EcoWatch

A feed from EcoWatch, one of the US’s leading environmental news sites at the forefront of uniting all shades of green to ensure the health and longevity of our planet.


19 April 2018. Great Barrier Reef at ‘Unprecedented’ Risk of Collapse After Major Bleaching Event

By Daisy Dunne

The record-breaking marine heatwave in 2016 across the Great Barrier Reef has left much of the coral ecosystem at an "unprecedented" risk of collapse, research shows.

A new study published in Nature finds that the surge in sea temperatures during the 2016 bleaching event led to an immediate and long-lasting die-off of coral.


This, in turn, led to vast swathes of the reef being transformed into "highly altered, degraded systems," which are now vulnerable to total "ecological collapse," the authors conclude.

The large-scale loss of coral is a "harbinger of further radical shifts in the condition and dynamics of all ecosystems," they add, "if global action on climate change fails to limit warming to 1.5-2C above the pre-industrial baseline."

Turning White

The Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef, stretching 2,300km from Papua New Guinea to the coast of Queensland, Australia. Over the past two decades, the Great Barrier Reef has seen four mass bleaching events, most recently in 2016 and 2017 .

Coral bleaching is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to high sea temperatures. Under continued heat stress, the corals expel the tiny colorful algae living in their tissues—known as zooxanthellae —leaving behind a stark white skeleton .

The algae provide the corals with energy through photosynthesis. Without them, the corals can slowly starve . Healthy corals can live from two to several hundred years .

The mass bleaching event of 2016, which took place in the summer months of February, March and April, was the most devastating on record, affecting 94 percent of reefs surveyed.

The new study estimates how heat exposure during this event affected the survival of coral and the make-up of species across the reef in the months that followed.

It finds that, after the event, many temperature-sensitive corals died suddenly as a result of heat stress, while others slowly starved over the course of several months. The paper concludes:

"The die-off of corals drove a radical shift in the composition and functional traits of swaths of the Great Barrier Reef from mature and diverse assemblages to highly altered, degraded systems."

Coral Carnage

To assess immediate coral death following the 2016 heatwave, the researchers used a combination of aerial and underwater surveys spanning the full length of the reef. They then revisited the survey sites eight months later to gather data on long-term coral mortality.

The researchers next compared information on coral mortality over the eight-month period to heat exposure data, which was calculated using records of sea surface temperatures.

The charts below show changes in coral cover over the study period (left)—with red showing high amounts of coral loss and green showing small amounts of gain—and local heat exposure (right), with red showing high exposure and blue showing low exposure.

Change in coral cover (left) and heat exposure (right) on the Great Barrier Reef between March and November 2016. On the left, red shows large losses in coral cover and green shows small gains in coral cover. On the right, red shows high heat exposure while blue shows low heat exposure. Hughes et al. (2018)

The results find that patterns of coral mortality closely match those of heat exposure across the reef.

In the northern third of the reef, where heat exposure was at its highest, "many millions of corals" died quickly in the two-week period following the coral bleaching event.

This mass mortality was a consequence of immediate heat stress, rather than slow starvation, the paper notes.

During the following winter months, a large proportion of bleached corals in the northern and central Great Barrier Reef continued to die at "unprecedented" levels, the researchers say.

The research finds that parts of the reef exposed to sea surface temperatures of 4C during the summer months experienced declines in coral cover of around 40 percent.

Meanwhile, reefs exposed to extreme temperatures of around 8C faced declines of 80 percent or more, the research finds.

In comparison, in the most southerly part of the reef, where corals were exposed to temperatures of between 0-3C, almost no loss of coral was observed over the study period.

Lasting Damage

As well as measuring coral mortality, the researchers also studied how the make-up of coral species changed over the eight-month period.

A diver checks out the coral bleaching at Heron Island in February 2016. This area was one of the first to bleach at Heron Island, which is located close to the southern most point of the Great Barrier Reef. The Ocean Agency / XL Catlin Seaview Survey / Richard Vevers

Their results indicate that some species were more affected by bleaching than others. This loss of species diversity could have far-reaching impacts on the coral ecosystem, said study co-author Dr. Mark Eakin , coordinator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ( NOAA ) Coral Reef Watch program. He told Carbon Brief:

"What you are seeing here is ecological homogenisation or flattening. It is a reduction in the diversity of corals that makeup the community. The problem with this is that one of the aspects that makes coral reefs important is their high biological diversity—the large number of species that live on them. Less diversity of corals means less diversity of the fish, crabs, shrimp, clams, worms and other organisms that live on the reefs."

A typical coral reef can take 10-15 years to recover from a single bleaching event, Eakin said. However, climate change is causing the frequency of mass bleaching events to dramatically increase, he added:

"The Great Barrier Reef lost approximately 29% of its corals in 2016 and another 22% in 2017. The second consecutive year of bleaching damaged many of the hardier corals that had survived the first bleaching event.

"Even worse, our paper in Science earlier this year showed that severe coral bleaching around the world happened about once every 30 years in the 1980s, but once every 6 years in the 2010s. This doesn't give corals enough time to recover."

Place for Paris

However, limiting global warming to 1.5C, which is the aspirational target of the Paris agreement , could offer the Great Barrier Reef a better chance of survival, said lead author Prof. Terry Hughes , director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies . He told Carbon Brief:

"We now have an international mechanisms, the Paris Agreement, to limit climate change. If we can achieve the 1.5-2C target, we can still have a healthy Great Barrier Reef.

"But it's clear now that the future mix of coral species will be very different from just two years ago, before the unprecedented back-to-back bleaching in 2016 and 2017. Our study shows that this transition to a new, highly altered system is already underway—faster than any of us anticipated."

The study "paints a bleak picture of the sheer extent of coral loss on the Great Barrier Reef" following the 2016 mass coral bleaching event, said Prof. Nick Graham , chair in marine ecology at Lancaster University , who was not involved in the new research. He told Carbon Brief:

"Huge losses of coral also occurred in many other countries across the Indian and Pacific Oceans in 2016. A future with coral reefs, their rich diversity, and the livelihoods they provide to millions of people, is quite simple. It will only be possible if carbon emissions are rapidly reduced and we limit warming to 1.5-2C."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Carbon Brief .

19 April 2018. Healthy Diets Lead to More Food Waste, But You Should Still Eat Your Vegetables

By Dan Nosowitz

It's commonly cited that the U.S wastes about 40 percent of the food supply. In recent years, with a new focus on reducing food waste for environmental and public health reasons, researchers have begun to get ever more granular in their study of exactly how, why, when, where and what food gets wasted. A new one, this time from the University of Vermont, University of New Hampshire and the USDA , takes a look at how diet is correlated with food waste, and comes up with some interesting conclusions.


The new study relies on publicly available USDA data on the roughly 150,000 tons of food per day that goes to waste. Food waste comes from a variety of sources: spoilage, people being unwilling to purchase items they perceive to be bad or to have gone bad, and from extra food simply getting tossed in the trash (say at a restaurant or cafeteria). It is a massive environmental and infrastructure issue—food take a lot of energy to produce, and it builds up in landfills as methane-emitting waste. And let's not forgot the most important issue here: there are millions of food-insecure people in our country. It's a shame!

This is the first study we've seen that specifically examines food waste in the context of diet. It found that certain types of food tend to produce different amounts and different types of waste.

  • Fruits and vegetables were found to be the most wasted, at 39 percent of the total.
  • Dairy (17 percent) and meat (14 percent) are the second and third most wasted.
  • Those with healthier diets (defined here as one higher in fruits and vegetables) may contribute more food waste.
  • Further, from the study's release : "The study also found that healthier diets used less cropland than lower quality diets, but led to greater waste in irrigation water and pesticides, which are used at higher rates on average for growing fruits and vegetables."

This is all true, but, as the study's release makes clear, not the full picture. The majority of cropland in the U.S. is used for feed for animals; when you eat meat, you're also relying on that cropland. And a previous study found that producing meat is significantly-more energy intensive than growing plants.

Another issue: plant discards from fruits and vegetables can be composted, which encourages the rapid breakdown of that waste into something useful. But most cities do not allow meat and dairy waste to be composted in municipal systems; this is partly to keep away pests, partly because rotten meat can spread bacteria, and partly because rotten meat and dairy smells really bad. (Seriously.)

In other words, nothing is simple and everything is killing the planet. The only solution is to eat ugly produce.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer .

19 April 2018. Record Number of Lawmakers Sign Resolution Calling for Pruitt's Resignation

A group of 39 senators and 131 representatives signed a resolution calling for the "immediate resignation" of Scott Pruitt , the scandal-plagued U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) administrator.

The document represents a record number of senators to formally demand a cabinet official to step down.


The resolution comes in the wake of Pruitt's growing list of controversies: his request for a $43,000 sound-proof phone booth violated federal law; his $50-a-night stay at a Capitol Hill condo owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist; his questionable use of taxpayer money for first-class and charter flights , as well as a 'round-the-clock security detail ; and reports that he gave large pay raises to his closest aides.

That's not to mention Pruitt's continued efforts to dismantle the legacy of the very agency he heads.

Per the resolution, "T he Agency is hemorrhaging staff and experts needed to protect the health, safety, and livelihood of mil lions of people of the United States, with more than 700 employees of the Agency having left or been forced out of the Agency during his tenure as Administrator."

"By delaying the effective date of regulations, easing enforcement of existing regulations, and delaying implementation of new regulations, Administrator Pruitt is helping polluters at the expense of the health, safety, and livelihood of millions of people of the United States," it adds.

No Republicans added their name to the document, even though Republican Reps. Elise Stefanik (NY), Carlos Curbelo (FL) and Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (FL.) have previously called for Pruitt's resignation or firing.

The effort was led by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL).

"During his time in office, Pruitt has waged all-out war on the bedrock protections that keep our air and water clean, prevent toxic chemicals from contaminating our communities, and safeguard the health of our kids and families," Udall said. "He has done lasting damage to public health and safety—gutting the EPA's core mission—all to benefit his campaign donors and grease the wheels for his big polluter friends."

It's not just politicians who are calling for Pruitt's ouster. More than 30 environmental and civil rights organizations, including the NAACP , the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth , took out full-page newspaper ads on Wednesday in The New York Times, the New York Post and Pruitt's home-state paper, The Oklahoman, The Hill reported.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump has praised Pruitt—who has carried out the administration's deregulatory agenda—for "doing a great job."

Trump is reportedly fond of his EPA chief, even though John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, has urged the president to let Pruitt go.

"No one other than the president has the authority to hire and fire," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said earlier this month. "The president feels that the administrator has done a good job at EPA."

She said the White House is conducting an internal investigation into Pruitt's conduct.

19 April 2018. 'Sick Joke': House Agriculture Committee Advances Farm Bill Attacking Environment, Endangered Species

The House Agriculture Committee passed H.R. 2 , the 2018 Farm Bill, Wednesday on a party-line basis. The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), includes dozens of poison-pill riders that would gut fundamental environmental safeguards.

Most significantly it would completely exempt the use of pesticides from the Endangered Species Act, effectively dooming hundreds of endangered species to extinction and making it legal to kill any endangered species with a pesticide at almost any time.


"This Farm Bill is a sick joke. It gives polluters and special interests the keys to the castle, while environmental safeguards are thrown in the ditch," said Brett Hartl of the Center for Biological Diversity . "Farmers don't want to poison our waters, kill our wildlife, and reduce our national forests to clearcuts. This is another low for this Congress, which is already the most anti-conservation in history."

The next step for this legislation is consideration by the full U.S. House of Representatives in the following weeks.

In addition to the broadest attack on the Endangered Species Act in 40 years, the legislation weakens Clean Water Act protections from pesticides and includes a sweeping forestry title that would gut protections for forests and eliminate many safeguards within the National Environmental Policy Act.

The bill's attacks on the environment include the following provisions:

  • Section 9111: Completely exempts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) from the requirements of the Endangered Species Act allowing the agency to ignore impacts of toxic pesticides on endangered wildlife .
  • Section 9118: Eliminates all protections under the Clean Water Act when toxic pesticides are sprayed directly into rivers and streams.
  • Section 8303: Guts the consultation process required by Endangered Species Act on national forests by allowing the U.S. Forest Service to rubber-stamp project approvals without consulting with expert wildlife scientists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about whether a project would put endangered species in jeopardy of extinction.
  • Section 8107: Doubles the allowed acreage for "categorical exclusions" under the National Environmental Policy Act from 3,000 to 6,000 acres per project, allowing the Forest Service to approve clearcuts under the guise of controlling insects and disease outbreaks in national forests.
  • Section 8311-8321: Eliminates public engagement, environmental review of most Forest Service logging projects by creating 10 new categorical exclusions under the National Environmental Policy Act for projects up to 6,000 acres in size.
  • Section 8503: Guts the "extraordinary circumstances" protections under the National Environmental Policy Act, allowing the Forest Service to approve destructive projects without further review even if sensitive species are present or the project is within a wilderness area.

"This farm bill should be called the Poisoned Waters and DDT Restoration Act. If it becomes law, Americans can look forward to our water and wildlife being poisoned by pesticides for the rest of our lives," said Hartl.

18 April 2018. Honeybees Are Struggling to Get Enough Good Bacteria

A study published in Ecology and Evolution Monday shows that the big changes humans make to the land can have important consequences for some tiny microorganisms honeybees rely on to stay healthy.


Honeybees depend on a diverse mix of bacteria—called a microbiome—to turn fresh pollen into bee bread, which is stored in the hive as food for young bees .

A diverse bee-bread microbiome helps bees fight infection and preserves the bread longer; a less diverse bacterial mix can leave the bread susceptible to mold and the bees in the hive vulnerable to starvation.

But research by the Lancaster University's Lancaster Environment Center and the Center for Ecology and Hydrology suggests that to get a diverse microbiome, bees need to feed on a diverse array of plants. And human alterations that reduce biodiversity in the landscape can make this more difficult.

The scientists examined the microbiomes of almost 500 bee bread samples from 29 hives in northwest England.

They found that bread from hives near urban areas, monoculture grasslands used for grazing or coniferous forests grown for timber had less diverse microbiomes than bread from hives near more varied coastal landscapes, grasslands or broadleaf woodlands.

"It is traditionally thought that monocultures, such as grazing land and timber forests, were bad for pollinators due to a lack of food continuance through the year. However, our study suggests land use change may also be having an indirect detrimental effect on the microbiota of bee bread," lead author and Lancaster University scientist Dr. Philip Donkersley said in a university press release .

"Since nutrition derived from bee bread and the microbiome therein directly affects the health of bees we therefore believe this demonstrates an indirect link between landscape composition and bee fitness," he said.

Donkersley further theorized that the hives near cities had less diverse microbiomes because of the use of non-native plants by urban gardeners. While bees need diverse food sources, they also depend on relationships between themselves, local plants and the bacteria they contain that have evolved over time.

"This may be evidence that bees suffer from foraging on non-native plants that they have not co-evolved with," Donkersley said.

As the Lancaster University release points out, gardeners often plant a variety of world-wide flowers in order to help pollinators. Monday's study indicates that if they really want to help, gardener's should source their seeds closer to home.

18 April 2018. UK to Review Climate Goals, Explore 'Net-Zero' Emissions Strategy

The UK will review its long-term climate target and explore how to reach "net-zero" emissions by 2050, Environment Minister Claire Perry announced Tuesday.

The UK is the first G7 country to commit to such an analysis, which would seek to align the country's emissions trajectory to the Paris agreement 's more ambitious goal of limiting warming to 1.5°C.


The review will happen after the IPCC releases its special report on 1.5°C in October in order to use the best and most recent science, Perry said. Laurence Tubiana, a key architect of the Paris agreement, praised the announcement: "This decision ... sends a strong message to the EU and other big economies ... it's time they too considered what more they can do."

As reported by The Guardian :

"Ways of meeting the net-zero target could include investing in projects to grow trees and restore soils, to take up greater carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as more controversial measures such as investing in emissions reduction projects overseas. Even with such methods, the UK is likely to have to bring forward targets on phasing out diesel and petrol engines, and expand renewable energy generation and, potentially, nuclear power.

Many actions under Conservative-led governments since 2010, however, have dismayed climate campaigners and may have to be reconsidered. These include the failure to insulate the UK's draughty homes, limits on renewable energy, the scrapping of carbon capture and storage projects and tax breaks for fossil fuels."

For a deeper dive:

The Guardian , Reuters , Independent , Carbon Brief , FT , Climate Home , BusinessGreen

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook , and sign up for daily Hot News .

18 April 2018. First Bat Removed From U.S. Endangered Species List Helps Produce Tequila

The lesser long-nosed bat made bat history Tuesday when it became the first U.S. bat species to be removed from the endangered species list because of recovery, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced .


The bat, which is one of only three nectar-feeding bat species in the U.S., migrates between Mexico and the southwestern U.S. and feeds in part from the nectar of the agave plant used to make tequila. In 1988, when the species was first listed, there were only 1,000 of the bats left at 14 roosts. But due to a team effort between U.S. and Mexican scientists and government officials, as well as tribal leaders, non-governmental organizations, citizen scientists and tequila producers, the population has now rebounded to a healthy size of 200,000 at 75 roosts between the two countries. Mexico took the bat off of its endangered species list in 2015.

In a U.S. climate of diminishing environmental protections and increased border tensions, the recovery of the bat is a welcome reminder of what nations and communities can accomplish when they work together to protect the earth and its non-human species.

"The Service is proud of our strong, decades-long partnerships with very diverse stakeholders on behalf of the lesser long-nosed bat. Without partnerships and collaborations such as these, successful recovery would not be possible," FWS Southwest regional director Amy Lueders said.

Because of its habitat and food source, the bat faced a unique set of challenges, National Geographic explained. The species spends the winters in southern and central Mexico, then travels north to northern Mexico and Arizona in the spring, sleeping in a series of caves and abandoned mines along a "nectar trail."

But drug and human traffickers also used the caves. Their activities disturbed the bats' habitats, and sometimes the traffickers would kill the bats intentionally. In the push to protect the bats, groups would build "bat gates" preventing humans from entering these caves. The bats were also collateral damage in Mexico's attempts to control vampire bat populations, which spread rabies.

Further, while bats can help produce tequila, since they are a main pollinator of agave, tequila production can actually be harmful to bats. That is because, to make tequila, growers need to harvest agave plants before they flower, depriving bats of their food.

In the past, tequila growers had largely cloned blue agave plants instead of relying on pollination, but the cloning has weakened the plants to the point where 40 percent were diseased or dying in 2015, National Geographic's The Plate reported.

Scientist Rodrigo Medellin launched a program to certify tequila producers as "bat friendly" if they let a section of their agaves flower naturally as bat food, in an attempt to protect the bats and strengthen the plant's gene pool.

But the diets of lesser long-nosed bats are not entirely dependent on agave. They also drink the nectar of saguaro and organ pipe cacti, which U.S. and Mexican government agencies also worked to protect.

Other bats are not so lucky. Bat Conservation International chief scientist Winifred Frick told National Geographic that the Mexican long-nosed bat, which relies more heavily on agave, is still endangered.

"We can fully celebrate [the delisting] as a conservation win," Frick told National Geographic. "But we also need to be paying attention to species that aren't in as good a position."

Still, the lesser long-nosed bat's recovery offers a model of what is possible.

18 April 2018. Fluorinated Chemical Pollution Crisis Spreads

Two decades after pollution from highly toxic fluorinated chemicals was first reported in American communities and drinking water , the number of known contamination sites is growing rapidly, with no end in sight.

The latest update of an interactive map by Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute at Northeastern University documents publicly known pollution from so-called PFAS chemicals at 94 industrial or military sites in 22 states. When the map was first published 10 months ago, there were 52 known contamination sites in 19 states. The map and accompanying report are the most comprehensive resources tracking PFAS pollution in the U.S.


"With the alarming spread of known PFAS contamination sites, it's unconscionable that the Environmental Protection Agency has taken only the most feeble steps to respond to the crisis," said Bill Walker, an investigative editor at EWG, which has studied the family of fluorinated chemicals for 20 years. "States are stepping up to set cleanup standards, but a national crisis demands a national response. It's only a matter of time until another American community learns that its water is contaminated with these highly toxic chemicals."

PFAS chemicals, used in hundreds of consumer products, have been linked to cancer , thyroid disease, weakened immunity and other health problems. The two most notorious members of the family—PFOA, formerly used to make DuPont's Teflon, and PFOS, formerly in 3M's Scotchgard—are now banned in the U.S., but manufacturers have replaced them with chemically similar, largely untested compounds that may be no safer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PFAS chemicals contaminate the blood of virtually all Americans.

"This updated map demonstrates the scale of PFAS contamination, impacting scores of communities and millions of U.S. residents," said Phil Brown, Ph.D., director of the Northeastern University research institute. "The full story of PFAS contamination suggests that PFOA and PFOS remain significant pollutants even though they are no longer produced in the U.S. Drinking water supplies should be tested not just for these legacy contaminants, but for their replacement chemicals that may become major public health hazards as well."

Much of the increase in contamination sites is in Michigan, where a virtual explosion of known sites has made the state the current hotspot of the PFAS crisis. North of Grand Rapids, one private well near a former Wolverine Worldwide tannery has almost 60,000 times as much PFOS and PFOA as the best independent research says is safe. About 10 miles away, a woman who lives across the street from a Wolverine dump site has 750 times as much PFOS in her blood as the average American.

In addition to contamination from industrial and military sites, the map also shows where an EPA-mandated testing program detected PFOA, PFOS and similar chemicals in public drinking water supplies. The EPA tests found PFAS contamination of systems serving 16.1 million Americans in 33 states. But the true extent of tap water contamination is likely much greater.

The EPA testing program, which ended in 2016, covered only a sample of small systems and did not include private wells, which together provide drinking water for about a third of Americans. More recent tests have found tap water in North Carolina and West Virginia contaminated with a new PFAS chemical called GenX, which DuPont's own studies found causes cancer in lab animals. The EPA also did not require reporting of test results above 20 parts per trillion, or ppt, for PFOA and 40 ppt for PFOS.

The EPA has no legal limits for PFOA and PFOS in drinking water, only a non-enforceable health advisory level of 70 ppt for either chemical or the two combined. This is far above what studies say is safe. Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey and Vermont have all set or proposed levels for PFAS chemicals in drinking water that are lower than the EPA advisory level or are legally enforceable.

18 April 2018. Plastics: The History of an Ecological Crisis

The Earth Day Network has announced that this year's Earth Day, on Sunday, April 22, will focus on ending plastic pollution by Earth Day 2020, the 50th anniversary of the world's first Earth Day in 1970 , which led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the passage of the Clean Water, Clean Air and Endangered Species Acts.


Now, the Earth Day Network seeks to remain true to its legacy by initiating another major clean-up job. As the Earth Day Network points out in its petition to end plastic pollution, 300 million tons of plastic are sold each year, and 90 percent of that is thrown away, ending up in landfills, in the oceans and in our bodies .

In honor of this worthy goal, EcoWatch has put together a brief history of the problem, and of the growing effort to combat it.

Plastic Pollution: A History

1862 : Alexander Parkes demonstrates the first man-made plastic at the Great International Exhibition in London. Parkesine, as he dubbed it, was made from cellulose.

1907 : Leo Baekeland develops Bakelite , the first synthetic, fossil-fuel based plastic made from phenol (a coal waste-product) and formaldehyde.

A telephone made from Bakelite, the first synthetic plastic. Tangerineduel

1946 : The first National Plastics Exhibition opens in New York City to showcase all the new consumer uses for the plastics developed to aid in World War II. During the war, plastic production had increased nearly four-fold.

Early 1970s : Reports published in Science about the prevalence of plastic pellets in the North Atlantic lead to more research into the prevalence of plastic on the seafloor and its impact on marine animals.

1979 : Plastic grocery bags are introduced in the U.S.

1980 : Woodbury, New Jersey becomes the first U.S. city to adopt a curbside recycling program following litter awareness-campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s.

A 1970s recycling poster. Library of Congress

1990s : Widespread use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics begins.

Microbeads.


1997: Charles Moore discovers the Great Pacific Garbage Patch , the world's largest collection of floating garbage, when sailing home to Los Angeles.

2002 : Bangladesh becomes the first country to ban plastic bags after discovering they blocked drains during a severe flood.

2007 : San Francisco becomes the first U.S. city to institute a plastic bag ban.

2008 : A government study confirms that Bisphenol A, a chemical used to manufacture hard plastic bottles and the lining of baby-formula cans, may increase risks of early puberty, breast cancer, prostate issues and behavioral problems.

2014 : The Netherlands becomes the first country to ban microbeads in cosmetics.

2017 : The BBC's Blue Planet II increases global concern about ocean plastics with striking footage of how they impact ocean animals.

An albatross corpse filled with plastic. Chris Jordan / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters / CC BY 2.0

2018 : The Earth Day Network focuses Earth Day on ending plastic pollution by 2020.

18 April 2018. Germany to Put 'Massive Restrictions' on Monsanto Weedkiller

German Agriculture Minister Julia Kloeckner announced Tuesday she is drafting regulation to stop use of glyphosate in the country's home gardens, parks and sports facilities, Reuters reported.

The minister also plans to set "massive restrictions" for its use in agriculture, with exemptions for areas that are prone to erosion and cannot be worked with heavy machinery.


"I am planning a regulatory draft as a first building block in the strategy to minimize use of glyphosate," Kloeckner said.

She said the proposal would be vetted by other ministries but did not set a deadline to end use of the herbicide.

Glyphosate, the active ingredient Monsanto's Roundup, is the world's best-selling weedkiller and has been used for more than 40 years. In Germany, about 40 percent of crop-growing land is treated with glyphosate.

The chemical has been at the center of international controversy since 2015, when the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer classified it as " probably carcinogenic ." The European Food Safety Authority , as well as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency , consider it safe.

In February, the new German coalition government agreed on a "systematic minimization strategy" to significantly restrict use glyphosate, "with the goal of fundamentally ending usage as fast as possible." The strategy did not include a timeframe.

Germany's new Environment Minister Svenja Schulze, from the center-left Social Democrats, welcomed Kloeckner's proposal as the first step to ending use of glyphosate. Eliminating its use is a key goal of Schulze's legislative term.

"We need a full exit from glyphosate during this legislative period. Glyphosate kills everything that is green, depriving insects of their food source," she said earlier this month.

In November, Kloeckner's conservative predecessor Christian Schmidt sparked outrage among glyphosate opponents and the previous German coalition after he unexpectedly voted in favor—and effectively swung the EU's decision—of renewing the weedkiller for the next five years .

According to Reuters, Werner Baumann, CEO of Bayer , which is acquiring Monsanto , said the issue has become too politicized in Europe and that Germany would wind up banning the chemical without an adequate regulatory framework.

18 April 2018. Species Threatened as Climate Crisis Pushes Mother Nature 'Out of Synch'

By Julia Conley

The warming of the Earth over the past several decades is throwing Mother Nature's food chain out of whack and leaving many species struggling to survive, according to new research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study offers the latest evidence that the climate crisis that human activity has contributed to has had far-reaching effects throughout the planet.


A paper by ecologists at the University of Ottawa examined 88 species on four continents, and more than 50 relationships between predator and pray as well as herbivores and the plants they eat, and found that food chain events are taking place earlier in the year than they have in the past, because of the warming climate.

"Most of the examples were about food," Heather Kharouba, lead author of the paper, told the National Observer. "Is it available or is it not?"

In the study's findings, Kharouba added, "everything is consistent with the fact it's getting warmer ... All the changes we see are exactly what we would predict with warmer temperatures and how we would expect biology to respond."

"It demonstrates that many species interactions from around the world are in a state of rapid flux," Boston University biology professor Richard Primack told the Associated Press. "Prior to this study, studies of changing species interactions focused on one place or one group of species."

The scientists looked at research going back to 1951, which showed that in previous decades, birds would migrate, animals would mate and give birth, and plants would bloom later in the year, allowing the animals to find the food they needed at specific times.

These events have been occurring about four days earlier per decade since the 1980s, according to the National Observer. On average, the timing is now off by a full 21 days for the 88 species the researchers examined.

In Washington state's Lake Washington, the very bottom of the food chain has been affected, according to the research, as plant plankton is now blooming 34 days earlier than the organisms that feed on them.

Even smaller changes can have a major impact on animal populations: plants in Greenland are now blossoming just three days earlier than baby caribou are born, throwing off the species that has survived on them and causing more of the animals to starve.

"It leads to a mismatch," Kharouba said. "These events are out of synch."

The "mismatch" could begin contributing to the endangerment of species that are unable to find food they've relied on, the researchers said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams .

18 April 2018. EPA Memos Show Sneak Attack on Air Quality

Behind all the media attention focused on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) head Scott Pruitt 's many scandals , the agency has quietly passed a series of four memos since December that have a net impact of reducing air pollution controls to benefit industry, The Hill reported Wednesday.

The Hill's report comes just days before the world celebration of Earth Day on Sunday, April 22. The first Earth Day, in 1970, is often credited with leading to the passage of the Clean Air Act that same year, but now the Trump administration seems intent on rolling back that legacy.


"All of these [memos], individually and taken together, will result in more air pollution and less enforcement of the Clean Air Act," Paul Billings, senior vice president for advocacy at the American Lung Association, told The Hill.

What follows is a timeline and summary of the memos in question.

December 7, 2017 : The EPA said it would not "second guess" a company's estimates of how much they will pollute after large projects, in part of a process called New Source Review, which the EPA undertakes to issue construction permits.

January 25 : The EPA withdrew the "once in always in" policy stipulating that once a pollution source was classified as "major," it would always be subjected to tougher scrutiny. The new policy would allow industrial pollution sources to downgrade themselves to "area" sources of pollution once their emissions fell below certain standards.

Environmental groups have already sued over this rule change in March, saying it would allow industrial polluters in the Midwest alone to release four times the current amount of toxins into the air.

March 13 : The EPA declared that, in the process to determine if a new project at an existing pollution source needs to pass a New Source Review, the company can now consider both emissions increases and decreases resulting from the project in step 1 of the process, instead of waiting for step 2 to take emissions decreases into account.

April 12 : President Donald Trump signed an EPA memo that adjusted the enforcement of National Ambient Air Quality standards to be more friendly to industry.

The memo directed the EPA to speed up the review process for state plans for reducing smog, determine if existing smog and soot health standards should be altered or eliminated, and make it less difficult for companies to get air-quality permits, Think Progress reported .

The first two memos were written by EPA air office head Bill Wehrum, who also spent two years at the agency under Bush.

Billings told The Hill that the memos were designed to complete President George W. Bush's attempts to weaken EPA regulations, some of which failed.

"These were radical departures of current law when they were proposed a decade ago and they're just as radical today," he said.

Natural Resources Defense Council clean air director John Walke agreed that the new memos were an attempt to complete Bush-era rollbacks.

"I think Mr. Wehrum has decided this is likely a one-term administration and he's going to devote his full resources to rolling back clean air, climate and public health protections in the time available to him," Walke told The Hill.

18 April 2018. UK's Largest Coffee Chain Pledges to Recycle as Many Cups as It Sells

Costa Coffee pledged on Wednesday to become the first coffee chain in the UK to recycle the same volume of takeaway cups they put onto the market.

"Our new initiative will mean that for every Costa takeaway cup we sell, we will aim to ensure that one is recycled," the British multinational coffeehouse touted.


Costa vowed to recycle half a billion cups a year by 2020, or "the equivalent of Costa's entire yearly sales and a fifth of the 2.5 billion takeaway coffee cups consumed as a nation each year."

Costa Coffee, the largest coffee chain in Britain with more than 2,000 stores, is making a big step in curbing the constant stream of to-go cups that end up as landfill waste. Even though these cups are mostly made of paper, these single-use items are almost never recycled or composted because they are lined with plastic .

Costa's new initiative works alongside its ongoing in-store recycling scheme, where any takeaway cup left or returned to the shop gets recycled. Costa said it will pay waste management companies a supplement of £70 ($100)—on top of the £50 they already get—for every metric ton of cups they collect. The extra costs will not be reflected in higher prices for consumers, the Guardian reported.

"It dispels the myth that coffee cups can't be recycled," Dominic Paul, managing director of Costa, told the Guardian. "By creating a market for cups as a valuable recyclable material, we are confident that we can transform the UK's ineffective and inconsistent 'binfrastructure' to ensure hundreds of millions of cups get recycled every year. 100 million cups will be recycled this year alone following our announcement, and if the nation's other coffee chains sign up, there is no reason why all takeaway cups could not be recycled by as early as 2020."

Britain throws away 2.5 billion disposable coffee cups every year, and less than 1 percent of them are recycled. The problem is much worse in the U.S., where an estimated 60 billion paper cups end up in landfills. According to Stand.earth , only 18 of 100 largest U.S. cities offer recycling for paper coffee cups.

Other major coffee companies are making efforts to go green. Last month, Starbucks, which distributes about 600 billion paper and plastic cups worldwide per year, committed to bring a fully recyclable and compostable paper cup to market in three years.

Dunkin' Donuts announced in February that it is phasing out its landfill-clogging polystyrene foam cups in favor of paper cups. The plan, the company said, will prevent nearly 1 billion foam cups from entering the waste stream each year.

Dunkin's new double-walled paper cups are made with paperboard certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard. However, these cups are " mostly recyclable ," as in their recyclability depends on whether your state or local waste management services can handle them.

Of course, every eco-minded coffee lover should know that if you purchase a beverage from a coffee shop, either sip it from an in-store mug or bring your own thermos . It's not just better for the environment, it often saves you money. For instance, Costa gives a discount of 25p (about 35 cents) to customers who bring their own reusable cups.

18 April 2018. Pipeline Spills 76,000 Gallons of Crude Oil Emulsion in Northern Alberta

By Carol Linnitt

A pipeline owned by Paramount Resources Ltd. released an estimated 100,000 liters (approximately 26,000 gallons) of crude oil and 190,000 liters (approximately 50,000 gallons) of produced water near Zama City, in northwest Alberta, according to an April 11 incident report filed with the Alberta Energy Regulator .

The release was discovered after company personnel looked into a low-pressure alarm from the company's leak detection system, the incident report states. The emergency status of the spill ended April 16.


The report says that although "the release was initially believed to be minor," further investigation shows the spill to be around 290,000 liters and has impacted an area of 200 meters (approximately 656 feet) by 200 meters.

"The pipeline was isolated and depressurized, and clean-up is underway," the incident report states. "No reported impacts to wildlife."

The cause of the spill is still under investigation, Paul Wykes, spokesperson with Paramount Resources, told DeSmog Canada.

The spill is located approximately 10 kilometers (approximately 6.2 miles) northeast of Zama City, Wykes said.

The remote pipeline is part of a network in the Zama area obtained by Paramount Resources when it acquired Apache Corp for $487 million in 2017.

Between May 2013 and January 2014, Apache's pipeline infrastructure was plagued by a series of incidents that included one of the largest recent pipeline spills in North America .

In June 2013, a pipeline released 15.4 million liters of oil and toxic produced water into the muskeg, contaminating a 42-hectare (approximately 104-acre) span of boreal forest.

Apache pipeline spill, June 2013 Apache Corp

"Every plant and tree died" James Ahnassay, chief of the Dene Tha First Nation, told the Globe and Mail at the time.

The spill, which continued undetected for nearly one month, was originally reported to be only 9.5 million liters in volume due to an inaccurate meter reading, the company said.

Produced water can contain hydrocarbons, salt, metals, radioactive materials and chemicals used in the oil extraction process.

An investigation later revealed the pipeline, which was only five years old at the time of the spill, cracked due to corrosion stress, caused by a pinhole leak. The company was later fined $16,500 for the spill and the Alberta Energy Regulator ordered a third-party audit of the company's aging pipeline infrastructure.

Oil and gas exploration has been occurring in the Zama area since the 1950s.

In October 2013, Apache announced it had detected another pipeline leak after it had released an estimated 1.8 million liters of oil, chemicals and contaminated water over a three-week period.

In a statement of facts agreed to by Apache concerning the 1.8 million liter spill, the company admitted it failed to install protective fencing around the pipeline and that evidence indicated a bison may have rubbed up against the pipe, crushing it.

Two additional Apache spills occurred between 2013 and 2014, one smaller spill near Zama and one near Whitecourt, Alberta, which released nearly 2 million liters of produced water.

It was later determined Apache failed to install proper pressure valves on the pipeline near Whitecourt.

In 2016 Apache pled guilty to violations of the Pipeline Act and the Environmental Enhancement and Protection Act and was fined $350,000 by the Alberta Energy Regulator.

In response to the April 11, 2018 spill, Paramount "immediately initiated its emergency response plan," Wykes said.

"A team of personnel is on site as containment, clean-up and delineation efforts continue. There is no danger to the public," he said.

Reposted with permission from our media associate DeSmog Canada .

17 April 2018. Colorado Communities Sue ExxonMobil and Suncor for Climate Damages

By Elliott Negin

Two Colorado counties and the city of Boulder are suing ExxonMobil and Suncor Energy, Canada's largest oil company, to hold them responsible for climate change -related damage to their communities.


The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a state district court by Boulder, Boulder County and San Miguel County, is seeking compensation for damage and adaptation costs resulting from extreme weather events.

New York City and eight coastal California cities and counties, including San Francisco and Oakland, have filed similar lawsuits against ExxonMobil and other oil and gas companies, charging that they have injured their communities under common law. The Colorado suit is the first by an inland county or municipality.

"Climate change is not just about sea level rise. It affects all of us in the middle of the country as well," said Boulder County Commissioner Elise Jones. "In fact, Colorado is one of the fastest warming states in the nation."

Oil Industry Knew About Threat 50 Years Ago

The 1,300-square-mile San Miguel County sits in the southwest corner of the state on the Utah border. About a third of the county's 8,000 residents live in Telluride, a well-known ski resort town. Boulder, 25 miles northwest of Denver, is the county seat of the 740-square-mile Boulder County and home to nearly a third of the county's 319,000 residents. The three communities have been ravaged by costly climate-related extreme weather events, including wildfires and flash floods, according to the 100-page complaint. Likewise, each community has launched initiatives to curb carbon emissions and adapt to a changing climate.

The Colorado communities contend that ExxonMobil and Suncor were aware that their products caused global warming as early as 1968, when a report commissioned by the American Petroleum Institute (API), the U.S oil and gas industry's premier trade association, warned of the threat burning fossil fuels posed to the climate. Subsequent reports and memos prepared for API and its member companies came to similar conclusions. Regardless, ExxonMobil and Suncor not only continued to produce and market fossil fuel products without disclosing their risks, the complaint charges, they also engaged in a decades-long disinformation campaign to manufacture public doubt and confusion about the reality and seriousness of climate change.

The plaintiffs want the two oil giants to "pay their share of the damage" caused by their "intentional, reckless and negligent conduct." That share could amount to tens of millions, if not billions, of dollars to help cover the cost of more heat waves, wildfires, droughts, intense precipitation, and floods.

"Our communities and our taxpayers should not shoulder the cost of climate change adaptation alone," said Boulder Mayor Suzanne Jones. "These oil companies need to pay their fair share."

Higher Temperatures Hurt Ski Industry, Agriculture

Over the last four decades, wildfires in the Rockies have been happening with greater frequency. According to a 2014 study by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Rocky Mountain Climate Organization (RMCO), the region experienced nearly four times as many wildfires larger than 1,000 acres between 1987 and 2003 than between 1970 and 1986.

Rocky Mountain trees also are being ravaged by bark beetles. Over the last 25 years, the UCS-RMCO report found, beetles have killed trees on regional forest land nearly equal in acreage to the size of Colorado itself. Heat and drought are taking a toll, too, exacerbating tree mortality. If global warming continues unabated, the region likely will become even hotter and drier, and the consequences for its forests will be even more severe.

The average temperatures in Colorado have increased more than 2 degrees F since 1983, according to a 2014 University of Colorado Boulder study , and are projected to jump another 2.5 to 5 degrees F by mid-century. That would have a devastating effect on the Colorado economy, which relies heavily on snow, water and cool weather. A 2017 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Protect Our Winters found that low-snow winters and shorter seasons are already having a negative impact on the state's $5-billion ski industry, the largest in the country. Rising temperatures and drought, meanwhile, threaten the state's $41 billion agricultural sector.

ExxonMobil and Suncor Are Major Carbon Emitters

Both ExxonMobil and Suncor have substantial operations in Colorado. Since 1999, ExxonMobil has produced more than 1 million barrels of oil and 656 million metric cubic feet of natural gas from Colorado deposits, according to the complaint, and ExxonMobil subsidiary XTO Energy currently produces 130 million cubic feet of natural gas per day from more than 864 square miles across three Colorado counties. There are also at least 20 Exxon and Mobil gas stations in the state. All told, the company's production and transportation activities in Colorado were responsible for more than 420,000 metric tons of global warming emissions between 2011 and 2015, according to the complaint.

Suncor gas stations, which sell Shell, Exxon and Mobil brand products, supply about 35 percent of Colorado's gasoline and diesel demand. Suncor, whose U.S. headquarters is located in Denver, also owns the only oil refinery in the state, which produces 100,000 barrels of refined oil per day. According to the complaint, Suncor's Colorado operations were responsible for 900,000 metric tons of carbon emissions in 2016 alone.

Besides their Colorado facilities, the two companies are partners in Syncrude Canada, the largest tar sands oil developer in Canada. Tar sands oil—a combination of clay, sand, water and bitumen—produces roughly 20 percent more carbon dioxide emissions per barrel than regular crude oil.

ExxonMobil and Suncor are among the 90 fossil fuel producers responsible for approximately 75 percent of the world's global warming emissions from fossil fuels and cement between 1988 and 2015, according to the Climate Accountability Institute . Over that time frame, the two companies' operations and products emitted 20.8 gigatons of carbon dioxide and methane.

"Based on the latest scientific studies, the plaintiffs in Colorado, as well as in California and New York City, can now show the direct connection between carbon emissions and climate-related damages," said Kathryn Mulvey, climate accountability campaign director at UCS. "Given these companies' significant contribution to climate change—and their decades of deception about climate science—it is long past time that they should be held accountable for the damage they have caused."

Elliott Negin is a senior writer in the Communications Department at the Union of Concerned Scientists .

17 April 2018. 95% of World's Population Breathes Unsafe Air

A report released Tuesday found that 95 percent of the world's population is exposed to dangerous levels of air pollution , CNN reported .


The Health Effects Institute's (HEI) yearly State of Global Air report said that the outdoor air where 95 percent of humans live has particulate matter concentrations above the Word Health Organization's (WHO) air quality guidelines of 10 micrograms per square meter. Almost 60 percent live in areas where particulate matter exceeds even the WHO's less-strict transitional guidelines of 35 micrograms per square meter.

A map comparing particulate matter concentrations to WHO guidelines and interim targets HEI

The report also looked at household air pollution caused by burning fuels in the home for cooking and heating and found that more than a third of the world's population is exposed to this type of air pollution as well, which can exceed WHO guidelines by a factor of 20.

The report found that the highest concentrations of air pollution, weighted for population, were in North Africa, West Africa and the Middle East. The next highest concentrations were in South Asia, especially Bangladesh, Nepal, India and Pakistan. The countries with the healthiest air were Australia, Brunei, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden and countries in the Pacific islands.

Overall, global air pollution has gone up by 18 percent between 2010 and 2016, the least year for which data was available. In China, which has made a concerted effort to combat pollution, levels have actually slightly declined in the six year period, though they are still above the WHO interim target at 56 micrograms per square meter. Bangladesh, Pakistan and India have seen the largest increase in air pollution during the same period..

The report comes as public health researchers are finding more and more health risks associated with long-term exposure to air pollution. Most recently, scientists found that exposure to air pollution in Mexico City increased the risk that the city's young people would develop Alzheimer's .

The HEI study found that air pollution caused 4.1 million deaths from heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, chronic lung disease and respiratory infections in 2016. China and India bore the brunt of the health impacts of air pollution, accounting for 51 percent of the world's air pollution related deaths that year.

The number of deaths per country due to air pollution in 2016. HEI

HEI Vice President Bob O'Keefe told The Guardian that the report showed a growing gap between the most polluted developing countries and the least polluted wealthier ones. That gap has increased from six-fold to 11-fold between 1990 and 2016.

However, O'Keefe said the report was not all doom and gloom. "There are reasons for optimism, though there is a long way to go. China seems to be now moving pretty aggressively, for instance in cutting coal and on stronger controls. India has really begun to step up on indoor air pollution, for instance through the provision of LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] as a cooking fuel, and through electrification," he told The Guardian.

17 April 2018. U.S. Beer Giant Unveils Ambitious 2025 Sustainability Goals

Anheuser-Busch —the St. Louis-based brewer behind Budweiser, Busch, Michelob and more—announced Tuesday a seven-year deadline on a slew of sustainability targets.

The company's new U.S. 2025 Sustainability Goals focus on four key areas: renewable electricity and carbon reduction, water stewardship, smart agriculture and circular packaging.


Among the goals, the company wants 100 percent of its purchased electricity to come from renewable sources by 2025, as well as a 25 percent reduction of carbon dioxide emissions across the value chain.

It also wants 100 percent of its facilities to be engaged in "water efficiency efforts," and all of its packaging to either be returnable or made with majority recycled content by the same deadline.

"More and more, consumers are choosing to engage with companies that are doing good in the world," said Anheuser-Busch President and CEO Michel Doukeris in a statement provided to EcoWatch. "As the leading American brewer, we have a responsibility to set an example and be good stewards of the environment. It's not just the right thing to do, it's good for business."

Also Tuesday, along with Anheuser-Busch's 2025 goals initiative, Budweiser announced that all Buds sold in the U.S. will feature the "100% Renewable Electricity" symbol. The new logo will start appearing this Earth Day on April 22.

"The symbol celebrates that Anheuser-Busch, through its partnership with Enel Green Power, now secures 50 percent of its purchased electricity from wind power—more than the electricity used to brew Budweiser in the U.S. each year," Anheuser-Busch touted .

Anheuser-Busch's new initiatives build on the 2025 Global Sustainability Goals recently announced by Belgian parent company and world's largest brewery, AB InBev. Last year , the global beer giant vowed to completely shift from fossil fuels by 2025, including investing in their own renewable energy sources.

"We take great pride in our sustainability efforts and our long history of striving to be good stewards of the environment. Now, we are challenging ourselves to do more," Doukeris said. "Our company has been around for 165 years, and these goals will ensure that we continue to make meaningful contributions toward building strong communities and a healthy environment for the next 165 years."

Doukeris told FOX Business that the company's new green efforts will not increase the price of its brews. Rather, President Trump's new 10 percent tariff on aluminum will.

"We are always concerned with the cost of input and output costs for consumers and retailers. Aluminum is a very important item, so as these costs [go] up, it will dramatically impact the final cost of beer and can have impact on the number of jobs," he said.

Last month, AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito told Bloomberg that the cost could increase up to 3 percent.

"When you put tariffs on aluminum in the U.S., for sure that will increase the price of beer for consumers," Brito said. "For example, 10 percent on aluminum at the current prices, that will represent 2 percent to 3 percent more pricing for the consumer. That's more than inflation."

17 April 2018. 5 Ways to Make This Earth Day Really Count

By Courtney Lindwall

Earth Day 2018 is here—and the Earth needs us more than ever. The Trump administration is waging a no-holds-barred assault on our clean energy future, the air we breathe and water we drink, our public lands, and our endangered species. But the grassroots environmental movement is energized, and every action each of us takes to honor the planet matters. Here are a few effective—and fun—ways to make a difference this year.


1. Organize a cleanup

You can't clean up the entire planet, but you can beautify a pocket of your neighborhood. Round up a group of like-minded friends and relatives to pick up trash at a local park or beach or along a popular hiking trail. Chores are always more fun when they become games, so have everyone bring along a reusable bag—you'll sort the trash from the recyclables at the end—and compete to see who can pick up the most litter. (Bonus points for offering sustainable prizes to the winners.) The cleanup will be a good chance to give something back to your community and an opportunity to show younger participants the importance of reducing waste. It will also be a reminder to everyone just how quickly seemingly small bits of trash, like bottle caps or candy wrappers, add up.

2. Start a compost bin, or pledge to start sending your food scraps to a community composting program

Many people don't know that the organic food scraps we toss out release methane, a detrimental greenhouse gas, as they decay in the landfill. Earth Day is a great time to start cutting down on how much food you throw out by taking up composting. Composting promotes a circular food system that transforms scraps (and other organic materials, like paper towels) into regenerative and healthy soil.

Making a compost pile in your yard or in an outdoor or indoor bin is easier than you think . You might also be able to find a compost drop-off point for certain food scraps at your local community garden or farmer's market (just store scraps in the freezer until you're ready to deliver them). Some big cities also collect organic material as part of the normal scheduled trash pickup. Since food waste makes up a hefty chunk of residential garbage, adopting any of these changes in your routine will help you do your part to fight climate change.

3. Visit your nearest national park or monument

A trip to a national park or monument on Earth Day does more than just reconnect you to nature—it also supports our precious federal lands and waters in their time of need. The National Park Service's budget is under attack , and the current administration is selling off portions of America's monuments to oil and gas interests and other extractive industries. By spending Earth Day hiking in a national park, you are showing that the public values these sacred spaces. Through the visitor's fee, you are also helping to fund them for the next generation of nature lovers.

4. Find a local Earth Day festival

The road of environmental advocacy is long, which is why it's important to remind yourself that you are not alone in this fight . Attending a local Earth Day gathering will allow you not only to connect with other activists but to also build momentum to make planet-friendly changes in your community . It's also likely to be an instant mood booster. Consult the website of your local parks department, or search on Eventbrite to find out what's happening nearby. When you're out celebrating, be sure to put your name on the mailing list of one of the participating environmental organizations, or exchange contact information with fellow attendees. Remember: Joining forces and combining talents is the only way we'll be effective enough to meet our clean-future goals.

5. Win a celebrity gift and support NRDC during eBay's Earth Month campaign

Be a force for nature and snag a gift donated by a big-name celebrity by participating in eBay's Earth Month campaign. NRDC was selected as eBay's environmental charity through its "eBay for Charity" partnership program, so from April 16 to 26, friends of the earth will have a chance to win big at eBay.com/EarthMonth while supporting the important work of NRDC lawyers, scientists, and policy experts.

Prizes up for grabs in the auction include:

  • A drum set and signed drumsticks donated by musician QuestLove
  • A personal voicemail greeting from comedian Sarah Silverman
  • A signed print of an original painting by actor Pierce Brosnan
  • Four tickets to SOLO: A Star Wars Story donated by Disney
  • Two sets of VIP tickets to a Conan taping, compliments of comedian and talk-show host Conan O'Brien
  • A signed handbag donated by actress Amber Valletta
  • Two POP figures with a signed note, courtesy of actor Thomas Middleditch
  • Two VIP passes for the 2018 New York E-Prix, an all-electric racing series, donated by Formula E!
  • A signed 35th-anniversary edition Alien poster and collector's figurine from actress Sigourney Weaver
  • Earth Month PINTRILL pins made from recycled materials and made exclusively for eBay for Charity
  • A signed The Revenant poster by actor Leonardo DiCaprio and film director Alejandro González Iñárritu

Moreover, NRDC superfans can enter a sweepstakes to win a grand-prize trip to Big Sky, Montana, with NRDC president Rhea Suh and other staffers to explore the wild Rockies alongside their biggest defenders.

17 April 2018. Greenpeace Finds Amazon Reef Formation Where Total Plans to Drill for Oil

A team of scientists on board the Greenpeace Esperanza ship have documented the existence of a rhodolith field where French company Total intends to drill for oil, 120km off the northern coast of Brazil.

The finding proves the existence of a reef formation in the area and invalidates Total's Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which states the closest reef formation is 8 kilometers (approximately 5 miles) away from one of the oil blocks.


"Now that we know the Amazon Reef extension overlaps with the perimeter of Total's oil blocks, there is no other option for the Brazilian government but to deny the company's license to drill for oil in the region," said Thiago Almeida, Greenpeace Brazil campaigner.

"To learn the Amazon Reef extends beyond our expectations was one of the most exciting moments of my research about this ecosystem," said Fabiano Thompson, oceanographer and professor at Rio de Janeiro Federal University. "The more we research about the Amazon Reef, the more we find. We still know so little about this fascinating new ecosystem and the knowledge obtained so far indicates any oil drilling activity could seriously harm this unique system."

Rhodoliths are calcareous algae that work as a habitat for fish and other reef creatures. Its presence confirms the Amazon Reef extends further than previously expected, as revealed in the scientific magazine Frontiers in Marine Science . The paper, based on footage of the reef captured in January 2017 during Greenpeace's first expedition to the region, estimates the Amazon reef to be 56,000 square kilometers (approximately 22,000 square miles)—almost six times larger than previous scientific estimates.

"In 2017, I had an opportunity to explore the Amazon Reef for the first time, and was floored by the diversity of habitat types and the beauty of this unique area," said Greenpeace USA oceans campaign director John Hocevar. "The more we learn about what lies beneath the surface, the harder it is to imagine sacrificing our oceans to offshore drilling. There is just too much at stake."

The paper also indicates this larger reef could be a marine biodiversity corridor linking the South Atlantic ocean to the Caribbean, with a faunal overlap from both places leading to high species richness . The paper confirms the presence of typical Caribbean fish species in the reef, such as the Blue Chromis ( Chromis cyanea ). The most abundant scleractinian coral species recorded was the Ten-ray Star Coral ( Madracis decactis ), a species that is usually found from the Gulf of Mexico to south of Brazil.

Total has applied for a license to drill for oil in the Amazon Reef region and operations could start as early as this year. Greenpeace is calling on the oil giant to cancel its project. A spill in the region could be devastating to a biome that scientists have barely studied and to coastline communities that depend on a healthy ocean for their way of life. The Brazilian government's decision is due in the next few weeks.

17 April 2018. REI Rolls Out Tough Sustainability Standards for All Its Brands

By Katie O'Reilly

Those who love to recreate outdoors make for staunch environmental advocates. Last week, consumer co-op REI announced plans that should make it easier for its adventurer members to find products that support their values. By the fall of 2020, REI will sever its business relationships with any of its 1,000-plus suppliers that don't meet stringent new requirements in areas including environmental impact, chemical usage, animal welfare, and labor safety and fairness.


The move is among the most comprehensive efforts to advance sustainability in the retail sector. The outdoors-equipment retailer has already supplied to its vendors a 12-page document detailing the new sustainability standards. Some go into effect immediately, while others are more ambitious and aspirational and won't be mandatory for a couple of years.

The new sustainability standards are almost encyclopedic in their range. By the end of 2020, wool products sold at REI must be sourced from humanely treated sheep. Sunscreens won't contain coral-reef-bleaching components. The making of down products must never involve the live-plucking or force-feeding of animals. REI will retail only those jackets that haven't been treated with long-chain fluorocarbons. And REI will expect each brand that it sells to have a manufacturing code of conduct that formally guarantees fair, non-discriminatory labor practices.

"The goal is to establish better ways of doing business and help raise the bar across the entire industry," said Matt Thurston, REI's director of sustainability. It's also to render the consumer shopping experience more straightforward, and streamline the glut of labels that consumers encounter while trying to shop conscientiously. Thurston said REI's new standards clearly outline preferred third-party certifications and favor some, such as Blue Sign , Fair Trade USA and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), over others. "When you end up with so many labels and stickers on all these different brands, we call it the 'Nascar effect,'" Thurston said. "Everyone's tracking toward progress, but it can just make things more challenging for the consumer. If consumers learn to look for the best certifications, those labels become that much more powerful."

REI is training its employees to be able to plainly explain the sustainability labels to customers, and a new consumer landing page details the ways in which the new supplier standards stand to affect the shopping process. Already, REI customers shopping online can filter their search by sustainability attributes. For example, one can search the REI ecosystem for "women's down sleeping bags" and then filter results using "responsibly sourced down" or seek out children's apparel made from "organically grown cotton" or men's outerwear that is "fair trade."

REI has spent the better part of the past two years collaborating behind the scenes with more than 60 brand partners, of various sizes and product categories, to co-develop the standards. Thurston said, "We wanted to learn which practices would be most impactful on the ground, the most credible vehicles for advancing them, and figure out what would most effectively drive positive change."

Theresa Conn, supply chain and sustainability coordinator for New Hampshire's NEMO Equipment , works for one of the brands that helped REI develop its new rules. "These standards weren't pulled out of thin air," she said. "It's a gathering of best practices from the outdoor industry. It's a great guiding light, whether you're a big brand wondering what actions will have the most meaningful immediate impact in your supply chain, or a smaller brand that maybe has lots of energy and excitement but doesn't know where to start." According to Conn, the new REI standards have already spurred NEMO to change the chemistry of the DWR (Durable Water Repellent) used in its sleeping bags.

This isn't just a PR ploy—it turns out there's more than idealized thinking behind REI's new standards. "Our findings have confirmed that the products with the most sustainability attributes are the ones that tend to perform best once out in the world," Thurston said. "They have the best sales, most recommendations, and are purchased by the most loyal REI customers. So we want to give all our partners access to the resources, best practices, and guidance to creating more sustainable products—because it's more impactful if you can bring others along for the journey."

REI executives are also well aware that, based on the changes today's consumers are seeing in the broader socio-political landscape, shoppers are placing ever-greater value on corporate social responsibility. "We're definitely seeing a swing toward these values, particularly among younger, American customers," Thurston said, adding that he hopes the co-op's new standards inspire retailers beyond the outdoor sphere to take a stance in environmental stewardship. "While our approach won't necessarily be appropriate for every sector, the model is quite universal."

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA Magazine .

17 April 2018. Animal Rights Groups Slam 'Inhumane' Bear Stunt at Russian Soccer Match

Animal rights organizations expressed outrage after footage emerged of a trained bear named Tima performing ahead of a soccer match on Saturday between third-tier Russian teams Mashuk-KMV and Angusht.

The clip shows a muzzled bear led to the stadium by a handler. It lifts its arms up and down, gets on its hind legs and hands a soccer ball to the referee. It then makes clapping motions in front of the cheering crowd.


Animal rights groups condemned the display.

"It's clear that cruel training methods have been used to make this bear submissive enough to perform on command. All too often, wild animals used for entertainment are taken from their mothers at a young age, crammed into tiny cages or chained for long periods while they wait for their next performance. This is a far cry from their natural lives in the wild," Cassandra Koenen, head of wildlife campaigns at World Animal Protection , told EcoWatch in a statement.

"Bears, like most wild animals, are highly unpredictable and people around the world have been mauled or attacked by these animals, underlining that show business is no career for a wild animal."

PETA UK director Elisa Allen also described the act as "inhumane."

"In addition to being inhumane and utterly out of touch, using a bear as a captive servant to deliver a football is downright dangerous," Allen said.

"The bear is the symbol of Russia, so we hope the country's people will show some compassion and national pride and stop abusing them. Common decency should compel the league to pull this stunt."

The stadium's announcer said the bear will participate in FIFA World Cup's opening ceremony in Moscow in June. However, organizers later told Standard Sports that no animals will be used as part of the ceremonies.

17 April 2018. Florida Youth Sue Governor for Climate Action

Climate change poses a key risk to low-lying Florida. When Climate Central ranked the 25 U.S. coastal cities that would be most vulnerable to coastal flooding in 2050 due to sea level rise projections, 20 of them were in the Sunshine State.

But Florida Governor Rick Scott has a history of sticking his head in the disappearing sand. In 2015, reports surfaced that his government had banned the Florida Department of Environmental Protection from even using the words "climate change" in reports. Though he denies those charges, he also denies climate change. When asked to comment on it, he famously replied, " I'm not a scientist ."


Now, the group with the most to lose from his inaction are forcing him to act.

On Monday, eight young Florida residents sued the state government to force it to implement a research-based "climate recovery plan," the Miami Herald reported .

The plaintiffs range in age from 10 to 20 and are part of a growing trend of groups heading to the courts to either force action on or receive damages for the impacts of climate change.

In fact, the young people are represented by Our Children's Trust , the non-profit behind a similar case brought by 21 young people against the federal government, claiming it violated their rights by basing the national energy plan on fossil fuels that cause the climate to change in ways that will imperil their futures. The federal case received an Oct. 29 trial date earlier this month. The youngest plaintiff in the Florida case, 10-year-old Levi Draheim, is also named in the federal suit.

One of the Florida plaintiffs, University of Miami marine science student Delaney Reynolds, reached out to Our Children's Trust, inspired by their federal case, and signed up to join the Florida case they were already planning.

"Gov. Scott says he's not a scientist. Well, neither are most of the people that are forced to take action because the state is failing us," Reynolds told the Miami Herald.

Our Children's Trust also has similar cases pending in Alaska, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and Washington.

But the fact that Florida has to be sued into action is especially counter-intuitive. According to the Miami Herald, Miami Beach has already spent $125 million keeping flood water out of its streets, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates streets in Miami could flood every day as early as 2070.

Florida doctors have also observed that climate change is already impacting the health of their patients.

The suit reprimands Scott's government both for failing to reduce the state's carbon dioxide emissions and for failing to act to protect the coasts.

But Scott's spokesperson McKinley Lewis denied those charges. "The Governor signed one of the largest environmental protection budgets in Florida's history last month—investing $4 billion into Florida's environment. The Governor is focused on real solutions to protect our environment—not political theater or a lawsuit orchestrated by a group based in Eugene, Oregon," he told the Miami Herald in a statement.

Senior Our Children's Trust attorney Andrea Rodgers expects the case to go to trial by the end of 2018.

17 April 2018. Which Coffee Is Better for Biodiversity?

By Jason Daley

When coffee consumers think about the most sustainable way to manage their caffeine habit, they normally think about the cup it's in: Is it recyclable? But what about the coffee itself? Some coffee plantations require clear-cutting; will drinking one type of coffee have a bigger impact on the environment than another?


Coffee, it turns out, doesn't come from just one plant; there are two species of coffee that make it into pots around the world. Coffee cognoscenti insist on arabica beans, the species that tends to have a richer, smoother, more complex flavor. But in recent years, the second species, robusta, is having a renaissance, now accounting for 40 percent of the world coffee market.

Not only is it consumed in developing areas of the world, the brew is used to add extra caffeine to traditional Italian espresso and fill out commercial blends of ground coffee. Farmers love it too because it is less labor intensive and more insect-resistant. In the Western Ghats of India, the seventh-largest coffee producing nation in the world, many farmers are pulling out their finicky arabica bushes and planting robusta.

But sun-loving robusta requires growers to thin forests to let in more light. Shade-grown coffee plantations were known to be good habitat for forest birds since they leave the canopy intact. With the expansion of robusta plantations, researchers wondered if that habitat was at risk.

To solve the mystery, researchers from the Wildlife Conservation Society , Princeton and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, compared the bird biodiversity on arabica and robusta coffee plantations in the Western Ghats. The team gathered data on bird biodiversity on Western Ghats coffee plantations between 2013 and 2015. What they found was surprising. Both Arabica forests, which averaged a 95 percent canopy cover, and robusta farms, averaging an 80 percent canopy, were pretty good at supporting birds. According to the findings, published in Scientific Reports , 79 forest-dependent bird species utilized the plantations, including three of the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red-Listed species: the Alexandrine parakeet, psittacula eupatria, grey-headed bulbul, pycnonotus priocephalus and the Nilgiri wood pigeon, Columba elphinstonii.

Alexandrine parakeet. Manish Kumarhoto

The study allays some concerns that robusta production dramatically degrades habitat and shows that coffee plantations can complement protected wildlife areas. That's especially important in a place like the Western Ghats, where only a small fraction of the land is legally protected. "An encouraging result of the study is that coffee production in the Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot, can be a win-win for birds and farmers," lead author Charlotte Chang said in a statement.

Krithi Karanth, the Wildlife Conservation Society associate conservation scientist who conducted the surveys in the Western Ghats agroforests, says it's all about the trees. "The trees being there is key factor for taxa like birds," she says. "For endemic forest- dependent birds the trees being there has a positive influence."

Coffee plantations can't compare to undisturbed habitats—the non-farmed forests around them host 350 to 400 species. But Karanth says compared to two other agroforest products in the area, rubber and palm oil , coffee plantations are much better for wildlife. In a previous study in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution , Karanth and her colleagues found that coffee plantations on average supported 60.5 species of birds, compared to rubber which supported 40.5 and palm oil which supports just 34.1 species.

That's good news for the Ghats and other places where shade grown coffee is still the norm. The story of coffee is not so hopeful elsewhere. In the last fifty years robusta and arabica growers alike have clearcut forests to grow coffee in full sun, which makes both species easier to harvest and more productive. According to one recent study, in 2010, 41 percent of coffee plantations in the world had no shade trees left whatsoever. Much of the deforestation has happened in Brazil and Vietnam, the world's two largest coffee producers, which grow their sun-drenched coffee for mass-produced, bulk, ground coffee.

So what is a coffee-dependent, wildlife-loving person to do? Karanth said consumers have the power to change things by only buying bird-friendly coffee, which usually has the added benefit of being friendly to amphibians, reptiles, mammals and insects as well. Rainforest Alliance Certified Coffee and Bird Friendly certification, developed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, are the most reliable indicators that coffee has been grown on a shaded plantation managed to benefit birds and caffeine seekers alike.

"As people become more conscious about the environmental impacts of coffee, they are willing to pay a little more for wildlife-friendly coffee," Karanth said. "I do think consumers can make a huge difference by opting to choose wildlife-friendly products."

Reposted with permission from our media associate SIERRA magazine.

17 April 2018. Scientists Accidentally Develop 'Mutant' Enzyme That Eats Plastic

Researchers in the UK and the U.S. have inadvertently engineered an enzyme that eats up plastic .

The enzyme is able to digest PET (polyethylene terephthalate)—the same material used in the ubiquitous plastic bottle that's clogging up landfills, coastlines and oceans around the world.


Amazingly, this discovery only happened by chance. Scientists from the University of Portsmouth in the UK and the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) were examining the structure of a natural enzyme, Ideonella sakaiensis , found in 2016 at a Japanese waste recycling center. This enzyme could already break down PET plastic—it just doesn't do it very quickly.

To understand how Ideonella sakaiensis evolved, the research team " tweaked " the structure of the enzyme by adding some amino acids, according to John McGeehan, a Portsmouth professor who co-led the work. They ended up creating an enzyme that worked even faster than the natural one.

"Surprisingly, we found that the PETase mutant outperforms the wild-type PETase in degrading PET," said NREL materials scientist Nic Rorrer.

McGeehan added , "Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception."

The modified enzyme, called PETase, can break down PET in just a few days—a stunning discovery that could help fight the world's escalating plastic crisis .

Electron microscope image of enzyme degrading PET plastic Dennis Schroeder / NREL

"After just 96 hours you can see clearly via electron microscopy that the PETase is degrading PET," said NREL structural biologist Bryon Donohoe.

"And this test is using real examples of what is found in the oceans and landfills."

As BBC News explained, PETase works by reversing the manufacturing process by reducing polyesters back to their building blocks so it can be used again.

When you drink soda, water or juice from a plastic bottle, those bottles are almost never made from recycled plastic. Additionally, as the Guardian noted, the plastic bottles that do get recycled can only be turned into polyester fibers for carpet or fabric.

But this new finding suggests a way to turn plastic bottles back into plastic bottles.

"They could be used to make more plastic and that would avoid using any more oil ... Then basically we'd close the loop. We'd actually have proper recycling," McGeehan told BBC News.

The team's finding was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences .

The researchers are now working to improve PETase to see if it can work on an industrial scale. About one million plastic bottles are purchased around the world every minute, with that number predicted to increase another 20 percent by 2021.

"This unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further improve these enzymes, moving us closer to a recycling solution for the ever-growing mountain of discarded plastics," McGeehan said .

17 April 2018. Who Is Andrew Wheeler? (And Why You Should Be Afraid of Him)

By Jeff Turrentine

Scott Pruitt's long record of misdeeds and malfeasance finally seems to have caught up with him. Whether his numerous scandals , recently making headlines, will cost him his job as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is still an open question.


President Trump has been tweeting his support of his EPA administrator, doing whatever he can to dispel growing rumors of an imminent firing or an abrupt resignation. But given the drip-drip-drip of near-daily revelations, it's safe to assume that news editors already have their Pruitt postmortems written, copyedited and ready to publish at a moment's notice. In this administration, a statement of support from the White House shouldn't be taken as a sign that one's job is safe. (Indeed, it's often an ominous prelude to termination. Just ask H. R. McMaster or Rex Tillerson.)

Meanwhile, there's another big EPA story that's deserving of our attention but getting far less of it. Thursday, a slim majority of senators approved Andrew Wheeler to be the EPA's deputy administrator―the person who could end up running the agency should the current administrator suddenly decide (as so, so many Washingtonians before him have decided) that he really wants to spend more time with his family .

If you're hoping Wheeler could represent some sort of departure from Pruitt's (literal) scorched-earth agenda, he wouldn't. While it may be impossible to imagine anyone worse than Pruitt to lead our nation's environmental policy, plenty of individuals could be just as bad. And as he's shown us on numerous occasions, President Trump has a sixth sense for ferreting these people out and putting them on the executive-branch payroll.

So who is Andrew Wheeler ? And what is it about his particular career trajectory that makes the White House, energy-company executives and assorted climate deniers think he's a perfect fit for the Trump-era EPA?

Well, for starters, his most recent job was as an energy lobbyist. His biggest clients included Murray Energy Corporation , which proudly bills itself as the largest coal mining company in America, and whose CEO, Robert E. Murray, vigorously fought the Obama administration's attempts to reduce carbon emissions and strengthen environmental and public health laws. Shortly after Trump took office, Murray, an unabashed climate denier , presented Vice President Mike Pence with a ridiculously pro-coal " action plan " that called for doing away with the Clean Power Plan, withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement, eliminating federal tax credits for renewable energy, and—yes—halving the EPA's workforce.

In his spare time, Wheeler serves as the vice president of the Washington Coal Club , a powerful yet little-known federation of more than 300 coal producers, lawmakers, business leaders and policy experts who have dedicated themselves to preserving the uncertain future of our dirtiest fossil fuel. Wheeler clearly loves coal, but he's also made time to lobby the U.S. Department of the Interior to open portions of the Bears Ears National Monument to uranium mining .

It gets worse. Before joining his current K Street lobbying firm, Wheeler worked as a legislative aide to Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe . Inhofe is without question the most virulent climate denier on Capitol Hill—a man who regularly refers to the science of climate change as " the greatest hoax " ever perpetrated on the American people and who told one radio interviewer that educating schoolchildren on the basics of climate science was tantamount to "brainwashing." When Wheeler's nomination was announced last year, Inhofe effusively praised the decision, saying that "there is no one more qualified than Andrew to help Scott Pruitt restore EPA to its proper size and scope."

In that same statement, Inhofe referred to Wheeler as his "close friend"; indeed, the two are close enough that Wheeler thought it perfectly appropriate to organize a fund-raiser for Inhofe last May, an act that many believe crossed ethical lines .

The line on Wheeler from people in the know is that he's essentially Scott Pruitt's ideological twin—but that his many years as a Washington insider have endowed him with a political savvy that Pruitt sorely lacks. Were the increasingly embattled Pruitt to leave, few believe that this replacement would deviate from Pruitt's path of rolling back protections, propping up the moribund coal industry and putting energy company profits ahead of public health.

From all accounts, Wheeler doesn't appear to be a paranoid , self-aggrandizing morale destroyer with a highly developed taste for taxpayer-funded first-class travel . He has more friends than enemies in Washington and seems unlikely to shoot himself in the foot or otherwise self-destruct. In the end, that might actually make Wheeler even more dangerous than Pruitt—not less.

17 April 2018. Environment Committee Chair Seeks Answers From Pruitt Over Multiple Email Addresses

The chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is seeking details about U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) chief Scott Pruitt 's use of four different agency email addresses.

The Hill reported that Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., sent a letter Friday to Pruitt asking him to "confirm that the EPA does in fact search all your official email accounts when responding to [Freedom of Information Act] requests?" The multiple email addresses were first reported last week by the Washington Post.


Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Tom Carper, D-Del., have also written the EPA's inspector general, asking him to investigate Pruitt's multiple emails. Merkley and Carper wrote :

"We write to share our deep concern over Administrator Pruitt's reported use of multiple email accounts ... It is imperative that there be an investigation into whether the agency has properly searched these email addresses for responsive documents in response to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests."

"Evading federal records requests by using multiple emails fits Pruitt's pattern of deception and smoke and mirrors to a T," said EWG President Ken Cook. "It's standard operating procedure by any shady operator to try to keep one step ahead of the authorities and those he's fleeced."

"Only government officials with some serious dirty dealings would move between multiple email accounts," Cook added. "Between his four email accounts and his $43,000 private phone booth, Pruitt is taking all the appropriate steps to keep lawmakers, journalists and the prying eyes of taxpayers from learning what he's been up to since becoming the head of EPA."

According to The Washington Post's report and the letter from lawmakers to the EPA inspector general, the email addresses Pruitt has used while head of the agency include: pruitt.scott@epa.gov , esp7@epa.gov , adm14pruitt@epa.gov and sooners7@epa.gov .

16 April 2018. Activists Call on Red Sox to Go 100 Percent Renewable

On April 10, Massachusetts environmental groups launched a campaign asking the state's beloved Red Sox baseball team to "go green," an Environment Massachusetts press release reported.


In their joint "Sox Go Green" campaign, Environment Massachusetts and MASSPIRG Students are specifically calling on the team to source 100 percent of the power it uses for Fenway Park, its Florida spring training facility and all other team operations from renewable energy .

The campaign is not at all antagonistic to the team, but rather urges the Red Sox to use their name recognition to inspire other Massachusetts institutions to take environmental action.

"As a lifelong Sox fan, I know how important this team is in the eyes of everyone who lives in Massachusetts," MASSPIRG chapter chair and UMass Boston student Morganne McGuirk said in the press release. "If the Red Sox go 100 percent renewable, other businesses and institutions will undoubtedly follow their lead."

The activists want the team to follow a two-step schedule. In five years, they want them to get 100 percent of their electricity from New England solar and wind farms. In 10 years, they want them to meet all their transportation and heating needs from renewables as well.

Activists point out that if the Red Sox head their suggestion, they will be joining seven Massachusetts cities and towns and major state institutions like Harvard and Boston Universities, as well as 120 major companies including Google .

If the Red Sox agree, it would not be out of character for a team with a history of taking environmental actions.

They were the first Major League Baseball team to install solar thermal panels in 2008, which were used to heat water in Fenway Park. In spring of 2015, the they planted Fenway Farms , a rooftop garden over the third-base side of the park. Produce from the garden is used to prepare food sold at the stadium.

But the Red Sox are not alone among professional sports teams in taking action on environmental issues.

In March, the National Hockey League (NHL) announced plans to increase its environmental commitments over concerns that climate change would threaten the frozen ponds on which many of its players first learned to skate. The NHL said it would focus on reducing carbon emissions, supporting energy efficiency, and reducing waste and water use.

In the world of Football, the Philadelphia Eagles have 2,500 solar panels installed at their stadium.

The Red Sox main rivals, the New York Yankees, have also taken environmental action . Since the team's new stadium opened in 2009, the team has used renewable energy certificates, which represent one megawatt-hour of renewable energy generated and delivered to the grid, for 100 percent of the stadium's purchased energy.

"If I know anything about Boston, it's that we don't like to come in second to New York," Environment Massachusetts State Director Ben Hellerstein said in the release. "The Red Sox should set their sights on winning the race to 100 percent renewable energy."

16 April 2018. Young People in Polluted Cities at Greater Risk for Alzheimer's

A study has found that living in cities with high air pollution puts children and young adults at risk for Alzheimer's and suicide, The University of Montana reported Friday.


University of Montana researcher Dr. Lilian Calderón-Garcidueñas was part of a team that looked at the autopsies of 203 residents of Mexico City, which has daily ozone and particulate matter levels above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ( EPA ) standards.

The subjects they studied ranged in age from 11 months to 40 years, and the researchers found signs of Alzheimer's in 99.5 percent of them, including in less-than-a-year-old babies.

"Alzheimer's disease starting in the brainstem of young children and affecting 99.5% of young urbanites is a serious health crisis," the abstract of the study , published in Environmental Research on March 23, warned.

The researchers, who also included participants from the Universidad del Valle de México, the Instituto Nacional de Pediatría, Boise State University, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Médica Sur and the Universidad Autónoma de Piedras Negras, looked for two abnormal proteins linked to the development of Alzheimer's: hyperphosphorylated tau and beta amyloid. They found increased levels of both in the study's subjects.

"Alzheimer's disease hallmarks start in childhood in polluted environments, and we must implement effective preventative measures early," Calderón-Garcidueñas said in the University of Montana press release. "It is useless to take reactive actions decades later."

Researchers theorized that particulate matter increased Alzheimer's risk as it enters the brain through the gastrointestinal tract, nose and lungs. The circulatory system carries particulate matter throughout the body and damages barriers.

The study is not the first to suggest that air pollution is a risk for the brain, especially in children. A study published in March found brain abnormalities in school-aged children in the Netherlands whose mothers were exposed to particulate matter when they were pregnant, U.S. News and World Report reported. The abnormalities were linked to behavioral problems and impulse control and, crucially, occurred even when the pollution the mothers were exposed to was beneath levels determined safe by EU law.

"To me, air pollution is kind of the next lead, in a way," University of Rochester environmental medicine professor Deborah Cory-Slechta told Popular Science in early April.

Cory-Slechta was alerted to the brain problems caused by air pollution when colleagues using mice to study the impact of air pollution on lung development invited her to look at the mice's brains. She found damage in almost every part of the brains two months after pollution exposure had ended.

According to the Popular Science article, living in highly air polluted areas has been linked to poor memory, lower intelligence-test performance and behavioral problems.

As the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health points out , Mexico City has made important strides in reducing air pollution since the World Health Organization found it the most polluted city in the world in 1992. However, the University of Montana study warns that it, and, indeed, every polluted city, still has more work to do to protect its children's brains.

16 April 2018. Trudeau Pledges Taxpayer Money, New Laws to Salvage Controversial Pipeline

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Sunday he is ready to offer financial aid and new legislation to push forward the contentious Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion that will triple production of tar sands going from Alberta to British Columbia.

Houston-based developer Kinder Morgan has threatened to scrap the $7.4 billion (USD $5.9 billion) project unless political and legal opposition is resolved by May 31. The energy giant's move came after fierce opposition from environmental activists and Indigenous groups, as well as escalating tension between the Albertan and British Columbian governments.


But after a meeting with the premiers of Alberta and British Columbia on Sunday, Trudeau insisted the project will go ahead.

"The Trans Mountain pipeline expansion is of vital strategic interest to Canada," he said. "It will be built."

"I have instructed the minister of finance to initiate formal financial discussions with Kinder Morgan, the result of which will be to remove the uncertainty overhanging the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project," Trudeau noted .

Trudeau added that he is seeking federal jurisdiction over the pipeline "We are actively pursuing legislative options that will assert and reinforce the government of Canada's jurisdiction in this matter," he said.

But British Columbia's Horgan said after the meeting he will continue to fight the pipeline expansion due to the threat of oil spills in the province.

"My obligation is to the people of B.C., and I will defend that until I am no longer premier," Horgan said Sunday.

However, he said he will back down if the court rules against his government, the Globe and Mail reported.

In a statement from the Protect the Inlet initiative, the Indigenous-led group reminds the federal government that Kinder Morgan's project does not have their consent.

"The Prime Minister is saying they are in negotiations with Kinder Morgan to ensure an end to uncertainty. What he is ignoring is that we are the uncertainty. We will not be bought and we will block this pipeline," Will George, Watch House guardian and project leader, said.

Greenpeace Canada 's climate and energy campaigner Mike Hudema also commented , "If Trudeau believes he can ram this pipeline through, he is misreading both the constitution and the electorate, while underestimating the opposition on the ground."

"Bailing out failing projects, strong-arming Indigenous communities by ignoring their right to consent, and bypassing calls for science-based decision making are ways to create a crisis, not solve one," he said.

Kinder Morgan told Reuters it would not comment on Trudeau's remarks "until we've reached a sufficiently definitive agreement on or before May 31 that satisfies our objectives."

16 April 2018. Landmark Agreement: Shipping Industry to Cut Emissions

On Friday, the 170+ nations in the International Maritime Organization set the first-ever emissions target for the shipping industry and agreed to halve CO2 emissions by 2050, based on 2008 levels.

The unprecedented deal was welcomed by activists as a first step towards meeting the Paris agreement targets. The IMO nations also began a process to ban heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters.


The sulfur-laden oil is a significant source of black carbon or soot, which darkens snow and ice and speeds melting. Additional details are provided in an initial analysis of the deal from the International Council on Clean Transportation.

As reported by the Washington Post :

"Shipping in recent years has been responsible for about 800 million tons annually of carbon dioxide emissions, according to Dan Rutherford, the marine and aviation program director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, who was in attendance for the deliberations in London this week. That means shipping's emissions are 2.3 percent of the global total.

'If you counted it as a country, it would be the sixth-largest source of CO2 emissions,' said Rutherford, noting that 800 million tons of annual emissions is comparable to emissions from Germany."

InsideClimate News noted that the agreement was a compromise. Island states and climate advocacy groups sought more ambitious goals, while several countries insisted that proposed regulations would be too disruptive:

"Even relatively modest first steps would require considerable changes in how cargo ships are built, fueled and operated. At present, ships run almost entirely on fossil fuels , generally the dirtiest grades of oil , and burn them inefficiently to boot.

Meeting the new goals would require shippers to significantly increase fuel efficiency and to shift to low- and zero-carbon fuels such as biofuels or perhaps hydrogen, while adopting new propulsion technologies, some of them still unproven.

The next step is for the IMO to decide whether to make some of these short-term measures mandatory and determine how to enforce the rules. The deal is to be reviewed and perhaps tightened in five years."

For a deeper dive:

Washington Post , BBC , Bloomberg , Guardian , WSJ , InsideClimate News , Reuters , AP , The Canadian Press , Independent , Climate Home , GreenBiz , Platts , Maritime Executive , Heavy Fuel Oil/Sulfur: Reuters , Medi Telegraph )

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