Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

November 1, 2019 by  
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Fancy feasters in the Big Apple will have to acquire new tastes because New York will soon follow California’s example in legislating for a foie gras ban. Earlier this week, the New York City Council passed a bill calling for the ban, and Mayor Bill de Blasio will soon sign it into law. Animal activists have been rejoicing, calling the new legislation a win, although it won’t take effect until 2022. Those not in compliance by then will face a $2,000 penalty fine per violation. Foie gras is a rich, extravagant dish that has been appreciated since Ancient Roman times. The French have even defended it via article L654 of France’s 2006 Rural Code, which states, “Foie gras is part of the protected cultural and gastronomic heritage of France.” Related: Foie gras ban in California stands after court battle But foie gras production has met with criticism from animal welfare advocates. Foie gras is produced by forced overfeeding of ducks or geese to fatten and enlarge their livers. Feed volume is in excess of a bird’s normal voluntary intake, making the process unnatural because it overrides a bird’s typical preferences and homeostasis. The Canadian Veterinary Journal , for instance, has documented that this unnatural overfeeding process spans a two-week period and involves “repeated capture, restraint and rapid insertion of the feeding tube” that causes discomfort and increased risks for esophageal injury and associated pain. All of this produces a duck or goose liver that is “seven to 19 times the size of a normal liver with an average weight of 550 to 982 grams and a fat content of 55.8 percent,” while a normal liver is just “76 grams with a fat content of 6.6 percent.” In 1998, The European Commission recognized that these force-fed birds were up to 20 times more likely to reach mortality than their normal counterparts. If the same fatty cell buildup would occur in humans, it would be likened to alcohol abuse or obesity. New York’s ban follows at the heels of California’s foie gras ban. The Golden State’s legislation, however, has met some choppy waters. Initially passed in 2012, it was later overturned in 2015, then upheld by a circuit court judge in 2017, followed by further support earlier this year when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of California’s ban. On the other hand, Chicago’s ban on the delicacy was not so successful. Passed in 2006, it was repealed by 2008 via concerted efforts from foie gras producers, celebrity chefs and high-end restaurants that pushed back to sway public opinion. Their lobby strategies centered around the argument that if the foie gras ban persists, then other delicacies like lobster and veal might be in jeopardy, too. Chicago’s former mayor, Richard Daley, eventually called the ban “the silliest ordinance” his city’s council ever had, making the Windy City “the laughingstock of the nation.” It remains to be seen whether New York’s foie gras ban will succeed like California’s or be overturned like the ban in Chicago. Via Time and Fast Company Image via T.Tseng

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Foie gras ban to take effect in New York

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

August 13, 2019 by  
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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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Polls show climate change is a determining issue for 2020 elections

May 20, 2019 by  
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Recent polls indicate that climate change will be a central issue for voters in the upcoming 2020 presidential elections. According to the George Mason University poll , 38 percent of participants indicated that the topic is “very important” for their decision, while the lead researcher, Anthony Leiserowitz said, “This is truly a top-tier issue for the Democratic base.” The poll, released in early May, only sampled 1,000 people, but the results are consistent with similar polls by Manmouth University and CNN, which showed that climate change ranks as the second most important topic, right below healthcare. According to CNN , 82 percent of Democrats say it is “very important” that candidates take aggressive action to combat the climate crisis. The increased interest is likely due to a surge in both public awareness as well as extreme weather events ranging from wildfires to hurricanes. Related: Climate activists will turn up the heat at presidential debate “With the salience of wildfires in the West, sea-level rise in the Gulf Coast and Florida and the way that weather affects farmers, people are beginning to see the effects of climate change,” said Sean Hecht of the Emmett Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. In 2018, an alarming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  report upped the urgency of climate change and massive protests broke out across the globe. In 2016, no candidate had a specific climate platform, but reports indicate that this year, candidates will need to detail specific action plans if they hope to be taken seriously. With protests already planned for the first Democratic debate, it is almost certain that journalists will ask candidates tough questions about their positions on the environment and the fossil fuel industry. According to Bill McKibbens from 350.org , voters will be looking for more than broad support. Many progressive democrats are demanding candidates formally endorse the Green New Deal , while others expect candidates to refuse campaign donations from the fossil fuel industry — a long standing tradition with presidential hopefuls. Currently, only Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Beto O’Rourke, Kirsten Gillibrand and Jay Inslee have specific climate change platforms. Via Reuters Image via Molly Adams

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Polls show climate change is a determining issue for 2020 elections

US stops Arctic Council joint statement over climate change language

May 8, 2019 by  
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On May 7, the Arctic Council released a statement of various priorities, but for the first time it could not publish a joint declaration, reportedly due to push-back from the U.S. over climate change language. The Arctic Council is comprised of indigenous leaders and eight nations, including the U.S., Canada, Finland, Russia, China, Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland. After meetings in Rovaniemi, Finland, the group released its disjointed statement, but it could not agree on a declaration of urgent challenges and strategies for the next two years. “A majority of us regarded climate change as a fundamental challenge facing the Arctic and acknowledged the urgent need to take mitigation and adaptation actions and to strengthen resilience,” the chair of the meeting, Finnish Minister Timo Soini, said in the statement. Minister Soini refused to point fingers at which nations would not acknowledge climate change as a fundamental challenge. Related: 1 million species are at risk of extinction, says new UN report Indigenous leaders argue that climate change is indeed the most pressing issue in the Arctic and should be a primary focus. Scientists suggest that temperatures are rising twice as fast  fast in the Arctic region than in the rest of the world. Melting ice is contributing to sea level rise in low-lying countries, but it is also creating new shipping routes and opening access to undiscovered oil reserves. The Arctic contains 13 percent of the world’s untapped oil and 30 percent of natural gas reserves. This fossil fuel wealth makes it a controversial region, and development there is highly sought after, particularly by world powers like the U.S., China and Russia. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed too many versions of the declaration as the reason the Council could not reach an consensus, and spent most of his floor time pointing fingers at Russia and China for going against previous agreements and rendering them ineffective. + Arctic Council Via Reuters Image via  Patrick Kelley, U.S. Coast Guard / U.S. Geological Survey

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Climate activists will turn up the heat at presidential debate

April 23, 2019 by  
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Young people have been making a lot of noise around the urgency of climate change , and they aren’t quieting down. Following the hotly debated release of the Green New Deal and last month’s Youth Climate Marches in 123 cities, young people in the U.S. are plotting their next high-impact climate action. The Sunrise Movement (the organization pressuring candidates to approve the Green New Deal) plans to stage a massive protest at the first Democratic Primary debate. The Democratic National Committee announced in March that the first debate will be held in Miami on June 26. Long before the date and location were known, the Sunrise Movement began plotting to disrupt the event and make it impossible for the candidates, media and millions of viewers to avoid their climate questions. Their goal is to make sure all presidential hopefuls acknowledge the gravity of climate change and discuss their specific platforms. Related: NYC considers Manhattan land expansion to fight climate change Miami is the perfect location for a debate focused on the impacts of climate change – the city stands to lose between 13 and 34 inches to sea level rise by 2060. Globally, there has been a shift in media and public attention related to climate change and the urgency of taking action. Some of this new attention is thanks to vocal groups like the Sunrise Movement and youth leaders like Greta Thunberg. Some activists have been galvanized by worrisome news, like the International Panel on Climate Change’s recent report that the catastrophic impacts of climate change will be irreversible if not addressed within the next 12 years. Still others are alarmed by the uptick in natural disasters – wildfires in California, hurricanes from Texas to Puerto Rico and cyclones in Mozambique. According to a recent poll , 80 percent of Americans believe it is important for presidential candidates to spend “a lot” of time talking about their climate change platforms, with only health care ranking higher as a priority issue. Holding politicians feet to the fire “We’re seeing a shift in people’s consciousness,” Janet Redman, Greenpeace’s climate program manager, told Mother Jones .  “We need to see that starting to be reflected in our politics—that it’s not an isolated set of incidents or phenomenon. The public is craving politicians to have a conversation on this. They want to know real solutions.” Greenpeace has signed on to Sunrise Movement’s plan to disrupt the debate, along with other environmental advocacy groups including 350.org, Credo Action and Friends of the Earth. The Democratic National Convention does not control the questions at the debate – the TV network hosting the event gets to choose. However, previous debates have focused on single themes before – such as the economy or national security. Climate activists argue that previous debate questions about the environment have been too vague. Questions like “Do you believe climate change is real?” are no longer adequate for the majority of young people, who accept climate science and want concrete solutions, specific proposals and accountability. “My fear is there will be some softball climate questions that aren’t specific, aren’t digging deep, [and] therefore make it hard for us to make any candidate who is elected accountable,” said Janet Redman. “What we’re trying to do by focusing on primaries is pulling the entire field of candidates to bolder positions.” What questions would they like to hear? Redman explained questions that force candidates to take explicit positions will help the American public understand their different stances and make informed voting decisions. For example, she would like to see questions as specific as demanding candidates express their opinions about leasing public land to fossil fuel companies. Plans to #ChangetheDebate “Our demands are simple: all presidential contenders must back the Green New Deal or face the contempt of young people everywhere, and the mainstream media must fully cover climate change or slide further into irrelevance,” Lora Zaguilan, a Sunrise Movement organizer in Northern California told Inhabitat. Over ten million people tune in to watch the debates, so the protests have the potential to create a massive, but peaceful, impact. “The tactics like civil disobedience and powerful stories that we used to put the Green New Deal on the map in D.C. this past Fall are some of our best tools,” says the Sunrise website . The site calls on activists and young people to show up in Miami for the debate, claiming thousands have already registered to attend what is being called by its hashtag, #ChangetheDebate. Via Mother Jones Images via Ella McDonald

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Stunning ‘beach shack’ on remote Australian beach is 100% self-sufficient

April 23, 2019 by  
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Sydney-based firm  Casey Brown Architecture  has unveiled a gorgeous home in Great Mackerel Beach, a remote coastal area in South Wales. Conceived as a modern beach shack, the Hart House is tucked deep into a steep cliffside looking out over the ocean. Only accessible by boat, the home, which is covered in an aluminum shell, is completely off-grid thanks to solar panels on the roof, a water collection system and an onsite waste system. According to the architects, the home’s simple box volume is a “contemporary interpretation of the quintessential one-room Australian beach shack.” The house sits back from the shoreline and is tucked into a rising cliffside covered in natural vegetation. Using the incredible landscape as additional inspiration, the architects focused on creating an  energy-efficient home that would be both resilient and self-sustaining. Related: Circular, solar-powered beach house is a sustainable holiday retreat Because of its remote location, the home is only accessible by water, which meant that the structure had to not only be resilient but self-sufficient. A rooftop array of solar panels generates enough energy to meet the needs of the residents. Additionally, the design has an integrated rainwater collection system, and waste is processed on-site. Clad in a corrugated aluminum shell, the beach house is well-protected from the local climate , such as the harsh salt environment, cold winds and even bushfires. Only the front of the home is left exposed with a large glass wall made up of several floor-to-ceiling panels that provide an abundance of natural light and stunning views of the ocean. The home’s corrugated aluminum shell is punctuated with small openings, framed in large Corten Steel frames, which allow for optimal cross ventilation. The interior design of the three-story home creates a harmonious connection with the surrounding natural environment. Lined in birch plywood with timber flooring and large windows, the top floor living space is a warm, light-filled oasis. Spotted gum was chosen to build the front deck as well as the doors and windows because of its sustainable profile as well as its natural fire resistance. Under the living space is a bedroom that leads out to a terrace constructed from  sandstone  harvested onsite. The terrace sits on a base, also made of sandstone, that cascades down toward the beach through various stepped retaining walls. + Casey Brown Architecture Via Wallpaper Photography by Rhys Holland via Casey Brown Architects

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Stunning ‘beach shack’ on remote Australian beach is 100% self-sufficient

New York is curbing food waste and helping people in need with a new initiative

April 17, 2019 by  
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New York is making important strides toward reducing food waste and greenhouse gas emissions. The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, recently agreed to a new food waste initiative with the state legislature that will recycle scraps and send wholesome food to people in need. The new law is called the Food Donation and Food Scrap Recycling Act. Once the bill goes into practice, all surplus food items will be donated to local food shelters while any scraps will be sent to recycling centers, preventing a large portion of food from entering the waste stream. Related: 5 simple ways to reduce your food waste right now Food waste is a growing concern in the United States. According to NRDC , experts estimate that around 40 percent of food ends up in the waste bin on an annual basis. In New York City, this statistic is particularly alarming given that there are close to 2.5 million people in the city who struggle to find food. Food comprises around 18 percent of solid waste, most of which ends up in landfills across the country. Food breaks down easily in the landfill , but the process results in methane gas. You also have to account for wasting all the energy it took to create that food, including water and labor. Governor Cuomo hopes that the new bill will help prevent the majority of food waste from ending up in the landfill. The law will require facilities that create food waste to mark any excess for donation. Once things are in full swing, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation believes that it will save around 250,000 tons of food on a yearly basis. The top priority of the new law is to feed people in need. Following that, any food scraps will be donated for animal feed, followed by industrial uses — such as oil rendering — and composting . The new food waste law will not go into effect in New York City , because there is a similar law already in place. Via NRDC Image via Jasmin S.

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New York is curbing food waste and helping people in need with a new initiative

6 environmental topics to spark discussion at the Thanksgiving dinner table

November 22, 2018 by  
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Nothing sparks political discussion and debate more than a family dinner during the holidays. In this explosive political climate, chances are the conversation will run wild during Thanksgiving even more than it has in the past. To give you some ideas for the upcoming holiday season, here are some environmental topics to help spur your political discussion while you enjoy your turkey dinner. Elections With a major midterm election happening just this month, politics will be a hot topic at Thanksgiving dinner tables across the country. In addition to Republicans who doubt climate science being voted out of the House of Representatives, there were also many environmental measures on the ballots in states across the nation. But  the results on these key issues sent mixed messages that are sure to get people talking. Food waste One-third of all globally produced food ends up wasted, and that makes food waste a huge problem . Americans throw away more than 40 percent of the food they buy, which is also a major factor in climate change. To tackle this problem, some cities are passing laws banning restaurants from throwing out food , and that is a step in the right direction. But making changes at home will help just as much, if not more. If we don’t change our food waste habits, a new study says the problem will continue to increase, and we will be throwing out 66 tons of food per second by 2030. What better time to bring this up than during your Thanksgiving feast? It’s a great time to encourage everyone to take home leftovers . Climate change The latest UN report on climate change has revealed that we are not on target to maintain the Earth’s temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius or less. If we want to avoid more extreme weather events and species’ extinction, we need to make some major changes to hit that goal. During the 2015 Paris Agreement, nearly 200 nations pledged to keep the ceiling for temperature rise at 2 degrees Celsius, but that isn’t enough to avoid irreparable damage to Earth’s ecosystems. While discussing climate change , you can add a new twist on the topic and bring up the new study on barley production , which says that beer prices will soar in the near future because of climate change. Plastic bans The ban on single-use plastics is starting to trend all over the world , and the word “single-use” just became Collins Dictionary’s 2018 Word of the Year . States are banning plastic straws and other single-use items to reduce the waste, and the European parliament just supported a major ban of single-use plastics that member nations will implement over the next few years. Let everyone at the dinner table know it’s time to ditch straws or stock up on reusable options. Related: Plastic straws are a thing of the past, but which reusable straw is best for the future? Veganism, vegetarianism and flexitarianism The meat industry has taken a big hit in recent years thanks to the diet trend of veganism , vegetarianism and flexitarianism. Vegetarianism has been popular since the ’90s, but veganism have become mainstream in recent years, with new vegan-only restaurants popping up in cities across the world. Now, flexitarianism is on the rise, which is a diet that is mostly plant-based but does have some select meat dishes incorporated on a limited basis. Related: 12 plant-based recipes for a vegan or vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner With this growing trend away from meat, a third of the people in the U.K. now have little to no meat in their daily food intake. But we still have a long way to go if we want to avoid a climate crisis . Perhaps it’s time to swap out the turkey for a vegan option. Animal welfare There are many different issues making headlines on the topic of animal welfare —  including Trump’s border wall , which is threatening the National Butterfly Center. This year, California became the first state in the country to ban animal testing for cosmetics, and Los Angeles also put a stop to the sale of fur . Burberry also vowed to stop using fur in its products, and an entire Fashion Week went fur-free . Encourage friends and family at the table to do the same. No matter where the discussion takes you, try to keep the environment in mind for every topic of your conversation. One of the most important things we can do is spread awareness about the major problems that are harming our planet and educate our loved ones on how to help. Happy Thanksgiving! Images via Aaron Burden , Patrick Hendry , Sagar Chaudhray , Simon Matzinger , Tamara Bellis and Shutterstock

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European parliament supports the ban of single-use plastics

October 31, 2018 by  
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The EU adopted new plans last week to ban single-use plastic items like plates, straws, cutlery, balloon sticks and cotton buds — which make up over 70 percent of marine litter — by 2021. Under draft plans approved by Parliament, MEPs also added items to the banned list that contained products made of oxo-degradable plastics, like bags and fast-food containers made of expanded polystyrene. The ban also incorporates a plan for several other items that do not have an alternative, like single-use sandwich boxes and containers for fruits, veggies, ice cream and desserts. For those products, EU member states will need to reduce their use by at least 25 percent by 2025. The strategy for those items includes using multiple-use products and recycling . Parliament also approved other plastics, like beverage bottles, to be collected separately and then recycled at a rate of 90 percent by 2025. Related: Jamaica will ban plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam by 2019 MEPs have also targeted waste from tobacco products, particularly cigarette filters that contain plastic, in the plastic ban . The plan for those items is a 50 percent reduction by 2025 and an 80 percent reduction by 2030. Cigarette butts are the second-most littered single-use plastic item in the EU, and just one can pollute between 500 and 1000 liters (132 and 264 gallons) of water. When thrown on the roadway, they can take up to 12 years to degrade. There is also a plan for lost or abandoned fishing gear, which represents about 27 percent of the waste found on European beaches. Member states are to ensure that at least half of it is collected each year, with a recycling target of 15 percent by 2025. The costs to reach the goals set for cigarette butts and fishing gear is to be paid for by tobacco companies and manufacturers of fishing gear. Frédérique Ries, who drafted the report, said that the ban is an ambitious directive that is essential for protecting the marine environment. + European Parliament Image via Tim Parkinson

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European parliament supports the ban of single-use plastics

Jamaica will ban plastic bags, straws and Styrofoam by 2019

October 17, 2018 by  
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Jamaica has become the latest country to introduce a ban on single-use plastics. In order to reduce pollution and the impact of plastic on the environment, the Caribbean nation will ban single-use plastic bags, plastic straws and Styrofoam beginning on January 1 next year. One of the details of the new environmental policy is a ban on importing, manufacturing and distributing plastic bags that are smaller than 24 by 24 inches. This includes black “scandal” bags that are popular in Jamaica, because the dark color prevents others from seeing what is inside the bag. The ban does not apply to single-use bags that are used to package raw meats, flour, rice, sugar and baked goods, because their purpose is to maintain public health and food safety standards. Related: Dominica makes historic pledge to combat plastic pollution Daryl Vaz, the minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, is encouraging consumers to use reusable carrier bags from local enterprises instead of plastic bags. Plastic foam, such as Styrofoam and also known as polyethylene, will also be prohibited starting next year, but importers and manufacturers will be able to apply for a limited two-year exemption. There is also a two-year extension for plastic straws attached to juice boxes and drink pouches. The medical sector can apply for exemptions from the plastic straw ban, because paper and bamboo alternatives are not always suitable for patients. According to U.K.’s The Independent , the Jamaican government does plan to assist companies in making the transition to sustainable alternatives. In addition to the environmental impact, Jamaica has another reason for banning single-use plastics. The island nation’s economy depends on tourism , and the disproportionate effect of marine litter on the coastline has done some damage. Some studies suggest that tourism hot spots can lose millions of dollars a year if visitors see litter. Not only does this ban help the environment, but it might also help to improve the slow economic growth the country has seen in the past few years. Other nations making moves against single-use plastic include Scotland, which has banned plastic-handled cotton buds, and India, which has reportedly issued a ban on all single-use plastics by 2023. Via The Independent and TreeHugger Image via Cpl. Samuel Guerra

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