pledged that their produce will travel no further than the M25 motorway that encircles Greater London.
It’s already partnered with local food delivery company Farmdrop and is in discussions with Whole Foods, says Bloomberg. And thanks to a partnership with chef Michel Roux, Jr., the company is partnering with local restaurants to deliver farm-to-table produce in under four hours. “It’s great to be involved in this ambitious project, for which we have ambitious growth plans,” says Roux. “Above all it’s fantastic to source produce so fresh in the heart of Britain’s largest city.”
The project is just one of the many creative ways cities around the world are re-localizing agriculture. For cities with a vast underground network like London, subterranean farming makes sense. In the U.S., many cities are turning abandoned warehouses into indoor vertical farms. Sky Farms in Singapore has been heralded as “the world’s first low-carbon hydraulic driven urban vertical farm.” Mirai, a vertical farm in Japan, is producing up to 10,000 heads of lettuce a day. Newark, New Jersey will soon be home to the world’s largest indoor vertical farm, which is set to launch in November.
Cole Mellino|September 28, 2015
Farmworkers will now be safer on the job
On Monday afternoon, EPA released new, stronger rules protecting farmworkers from on-the-job exposure to pesticides. These new rules represent a giant leap forward for the health and safety of more than two million U.S. farmworkers.
This is a huge win. And make no mistake, it would not have happened without powerful, consistent pressure from our national coalition — and the engagement of thousands of supporters.
When you sign a petition, make a phone call or email decision makers, you help create wins that matter — like this one. And donations fuel the science, organizing and communications that make it all possible.
From field hearings across the country to farmworker fly-ins for meetings with Congressional leaders, PAN and our partners worked for years to make sure that the pesticide harms farmworkers and their families face weren’t swept under the rug.
Last August, we delivered more than 200,000 petition signatures to EPA. Then we kept the pressure on with postcards, Thunderclaps, Twitter storms and more throughout the year.
Again and again, we see how powerful collective action can be. That’s exactly why PAN is a grassroots network — and with your support, we’ll keep working together to build the healthy, thriving system of food and farming we all deserve.
Judy Hatcher|Executive Director|Pesticide Action Network
Nancy Boyle Webmaster for SFAS and a dear friend passed away on October 3 after long battle with multiple illnesses. I had the good fortune to work with Nancy on a variety of projects. Her death saddens me and I will miss her deeply.
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