Germany’s environmental ministry nixes meat, fish at official functions

February 24, 2017 by  
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The German equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency is saying yes to sauerkraut, no to bratwurst—officially, at least. Barbara Hendricks, minister for the environment, announced last week that the Umweltbundesamt , Germany’s federal environmental arm, will serve neither meat nor fish at state events. She cited as a reason the inordinate environmental burden they pose on the environment, especially in the case of livestock farming, which studies show generate more greenhouse-gas emissions than transportation. This isn’t a novel stance for the ministry. In 2009, the Umweltbundesamt counseled Germans to return to the prewar tradition of eating meat only on special occasions, if not for their health, then for the sake of the planet. “We must rethink our high meat consumption,” said then–environment minister Andreas Troge. “I recommend people return to the Sunday roast and to an orientation of their eating habits around those of Mediterranean countries.” A nation that offers hundreds of varieties of sausage may not be so easily swayed, however. Germans consume a lot of meat—about 60 kilograms (132 pounds) per capita per year, according to some estimates . Unsurprisingly, Henrick’s pronouncement has already drawn criticism, with one political rival accusing the minister of “nanny-statism” and forcing vegetarianism on people. “I’m not having this Veggie Day through the back door,” said Christian Schmidt, minister of food and agriculture. “I believe in diversity and freedom of choice, not nanny-statism and ideology. Instead of paternalism and ideology. Meat and fish are also part of a balanced diet.” A member of Bavaria’s conservative Christian Social Union party, Schmidt previously called for a ban on giving meat substitutes names like “vegetarian schnitzel” and “vegetarian sausage” because they are “completely misleading and unsettle consumers.” Infographic: The true environmental cost of eating meat He also censured German schools for eliminating pork from the menu out of consideration for Muslim students. “We should not restrict the choice for the majority of society for reasons of ease or cost,” he said. Meanwhile, Hendricks’s detractors have dismissed her a hypocrite, since meat and fish will still be offered in the staff cafeteria. “The ban only applies to a handful of guests, not to 1,200 employees,” said Gitta Conneman, a senior minister from the Christian Democratic Union. “This is pure ideology, a ‘people’s education’ for the diet.” But, at least for now, the environment ministry isn’t budging. “We’re not telling anyone what they should eat,” it said in a statement. “But we want to set a good example for climate protection, because vegetarian food is more climate-friendly than meat and fish.” Via ThinkProgress Photos by Marco Verch and Oliver Hallmann

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Germany’s environmental ministry nixes meat, fish at official functions

Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

February 23, 2017 by  
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The battle for Bears Ears National Monument is far from over. Weeks after Patagonia spurned the Outdoor Retailer Show trade show in Salt Lake City to protest Utah governor Gary Herbert’s quest to roll back nascent protections for the twin sandstone formations, the outdoor-apparel company has launched a campaign to inundate the gubernatorial office with calls demanding otherwise. Utahns are more than familiar with this song and dance: Locals, lawmakers, and environmentalists have long knocked heads over how the Bears Ears area, and its untapped reserves of gas and shale , should be developed. The 1.35 million-acre expanse of arches, buttes, and canyons, which several Native American tribes regard as sacred, isn’t the only public land under attack from Utah’s top politician. On February 17, Herbert signed a resolution urging President Donald Trump to narrow the boundaries of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument to the south. “In passing two resolutions asking the Trump administration to rescind the Bears Ears National Monument and reduce the Grand Staircase Escalante Monument, Governor Herbert and Utah’s state delegation have unleashed an all-out assault on the state’s protected public lands,” Patagonia wrote on a website powered by Phone2Action , which provides web and voice tools to help advocacy groups connect their supporters with elected officials. “This land grab would open wilderness and recreation areas to oil and gas development and could eliminate access to the diverse landscape that makes Utah unique.” Related: Patagonia boycotts huge Outdoor Retailer show to protest Utah Republicans The outdoor-recreation industry plays a major role in Utah’s economy, supporting some 122,000 jobs and bringing in $12 billion a year in consumer spending, according to Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia. For Patagonia, at least, boycotting the Outdoor Retail trade show was just a start. “Because of the hostile environment they have created and their blatant disregard for Bears Ears National Monument and other public lands, the backbone of our business, Patagonia will no longer attend the Outdoor Retailer show in Utah,” Marcario said. “And we are confident other outdoor manufacturers and retailers will join us in moving our investment to a state that values our industry and promotes public lands conservation.” + Patagonia Via Outside Photos by Bureau of Land Management

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Patagonia launches campaign to protect Utah’s Bear Ears National Monument

Baltimore’s floating trash-eaters have intercepted 1 million tons of debris

February 21, 2017 by  
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Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel sound like characters on a children’s program, but they are actually solar- and hydro-powered trash interceptors cleaning up Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. As cute as they are effective, Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel have wide googly eyes, a snail-like shape, and the ability to suck up plastic bags , Styrofoam containers, cigarette butts, and other debris. The initial trash wheel prototype was created by local sailor and engineer John Kellett, who approached the city about trying to find a water pollution solution after watching debris floating in the Inner Harbor on a regular basis. After a little trial and error and a promising but inadequate first trash wheel, Kellett gained the support of the Water Partnership of Baltimore , a non-profit that supports environmental legislation and aims to make the area a green, safe, and friendly destination for both humans and animals. Mr. Trash Wheel, who has his own Twitter account, is the result of their union: he uses solar panels and the river’s current to turn a waterwheel, which then activates a conveyor belt. The  trash , which gets pulled in by floating containment booms, gets tangled and lifted by rotating forks before going up the conveyor belt and being deposited into the dumpster. Once the dumpster is full, it gets towed to a transit station, and Mr. Trash Wheel continues on his trash munching ways. But Mr. Trash Wheel doesn’t have to clean up the Inner Harbor’s water all by himself. Image © John Kellet, Clearwater Mills and Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore  Related: Baltimore’s solar-powered water wheel devours up to 50,000 pounds of harbor trash each day After Mr. Trash Wheel’s success, Kellett and the Water Partnership raised funds for a female garbage gobbling counterpart: Professor Trash Wheel. Professor does her work in another part of the Inner Harbor, but both trash wheels are in high demand, especially after rain or thunderstorms. Most of the debris they pick up actually comes from illegal dumping, trash chucked from cars, and cigarette butts stubbed out on the ground as opposed to from people directly littering into the river itself, but the flow of the area’s watershed eventually brings the trash into Professor and Mr. Trash Wheel’s territory. Mr. Trash Wheel has picked up more than a million pounds of trash from the Jones Fall River since it was rolled out in 2014, with the trash wheels filling an average of 70-100 dumpsters worth every year. 300,000 plastic bags , six thousand glass bottles, and nine million cigarette butts as well as more exotic offenders including a live ball python make up the waste that is removed from the waterway. The trash gets burned to generate electricity with plans to increase recycling capabilities in the future. In order to continue their progress and to stay in line with the Water Partnership’s goal of making the harbor swimmable and fishable by 2020, the city is hoping to add an additional trash wheel or two in the future and to serve as a model for other cities and areas with water pollution issues. Kellett is also looking into other potential trash wheel sites, including Rio de Janeiro, Honolulu, and Denver. While the ultimate goal is for trash wheels (even charming, googly-eyed ones with Twitter accounts) to become obsolete due to better environmental regulations and practices, expect to see more of these effective and playful floating trash devices in harbors and waterways near you. Via National Geographic Lead image © The Waterfront Partnership

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Baltimore’s floating trash-eaters have intercepted 1 million tons of debris

Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens

February 20, 2017 by  
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For a long time we’ve been told to slather on sunblock to protect our skin from harsh ultraviolet radiation, but as an unintended consequence, filters in those sunscreens are washing off into the oceans and likely harming coral reefs . Now one Hawaii lawmaker is taking action. Fearing damage to the state’s fragile coral ecosystem, Senator Will Espero introduced a bill that would ban sunscreen with octinoxate and oxybenzone. Researchers detected concentrations of oxybenzone 30 times higher than levels thought to be safe for coral in Hawaii waters. The state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources said last September, “Recent studies have shown that oxybenzone causes deformities in coral larvae (planulae), making them unable to swim, settle out, and form new coral colonies. It also increase the rate at which coral bleaching occurs. This puts coral reef health at risk, and reduces resiliency to climate change .” Related: 40% of the top sunscreens don’t meet official guidelines for sun protection Haereticus Environmental Laboratory executive director Craig Downs, whose research influenced Espero’s bill, told KITV4, “Oxybenzone – it kills [coral]. It turns them into zombies if it doesn’t kill them outright.” The bill would ban sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate unless a user has a medical prescription. Unsurprisingly, sunscreen companies like L’Oréal have fought back, claiming there’s not enough evidence to validate such a ban. But Espero told Scientific American the science is on his side, and many people – from fishers to sailors to ocean sports enthusiasts – are behind the measure. According to TreeHugger, 14,000 tons of sunscreen wash off into oceans every single year, possibly exacerbating the worldwide coral bleaching issue. If you’re worried about sunburn but also want to consider your impact on the environment , check out the Environmental Working Group ‘s safe sunscreen guide . The organization lists several brands whose products meet their criteria. Via TreeHugger Images via Michael Dorausch on Flickr and Pixabay

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Scott Pruitt confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency

February 17, 2017 by  
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In a major loss for the planet, the US Senate confirmed climate denier Scott Pruitt as the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, an agency that Pruitt has sued numerous times and has promised to render toothless . With no irony at all, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated about Pruitt: “He’s exceptionally qualified. He’s dedicated to environmental protection.” Unfortunately, that’s anything but true. Pruitt calls himself “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda,” and true to his word, he has worked hard to allow mercury pollution into the environment and coal plants to poison the planet, and has attempted to stop the efforts to clean the Chesapeake Bay. He recently called climate change ” a religious belief ” and has worked to undermine efforts to stop climate change. “Scott Pruitt is the most unqualified and dangerous nominee in the history of the EPA, and the Senators who voted to confirm him have betrayed the American people,” said Tom Seyer of NextGen Climate . According to the Sierra Club , “Pruitt has a long record of ignoring science, assaulting public health safeguards, and holding the agency he now leads in contempt. His confirmation is an environmental and public health disaster.” Related: EPA workers openly fight against potential Pruitt confirmation Thousands of activists have fought to delay Pruitt’s confirmation after a judge ruled that the Oklahoma attorney general office must turn over thousands of emails linking Pruitt to oil and gas companies. Despite their efforts, Pruitt was confirmed along a party-line vote. “Scott Pruitt is a dangerous and cynical choice to head the EPA. He’s a wholly-owned representative of polluters and Audubon will be vigilant as Pruitt sets out to dismantle the agency he heads,” said David Yarnold, Audubon’?s president and CEO. Via CNN images via Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Scott Pruitt confirmed as head of the Environmental Protection Agency

Scientists discover immense pool of molten carbon beneath the Western United States

February 15, 2017 by  
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In what could be some of the worst news for climate change since the election of Donald Trump , a group of scientists have discovered a massive reservoir of melting carbon hidden deep under the Western United States. Researchers used the world’s largest array of seismic sensors to map the reservoir, which covers an area of about 695,000 square miles and challenges everything scientists have previously thought about the amounts of carbon trapped inside the Earth. To make a long story short, there’s way more than anyone has ever predicted before. Located about 217 miles beneath the planet’s surface, the reservoir is made up of carbonates that are melting under temperatures as hot at 7,230 degrees Fahrenheit. According to Science Daily , carbonates are a large group of minerals – including magnesite and calcite – which contain a specific carbon ion that when molten is believed to be responsible for the electrical conductivity of the Earth’s mantle . While it’s too deep underground to physically study, a research team from the Royal Holloway University of London employed a wide-ranging network made up of 583 seismic sensors to conduct their study. Those sensors honed in on some strange vibrations in the upper mantle, which in turn identified this immense pool of molten carbon. Based on what these sensors have told them, the researchers believe the Earth’s upper mantle might hold as much as 110 trillion tons of melted carbon. “Under the western US is a huge underground partially-molten reservoir of liquid carbonate,” explains team member, Sash Hier-Majumder. “It is a result of one of the tectonic plates of the Pacific Ocean forced underneath the western US, undergoing partial melting, thanks to gasses like carbon dioxide and water contained in the minerals dissolved in it.” It turns out this carbon is a bit of sleeping giant, as the scientists say this it will make its way out of the deep recesses of the Earth slowly via volcanic eruptions. But that seepage will add to the significant amounts of greenhouse gasses humans are adding to the planet’s atmosphere and contribute to climate change. Related: Scientists hatch crazy $500 billion plan to refreeze the Arctic “We might not think of the deep structure of Earth as linked to climate change above us, but this discovery not only has implications for subterranean mapping, but also for our future atmosphere ,” Hier-Majumder explains. “For example, releasing only 1% of this CO 2 into the atmosphere will be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil. The existence of such deep reservoirs show how important is the role of deep Earth in the global carbon cycle.” Via Science Daily Images via gunckx , Flickr Creative Commons and Pixabay

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Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction

February 14, 2017 by  
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a The Standing Rock and Cheyenne River Sioux just suffered a major defeat at the hands of a federal judge — the tribes’ request to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline was rejected Monday afternoon. The tribe’s lawyers filed the motion arguing that Lake Oahe, which the pipeline would cross, contains sacred water which would be desecrated by the pipeline. This argument was dismissed by Energy Transfer Partners , saying that the company had “the utmost respect for the religious beliefs and traditions” of the tribe and that their efforts did not threaten the traditions of the community. The protesters, who fear the consequences of an oil spill near their main source of water, say they aren’t surprised by the ruling. In a report from the Guardian , many reaffirmed their commitment to the cause, with some stating they would continue to occupy the protest camps near the pipeline’s construction sites. Related: Army approves Dakota Access Pipeline route – and construction could begin immediately Religious beliefs and traditions weren’t only issues at stake in this ruling. The pipeline, which was originally halted by the Obama administration in December, was supposed to undergo a lengthy environmental review process before permits would be issued for the company to begin drilling. Instead, Donald Trump used his first weeks in office to throw out the review and simply push the approval process through. Though many indigenous protesters dispersed during the winter to avoid brutal storms, they are beginning to return as the weather improves. They are vowing to continue to fight the pipeline, both on the ground and in court. Via The Guardian Images via Tony Webster and Lars Plougmann

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Judge throws out request to halt Dakota Access Pipeline construction

Wild bison return to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in 140 years

February 9, 2017 by  
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Wild bison are coming home to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in roughly 140 years. Although bison were common sights in the Canadian landscape with a population that numbered in the millions in the early 1800s, these huge and herbivorous mammals nearly disappeared by the end of the 19th century as a result of hunting. Now 16 bison are back at Banff as part of a carefully planned conservation effort to re-establish the species within the area’s ecosystem. With any luck, the herd’s numbers will be growing soon: many of the transferred bisons are pregnant.

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Wild bison return to Canada’s Banff National Park for the first time in 140 years

America will soon surpass the clean energy standards Trump wants to kill

February 9, 2017 by  
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Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan , first announced in 2015, caused no end of political controversy in conservative circles for its ambitious carbon-cutting goals. By February 2016, the Supreme Court halted enforcement of the regulations due to complaints from 29 mostly Republican-led states. Opponents argued that the plan would cause massive layoffs in the energy sector. Now, a new report shows the US is actually poised to surpass the Clean Power Plan’s federal requirements – quite a different picture from the one Trump and his cabinet are painting. The new data comes from the 2017 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook , published by Bloomberg New Energy Finance and the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. The report notes: “Within the power sector, the progress is even more noteworthy: in 2016, greenhouse gas emissions from US power plants dropped 5.3% in just one year. Since 2005, the power sector has shrunk its carbon footprint by 24% – in other words, the US is 75% of the way to the Clean Power Plan’s “32% by 2030” headline target, with 14 additional years left to go.” Part of the reason for the lowered emissions is the fact that coal is losing its share of the energy market. Right now it only comprises 30% of the electricity grid in the US – the lowest percentage in the last 70 years. The rise in solar energy is another contributing factor – the solar industry grew by 51,000 jobs last year and seemed poised to continue growing until at least 2022, with the encouragement of the solar energy tax credit. Related: Supreme Court freezes Obama’s plan to cut CO2 emissions This report shows that the transformation in America’s energy market was in effect before the CPP was even on the table. While Obama’s clean energy policies surely accelerated it and made it easier for businesses to make the switch to renewable energy, the change was well underway. Trump’s administration may be expressing interest in repealing the rule , but it’s unlikely to stop the clean energy revolution that’s already underway. Via Gizmodo Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Leonardo DiCaprio appointed brand ambassador for Chinese electric vehicle maker

February 8, 2017 by  
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Actor Leonardo DiCaprio has played many roles – and not just in the movies. He is a United Nations Messenger for Peace, climate change documentary maker, and a bold advocate of climate action . Now our favorite climate justice activist has been appointed brand ambassador for Chinese company BYD’s new line of electric vehicles. DiCaprio will be brand ambassador for BYD’s new line of what they call new energy vehicles, or electric vehicles . They describe themselves as one of the world’s biggest new electric vehicle manufacturers, comprising 11 percent of the 2015 global market. They experienced a 130 percent increase in electric vehicle sales in the first half of 2016. They’re developing the new cars as part of their Cool the Earth by One Degree Celsius campaign as they aim to transform how each person consumes energy while raising awareness about climate change. Related: Leonardo DiCaprio says climate action is America’s “biggest economic opportunity” Sounds like a perfect mission for DiCaprio – the company says he will help them highlight their new developments in China . BYD Brand and Public Relations General Manager Sherry Li said in a statement, “Mr. Leonardo DiCaprio has greatly inspired the world with his outstanding dedication to saving the planet’s ecological environment . As our brand ambassador in China, we are pleased to work with him in promoting public awareness of climate change through the use of new energy vehicles.” In a statement DiCaprio said, “All over the world people are realizing that cars that run on fossil fuels are inefficient and a major threat to the planet. I am very pleased to be joining an effort to increase the number of clean vehicles on the road in China and beyond.” Via CleanTechnica Images via BYD Twitter and BYD Facebook

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