Glyphosate linked to shorter pregnancies in Indiana women
Women with high levels of glyphosate—the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer—were more likely to have a shorter pregnancy, according to a new study.
Shorter pregnancies can leave babies on a path to reduced learning and brain development. The new study is the first to study glyphosate in pregnant U.S. women and pregnancy length, and suggests exposure to the chemical is widespread and it may be setting some children up for a lifetime of challenges.
Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide—the most widely used herbicide in the world. About 300 million pounds are applied each year in the U.S. alone, with much of the application in the Midwest corn and soybean states.
The chemical has come under fire as it’s been linked to a host of health problems, including cancer, birth defects, damaged DNA, endocrine disruption and reproductive issues. There are currently hundreds of lawsuits from farmers and others claiming that Roundup gave them cancer. A federal judge in San Francisco is reviewing the science behind the chemical’s link to cancer.
In the new study, researchers tested 71 pregnant women in Central Indiana. They found more than 90 percent of the women have glyphosate in their urine, and women with higher levels of the chemical were more likely to have shorter pregnancies. The results were published last week in the journal Environmental Health. 03-16-18
Monsanto Judge Says Expert Testimony Against Roundup Is ‘Shaky’
A lawsuit claiming Monsanto Co.’s popular weed killer Roundup causes cancer was dealt a blow by a judge’s conclusions that the opinions of the experts testifying against it are “shaky,” a potentially devastating development for the case getting to trial
U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria is the first judge to weigh in on the toxicity of the world’s most popular herbicide, the subject of a heated debate among scientists and regulators worldwide for more than 30 years. Any key witnesses who are cut from the lineup may profoundly shape the outcome of more than 300 lawsuits collected before the judge — all the cases in federal courts that seek to hold Monsanto liable for its failure to warn about the risks of using Roundup.
The San Francisco judge heard from about a dozen witnesses including toxicologists, statisticians and an oncologist. But he took an especially keen interest in a couple of epidemiologists who study how humans contract disease.
“I do have a difficult time understanding how an epidemiologist in the face of all the evidence that we saw and heard last week” can conclude that glyphosate “is in fact causing” non-Hodgkin lymphoma in human beings, he said Wednesday. “The evidence that glyphosate is currently causing NHL in human beings” at current exposure levels is “pretty sparse,” he said.
It remains to be seen which witnesses will be allowed to testify at trial on behalf of more than 700 farmers, landscapers and gardeners claiming that exposure to glyphosate — through skin contact or inhalation — caused their non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The judge didn’t say when he’d arrive at a final decision. 03-14-18
Up in Smoke
Trees are dying at unprecedented rates. Can we rethink conservation before it’s too late
Each year, the Earth’s trees suck more than a hundred billion tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. That’s an impossibly huge number to consider, about 60 times the weight of all the humans currently on the planet.
Our forests perform a cornucopia of services: Serving as a stabilizing force for nearly all of terrestrial life, they foster biodiversity and even make us happier. But as climate change accelerates, drawing that carbon out of the air has become trees’ most critical role.
Absorbing CO2 is key to avoiding the worst effects of climate change when each year matters so much. Carbon “sinks,” like the wood of trees and organic matter buried in dirt, prevent the gas from returning to the atmosphere for dozens or even hundreds of years. Right now, about a third of all human carbon emissions are absorbed by trees and other land plants — the rest remains in the atmosphere or gets buried at sea. That share will need to rise toward and beyond 100 percent in order to counter all of humanity’s emissions past and present.
For trees to pull this off, though, they have to be alive, thriving, and spreading. And at the moment, the world’s forests are trending in the opposite direction.
New evidence shows that the climate is shifting so quickly, it’s putting many of the world’s trees in jeopardy. Rising temperatures and increasingly unusual rainfall patterns inflict more frequent drought, pest outbreaks, and fires. Trees are dying at the fastest rate ever seen, on the backs of extreme events like the 2015 El Niño, which sparked massive forest fires across the tropics. In 2016, the world lost a New Zealand-sized amount of trees, the most in recorded history. 03-08-18
The Environmental and Human Cost of Making a Pair of Jeans
Americans do love their denim, so much so that the average consumer buys four pairs of jeans a year. In China’s Xintang province, a hub for denim, 300 million pairs are made annually. Just as staggering is the brew of toxic chemicals and hundreds of gallons of water it takes to dye and finish one pair of jeans. The resulting environmental damage to rivers, ecosystems and communities in China, Bangladesh and India is the subject of a new documentary called The RiverBlue: Can Fashion Save the Planet?.
It is estimated that 70 percent of Asia’s rivers and lakes are contaminated by the 2.5 billion gallons of wastewater produced by that continent’s textile industry. In scene after scene in the film, the dark frothy spill off can be seen rushing out of dye facilities while a cadre of scientists and environmental experts detail the public health crisis that has resulted from the largely unregulated manufacturing process.
Co-directed by award-winning documentarians David McIlvride and Roger Williams and produced by Lisa Mazzotta, RiverBlue has won 13 awards globally including Best Documentary at Raindance in London and will be receiving the Green Drop Award from Filmambiente at the World Water council on World Water day, March 22. Three years in the making, the film follows internationally celebrated river conservationist, Mark Angelo, as he paddles the rivers devastated by the chemical waste and the local communities who rely on these rivers for drinking and bathing. These communities suffer from a high incidence of cancers, gastric, skin and related issues afflicting both their residents and factory laborers. 03-08-18
The Bright Future of Solar Power
Solar is booming. Solar power is now cheaper than coal in some parts of the world, and generating power from the sun is likely to be the lowest-cost energy option globally in less than ten years, according to Bloomberg. In many places around the world, solar is already the lowest-cost option.
Even the big utilities are moving rapidly toward solar (and wind, which is also poised to best coal in terms of cost). The New York Times reports that Xcel Energy—which provides electricity to the middle of the country, from Colorado to Texas to Michigan—has asked for proposals to build large wind and solar power plants in Colorado, and bids are already coming in lower than the operating costs for coal plants. West Coast energy provider Pacific Gas & Electric has committed to making renewable energy, including solar, 55 percent of its power portfolio by 2031. Many experts think that California will hit the 50 percent renewables mark by 2025—maybe even sooner.
Compounding solar’s impending energy dominance, researchers are exploring new ways to generate solar energy for human needs. Innovative methods of harnessing solar power, like stick-on solar tiles and solar roof shingles, may be coming soon to your neighborhood. 03-09-18
‘We’ll See You in Court’: Kids Climate Lawsuit Moves Forward After Judge Denies Trump
The three-judge panel with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco denied the White House’s writ of mandamus petition filed in June, a rarely used legal maneuver that would have dismissed Juliana v. United States.
In the unanimous decision Wednesday, Chief Judge Sidney R. Thomas called the petition a “drastic and extraordinary remedy reserved for really extraordinary causes” and the Trump administration’s motion did not satisfy that standard.
“The issues that the defendants raise on mandamus are better addressed through the ordinary course of litigation,” Thomas wrote, thus allowing the case to move forward. 03-08-18
‘The Dirt Cure’: Why Human Health Depends on Soil Health
Our connection to nature is sacred, dating back to the beginning of our existence. It’s no wonder then that our health is intimately intertwined with the earth—from the soil beneath our feet, to the food we eat, to the water we drink and to the air that fills our lungs.
In other words, nature determines our health, upon which much of our well-being—and even our happiness—depends.
This philosophy is the foundation for Dr. Maya Shetreat-Klein’s book, “The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil.” Shetreat-Klein is a pediatric neurologist, herbalist, naturalist and urban farmer based in New York City, where she raises chickens (a lifelong dream) and grows organic fruits and vegetables.
Her New York Times bestselling book has been translated into 10 languages.
I was fortunate to meet Shetreat-Klein a few weeks ago in Houston, Texas, where she spoke at an event co-hosted by the Organic Consumers Association and the Organic Horticulture Benefits Alliance, a non-profit that educates individuals, gardeners, homeowners, landscapers and schools on the real-world application and benefits of organics.
Shetreat-Klein described her residency as a medical student and the complete lack of emphasis on nutrition and whole-body health. As a young medical student she was appalled to learn that it was the norm to prescribe multiple medications—sometimes up to six or seven different drugs—for children who, despite all those prescriptions, remained chronically ill. 03-01-18
Strike a Deal
Striking teachers in West Virginia call for raising taxes on coal and gas.
The 48th lowest-earning teachers in the country are eight days into a strike that demands a 5 percent pay raise. They’re frustrated by rising health care costs and, y’know, working at Hardee’s on the weekends to make ends meet.
And some are arguing that the state’s fossil fuel industry should chip in to its tight education budget. During a walkout last week, strikers were heard yelling “severance tax” and “tax our gas!”
Raising state severance taxes on coal and natural gas from the current rate of 5 percent to 7.5 percent would generate an extra $93 million in revenue in 2019, an analysis from the West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy shows. 03-05-18
Maine fishermen, environmentalists join in opposition to offshore drilling
Multiple groups and interests plan to speak out – though there is no traditional public hearing – when federal officials visit the state this week.
Fishing groups, environmentalists, politicians and tourism advocates plan to use a pair of tailored public hearings this week to oppose the Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic and other ocean waters.
The federal government’s meetings in Maine and New Hampshire are part of the nearly two dozen “open houses” put on by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management nationwide. Unlike a traditional hearing, the public will meet one-on-one with bureau officials and submit written comments.
The Trump proposal would vastly expand offshore oil drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic and Pacific oceans, including in areas off more than a dozen states where drilling is currently blocked.
If approved, it would open 90 percent of the nation’s offshore reserves to development by private companies between 2019 and 2024.
Republican Paul LePage is the only governor on the Atlantic Coast to support President Trump’s proposal, which he’s said could lower high energy costs in a state that is the most dependent on petroleum for home heating in the nation. Spokeswoman Julie Rabinowitz said the governor’s energy office won’t be submitting any comment until after Wednesday’s public hearing.
Maine state lawmakers passed a resolution calling on Trump to leave Maine out of his plan. And Maine’s congressional delegation has voiced bipartisan opposition. 03-04-18
Congressional Republicans got F’s on their environmental report cards
Congressional Republicans and Democrats have never been further apart on environmental issues. The top leadership in the GOP is comprised entirely of climate change deniers, while Democrats have aligned in opposition to President Trump’s agenda. But a report released today by the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) calibrates the distance between the two parties with some hard numbers.
The group has been calculating the performance by members of Congress for nearly 50 years by evaluating how each member votes on environmental legislation. This year, the Republican-controlled Congress had plenty of opportunities to show where they stand. LCV counted a total of 35 House votes and 19 Senate votes to overturn climate regulations, open up drilling on public lands, undermine the Endangered Species Act, and confirm a slew of Trump-appointed judicial and cabinet nominations.
EU expected to vote on pesticide ban after major scientific review
Survey of more than 1,500 studies concludes that neonicotinoids harm bees.
In a long-awaited assessment, the European Union’s food-safety agency has concluded that three controversial neonicotinoid insecticides pose a high risk to wild bees and honeybees. The findings by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in Parma, Italy, raise the chances that the EU will soon move to ban all uses of the insecticides on outdoor crops.
In 2013, the EU prohibited applications of the three chemicals on crops attractive to bees — such as sunflowers, oilseed rape and maize — after an EFSA assessment raised concern about the insecticides’ effects. Since then, researchers have amassed more evidence of harm to bees, and the European Commission last year proposed banning all outdoor uses, while still allowing the pesticides in greenhouses. The latest EFSA assessment strengthens the scientific basis for the proposal, says Anca Păduraru, a European Commission spokeswoman for public health and food safety. EU member states could vote on the issue as soon as 22 March.
Neonicotinoids (often abbreviated to neonics) are highly toxic to insects, causing paralysis and death by interfering with the central nervous system. Unlike pesticides which remain on plant surfaces, neonicotinoids are taken up throughout the plant – in the roots, stems, leaves, flowers, pollen and nectar. 02-28-18
Scientists have detected an acceleration in sea level rise
Faster melting of ice sheets is speeding up sea level rise
As humans emit heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide, the planet warms, and over time consequences become more apparent. Some of the consequences we are familiar with – for instance, rising temperatures, melting ice, and rising sea levels. Scientists certainly want to know how much the Earth has changed, but we also want to know how fast the changes will be in the future to know what the next generations will experience.
One of the classic projections into the future is for sea level rise. It is expected that by the year 2100, the ocean levels will rise a few feet by the end of the century. This matters a lot because globally, 150 million people live within three feet of current ocean levels. We have built our modern infrastructure based on current ocean levels. What happens to peoples’ homes and infrastructure when the waters rise?
But projecting ocean levels into the future is not simple; we need good data that extends back decades to understand how fast the climate is changing. The classic way to measure ocean levels is by using tide gauges. These are placed just offshore, around the globe to get a sense of how the ocean levels are changing. The problem with tide gauges is they only measure water levels at their location, and their locations are always near shore. 02-27-18
Africatown, A Small Historically Black Town Fighting a Billion Dollar Company That’s Devastating Its Community with Toxic Waste
In the spring of 1860, a year before the Civil War, a wealthy Alabama shipbuilder and plantation owner named Timothy Meaher chose to toy with the escalating tensions between North and South by making a despicable wager. Despite strict laws forbidding the import of enslaved Africans to the United States dating back to 1808, and possible punishment by death, Meaher bet $100,000 that he could send a vessel to the West African kingdom of Dahomey (the modern-day Republic of Benin), purchase 100 Africans for his plantation, and have the captives returned to Mobile without being detected by the federal troops guarding the nearby port.
Court Orders Trump Administration to Enforce Obama-Era Methane Rule
Judge William Orrick of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled Thursday that Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) decision to suspend core provisions of the 2016 Methane and Waste Prevention Rule was “untethered to evidence.”
Orrick ruled that the plaintiffs—California, New Mexico and environmental groups—have shown “irreparable injury caused by the waste of publicly owned natural gas, increased air pollution and associated health impacts, and exacerbated climate impacts.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra celebrated the news in a tweet:
#DonaldTrump threatened the health of our families & our environment with his attempt to suspend a rule that protects us from dangerous #methane gas. Today’s court order blocking that suspension reminds #Trump & his team that they are not above the law: http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/375225-court-trump-admin-must-enforce-obama-methane-leak-rule-for-oil-and … 02-23-18
In 46 States, People Of Color Deal With More Air Pollution Than White People Do, Study Finds
The study adds to years of research suggesting that people of color encounter the most air pollution in the US, increasing their risk of asthma, heart disease, and other illnesses.
This exposure could explain disparities in health quality among different communities, scientists from the EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment write in the paper, published Thursday in the American Journal of Public Health.
“It’s excellent work in a top journal making the point that environmental disparity is alive and well in the US,” Manuel Pastor, director of the Program for Environmental and Regional Equity at the University of Southern California, who was not affiliated with the study, told BuzzFeed News.
Years of research has suggested that minority communities face an outsize burden of air and water pollution, and get diagnosed with additional health problems as a result.
“Our study contributes to the narrative by providing a systematic study of burden by race, ethnicity, and poverty status across the entire US,” EPA researcher and study author Ihab Mikati wrote in an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News. 02-22-18
Nation’s Largest Wind Farm Coming to Oklahoma
Southwestern Electric Power Company (SWEPCO), a subsidiary of major utility American Electric Power, announced this week a settlement with various parties, including Walmart, allowing the $4.5 billion project to move forward.
According to a press release:
“After a series of negotiation sessions with the [Arkansas Public Service Commission] General Staff, the Arkansas Attorney General and other parties, SWEPCO agreed to provide a number of guarantees, including a cap on construction costs, qualification for 100 percent of the federal Production Tax Credits, minimum annual production from the project, and others.”
The project is subject to approval by utility commissions in Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Oklahoma, as well as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
Once getting its legs, Wind Catcher is expected to deliver wind energy to customers in the four states by the end of 2020.
The Wind Catcher facility, developed by Invenergy, will be the largest single-site wind farm in the U.S. once complete. The 2,000-megawatt facility will generate power from 800 GE 2.5 megawatt turbines. The project also involves building a 360-mile extra high-voltage 765 kilovolt power line to connect two new substations, one located at the wind facility and a second near Tulsa, Oklahoma. 02-22-18
Remember the legacy of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Florida environmentalist
The shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, has thrust Douglas’ name into the headlines this week as the nation grapples with the tragic and violent deaths of 17 people. But the events now bearing her name are the antithesis of Douglas’ legacy of protecting the life and landscape of Florida.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, “Grandmother of the ’Glades,” was a fierce conservationist, feminist, journalist, and author. Her seminal book, The Everglades: River of Grass, was published in 1947, the same year the Everglades became a national park.
As part of efforts to stop the construction of a jetport in Florida’s wetlands, Douglas founded the Friends of the Everglades in 1969 — when she was 79 years old. The nonprofit successfully halted development of the jetport after just one runway was completed.
In 1993, Douglas received the highest honor given to civilians in the U.S. — the Presidential Medal of Freedom — for her work defending Florida’s wetlands. “The next time I hear someone mention the timeless wonders and powers of Mother Nature, I’ll be thinking about you,” then-President Bill Clinton told her during the ceremony.
Douglas died in 1998 at the age of 108. She was older than the city of Miami, and had been alive for two-thirds of Florida’s existence as a state. In nearly a century of environmental activism, she also fought for women’s suffrage after WWI and is recognized as a trailblazing female journalist for her work as a a reporter for the Miami Herald. Her name still graces the headquarters of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. 02-15-18
Countries made only modest climate-change promises in Paris. They’re falling short anyway.
Barely two years ago, after weeks of intense bargaining in Paris, leaders from 195 countries announced a global agreement that once had seemed impossible. For the first time, the nations of the world would band together to reduce humanity’s reliance on fossil fuels in an effort to hold off the most devastating effects of climate change.
“History will remember this day,” the secretary general of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, said amid a backdrop of diplomats cheering and hugging.
Two years later, the euphoria of Paris is colliding with the reality of the present.
Global emissions of carbon dioxide are rising again after several years of remaining flat. The United States, under President Trump, is planning to withdraw from the Paris accord and is expected to see emissions increase by 1.8 percent this year, after a three-year string of declines. Other countries, too, are showing signs they might fail to live up to the pledges they made in Paris.
In short, the world is off target.
“It’s not fast enough. It’s not big enough,” said Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Center for Climate Change Research in England. “There’s not enough action.”
Even as renewable energy grows cheaper and automakers churn out battery-powered and more efficient cars, many nations around the world are nonetheless struggling to hit the relatively modest goals set in Paris. 02-19-18
PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment grows some teeth
After decades of irrelevance, two court decisions uphold people’s right to ‘clean air, pure water,’ hearten activists to push for more
For all of its natural bounty, Pennsylvania has environmental woes aplenty. Take your pick — 19,000 miles of impaired streams, 5,500 of them from abandoned coal mines; state environmental agencies and programs starved of funds as Pennsylvania fails to do its part to maintain safe drinking water and clean up the Chesapeake Bay; and state forests carved up by drilling pads and pipelines.
But the state does have an Environmental Rights Amendment. Since 1971, Pennsylvania’s constitution has guaranteed that the people have a right to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. The amendment also says that the state’s natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come, and that the state shall conserve and maintain them.
Until lately, those high-sounding words have been just that, without any real impact on what happens in the state. But twice in the last four years, Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court has rendered decisions putting teeth in the environmental rights amendment — first, in a lawsuit over whether communities have the power to bar hydraulic fracturing and, later, over how the legislature is spending revenue derived from leasing state forestland for “fracking,” as the controversial natural gas extraction method is known.
The high court’s rulings, in 2013 and 2017, have generated buzz among lawyers and elected officials, as well as heartened environmental activists used to losing political scraps with the state’s powerful extractive industries. The full import of the court’s decisions has yet to play out, with more litigation in the works. But already, some activists have been emboldened to push to expand its application in Pennsylvania — and to spread similar green amendments nationwide.
“These decisions have empowered people,” said George Jugovic, director of legal affairs for the environmental group, PennFuture. “People are talking about it and asking questions: ‘How does this affect my life? How does this affect the resources that are important to me?’”