Category Archives: Environment

Want to run over a protester? Try North Dakota


New legislation proposed in north Dakota because of those pipeline protests would, among other things, bar the wearing of masks in public [what about Halloween and costume parties?] and, uh, make if legal for folks to “accidentally” run over or injure protesters with their cars.

An ominous report from RT America:

Proposed protest laws in North Dakota would let drivers run them over

Program notes:

Protesters against the Dakota Access Pipeline are shocked over new measures introduced by GOP lawmakers which would criminalize road protests, restrict what protesters can wear, and allow the federal government to sue to cover enforcement costs. RT America’s Alexey Yaroshevsky reports.

Wind turbines join fungus as leading bat killers


From the Bat Conservation Society, a map depicting the rapid spread of the leath White-nose syndrome among America's bat population.

From the Bat Conservation Society, a map depicting the rapid spread of the lethal White-nose Syndrome among America’s bat population.

As we’ve noted before, a lethal plague is killing America’s bats, a fungal disease named for its most characteristic sign.

But there’s also another newly discovered bat killer, one hails as a major step to alleviating climate change.

But first, the lethal spread of White-nose Syndrome

From the Bat Conservation Society:

White-nose Syndrome (WNS) is a fungal disease that has killed millions of bats in North America. The disease is caused by a fungus from Eurasia, which was accidentally transported here by humans. The fungus, Pseudogymnoascus destructans, invades the skin of hibernating bats and disrupts both their hydration and hibernation cycles.

Hibernating bats awake repeatedly during the winter, burning up limited fat reserves. They often leave hibernation sites in late winter, dehydrated and in search of food, and ultimately dying.

The fungus is transmitted primarily from bat to bat. Today, WNS is found in 29 US states and 5 Canadian provinces. The fungus that causes WNS is found in three more US states.

WNS is known to affect hibernating bats, and 7 species of bats have been diagnosed with the disease. Five additional species (†) have been found with the fungus, but have not yet developed the disease.

So why be concerned about bats? After all, we in the West associate them with ghosts, goblins, vampires, and other creepy things.

We would argue that they have just as much right to be here as we do. And, besides, when you get over the initial cultural reactions, they really are marvelous critters.

But there’s also an economic argument.

As the Center for Biological Diversity notes:

Bats eat bugs, which is not only helpful for keeping mosquitoes and another annoying insects at bay for us humans but also has economic importance. A recent scientific paper on the economic value of bats to agriculture estimated that bats provided nontoxic pest-control services totaling $3.7 billion to $53 billion per year. This study did not even consider what the indirect costs of “replacing” bats with pesticides would be in terms of potential health and pollution threats from greater levels of toxins in the environment.

Bats provide other services to humans too, such as pollinating plants and distributing seeds, in tropical and subtropical habitats throughout the world. Some of these plants are useful to people, including a species of agave that is the source of tequila, a multimillion-dollar industry in Mexico. Bat guano has traditionally been used as fertilizer for crops in various parts of the world and is also sold commercially. However, mining of bat guano may also be harmful to cave organisms that depend on it as a source of food, and removal of guano is likely to be disruptive to bats themselves, if they are present.

But there’s another bat killer, a ‘green’ one

A new study reveals that a technology hailed as a major step in controlling carbon emissions is proving just as lethal to bats as it is to birds.

From the U.S. Geological Survey:

Wind turbine collisions and the deadly bat disease known as white-nose syndrome (WNS) can together intensify the decline of endangered Indiana bat populations in the midwestern United States, according to a recently published U.S. Geological Survey study.

Bats are valuable because, by eating insects, they save U.S. agriculture billions of dollars per year in pest control,” said USGS scientist Richard Erickson, the lead author of the study. “Our research is important for understanding the threats to endangered Indiana bats and can help inform conservation efforts.”

Wind energy generation can cause bat mortality when certain species, including the midwestern Indiana bat, approach turbines during migration. Meanwhile, WNS, which is caused by the Pseudogymnoascus destructans fungus, has killed millions of hibernating bats in North America and is spreading. The new study found that the combination of these two hazards has a larger negative impact on Indiana bats than either threat alone.

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Brace for a flood of GMOs after TrumpAscension™


Each of them accompanied by a Rebel Yell.

From teleSur English:

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump picked the last member of his cabinet on Wednesday. Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue — who has been linked to big agribusiness and has sympathized with confederate history — has been tapped to become the head of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Unsurprisingly, like Trump and the rest of his cabinet, Perdue has links to big business and in particular corporate agriculture. He has been a supporter of factory farms, and in 2009 he signed a bill to stop the local regulation of the industry to prevent animal cruelty.

In 2009, he was named “Governor of the Year” by the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, which the Organic Consumers Association referred to as “a front group for the GMO industry.” During his campaigns for governor, he also received donations from pesticide companies. After finishing up as governor, he founded his global exporting business Perdue Partners.

The 70-year-old was on Trump’s agricultural advisory committee during last year’s presidential campaign. During his time as Georgia governor from 2003 to 2011, Perdue drew the support of many disillusioned white voters and was well known for leading a service at the state capital building in Atlanta to literally pray for rain during a harsh drought in 2007.

“Farmers need a champion in the USDA who will fight for conservation programs to help farmers be more resilient in the face of extreme weather, not pray for rain,” Kari Hamerschlag, from Friends of the Earth, said in a statement.

In 2010, Perdue signed a law that proclaimed April “Confederate History and Heritage Month.” The month, which was also declared in six other southern states, is particularly controversial because it failed to mention the history of slavery in its proclamation.

The anti-environment environmental boss


Another gift from President Pussygrabber, via the Los Angeles Times:

Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency kicked off a contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday, expressing doubt about mainstream climate science and harshly criticizing the agency he seeks to lead.

Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt was defiant in the face of questioning from Democratic senators who attacked his record on environmental protection, skepticism about the impact of global warming and financial ties to some of the nation’s biggest oil and gas companies.

Pruitt said the EPA’s aggressive enforcement of federal anti-pollution rules during the Obama administration reflects inappropriate overreach that he would change.

“Regulators are supposed to make things regular,” Pruitt said at the start of the hearing, “to fairly and equitably enforce the rules and not pick winners and losers.”

He charged that the issue of climate change had been overtaken by emotion and incivility.  “We should not succumb to personalizing matters,” he said.

2016 proved the hottest year ever recorded


But don’t worry. Donald Trump claims it’s all a hoax invented by China!

That set , the year just end was the third in a row to set a new global high temperature record.

blog-temps-map

From the Notional Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s annual report on global temperatures:

  • During 2016, the average temperature across global land and ocean surfaces was 1.69°F (0.94°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all 137 years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record set last year by 0.07°F (0.04°C). The first eight months of the year had record high temperatures for their respective months. Since the start of the 21st century, the annual global temperature record has been broken five times (2005, 2010, 2014, 2015, and 2016). The record warmth in 2016 was broadly spread around the world.
  • During 2016, the globally-averaged land surface temperature was 2.57°F (1.43°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record of 2015 by 0.18°F (0.10°C).
  • Record high temperatures over land surfaces were measured across Far East Russia, Alaska, far western Canada, a swath of the eastern United States, much of Central America and northern South America, southern Chile, much of eastern and western Africa, north central Siberia, parts of south Asia, much of southeast Asia island nations and Papua New Guinea, and parts of Australia, especially along the northern and eastern coasts. No land areas were cooler than average for the year.
  • During 2016, the globally-averaged sea surface temperature was 1.35°F (0.75°C) above the 20th century average. This was the highest among all years in the 1880–2016 record, surpassing the previous record of last year by 0.02°F (0.01°C).
  • Record high sea surface temperatures were observed across the northern Pacific waters near Alaska, the Bering Sea, parts of the southern and western Pacific, a long swath of the western Atlantic stretching to the Gulf of Mexico, parts of the southern and eastern Indian Ocean extending across the waters of southeastern Asia island nations and Oceania. The only ocean area with record cold temperatures was east of the Drake Passage near the Antarctic Peninsula, an area that has been much cooler than average since late 2013.

NASA charted the global temperature spike:

blog-temps-chartNASA also created an animation depicting the changes in temperatures over the past 136 years:

Nicotine-based pesticides, bees, and the deniers


Nicotine, as we all know by now, is a powerful poison.

blog-black-leafSo powerful that on 22 November 1963 [yes, that day] the Central Intelligence Agency once sent an agent to kill Fidel Castro with a syringe disguised as a fountain pen and filled  Black Leaf 40, a powerful nicotine-based insecticide that our father used the stuff to kill mites on his roses.

Black Leaf 40 is no longer with us, following a 1992 ban on its use by the Environmental Protection Agency — you know, the department Trump wanted to eliminate — because of its widespread long-term environmental hazards as well as it’s propensity to poison people.

But the ban on Black Leaf 40 didn’t stop the widespread current use of nicotine-based insecticides, using nicotine-based chemicals called neonicotinoids.

How widespread is their use here in the U.S.?

Consider this chart from How Neonicotinoids Can Kill Bees — The Science Behind the Role These Insecticides Play in Harming Bees, a very informative new report from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation:

Estimated Annual Agricultural Use of Neonicotinoids in the United States: 1994–2014

Estimated Annual Agricultural Use of Neonicotinoids in the United States: 1994–2014

More from the report’s Executive Summary:

Neonicotinoids have been adopted for use on an extensive variety of farm crops as well as ornamental landscape plants. They are the most widely used group of insecticides in the world, and have been for a decade. Developed as alternatives for organophosphate and carbamate insecticides, neonicotinoids are compounds that affect the nervous system of insects, humans, and other animals. Although less acutely toxic to mammals and other vertebrates than older insecticides, neonicotinoids are highly toxic in small quantities to many invertebrates, including beneficial insects such as bees.

The impact of this class of insecticides on pollinating insects such as honey bees and native bees is a cause for concern. Because they are systemic chemicals absorbed into the plant, neonicotinoids can be present in pollen and nectar, making them toxic to pollinators that feed on them. The potentially long-lasting presence of neonicotinoids in plants, although useful from a pest management standpoint, makes it possible for these chemicals to harm pollinators even when the initial application is made weeks before the bloom period. In addition, depending on the compound, rate, and method of application, neonicotinoids can persist in the soil and be continually taken in by plants for a very long periods of time.

Across Europe and North America, a possible link to honey bee die-offs has made neonicotinoids controversial. In December 2013, the European Union significantly limited the use of clothianidin, imiadcloprid, and thiamethoxam on bee-attractive crops. In the United States, Canada, and elsewhere, local, state, and federal decision makers are also taking steps to protect pollinators from neonicotinoids. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service phased out all uses of neonicotinoids on National Wildlife Refuges lands starting in January 2016.

The European Union has banned the used of three neonicotinoids —  clothianidin, thiamethoxam and imidacloprid — and restricted the use of a fourth, fipronil.

Given that bees are responsible for pollinating much of the food we eat, impacts on apians is a cause for deep concern.

A Colorado city bans nicotine-derivative insecticides

More on the good reasons for concern, as summarized in the following, taken from  Boulder, Colorado city government website section on protecting pollinators:

One group of pesticides, the neonicotinoid insecticides (also called neonics), stand out as a major contributing factor to the catastrophic loss of bees and other animals. Neonicotinoid insecticides are extremely toxic to pollinators at very low doses. They are absorbed and taken up by the plant, ending up in all plant tissues, including the nectar and pollen collected by pollinators and the seeds, fruits, and leaves eaten by other animals. These products are often applied as soil treatments in the form of granules or drenches, where they can persist for many years and continue to contaminate plants, kill earthworms and other important beneficial soil organisms, and run off into surface water where they can kill aquatic invertebrates. An  analysis by a consortium of independent scientists from around the globe reviewed more than 800 peer-reviewed studies and concluded that neonicotinoid insecticides pose a significant risk to the world’s pollinators, worms, birds and other animals and that immediate action is needed. Studies conclude that pesticide application rates that regulatory agencies consider protective to the environment actually harm aquatic organisms found in surface waters (dragonflies mayflies, snails and other animals that form the base of the food chain and a healthy, clean watershed) and build up in soils to levels that can kill soil organisms.

The city was so concerned that in May 2015, the city banned use of the chemicals on city land and urged similar actions by individuals, corporations, and state and federal government as well.

Canada to ban a popular neonicotnoid

One of the most widely used neonicitinoids in imidacloprid, and back in November CBC News reported that the Canadian government’s health agency is proposing a nationwide band on the substance based on its impacts on bees:

“Based on currently available information, the continued high-volume use of imidacloprid in agricultural areas is not sustainable,” the assessment states.

It proposes phasing out all agricultural uses of imidacloprid, and a majority of other uses, over the next three to five years.

“I’m really surprised,” said Mark Winston, a professor of apiculture at Simon Fraser University and senior fellow at the university’s Centre for Dialogue.

“To take an action to phase out a chemical that is so ubiquitous, and for which there is so much lobbying pressure from industry, I think that’s a really bold move.”

After the jump, impacts from use on one crop, the industry denial machine, and bee behavioral impacts. . . Continue reading

Want Alzheimer’s? Rates rise near busy roads


blog-roads

Busy roadways and streets have been linked to a variety of other ailments, including early childhood cancers, juvenile-onset diabetes, obesity, poor kidney function, asthma, and heart attacks.

And now you can add dementia to the list.

From Public Health Ontario:

People who live close to high-traffic roadways face a higher risk of developing dementia than those who live further away, new research from Public Health Ontario (PHO) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) has found.

Led by PHO and ICES scientists, the study found that people who lived within 50 metres of high-traffic roads (like Ontario’s Hwy. 401) had a seven per cent higher likelihood of developing dementia compared to those who lived more than 300 metres away from busy roads.

Published in The Lancet, the researchers examined records of more than 6.5 million Ontario residents aged 20-85 to investigate the correlation between living close to major roads and dementia, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.

Scientists identified 243,611 cases of dementia, 31,577 cases of Parkinson’s disease, and 9,247 cases of multiple sclerosis in Ontario between 2001 and 2012. In addition, they mapped individuals’ proximity to major roadways using the postal code of their residence. The findings indicate that living close to major roads increased the risk of developing dementia, but not Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, two other major neurological disorders.

“Little is known in current research about how to reduce the risk of dementia. Our findings show the closer you live to roads with heavy day-to-day traffic, the greater the risk of developing dementia. With our widespread exposure to traffic and the greater tendency for people to live in cities these days, this has serious public health implications,” says Dr. Hong Chen, environmental and occupational health scientist at PHO and an adjunct scientist at ICES. Dr. Chen is lead author on the paper titled Living Near Major Roads and the Incidence of Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, and Multiple Sclerosis: A Population-based Cohort Study.

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