The word of this week’s Green Divas myEARTH360 Report is “perplexed.” We’re working hard to reduce carbon emissions from energy production and shift to cleaner sources, but we’re exporting more coal and other dirty energy out of the country? As if the atmosphere over the U.S .isn’t connected to the rest of the planet? Listen here then read on for more WTF environmental news (plus encouraging stories and ways to take action) to ponder . . .
U.S. Coal Exports Eroding Domestic Greenhouse Gains
A comprehensive and sobering Associated Press story by Dina Cappiello provides a valuable update on how United States policies promoting exports of coal are undercutting domestic efforts to restrict emissions of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas released when fossil fuels are burned.
This is hardly a surprise given past reporting on this issue, and a long history of such seemingly conflicting policies. Earlier this year, I wrote about how today’s coal exports echo the boom in tobacco exports after the United States cracked down on that industry and smoking in the Clinton years. As I wrote, “[I]f we can’t get it right with tobacco, where there’s no benefit to weigh against the toll in lives and costs, how can we get it right with fossil fuels, where the real-time benefits of affordable energy seem always to trump the long-term risks from climate change?” Read more…
Brazilian farmers say their GMO corn is no longer resistant to pests, Reuters reported.
The Association of Soybean and Corn Producers of the Mato Grosso region said farmers first noticed in March that their genetically modified corn crops were less resistant to the destructive caterpillars that “Bt corn” — which has been genetically modified to produce a toxin that repels certain pests — is supposed to protect against. In turn, farmers have been forced to apply extra coats of insecticides, racking up additional environmental and financial costs.
The association, which goes by the name Aprosoja-MT, is calling on Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, and Dow companies to offer solutions as well as compensate the farmers for their losses. In a release posted to the Aprosoja-MT website, spokesman Ricardo Tomcyzk said farmers spent the equivalent of $54 per hectare to spray extra pesticides, and that the biotech companies promised something they didn’t deliver, “i.e. deceptive advertising.” (via Google Translate) Read more…
DDT Still Killing Birds in Michigan
Jim Hall was mowing the town’s baseball diamond when he felt a little bump underneath him. “And there it was, a dead robin,” he said.
Robins in a nine-block area next to a Superfund site are “decimated,” said toxicologist Matt Zwiernik. New tests show they contain some of the highest DDT levels ever seen in birds.
Just last week, he found another one. “Something is going on here,” said Hall, who has lived in this mid-Michigan town of 7,000 for 50 years.
Two dead birds may not seem like much. But for this town, it’s a worrisome legacy left behind by a chemical plant-turned-Superfund site. Read more…
Root Vegetables Irrigated With Treated Wastewater Can Take Up Certain Drugs
Faced with dwindling sources of freshwater across the globe, growing numbers of farmers are using wastewater to irrigate food crops. This wastewater, however, can contain trace amounts of pharmaceutical compounds excreted by people, so scientists want to know how much of the drugs make it into plants and onto dinner plates. A new study of root vegetables irrigated with treated sewage effluent finds that, although many drugs don’t accumulate at detectable levels, a couple can build up to concentrations that may exceed safe exposure levels (Environ. Sci. Technol. 2014, DOI: 10.1021/es5017894). Read more…
Curbing air pollution could help crops thrive
Controlling air pollution could help curb projected declines in global food supplies, a new study says, suggesting policymakers should consider both climate change and ozone pollution in efforts to ensure the world has enough food.
Scientists have largely neglected the interactions between rising temperatures and ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops. But the complex linkages can be significant, said the study, published in the latest issue of the journal Nature Climate Change. Read more…
Score one more for the great outdoors. According to a study published by the USDA Forest Service, America’s trees help save more than 850 lives every year and prevent 670,000 episodes of acute respiratory symptoms.
Researchers analyzed data on pollution, weather, tree cover (the amount of land covered by trees), and how concentrations of four different air pollutants affect human health for every single county in the lower 48 states. In addition to the live-saving stats above, they found that urban areas see the greatest benefit from trees’ ability to trap and absorb air pollutants while producing nice, clean oxygen.
“Urban areas account for only 3% of total land use in the US, but they see almost 66% of the health benefits of all trees,” says David Nowak, PhD, study author and project leader with the USDA Forest Service. Read more…
Back From the Dead: Why De-Extinction May Save Humanity
If current trends continue, elephants, giraffes, and zebras could go extinct in the not-too-distant future.
Rodents teeming with parasites that carry black plague would fill the void, suggests ongoing research in Africa. If so, the threat to human health could prompt the tantalizingly feasible solution of de-extinction — that is, resurrecting the big animals and releasing them back into the wild.
De-extinction for conservation purposes is a “matter of when, not if,” said Philip Seddon, a zoologist at the University of Otaga in New Zealand. “We need to think very hard about which are the good candidate species.” Read more…
Life was always a matter of waiting for the right moment to act. ~ Paulo Coelho,