“Nature provides exceptions to every rule.” Margaret Fuller
Fall Is The Time to See Raptors on the Move
The best time to see hawks, harriers, eagles, and other raptors is during their fall migration, which will soon be in full swing across the country.
Raptors tend to fly known routes—which means folks can count on seeing large numbers of them as they head south.
Click here to learn more about raptors and their migrations.
Click here for a list of some of the best sites in the country for hawkwatching
Audubon Assembly 2014
Hutchinson Island. Florida
October 17 – 18
Audubon is proud to announce that our keynote speaker for the 2014 Audubon Assembly will be noted Florida author Leslie Kemp Poole.
Dr. Poole’s presentation at the Friday banquet will explore Florida’s remarkable history of protecting the wildlife, landscapes, and habitat that make our state like no other.
In its early days, Audubon’s fight to conserve Florida was waged with leadership from women before women even had the right to vote.
Today, Florida’s threats are no less dire and our need for inclusion is no less important–
Dr. Poole will share lessons from our past to guide Audubon’s future, reclaiming Florida’s land and water conservation legacy and expanding our reach to enlist new constituencies for conservation.
Help Develop the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders
You are invited you to help develop the next generation of conservation leaders. Audubon’s CLI (Conservation Leadership Initiative)
was developed to provide an intergenerational experience and co-mentoring opportunity for Audubon leaders and college students to network, share, and learn from each other.
Audubon will award 25 students with scholarships to attend Friday’s assembly and match them with 25 Audubon leaders for Friday’s CLI program.
Through nature-inspired walking workshops, dynamic speakers, and thought-provoking learning sessions,
the Audubon Assembly joins people of all ages and backgrounds together in our common interest of protecting Florida’s remarkable natural resources.
The 2014 Audubon Assembly is being held at the Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort & Marina.
Please note, you must book your hotel room by September 26, see below for more information.
This year’s Assembly is going to be the can’t miss conservation event of the year.
Do not delay – click here to register online to reserve the special early-bird rate.
Only a limited amount of these tickets are available.
To register by mail or by phone, contact Jonathan Webber at 850-222-2473.
Join us for the Everglades Coalition’s 30th Annual Conference!
Send it South: Water for America’s Everglades
The Coalition’s Annual Conference seeks to raise critical, timely issues for in-depth debates in an open, accessible forum.
Community leaders and political figures come to discuss their positions, pledge their support and offer challenges to the community.
The conference is attended by decision-makers from federal, state, local and tribal governments, agency representatives,
stakeholders and a vast array of public and private interests including scientists, educators, contractors, conservationists, the media, students and the general public.
The conference is the largest annual forum to advance Everglades conservation and restoration.
The 30th Annual Conference – Key Largo, FL
January 8th, 9th,& 10th, 2015
Early Registration October 5th – December 5th, 2014
Registration Fees Conference Single Day
Early Registration by December 5 $150.00 $100.00
Registration Starting December 6 $190.00 $120.00
Student Registration with Valid ID (Includes 1 lunch meal) $50.00
A limited number of discounted rooms are available for $199/night plus tax. Book by December 9th to take advantage of this special rate.
Reserve online with our Everglades Coalition Conference Registration link or call the Hilton Key Largo at (305) 852-5553 and reference the Everglades Coalition.
Space is limited, be sure to register and purchase all meals early!
97000 Overseas Hwy
Key Largo, FL 33037
Amendment 1 Telephone Call with Senator Bob Graham
On Tuesday, September 16th, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy is hosting a telephone conversation with Senator Bob Graham to discuss Amendment 1, the Florida Water and Land Conservation Amendment.
Join the call at 6:30 pm to find out how Amendment 1 will help keep Florida’s drinking water clean, protect our rivers, lakes and springs,
restore natural treasures like the Everglades, and protect our beaches and wildlife for future generations.
Just register here to join the conversation!
National Estuaries Day Sep 27, 2014 10:00 am – 03:00 pm
A national celebration at the country’s 28 estuarine research reserves takes place on the last Saturday of September each year to recognize the importance of the habitat where rivers meet the sea.
Rookery Bay’s event will include staff-narrated boat tours (bus transportation provided to the boat 15 minutes away),
introductory 30-minute kayaking trips, free paddle boarding on Henderson Creek, marine critter touch tank, live animal presentations,
kids games and crafts, behind-the-scenes tours of the science labs, films, food and more.
A special art exhibition by marine life artist Guy Harvey will be on display in the gallery, and merchandise will be available
for purchase in the nature store. In celebration of National Estuaries Day, the Rookery Bay Environmental Learning Center offers “free admission.”
Of Interest to All
A Fungus Discovered in the Ecuadorian Rainforest Can Eat Plastic Pollution
Plastics do not biodegrade, although, under the influence of solar UV radiations, plastics do degrade and fragment into small particles, termed microplastics.
It’s not news that plastic pollution is one of the biggest environmental issues that we are facing in the modern world.
We’ve all read dozens upon dozens of articles about the giant floating island of trash the size of Texas floating around the Pacific Ocean, about the 5 gyres, about the 200+ species that are ingesting plastic on a daily basis.
Images of animals caught in plastics, of pollutant-stuffed birds and fish and of various environments destroyed by plastic-pollution aren’t new to us.
And it doesn’t seem to get any better.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, plastic isn’t even biodegradable.
The problem is: It feels like we’re always promised the next big thing, the next product that will reduce our future consumption of plastic products.
Why is Plastic so Hard to get rid of?
Plastics are rarely seen as food for the environment, and microbes, which are usually so good at breaking down unwanted pollutants, avoid it: Making it practically immortal.
It can take thousands of years before plastic finally degrades.
And we’re piling more and more on the landfills at rates that far outnumber how fast the earth can get rid of it.
But that’s enough doom and gloom.
Things are finally starting to look up, and the answer to this troubling issue might be coming in the form of a fungus.
A Natural Solution to a Natural Problem: Plastic-Eating Fungus
The fungus, named Pestalotiopsis microspore, was discovered in the rainforest of Ecuador by students from Yale’s Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry departments, and is said to be able to eat plastic on a large scale.
Yup, you read that correctly!
The fungus is said to have a healthy appetite for polyurethane. It actually feeds off polyurethane, a polymer that’s commonly found in anything from hard plastics to synthetic fibers.
According to Fast Company, the fungus is the first one that they have found that can survive on polyurethane alone. It’s also said to be able to eat away at polyurethane in an anaerobic environment (oxygen-free), which means that it can be placed at the bottom of landfills to accelerate (or, start) plastic’s decomposition.
Yale Students Might be Able to Breed it
What use is the fungus in the forest, you ask?
Well, accordingly to the group of students at Yale University, there is a high chance that they will be able to breed the fungus in laboratories and place them in highly plastic-polluted zones.
The researchers behind the discovery, which was published in the scientific journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, also stated that they were able to isolate the enzyme responsible for decomposing the plastic.
From the report:
“The broad distribution of activity observed and the unprecedented case of anaerobic growth using [polyester polyurethane] as the sole carbon source suggest that endophytes are a promising source of biodiversity from which to screen for metabolic properties useful for bioremediation
While it isn’t completely clear how the fungus (or the enzyme) will be applied in bioremediation, it’s becoming more and more likely that the solution to some of our environmental issues might be right in front of our eyes: In the environment itself.”
Sarah Burke|September 11, 2014
How Industrial Ag is Making the Soil–and Us–Unhealthy
Does an apple a day really keep the doctor away? Not anymore, according to soil health experts—unless the apple comes from a tree grown in healthy, organic soil.
According to Australian soil scientist Christine Jones, as reported by Courtney White in his book, Grass, Soil, Hope, apples have lost 80 percent of their vitamin C.
And that orange you just ate to help ward off a cold? It’s entirely possible that it contains no vitamin C at all.
A study looking at vegetables from 1930 to 1980, found that iron levels had decreased by 22 percent, and calcium content by 19 percent. In the United Kingdom, from 1940 to 1990, copper content in vegetables fell by 76 percent, and calcium by 46 percent. The mineral content in meat was also significantly reduced.
Food forms the building blocks of our bodies and health. Soil forms the basis for healthy food. Unhealthy soil grows poor quality food. And poor quality food means poor health.
Even our mental health is linked to healthy soil, rich in microbes.
So what’s happened to our soil? It’s been under assault since the advent of modern industrial agriculture, with its monocrops, fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides.
The term “biodiversity” evokes images of a rich variety of plants—trees, flowers, grasses, fruits, vegetables—mixed in with an equally diverse collection of animals, insects and wildlife, all co-existing in a lush environment.
But there’s a whole world of biodiversity that lives beneath the surface of the earth—at least in areas where the soil hasn’t been destroyed. And that biodiversity is essential for the growth of nutrient-rich foods.
The Earth’s soil is a dynamic mixture of rock particles, water, gases, and microorganisms. Just one cup of soil contains more microorganisms than there are people on the planet. These diverse microbes compose a “soil food web,” a complex chain beginning with organic residues like decaying plant and animal matter, and ranging from bacteria and fungi to nematodes (worms) and bugs. Just by going about their daily lives in the dirt, these organisms decompose organic matter, stabilize the soil and help convert nutrients from one chemical form to another.
This rich diversity of microbes affects most soil properties, including moisture content, structure, density, and nutrient composition. When microbes are lost, the properties of soil that allow it to stabilize plants, convert chemicals, and perform other vital functions are also reduced. The microbe content of soil—its biodiversity—is nearly synonymous with soil health and fertility.
As Daphne Millier, physician, author and professor, writes, “soil teeming with a wide diversity of life (especially bacteria, fungi, and nematodes) is more likely to produce nutrient-dense food. Of course, this makes sense when you understand that it is the cooperation between bacteria, fungi, and plants’ roots (collectively referred to as the rhizosphere) that is responsible for transferring carbon and nutrients from the soil to the plant—and eventually to our plates.”
Unfortunately, human interactions have negatively impacted almost all aspects of soil health—we are responsible for the degradation of more than 40 percent of worldwide agricultural land.
What have we done to the soil? For starters, we’ve destabilized our soil ecosystems through the widespread and reckless use of chemicals—herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers—that destroy nearly everything in sight, except the plants themselves (many of them genetically engineered to withstand herbicides and pesticides). We end up with corn, soy, alfalfa and other crops that may appear “healthy,” but in truth, are nutrient-deficient because the nutrient-cycling quality of the soil has been destroyed.
And we do it as a matter of routine, even though it’s estimated that in the case of pesticides, for instance, only 0.1 percent of pesticides used actually interact with their targets; the rest pollute plants and soil.
As any gardener knows, nitrogen is one of the three essential soil nutrients. (Potassium and phosphorous are the other two). In order for nitrogen to “feed” plants, it must first be converted to ammonium or nitrate. Soil microbes, which are critical to the nitrogen cycle, achieve this conversion by feeding on decaying plant matter, digesting the elemental nitrogen contained in the decayed matter, and excreting nitrogen ions. The newly available nitrogen is taken up by plants, where it becomes available to humans either directly (when you eat the plant) or indirectly (through consumption of grazing animals).
What happens when soil is stripped of the microbes required to complete the nitrogen cycle? Farmers often resort to fertilizers that contain nitrogen. But the over-use of fertilizers leads to nutrients (like nitrogen) building up beyond the capacity of soil microbes to convert it into usable, absorbable nutrients. Too much nitrogen actually kills plant life.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, factory farming, where thousands of animals are confined in small spaces and fed grains (supplemented with antibiotics and hormones), rather than the forage nature intended, is behind much of the damage humans have inflicted on the soil.
At the core of industrial food production is monoculture—the practice of growing single crops intensively on a very large scale. Corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice are all commonly grown this way in the United States.
Monoculture farming relies heavily on chemical inputs such as synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
In a monocropping system, what soil organisms aren’t destroyed by chemicals and over-tilling, are edged out when their plant symbionts are lost.
The impact of the loss of soil biodiversity is linked to the increase in asthma and allergies in western societies. The human immune system is developed early in life through exposure to environmental stimuli. When meat or vegetables are lacking in certain bacteria and microbes, children can’t formulate that early immune response and so may develop an allergic reaction later in life.
If the numbers are any indicator, there’s a crisis in worldwide soil health that is rapidly becoming a crisis in human health. Converting from factory farms and conventional crops to pasture-grazing livestock and organic farming are the solution. According to one study, it’s possible to more than double soil biodiversity by replacing conventional farming methods with organic farming.
But we shouldn’t be satisfied with simply scaling back the problem. Regenerative agriculture is a crucial tool for actively reversing the harm caused by Big Ag practices. And there’s no time to waste—scientists say that a single square centimeter of soil can take from 20 to 1000 years to form.
Hannah Bewsey and Katherine Paul|Organic Consumers Association|September 11, 2014
Wild vs. Farmed Salmon: Can Some Fish Be Bad For You?
Salmon is commonly prized for its health benefits.
It is a fatty fish that is loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids, which most people don’t get enough of.
However … not all salmon is created equal, unfortunately.
Today, a lot of the salmon we eat isn’t caught in caught in the wild, but bred in fish farms.
Wild salmon is caught in the wild, in its natural environment … oceans, rivers and lakes.
But half of the salmon sold worldwide comes from so-called fish farms, also known as aquacultures.
The annual global production of farmed salmon has increased from 27,000 to more than 1 million metric tons in the past two decades.
Whereas wild salmon eats other organisms found in its natural environment, farmed salmon is given a processed high-fat feed in order to produce larger fish.
Wild salmon is still available, but global stocks have halved in just a few decades.
Bottom Line: The production of farmed salmon has increased dramatically in the past two decades. Farmed salmon has a completely different diet and environment than wild salmon.
There Are Some Important Differences in Nutrition Composition
To the left, you see the nutrient composition of a half fillet (198 grams) of wild salmon. To the right, you see the numbers for farmed salmon.
As you can see in the table, nutritional differences between wild and farmed salmon can be pretty significant.
Farmed salmon is much higher in fat … it contains slightly more Omega-3s, much more Omega-6 fatty acids and three times the amount of saturated fat. It also contains 46 percent more calories, mostly from fat.
Farmed salmon also contains some Vitamin C, which is added to the feed.
Conversely, wild salmon is higher in minerals, including potassium, zinc and iron.
Bottom Line: Wild salmon contains more minerals. Farmed salmon is higher in Vitamin C, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fatty acids and calories.
Difference in Polyunsaturated Fat Content
There are two main types of polyunsaturated fats … Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
These fatty acids have important roles to play in the human body.
We need both in the diet, otherwise we end up sick. That’s why they are termed the “essential” fatty acids (EFAs).
However … we need to get these fatty acids in a certain balance.
Most people today are eating too much Omega-6, and the delicate balance between these two types of fatty acids is heavily distorted towards Omega-6.
Many scientists have speculated that this can drive increased inflammation and may play a role in the pandemics of chronic diseases like heart disease and others.
Here’s where it gets interesting … farmed salmon has three times the total fat of wild salmon, but a large part of these fats are Omega-6 fatty acids.
For this reason, the Omega-6:Omega-3 ratio is about three times higher in farmed salmon, compared to wild.
However … I don’t really think this is a cause for concern. Even though farmed salmon contains Omega-6, the O6:O3 ratio is still excellent (at 1:3-4), it’s just less excellent than that in wild salmon, which is at 1:10.
Salmon, both farmed and wild, should lead to a massive improvement in Omega-3 intake for most people, and is often recommended for that purpose.
In a four week study of 19 volunteers, eating farmed Atlantic salmon twice per week increased DHA (an important Omega-3 fatty acid) levels in the blood by 50 percent.
Bottom Line: Farmed salmon is much higher in Omega-6 fatty acids than wild salmon, but the amount is still too low to be a cause for concern.
Wild salmon is still available, but global stocks have halved in just a few decades.
Farmed Salmon is Much Higher in Contaminants
Fish tend to accumulate potentially harmful contaminants from their environment.
These contaminants are found in the water they swim in, as well as the foods they eat.
Kris Gunnars|Authority Nutrition|September 4, 2014
Oil boom could delay agricultural shipments
WASHINGTON — At West Central, a farmer-owned Iowa cooperative that depends heavily on trains to move crops, seed and fertilizer, officials had no reason to believe the 2013 harvest would be different than any other. Railroads told executives they had sufficient crews and engines in place to haul the bumper crop on tens of thousands of miles of track across the country.
But a few months after the fields were harvested the Corn Belt was pummeled by a brutal winter, and competing demands among coal, oil, grain and other commodities for space on the country’s clogged rail network left railroads struggling to shift cars around the region.
Initially, West Central — accustomed to waiting a few days to receive hopper cars — had to wait a week, with delays extending to more than six weeks earlier this year. The coop’s average cost to lease a single rail car nearly doubled in January to more than $12,500 from the same time a year earlier, significantly squeezing the warehouse’s profits, which are usually a mere 8 to 13 cents a bushel.
As farmers prepare to harvest this year’s crops, West Central and other agriculture shippers have dramatically lowered their expectations for the railroads.
Farmers, ethanol and other producers in the Corn Belt fear that residual delays plaguing the freight system will worsen as farmers harvest record corn and soybean crops this fall.
“We’re not going off of what they tell us, we’re going off of recent performance. We’re making arrangements to manage around their performance,” said Roger Fray, executive vice president of grain at West Central in Ralston. “We’re planning for the worst, and if it turns out better, then we all benefit.”
Fray said the co-op is adding more storage and, when possible, moving more commodities by truck.
Still, agriculture operators worry that when the bumper crops are ready to transport train car deliveries will be delayed, leaving grain sitting undelivered at farms and elevators and ultimately reducing how much farmers receive for their harvest.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture calls the rail shortages a “serious situation.” In a recent meeting with President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the trio expressed “concern” about the ability of railroads in the Upper Midwest to handle the upcoming crop.
“There are a lot of things that need to be done,” Vilsack told reporters “We’re going to keep an eye on this, and we’re going to keep the pressure on the railroads to make sure that they are ready, willing and able to handle what is likely to be a very, very good crop.”
Farmers and operators of ethanol plants and grain elevators have criticized the railroads for favoring the oil industry by siphoning off engines and crew to handle the boom in domestic production in North Dakota.
Christopher Doering|Gannett Washington Bureau
BP May Be Fined Up to $18 Billion for Spill in Gulf
NEW ORLEANS — In the four years since the blowout on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig killed 11 workers and sent millions of barrels of oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico, BP has spent more than $28 billion on damage claims and cleanup costs, pleaded guilty to criminal charges and emerged a shrunken giant.
But through it all, the company has maintained that it was not chiefly responsible for the accident, and that its contractors in the operation, Halliburton and Transocean, should shoulder as much, if not more, of the blame.
On Thursday, a federal judge here for the first time bluntly rejected those arguments, finding that BP was indeed the primary culprit and that only it had acted with “conscious disregard of known risks.” He added that BP’s “conduct was reckless.”
By finding that BP was, in legal parlance, grossly negligent in the disaster, and not merely negligent, United States District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier opened the possibility of $18 billion in new civil penalties for BP, nearly quadruple the maximum Clean Water Act penalty for simple negligence and far more than the $3.5 billion the company has set aside.
The ruling stands as a milestone in environmental law given that this was the biggest offshore oil spill in American history, legal experts said, and serves as a warning for the oil companies that continue to drill in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, where high pressures and temperatures in the wells test the most modern drilling technologies.
“We are pleased,” United States Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said of the ruling. “The court’s finding will ensure that the company is held fully accountable for its recklessness.”
The decision also casts a cloud over BP’s future. Its reputation has already been sullied and important holdings in Russia are at risk because of tensions in Ukraine. In addition to the $28 billion in claim payments and cleanup costs it has paid, BP has been forced to divest itself of more than 10 percent of its oil and gas reserves, along with valuable pipelines and refining facilities to pay claims and increase its profitability. BP shares fell by nearly 6 percent Thursday, closing at $44.89.
In a statement, BP said it “strongly disagrees with the decision” and would immediately appeal to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. BP added that the ruling was “not supported by the evidence at trial,” and that “the law is clear that proving gross negligence is a very high bar that was not met in this case.”
Federal judge Carl Barbier apportioned 67 percent of the blame for the spill to BP.
In a toughly worded 153-page decision, Judge Barbier reconstructed the timeline from the risky decision to drill more deeply before stopping to the hellish final minutes of hissing gas and raining mud, concluding with the deadly fireball that erupted on the night of April 20, 2010.
We the people self-righteously ignore our collective culpability. We bemoan all the impacts of fossil fuel use yet, when it comes down to sacrifice, we are partners with global corporate powers.
The hasty effort to temporarily shut down a drilling operation that was over budget and behind schedule led to what Judge Barbier called “a chain of failures” culminating in the explosion and spill.
Vital seals and stoppers were left leaky along the casing of the well, the judge found, while BP then skimped on tests that might have shown the problems caused by the shoddy work. When tests were run, the results were interpreted with optimism at best and dishonesty at worst, and several critical decisions made by BP were found by Judge Barbier to have been “primarily driven by a desire to save time and money, rather than ensuring that the well was secure.”
In a central episode, Judge Barbier highlighted a phone call between a senior BP employee on the rig and an engineer in Houston that took place roughly 40 minutes before the explosion. In the call, the two men discussed the results of a pressure test that should have prompted quick action to prevent an impending blowout. BP did not mention this call in its own investigative report, an omission Judge Barbier found suspicious.
While acknowledging responsibility for the accident, BP had long argued that the blame should be fully shared with Transocean, the owner of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, and Halliburton, a contractor that oversaw a critical step in closing up the well.
While Judge Barbier did find the other companies had acted with negligence, he concluded that only BP, which leased the well and was in charge of the operation, was grossly negligent. He apportioned 67 percent of the blame for the spill to BP, 30 percent to Transocean and 3 percent to Halliburton.
“Transocean’s failures,” the judge wrote at one point, “largely concern its inability (due in part to further failures by BP) to stop the catastrophe BP set in motion.”
BP has already pleaded guilty to manslaughter and other charges and agreed to pay $4 billion in federal criminal penalties. But the company’s ultimate civil liability is far from determined.
The ruling only pertains to the first phase of a federal civil trial, concerning the responsibility of the blowout itself. Judge Barbier still must rule on how much oil was spilled in the accident, the subject of a trial that took place in the fall of last year. A third phase, scheduled to start in January, will lead to a final determination of penalties under the Clean Water Act.
This week Halliburton reached a $1.1 billion settlement with individual and business plaintiffs. Last year, Transocean agreed to pay $1.4 billion to settle federal criminal and civil charges, which is likely to cover most of its liability.
Legal scholars said BP faced an uphill struggle in the appeals process.
David M. Uhlmann, a law professor at the University of Michigan, who headed the environmental crimes section of the Justice Department from 2000 to 2007, highlighted the judge’s decision that “the government did not need to show BP was aware of the risks associated with its conduct” to be found grossly negligent.
But the judge went on to say, Mr. Uhlmann said, that “even if they had to show awareness of risk, the government had satisfied that burden.”
CAMPBELL ROBERTSON and CLIFFORD KRAUSS|SEPT. 4, 2014
Gov. Scott pledges major spending on environmental programs if re-elected
MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. Aug 04, 2014—Governor Rick Scott unveiled his plan to invest $1-billion in Florida’s water supply over the next ten years during a campaign stop in Martin County Monday.
It’s part of Scott’s statewide “Let’s Keep Florida Beautiful” tour highlighting his goals for the environment should he be re-elected for a second term as governor.
Scott is pledging $500-million to invest in alternative water supply and $500-million for springs restoration.
Scott said cleaning up the St. Lucie Estuary is a priority and said he is committed to sending water from Lake Okeechobee south into the Everglades.
The governor plans on creating a position in his office to work with Florida’s congressional delegation to secure federal funding for these projects.
Scott also wants to fund the completion of water storage projects along Lake Okeechobee and lobby Congress to match the funds.
The governor proposed the formation of a renewed Indian River Lagoon Estuary Program, modeled after a similar program in Tampa.
[Of course he unveils his plan in an election year after he has spent the last three years dismantling every environmental program he could find. Hopefully, people will recognize it for what it is – too little, too late.]
Calls to Action
Tell the USDA and EPA to protect monarch butterflies and stop approving pesticide –resistant GMO crops – here
MAKE FRACKING COMPANIES COME CLEAN – here
Tell the U.S. to Stop Leasing Mining Rights to Private Companies – here
Help Save the Tiger – here
Help Protect Common Loon from Dirty Oil Spills – here
Protect Drinking Water from Coal Companies – here
Protect communities from toxic drinking water – here
Birds and Butterflies
The Monarch Butterflies Migrating Now Aren’t The Ones You Saw Last Spring
Fall is just around the corner throughout most of North America.
You’ve probably noticed that your local birds are preparing for it— and so are our many of our butterflies.
Monarch butterflies are famous for their annual migrations. Some of these insects travel thousands of miles each fall—an astonishing distance for such fragile creatures.
Yet few people realize that the Monarchs we see in the spring are not necessarily the same ones that fluttered past in the fall.
Beginning in late September, the skies along the Gulf Coast of Texas slowly become filled with meandering groups of Monarchs. Their flight, while not hurried, is purposeful, moving southwest toward a small forest in the highlands of Central Mexico. These butterflies travel from southern Canada and the northern United States at a rate of approximately 50 miles per day. They’ll spend the winter in a few small groves of evergreen trees, with each grove containing as many as 20 million butterflies. Sheltered from the wind and snow, the butterflies conserve energy, for they still have a lot of work ahead of them.
The Monarchs become active again in February. Mating begins, and the air fills with swirling masses of copulating pairs. The first warm days of late March trigger their northward flight. A close look at these butterflies, now eight months old, reveals that their wings are faded and tattered. Still, the Monarchs fan out across the southern United States, looking for Milkweed plants on which to deposit their eggs.
Four days later, the eggs hatch, producing small caterpillars that immediately begin to feed on the Milkweed leaves. Ten to fifteen days later, each caterpillar stops feeding and forms its chrysalis—a beautiful soft green jewel flecked with gold. In another ten to fifteen days the chrysalis splits open, and a new Monarch emerges.
This generation of butterflies mates, lays eggs, and dies within the span of a few weeks. During this time it moves north, following the progress of spring and the emergence of Milkweed.
By the end of summer, two more of these short-lived generations will have repeated the process, ultimately coming to inhabit the Milkweed patches in the far north latitudes.
Thus the Monarchs born in the Northeast and Canada in September are the great great grandchildren of the last Monarchs to inhabit the area. These are the ones that will head to Mexico. They’re significantly larger than the three generations that preceded them and still sexually immature. Rather than mate and lay eggs, they seek out nectar-producing flowers. The nectar serves two purposes: some of it fuels the southward migration, and some of it is converted to fat reserves that sustain the butterflies through the winter.
This incredible annual cycle applies to all Monarchs east of the Rockies. The populations in the West follow a similar pattern, though their migratory path is westward, from the Great Basin to overwintering sites along the Pacific Coast.
Since 1992 MonarchWatch has been carefully tracking Monarch Butterflies as they migrate. Much of their data comes from the work of volunteers who tag and track the butterflies.
eNature|August 28, 2014
A Startling Number of North America’s Birds Are Threatened by Climate Change
A new first-of-its kind study from the National Audubon Society has painted a grim outlook for North America’s bird species, estimating that half of them will be severely impacted by climate change if global warming continues at its current rate.
The study comes on the heels of another report from the World Wildlife Fund that predicted climate change will cause major bird extinctions. As Care2′s Judy Molland wrote earlier this month, scientists have already found declines of up to 90 percent in some bird populations, as well as total and unprecedented reproductive failure in others.
For this study, ornithologists analyzed 30 years of North American climate data and tens of thousands of historical bird observations from the Audubon Christmas Bird Count and U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Breeding Bird Survey, in addition to climate projections from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to figure out where birds are now and what kind of conditions they need to survive.
Of the 588 North American bird species Audubon studied, scientists predicted that climate change will lead to an estimated 314 species losing more than half of their habitat or more by 2080 in the U.S. and Canada.
Of the 314 species at risk, 126 of them are classified as climate endangered, meaning they are estimated to lose more than 50 percent of their range by 2050. Another 188 species are considered climate threatened and are expected to lose more than 50 percent of their range by 2080.
“It’s a punch in the gut. The greatest threat our birds face today is global warming,” said Audubon Chief Scientist Gary Langham, who led the study. “That’s our unequivocal conclusion after seven years of painstakingly careful and thorough research. Global warming threatens the basic fabric of life on which birds — and the rest of us — depend, and we have to act quickly and decisively if we are going to avoid catastrophe for them and for us.”
Ornithologists believe some birds may be able to adapt to changes, but many others will not and we’re now at risk of losing some of our most beloved and iconic species. Bald Eagles are expected to lose more than 75 percent of their summer range over the next 65 years, while a handful of others including Trumpeter swans, White-headed Woodpeckers, Northern Gannets and the Northern Saw-whet Owl could lose more than 99 percent or more of their range.
You can search Audubon’s new climate site by your state or province, or by your favorite bird, to see what the future is estimated to be like for them in 2020, 2050 and 2080.
Audubon and others hope this study, which was funded in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will help guide future conservation efforts and management decisions to help these birds survive, and that it will inspire us to take steps now to protect birds in peril and the habitats they rely on, especially for birds who have specialized habitats.
“Millions of people across the country will take this threat personally because birds matter to them,” said Audubon President and CEO David Yarnold. “For bird lovers, this issue transcends nasty political posturing; it’s a bird issue. And we know that when we do the right things for birds, we do the right things for people too. Everyone can do something, from changing the plants in their backyard to working at the community and state level to protect the places birds will need to survive and promote clean energy. We are what hope looks like to a bird.”
While the predictions are sobering, there are things we can do now to help birds survive an ever changing landscape that range from supporting policies that will lower greenhouse gas emissions and increase clean energy to helping birds by creating bird-friendly habitats in our backyards. Simple actions that can include doing things from letting dead trees stay and providing food to planting native plants, abandoning pesticides and learning more about how to help keep birds safe from collisions with windows can all help them survive.
You can also sign up for Audubon’s next citizen science project, which will involve helping track how birds are reacting to climate change, check out other projects here or get involved with efforts to protect your local Important Bird Area.
Cornell University’s Lab or Ornithology also offers a number of ways to get involved, some in partnership with Audubon, from eBird, which supports a globally accessible database on bird observations, and Project Feederwatch to NestWatch, Celebrate Urban Birds, YardMap and the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Alicia Graef|September 12, 2014
11 of the Best Bird-Watching Spots for Fall
Project Puffin – Sharing Success
I am just back from Japan where I attended the 26th International Ornithological Congress (IOC). The conference occurs every four years to share achievements in advancing the study of birds. This year about 1,200 ornithologists flocked to Tokyo from around the world to share a wide range of papers and posters that relate to the study and conservation of birds. The number of conservation papers was notable – 24% of the 925 papers and posters focused on bird conservation- a heartening proportion in a world where every bird is a ‘canary in the coal mine’ and many species struggle to survive because of human caused threats.
I attended the meeting to share a paper reviewing methods for restoring seabird nesting colonies using social attraction (decoys and audio recordings) and translocation of seabird chicks. I reported on a survey that found the methods have been used in 14 countries to benefit at least 47 seabird species. I also participated in a round table discussion about tern colony restoration and met with colleagues that have just completed a very successful season helping the critically endangered Chinese Crested Tern. In part because of that success, plans are now taking shape in Okinawa to restore colonies of Roseate Terns using social attraction methods.
I was proud to discover that three of Project Puffin’s former interns were presenting papers about their research at the IOC. Dr. Lin Cao, an intern in 2007 and now a professor of ornithology at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, gave a plenary talk to all attendees in which she discussed waterfowl conservation issues in the East Asian Flyway; Dr. Phil Battley, a 1991 Project Puffin intern, described his ground breaking research about the non-stop migration of Bar-tailed Godwits from Alaska to his home country of New Zealand where he now teaches at Massey University. Also, Alison Kocek, a 2007-2008 island supervisor for Project Puffin (now working on her Ph.D. at Syracuse University) discussed her research about the impact of ocean level rise on salt marsh sparrows in coastal New York.
I left the meeting encouraged that so many ornithologists from around the world are committed to bird conservation. The challenges are enormous, but species by species, new champions are appearing that are stepping up to save wild birds.
Stephen Kress|Director|Project Puffin
Florida Panthers Leaving Their Marks Across More of Polk
Florida panthers are moving through more parts of Polk County, according to state wildlife officials.
In February, a state biologist photographed panther tracks in the Green Swamp not far from U.S. 27 north of Davenport.
A panther was injured after it was hit by a vehicle east of Fort Meade in April. The animal is scheduled to be returned to the wild after its rehabilitation.
In recent years, Florida panthers have been tracked or photographed in the Avon Park Air Force Range east of Frostproof and at Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park east of Haines City.
“Panther Crossing” signs were erected several years ago along State Road 60 east of Lake Wales, not far from where a panther was hit and killed by a vehicle in 2007.
These big cats, which once ranged all over much of the Southeast, declined due to human persecution and loss of habitat to the point that the last surviving animals’ only refuge lay in remote areas of southwest Florida south of the Caloosahatchee River by the time they were classified as an endangered species in 1973.
The more frequent number of confirmed sightings is one measure of recovery efforts that have sought to increase the population of an animal that was once in danger of disappearing from the Florida landscape the way Carolina parakeets and ivory-billed woodpeckers did.
They are the last large native predator roaming Florida’s landscape.
Their extinction would signal the loss of wild Florida, supporters say.
Red wolves also once roamed Florida’s wilds, but the last one was reportedly shot near Lake Kissimmee in the 1920s.
But the increased number of panther sightings is not all good news.
Every panther whose presence has been documented in Central Florida so far has been a male, according to a state wildlife scientist.
“Once they go north of the Caloosahatchee River, they don’t return, which limits the breeding pool,” said Jennifer Korn, Florida panther specialist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Males are more likely to roam for a couple of reasons.
They usually require a territory of at least 200 square miles, an area about 10 percent of the size of Polk County, to avoid conflicts with males that have already established territories.
They also roam in search of mates, unaware that there are none to be found upstate.
Female panthers tend to remain closer to the site where they were born, Korn said, though some have been establishing territories closer to the Caloosahatchee River in recent years.
“The last female panther found north of the river was one captured in Glades County in the 1970s,” she said.
Florida panthers, which appeared on the verge of extinction 40 years ago, have been the focus of an extensive recovery effort.
One of the key parts of the recovery effort was to bring in Texas cougars to improve the Florida cats’ genetic makeup.
Years of inbreeding among a small population had created a situation where undesirable recessive traits, ranging from heart defects to reproductive problems, had become common.
In addition to restoring the population’s genetics, the recovery effort involved constructing wildlife underpasses beneath busy highways, expanding protected habitat and extensive monitoring.
The underpasses were designed to reduce the number of panthers being hit and killed by vehicles.
Nevertheless, 74 panthers have been killed by vehicles within the past five years, according to FWC statistics.
The other measures were designed to provide more room for the remaining panthers to hunt and breed and to track their movements.
Korn said protecting habitat where panthers are likely to disperse continues to be a key part of the recovery strategy.
“There’s a lot of work to create protected corridors,” she said, explaining it has involved a mixture of land purchases and acquisition of conservation easements on large tracts of agricultural land that offers relatively undisturbed lands where panthers can roam.
Scientists have known for decades that Florida panthers occasionally prey on cattle and other livestock.
Recently, there have been increased discussions of coming up with a compensation program for livestock owners when there is a confirmed panther attack.
Meanwhile, as the Florida panther population has increased from fewer than 30 animals in the 1980s to between 100 and 180 today, FWC officials have stepped up efforts to collect valid reports of sightings of Florida panthers and Florida black bears, which also occasionally find their way to Polk County, or their tracks.
According to a recent news release, in the past two years FWC officials report receiving 1,537 panther sightings, 275 of which have been verified.
Even though many of the sightings turn out to be other animals or are unidentifiable, wildlife officials stress they encourage the public’s participation.
“Someone’s excitement about seeing a Florida panther or black bear may translate into important scientific information if that sighting is reported to the FWC,” said Carol Knox, the FWC’s Imperiled Species Management section leader.
“By doing so, they are contributing to conservation of Florida’s largest land mammals.”
To submit photographs of panthers or panther tracks, go to www.MyFWC.com/PantherSightings
Tom Palmer|THE LEDGER|September 13, 2014
America’s Heartland: Going, Going, Gone
The wide open prairies of America’s heartlands are disappearing — just as the mighty bison that once roamed them by the millions almost did.
In just a few weeks, wild bison will set foot on prairies east of the Mississippi River for the first time in more than 100 years. And reintroducing them to these critical lands at the Conservancy’s Nachusa Grasslands Preserve could hold the key to preserving the once-decimated prairie for generations to come.
Today prairies are more threatened than the Amazon rainforest.
And our work at Nachusa is the next exciting chapter in our long history of reuniting bison and the prairies that need them to truly thrive.
Because grazing bison keep nature in balance on our prairies like nothing else can. They eat fast-growing grasses that threaten to take over. They break up the ground so native seeds and beautiful wildflowers can take root. All of which makes prime habitat for birds, insects and wildlife that otherwise couldn’t survive.
That’s why reintroducing bison has been essential to our prairie conservation work for decades. And it’s why this release at Nachusa in Illinois is so vital. One of the few thriving grasslands left on the planet, Nachusa was once 400 acres of dingy, brush-filled, overgrown prairie and bison are an important piece needed for its transformation.
Releasing the bison is only the beginning. Just like other Conservancy preserves like Dunn Ranch and Broken Kettle, we’ll study the conservation impact the bison will have on the prairie so the lessons we learn here can be used far and wide. And we’ll need to grow the herd to ensure healthy breeding for years to come.
Jennifer Koper|Associate Director|Digital Membership|The Nature Conservancy
Call for greater protection of endangered lynx in the US
New rules reduce rare wild cat’s critical habitat despite extending legal protection in 48 states, conservationists say
The US federal government will extend protection to all imperiled Canada lynx in the lower 48 states, but wildlife advocates said on Thursday it was ignoring important parts of the rare cats’ range and vowed to challenge the move in court.
Thickly furred lynx roam through high country from Maine to Washington and south through the Rocky Mountains. They are classified as threatened in the lower 48 states under the Endangered Species Act.
Amid calls from conservation groups for greater protections, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) said in a rule to be published on Friday that it was extending the act’s protection to all lynx “where found” in the contiguous United States. The law broadly bans killing or injuring imperiled animals without a special permit.
“Our final rule provides the lynx, one of only seven wild cat species in the nation, with what it needs to persist and thrive for future generations of Americans,” said Noreen Walsh, the service’s regional director for the Mountain Prairie region.
Separately, the service is designating some 38,954 sq. m (100,891 sq. km) in Idaho, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Washington and Wyoming, which it said “constitute our current best assessment of the areas that meet the definition of critical habitat” for lynx.
WildEarth Guardians, one of the groups which has sued the federal government over lynx protections in the past, applauded the fact the new rule extended safeguards to all lynx, including a population in New Mexico that had been overlooked.
But it said it was disappointed over the separate issue of critical habitat designation, saying the federal authorities had reduced the overall area by 2,593 sq m (6,716 sq km) from what was proposed by the service last year.
A designation of critical habitat gives greater protections to environments which threatened species rely on to survive, and imposes restrictions on activities such as mining, logging and snowmobiling in the high country where lynx are found.
Drew Kerr, a carnivore advocate for WildEarth Guardians, said the new designation ignored important parts of the cats’ range extending from southern Wyoming, through Colorado, to northern New Mexico. Sections of Washington state, Oregon, Idaho and Montana were also excluded, he added.
His group and the Western Environmental Law Centre plan to challenge the “inadequate” designation in federal court.
“By ignoring huge swathes of currently occupied lynx habitat, the Service is undermining lynx recovery efforts yet again,” Kerr said.
An FWS spokesman said it was the service’s policy not to comment on possible lawsuits.
Conservation groups sued Idaho wildlife managers and the governor in June, saying the state violated the Endangered Species Act by allowing traps and snares set by hunters in habitat favored by lynx.
A similar lawsuit was filed against Montana last year, contending that at least nine of the cats had been illegally caught because of trapping and snaring aimed at animals such as wolves and bobcats.
Reuters|theguardian.com|12 September 2014
Bangladesh meet begins to save endangered tigers
Some 140 tiger experts and government officials from 20 countries met in the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Sunday to review progress towards an ambitious goal of doubling their number in the wild by 2022.
The nations, including the 13 where tigers are still found in the wild, had vowed at a landmark meeting in 2010 in the Russian city of St Petersburg to double the population of critically endangered wild tigers.
Experts say the number declined to as few as 3,200 in 2010 from 100,000 only a century ago. But since then, poaching has reached critical levels and has emerged as the greatest threat to wild tigers.
Statistics from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that a minimum of 1,590 tigers were seized between January 2000 and April 2014. That represents an average of two per week.
Officials, however, listed some progress in the four years since the St Petersburg summit, including a rise in the wild tiger population in major “tiger range” nations — countries where the big cats are found in the wild.
“There has been some increase in the number of tigers in significant countries such as India, Nepal and Russia,” said Andrey Kushlin, program manager of the Global Tiger Initiative.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the conference, saying efforts to conserve the wild cats have reached a “turning point”.
But her own government has been under fire from experts at home and abroad for setting up a giant coal-fired power plant on the edge of the Sundarbans mangrove forests, home to one of the largest tiger populations.
Local experts fear the 1,320-megawatt power plant now being built will pollute the water of the world’s largest mangrove forest, jeopardizing its delicate biodiversity and threatening the tiger population.
Bangladesh says some 440 Bengal tigers live in its part of the Sundarbans — a figure disputed by local experts who say the number will be less than 200.
Kushlin said at the conference the 13 range nations are expected to agree by 2016 to provide an accurate census of their wild tiger populations.
“We need accurate figures so that we know where we stand,” said Kushlin, who also works for the World Bank.
The 13 tiger range countries are: Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Russia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed the tiger as critically endangered. Poaching, encroachment on its habitat and the illegal wildlife trade are blamed for the declining number.
The conference will end Tuesday with the adoption of a Dhaka Declaration, which will set actions for the remaining eight years of the goal.
Japan Announces Plans to Start Whaling, Despite International Court Ruling
Despite an international court ruling ordering it to stop and pressure from anti-whaling nations around the world, Japan has announced that it’s working on plans to resume whaling in the Antarctic Ocean next year.
Even with a global moratorium on commercial whaling that was put in place in 1986, until this year Japan has continued slaughtering fin, minke and humpback whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary using a loophole that allows for lethal scientific research. Anti-whaling advocates have long argued that Japan has been using this loophole as a cover for commercial whaling.
In March, whales won a huge victory when the International Court of Justice in the Hague issued a long awaited ruling that ultimately ordered Japan to end its JARPA II scientific whaling program and refrain from issuing any permits or licenses in the future.
Among other issues, the court found that Japan had no justification for the quota of whales it was setting every year, had failed to consider non-lethal alternatives and that its research program fell seriously short on science.
Unfortunately, two other hunts have still taken place and it looks like Japan is going to attempt to bypass this ruling too to get its hands on whales from the Southern Ocean. Initial fears that even with the court ruling Japan would overhaul its whaling program and try again became a reality when officials announced Wednesday that it plans to start hunting in the Antarctic again next year.
In June, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sparked outrage when he announced that the country was aiming to start lethal research whaling to learn about whale populations so it could resume commercial whaling, while defending the practice as part of Japanese culture.
An official from the Japan Fisheries Agency told the AFP that now they will be working to collect “data necessary to calculate the number of whale catch allowed (once commercial whaling resumes),” and “construct a model of the Antarctic Ocean ecosystem,” adding that they will only be targeting minke whales now.
The Fisheries Agency hasn’t decided how many whales it intends to kill, but it plans to submit a modified version of its program to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) later this month.
The move is likely to be met with opposition, especially from countries including Australia and New Zealand, which challenged Japan in court. Officials from the U.S. have already spoken out about whaling and dolphin drives in the past and are now urging Japan to reconsider.
“We continue to view lethal scientific research as unnecessary in modern whale conservation and management. We encourage Japan to take this view into account when developing future research programs,” an official from the State Department told Kyodo News on the condition of anonymity.
The continued subsidies to whalers and dwindling demand for whale meat should be enough to prove slaughtering whales is neither a morally or economically smart move. Hopefully, anti-whaling nations and members of the IWC will say enough is enough.
Alicia Graef|September 4, 2014
Wild & Weird
Why Do Rattlesnakes Wear A “Mask”?
Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake Crotalus adamanteus
Those dark marks on a rattlesnake’s face are not there to reduce glare. Unlike outfielders and quarterbacks, whose black facial stripes help their vision, a rattlesnake wears a mask for other reasons. One is to disrupt the snake’s facial outline. A snake with stripes across its face is more difficult for predators to see. The effect is akin to wearing camouflage.
A second potential reason for the mask—one still unproven—is that it protects the snake’s venom from ultraviolet radiation. The dark areas on a rattlesnake’s head are above its venom sacs and can absorb UV radiation that might affect the potency of the venom beneath. For proof, wildlife biologists point to the fact that at higher altitudes, where ultraviolet rays are stronger and more harmful, the facial markings on rattlesnakes and other pit vipers are darker than the facial markings on snakes at lower altitudes.
eNature|September 01, 2014
Corps releases Central Everglades report for public, state and agency review
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Jacksonville District has released the revised final report for the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) for public, state and agency review today.
A notification has been published in the Federal Register announcing the availability of the report for its required 30-day review.
“All of the recommended revisions to the report have been completed and approved and we’re now moving forward with public, state and agency review,” said Jacksonville District commander Col. Alan Dodd. “The release of this report is a significant milestone for CEPP and reflects the extraordinary efforts of so many to successfully address complex issues and produce this quality report.”
The report is available on the project’s Web page at: www.bit.ly/CentralEverglades_CEPP
. Comments will be accepted through Sept. 8, 2014. They can be submitted electronically to:CEPPcomments@usace.army.mil
or mailed to:
Dr. Gretchen Ehlinger
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
P.O. Box 4970
Jacksonville, FL 32232-0019
The goal of CEPP is to capture water lost to tide and re-direct the water flow south to restore the central and southern Everglades ecosystem and Florida Bay. The Corps is jointly conducting this planning effort in partnership with the South Florida Water Management District.
Audubon Protects Wetlands and Wildlife in Northern Everglades
Osceola County is home to many of Florida’s Special Places. The Everglades Headwaters, the Econlockhatchee River headwaters, and the forested wetlands and marshes of the St. Johns River system are all located here. Some of Florida’s most iconic birds like Wood Storks and Audubon’s Crested Caracara call this vital area home.
In 2008, Audubon Florida and Kissimmee Valley Audubon worked with Osceola County to establish one of the most environmentally protective Local Government Comprehensive Plans in Florida. That’s why it was so shocking for citizens to learn that the Osceola County Commission voted to strip these important wetlands protections from their Comprehensive Plan, making it easier to advance development in sensitive areas.
In May of this year, Audubon challenged the County’s decision and asked that it be reviewed by an Administrative Law Judge. Today, we are proud to report that our efforts were a success.
Osceola County and Audubon have completed negotiations to restore the county’s important protections for wildlife and wetland habitat.
In Audubon vs. Osceola, a good environmental deal
Basically, the county was preparing to (literally) paved [sic] the way for development in environmentally sensitive places, putting at risk the Kissimmee River and parts of the entire Everglades Ecosystem – a region taxpayers are already spending $9 billion to restore.
So the Florida Audubon Society sued, saying the county had no right to allow such pollution.
A battle was expected. But this week, Osceola essentially said: “OK.
The county agreed to reinstate many of the protections. And they did so joyfully with Commissioner Fred Hawkins Jr. declaring: “This was a really good day for all and for future generations to come.”
Like many special places around Florida, this beautiful region is likely to be the location of significant development pressure in the future. Maintaining Osceola County’s strong protections for wetland habitat is critical for the future of our state.
Thank you to everyone who makes their voice heard for Florida’s Special Places.
Audubon Florida|Restore|September 2014
Study says U.S. can’t keep up with loss of ecologically-sensitive wetlands
Over a four-year span, the United States lost more than 360,000 acres of freshwater and saltwater wetlands to fierce storms, sea-level rise and booming development along the coasts, according to a newly released federal study.
The disappearance of so much grass and forest marsh on the edge of waterways is a disturbing sign that government projects to restore wetlands are failing to keep pace, environmentalists said, as storms intensify, the sea level creeps up and development paves the way for rising coastal populations.
Saltwater wetlands help buffer sea surges that cause flooding during powerful storms along the coasts – such as Hurricane Sandy last year – and freshwater wetlands soak up storm-water runoff that often causes sewers to overflow. They also serve as nurseries for numerous species of fish and assorted marine life, while providing habitat for three-quarters of the nation’s waterfowl and migrating birds. Nearly half of endangered species depend on them to live.
“They are getting it from all directions,” said Tom Dahl, lead author of the study funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Study areas include the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific coasts, the Great Lakes and other fresh inland waters.
In the Chesapeake Bay region, Maryland has lost 60,000 acres of wetlands since the 1940s because of population growth and farming, and in 1997 it launched a bid to restore them, according to the state’s Department of the Environment.
Virginia estimates that half of the wetlands that existed in the colonial period have been lost over time to farming and development. There is an ongoing effort in the state to restore and add to the 1 million acres that remain, according to the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality.
Across the nation, wetlands have been converted to open water in some places and to mud in others. They include mangrove swamps, salt marshes, freshwater forested swamps, shrub depressions and wetlands floating on the edges of rivers.
The disappearance of marshes during the period covered in the study – between 2004 and 2009 – represented a 25 percent increase in the rate of loss in the same areas from the previous survey , which covered the six-year period between 1998 to 2004.
Storms and wetlands have waged an epic struggle on the coasts for eons. What’s relatively new, and detrimental to the wetlands, is an explosion of coastal residential and business development, along with coastal farming, that drain water from the wetlands or fill them with dirt for agriculture, parking lots, housing and retail stores.
As a result, sizeable chunks of wetlands die. Surviving wetlands are battered by rainwater runoff pouring from newly built surfaces such as driveways and roads, and much of that water is polluted with garbage, toxins and fine particle sediment. Wetlands can’t handle the added deluge.
“The plumbing of the whole system is altered,” said Dahl, a senior scientist for wetlands status and trends for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Darryl Fears|Reporter|Washington Post
POST SPECIAL REPORT EVERGLADES RESTORATION
South Florida’s crucial water fix
Everglades restoration is a gamble, but it’s necessary if South Florida is to survive, everyone agrees.
Millions of people consider South Florida home today because thousands of miles of canals, levees and dams were built in the early 20th century to drain the Everglades and make way for neighborhoods, golf courses, malls, condos and farms.
But that monumental engineering feat also turned what was once a clear, shallow sheet of freshwater flowing freely from Lake Okeechobee to the Florida Bay into a toxic stew, slowly ruining the habitat for plants and animals in one of the Earth’s most diverse ecosystems.
It reduced the size of the Everglades by half, leaving fewer wetlands to filter water clear and more farmland and yards to fertilize. That means too little water during droughts and too much during the wet season; aquifers and wells, which provide much of the region’s drinking water, not being sufficiently recharged; and salt water creeping inland without a robust flow of fresh water underground to hold it back.
Unless Florida re-plumbs the massive drainage system and restores clean water to the once soggy region, the long-term likelihood that there will be enough water to drink, irrigate crops, fill swimming pools and make golf courses green is doubtful.
In other words, scientists, bureaucrats and farmers agree, the Everglades must be restored if South Florida is to survive.
“When you consider that 90 percent of the people in South Florida get their drinking water from the Biscayne Aquifer and the Everglades recharges the Biscayne Aquifer… the Everglades touches the lives of everyone by sustaining the water supply of the lower east coast,” said Ernie Barnett, assistant executive director at the South Florida Water Management District who has spearheaded restoration efforts for 25 years.
The envisioned fix, in the works now for nearly 40 years, is to build tens of thousands of acres of shallow wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee and then use “green technology” – plants that thrive on high levels of nutrients – to clean polluted water from farms and urban areas before the water flows to the Everglades. These shallow reservoirs, the largest man-made wetlands in the world, have required massive land purchases and extensive engineering.
Even with the best minds using the most advanced science and engineering to model what will likely happen, no one can guarantee that backfilling canals, re-routing water and building city-sized water storage and treatment areas will work on such a massive scale.
Take projects such as the A-1 Reservoir, about 35 miles west of Boca Raton, and the Ten-Mile Creek Water Preserve, near Fort Pierce. The projects were intended to help the Everglades by providing storage that would enable water managers to control flows for a consistent and reliable supply of water to keep the ecosystem properly hydrated. Taxpayers spent $300 million on the two projects. Neither worked. Both sit idle today, although water managers hope to salvage the A-1 Reservoir site with a shallow-water storage area.
Five constructed wetlands, called stormwater treatment areas, are complete and have retained 3.4 million pounds of phosphorous, according to the water management district, the state agency overseeing restoration.
Already, 14 miles of the once meandering Kissimmee River, straightened by the Army Corps of Engineers during the 1960s to provide flood control, have been restored to its slow, winding path north of Lake Okeechobee. When complete in 2015, the natural flow will be restored to another 16 miles of the river. Already wetlands have emerged and populations of wading birds, ducks and large-mouth bass are up.
And with the completion of a bridge over the Tamiami Trail in Miami-Dade County this year, a flow path was opened to allow more water into Everglades National Park.
But there’s no denying that the several decades of Everglades restoration has been a slow and often invisible process. Most efforts have focused on logistics, litigation, scientific research and negotiating land deals, and so many projects have been revised and so many deadlines missed that no one knows exactly when the restoration will end and how many billions of dollars it will cost.
In 1994, the projected completion date was 2006. In 2003, the completion date was pushed back to 2016. Construction timelines now show the restoration will be complete in 2025 and will cost $8 billion.
Little wonder. Restoration of the Everglades, after all, is the world’s largest environmental restoration project ever attempted, rivaled in size only by efforts to re-plumb the marshes of Mesopotamia, part of the fertile crescent believed by anthropologists to be one of the birthplaces of civilization. Saddam Hussein drained those wetlands in the 1990s to punish its rebellious residents, and now several non-governmental environmental groups in Iraq hope to restore the wetlands.
Early efforts to protect and restore Florida’s water resources, including the Everglades, coincided with a wave of environmental consciousness that swept the country in the 1970s. The first Earth Day, on April 22, 1970, harnessed the energy of the antiwar movement.
Besides Watergate, the birth of Microsoft and the end of the Vietnam War, the 1970s saw the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, passage of the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, the founding of Greenpeace and interest in restoring the Everglades.
In 1976, Congress approved the first Everglades-related restoration project when it authorized the Army Corps to undo a project it had finished just five years earlier. The straightening of the slow, meandering Kissimmee River was a well-intentioned effort to control flooding north of Lake Okeechobee, but its effect was devastating as it allowed polluted water from crops, dairy farms and cattle ranches to wash quickly into the river, destroying wildlife habitat and contaminating the lake – the liquid heart of the greater Everglades.
Although it took the Corps just 11 years to channelize the river, it has taken more than 36 years to restore the bends and oxbows, a lag time that would be repeated over and over with other restoration projects.
Meanwhile, the population, especially in South Florida, exploded. In 1980 the state’s population was 9.7 million. By 2000, it had jumped to 15.9 million. Today, 19.3 million people call Florida home, each using between 80 and 100 gallons of water every day.
As waterfront property became more scarce, developers gobbled up land farther west, taking out swaths of the wetlands and prairies to build new towns in what once was the Everglades. Undeveloped lands that once absorbed rainwater and recharged aquifers were paved over. A web of canals captured nutrient-laden water from backyards, citrus groves and more than 400,000 acres of sugarcane fields
and dumped it into larger canals, which carried it to Lake Okeechobee and other waterways that flowed directly into the Everglades.
Politicians spent much of the early 1980s passing legislation to protect water and restore the Everglades. A succession of Florida governors put partisan squabbling aside
and built momentum for the cause. For example, Gov. Bob Graham, a Democrat, unveiled his Save Our Everglades plan in 1983. Republican Gov. Jeb Bush championed restoration with an annual commitment of $200 million during his term.
Still, most of the progress was on paper and phosphorous levels continued to climb. Fed up with the slow progress, Dexter Lehtinen, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Florida, sued the water management district on behalf of the federal government in 1988.
The lawsuit, which continues today, accused Florida of failing to enforce its water quality standards in the Everglades. It also established a new costly front: the courtroom. Other lawsuits followed, including one filed by the Miccosukee Tribe, who hired Lehtinen after he left his government position.
More state and federal agencies, environmental groups and sugar growers found themselves mired in the costly litigation. By mid-2011, the state’s Department of Environmental Protection had spent $3.8 million on private lawyers, including one who billed $585 an hour.
A federal judge became so fed up that in April 2011 he issued a scathing order demanding progress in meeting limits on phosphorous pollution.
“None of the governmental agencies involved directly told the public the hard truth: we have not solved the problem, we do not know for sure when the problem will be solved, and we do not know if the Everglades will survive by the time we can meet the 10 parts per billion standard (if at all),” U.S. District Judge Alan S. Gold wrote.
Gold’s frustration and that of another federal judge resulted in an agreement in 2012 between state and federal agencies and environmental groups on how and when the phosphorous limits would be met. If the standard of 10 ppb of phosphorous is found to be exceeded in the Everglades, growers could face stricter methods for controlling phosphorous-rich fertilizers used on crops or the government could be forced to build more filtering wetlands.
Some say this standard came into play this summer in a way that shows that despite a century of efforts to drain, chop up and re-route the greater Everglades, it remains one system.
Billions of gallons of water from Lake Okeechobee and storm-water runoff in the Treasure Coast have been flushed into St. Lucie Estuary and Caloosahatchee River this summer, killing sea grasses, oyster beds and leaving the water unsafe for swimming.
Environmentalists say the district won’t allow more water south from Lake Okeechobee because it fears violating the 10 ppb standard in the Everglades and it doesn’t want to flood crops. The district says its storage areas south of the lake can’t take any more water until other restoration projects are complete. The Army Corps, responsible for the releases into the river and estuary, says it has been forced to release water because lake levels are so high they threaten the dike surrounding the lake.
Although restoration cannot bring back the Everglades to its original state, Barnett envisions a “Xerox reduction – an Everglades with a smaller footprint that functions like the original Everglades did.”
Unlike other construction projects paid by taxpayers, such as dams and highways, if the Everglades is successfully restored, there will be nothing to see but vacant, wet land and water splashing from your tap.
“We’re deconstructing,” said Barnett. “We want to get it to where you don’t see what was done to the Everglades. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Canals and dams were built to drain the Everglades and make way for neighborhoods, golf courses, malls and farms. That reduced the size of the Everglades by half, leaving fewer wetlands to filter water clear.
Christine Stapleton|Staff Writer|Palm Beach Post
Water Quality Issues
Petitioners aim to deep-six Keys shallow effluent injection wells
Injection wells for two Lower Keys water-treatment plants don’t go deep enough to safeguard Florida Keys waters, say environmental and homeowners groups.
Legal petitions seeking an appeal hearing on permits for shallow water-injection wells on Cudjoe Key and Stock Island have been filed with the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“A deep well is the right thing to do and we hope that [the Florida Keys Aqueduct Authority] and Monroe County decide to do the right thing,” said Ralf Brookes, who filed the July 25 petition against renewing DEP permits for the county’s regional wastewater treatment plant on Cudjoe Key.
“We have to do everything we can to protect our unique coral reef resources, which are a big part of our economy,” said Brookes, a former Monroe County land-use attorney now practicing in Cape Coral.
Tuesday, the Last Stand environmental group and Key West resident George Halloran filed a similar petition against DEP permits for two new shallow injection wells at a Stock Island wastewater treatment plant run by Key West Resort Utilities Inc., a private business that processes the island’s wastewater.
The Cudjoe petition was sparked by efforts of the Dig Deep Cudjoe group, comprising “a very informal group of citizens” concerned about effects of treated wastewater, or effluent, on nearshore waters, spokeswoman Jan Edelstein said.
The group contends the shallow wells, 12 inches in diameter, will pump effluent down 120 feet into “very porous” limestone.
Even after advanced wastewater treatment, the freshwater effluent could still hold large amounts of nitrogen and phosphorous that reach nearshore waters as a result of tidal flow through limestone, the group says.
The legal filing lists the Cudjoe Gardens Property Owners Association and the Sugarloaf Shores Property Owners Association as petitioners, along with commercial fishermen Don DeMaria of Summerland Key and Mike Laudiciana of Big Pine Key.
All petitioners “will suffer adverse effects from the large quantity and poor quality of effluent” that would sent down the shallow injection wells, it says.
“Because of the hydrogeology of the porous limestone in the area, the large volume of low-salinity, partially treated effluent injected into shallow wells will quickly rise to the surface and adversely impact the marine surface waters and ecosystems,” the petition says.
Injecting effluent into bedrock about 2,000 feet below the surface would better safeguard the marine environment, according to Dig Deep Cudjoe.
The estimated final cost of the Cudjoe Regional Wastewater System, to serve 9,000 equivalent dwelling units, is $162 million. Part of that is the treatment plant, costing $23 million. Digging a deepwater injection well would add from $6 million to $8 million, engineers said
Four shallow wells have already been drilled at a total cost of about $300,000 at the site of the Cudjoe Key wastewater plant under a 2009 DEP permit now up for renewal. The plant and wells will not be operational until 2015.
Aqueduct Authority managers and engineers who oversee Monroe County’s wastewater projects say the Cudjoe plant will not exceed the state’s legal daily limit of 1 million gallons of effluent sent to the shallow wells. Anything over 1 million gallons per day requires a deep injection well, a mandate in state rules covering the Keys’ designated “Outstanding Florida Waters.”
“We’ll probably run two wells at a time for better dispersal of the effluent injected into the ground,” FKAA engineer Tom Walker said.
The treatment plant also will have four monitoring wells that measure the outflow from the injection wells, FKAA Executive Director Kirk Zuelch said.
“If, in fact, the environment is not being protected because of nitrates or too much freshwater or whatever the issue may be,” Zuelch said, “then we go to the County Commission and say we need to do a deep well.”
Whether the plant output exceeds the state’s 1-million-gallon daily limit will be one of the issues contested in the petition hearing if it goes forward.
“The more our watchdogs dug into the regulatory and legal thicket, the more concerned they got. It seemed the deep-well rule and other regulations had been violated,” says an e-mail sent by Dig Deep Cudjoe.
The state DEP issued its notice of intent to renew the Cudjoe Key application July 14. “The application provided reasonable assurance of compliance with applicable department statutes and rules,” DEP press secretary Tiffany Cowie said. “The department’s proposed permitting action is currently in litigation.”
The debate could reach the Monroe County Commission at its Aug. 20 meeting.
“I think we should put the best system in the ground we possibly can … rather than wait until some time in the future when a future commission will have to bite the bullet,” Commissioner Danny Kolhage said in an Aug. 1 interview with US1 Radio.
Last Stand’s petition on the Stock Island plant contends peak winter use will exceed the million-gallon daily limit by more than 25 percent. The utility says it qualifies for a shallow well because its daily average, calculated over a year, falls below the limit.
KEVIN WADLOW|keynoter.com|August 9, 2014
My View: Let’s keep cleaning up Florida’s water
Floridians love water, whether it’s fishing, boating, swimming or stretching back to soak in a beautiful sunset over Apalachee Bay.
And one might say that our water loves us back. The recreational fishing industry alone supports 79,200 jobs in our state.
Then there’s tourism, a whopping $70 billion industry and a major driver of our state’s economy. Millions of people head to the Sunshine State to relax on our sparkling beaches, boat on our lakes and admire the wonders of the Everglades.
But all these waters are in jeopardy.
The Florida Department of Environmental Protection reports:
• The growth in urban development over the past decades has caused extensive habitat loss in aquatic areas and has affected the viability of fisheries in many estuarine areas.
• Right now, 28 percent of the state’s rivers and streams, 25 percent of the state’s lakes and 59 percent of the square miles of estuaries have poor water quality.
• Algal blooms and red tides like one currently threatening the west coast of Florida are increasing in frequency, duration and magnitude and could become an even greater threat in the future.
The message should be loud and clear: We need to do all we can to protect our rivers, lakes and estuaries if we want to keep our economy strong.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is currently taking comments on a proposal to do just that. The Clean Water Act, which passed with strong bipartisan support in 1972, has helped keep much of the nation’s water clean and unpolluted for 42 years. But two controversial Supreme Court decisions have left it unclear if the law applies to smaller bodies of water, such as headwater streams and smaller wetlands.
Why should Floridians care about these small streams and wetlands? All our waters are interconnected. Headwater streams are where our rivers begin. Small streams and wetlands can trap sediments, nutrients and pollutants — keeping our downstream waters clean and safe for drinking and recreation. The health and productivity of the Apalachicola River, the bay and the eastern Gulf of Mexico depend upon sufficient flows of clean water coming from the many small streams and wetlands that feed into the river upstream in Georgia and the Florida Panhandle. When wetlands are filled and streams are channelized and polluted upstream, the entire river system suffers — along with all those who depend on it.
In Bay County, for example, more than 75 percent of the stream miles are currently in this legal limbo and therefore at increased risk of pollution.
Furthermore, one acre of wetland can store up to 1.5 million gallons of flood water. A few more intact wetlands might have helped cities in the Panhandle during the unbelievable rains in May. And while that was an exceptional event, flooding in the Panhandle is not: North Florida’s Escambia and Santa Rosa counties have some of the highest flood damage costs in the U.S.
Why then is Congressman Steve Southerland championing a bill to block this protection of our waterways and wetlands? Furthermore, Congressman Southerland’s inaccurate claims — alleging that the proposal will regulate sprinkler puddles — smacks of election year fear-mongering.
The EPA proposal itself is fairly clear. It specifically carves out exceptions for normal agriculture uses while bolstering protections for our waters. Read the rule for yourself and make a comment to the EPA at http://www2.epa.gov/uswaters.
As a supporter of reduced government spending, Southerland should be backing the proposal instead of attacking it. Healthy streams and wetlands clean our waters and boost our economy. Without those services, government will spend more money to deal with problems caused by flooding and pollution.
Southerland’s constituents benefit daily from clean water and healthy wetlands. The EPA proposal would simply eliminate confusion, reinforce the original intent of the Clean Water Act and protect the waters that benefit Florida’s economy. It deserves Floridians support.
Manley Fuller|president|Florida Wildlife Federation|Jan Goldman-Carter|senior manager|wetlands and water resources|National Wildlife Federation
Great Lakes & Inland Waters
Help Protect Common Loon from Dirty Oil Spills
Few sounds are more hauntingly beautiful than the call of the common loon, a bird which has benefitted greatly from conservation efforts.
But now the waters near Lake Superior and in northern Minnesota that provide crucial habitat for loons are at significant risk of being poisoned by a dirty tar sands oil spill.
For the loons that rely on the cold waters of northern lakes and ponds to fish and breed, any oil spill can be a catastrophe. But a nearly-impossible-to-clean-up tar sands oil spill would leave loon and other wildlife habitat devastated for generations.
The recent secret deal between the State Department and oil pipeline giant Enbridge would allow tremendous increases in tar sands oil pumping through the Alberta Clipper pipeline that runs from the North Dakota/Canadian border to Superior, Wisconsin.
This agreement undermines the public process, and allows the oil company to bypass necessary environmental reviews and permitting requirements. It also subjects Great Lakes wildlife to the risks that come with more tar sands.
Last year, the State Department made a commitment to perform a thorough environmental review and require a new permit before any increase in tar sands flow through the pipeline would be allowed. Yet, a few weeks ago, a backroom deal with Enbridge was agreed to. After an outcry from conservation organizations, the State Department is now taking public comments on the impact of this secret deal that would allow more tar sands oil in the pipeline.
It’s crucial that State Department officials hear loud and clear that this deal reached behind closed doors will harm loons and the Great Lakes—and that the State Department must not allow any more tar sands into the Great Lakes region.
Adam Kolton|Executive Director|National Advocacy Center|9/13/2014
Offshore & Ocean
Threatened coral: Climate change puts 20 types at risk
The US government is putting 20 species of threatened coral on a list of threatened species.
The threatened coral are vital to the health of marine ecosystems, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Washington — The US government is protecting 20 types of colorful coral by putting them on the list of threatened species, partly because of climate change.
“Coral reefs are one of the most biologically diverse ecosystems on Earth, providing habitat for many marine species. Protecting and conserving these biologically rich ecosystems is essential, and the Endangered Species Act gives us the tools to conserve and recover those corals most in need of protection,” Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, said in a press release. “The final decision is a result of the most extensive rulemaking ever undertaken by NOAA. The amount of scientific information sought, obtained and analyzed was unprecedented.”
Five species can be found off the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The other 15 are in the Pacific Ocean area near Guam and American Samoa.
NOAA originally looked at listing 66 species, but Wednesday listed only 20 for various reasons. All are called threatened, not endangered. Coral reefs, which are in trouble worldwide, are important fish habitats.
Coral reefs are critical to the health of marine ecosystems, and they face severe threats. Coral reefs world-wide have declined significantly — some individual species have declined by at least 90 percent. Healthy coral reefs provide shoreline protection for coastal communities and habitat for a variety of species, including commercially important fish. These benefits are lost when corals are degraded.
Staff|Associated Press|August 28, 2014
For more information, visit the NOAA site.
Aussies Back Off on Dumping Sludge on Great Barrier Reef
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world — it’s even listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sadly, it’s also in trouble. The reef is facing serious damage as a result of climate change, environmental practices in Australia itself and now, a proposed plan involving a coal depot that has devolved into a complicated boondoggle that highlights the tensions between environmental protections, corporate interests and the environmental movement itself.
Can Australians make the right decision for this fragile and critical environmental site?
It started as a plan to expand an existing coal project, Abbot Point, which already provides deepwater access to ships arriving off the coast of Queensland State to collect coal — a major source of profits for Australia. Developers wanted to expand the port, which would have involved dredging to facilitate ship access. Dredging creates substantial amounts of rock, silt and other material that has to go somewhere when it’s removed, and the first proposal was to dump it alarmingly close to the Great Barrier Reef.
This plan was initially approved by Australia’s federal government, causing immediate concern among environmentalists. It also attracted attention from UNESCO, which had already been considering listing the Great Barrier Reef as a threatened site due to the ongoing environmental issues it’s facing. Environmentalists filed a suit pressuring the government to reconsider the plan, and, finally, the government agreed to shift the dredged material to land.
The story isn’t over yet, though, as environmentalists have concerns about where on land the waste will be dumped. Those concerns are rather valid, given that the volume of material is roughly equivalent to the Great Pyramid of Giza. The government says it will be used for landfilling and community improvements, but the proposed dumping site is perilously near the Caley Valley wetlands, an ecologically fragile site that hosts a number of precious bird species. Environmental advocates want proof that the government really is backing down on the plan to dump dredged materials near the reef — and some don’t want to see dredging at all.
Dredging near reefs has been linked with coral disease, a serious environmental problem. Even if the dredged material isn’t dumped near the reef, minimizing the risk of silt spillage and related problems, disturbances in the ocean floor around reefs aren’t healthy. Worryingly, the coral disease seen most commonly around dredging sites is white syndrome, in which all tissue is effectively stripped, meaning that the remaining coral has no chance of recovery if the site is subsequently protected. Increased ship traffic created by the newly-dredged channel could also present a threat to the health of the Great Barrier Reef, yet another concern for advocates concerned with this precious piece of Australian, and global, heritage.
There are also concerns about the rush associated with the project. The dumping was originally approved by a government staffer with no experience in marine conservation who actually went against advice from scientists, and now that the government is backing down and pushing a land-based plan, it’s attempting to rush the plan through as quickly as possible in the interest of coal mining companies that plan on using the port to expand their operations and increase sales.
The government is also under the gun because of a requested review from UNESCO — the agency wants the Australian government to submit information on the conservation status of the reef next year. Rather than galloping to a conclusion on the controversial project, environmentalists want to bring the government back to the table to discuss whether the site should be dredged at all, and, if so, where the removed materials can be most effectively and safely used.
Of course, the situation brings up a larger issue: Should Australia be promoting its coal industry at all, given the environmental costs of coal mining and the use of coal as a fuel?
s.e. smith|September 12, 2014
Australia’s EPA Rejects Cruel Shark Cull
In a major win for sharks and their advocates, Australia’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recommended Western Australia (WA) end its controversial shark killing program.
After a series of fatal attacks, WA’s government proposed a new program in an effort to keep beachgoers safe that involved setting out baited drum lines, which consist of a large baited hook attached to a buoy and an anchor to hold it in place, in designated zones along popular beaches with the intention of killing great white sharks, bull sharks and tiger sharks who were larger than three meters.
The plan sparked outrage from conservation organizations, local communities. politicians, celebrities and marine scientists from around the world who criticized it for being nothing more than a pointless cull that would have a devastating impact on marine ecosystems, while doing nothing to really keep people safe. Concerned Care2 member Holly Jade decided to do something about it and started a petition demanding an end to the horrible practice. Thanks to Holly’s petition, over 38,000 Care2 members were able to express their frustration by signing her petition.
This past May, government figures that were released showing the death toll added fuel to the opposition. Between January and April, 172 sharks were caught, while 50 tiger sharks longer than 10 feet were killed. Figures also show that 14 sharks measuring less than 10 feet died on the drum line and four more were destroyed because they were too weak to survive the ordeal. Stingrays and mako sharks, who are a protected species, were killed as bycatch on drum lines. Yet not a single great white, who are believed to be responsible for the fatal attacks, was caught.
Thankfully, this week the EPA announced that it recommended against continuing the program, which was supposed to be extended for another three years, over concerns about how it could hurt the population of great whites, who are a protected species, and because of “a high degree of scientific uncertainty” after assessing the program as part of a Public Environmental Review.
“At this stage, the available information and evidence does not provide the EPA with a high level of confidence. In view of these uncertainties, the EPA has adopted a cautious approach by recommending against the proposal,” said the EPA’s chairman Paul Vogel.
The recommendation means no drum lines will be put in the water this summer, which will keep sharks safer and should thrill the thousands of people who have spoken out against the cull. According to news reports, the EPA’s review received a record amount of public input.
“The EPA should be congratulated for listening to the people, listening to the science and giving sharks and future generations the respect they deserve. The worlds children need healthy oceans and healthy oceans need sharks,” said Sea Shepherd’s Managing Director Jeff Hansen.
While there will be a two week window for a public appeal before the EPA releases its final verdict on the matter in October, and a final decision will be up to WA’s Environment Minister Albert Jacobs, Premier Colin Barnett said he was disappointed with the results, but would accept them adding that it was unlikely the government would appeal the decision. It will still also need to be approved by Environmental Minister Greg Hunt, who shark advocates hope will sign-off on canceling the program.
Those who have been working to save sharks from an inhumane death on drum lines are still hoping the government will look to other non-lethal measures to help improve public safety from increased aerial patrols and shark barriers to more education for the public.
If there’s something you feel passionate about and you want to make a difference, you can start a Care2 petition just like Holly Jade. Care2′s community of activists will help rally behind your cause and make it a success.
Alicia Graef|September 12, 2014
Bye Bye Bycatch? Smart Nets That Save Fish
Six years ago, the Norwegian coast guard filmed a Scottish fishing vessel riding gray swells, dumping 5 metric tons of dead fish back into the North Sea. Over the European Union catch quota, and so unable to keep all the fish they’d caught, the fishermen had to ditch some. To the Norwegians, who aren’t part of the EU and hold a strict discards ban, the waste was shocking.
When this news reached Dan Watson, a young British designer, it became the inspiration for SafetyNet, an ocean fishing net that allows certain fish to escape via lighted rings, offering more catch selectivity. The Scottish fishermen’s predicament, he believed, was driven by their lack of control. “There can be no villains, there can be no victims, there are just problems,” Watson says. “I started this project because I wanted to go some way towards solving that problem.”
Watson joins a growing number of innovators designing more selective fishing gear to reduce bycatch—the unwanted fish, dolphins, whales and birds that get scooped up by longlines, gillnets and trawlers each year and then discarded. Globally, the amount of marine life that is wasted or unmanaged—which makes it potentially unsustainable—forms about 40 percent of the catch. “The way we catch now is to catch everything, decide what we want to keep, and discard the rest,” says Martin Hall, head of the bycatch program at the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission, which regulates tuna fishing in the eastern Pacific Ocean. Bycatch can result in overfishing, reduces the population of species that might already be endangered and, on the largest scale, interrupts food chains and damages whole ecosystems. It also amounts to an enormous waste of valuable fish protein.
To designers building better nets and lines, bycatch isn’t viewed as an inevitability, but as something we can phase out, piece by piece. It’s also seen as a battle that needs to be fought alongside fishermen, not against them.
Speaking from his trawler, the 45-foot Proud Mary, off the coast of Massachusetts, one such fisherman, Christopher Brown, says that over the years, fishermen have had to “rethink the game.” Brown operates a fishery that’s almost completely free of discards; is the board president of the Seafood Harvesters of America, an organization representing stewardship-minded fishermen; and has designed a squid net that reduces bycatch. The net contains an escape route at its base that exploits the bottom-dwelling behavior of unwanted flounder, encouraging them to flee the net through this gap. “We need to look at things entirely differently than we have in the last 30 years,” Brown says—and new gear is part of that equation. “It’s a matter of enlightened self-interest.”
Brown may seem unconventional, but more and more, fishermen are the ones both driving change and being consulted like clients about new gear. “The main focus has to be the fisherman,” says Watson. “You have to build something the fisherman is going to use.”
For designers, the next challenge is gaining capital. Although Watson has been working on his SafetyNet design for five years, and even though it won the prestigious James Dyson design award in 2012, it’s still staggeringly expensive, and Watson has had difficulty hiring a boat that will try out his net on open water.
Designed to free both young and endangered fish, the SafetyNet works by using fitted LED rings, which flash like exit signs to alert smaller fish. The fish can then escape by squeezing through the rings. There’s also a panel in the net that separates tighter mesh at the top from larger mesh below, allowing nontarget, bottom-dwelling species such as cod to escape through the bigger holes. With lights and panel working in tandem, “You can start almost herding the fish under the water,” Watson says.
There is no silver-bullet solution for a problem as broad as bycatch; instead, each new piece of gear responds uniquely to a species’ size, shape and behavior. “The more we know about the ways we can stop different things being caught, the more we can make bespoke nets,” Watson says. As Hall puts it, “Slowly, you attack the different angles of the problem, and you solve it.”
Of course, there’s the inevitable economic caveat. Just as Watson has fought for funding, money is an obstacle for the industry too, slowing the scale-up of new gear across fisheries. Fishermen support innovation, but they can’t be expected to lose money over it, says Barrie Deas, chief executive for the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organizations, which represents fishermen in the UK. “Technical innovation is one thing. It’s the economic consequences of doing that [that matters],” he says. “People will seek economic ways to fish.”
It’s easy to argue back that changes in gear should just be legislated—but that rarely works, says Deas, if fishermen aren’t already onboard. “It’s not so much the designed gear that’s the problem,” he says. “But if the attempt is made to introduce it in a top-down bureaucratic way with top-down prescriptive legislation, the last 20 years has told us that doesn’t work.”
Going some way to bridge this financial gap and to bring collaborative, bottom-up thinking to gear design, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) runs a regular competition called the International Smart Gear Competition that gives academics, conservationists and fishermen the chance to share their ideas.
“What we have learned is that you need an incentive to get started,” says Hall, who doubles as a competition judge. And that incentive is cash. For each competition cycle, sponsors partner with WWF to generate the prize money. This year, $65,000 will be awarded—the grand prize will be $30,000, with runners-up receiving the rest. “The extent of the support depends on the amount of money we can raise, so in some years, it’s been better than others,” says Michael Osmond, Smart Gear’s senior project officer.
The prize money goes to notable designers to help them build, try out and, they hope, introduce their gear into fisheries. “I think that attitudes have changed a lot over the last decade,” Osmond says. “With our competition, a lot of the winning ideas have come from fishermen themselves.”
This collaborative environment has delivered some serious successes. In 2011, designers hacked LED fishing lights ordinarily used to attract fish and repurposed them to drive turtles away instead. Globally, dense pockets of gillnets unintentionally snare and drown thousands of turtles each year because they’re almost invisible underwater, says John Wang, project leader and a researcher with the Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research who works as a fisheries research ecologist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But if LED lights are fixed onto nets and tuned to a wavelength turtles can see, turtles recognize the nets as barriers and cruise by. As Wang puts it, “We have a selective communication channel to the turtles.” With this tool, they’ve reduced bycatch by up to 60 percent during trials in Mexico, Peru and Indonesia, and are now working with U.S. fisheries too.
It’s not just about turtles, though: “What we’re beginning to see is that the wavelength has some interesting properties. Different wavelengths affect fish in different ways,” Wang says. Now, he’s working on illuminating nets with ultraviolet light to steer hammerhead sharks away.
Judged by global impact, Smart Gear’s biggest success story is arguably the Eliminator Trawl, a 2007 winner built to address cod shortages by allowing cod to escape nets in New England haddock fisheries.
The brainchild of fishermen, designers and academics—“a real collaborative effort,” says Laura Skrobe, Eliminator team member and fisheries scientist at Rhode Island University—the net frees down-swimming cod through the large mesh at the base, reducing bycatch by 80 percent. A tighter mesh at the top herds in haddock, which tend to swim upward. The net also significantly cuts dogfish, plaice and lobster catch—all without hurting the haddock fishery.
During trials, the team had to sell the catch from the first three trawls just to afford the fourth. But despite hurdles, “the fishermen were really the ones who pushed it,” says Skrobe. “Our fishermen will be conservationists themselves whether or not their managers tell them to. We’re just providing tools for the toolbox.” The net’s straightforward design has made it useful in both the U.S. and the U.K., where it’s now formally part of fishing regulations.
In the quest to scale up smart fishing gear across global fisheries, Hall echoes what designers such as Skrobe feel: large-scale, regulatory change can happen, but only if it’s negotiated with fishermen first, or they’ll resent it. Increased investment is the obvious next step, to spur innovation and to make gear changes easier to phase into fisheries so fishermen don’t carry the costs.
As a longtime WWF Smart Gear judge, Hall adds something else: He craves even greater innovation, ideas that challenge the age-old fishing tradition. “Even though wonderful things are happening, we aren’t innovating in a dramatic way,” Hall says. “I’d really like to see an initiative that goes out of the box, to just shake the concept that because we’ve been doing this for 2,000 years, it’s OK.”
In August, Dan Watson will try his SafetyNet on the open ocean for the first time. After weathering a few challenges, he’s found a trawler that will take him off the southwestern coast of the U.K. and into the Atlantic, pulling his lighted net, to ride the swells just as those Scottish fishermen did six years ago.
For those fighting bycatch, there’s a long road ahead—much of it determined by funding and policy. But for now, innovators need to keep innovating, Watson believes. “You can look at the political world of fish, but that’s going to take 20 years to sort out. We need to create interventions in the meantime.”
Help for Bluefin Tuna!
A multinational organization that coordinates fishing activities in the western Pacific is throwing a lifeline to heavily overfished Pacific bluefin tuna stocks.
Speaking today at a press briefing, Japanese officials provided details on a plan agreed to last week that aims to rebuild the spawning population by halving the catch of juveniles and limiting takes of mature fish as well. The proposal calls for total Pacific bluefin catches to be kept below the 2002 to 2004 annual average levels and for catches of fish weighing fewer than 30 kilograms—juveniles too young to spawn—to be reduced to 50% of those levels.
Conservation organizations see the proposed limits as a step in the right direction. But they are “far from enough,” Wakao Hanaoka, senior ocean campaigner for Greenpeace, tells ScienceInsider. He says that Pacific bluefin tuna stocks have shrunk to just 4% of the historical population, making proper stock management a matter of urgency.
A subcommittee of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) agreed to the Japan-sponsored draft at a meeting last week in Fukuoka. The full commission will almost certainly adopt it at a meeting to be held in Samoa starting 1 December, explained Masanori Miyahara, an adviser to the ministry of agriculture who chaired last week’s meeting. Reducing the take of juveniles that haven’t yet spawned is one key to achieving the plan’s initial goal of rebuilding spawning stock biomass—the fish population able to reproduce—to the historical median of 42,592 tons within 10 years. The biomass is now thought to be 26,000 tons, very near its all-time low. “Eating fish before they spawn is very wasteful,” Miyahara says.
Dennis Normile|Science|September 11, 2014
Read more at Science.
Gulf oyster harvest has nose-dived since BP spill
Gulf Coast oyster harvests have declined dramatically in the four years since a BP PLC oil well blew wild in the nation’s worst offshore oil disaster. Even after a modest rebound last year, thousands of acres of oyster beds where oil from the well washed ashore are producing less than a third of their pre-spill harvest.
Smells Fishy: Acidic Oceans Are Bad For Shark Noses
The ocean is vast and meals can be hard to come by. That’s why sharks evolved an excellent sense of smell. Some sharks, like the lemon shark, can smell one drop of blood in an Olympic sized pool.
But a new study shows that ocean acidification, the result of atmospheric carbon being absorbed by the ocean, might rob sharks of the sense they most depend on.
Scientists placed dogfish sharks into water treated with levels of carbon that are expected by mid century and by 2100. They found that sharks’ sense of smell was impaired.
“The sharks’ tracking behavior and attacking behavior were significantly reduced,” Danielle Dixson, an assistant professor in the School of Biology at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said in a press release. “Sharks are like swimming noses, so chemical cues are really important for them in terms of finding food.”
Instead of swimming towards the odor of a squishy squid meal, the sharks tended to avoid the squid smell completely — even when squid odor was pumped through their waters. Sharks from the control group, who were not exposed to acidic waters, tended to swim towards the source of the smell and spend 60 percent of their time basking in it.
The scientists used odor only so that they could make sure the sharks weren’t using any other senses to detect prey. Dixson says they hope to observe other senses in the future.
This is not the first study to show the effect of higher levels of ocean carbon on predator-prey relations. In a previous study, Dixson observed that fish living near areas where carbon seeped through the ocean floor struggled to detect the odor of predators compared to fish who lived in areas without added carbon.
Though sharks have been around for almost 450 million years and have adapted to changes in ocean carbon levels, the rate at which ocean acidification is occurring as a result of climate change is alarming. Scientists are concerned that they, and many other species of marine life, may not be able to adapt quickly enough.
Manon Verchot|TreeHugger|September 13, 2014
This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.
Shark safety among items up for FWC discussion
Goliath grouper, lionfish eggs, shark chum and gun silencers are among the topics top state wildlife regulators will ponder this week.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meets Wednesday and Thursday in Kissimmee.
Melbourne Beach Mayor Jim Simmons plans to speak up Thursday to nudge FWC to ban shark chumming from shore and create other rules to make people safer from the ocean’s top predator.
“Shark fishermen’s rights shouldn’t trump the rights of swimmers and surfers,” Simmons said.
Melbourne Beach officials say “bloodbaiting” is dangerous, potentially putting sharks into feeding frenzies near swimmers. But local governments don’t have the authority to stop chumming. FWC regulates saltwater fishing and chumming.
At Thursday’s meeting, another fish is sure to create a big stir.
Goliath grouper grow up to 800 pounds and can wolf down mid-sized sharks in one gulp.
A recent YouTube video with 37 million views shows a Goliath grouper swallow whole a four-foot-long blacktip shark as a fisherman reeled the shark in offshore of Bonita Springs.
Divers and fisherman say they’ve seen enough. They describe seeing so many of these gargantuan groupers along Florida’s reefs and shipwrecks that it’s high time to remove a long-running ban on harvesting the fish. The Goliaths are sucking up spiny lobsters, reef fish and other marine life, they say, tipping the food web’s balance.
“The culmination of it all was that most of the people were supporting of continuing the closure, but felt like there could be some limited take for research purposes,” Amanda Nalley, an FWC spokeswoman said of the study.
The Goliath won’t be open up to fishing until a new study of the fish’s numbers is complete in the fall of next year.
“Right now, we’re not presenting any management measures from them to decide upon,” Nalley said.
Before 1983, there were no state or federal regulations on commercial or recreational harvest of the fish. That year, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council banned spearing of Goliath grouper.
Baitfish swirl around a goliath grouper recently off Lee County. Many people think goliath grouper are wiping out bait fish, grouper and snapper populations, but scientific evidence shows that their main diet is crabs. (Photo: Leonardo Bueno / Special to The News-Press )
Then in 1990, harvest of the fish was banned in state and federal waters.
Although the fish’s status remains unknown, different surveys show substantial recovery since the fishery was closed, a staff report to FWC commissioners says. “However, the extent to which the population has recovered is unclear,” the report says.
The last stock assessment in 2010 found that the 1990 harvest ban cut fishing pressure by about 83 percent and that the stock might be recovered, according to the staff report. But the report also cites a long-term lack of landings data, rendering the assessment inconclusive and the stock status mostly unknown.
Ron Rincones, a fisherman and diver from Grant-Valkaria, knows the grouper reigns supreme along local reefs and shipwrecks, hogging all the spiny lobsters for themselves.
“If I’m diving the big ledges, you see 400- or 500- pounders,” Rincones said. “Every wreck now is loaded with them,” he added. “There’s probably more now than there were in the late 40s and early 50s.”
A much smaller fish on the agenda – though similarly as fearsome to the food web – is the invasive lionfish.
They aggressively gobble up other prized sport and commercial fish and have grown to dominate many offshore reefs. Even the Goliath doesn’t seem to be making a dent.
So on Thursday, FWC will consider a proposed rule to ban breeding lionfish in captivity or possessing their eggs and larvae for any purpose other than destruction or research.
The state agency recently adopted a ban on importing lionfish and other rules to help remove the fish from Florida waters.
Hunters won’t likely stay silent on this agenda item.
On Wednesday, FWC will consider a draft rule to remove Florida’s restriction on the use of silencers for hunting wildlife classified as game.
Silencers on guns, also called suppressors, go on the gun’s barrel to dampen sound.
Hunters asked FWC to look into the issue, and the agency determined restrictions on using silencers for hunting were no longer necessary.
Thirty-two states already allow silencers for all hunting.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting
* Time: 8:30 a.m.
* Dates: Wednesday, Thursday
* Place: Embassy Suites Orlando – Lake Buena Vista South, 4955 Kyngs Heath Road, Kissimmee
Jim Waymer|News-Press|September 7, 2014
BP’s cleanup promise broken; oil visible on beaches
The costs and energies of supervising the cleanup of a mess that we did not make should not rest entirely on our shoulders.
A promise was broken.
Maybe it’s all BP’s fault. Maybe the Coast Guard shares the blame. Maybe we’re all suckers for not getting it in writing. But we thought we had a deal.
The deal was that the Coast Guard-led and BP-funded oil spill cleanup would not leave our beaches until there was no more visible oil. But the Coast Guard declared the mission accomplished in 2013. And as we all know too well by now – the oil is still visible.
Pensacola News-Journal reporter Kim Blair spoke with Escambia County’s director of community and environment, Keith Wilkins, an official who has been on the front lines battling the oil spill since the day in 2010 when it began gushing wildly into the Gulf of Mexico. Wilkins summed up the broken promise like this: “At the very beginning of the oil spill, we were all talking about end points for monitoring and cleaning so we’d know when we were done with the whole thing … At the onset of the oil spill, we had an agreement with BP and the Coast Guard that the end point would be no observable oil on the beaches. We still have not reached that point.”
And that’s the bottom line. We have not reached the point of no visible oil. We still see tarballs. We still see tar mats. And under the gaze of a microscope, we can still see traces of the toxic dispersant chemicals that were futilely pumped into the Gulf.
For residents who take pride in leaving only footprints on our unique and beautiful shoreline, the disgusting stain of man-made folly is far from fading. And now, it’s clear that the heavy obligation to monitor the lingering results of BP’s mess has been shoved onto all of us.
BP initially paid Florida $50 million for oil monitoring and cleanup. Blair reported that the money dried up in June. The continued work is now financed by state taxpayers and it is unclear whether reimbursement will come from BP.
DEP workers Joey Whibbs and David Perkinson, the last two-man team left scouting for lingering oil from the 2010 spill, still find oil every day, five days a week. It was Perkinson who discovered the tar mat earlier this year on Fort Pickens beach. But even when they find it, time is of the essence. Rapidly changing surf and beach conditions require quick action before the oil is covered or washed elsewhere. And when the Coast Guard has not been immediately prepared to respond when alerted to discovery of oil, with the cleanup clock ticking, the exhausting work has fallen on the DEP’s two sentinels.
It is a Sisyphean task for just two men, the search for oil like a never ending push of a boulder down the beach. It should not be this way.
Pensacola News Journal|August 8, 2014
Hawaii’s Tern Island Is So Polluted With Plastic That It Might Become a Superfund Site
Ocean plastic and toxic waste left behind by the military threaten sea turtles, seals, and other marine life.
Hawaiian green sea turtles, monk seals, and black-footed albatrosses are all closer to getting a cleaner, plastic-free home as the federal government takes a step toward declaring a remote Pacific atoll a Superfund site.
The designation, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency gives areas severely contaminated by hazardous waste, would be the first granted for a site that was investigated for ocean plastic pollution.
“I’m thrilled the EPA is taking this historic first step to protect Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles from dangerous plastic litter,” said Emily Jeffers, an attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity. “These animals face enough threats to their survival from sea level rise and habitat loss; the last thing they need is to choke on a floating plastic bag.”
Located about 564 miles northwest of Honolulu, Tern Island is as remote as an island can get. But the atoll is directly in the path of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, catching bits of the billions of pounds of swirling plastic that inundates the area.
That plastic—whether bags, fishing lines, or bottle caps—often ends up in the bellies of marine animals and birds.
“Initial studies conducted by EPA in areas outside of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands indicate that microplastic marine debris can accumulate and transport contaminants in the marine environment into the food chain,” Dean Higuchi, an EPA spokesman, said in an email.
Higuchi pointed out that the Superfund designation wouldn’t come just because of drifting plastic. “The major thing to remember…is the contamination that was left from the military activities on Tern Island,” he said.
From 1942 to1979, the U.S. Navy used the island as an airfield, a missile range, and an aircraft refueling station. The Coast Guard also maintained a facility there.
What did they leave behind? An abandoned airstrip and a landfill filled with generators, electronics, cable, batteries, wires, and a 50,000-gallon neoprene fuel tank.
The government’s initial assessment found toxic substances such as polychlorinated biphenyls and lead in the buried military waste and determined that further action was warranted.
“At this point, no decision has been made on exactly what the next steps will be in designating the site as a Superfund, but the focus will really be on the PCBs and the lead from military activities,” Higuchi said. “Plastics were also looked at because the petition asked them to be reviewed, but as of now, it’s not considered a hazardous substance in and of itself.”
The Center for Biological Diversity, a Tucson, Ariz.–based nonprofit, petitioned the EPA to conduct the initial study in 2012. While the environmental group asked the EPA to look at plastic pollution in the entire Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the government agency limited the research to Tern Island.
“I think the EPA is using Tern Island as a test case to better understand the dangers posed to wildlife by plastic and microplastic pollution,” Jeffers said. “We wrote this petition in an attempt to come up with creative ways to address the problem—we know that we can’t possibly designate all the areas heavily affected by plastic pollution as Superfund sites, but hopefully the EPA’s actions will draw more attention to the problem.”
With the ball rolling at Tern Island, are other plastic-polluted sites candidates for Superfund listing? Not yet, says Higuchi, but this could be the start of a new wave of cleanup efforts.
“There are likely many other areas, not only in the U.S., but worldwide, where plastic pollution presents a hazard to the marine ecosystem, the food chain, and potentially to human health,” Higuchi said
Taylor Hill|associate environment and wildlife editor|TakePart|September 12, 2014
The Number of Threatened Coral Species Jumps From 2 to 22. Here’s What YOU Can Do About it
Watch out, Nemo! It looks like you may have to move to a new anemone if the neighborhoods you live in keep getting wrecked.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recently set the record for the largest Endangered Species Act ruling by adding 20 different species of coral to their list for protection. Before this addition, only two species of coral were considered, illustrating just how quickly coral populations are decreasing.
According to NOAA’s assistant administrator, Eileen Sobeck, 83 species of coral had been proposed for further listing, but these 20 species received special treatment as they are all at risk of extinction in the near future.
Before the new listing, protected corals (elk horn and staghorn) only inhabited the waters of the Caribbean. The current group of corals is now spread out across a larger geographic span with fifteen species living in the Indo-Pacific. The other five species live in the Caribbean (near Florida), the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico.
Corals may cover less than one percent of ocean floors, but they house and support 25 percent of ocean dwelling fish species. If you’re not really interested in coral’s importance to animals, then maybe it’s time for you to realize just how important coral reefs are to humans.
Coral reefs are vital to worldwide fisheries because they serve as living fish nurseries. Corals also play a role in the economy by boosting tourism, and they protect coastlines from devastating erosion.
As marine biologist and National Geographic explorer, Sylvia Earle, once said, “No water, no life. No blue, no green.”
Without coral, the oceans and marine inhabitants will experience a cascading effect that ultimately will harm human life on land.
There are a multitude of dangers facing coral and coral reefs today. A few threats to these fragile organisms include ocean acidification, pollution, overfishing, and elevated ocean temperatures, all of which can lead to the proliferation of disease that easily kill off coral colonies.
Bleaching is the most prevalent disease among the 20 new threatened coral species. Bleaching (a process that basically strips coral of it’s living tissues) occurs when corals lost the symbiotic algae that live on their tissue. These algae die off when water temperatures increase. Global trends show a rapid warming of the world’s oceans which means inevitable devastation for these algae, and subsequently, coral.
Recreational activities can also play a huge role in the plight of coral. Swimmers, snorkelers and divers will often touch, break, or even stand on coral heads without considering the fragility of the organism they are interacting with. Boats will often drop anchors directly on top of coral, thus resulting in the crumbling of both the animal and the other organisms that depend on it for survival.
The commercial fishing industry also has a hand in coral destruction. Fish like to hide in the grooves and caves of coral reefs. To extract fish from these hiding places, fishermen will spray cyanide on corals, rendering the fish unconscious and easy to collect. This causes major damage to the coral that is now coated with this harmful toxin. Another popular method is “blasting,” in which fishermen use explosions to scare fish out of their hiding places. This destroys the delicately balanced coral ecosystem, turning them into deserted, lifeless wastelands.
Hopefully the ruling to protect these additional 20 corals will provide enough time for damaged corals to regenerate and heal from past injuries. However, seeing as it can take 10,000 years for a coral reef to form, the likeliness of a full recovery anytime soon is far-reaching.
Though this listing may be good for the corals in the future, the ruling will potentially affect federal agencies in the present. If an agency wants to work in an area near protected coral, they must first obtain a permit as well as further consultation from NOAA before beginning. This will create some tension between industry and environmentalists.
Furthermore, activities such as fishing and tourism, and anthropogenic (or human caused) pollution such as coastal runoff are unaffected by the ruling. These activities will be allowed to continue without regulation, adding to the destruction of coral at a faster pace than most of us can imagine.
If you would like to help coral, you can start by considering your own contribution to ocean pollution and climate change (and not just by properly disposing your trash.) Start using planet-friendly modes of transportation (such as biking or walking) in order to reduce your carbon footprint. And consider cutting meat and animal products out of your diet as their production is responsible for 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.
Furthermore, anybody can stop the demise of coral by simply becoming a better traveler. Support hotels, aquariums, and tourist operations that respect the fragility of coral reefs and participate in coral protection initiatives. Never touch any form of sea life (specifically coral), and be wary of where coral may be if you ever decide to take a dip near coral colonies. For those who live near coasts that house coral, volunteer for a coral clean-up crew, and remember to spread the word. With just the click of a button, you can prevent any further additions of our coral friends to the list of protected species.
Madison Montgomery|September 12, 2014
Pew Welcomes Global Ocean Commission’s Recommendations for High Seas Conservation
The Global Ocean Commission, an independent initiative made up of 17 leaders from around the world, today released its proposals for action: a “rescue package” for the high seas aimed at restoring ocean health and protecting the valuable benefits the ocean provides. The commission is co-chaired by José María Figueres, former president of Costa Rica; Trevor Manuel, former minister in the presidency of South Africa; and David Miliband, president and CEO of the International Rescue Committee and former British foreign secretary.
The high seas—which lie beyond the national waters of any country—make up 45 percent of the planet’s total surface area and face increasing threats from overfishing, habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, ineffective governance, and lax enforcement of regulations. Today’s recommendations follow the commission’s June 5 release of the first assessment of the health of high seas ecosystems and their economic value. That report, “The High Seas and Us: Understanding the Value of High-Seas Ecosystems,” identifies 15 services that the high seas provide to humankind, including deposits of oil, gas, sand, and gravel; a conveyor belt for global trade; and a “carbon sink,” mitigating the effects of climate change by storing up to 500 million metric tons of atmospheric carbon per year—the value of which, according to the study, is estimated at US$75 billion to $222 billion per year.
In its recommendations, the commission identifies the lack of adequate governance on the high seas as a key issue and calls for the negotiation of a new agreement under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea to restore ocean productivity; guard against irresponsible, inefficient, and wasteful exploitation; and allow for the creation of high seas marine protected areas.
“A decade ago, I had the privilege of welcoming the recommendations of the Pew Oceans Commission, which helped change the course of ocean conservation in the United States,” said Rebecca W. Rimel, president and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts. “Today, I am equally honored as we chart a new course to manage and protect the high seas and to welcome the launch of the Global Ocean Commission’s final report and recommendations.”
The commission’s proposals also include calls for mandatory tracking of all vessels fishing in the high seas, a ban on the transshipment of fish at sea, measures to end pollution from plastic waste, and binding standards for the regulation and control of offshore oil and gas exploration and exploitation.
The commission found that government subsidies for high seas fishing total at least US$30 billion a year for only 10 nations, and should be immediately capped—and then eliminated within five years. About 60 percent of such subsidies directly encourage unsustainable practices such as bottom trawling and the use of fish aggregating devices. Without these subsidies, much, if not all, high seas fishing would no longer be financially viable.
According to the commission, if ocean health does not improve within five years, the international community should consider designating the high seas as a “regeneration zone” to help fish stocks recover. This would mean the prevention of industrial fishing in high seas areas where Regional Fisheries Management Organizations have proved to be ineffective.
The commission is supported by Pew in partnership with the Adessium Foundation, Oceans 5, and the Swire Group Charitable Trust, and was hosted at Somerville College at the University of Oxford.
The proposals represent the culmination of 18 months of exhaustive deliberations and extensive consultation with experts and stakeholders. The complete report is available at http://www.globaloceancommission.org, with a more interactive version and opportunities for action at www.missionocean.me.
Massive Red Tide Off Florida Coast Is 90 Miles Long And Totally Gross
A huge stretch of ocean near Florida has been taken over by Karenia brevis, a microscopic algae that can kill fish and marine mammals, contaminate seafood and turn the water a dark, brown-red color.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reported elevated levels of the algae over last week, and said their tipline received multiple reports of thousands of dead fish and marine organisms. According to the FWC, images from the Optical Oceanography Laboratory at the University of South Florida show a bloom 60 miles wide and 90 miles long.
That makes this the biggest bloom in nearly a decade, Hayley Rutger, a spokeswoman with Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, told the Orlando Sentinel.
While the bloom is not yet affecting beaches, boaters have reported respiratory irritation from the algae. The Florida Department of Health says that red tide can also cause skin and eye irritation if you decide to swim in the stuff. Coughing, sneezing and watery eyes can also occur if the toxins are blown onshore, but this bloom remains far enough out that it hasn’t yet bothered beachgoers.
Red tides occur naturally almost every year, but it can be difficult to predict their behavior more than three days in advance.
“The red tide that pops up off the coast of Florida is very unpredictable,” Quay Dortch, an algal bloom researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, told NBC News.
NBC also reported that a 2013 red tide killed 273 endangered manatees. The manatees ate the toxic algae when it got too close to shore and settled on sea grass. Dolphins can also be killed when they eat fish containing high concentrations of the toxins. According to the FWC, the largest dolphin die-off from a red tide occurred between 1987 and 1988, when 740 dolphins were found stranded on the coast.
See the video
Katherine Boehrer|Email The Huffington Post|08/13/2014
Plastics Are a Whale of a Problem for Our Ocean
Sei whales are majestic animals and I’ve had the great fortune of witnessing their grace and splendor in the open ocean. Last week, however, a 45-foot sei whale washed up on the shores of the Elizabeth River in Virginia. An 11-foot bruise above her left jaw and two fractured vertebrae led the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team to believe she was killed by blunt force trauma following a collision with a ship.
However, a necropsy revealed that the whale also had “a large sharp piece of rigid, black plastic” roughly the size of a standard index card lodged in her stomach.
In the days leading up to her death, the Virginia Aquarium team said that she “was thin and its movements were not indicative of a healthy whale.” They believe that the plastic in the whale’s stomach prevented her from feeding normally. This likely weakened the whale and could explain why she swam up the Elizabeth River.
Unfortunately we cannot dismiss this as a tragic, isolated incident. Plastic pollution in the marine environment has become a persistent and proliferating threat to our ocean. Plastics pose a great threat to the animals that live in and around the ocean, and our fight for a clean ocean is just as much for them as it is for us.
While there is no “catch all” solution for ocean trash, you can join the fight for a healthy ocean. This September, Ocean Conservancy is hosting its 29th annual International Coastal Cleanup. The Cleanup will not eradicate the perils of plastics in the ocean, but it can eliminate the chance that items littering our beaches and waterways ever find their way into our marine environment.
Nick Mallos|August 26, 2014
Wildlife and Habitat
Conservation efforts on Archbold
GAINESVILLE–The Archbold Biological Station occupies 5,200 acres of pristine Florida scrub habitat on the southern tip of the Lake Wales Ridge.
Eastern indigo snakes, Florida sand skinks, Florida scrub-jays, burrowing owls and crested caracaras occupy the mosaic of uplands and wetlands found within the confluence of the Kissimmee River and Fisheating Creek Watershed.
“So a chance to add 3,648 adjacent acres of pasture land to protect and restore for these species was an opportunity Archbold couldn’t pass up,” Archbold said in a news release.
“At the same time, it presented an opportunity for new avenues of research balancing ecological restoration with sustainable agricultural use. In 2002 the Archbold Reserve was established.”
To accomplish restoring the wetlands, Archbold entered more than a third of the reserve into four conservation easements through the Wetlands Reserve Program.
Administered by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, the program provides cost share and technical assistance to establish permanent conservation easements, keep the land from development and restore previously drained wetlands.
Betsie Rothermel, Archold’s research program director for restoration ecology, has been working on the reserve since 2008.
“Our research programs have expanded in recent years to restoration ecology and agro-ecology because of the importance of ranch lands and agricultural lands for conserving so many species in the Northern Everglades watershed,” Rothermel said.
During the last four years, NRCS has initiated hydrological restoration on three of the four easements on the Archbold Reserve: Mary’s Creek, Frances Creek and Cutthroat Seep.
It is a long-term process that can be pretty labor intensive.
“Restoration isn’t a matter of blocking a few ditches and expecting the instant return of a natural functioning community like the one that used to exist,” she said.
In Cutthroat Seep, it took two years of “careful planning” by engineers and biologists, then construction to make the area wetter again.
“This may be one of the first attempts to restore the hydrology and native cutthroat grass communities that are unique to the slopes of the Lake Wales Ridge,” Archbold said.
The groundwater seepage that fed these communities was intercepted by extensive ditching and conversion to pasture in the 1970s. As part of hydrological restoration in 2012, workers blocked or filled in most of the ditches. The Wetlands Reserve Program financial assistance funded the work. NRCS engineers assisted with the designs, and will provide technical assistance to guide long-term management.
Now that the water levels are back, it is a matter of controlling invasive plants, prescribed burning to keep woody species from encroaching, planting natives and waiting, according to Archbold.
“We help NRCS by monitoring the groundwater levels and sampling vegetation communities following restoration.”
Even with monthly visits over the last four years to evaluate the treated sites, it may take 10 or more years to start seeing the desired changes, especially with Florida’s wildly varying weather patterns.
“Restoration is an adaptive process, ‘try this and see if it works,’” she said. The goal is a self-sustaining system and a map for restoring degraded wetlands on other landscapes.
“So much wetland habitat has been lost. To me personally, success is seeing the cascading effects of restoration and how it plays out to provide more habitats for wildlife, from insects to frogs to birds,” Rothermel said. This is especially critical in the Lake Wales area, which has such a high concentration of imperiled plants and animals.
The restoration sites on Archbold, along with conservation easements on ranchlands in the upper Fisheating Creek watershed total almost 40,000 acres. Restoring wetlands on these sites and managing grazing according to best management practices will reduce nutrients that are polluting Lake Okeechobee and the North Everglades.
Experience the sights and sounds of these unique ecosystems in Saving Florida’s Wetlands’ slideshow on http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detailfull/fl/home/?cid=stelprdb1252222
Highlands Today|September 8, 2014
Illegal land clearing for commercial agriculture responsible for half of tropical deforestation
A comprehensive new analysis released today says that nearly half (49%) of all recent tropical deforestation is the result of illegal clearing for commercial agriculture. The study also finds that the majority of this illegal destruction was driven by overseas demand for agricultural commodities including palm oil, beef, soy, and wood products. In addition to devastating impacts on forest-dependent people and biodiversity, the illegal conversion of tropical forests for commercial agriculture is estimated to produce 1.47 gigatonnes of carbon each year—equivalent to 25% of the EU’s annual fossil fuel-based emissions.
“We’ve known that the production of agricultural commodities is a principal driving force behind deforestation, but this is the first report to show the outsize role that illegal activities play in the production of hundreds of food and household products consumed worldwide,” said Michael Jenkins, President and CEO of Forest Trends, a Washington-based NGO that published the report.
“Increased agricultural production will be necessary for food security and to meet the demand of the emerging global middle class. However, the world must also wake up to the scale of how much of this agricultural production is taking place on land that has been illegally cleared. Urgent action is needed to help countries where these agricultural products are being grown, both for governments to enforce their own laws and regulations, and for businesses aiming to produce commodities legally and sustainably.”
According to the study, Consumer Goods and Deforestation: An Analysis of the Extent and Nature of Illegality in Forest Conversion for Agriculture, 90% of the deforestation in Brazil from 2000 to 2012 was illegal, primarily due to the failure to conserve a percentage of natural forests in large-scale cattle and soy plantations, as required by Brazilian law. (Much of this occurred prior to 2004, when the Brazilian government took steps to successfully reduce deforestation.) And in the forests of Indonesia, 80% of deforestation was illegal—mostly for large-scale plantations producing palm oil and timber, 75% of which is exported. While other countries also experience high levels of illegal deforestation, Brazil and Indonesia produce the highest level of agricultural commodities destined for global markets, many of which wind up in cosmetics or household goods (palm oil), animal feed (soy), and packaging (wood products).
Forest Trends|September 11, 2014
Continue reading at Forest Trends.
‘Out of Fashion’ Campaign: Preserving the World’s Endangered Forests
As the lavish display of Fall Fashion Week gets under way this week in New York City, Rainforest Action Network (RAN) announced Out of Fashion: a campaign promoting forest friendly fabric.
Big name fashion brands are complicit in the pulping of pristine forests—seizing Indigenous land, driving species loss and threatening the climate—all to manufacture a product that makes its way into the clothes we wear every day.
“Out of Fashion” is RAN’s latest major effort to preserve the world’s endangered forests. With this campaign, RAN is bringing attention to a growing global threat to forests, animals and Indigenous communities—a threat that has been hiding in plain sight for years: dissolving pulp. Dissolving pulp is a little-discussed yet highly influential commodity in today’s marketplace. And the increased demand for this product is accelerating deforestation and exacerbating human rights abuses across the globe.
Big name fashion brands are complicit in the pulping of pristine forests—seizing Indigenous land, driving species loss and threatening the climate—all to manufacture a product that makes its way into the clothes we wear every day.
Over the next few days, RAN will introduce you to this destructive industry—and how Rainforest Action Network is planning to take it on.
Recently, RAN told you about the devastating impact that the production of wood pulp by paper giant Toba Pulp Lestari is having on the communities and forests of North Sumatra. Amazingly enough, this pulp makes its way into countless everyday products, like books, office paper and packaging.
But the production of dissolving wood pulp is an equally problematic issue. Dissolving pulp is an ingredient found in an even wider variety of products such as cosmetics, food, household product, sanitary products—and clothing that we wear every day.
So, wait. Trees are in my clothes?
Shockingly, yes, if you are wearing rayon, viscose, modal or tencel. The most prevalent type of this pulp is Rayon grade pulp, which is a core component of a textile called viscose staple fiber (VSF). This is what we’ll be focusing on, since VSF represents a large market share—and the production of VSF is responsible for 90 percent of the dissolving pulp expansion.
This fiber can be found in blended fabrics or on its own and it has been slowly replacing cotton as a cheaper alternative. It can also be found in polyester to create a more “high-end” feel and is present in many best selling brands.
The quest for cheaply produced dissolving pulp is leaving an incredibly destructive footprint on the globe and has been a significant driver of human rights abuses, land grabbing, natural forest conversion, the development of carbon-emitting peatlands, climate change, biodiversity loss, and toxics pollution. Every year, more than 70 million trees are turned into clothing through the dissolving pulp process. And the process is almost criminally inefficient: only 30 percent of tree matter is actually useable for clothing. The other 70 percent becomes waste. With pulp mills all over the world, including in Indonesia, Canada and Brazil, the industry is diffuse and the supply chain difficult to pin down.
One of the challenges in confronting this problem is that dissolving pulp is very difficult to trace. When we launched our campaign to eliminate rainforest destruction from books and printed materials, we could perform independent fiber testing of books to determine the species of tree and country of origin. Since the production of dissolving pulp requires a much higher toxic chemical load the trees’ DNA is virtually destroyed, making it practically impossible to pinpoint the origin of the fiber. This creates an “opaque” supply chain, one in which the companies themselves must be active and responsible in policing to avoid contamination from conflict pulp and the timber used to produce it.
Not sure if you’re wearing rainforest destruction? Go ahead and look in your closet. And definitely have a look the next time you shop—do you see rayon or viscose on the label? Beware: you could be buying rainforest destruction.
RAN will be telling you more about dissolving pulp in the coming weeks and how this driver of rainforest destruction is making its way into your clothes. Join RAN in confronting this global threat to forests and sign the petition to send a clear message to fashion companies: We want deforestation and human rights abuses out of our clothing.
Christy Tennery-Spalding|Rainforest Action Network|September 5, 2014
5 Consumer Products Linked to Rainforest Deforestation
Tropical rainforests are home to rich indigenous cultures and amazing biodiversity. They also play an important role in stabilizing the climate and sequestering carbon. However, tropical deforestation continues to happen around the world at an alarming rate. This loss generates almost 50 percent more greenhouse gases than the world’s entire transportation sector, according to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
A large amount of tropical deforestation is driven by the creation of agricultural land, but a new report from Forest Trends finds that nearly half of all conversion from primary rainforest to agricultural use happens illegally. A few key agricultural products drive most of the deforestation, and are largely produced for export.
1. Beef Rising demand for beef is driven in part by a growing global population and also an expanding middle class, particularly in the East Asia and China. Beef and leather production are both drivers of illegal deforestation in Brazil, although the country has had considerable success in slowing the rate of forest loss.
2. Soy Sam Lawson, the lead author of the Forest Trends report, said that soy is linked to the rising demand for meat. “Most of the soy is used as feed for cattle and chickens and pigs.” Soy farming drives deforestation in Brazil, as well as Paraguay and Bolivia.
3. Palm oil Palm oil is the most efficient source of vegetable oil, and also one of the most profitable. The deforestation associated with palm oil is vast, particularly in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia. “You can drive through large areas of Malaysia and see nothing but oil palm plantations,” said Lawson. “And yet the projections are that the world is going to need another Malaysia’s worth of oil palm plantations to be planted to meet growing demand.”
4. Wood pulp Deforestation for wood pulp plantations is a major problem in Indonesia. The pulp used to create paper products, or to make textiles like rayon.
5. Cocoa In many countries, some of the agricultural products grown on illegally converted land are sold domestically. However, in Papua New Guinea, 100 percent of the these products (including both cocoa and soy) are exported, according to Forest Trends. The good news is that ethically-sourced chocolate is one product that’s relatively easy to find.
A number of companies are taking steps to establish more traceable supply chains, with help of third-party verifications systems like the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
However, Forest Trends suggests that governments of consumer countries can also play an important role. “The problem is that the efforts by the tropical forest countries to prevent deforestation for these commodities are being undermined by the fact that the importing countries are basically undiscerning,” said Lawson. Importing countries could create penalties for importing goods not produced on legally created plantations, thereby lowering the incentives to continue illegally clearing forests for these commodities.
Changing consumer behavior might have some positive impact, but with products like wood pulp and palm oil it can be extremely difficult to discern between the good and the bad.
“What individual consumers could probably more effectively do is to lobby their politicians, lobby the companies that produce these goods, and give to NGOs and charities that are campaigning on these issues,” said Lawson. “I think that would probably be more effective than changing your own purchasing practices.”
Kara|Margaret Badore|Treehugger|September 13, 2014
Mangrove Restoration Study Underway in Rookery Bay Reserve
~ Research partnership with USGS will assess natural community’s response to restoration efforts ~
Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve has entered into a research partnership with the U.S. Geological Service (USGS) to conduct a long-term study of a mangrove die-off area near Goodland. USGS awarded funding to this project for a minimum of three years to assess the 225-acre hydrologic restoration, partially underway, at Fruit Farm Creek.
Fruit Farm Creek is a mangrove-forested site located within the boundaries of the Rookery Bay Reserve, near Goodland on the Southwest Gulf coast of Florida. Construction of State Road 92, initiated in 1938, greatly altered natural tidal flushing to mangrove wetlands in the area. In particular, incoming flow from higher tides inundates the forest but cannot readily be flushed out, creating a “bathtub effect” that holds the water for longer periods than these forests would normally experience. Summer rains compound this effect. Following the heavy, flooding rains from Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the area has experienced a slow, steady die-off of approximately 65 acres of mangroves.
The reserve has partnered with the Coastal Resources Group, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Conservancy of Southwest Florida and the city of Marco Island to conduct the initial assessment of the area’s hydrology and produce a plan for restoring the affected mangrove forests.
“We have examples of how hydrological restoration works in other locations,” said Kevin Cunniff, research coordinator for Rookery Bay Reserve. “A long-term assessment of forest community change and recovery over the next decade will provide invaluable information regarding the resiliency of our mangrove wetlands and the cost/benefits of restoration.”
USGS has just installed 12 Rod Surface Elevation Tables (RSETs) in order to monitor surface elevation change associated with mangrove forest recovery within the study plots, which span a gradient of dead, degraded and intact forest. Initial assessments of the forest canopy, sediment conditions and plant/animal communities will begin early in 2015. Three reference area study plots, also including RSETs, will be established on the south end of Horrs Island adjacent to Fruit Farm Creek in November 2014. Long-term data collected will provide information on trends in forest canopy structure, sediment chemistry and nutrient cycling, and benthic faunal community and food-web structure.
In August 2013, a series of small trenches were excavated to re-establish tidal connection to one acre of a four-acre die-off area. Within one year, the return of normal tidal flushing has produced a dramatic response – mangrove seedlings are taking root and many of the characteristic fish, crabs, snails and other species have moved in. The project partners are still seeking additional funding to restore flushing to the remaining 224 adjacent acres. It is on the list of projects under consideration for federal funding through the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coast Act (RESTORE Act).
LATASHAWALTERS|Sept. 4, 2014
Global Warming and Climate Change
Prescription for health: fight global warming
What if we could reduce worldwide deaths from disease, starvation and disaster while improving the health of people everywhere? According to the World Health Organization, we can.
“Previously unrecognized health benefits could be realized from fast action to reduce climate change and its consequences,” says a news release about WHO’s first global conference on health and climate in Geneva August 27 to 29, adding, “changes in energy and transport policies could save millions of lives annually from diseases caused by high levels of air pollution.” Encouraging people to use public transit, cycling and walking instead of driving would cut traffic injuries and vehicle emissions and promote better health through increased physical activity.
Reducing the threat of global warming and finding ways to adapt to unavoidable change will also help people around the world “deal with the impact of heat, extreme weather, infectious disease and food insecurity.”
Climate change affects human health in multiple ways. Increased extreme weather causes flooding and droughts, which influences food production, water and sanitation. Pathogens that plague humans, livestock and crops spread more widely. WHO notes that diseases such as cholera, malaria and dengue are especially sensitive to weather and climate changes.
According to WHO, “Climate change is already causing tens of thousands of deaths every year from shifting patterns of disease, from extreme weather events, such as heat-waves and floods, and from the degradation of water supplies, sanitation, and impacts on agriculture” — and it will get worse if we fail to address the problem. The poor, elderly and children are most vulnerable.
WHO’s conference was held in advance of UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon’s Climate Summit 2014 for world leaders, taking place in New York September 23, and geared partly toward ensuring world leaders come up with an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol at the Paris UN climate change conference next year.
Two days before the Climate Summit, on September 21, more than half a million people are expected to gather in New York for the People’s Climate March, with simultaneous events around the world, co-ordinated by a coalition of more than 1,000 organizations, including environmental, social justice, religious, health and labor groups.
WHO’s conference and findings show the importance of getting health-care professionals on board with climate action, as they are with the People’s Climate March. “The evidence is overwhelming: climate change endangers human health,” says WHO director-general Margaret Chan. “Solutions exist and we need to act decisively to change this trajectory.”
In a Huffington Post article, Ban Ki-moon stresses that global warming is an immediate and urgent issue. “Instead of asking if we can afford to act, we should be asking what is stopping us, who is stopping us, and why?” he writes. “Let us join forces to push back against skeptics and entrenched interests. Let us support the scientists, economists, entrepreneurs and investors who can persuade government leaders and policy-makers that now is the time for action.”
Beyond forestalling the almost-certain catastrophic consequences of unchecked global warming, changing our habits, conserving energy and shifting from fossil fuels to clean energy will have many benefits for human health — and for the economy. Reducing the burden of pollution — and global warming-related health care costs is a big factor, but opportunities also exist in the clean technology sector. Climate Summit organizers point to the “growing recognition that affordable, scalable solutions are available now that will enable us all to leapfrog to cleaner, more resilient economies.”
A leaked draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment’s final synthesis report concludes that global warming is already having major impacts worldwide and that, unless we do something about it, we can expect “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.” Our news media should be focusing on these issues rather than chasing an endless line of celebrity antics, corporate priorities and political posturing.
Scientists have warned about global warming consequences for decades, but efforts by fossil fuel interests to sow doubt and confusion, combined with intransigent governments and public apathy, have brought us to a tipping point.
The choice is clear: If we want to protect our health, our children’s and grandchildren’s health, and the natural systems that keep us alive and healthy, we must act now.
David Suzuki|David Suzuki Foundation|Senior Editor|Ian Hanington
Hillary Clinton Calls Out Climate Deniers at Clean Energy Summit
As she continues to play a game of “will-she/won’t she” regarding a potential 2016 presidential run, Hillary Clinton called out climate change deniers while delivering a keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas this week.
She also spoke of the need for America to become the “clean energy superpower of the 21st century,” talking about the benefits of clean energy in creating jobs, competing globally, and reducing greenhouse emissions.
“Clinton began her remarks at the National Clean Energy Summit by laying out the problems climate change is already causing today, including extreme weather and droughts,” reported MSNBC.
Clinton said, “[These are] the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face. The data is unforgiving no matter what the deniers try to assert. Sea levels are rising. Ice caps are melting. Storms, droughts, and wildfires are wreaking havoc.”
She especially touted the economic impact of clean energy development, saying, “Aside from the deniers and the special interests and all the other folks who want to pretend we don’t have a crisis is the fact that we are leaving money and jobs behind. For those on the other side, they have to answer to the reality they are denying peoples’ jobs and middle class incomes and upward mobility by their refusal to look to the future.”
She praised the work already being done in states like Nevada where Tesla has announced this week it will build a solar- and wind-powered battery factory near Reno, and Iowa, which has been a leader in clean energy, especially wind power. (Naturally, political tea-leaf readers saw her mention of Iowa as a sign that she’s running, since Iowa hosts the first primary of the campaign season.)
Most news reports pointed out that she failed to mention the controversial Keystone XL pipeline. And clean energy advocates will most likely not be happy that she also promoted the benefits of fracking, while cautioning about the need for “smart regulations” to protect the health and safety of communities.
Anastasia Pantsios|September 5, 2014
West Antarctic glacier loss appears unstoppable
A new study by researchers at NASA and the University of California, Irvine, finds a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea.
The study presents multiple lines of evidence, incorporating 40 years of observations that indicate the glaciers in the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica “have passed the point of no return,” according to glaciologist and lead author Eric Rignot, of UC Irvine and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The new study has been accepted for publication in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
These glaciers already contribute significantly to sea level rise, releasing almost as much ice into the ocean annually as the entire Greenland Ice Sheet. They contain enough ice to raise global sea level by 4 feet (1.2 meters) and are melting faster than most scientists had expected. Rignot said these findings will require an upward revision to current predictions of sea level rise.
“This sector will be a major contributor to sea level rise in the decades and centuries to come,” Rignot said. “A conservative estimate is it could take several centuries for all of the ice to flow into the sea.”
Three major lines of evidence point to the glaciers’ eventual demise: the changes in their flow speeds, how much of each glacier floats on seawater, and the slope of the terrain they are flowing over and its depth below sea level. In a paper in April, Rignot’s research group discussed the steadily increasing flow speeds of these glaciers over the past 40 years. This new study examines the other two lines of evidence.
The glaciers flow out from land to the ocean, with their leading edges afloat on the seawater. The point on a glacier where it first loses contact with land is called the grounding line. Nearly all glacier melt occurs on the underside of the glacier beyond the grounding line, on the section floating on seawater.
Just as a grounded boat can float again on shallow water if it is made lighter, a glacier can float over an area where it used to be grounded if it becomes lighter, which it does by melting or by the thinning effects of the glacier stretching out. The Antarctic glaciers studied by Rignot’s group have thinned so much they are now floating above places where they used to sit solidly on land, which means their grounding lines are retreating inland.
“The grounding line is buried under a thousand or more meters of ice, so it is incredibly challenging for a human observer on the ice sheet surface to figure out exactly where the transition is,” Rignot said. “This analysis is best done using satellite techniques.”
The team used radar observations captured between 1992 and 2011 by the European Earth Remote Sensing (ERS-1 and -2) satellites to map the grounding lines’ retreat inland. The satellites use a technique called radar interferometry, which enables scientists to measure very precisely – within less than a quarter of an inch – how much Earth’s surface is moving. Glaciers move horizontally as they flow downstream, but their floating portions also rise and fall vertically with changes in the tides. Rignot and his team mapped how far inland these vertical motions extend to locate the grounding lines.
The accelerating flow speeds and retreating grounding lines reinforce each other. As glaciers flow faster, they stretch out and thin, which reduces their weight and lifts them farther off the bedrock. As the grounding line retreats and more of the glacier becomes waterborne, there’s less resistance underneath, so the flow accelerates.
Slowing or stopping these changes requires pinning points – bumps or hills rising from the glacier bed that snag the ice from underneath. To locate these points, researchers produced a more accurate map of bed elevation that combines ice velocity data from ERS-1 and -2 and ice thickness data from NASA’s Operation IceBridge mission and other airborne campaigns. The results confirm no pinning points are present upstream of the present grounding lines in five of the six glaciers. Only Haynes Glacier has major bedrock obstructions upstream, but it drains a small sector and is retreating as rapidly as the other glaciers.
The bedrock topography is another key to the fate of the ice in this basin. All the glacier beds slope deeper below sea level as they extend farther inland. As the glaciers retreat, they cannot escape the reach of the ocean, and the warm water will keep melting them even more rapidly.
The accelerating flow rates, lack of pinning points and sloping bedrock all point to one conclusion, Rignot said.
“The collapse of this sector of West Antarctica appears to be unstoppable,” he said. “The fact that the retreat is happening simultaneously over a large sector suggests it was triggered by a common cause, such as an increase in the amount of ocean heat beneath the floating sections of the glaciers. At this point, the end of this sector appears to be inevitable.”
Because of the importance of this part of West Antarctica, NASA’s Operation IceBridge will continue to monitor its evolution closely during this year’s Antarctica deployment, which begins in October. IceBridge uses a specialized fleet of research aircraft carrying the most sophisticated suite of science instruments ever assembled to characterize changes in thickness of glaciers, ice sheets and sea ice.
Carol Rasmussen, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory|Alan Buis, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory|Janet Wilson, University of California, Irvine|Peter Weiss, American Geophysical Union|May 24, 2014
California Drought: Why Farmers Must Adapt
The entire state of California is in a drought. A big part of the state, including the fertile Central Valley, is experiencing the worst category of drought, exceptional. California supplies much of the fruits, vegetables and nuts the nation eats. In inland areas such as the Central Valley, as well as the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys, agriculture truly rules.
While people in Southern California and the Bay Area are largely insulated from the effects of the drought, people in the Central Valley are being hit hard. Some wells in the town of Easton, the small farming community in Fresno County where I was raised, are going dry; and two businesses have closed as a result. Meanwhile, farmers are resorting to over-pumping groundwater. They have no choice. They want to survive. America wants to eat.
Agriculture takes up 80 percent of the state’s water supply. Some crops need more water than others. Tree crops, for example, need more water than vineyards. Almonds are one tree crop that is experiencing great growth, fueled in part by studies that show the health benefits of eating almonds and past drops in the price of raisins. As a result, almonds are California’s largest export; state farmers grow 80 percent of the world’s supply, and 99 percent of all almonds grown in the U.S. hail from California. However, the drought is certain to affect the almond industry. As an opinion piece by Market Watch points out, “This unprecedented drought threatens to slam the brakes on one of the state’s fastest-growing crops and biggest moneymakers.” When the 2014-2015 crop goes to market next year, consumers will certainly be hit with higher almond prices.
The California drought highlights the need for more efficient uses of water by the agricultural sector, including the almond industry. No one knows when this drought will end, but even when it does, Californians, and farmers in particular, must remember that California is prone to droughts. Another drought will come along. The key for the survival of California agriculture is for farmers to adapt. Developing ways to more efficiently use water will enable farmers to effectively cope with water shortages.
Gina-Marie Cheeseman|Triple Pundit|September 12, 2014
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, TriplePundit.
‘Unprecedented’ Flooding Event in Detroit Fits Global Warming Pattern
Detroit received 4.57 inches of rain in just a few hours on Monday, breaking its record for that date and coming in second place for the all-time wettest calendar day, behind a 4.74 inch deluge in July of 1925. The heavy rain — which included more than an inch of rain falling in just 24 minutes — led to some of the most widespread flash flooding on record in the Motor City.
Every major interstate was affected by the flooding, which longtime weather forecasters in the area called an unprecedented event. Several major roadways, including portions of Interstate 94, Interstate 75, and Interstate 696 remained closed as of Tuesday morning. The floods led to numerous high water rescues, and at least one death is being blamed on the flash flooding.
“In about 140 years of record-keeping, only one day in Detroit was wetter,” WXYZ Detroit reported. But “considering how the metro area has changed since [that day in] 1925, this may have been the most serious flooding event ever recorded in Detroit.”
According to The Weather Channel, Detroit residents abandoned 1,000 cars overnight due to the high waters, while others spent a long night in their cars, penned in by floods ahead and behind them.
The Michigan State Police announced it has sent dive teams to search cars for bodies at the bottom of inundated freeways, but no one had been reported missing.
“We’ve got a lot going on. It’s not just the water on the roads. We can’t clean up the roads, we’ve got to get the cars off the roads,” said Michigan Department of Transportation spokesperson Diane Cross, in an interview with the Detroit Free Press. She said the pumping systems used to keep water from piling up on roadways were simply “overwhelmed” by the pace and amount of rainfall.
In Warren, Michigan, which is in the northeastern part of the metro area, there were about 500 people stranded in a Lowe’s store during the height of the storm, due to flooding in the parking lot, according to the Detroit Free Press. The Warren Police Department saw its property and evidence rooms flooded, along with three police vehicles, the paper reported.
The storm, which was the result of a deep flow of moisture northward from the Gulf of Mexico that collided with a cold front moving in from the west, stunned area weather forecasters.
The same storm system is bringing torrential rains to the Mid-Atlantic states on Tuesday, with extensive flooding reported in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C. areas. As of 3:30 p.m. ET, Baltimore had recorded its fifth-wettest day on record.
Paul Gross, chief meteorologist for WDIV-TV in Detroit, ” target=”_blank”>wrote on his station’s website that the event was absolutely unprecedented in his long career in the city.
I have lived my entire life and worked my entire career here, and I have never seen as widespread a flooding event. Yes, I vividly remember the May 2004 historic month of rain — our second wettest month ever with 8.46 inches of rain — but that was a bunch of rainy days that really added up.
I also remember some individual intense thunderstorms that flooded ONE freeway. But I don’t ever remember EVERY freeway being flooded out.
The storm, which is likely to have caused tens of millions in damage to a city that is already struggling economically, is an example of the type of event that is already occurring more frequently and severely due to manmade global warming.
One of the major findings of climate science studies during the past several years is that heavy downpours have increased in frequency and intensity during the past three to five decades, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast U.S. Such trends are likely to continue, according to reports like the National Climate Assessment, which was released in May.
That report showed a sharp uptick in heavy precipitation events between 1958 and 2012. As the White House has emphasized in communicating about how the U.S. can better withstand the impacts of climate change that are already here, these precipitation events can lead to expensive and deadly floods that the country’s infrastructure, such as the interstate highway system, is ill-prepared to withstand.
Similar extreme rainfall and flooding events have occurred this year in Pensacola, Florida, in Boulder, Colorado last year, as well as Calgary, Canada.
The map shows percent increases in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events) from 1958 to 2012 for each region of the continental United States.
Image: National Climate Assessment
Part of the reason why these types of events are on the upswing now is because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapor, which can be wrung out of the sky by thunderstorms and other weather systems. Global average surface temperatures have already warmed by about 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit since 1900, with more warming expected during the next several decades or more. Research has shown that global average water vapor is increasing as temperatures rise.
Also, some studies have proposed that weather patterns may be changing in ways that favor prolonged heavy rainfall events lasting for many days.
That emerging research, which links such weather pattern changes to rapid Arctic warming, is still hotly contested within the climate science community, however.
Andrew Freedman|Aug 12, 2014
Higher seas mean extreme floods in SC, NC
(AP) — CHARLESTON, S.C.– Rising sea levels will mean extreme floods along the coast of the Carolinas in coming years with billions of dollars in property in danger according to new reports from a nonprofit group of scientists.
Climate Central of Princeton, New Jersey, released an analysis of the danger faced in South Carolina on Monday. A report for North Carolina was released last week with an analysis for Georgia due next week.
The report found that in South Carolina, the coast is likely to see extreme floods of more than 4 feet above high tide within 40 years. The danger zone includes 54,000 homes and $24 billion in property.
North Carolina has more 2,000 square miles of land and $9 billion in property less than 4 feet above the high tide line.
Continuous News Desk|07.21.2014
Extreme Floods to Cause Major Damage to Property in South and North Carolina
Extreme floods are expected to cause huge damage worth billions of dollars to property and infrastructure along the coast of the Carolinas in near future. This worrisome warning has come from Climate Central of Princeton, New Jersey, a non-profit group of scientists and journalists. The researchers conducted an analysis of the extent to which South Carolina and North Carolina are threatened by extreme weather events.
South Carolina coast was found to be at risk of experiencing extreme floods within 40 years. What really makes it petrifying is the fact that the floods would be more than four feet above high tide and will hit a danger zone that comprises 54,000 homes and $24 billion in property. On the other hand, North Carolina will be struck by floods less than four feet above the high tide line. About $9 billion in property and 61,000 homes will be at risk in North Carolina because of the floods.
Maps from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were used by the organization two years ago in order to determine how population and housing face threats from flooding in all coastal states, said Ben Strauss, the lead author of the reports.
The quality of the new maps is much higher than previous ones. Also, the maps have been designed after including 100 additional parameters, like property values, infrastructure, schools, churches, power plants and the ones to suffer damages from floods.
The reports should be considered seriously by coastal communities and they must start to devise strategies that can ensure prevention of their communities from different sea level rise scenarios, said Frank Knapp, the president and CEO of the South Carolina Small Business Chamber of Commerce.
World’s Most Extreme Weather Events in 2014
In just the first two months in 2014, we had a parade of strange weather extremes around the world, from searing heat, to one of the coldest winters in decades, to flooding so severe it hasn’t been seen in more than a century.
Among the most bizarre was the lack of a winter in parts of the drought-stricken West, including California.
January was the warmest and driest on record in San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles. Only four other Januaries since 1878 had been completely dry in Los Angeles until January 2014.
Among the number of monthly records set, perhaps none stood out more than the ongoing record warmth in Sandberg, Calif., located in the mountains of northern Los Angeles County. Sandberg crushed the previous January record number of 11 days of 60-degree-plus warmth with 21 such days. In February, it surpassed the previous record number of 70-degree-plus days (four days), tallying seven such days through Feb. 25.
Instead of digging out from heavy Sierra snow and toting umbrellas, parts of the West were battling wildfires in January.
Perhaps the most bizarre of these was a pair of fires in the coastal range of northwest Oregon in late January, a typically wet and/or chilly location in mid-winter.
Tokyo averages only about 4 inches of snow each year, roughly on par with Charlotte, N.C.
In February, two snow events blanketed one of the world’s most populous cities with significant snow in less than a week.
By the evening of Feb. 8, 11 inches of snow blanketed central Tokyo. According to Fuji TV, it was the heaviest snow in 45 years for Tokyo and in 60 years for the city of Kumagaya, northwest of Tokyo. Digital meteorologist Nick Wiltgen (Twitter) says the all-time calendar-day snow record was tied in Kumagaya (43 cm, or 16.9 inches).
The following weekend parts of eastern Japan, including parts of the Tokyo metro area, received another round of snow. Some smaller communities were essentially isolated by more than 3 feet of snow.
Atlantic winter storms are not out of the ordinary for western Europe, but what has taken place in parts of England this year is something not seen since the late 19th century.
With the exception of some intense wind-producing storms, it’s been the number and overall persistence of the Atlantic storms that tipped the scales to a major flood event in the south of England, among other locations.
England and Wales were drenched by their wettest December-January period since 1876-77, and their second wettest such period in the entire period of record, dating to 1766, according to the U.K. Met Office.
Then a succession of storms piled on in early-mid February bringing more flooding rain, wind-whipped waves and high winds.
As of mid-February, more than 5,000 homes and businesses were flooded, and 150 square miles of land were submerged, according to news reports. Prince William and Prince Harry were photographed tossing sandbags. Floodwaters cut off Devon and Cornwall from the rest of England on Feb. 8.
In addition to the rain, each storm’s waves have been destructive along the southwest coast of England and southern Ireland.
The Thames Barrier, built to protect central London from tidal flooding, was closed a record 18 times as of Feb. 16. River levels on the Thames reached flow rates not exceeded since prior to 1950, according to the U.K Met Office.
While California and other parts of the western U.S. have registered record highs and a lack of winter precipitation, that has not been the case in the Midwest and East.
In many parts of the Midwest, this has been the coldest winter since the late 1970s or early 1980s. In some locations, this may be a top three coldest winter on record. Some typically bitter cold locations are even breaking previous records for days with subzero cold.
Then there’s the snow.
This winter is already the record snowiest in Toledo, Ohio, and is the second snowiest season on record in Detroit, topped only by a winter during the presidency of Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880-81.
Atlantic winter storms are not out of the ordinary for western Europe, but what has taken place in parts of England this year is something not seen since the late 19th century.
With the exception of some intense wind-producing storms, it’s been the number and overall persistence of the Atlantic storms that tipped the scales to a major flood event in the south of England, among other locations.
England and Wales were drenched by their wettest December-January period since 1876-77, and their second wettest such period in the entire period of record, dating to 1766, according to the U.K. Met Office.
Then a succession of storms piled on in early-mid February bringing more flooding rain, wind-whipped waves and high winds.
As of mid-February, more than 5,000 homes and businesses were flooded, and 150 square miles of land were submerged, according to news reports. Prince William and Prince Harry were photographed tossing sandbags. Floodwaters cut off Devon and Cornwall from the rest of England on Feb. 8.
In addition to the rain, each storm’s waves have been destructive along the southwest coast of England and southern Ireland.
The Thames Barrier, built to protect central London from tidal flooding, was closed a record 18 times as of Feb. 16. River levels on the Thames reached flow rates not exceeded since prior to 1950, according to the U.K Met Office.
While California and other parts of the western U.S. have registered record highs and a lack of winter precipitation, that has not been the case in the Midwest and East.
In many parts of the Midwest, this has been the coldest winter since the late 1970s or early 1980s. In some locations, this may be a top three coldest winter on record. Some typically bitter cold locations are even breaking previous records for days with subzero cold.
While much of the central and eastern U.S. was shivering, Alaskans experienced their third warmest January in 96 years of record, according to NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center.
Homer, Talkeetna, King Salmon, and Cold Bay (no pun intended) all chalked up their record warmest January. On Jan. 27, Port Alsworth tied the all-time January record high for the state, topping out at an incredible 62 degrees, according to Rick Thoman of the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.
Among the impacts of this warm spell:
- A closure of the Alyeska Ski Resort for two days.
- A closure of Fairbanks International Airport on Jan. 23 due to freezing rain.
- Schools closed due to rain, not snow.
Warm air and a series of storms with heavy, wet snow, or even rain, triggered several large avalanches. One notable avalanche in late January buried part of the Richardson Highway in up to 30 feet of snow, cutting off access to America’s snowiest city, Valdez, Alaska.
Interestingly, a wind chill of 97 degrees below zero was observed at Howard Pass on Valentine’s Day, setting a new record cold wind chill for the state, previously held at Prudhoe Bay on Jan. 28, 1989 (-96F). The air temperature at that time was -42 degrees with a sustained wind of 71 mph.
Following Australia’s hottest year on record in 2013, a searing heat wave continued into mid-January 2014.
According to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, more than 10 percent of Queensland and almost 15 percent of New South Wales sweated through their record hottest days on Jan. 3.
Another potent heat wave cooked parts of southern Australia in mid-January, during the first week of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne.
Temperatures peaked above 41 degrees Celsius (just under 106 degrees Fahrenheit) for four straight days from Jan. 14-17, reaching a searing 43.9 degrees C (111 degrees F) on both Jan. 16 and 17.
On Jan. 14, Canadian tennis player Frank Dancevic fainted during his Australian Open match, claiming he saw Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s famous dog, in an hallucination. Players resorted to draping bags of ice around their necks to keep cool, and crowds thinned for the tournament’s opening rounds.
The heat was even too much for bats. An estimated 1,000 dead bats were found in Dayboro, just north-northwest of Brisbane, in early January.
First, Winter Storm Kronos brought a rare blanket of snow as far south as Louisiana, and sleet as far south as Harlingen, Texas and Pensacola, Fla. in late January.
That was only an appetizer.
Just days later, the confluence of temperatures well below freezing and thousands of vehicles compacting snow on untreated roads lead to a commuter apocalypse in both Birmingham, Ala. and Atlanta during Winter Storm Leon.
Commutes that normally take minutes took in excess of 20 hours for some and involved walking miles from abandoned cars. Some teachers and students were forced to stay at school overnight.
Leon also spread ice and sleet to the Gulf Coast, including the Florida Panhandle, and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.
One more storm, however, would eclipse the ice from Leon.
Winter Storm Pax deposited an inch or more of ice in a swath from east-central Georgia into South Carolina, including Augusta, Ga. and Aiken, S.C. Pax was the second heaviest ice storm dating to 1947 in Wilmington, N.C.
Accumulated ice from Pax claimed the famed “Eisenhower tree” at the Augusta National Golf Club. Pax marked the first time since January 1940 that Columbia, S.C. saw snowfall for three straight days.
The South Carolina Department of Transportation used 33,300 tons of road salt, more than 2.3 million gallons of salt brine, and 12,700 tons of sand on roads for Winter Storms Leon and Pax combined.
In this case, it was a nightmarish commute for those in the Raleigh-Durham metro area on Feb. 12, while virtually all businesses and schools were closed in Atlanta.
Strangely enough, the week after Pax, Columbia, S.C. tied its all-time February high of 84 degrees. Augusta, Ga. warmed into the 80s two straight days on Feb. 19-20.
Also of note, Pax was the third heaviest snowstorm of record in both Blacksburg and Roanoke, Va. Eight states from western North Carolina to Vermont and Massachusetts had at least one location with 20 inches of snow or more.
Genetically Modified Organisms
GMO crops threatening monarch butterflies
On the heels of recent bee declines, another iconic pollinator, the monarch butterfly, is in serious trouble. The New York Times has reported that the number of monarchs arriving at their ancient overwintering grounds in Mexico has reached the lowest level on record.
The monarch butterfly’s sharp decline has been linked to massive increases in the planting of GMO crops engineered to tolerate huge doses of Monsanto’s Roundup™ herbicide. These herbicide-tolerant “Roundup Ready” crops have encouraged farmers to use ever-increasing amounts of this weed killer — virtually wiping out milkweed, the only food young monarchs eat.
We must help protect this iconic butterfly.
Over the last decade, the amount of U.S. crops genetically engineered to withstand massive applications of Monsanto’s patented Roundup™ herbicide grew to comprise 83 percent of all corn and 93 percent of soybeans. As a result, the use of Roundup skyrocketed and has virtually wiped out the milkweed that once grew among our farm fields.
Monarchs, like bees, are a “canary in the coal mine.” This iconic species is only the tip of the iceberg — a wide variety of pollinators and other insects, including many that benefit farmers, are also rapidly disappearing, along with the birds, mammals and other predators that feed on them.
Monarchs are the latest and most visible victims of the chemical-intensive, corporate-controlled, GMO-dominated industrial agriculture system that is harming not only these majestic pollinators, but also the health of people and the environment around the world.
Peter Stocker|list.moveon.org|Lisa Archer and Dana Perls|Food and Technology program|Friends of the Earth
$27 Million to Defeat Your Right to Know!
Last week Reuters reported that Frankenfood lobbyists spent a record-breaking $27 million in the first half of this year—nearly triple what they spent last year—to stop state GMO labeling campaigns.
And that doesn’t include the unprecedented millions Monsanto, Dow, Bayer and others have spent this year on false advertising.
What happens in November, in Oregon and Colorado, and early next year in Maine and other states, could make or break the anti-GMO movement in this country.
And Monsanto and Big Food know it.
The Pesticide Purveyors and Junk Food Giants have already made their first million-dollar-plus “smoke-and-mirrors” ad buy in Oregon. Their massive media campaign is likely to be full of the usual lies about how labeling will raise food prices, and how GMO foods are “proven” safe.
It will look much the campaigns they ran in California and Washington State, where they narrowly defeated labeling initiatives in 2012 and 2013.
Only worse. Because this time, the stakes are even higher.
The corporations that poison our food and planet are desperate to defeat state labeling initiatives in Oregon and Colorado—because they know if they lose either of these two state battles, they lose the state labeling laws war.
Why? Because Congress is not likely to pass the industry-sponsored DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) ACT, a bill to preempt state labeling laws, if Oregon and Colorado join Vermont, Maine and Connecticut in passing GMO labeling laws.
Even worse for Monsanto, once state laws mandating the labeling of GMOs in our food are the norm, and consumers get a clearer picture of just how prevalent GMOs are in our food, demand for organic foods will skyrocket.
It will be the beginning of the end of Monsanto’s domination of our food supply.
The laws in Maine and Connecticut don’t yet pose a threat to Monsanto and Big Food. Trigger clauses in those laws mean that they won’t take effect unless multiple other states pass labeling requirements.
So far only the Vermont law, passed in May, threatens to unravel Monsanto’s Great GMO Smoke and Mirrors Campaign. Which is why industry, led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, has filed a lawsuit to try to overturn Vermont’s law.
But industry can’t sue every state in the nation. If voters pass GMO labeling laws in Oregon and Colorado in November, Monsanto will need more than smoke and mirrors to perpetuate its crimes against consumers, farmers and the environment.
We know, from years of fighting this battle that our government is going to protect industry profits. Not your health.
This has always been a battle fought by the grassroots. It’s up to us to win it. However long it takes.
Ronnie Cummins|National Director|Organic Consumers Association|Organic Consumers Fund
Press Release from the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees
Groups unite to call on Brazil to deny application to legalize genetically engineered eucalyptus trees
New York -Two letters signed by hundreds of organizations from around the world were delivered today to the Brazilian National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) calling on them to deny a pending request by the FuturaGene Corporation to commercially release genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees in Brazil. This occurred in the capital Brasilia during a CTNBio public hearing on the FuturaGene request. CTNBio is the Brazilian governmental institution charged with authorizing commercial release of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in that country.
The letters were delivered to CTNBio by representatives of Terra de Direitos, The Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), La Via Campesina Brazil, and the Small Farmers Movement (MPA) -social movements and organizations that represent hundreds of thousands of people in Brazil. They joined the effort to stop commercialization of GE trees due to their potentially serious negative impacts on the environment and biodiversity, local communities, and human and indigenous rights.
FuturaGene’s application is the first ever requesting permission to commercially grow GE trees in Brazil, where they are currently only permitted in field trials. FuturaGene, registered in the UK, is owned by Brazil-based pulp and paper company Suzano.
Due to mounting global concerns about GE trees, in 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity called for the application of the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees, as well as a comprehensive and transparent assessment of their long-term social and ecological risks prior to any open release into the environment. This risk assessment has not been done.
Any approval by CTNBio of the commercialization of the GE eucalyptus in question would therefore violate the decision of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to which Brazil is a signatory.
Additional companies such as Fibria (formerly Aracruz) and ArborGen are also heavily invested in the commercialization of highly controversial GE trees. ArborGen has offices in the US, Brazil and Australasia. Barbara Wells, who led ArborGen until 2012, was, for 18 years, the head of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready GE soy division in Brazil.
Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of Biofuelwatch states: “The case of GE trees in Brazil is also highly significant because there is also a request currently pending in the United States by GE tree company ArborGen to commercially release the very first GE trees there – freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus trees. This would be an ecological catastrophe for the Southern US, where they would be planted. It would also intensify climate change. GE trees must be stopped in both Brazil and the US.”
Teresa Perez, of World Rainforest Movement, and the Campaign to STOP GE Trees states: “The threat posed by the release of transgenic trees in Brazil is a warning for everyone in the American continent and peoples of many other countries where companies want to expand large-scale tree monocultures. Companies will benefit from this new and dangerous technology, while communities who already suffer from the negative impacts of monoculture tree plantations will once again suffer the negative social, ecological and economic consequences.”
In the letters that were delivered today, social movements, scientists, lawyers and organizations from around the world are calling for a global ban on the commercial release of genetically engineered trees, due to their unknown but potentially severe social and ecological impacts and incalculable economic risks, which would overwhelmingly accrue to the public.
The Campaign to STOP GE Trees is an international alliance of organizations that includes Indigenous Peoples, scientists, anti-GM food activists, forest protection advocates and social justice organizers from across North and South America, Europe and Australasia – all of which are home to companies and universities developing GE trees.
10 Ways You Can Burn Less Coal Today
You may not realize it, but you’re probably burning coal – a lot of it it. Even if you don’t have a coal burning furnace at home, you’re consuming coal when you turn on your lights, power up your computer, crank up the air conditioning, or boil water for a cup of tea. If you’re using electricity to do any of these tasks, chances are that electricity is being generated by coal. You may not actually see coal chunks, but you’re probably using them.
It’s great that we have the power to do all these things. What’s not so great is that, when coal, or oil, or natural gas, are used to generate that power, we’re left with air pollution, smog, and climate change. Burning fossil fuels like coal emits all kinds of particles and gases. Among those gases are carbon dioxide, or CO2. When CO2 gets into the atmosphere, it creates a sort of atmospheric blanket that hovers over the earth and warms the ground below it. We need a little bit of CO2 to maintain life on earth as we know it. The problem today is, we’re burning so much coal, oil and gas, that we’re creating way too much CO2 for the earth to handle. You’ve heard of global warming and climate change? They’re due in large part to the excessive amounts of CO2 we’re dumping into the atmosphere because we’re burning so much coal, along with gas and oil.
Since burning coal is used primarily to generate electricity, here are 10 ways you can burn less coal by cutting down on the amount of electricity you use.
1. Turn off the lights. About 25% of the electricity we use at home goes to power our lights. First and foremost, try to remember to turn off the lights when you leave a room. If you’re just dashing in and out, it’s not a big deal. But if you’re going to be gone for at least ten minutes, just flick the light off. It’s easy enough to turn back on when you return.
2. Use energy-saving bulbs. LEDs (light emitting diodes) use 70% less energy than a standard bulb and can last 25 times as long! You can get the same quality light for a fraction of the amount of coal needed to power the old fashioned incandescent. Even if LEDs cost a few dollars more than old-style bulbs, they’ll save you about $80 each in energy costs over the lifetime of the bulb. Isn’t that worth it?
3. Get ENERGY STAR certified appliances. EPA’s ENERGY STAR program has created a set of performance standards to ensure that you can buy highly energy-efficient refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, air conditioners and more. When you replace an old appliance, choose a new one that is ENERGY STAR-certified so you save the most energy using the most reliable appliance.
4. Recycle old refrigerators. Refrigerators are energy hogs. Even though yours still might work well, if it is ten years old or older, consider replacing it with an updated model. Many utilities will give you a rebate for replacing an old, energy-wasting refrigerator with a newer on that uses energy efficiently. They’ll also pick up the refrigerator and recycle it for you, and often pay you for the privilege.
5. Unplug computers and other electronics. Did you know that computers and other electronics consume 40% of their total energy use when they’re turned off but still plugged in? That’s why the Department of Energy calls them “vampires.” Get in the habit, not just of turning electronics off, but unplugging them when you’re not using them. This goes for televisions, X-boxes, and sound equipment as well as computers.
6. Plug into a power strip. Energy-saving power strips make it easy to turn off electronics. You can plug all your office electronics into one strip, then turn off the strip when you finish working for the day. The strip also acts as a surge protector in the event of a storm or power outage. Power strips are easily available at your local electronics or hardware store, as well as online.
7. Use a programmable thermostat. Programmable thermostats can be set to automatically adjust temperatures when you leave for work in the morning, return in the evening, and go to sleep at night. That way, you don’t have to remember to adjust the temperature – the thermostat will do it for you.
8. Insulate. Your home could be letting a lot of energy seep out of drafty attics and crawl spaces. In many state, you can get rebates from your utility to add insulation to reduce your overall energy demand.
9. Weather-strip windows and doors. Leaky windows and doors let cold air in in winter and hot air in in the summer. You can buy inexpensive weather-stripping at your local hardware store to plug the leaks and reduce energy demand.
10. Wash and dry full loads. When it comes to your dishwasher, clothes washer, or clothes dryer, the less you use them, the more energy you save. Fill up your washer before you turn it on to use both electricity and water more efficiently. Use the high spin cycle on your clothes washer to pull as much water out of your clothes as possible, which will reduce the amount of energy needed to dry them. And when it comes to drying, consider a drying rack or clothes line and let the sun and air do the job, rather than coal.
Diane MacEachern|September 12, 2014
SAVING THE CLIMATE, FIGHTING FRACKING
In June, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a plan to curtail carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants, a powerful step forward in combating climate change. Yet while efforts to confront coal are making progress, an insidious climate threat is mounting in the form of oil and gas fracking.
Worse, it’s taking shape in our most iconic and majestic landscapes here in the western United States and being facilitated by our own federal government.
For more than a decade, the American West has been ground zero in struggles to safeguard public health and the environment from oil and gas. Booms in the 1980s and early 2000s galvanized diverse movements to protect drinking water, iconic landscapes, clean air, and wildlife.
Guardians has been a part of this movement for many years. In 2008, we successfully prevented the oil and gas industry from destroying key wildlife habitat in New Mexico.
In 2012, we spurred the Environmental Protection Agency to adopt the first ever clean air rules for oil and gas drilling nationwide. And earlier this year, we secured an agreement to protect Utah’s Fishlake National Forest from fracking.
Now, however, we face an unprecedented challenge. With the advent of modern fracking technology, past definitions of success are no longer relevant. No area is off limits as industry seeks to tap every last viable source of oil and gas through increasingly complex and dangerous fracking techniques, including horizontal drilling.
As more information comes to light exposing the true life-cycle greenhouse gas impacts of oil and gas development, it’s clear that the climate impacts are enormous.
Let’s start with the end-of-the-line greenhouse gas emissions of oil and gas, otherwise known as “the burning stage.” Both oil and natural gas are produced primarily as fuels, whether for vehicles or power plants, or even the hot water heaters in our homes. Combustion creates carbon, and although emissions are lower than coal, the quantity is staggering.
Oil and gas from Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming alone—where already 25% of the nation’s oil and 20% of the nation’s gas is extracted—produced an estimated 432 million metric tons of carbon in 2013. This equals the amount released by 113 coal-fired power plants.
The real concern, however, is what happens upstream at “the fracking stage.” We’re finding that methane leaks in the oil and gas fields in the West are producing massive amounts of carbon pollution.
Jeremy Nichols|wildlifeguardians.org newsletter
IT’S THE METHANE THAT MATTERS
At the smokestack, natural gas releases 50% less carbon pollution than coal.
But just looking at smokestacks ignores the climate impacts of fracking. When we factor in “upstream” impacts, we find carbon pollution from gas rivals coal.
The reason? Methane leaks.
Methane is natural gas, and while it’s a valuable product, it’s hard to contain. From wells to power plants, studies indicate that nationwide 7.1% of all natural gas produced is leaked.
That’s where things really get messy, because methane is also a potent greenhouse gas with 86 times the heat-trapping capacity of carbon dioxide.
Along the Front Range of Colorado, studies have found that methane leaks may be responsible for as much carbon pollution as four coal-fired power plants.
Another study reports that even under a 7.1% leakage scenario, any climate benefits from converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas wouldn’t be achieved for at least 100 years.
Natural gas may be cleaner than coal at the power plant, but that’s an unrealistically narrow measure of its climate impacts. Taking into account everything upstream, it’s clear a switch from coal to gas makes little sense. As Joe Romm, founding editor of the blog Climate Progress put it, “Perhaps
it is time to stop squandering tens of billions of dollars—and rendering billions of gallons of water unfit for human consumption—on a fossil fuel source that probably has no meaningful net climate benefit in the real world and may well do considerable harm.”
From wildlifeguardians.org newsletter
Ontario Gets 35% of Energy From Renewables As Coal Plants Shut Down
As coal-fired plants have vanished from its landscape, renewable energy has taken off in a big way in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province.
CleanTechnica reports that, with 2,312 megawatts (MW) of wind power, 4,091 MW of hydro and 159 MW from other sources, renewables hit 35 percent of all the energy going into the grid one day this week. That amount will vary, of course, depending on how windy it is on a given day.
CleanTechnica also pointed to a number of projects in development, with wind leading the the way which, when completed, would produce a total of almost 5,000 MW of new renewable energy. Together with existing sources, they could meet almost half the province’s demand.
The surge was undoubtedly pushed by Ontario’s aggressive drive to eliminate coal-fired power plants. Its Nanticoke Generating Station, the largest in North America and Canada’s largest source of greenhouse emissions, closed last year. The Thunder Bay Power Station, its last coal-burning plant, closed in April, making the province entirely coal-free. It was ahead of its target by nearly eight months. And it was ahead of a goal of 2015 announced in 2002 by over a year.
“Ontario is now the first jurisdiction in North America to fully eliminate coal as a source of electricity generation,” a press release from its Ministry of Energy said when Thunder Bay closed.
“The plant is scheduled to be converted to burn advanced biomass, a renewable fuel source. The province has replaced coal generation with a mix of emission-free electricity sources like nuclear, waterpower, wind and solar, along with lower-emission electricity sources like natural gas and biomass. A coal-free electricity supply mix has led to a significant reduction in harmful emissions, as well as cleaner air and a healthier environment.”
Since 2003, according to the ministry, its coal closure plan has eliminated 30 megatons of emissions from Ontario’s environment.
“Getting off coal is the single largest climate change initiative undertaken in North America and is equivalent to taking up to seven million cars off the road,” said Ontario Minister of Energy Bob Chiarelli in announcing the closure.
“Today we celebrate a cleaner future for our children and grandchildren while embracing the environmental benefits that our cleaner energy sources will bring.”
When legislation was announced last November to permanently ban coal, the province’s Minister of the Environment Jim Bradley said, “Coal-fired electricity generation is a major source of health-threatening smog, and of climate-destabilizing carbon dioxide. Our proposed legislation will ensure that dirty coal-fired electricity remains a practice of the past.”
Nuclear energy remains the biggest source of power generation in the province.
Anastasia Pantsios|September 12, 2014
Oil Drilling in Collier
I would like to take a moment of your time to share an important update about oil drilling activities in Collier County with which the Conservancy has been actively involved. On Tuesday, September 9, the Collier County Commission backed out of its legal challenge intended to address potential groundwater contamination and to stop further inappropriate drilling activity in Collier County. This decision is the latest move related to controversial oil drilling techniques used by the Dan A. Hughes Company at the Hogan Island well and associated Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) oversight.
The Conservancy of Southwest Florida, on behalf of our 6,000 member families, along with partner organizations and concerned citizens, supported the County’s legal action to compel DEP to properly investigate and enforce against the Dan A. Hughes Company for their questionable activity in Collier County. We have provided hundreds of hours of technical and legal assistance to provide factual and scientific information to the County, as well as had filed a petition to legally intervene in support of the County.
From the onset of this issue, we asked the County to:
1. Resolve this in a public process with meaningful public engagement
2. Obtain and rely on independent expert opinions not tied to the landowner or the oil company who have a financial interest in this matter
3. Secure the minimum safeguards needed to address all three possible pathways of water contamination (the Hogan oil well itself, two old improperly plugged wells within a mile of the Hogan well, and the disposal of toxic wastewater produced from the drilling at the Hogan well site)
We believe that the County’s decision on Tuesday ignored all three requests.
In unanimously voting to withdraw their legal challenge, the Commissioners relied solely on information from DEP and a consultant hired by the landowner (who has a financial interest in the potential oil production). This consultant only addressed one of the three possible contamination pathways. The Commission took this action without prior public notification. At the meeting, the Commission refused to hear public comments until after their vote – making the Conservancy’s technical and substantive comments meaningless in relation to the Commissioners’ deliberations. They further denied public input when after the vote only representatives from the Conservancy were allowed to speak. All other citizens and groups, who waited hours to voice their concerns, were denied.
Tuesday’s decision is disappointing as we feel it did not serve the public’s interest. Their actions are a clear violation of public trust and respect for the public process. Ultimately, we feel Collier County’s groundwater remains at an unacceptable level of risk.
Though we appreciate the efforts of Secretary Vinyard in leading DEP to revoke Dan A. Hughes permits, as we look to the future, the public needs to know that the Dan A. Hughes oil company is legally challenging DEP’s permit revocation. If successful, work at the Hogan well could resume, including the possibility of an additional well within a mile of the old improperly plugged wells – further threatening the aquifers Collier County uses for drinking water.
To learn more about this issue, please click here.
We thank each of you for continuing to support our work on this very important and ongoing issue of oil drilling.
Robert Moher|President and CEO|Conservancy of Southwest Florida
Study: U.S. offshore wind goals “feasible” but require regulatory overhaul
The federal government needs to reduce bureaucratic red tape and enact greater regulation if offshore wind power is going to develop in the United States, according to a new study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy.
Six years ago the Obama administration set the goal that by 2030 the United States would get 20 percent of its electricity from wind power, about a sixth of which would come from offshore wind farms.
But while onshore projects in West Texas and Nebraska are booming, offshore has barely gotten off the ground. Last year the U.S. produced 162 kWh from offshore wind turbines – total electricity use in 2011 was 3.9 billion kWh.
The study, whose authors included researchers from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Pittsburgh, found current technology and coastal winds patterns made the goal feasible. But erecting close to 9,000 wind turbines between 10 and 80 miles offshore will require an overhaul of regulations to incentivize construction of a technology that is about twice the cost of onshore wind.
“There needs to be a reason to invest in this,” said John Daniel, lead author of the study and a consultant at the Swiss technology firm ABB. “I think one of the things that would be necessary is for system operators to understand how they can share the benefits and in the costs, which vary region by region. It would have to be a national discussion in my opinion.”
The study envisions wind power primarily developing along the Atlantic coast between Boston and Washington D.C., both because of that region’s wind patterns and its heavy electricity demands. Significant development would also occur along the Atlantic Coast around Georgia and Texas’ Gulf Coast. The Pacific coast’s deep water makes development there more difficult, Daniel said.
Right now work is beginning on three federally-funded offshore wind farms off the New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon coastlines to be in the water by 2017. The small “demonstration” projects, which are slated to receive up to $46.7 million in federal funding, are intended as the first step in moving towards the 2030 goal.
But many remain skeptical that costly offshore wind projects can compete. Electricity prices have been driven down by the flood of cheap natural gas from the shale drilling boom.
Earlier this year Austin-based Baryonyx pulled back plans to build a wind farm across 41,000 acres off South Padre Island when it failed to win federal funding.
“Eventually offshore wind will be part of the picture. In the long run, the renewable energy price is going to come down and fossil fuels is going to go up. They’re going to coexist,” Wei-Jen Lee, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Texas at Arlington, said in an interview last year. ”The bottom line is it comes down to the price of electricity, and right now electricity is cheap.”
For policymakers, even with its sizable costs offshore wind remains an alluring possibility.
Land-based wind farms tend to generate electricity mostly at night, when demand is lowest. Out in the ocean, wind blows more consistently throughout the day. And while onshore farms tend to be located across sparsely populated plains requiring costly transmission to cities, offshore could be built adjacent to coastal cities.
“In the Northeast they’re importing a lot of wind. Building these resources could make them a net exporter. It could completely change the flow of power,” Daniel said.
James Osborne|dallasnews.com|September 5, 2014
U.S. offshore wind power nears takeoff with 14 projects
Long stymied by high costs and local opposition, offshore wind is finally nearing takeoff in the United States as 14 projects enter “advanced stages” of development, the Energy Department reports.
Two of the projects — Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts and Deepwater’s Block Island off Rhode Island — have moved into the initial stages of construction while the others have obtained a lease, conducted extensive studies or obtained a power purchase agreement. Nine are located on the East Coast.
These projects represent about 4.9 gigawatts of possible capacity, according to a new DOE report that was produced by Navigant Consulting. That’s a fraction of the 61 gigawatt capacity of onshore wind turbines, which meet nearly 4.5% of U.S. electricity demand in an average year.
Yet offshore wind holds much greater potential for the United States. At least 54 gigawatts of its power could be produced and transmitted to the grid by 2030, according to another new DOE-funded report done by several groups including DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Pittsburgh.
“We could eventually get there,” says the report’s principal investigator John Daniel of ABB, a power and automation company. He says the biggest obstacle for offshore wind projects are their high installation costs, especially at a time when a boom in U.S. production of natural gas has lowered its price.
Still, his three-year study found that a massive scale-up of 54 gigawatts of offshore wind power could yield long-term savings. It estimates $7.68 billion a year in lower U.S. energy costs, because power generation would be closer to where it’s consumed.
Daniel says a carbon tax, in which fees are levied on the use of fossil fuels that emit heat-trapping carbon emissions, would make it easier for non-polluting wind power to compete economically.
Also essential, say wind supporters, are federal tax incentives. Several, including the Renewable Electricity Production Tax Credit, have expired for projects that did not start construction by the end of 2013. Despite bi-partisan support for wind energy, Congress has not yet renewed them.
Yet wind power could benefit from the recent rise in natural gas prices and the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed 30% cut in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030. The EPA proposal, announced in June and slated to be finalized next year, will likely prompt the closure of many coal-fired facilities.
Globally, the costs of offshore wind installations have fallen 6% since 2011, according to the Navigant report. Larger wind turbines are being placed further out to sea where wind speeds are higher and boost production.
Northwestern Europe accounts for most of the world’s 7 gigawatts of installed offshore wind power, but China is also moving ahead. In 2013, global capacity rose 50% over the prior year. Half of that growth occurred in the United Kingdom.
“While this upward trend is encouraging, uncertain political support for offshore wind in European nations and the challenges of bringing down costs means that the pace of capacity growth may level off in the next two years,” the Navigant report says.
In May, the DOE announced that it would provide up to $46.7 million in federal funds for the final design and construction of three pilot projects: Fisherman’s Energy off the coast of New Jersey, Dominion off Virginia and Principle Power off Oregon. Two other projects, by the University of Maine and the Lake Erie Economic Development Company of Ohio, will each receive a few million in federal dollars.
While most of the 14 U.S. offshore wind projects are slated for mid-Atlantic and Northeastern states, one is planned for each of the following states: California, Texas, Ohio and Oregon. Another is slated for the coast of Saint Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The U.S. wind industry, which now has utility-scale turbines in 39 states, has seen substantial growth in the last decade, but it sputtered last year because of tax uncertainties and cheap natural gas. It’s still growing but not as fast, says the American Wind Energy Association. It added a record 13,131 megawatts of power in 2012 but that fell to only 1,087 MW last year — the lowest level since 2004.
Wendy Koch|USA TODAY|September 8, 2014
China Installs Equivalent of Australia’s Total Solar Capacity — In Six Months
In a big push to cut carbon and support industry, China added more than 3 GW of solar in the first half of 2014.
BEIJING — China, the world’s biggest carbon emitter, accelerated solar power installations in the first half, adding enough capacity in the period to equal Australia’s entire supply of power from sunlight at the end of last year.
China added 3.3 gigawatts of solar capacity in the six months ended June 30, double last year’s additions, the National Energy Administration said today in a statement. China now has 23 gigawatts of solar power supply, almost seven times as much as Australia, which is described by its own government as the world’s highest recipient of radiation per square meter.
China’s race to add renewable energy comes as policymakers push for ways to combat the nation’s growing problem of air pollution. Just this week, Beijing ordered official vehicles off the road and urged the use of public transport to ensure smog-free skies for a preparatory meeting ahead of an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in November.
Utility-scale photovoltaic power plants accounted for 2.3 gigawatts of the new capacity in the first half, with distributed projects comprising the remainder, the NEA said.
The northwestern region of Xinjiang led the way, with 900 megawatts of photovoltaic power plants in the first six months. Xinjiang was followed by Inner Mongolia, Qinghai and Shanxi. The eastern province of Jiangsu added 270 megawatts of distributed solar capacity, according to the NEA.
Distributed generation refers to electricity produced at or near where it’s used. In the case of solar, distributed projects typically include rooftops or ground-mounted panels near facilities such as sporting arenas or municipal buildings.
The agency vows to install 13 gigawatts of solar power capacity this year by supporting the development of distributed solar power generation, Xinhua News Agency reported Aug. 5, citing Wu Xinxiong, the NEA’s head.
China may announce policies as soon as this month to encourage such installations, people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because they aren’t authorized to speak publicly, said earlier this week.
“Demand will be quite positive” from August in China, Xie Jian, president of JA Solar Holdings Co., said in an interview last month.
Feifei Shen|Bloomberg|August 07, 2014
China’s ‘War on Pollution’ Helps Kick Coal Habit
There are still doubts. The statistics might be proved wrong. But it looks as if China might be starting to wean itself off its coal consumption habit.
China produces and consumes nearly as much coal as the rest of the world combined. Coal, the most polluting of all energy sources, has powered the growth of China’s flyaway economy. But as incomes have risen, so has pollution. The country is now the world’s No.1 emitter of greenhouse gases.
Latest figures indicate that change is on the way, spurred on by a much-vaunted government “war on pollution” campaign. The state-run National Development and Reform Commission reports that domestic coal output shrank over the first five months of 2014—the first such decline since the start of China’s rapid economic expansion back in the late 1980s.
Greenpeace, the environmental NGO, said in a recent analysis of China’s coal sector that growth in coal imports, which had been going up at an annual rate of between 13 percent and 20 percent in recent years, has come to a virtual halt.
Meanwhile, the official Xinhua news agency says Beijing—a city of nearly 12 million people—will ban the sale and use of coal in its six main districts by 2020.
Coal-fired factories and power plants around the Chinese capital are being shut down and replaced by natural gas facilities. Coal generated 25 percent of Beijing’s energy in 2012, and the aim is to bring that figure down to less than 10 percent by 2017. Other cities and regions are following Beijing’s lead.
Just how meaningful these cutbacks in coal use are is difficult to gauge. Air pollution—much of it caused by the burning of low-grade thermal coal—is not only a big environmental issue in China but also a political one as well.
China’s leaders have promised a population increasingly angry about the low quality of the air they breathe and the water they drink that the government is determined to tackle pollution.
Yet coal-fired power plants are still being built at a considerable pace, and many more are planned.
Some analysts argue that the present slowdown in China’s coal consumption is only temporary, the result of a dip in industrial output that will be reversed as soon as the economy roars ahead again.
Others say the decline in coal consumption is part of a long-term trend. As China’s economy matures, becoming less dependent on heavy industrial goods and embarking on more hi-tech and service-oriented projects, the country will become ever more energy efficient—and less reliant on coal.
China might be the world’s biggest emitter of fossil fuel emissions, but it also has fast become a global leader in hydro, wind and solar power.
No one is suggesting that coal is going to be absent from China’s energy mix anytime soon. The lung-jarring pollution of many of China’s cities is likely still to be evident for some years yet. But coal is no longer king.
That’s bad news for big coal exporters to China, particularly Australia and Indonesia. But it’s potentially good news for millions in China who crave clean air. And it’s very good news for the planet.
Kieran Cooke|Climate News Network|September 5, 2014
Groundbreaking Study Shows How Demand for Water Could Impact Fracking Worldwide
On World Water Day, the World Resources Institute (WRI) has released a study that maps for the first time the water resources available to support fracking in the world’s largest shale exploration areas. The study, “Global Shale Gas Development: Water Availability and Business Risk,” found that 40 percent of countries with the largest shale energy resources could suffer from water stress: competing demands on their renewable water supply that could make it problematic to use that water for fracking.
World Resources Institute mapped the availability of water resources to support fracking in the biggest shale exploration areas around the world.
“Hydraulic fracturing requires up to 25 million liters of fresh water per well, meaning shale resources can be hard to develop where fresh water is hard to find—including in some of the world’s fastest-growing economies and populations,” said the report. “In general, shale energy production is vulnerable wherever surface or groundwater is limited.”
It cites competing demands for water as an issue in densely populated countries like the United Kingdom, where more than a third of its shale resources face high water stress.
“As water demands increase, other water users like farms and homes around these plays face higher competition for water,” reported WRI. “This could potentially spur water conflicts for the 386 million people who live on land above shale plays, particularly in regions where changes in precipitation and temperature could alter water supplies.”
WRI found high water stress or arid conditions in China, Algeria, Mexico, South Africa, Libya, Pakistan, Egypt and India, while other countries such as Australia, Russia, Colombia, Brazil and Venezuela had low water stress.
It also issued a series of recommendations for evaluating fresh water availability prior to developing potential shale energy resources and maintaining an adequate water supply for other uses. They include conducting water risk assessments; increasing transparency and engagement among citizens, businesses and regulations; ensuring adequate oversight of water supplies; and minimizing fresh water use in shale energy development.
“Water risk is one of the most important, but underappreciated challenges when it comes to shale gas development,” said WRI CEO Andrew Steer. “With 386 million people living on land above shale plays, governments and business face critical choices about how to manage their energy and water needs. This analysis should serve as a wake-up call for countries seeking to develop shale gas. Energy development and responsible water management must go hand in hand.”
Anastasia Pantsios|September 2, 2014
Pipeline Giant Handed Permit to Open Tar Sands Rail Facility
On the Friday before Labor Day—in the form of an age-old “Friday News Dump“—the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) handed a permit to Enbridge, the tar sands-carrying corporate pipeline giant, to open a tar sands-by-rail facility in Flanagan, Illinois by early 2016.
With the capacity to accept 140,000 barrels of tar sands product per day, the company’s rail facility serves as another step in the direction towards Enbridge’s quiet creation of a “Keystone XL clone.” That is, like TransCanada’s Keystone pipeline system sets out to do, sending Alberta’s tar sands all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico’s refinery row—and perhaps to the global export market.
Flanagan sits as the starting point of Enbridge’s Flanagan South pipeline, which will take tar sands diluted bitumen (“dilbit”) from Flanagan to Cushing, Okla. beginning in October, according to a recent company earnings call. From there, Enbridge’s Seaway Twin pipeline will bring dilbit to Port Arthur, Texas near the Gulf.
Enbridge made the prospect of a tar sands-by-rail terminal public for the first time during its quarter two investor call.
“In terms of the rail facility, one of the things we’re looking at is—and the rail facility is really in relation to the situation in western Canada where there is growing crude oil volumes and not enough pipeline capacity to get it out of Alberta for a two or three year period,” Guy Jarvis, president of liquids pipelines for Enbridge, said on the call.
“So, one of the things we’re looking at doing is constructing a rail unloading facility that would allow western Canadian crudes to go by rail to Flanagan, be offloaded, and then flow down the Flanagan South pipeline further into Seaway and to the Gulf.”
FERC has given Enbridge the permit it needs to make that happen.
The announcement comes just days after the U.S. Department of State handed Enbridge a controversial permit to move an additional 350,000 barrels of tar sands per day across the U.S.-Canada border without the legally conventional Presidential Permit, public hearings or an environmental review conducted by the State Department.
Enbridge also received a permit from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) the day before FERC’s “Friday News Dump,” locking in the State Department’s legal ruling at the state-level. MPUC voted 4-1 to permit the pipeline after a meeting lasting nearly eight hours.
The commission did so even though the staffer analyzing comments and legal submissions acknowledged he reviewed far more climate and environmental concerns than vice versa, according to MPUC staff briefing papers reviewed by DeSmogBlog.
“Clearly there exists much public opposition to the increased consumption of fossil fuels and diluted bitumen sources in particular,” wrote Michael Kaluzniak, planning director for energy facilities permitting for MPUC.
“Additionally, the Commission received numerous comments expressing genuine concern regarding the potential impact of the project on water quality and overall dissatisfaction with Enbridge’s public safety and spill response actions.”
With the combination of its Alberta Clipper expansion “illegal scheme” (referred to as such by the National Wildlife Federation), Flanagan South and Seaway Twin pipelines, as well as the FERC-approved rail facility, Enbridge now has the capacity to bring roughly 960,000 barrels per day of tar sands product to the Gulf.
For sake of comparison, Keystone XL has the capacity to bring 830,000 barrels per day of tar sands to the Gulf. But TransCanada has also brokered its own deals and made its own chess moves.
As reported on DeSmogBlog, TransCanada may build its own tar sands-by-rail facility while it waits for Keystone XL’s northern leg to receive—or not receive—a State Department permit and accompanying Presidential Permit.
“It is something … that we can move on relatively quickly,” TransCanada CEO Russ Girling stated on his company’s quarter one earnings call. “We’ve done a pretty substantial amount of work at the terminal end and mostly at the receipt and delivery points and that’s really what our key role in here would be.”
Since that call, TransCanada has not discussed its tar sands by rail business plans.
In July, Global Partners and Kansas City Southern announced plans to develop a tar sands by rail facility in Port Arthur, Texas with 340,000 barrels of storage capacity.
If TransCanada opens up its own tar sands by rail facility, the combination of that and Enbridge’s latest tar sands by rail move could feed the Global Partners-Kansas City Southern beast.
With tar sands now “Texas Bound and Flyin” in a major way, and both Enbridge and TransCanada finding a way to get tar sands to the Gulf, the seemingly hyperbolic headline published on July 10 by the Houston Business Journal seems to ring true more now than ever: “Keystone? Who needs it?”
Steve Horn|DeSmogBlog|September 2, 2014
U.S. Sugar seeks OK for huge development after news it paid for GOP leaders’ trips
The company that paid for Texas hunting trips for Florida Republican leaders has a deal in the works to turn 67 square miles of agricultural land on the northwest edge of the Everglades into housing and businesses.
Weeks after news that Gov. Rick Scott and Florida GOP leaders took secret hunting trips to Texas financed by Florida’s sugar industry, U.S. Sugar and Hilliard Brothers are pushing plans for a massive new development in rural Hendry County near the northwest edge of the Everglades.
The Sugar Hill Sector Plan envisions turning 43,313 acres — or more than 67 square miles — of sugar cane fields, citrus groves and pasture lands into a planned community featuring 18,000 residential units and 25 million square feet of space to accommodate manufacturing, warehousing, transportation services and other kinds of businesses.
Development would occur over the next 46 years, until 2060. No price tag for the project is mentioned in plan documents made public by Hendry County. Nor are financial arrangements discussed.
Maps indicate that the Sugar Hill property is part of 46,800 acres of U.S. Sugar land that the state has an option to purchase through October 2015 at fair market value under the Everglades restoration land acquisition program. Changes to Sugar Hill’s current agricultural zoning could significantly drive up the price per acre.
Various state agencies have been or will be involved in reviewing the giant project by the two Clewiston-based companies. They include Florida’s departments of Economic Opportunity, Transportation, Agriculture and Environmental Protection, as well as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the South Florida Water Management District.
The plan for Sugar Hill, which documents show has been discussed with various state and local officials since July 2013, appears to be on a fast track. The plan was formally submitted to Hendry County on June 2. The county commission gave its initial thumbs-up last week by approving U.S. Sugar/Hilliard’s lengthy development application for transmittal to Tallahassee.
Under a law signed by Gov. Scott in 2011, the state’s sector planning program now lets local governments engage in long-term planning for large areas with minimal state interference. The same law abolished Florida’s Department of Community Affairs, which had overseen state growth management efforts and reviewed local comprehensive plans, and transferred its planning function to the newly created Department of Economic Opportunity.
The department had yet to receive the Sugar Hill application by late Tuesday.
A county planning and zoning document presented to commissioners before the Aug. 26 public hearing minimized the environmental impact of the Sugar Hill development. It says that an environmental analysis prepared by the sugar interests “confirmed that there are no regionally significant natural resources within the sector plan” area.
U.S. Sugar is looking for state support for the Sugar Hill plan in the wake of disclosures by the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times in July that it financed hunting trips to Texas’ King Ranch for Gov. Scott and Republican leaders. They include Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam; former House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park; Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity, scheduled to become speaker in 2016; Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, who had been set to become speaker this year until he lost his bid for reelection; and House Appropriations Chairman Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland.
The newspapers reported that “since late 2011, U.S. Sugar paid more than $95,000 to the Republican Party of Florida for at least 20 weekend trips — destinations unspecified on public documents — within days of more than a dozen Florida politicians registering for Texas hunting licenses.” The industry also paid for the licenses.
The Sugar Hill property — shorthand for U.S. Sugar/Hilliard — is described as adjacent to the Airglades Airport, Clewiston, and borders on the Glades County line.
According to the county’s planning and zoning department, it “will incentivize businesses and development companies to locate in Hendry County by removing any barrier that may exist with the current land-use designation. As important, this proposal would complement the future expansion of the Airglades International Airport.”
Airglades is a small, county-owned facility where British Royal Air Force cadets trained during World War II. Since 2010, the county has been seeking to sell the airport to private owners in order to turn it into a major hub for cargo shipments. The Federal Aviation Administration must approve any sale.
The airport is working with Airglades International Airport LLC, (AIA), which wants to buy and privatize the airport as part of a $400 million plan that would turn it into an international cargo hub by adding a new 12,000-foot runway. AIA’s directors include U.S. Sugar executive Malcolm S. “Bubba” Wade Jr. and Joe Marlin Hilliard, chairman of the Florida Sugar Cane League.
On Monday, following FAA approval, AIA took over management of Airglades, said AIA President Fred Ford. He said the company expects a decision allowing AIA to purchase the 2,800-acre airport property “within the next 12 months.” The price to be paid would depend on how many jobs are created, Ford said.
According to Ford, the fate of Sugar Hill, which owns much of the land that surrounds the airport, is tied largely to the success of Airglades.
“If the airport isn’t successful, it won’t happen,” Ford said. “Sugar Hill is what could happen if the airport is successful. … The sector plan could be just an interesting document.”
State Land Sale Garners More Than $15 Million for Conservation Purchases
State closes on former A.G. Holley property in Palm Beach County
Today, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of State Lands closed on the sale of A.G. Holley. The approximately 79.91-acre parcel of improved state-owned non-conservation land was the site of a former state hospital, which closed in 2012. Governor Scott and the Board of Trustees voted to approve the sale of this property on March 6, 2014, to Southeast Legacy Investments, LLC for $15.6 million.
“The closing of the A.G. Holley sale is a significant achievement in our endeavor to purchase high-priority conservation land,” said DEP Secretary Herschel T. Vinyard Jr. “The substantial revenue coming from this sale alone will allow the department to fund crucial Florida Forever projects.”
The department is in the process of selling many state-owned, surplus, non-conservation lands to increase the budget for future purchases of environmentally sensitive conservation lands. The 2014-2015 Florida Legislature gave DEP spending authority to utilize up to $40 million of the proceeds of non-conservation land sales to acquire valuable land needed for conservation and public recreation.
“It is exciting to see this sale come to fruition knowing how the sale of non-conservation lands will benefit Florida’s precious resources and will assist the town of Lantana in developing a new public sports complex,” said Kelley Boree, director of DEP’s Division of State Lands. “This closing, along with additional imminent sales, will amplify our ability to acquire environmentally sensitive lands.”
Multiple land sales are anticipated to close over the next several months for a total of approximately $43 million. Approximately $22 million will be collected from the sale of four correctional institutes located in Hendry, Broward, Hillsborough and Palm Beach counties. The facilities were closed due to correctional institute consolidations.
“I am delighted to know that the sale of the A.G. Holley property will be used to preserve Florida’s natural beauty as well as promote physical activity with a new sports complex,” said State Surgeon General and Secretary of Health Dr. John Armstrong. “This milestone demonstrates the collaboration and responsiveness of partners across our state who are committed to the health of Florida’s families and the preservation of our environment.”
latashawalters|Sep. 4, 2014
China’s Biggest 74 Cities All Dirtier Than L.A.
Los Angeles has always been held up as the U.S.’s most polluted city. But, the Los Angeles Times reports, all of China’s largest cities make L.A.’s air look crystalline.
Los Angeles became famous for its ozone pollution, and it is still the most ozone-polluted city in the country, says the 2014 State of the Air report published by the American Lung Association. It ranks fourth in the even more dangerous particle pollution, which comes from sources like exhaust smoke and coal, and has serious negative effects on the cardio-vascular system.
With an average particulate reading of 12 considered “good,” the average Los Angeles reading last year was 18. But China’s cleanest city, Haikou, had an average annual reading of 26. Beijing’s was 90. The L.A. Times cited a tracking of China’s 74 largest metropolitan areas by the Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection for the figures.
“From February 2009 to December 2013, Beijing’s worst one-day average reading was 569 on Jan. 12, 2013; L.A.’s was 79 on Dec. 9, 2012,” reported the L.A. Times. “In the same period, Beijing had 48 days with an average daily reading in excess of 300, considered by both China and the U.S. to be ‘hazardous’.”
Of course, with tougher environmental standards, L.A.’s air now is cleaner than it was decades ago. And since particulate matters wasn’t being measured back then, it’s hard to say if L.A. back then was more polluted than major Chinese cities now. But experts cited by the L.A. Times didn’t think so.
“Comparing California 30 years ago to China today is apples and oranges,” Eugene Leong, an air pollution expert who teaches at Peking University, told the paper. “How bad was PM2.5 in California in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s? We don’t know. … Was it as bad as what China is experiencing now? My educated guess is probably not as bad.”
If you’d like to follow how polluted the air is in a Chinese city right now, you can do so on this real-time map. It tracks pollution in cities around the world, assigning each a total air pollution score which can be further broken down by types of pollution. It rates L.A.’s current pollution as a “moderate” 78, with Beijing rated “unhealthy” at 187. At the time we accessed the map, two Chinese cities were rated “hazardous” with readings over 500. Shanghai, however, measured only 42, or “good.” The Yosemite Visitor Center in Mariposa, California, had the highest pollution rating in the U.S. at 177.
Anastasia Pantsios|September 11, 2014
CNBC’s Squawk Box: FECI President & CEO and Vice Chairman of Business Development talk “All Aboard Florida”
CNBC’s Squawk Box featured a segment on the All Aboard Florida and the benefits to the state. We encourage you to watch the full clip here.
Vince Signorello, President and CEO of Florida East Coast Industries (FECI), All Aboard Florida’s parent company, and Seth Waugh, FECI’s Vice Chairman, spoke about the demand for intercity passenger rail between Florida’s most populated and visited regions, the profitability of other passenger rail systems in the U.S. and world, and how the company is leveraging 100-year-old infrastructure backbone to reintroduce this much-needed transportation alternative. “This project will transform the state and make it a better place in the process,” said Waugh.
“Today, intercity travel between South Florida and Orlando is tremendous. Every single year there are about half a billion intercity trips between Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. It’s a mix of tourists, local Floridians and business people. It’s a very diverse market,” said Signorello. “The proposition is very simple. You can have a very productive trip, and we can shave at least an hour off your travel time between South Florida and Orlando.”
Additionally, we would like to thank everyone who has submitted a supportive comment using the new tool on our website.
f you haven’t already done so, please click here to submit your letter of support. Send the link to your friends and family, and let them know #ImAllAboard.
Stay tuned as we continue sharing the facts about this important transportation and real estate project.
Copyright © 2014 All Aboard Florida, All rights reserved.
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All Aboard Florida
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This Dutch Denim Company Lets You Lease Organic and Recycled Jeans
“We think recycling is fun,” Bert Van Son, the CEO and founder of Mud Jeans, told me.
The Dutch denim company has created a leasing system, called “Lease A Jeans.” Clients have the option of leasing their jeans, for a €20.00 deposit and €5.95 for each month of use for a year. The lease includes repair services, should you rip your jeans. After a year’s lease, the jeans can be swapped for a new pair, bought outright, or simply returned.
The jeans themselves hit just about every box on the ethical apparel checklist. They use GOTS-certified organic cotton or recycled fibers. They’re made in fair-trade factories in Italy, for distribution in Europe.
And of course, the company ensures that every garment that comes back to them gets recycled, and the jeans are made with printed labels instead of leather labels to make recycling easier. The jeans are either re-leased in their used condition, or the cloth is upcycled into other garments, like shoes and sweatshirts. Sweatshirts are also available for lease and purchase.
But the most exciting thing about Mud Jeans is that they essentially close the loop, creating a model for reducing the amount of waste associated with the apparel. According to a report released last year, only about 25 percent of textiles are recycled in Europe. The rest goes to landfill or is incinerated. Van Son said that in the Netherlands alone, 135 million kilos of fabric are burned per year.
Van Son said that the biggest challenge is getting people to accept that clothing can be part of what he calls the “performance economy” and what might also be called the “sharing economy.” He likens the jeans to a washing machine: many people don’t mind not owning a washing machine, particularly in urban areas, and using the machines at a Laundromat instead. But the idea is a harder sell when it comes to clothes.
However, many people are curious and the idea seems to be catching on. According to the Mud website, there are currently 1,500 people leasing their jeans. After the company’s first year, 30 percent of leaseholders choose to keep their jeans, 60 percent swapped for another pair and 10 percent returned the jeans. “We are building an engaged community,” said Van Son.
Van Son is looking to bring the Lease A Jeans concept to the U.S. At a sustainable fashion event hosted at the citizen M hotel in New York City, Mud signed up three customers who want to lease jeans–the first in America. However, Van Son wants to find American manufacturers, so that all of the products can be part of the local economy and continue to be as sustainable as possible.
Margaret Badore|TreeHugger|September 12, 2014
This post originally appeared on TreeHugger.
Why It’s Important to Rinse Recyclables
We all know it’s important to recycle and not toss things into the trash or the environment, but how carefully do we need to rinse containers before sending them on their way to the recycling center? Some argue that recycling is a total waste of water when you factor in the amount people are using to get their cans, bottles, and jars squeaky-clean, while others claim containers don’t need to be rinsed at all, and some say that the reality lies in the middle ground.
The real answer is that the rinsing requirements can vary depending on where you are (check this handy guide to get exact deals for your locale), but the bottom line is this: Yes, you still need to rinse recyclables. However, you can do it in an energy-efficient way.
Here’s why recyclers ask you to rinse:
- It makes it easier to handle recycling. Imagine dealing with containers partially-filled with food scraps and left to sit around for a while. It would get pretty gross pretty fast. For the comfort of workers, it’s nice to rinse things out to keep down mold and mildew and make their working environment more pleasant. (In addition, some molds can cause environmental illness — don’t make recycling workers sick!)
- It limits pests. Animals like raccoons are very drawn to food waste. If you put out recycling as you generate it, it may take days or even a couple of weeks before the recycling company picks it up. Over that period, animals may knock your recycling bins over, get inside them and make a mess. That’s not fun for you, or for the sanitation workers who have to deal with it.
- It increases the quality of your recycling. Yes, even recycling is graded these days. Even in municipalities where it’s okay to throw containers with some food residue in (please compost most of your unused or expired food before recycling as opposed to tossing partially-full containers of mayo in the recycling bin), those containers are a little more difficult to recycle. Ultimately, the food will be burned or rinsed off during processing, but it means a little extra work. When workers sort through recycling during the processing stage, they grade and divide it by cleanliness. If it’s clean, it gets a higher grade, and sells for more. Maybe you don’t care about how much the recycling company profits, but you might care about your trash bill — which will go up if recycling isn’t generating enough money to support itself.
S.E. Smith|Care2|September 11, 2014
Continue reading at ENN affiliate, Care2.
The Swedish Revolution: Turning 99% of Garbage Into Energy
Sweden has a passion for recycling! We know this because 99 percent of the country’s garbage is recycled, and less than 1 percent ends up in landfills.
In fact, the Scandinavian country has become so good at managing waste that it even has to import garbage from the UK, Italy, Norway and Ireland to feed the country’s 32 waste-to-energy (WTE) plants.
The Swedish Miracle — How Does it Work?
It begins with the three R’s, but goes much further. At the core of Sweden’s program is its waste-management hierarchy designed to curb environmental harm: prevention (reduce), reuse, recycling, recycling alternatives (energy recovery via WTE plants), and lastly, disposal (landfill).
Incinerator plants are at the heart of the program, but before garbage is trucked there, it is first filtered by home and business owners; organic waste is separated, paper picked from recycling bins, and any objects that can be salvaged and reused pulled aside. OK, so nothing much out of the ordinary there.
What makes Sweden different is its use of a somewhat controversial program incinerating over two million tons of trash per year, producing about 670,000 tons worth of fuel oil energy. Pretty useful in Sweden’s cold winters!
WTE plants work by loading furnaces with garbage, burning it to generate steam which is used to spin generator turbines used to produce electricity. That electricity is then transferred to transmission lines and a grid distributes it across the country.
“Waste today is a commodity in a different way than it has been. It’s not only waste, it’s a business,” explained Swedish Waste Management communications director Anna-Carin Gripwell in a statement. “When waste sits in landfills, leaking methane gas and other greenhouse gasses, it is obviously not good for the environment,” she added.
In case you’re wondering, this is not about burning trash in the open air. Instead, Sweden has adopted a regulated, low-emission process for its incineration plants, which means that start-up costs for new plants can get too expensive for some cities.
The incineration process isn’t perfect, but technological advancements and introduction of flue-gas cleaning have reduced airborne dioxins to “very small amounts,” according to the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency.
Check out this video to see how this recycling works:
Making Everyone Responsible — Raising Awareness
How has this small country succeeded in involving all its citizens in the recycling plan?
Sweden’s success in handling garbage didn’t happen overnight.
Starting in the ’70s, Sweden adopted fairly strict rules and regulations when it comes to handling waste, both for households and for cities and companies.
Rules introduced in the 1990s forced companies to take a more eco-aware look at what products they market: by Swedish law, producers are responsible for handling all costs related to collection and recycling or disposal of their products.
How Are Other Countries Handling Garbage?
Japan introduced a Home Appliance Law about ten years ago. It places the responsibility of recycling on everyone from the consumers to the manufacturers. If you need to get rid of a large appliance, you are required to pay a recycling fee. The amount of money depends on the appliance, brand and size of the unit. The cost of recycling a small television, for example, would run you about $19, but a refrigerator could be around $32.
In Italy, Rome has become quite strict regarding the whole recycling issue: if you don’t separate your recycling from your waste and you have a recycling bin within 500 meters from your front door, you can be fined up to 619 Euros, or $833.
In the U.S., San Francisco is the clear leader in the field of zero waste. In 2002, the city made a promise that by 2020 it would eliminate all waste that is neither recycled nor composted; in 2014, they are at the 80 percent mark, which is pretty amazing.
San Francisco’s plan does not involve incinerators; rather, it’s all about mandatory composting, compulsory debris recycling, banning plastic bags and plastic bottles, and mandatory recycling for all its residents.
Other cities in the U.S. are not doing so well: on average across the country, the Environmental Protection Agency estimates only about a third of waste is recycled or composted. In Houston and New York the number is 26 percent, while in San Antonio it drops to 18 percent.
Whether we’re looking at the country of Sweden or the city of San Francisco, the driving force must be to raise people’s awareness of our environment, and the need to protect it. Once we humans start respecting Mother Earth, and taking good care of it, we will all be in much better shape
Judy Molland|September 13, 2014
When sinkholes open, they swallow fortunes
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Solid ground isn’t always a certainty. Sinkholes can lurk anywhere — beneath suburban homes, city streets or even football stadiums and museums. It’s basic geology: Sinkholes open when soil collapses into large holes, caused by flowing water in underground limestone. Their toll can be dramatic, and the Southeastern U.S. is prime territory for the geological phenomena. In Tennessee, a sinkhole opened during renovations on the football stadium at Austin Peay State University. What started as a small hole turned into a chasm 40 feet deep and 40 feet wide as a repair crew dug to find its source.
In Kentucky, a sinkhole gobbled eight classic cars on display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. Corvettes, piled like toys in a heap of dirt and concrete fragments, became an Internet sensation, boosting museum attendance. And in Florida — ground zero for sinkholes — Tina and John Furlow were forced from their home near Tampa when a sinkhole caused so much damage that the repairs would have exceeded the value of the three-bedroom house with a nice pool. They now live in a used recreational vehicle. “It has been miserable,” Tina Furlow said. “It is taking its toll on us. We decided we need to get off this merry-go-round.”
For every sinkhole that causes property damage, scores open in fields and other obscure places. Earlier this year, sinkholes opened at high-profile spots about an hour and a half apart: the Corvette Museum in south-central Kentucky and the football stadium at Austin Peay State in Clarksville, Tennessee. During renovations at Austin Peay’s Governors Stadium, a sinkhole was discovered where the football field meets the track. Workers needed seven days to fix it, said Mike Jenkins, superintendent for Nashville-based Bell & Associates Construction.
The hole was plugged with layers of boulders, concrete, smaller rocks and a layer of cloth-like material to prevent moisture from seeping through. Then came another application of rocks, capped by asphalt. “I’m pretty confident that the work we did won’t become an issue again,” Jenkins said. At the Corvette Museum, the 60-foot-long, 45foot-wide, 30-foot-deep sinkhole opened in the Skydome display area in mid-February. The place that showcases automotive engineering will highlight another engineering feat when workers fix the hole.
Bruce Schreiner|Associated Press
[They couldn’t extract the body of the poor soul whose bedroom was swallowed up with him in his bed, but they got those Corvettes out.]
Manage Honey Bees Now to Prepare for Next Year’s Nectar Flow
Over everything the beekeeper does hangs the honey producer’s main objective: maximizing bee populations in time for major nectar flows. The next major nectar flows in north Florida will be spring; but beekeepers need to start working now in order to be ready for them next spring. Proper management of your bees in late summer and autumn provides for successful colony winter survival. This in turn will ensure strong populations of bees to work the 2015 nectar flow.
The objective of management at this time of year is to ensure that a viable population of honey bees goes into winter with a good chance of surviving. Young bees are important, but a good, healthy population of “winter bees” is even more important. Winter bees, bees reared in late summer/early fall, are adapted to storing nutrients for a long period of time. Summer bees do this less well.
The queen is the origin of this vital population of winter bees. The beekeeper must, therefore, take pains to ensure she is up to the job. There is a natural slowdown of brood rearing at this time, so a failing queen may not be detected by the beekeeper. If there is any doubt about the queen’s condition, one should seriously consider re-queening the colony. In fact, some beekeepers re-queen in late summer or early fall on a regular annual basis. New queens lay eggs at higher rates than older ones, and the resultant population is larger. In addition, a first year queen is much less apt to swarm the following spring.
Below is a list of Beekeeping Best Management Practices for late summer and fall:
- Late summer is the time of year in North Florida when Varroa populations begin to grow. Monitor your colonies closely and treat if necessary. Treatment options include: Apiguard, Apilife VAR, Apistan, Mite Away II, Hopguard and Apivar. Follow the product labels when applying these miticides.
- As a preventive measure, consider treating colonies with Terramycin or Tylan dust to help control American and European foulbroods.
- September is a good time to treat for Nosema disease using Fumigillin. Always follow product labels.
- October – December are peak periods for hive beetle infestations. Options for treatment are: Beetle Blasters, Checkmite, GardStar, Hood traps, West beetle traps, and more.
- Tracheal mites are of little concern to the Florida beekeeper. However, colonies can be treated if there is evidence of tracheal mite infestations during the autumn season. Grease patties are a simple treatment that can be used against tracheal mites. To make the patty, mix vegetable oil and powdered sugar until doughy but not sticky to touch. Place a pancake sized patty on the top bars of frames in the brood chambers.
- There is a nectar dearth in many areas this time of year. Check colony food stores and feed colonies if they are light. Some areas may be home to plants that bloom in late summer/fall and provide enough nectar for bees to make and store honey. Check the Florida Beekeeping Management Calendar to see if these plants grow in your area.
- August and September are very hot months. Make sure colonies are adequately ventilated and close to sources of fresh water.
Roy Carter|UF/IFAS Extension|August 8th, 2014
Sand hauling truck route goes before council
Collier County residents are getting ready to hear the roar of trucks hauling sand once more.
Wednesday morning the city council plans to discuss the routes the trucks will take to haul more than 50,000 cubic yards of sand to the shoreline with three drop points at Lowdermilk Park, Third Avenue North and Seventeenth Avenue South.
Peter Stant says the trucks came down his street during the last re-nourishment project and if this route is approved, they will rumble down 4th Avenue North again. Stant recalls what it was like last time.
“Nerve wracking. And it’s just constant.”
Mayor John Sorey said the project should start on November first and be done by Thanksgiving.
“Maybe they could change things up and reroute it, let someone else get some of this interference,” Stant said, although he acknowledged that it’s something that needs to be done.
Ted Davis lives just down the street and called the trucks a”small inconvenience.”
“I’m not going to complain just because I live on 4th Avenue North, it’s nice to have beautiful beach right there,” he said.
Plus, Mayor Sorey said the research shows, more sand, more tourists.
“Surveys that we do with the tourists, the most important thing they say is our beaches.”
Along with FEMA, the tax paid by those tourists is helping to food the approximately $7-million bill estimated by Sorey. Davis says one month of noise is worth it for a year of beautiful beaches.
“At the end of the day I want what’s best for the town and if it’s best for the town let them bring the trucks in.”
For the last re-nourishment project Sorey said trucks drove more than one million miles without an accident, and that the same safety protocol will be used this time around.
They have yet to accept a bid from a contractor, after that happens they will determine the rest of the truck route.
Sophie Nielsen-Kolding|Collier County reporter|Sep 02, 2014
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