Backlash: EPA halts use of deadly ‘cyanide bomb’ traps

August 20, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Almost as quickly as the Environmental Protection Agency announced its temporary interim re-authorization of M-44s, or “cyanide bomb” traps, to kill wildlife , it overturned the decision and banned the cyanide bombs due to backlash. The decision reported on Aug. 15 made environmentalists, activists and the general public oppose to the deadly traps. Related: EPA reauthorizes use of ‘cyanide bombs’ to kill wild animals “I am announcing a withdrawal of EPA’s interim registration review decision on sodium cyanide, the compound used in M-44 devices to control wild predators. This issue warrants further analysis and additional discussions by EPA,” said a statement issued Aug. 15 by EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler . “I look forward to continuing this dialogue to ensure U.S. livestock remain well-protected from dangerous predators while simultaneously minimizing off-target impacts on both humans and non-predatory animals ,” Wheeler added. The controversial traps resemble sprinkler heads and spray deadly sodium cyanide to kill wildlife such as foxes, bears, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions and birds. Those opposed want the traps shelved permanently as they can be set off by animals or humans. Additionally, critics say M-44s may contaminate the environment indefinitely. The Center for Biological Diversity stated that 99.9 percent of comments submitted to the EPA about the devices expressed concern about animal welfare and were against the use of the toxic traps. “I’m thrilled that the EPA just reversed its wrongheaded decision to reauthorize deadly cyanide traps,” Collette Adkins, carnivore conservation director at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity , said in a statement to HuffPost.  “So many people expressed their outrage, and the EPA seems to be listening. I hope the feds finally recognize the need for a permanent ban to protect people, pets and imperiled wildlife from this poison.” The EPA planned to continue studying its decision until 2021, however, it said on Aug. 15 it was suspending the use of all M-44s. Via Huffington Post Image via skeeze

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Backlash: EPA halts use of deadly ‘cyanide bomb’ traps

Bee kind to bees, celebrate National Honey Bee Day

August 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Give hard-working honey bees the respect they deserve on National Honey Bee Day. The holiday on Saturday, August 17 is a good time to show extra support for these winged creatures, as these fast-flying insects are responsible for pollinating 30 percent of the world’s food crops and 90 percent of the globe’s wild plants. Here are some tips on how to save the bees on National Honey Bee Day. Use this fun holiday to educate family and friends about the crucial role honey bees play, especially in light of their recent struggles. The number of honey bee colonies fell by 16 percent in the winter of 2017-18, according to an international study led by the University of Strathclyde. As bee populations decline, food security, the economy and healthy ecosystems are all threatened. Related: Native bees are going extinct without much buzz “But the exciting thing is that there are so many tiny actions all of us can do to play a part in protecting bees,” said Cedar Anderson, co-creator of Flow Hive . “Protecting bees is not just the job of beekeepers — we all have a role, and it can start in our own backyards.” If you want to join in and celebrate National Bee Day, think about creating thriving habitats for “these essential little pollinators ,” Anderson said. He suggests these simple tips to help bees thrive. Stop using sprays Don’t reach for the pesticides or sprays, as they are considered one of the leading threats to pollinators worldwide. Instead, garden pesticides can be replaced with natural alternatives such as garlic; onion or salt spray; soap and orange citrus oil; or a chili or pepper spray. Keep in mind that natural sprays can also harm pollinators; use them only outside of foraging hours. Add bee-friendly plants to your garden Maybe you don’t keep bees, but planting a bee-friendly garden at home is easy. Buy plants that bloom at various times to support different pollinators throughout the seasons. Trees and shrubs produce higher quantities of pollen and nectar; however, smaller plants produce forage more regularly. Try to have a combination of different sizes of native plants. Let your garden grow wild Allow veggie and herb plants to flower and dandelions to bloom. This way, the bees get to forage, and you don’t have to worry about gardening for a while. Related: It might be time to let your garden grow wild Teach kids about bees and other pollinators One of the most effective ways to teach children about pollinators is to take them outdoors and get them involved with planting flowers or building hummingbird feeders. Talk to them about the importance of bees to help them appreciate these important creatures. Take it to the next level by becoming a beekeeper Why not delve into becoming a beekeeper and caring for your own colony? It can help you connect with your local environment and keep the bee populations from disappearing. + Flow Hive Image via Christiane

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Bee kind to bees, celebrate National Honey Bee Day

The ‘tipping point’ has arrived as temperatures rise in 70 US counties

August 16, 2019 by  
Filed under Green

The heat is on this summer as sweltering temperatures are felt throughout the U.S., all thanks to the “tipping point”— a warning once echoed in the 2015 Paris accord. The “tipping point,” a 2 degrees Celsius of warming above pre-industrial levels that was forewarned in 2015, has arrived and hit the U.S. with extreme climate change , leaving 34 million people living in areas that are rapidly heating. Related: Climate change will push 120 million into poverty The fastest state to experience such extreme warming is Alaska , a state where summer temperatures generally range from 55 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, has seen a recent increase of heat waves and wildfires . Other areas of the Northeast, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, who was the first state to pass the 2 degree Celsius, have also seen climes beyond normal. According to the Washington Post, most regional increases were due to warmer winters rather than summer heat waves. Less snowfall and ice mean those areas aren’t as likely to reflect solar dispersion during the winter months, ultimately feeding into a warming period. Although scientists can’t figure out why the Northeast is warming so rapidly, some experts believe the 2-degree Celsius hotspots are a glimpse into our future. Aside from the higher than average regional temperatures, there are also other factors that pose a threat to U.S. communities such as cold, heat, flooding, drought and even rising sea-levels. Four of the top five cities with the “lowest degree of readiness” are in Southern California alone (Anaheim, San Bernardino, Santa Ana and Riverside) and have all reached between 1.8 degrees Celsius and 2.1 degrees Celsius of warming compared to pre-industrial levels. While it may be summer in the U.S., some communities have experienced a real climate crisis , signaling climate change needs to be addressed now. Via Grist, Washington Post Image via Isengardt

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The ‘tipping point’ has arrived as temperatures rise in 70 US counties

Cities replace citation fees with school, pet supply donations

August 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Green

In many towns around the country, getting a parking ticket is an opportunity to do good. Police departments in cities from across the country allow parking violators to pay for their ticket by donating school or pet supplies to local schools or shelters. In some towns, news of the program spread so fast that even people without parking violations contacted the police with donations. In Muncie, Indiana, officers had to dispatch a police vehicle to pick up contributions at donors’ homes. Their program focused on pet supplies after a police officer’s daughter noticed the shelter was overwhelmed with hundreds of abandoned kittens during the breeding season. Nearby towns were calling the Muncie police department asking for details on how they could run similar donation programs. “Nobody likes to get a parking ticket. But if you can pay it forward and give a donation of school supplies that will help somebody, it kind of makes it less bad,” said Las Vegas city spokesman, Jace Radke. Related: A guide to going green for the back-to-school season Las Vegas has operated a similar donation program since 2016, with just a one month window in the summer for donations. Parking violators between June and July have 30 days to bring in un-opened school supplies of equal value and their ticket is waived. So far this summer , the police department has collected $1,707 in donations that they hand over to a local nonprofit affiliated with the school system. “It’s reached people that don’t even have a parking ticket to pay. They just want to do good,” said Erin Vader from Olathe, Kansas, which runs a similar donation program. Most tickets eligible for the donation program are small, low-risk tickets that equal about $25, as is done so in Muncie. For the majority of the programs, larger tickets, or more serious violations that might require a court hearing are ineligible to meet the donation option– including parking in a handicap space, or in a fire lane. Via Washington Post Image via Pexels

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Cities replace citation fees with school, pet supply donations

Digging deeper for climate solutions: deep-root GMOs could feed world and store carbon

August 15, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Scientists are experimenting with new genetic modification technology that “supercharges” plants to enhance what they already excel at– sequestering carbon. As the world scrambles to find innovative mitigation solutions, plants have been doing what they quietly perfected over millions and millions of years ago– taking carbon from the atmosphere and converting it into carbohydrates, energy and oxygen. A recent study shows one research institute’s promising progress on the quest to create a patented plant that grows deeper, cork-like roots that store 20 times more carbon than the average plant . The researchers believe these findings can eventually be applied to cash crops at a scale that can truly impact climate change. Related: Scientists confirm tree planting is our best bet against climate change The California-based Salk Institute is leading the way in what they call the Harnessing Plants Initiative. Their goal is to create an enhanced plant that not only stores more carbon but also yields an agricultural product that profits farmers and feeds people. Historically, genetic plant modification has been used to target and enhance specific traits within a plant, such as the size or taste of the fruit or its resistance to pests and disease. Now, Salk’s plant biologists are targeting specific hormones and genes that indicate and increase root biomass. Deep dive: why deep roots matter For centuries, farmers have recognized that deeper roots stabilize the soil and make trees and crops more resilient to heavy winds, floods, hurricanes and erosion. Deep roots also encourage drought resistance because they allow the plant to search for hard to reach water reserves that haven’t been dried out by the sun. But recently, deep roots have become coveted for their ability to sequester , store and stabilize carbon dioxide . The carbon in roots is stored as a complex carbohydrate that is not easily broken down by soil microbes and therefore it is more stable storage than above ground plants, especially for plants that are frequently harvested. The idea behind deep roots is actually very logical– deeper roots store the carbon further from the place we are trying to keep it away from– the atmosphere. Although plants have always sequestered carbon, they can no longer keep up with the rate that humans are pumping it into the atmosphere– at least not naturally. Globally, people emit 37 billion tons of carbon dioxide every year and plants can only capture about half. The idea, according the Salk’s plant biologist, Wolfgang Busch, is to “store carbon in parts of the soil where the carbon is more stable. Change the biochemistry, increase the stability. We’re not trying to get plants to do something they don’t normally do,” says Busch . “We’re just trying to increase the efficiency. Then we can use that to mitigate climate change .” Joanne Chory, also a plant biologist at the Salk Institute echoed Busch’s explanation in an interview with Foreign Policy News. “All we have to do is make them about 2 percent more efficient at redistributing carbon than they are right now, and we can effect a global change,” said Chory . The Salk Ideal Plant Wolfgang Busch, Chory and their team of plant biologists at the Salk Institute recently published their preliminary findings in Cell. Their research focused on a test plant – the thale cress – where they experimented with root hormones and a specific gene found to control the shape of roots. The science behind it: hormones and genes The hormone auxin is the most important hormone that dictates root growth. The biologists at Salk, however, also identified a gene – EXOCYST70A3 – that controls the shape and extent of roots by monitoring how much of the auxin hormone is released. By identifying and isolating these findings, the researchers can now control the size and direction of the roots in their test plants. The EXOCYST70A3 gene is present in all plants, so their research is profoundly scalable if applied to the world’s top grown crops. Indeed, Salk intends to apply their findings to corn , soy, rice, wheat, cotton and rapeseed (canola). Salk’s secret sauce: suberin But the researchers didn’t stop at isolating the hormone and gene, they also identified a specific substance to modify and replicate based on its benefits. According to their website, their ‘secret sauce’ is a substance called suberin . Suberin is a cork material that is carbon-rich, found naturally in plants and resistant to decomposition. It enhances soil, but is also one of the best (meaning most stable) storage vessels for carbon dioxide. Salk’s patented plant, The Ideal Plant, will maximize suberin within its roots. Ultimately, their plants will increase root biomass that is both deeper and higher in suberin. But aren’t GMOs bad for the environment? There is a lot of controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms , including their potentially harmful impacts on human health , ecosystems and farmers’ livelihoods. However, GMO proponents believe they are the answer to feeding the world’s growing population and increasing resilience against a rapidly changing environment. For the Salk Institute, GMO nay-sayers, like the European Union and India, aren’t their biggest concern. Their research continues (and receives millions of dollars of investment) for expected implementation in places where GMOs are not banned. In order to reach their goal of using the Salk Ideal Plant to store half of the carbon that humans emit every year, the researchers claim they would need their patented product in six percent of the world’s agriculturally productive land. While there are natural ways of cross breeding to reach similar results, it would take considerably longer and there simply isn’t enough time. The climate clock is ticking The Salk Institute’s recently published study holds promising breakthroughs, but they are still not ready with a usable product and time is running out. Environmental experts agree that drastic action needs to be taken to mitigate greenhouse gases , so the best time to start planting the yet-to-be-designed Ideal Plant was years ago. Via Vice Images via Salk Institute

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Digging deeper for climate solutions: deep-root GMOs could feed world and store carbon

Kids are hungry for books about eco-activists, in what publishers call ‘the Greta effect’

August 14, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

The soaring popularity of the feisty, outspoken environmental advocate – who is only 16 – has caused a rise in young people seeking stories about saving the planet. Publishers coin the new trend the “Greta Thunberg Effect” and are publishing children’s book about climate change in record time. Publishers have pumped out books across a range of topics related to the environment, from endangered species to climate change, and sales have doubled in the last year, according to Nielsen Book Research. Related: Greta Thunberg will sail across Atlantic to attend the UN climate summit “I absolutely would say there has been a Greta Thunberg effect. She has galvanized the appetite of young people for change, and that has galvanized our appetite, as publishers, for stories that empower our readers to make those changes,” said Rachel Kellehar, who heads nonfiction for Nosy Crow, a publishing company working on a collection of stories about environmental advocates and featuring Greta on the cover. Authors, too, are noticing the change in interest among young people, and seizing the opportunity to write stories that motivate and inspire them. “I want not only to educate but to inspire a new wave of eco-warriors. Kids are the future. Hopefully if they have been educated about environmental issues from a young age they will go on – and go further – than we are right now,” said author James Sellick, who wrote a story about orangutans and deforestation . Because of the popularity, and uncertainty around its longevity, publishers like Nosy Crow are turning topical children’s books around at fast speeds, such as with the new collection of short stories the company will publish that will be cranked out in four months— something unheard of for children’s genres. Part of the rush is also riding Greta’s wave of popularity to October, when she will find out if she wins the Novel Peace Prize. “Whether or not she wins the Nobel peace prize, October will be a key moment to reach out and say Greta’s doing this amazing thing, but also lots of other people you’ve never heard of all around the world are doing amazing things. From young girls in Indonesia who have got plastic bags banned, to an engineer in India who is creating artificial glaciers” said Kellehar. Via The Guardian Image via Flickr

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Kids are hungry for books about eco-activists, in what publishers call ‘the Greta effect’

Can GreenBelly meal bars power you through an outdoor adventure? We put them to the test

August 14, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

For camping and hiking enthusiasts, deciding what foods to pack for the trip can be tricky. You need to meet your nutritional and energy needs, but space is limited, especially if you are heading out with just a backpack. GreenBelly aims to fill this gap by creating nutrient-dense, plant-based bars that are lightweight yet energy-boosting to get you through your adventure. We tried three different meal bars by GreenBelly to put the flavor and nutritional claims to the test. GreenBelly’s “stoveless backpacking meals” come in small packages that can fit into nearly any side-zipper section of a backpack. The company offers both Meals2Go (in four flavors, three of which we tested) as well as Mud Meals, or powdered drinks that can be added to water (in two flavors, which we did not sample). Where most bars designed for backpackers are meant to be a quick snack to refuel mid-trip, GreenBelly has packed the nutrients of a full meal into its bars. This means staying fuller for longer, creating the opportunity to reach new heights. Related: Get ready for an adventure with this ultimate checklist of backpacking essentials The Meals2Go come in three flavors : dark chocolate and banana, peanut and apricot, cranberry and almond and the brand new mango, cashew and coconut variety. If you really have a sweet tooth, we recommend the dark chocolate and banana flavor. While peanut and apricot might sound a bit offbeat, it tastes like sweetened peanut butter. The cranberry almond option has a generic fruity flavor with a salty aftertaste. We didn’t sample the mango, but it sounds like a refreshing and tropical option. We won’t lie — the flavors aren’t as appealing as some of the mainstream snack protein bars on the market, but these GreenBelly bars include the benefit of more natural ingredients that can fuel you for so much longer. Each package contains exactly one-third of the recommended daily values of everything from calories, fats, sodium, carbohydrates (including fiber and sugar) and protein. They also have impressive (and varying) amounts of iron as well as trace amounts of vitamins A and C and calcium. The nutrients pack a punch, too. Although they are rather high in sugar, the Meals2Go are very filling and equally power you through a long day at the office or a scenic weekend hike. Each package is the rough equivalent to a meal, although we do recommend incorporating other meal options for your travels for variety. While the flavors are unique and satisfying, the nutrient quotients are impressive and the long-lasting provided energy is ideal for exploring. Before you wander off into a long trek with these handy protein bars, there are a couple of things to keep in mind with the GreenBelly Meals2Go. Each package contains two bars, or one meal. This packaging can add up quickly, especially for longer excursions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear these packages are easily recyclable, if at all. Another thing worth mentioning is that the ingredients list for each flavor includes palm oil , which is an industry well-known for its problematic contributions to deforestation. GreenBelly’s Meals2Go are a convenient, plant-based meal consideration for your next backpacking, hiking or camping trip. Each includes plenty of nutrients to fuel you without the need for cooking on-the-go. But it is important to keep in mind the packaging and the palm oil when comparing these bars to other ready-to-eat meals designed for adventurers to ensure that you choose the fuel that is the best for both you and the planet. + GreenBelly Images via Inhabitat Editor’s Note: This product review is not sponsored by GreenBelly. All opinions on the products and company are the author’s own.

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Can GreenBelly meal bars power you through an outdoor adventure? We put them to the test

Delaware becomes first ‘no-kill’ state for animal shelters

August 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

Nicknamed “The First State,” Delaware has racked up even more kudos: it has recently been named the first and only no-kill animal shelter state in the country. According to the Best Friends Animal Society website , a nonprofit animal welfare group, a no-kill community “is one that acts on the belief that every healthy, adoptable dog and healthy cat should be saved, and that its focus should be on saving as many lives as possible through pet adoption, spay/neuter, trap-neuter-return and other community support programs rather than achieving a specific numerical outcome.” Related: 7 ways to be a sustainable and eco-friendly pet owner In order to be considered no-kill, a state must report at least a 90 percent save rate for all cats and dogs entering shelters , the website explains. The nonprofit organization’s website also says the group is committed to aiding homeless pets from coast to coast. “That means leading local no-kill initiatives, working to end breed discrimination, eliminating puppy mills and keeping community cats (stray and feral felines) safe and out of shelters through TNR (trap-neuter-return) programs,” the site reads. Adding to the excitement, Brandywine Valley SPCA said it was also recognized by Best Friends for its leadership and dedication with the no-kill shelter plan. “The Brandywine Valley SPCA has a live release rate of 95 percent for the more than 14,000 animals a year we intake,” Linda Torelli, marketing director of Brandywine Valley SPCA, told CNN . “Within Delaware, we intake more than 60 percent of the animals entering shelters and more than four times the next largest shelter, so our policies have had a significant impact on the state becoming no-kill.” In 2018, about 733,000 dogs and cats were killed in animal shelters across the country, because the animals didn’t find homes. But Best Friends believes this can change in the U.S. by 2025 if everyone commits. Some of Delaware’s programs that earned the state its place as the first no-kill state include adoption events, trap/neuter/spay programs for cats that might not be adoptable, low-cost veterinary clinics, education programs and behavioral training for dogs that need additional attention. If you’re interested in working on a no-kill resolution for your community or state, you can obtain important information and guidelines from the Best Friends website . + Best Friends Animal Society Via CNN Image via Thomas Park

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Delaware becomes first ‘no-kill’ state for animal shelters

Trump administration moves to weaken Endangered Species Act amid global extinction risks

August 13, 2019 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

It’s no secret that endangered species around the globe continue to face extinction, and the dilemma could get worse with the recent revamp of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) . On August 12, the Trump administration unveiled new changes to the ESA, which was first passed in 1973. The new ESA rules will change how federal agencies implement portions of the conservation law, making it easier to remove recovered species from the protected list and allow for more drilling and development. First proposed in July 2018, the changes will allow federal agencies to weigh economic factors into decisions on assigning species protections. The law previously prohibited this. The administration believes the new changes will  “modernize” and “improve” the law, lifting regulatory burdens while continuing to protect species . Karen Budd-Falen, the Interior Department’s deputy solicitor for fish, wildlife and parks, said the changes will “ensure transparency” in the ESA process and “provide regulatory assurances and protection for both endangered species and the businesses that rely on the use of federal and private land.” However, environmentalists have a different view and believe the new rules only help industry and will continue hurting ecosystems , ultimately resulting in their downfall. Alarmingly, a three-year United Nations study found up to 1 million species wildlife are at risk of extinction by human actions if current trends continue. The changes to the ESA could speed up the process. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report Today, the ESA protects more than 1,600 plants and animals, as well as the habitats important to their survival, according to one report. The ESA has prevented 99 percent of listed species from becoming extinct . “The best way to uphold the Endangered Species Act is to do everything we can to ensure it remains effective in achieving its ultimate goal ? recovery of our rarest species,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, an ex-oil and gas lobbyist, said. “The Act’s effectiveness rests on clear, consistent and efficient implementation.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra promised to battle the new ESA changes in court. “I know that gutting the Endangered Species Act sounds like plan from a cartoon villain, not the work of the president of the United States, ” Healey said during a call with journalists. “But unfortunately, that’s what we’re dealing with today.” Via Huffington Post Image via Andy Reago & Chrissy McClarren

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Trump administration moves to weaken Endangered Species Act amid global extinction risks

As ocean temperatures rise, so does mercury exposure in seafood

August 12, 2019 by  
Filed under Eco, Green

In case there weren’t already enough reasons to limit global warming to less than 1.5 degrees Celsius, a new study released in Nature reveals that even a 1 degree increase in ocean temperatures leads to a significant increase in mercury exposure among fish — and the people that consume them. The joint study was published by Harvard’s School of Public Health and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and used a variety of simulation models to examine and predict how environmental factors affect the levels of mercury in cod and dogfish. Their models use historical data, as far back as 1970, when cod had approximately 6 to 20 percent less mercury in their diets. Yet researchers also found that dogfish had 33 to 61 percent higher mercury in their diets in 1970, because overfishing at the time led them to eat squid that are high in mercury. Related: These fish and meat options are the most environmentally costly In the last four decades, policies that regulate and limit mercury emissions have made a dent in mercury exposure, but the researchers concluded that rising ocean temperatures are reversing this progress. “This research is a major advance in understanding how and why ocean predators, such as tuna and swordfish, are accumulating mercury,” said Elsie Sunderland, senior author and a Harvard professor in environmental chemistry. According to the researchers, unusually warmer water makes it harder for fish to breathe and swim; therefore, it forces fish to consume more energy . The more they eat, the higher their levels of mercury exposure are. Warmer temperatures might also alter the availability of their preferred diet, forcing fish like the dogfish to eat high-mercury options such as squid. For every 1 degree the ocean warms, dogfish are exposed to 70 percent more mercury . Cod, which also live in the researchers’ study area off the coast of Maine, are exposed to approximately 32 percent more mercury for every single degree the ocean warms. “Climate change is going to exacerbate human exposure to methylmercury through seafood,” Sunderland said. “So to protect ecosystems and human health , we need to regulate both mercury emissions and greenhouse gases.” + Nature Via Harvard Gazette Image via Pixabay

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As ocean temperatures rise, so does mercury exposure in seafood

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