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Posts Tagged ‘chemicals’

So, it turns out I read a lot of weird news stories at work, probably because I am often still half away in the morning and procrastinating my important tasks until after that second (or fourth….) cup of coffee.  Writing emails is hard, y’all. And while reading those weird news stories (or just scolling through buzzfeed) it’s been pretty surprising to see the stories popping up about…bees. Especially in places like Business Insider or, yup, buzzfeed.

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Suddenly we all care about bees!

I’m going out on a limb with this post, because I’ll be the first to admit that agriculture is one of my weak areas when it comes to environmental fields.  It’s not something I’ve spent time working on, so my knowledge base is cursory.  Yet, it’s such a hot topic that I couldn’t leave it alone.  See, the buzz in the news is about Colony Collapse Disorder, an affliction first identified in 2005 that causes entire bee colonies to – well – collapse.  It’s been on the rise in recent years, with reports this summer of massive bee losses in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  During the years from 2006 – 2011, bee populations in commercial honeybee farms have reported losses of up to 33% (that’s 1/3 of their hives) from the disorder.  What’s causing it?  Studies have linked a certain category of widely used pesticide, neonicotinoids, to the bee deaths, citing both the impact of the pesticides on bees as well as the near-perfect tracking between increased use of these pesticides and the bee deaths.  Evidence is strong enough that in Europe, the E.U. placed a two year moratorium on use of the pesticides beginning in April 2013, and a coalition of beekeepers have actually sued the US EPA to do the same.

But they’re just bees, right? I mean, who cares about them? They sting people and pollinate flowers and, whatever.

Wrong.  Bee populations are experiencing a massive decline worldwide, which is seriously bad news for agriculture. That is, the food that you and I like to eat. Cherries, blueberries, almonds, peaches, apples, soy, and worst of all, COFEE – are among the crops impacted because they are dependent on bee pollination.  USDA summarized the impacts with this chart:

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Yeah. Read it, and then go hug a frickin’ bee.

I’m a bit in over my head in terms of coming up with a bottom line for this post (sorry guys, I’m honest), largely because I also have many unanswered questions.  How strong is the link between these pesticides and bee populations? How widely used are these pesticides? Do we have effective replacements?  But, as far as I can tell, this is another tick in the box for moving beyond our chemically-dependent agro-business practices (within reason, of course – I recognize that going back to subsistence farming isn’t really an option) and more towards options that don’t do this kind of longterm damage.  Ecology teaches that populations affected on a widespread scale often have a rough time recovering after a certain percentage of the population has been decimated.  It’s probably a pipe dream to hope that we could be more proactive in the future to prevent this kind of loss, but at least there’s a lesson in here: sometimes, the consequences of our decisions mean real losses for business and for us.  I mean – it’s on the Lululemon bags, for crying out loud – what we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.

Comments are welcome from anyone who has expertise in this area – or who wants to chime in about the impacts of the declining bee populations on agriculture and what we can or should do about it.  As always, keep it friendly.

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Hi all!

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I think everyone was busy last week worrying the NSA is judging them for not calling their grandmother more often.  I know I was.  Which is why it took me a bit to get this post up, and also why so many fascinating things happened in the energy and climate world that I had to talk about them all in one post.

First of all, our least favorite pipeline that doesn’t even exist yet is back in the news.  The Sierra Club has quietly taken the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline over to the judicial branch.  The litigious environmental nonprofit (for those of you who don’t know, Sierra Club has acted as plaintiff for some of the nation’s most pivotal and groundbreaking environmental lawsuits – it’s one of their specialties as an organization) filed suit against the State Department last week regarding the sketchy-as-all-hell (from what I’ve read) environmental impact statement that the agency issued about the pipeline.  The impact statement – which suggests the pipeline will have no negative impacts – was prepared by a third-party contractor that has an active membership in the American Petroleum Institute, which Sierra Club and other environmental groups widely regard as evidence of a conflict of interest.  Perhaps more critically, the State Department did not respond to requests to produce documentation proving that the department screened for such a conflict of interest.  The lawsuit is seeking access to those documents and extension of the public comment period for the agency to finalize the determination so that the documents can be considered.  In the continued debate, Al Gore weighted in on the pipeline in a recent interview, stating that the project was ‘an atrocity.’  

Meanwhile, climate change is happening, you guys.  A five year study by FEMA that was just released has predicted a 45% increase in flooding in the United States during the coming decades – as a result of climate change.  (Except in North Carolina, of course, where flooding and climate change is illegal.  I suppose all the hurricanes will have to stick to Florida and South Carolina this year?) FEMA, which manages disaster relief, is expecting to have to insure 80% more properties, with a 90% increase in the average cost of a claim when filed.  But, this is all totally worth it, because it was definitely too expensive for us to regulate carbon through a cap-and-trade or tax system, and it was also definitely too expensive to make some of those fossil fuel companies maybe pay a little instead of collecting government subsidies.  What? Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit?

Fine. I’ll end on a good note.  Behold, Robert Redford for NRDC:

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Still better looking than you.

Redford, an environmental activist and partner to National Resources Defense Council, has put together a series of short ads calling for action on climate change and clean energy initiatives.  You should watch them.  Because it’s Robert Redford.  And, he’s got something really important to say.  And then you should send them to everyone you know.

That’s all for now folks.  I’ll be back next week, and maybe I’ll be less cranky.

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Last week, a book that sparked the grass-roots movement and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) turned 50! Salley O’Malley is 50! 5-0.

She kicks, shimmies and shakes

The book is Silent Spring, and the author was Rachel Carson.  Carson was an unsuspecting fighter, and was the first to write about disproportionate use of pesticides in communities.  The Natural Resources Defense Council commented that the fight on pesticides is ongoing till this day and that Silent Spring brought an incredible awareness to the issue. Carson was born a gifted writer, and had a passion for writing at an early age.  She attended the Pennsylvania College for Women and earned a master’s degree in zoology from Johns Hopkins (she did not start Spinach, that was us).

Carson never intended for Silent Spring to be the political punch that it was.  She only lightly recommended that the pesticide DDT be banned, but did not call on political figures to take action.  Instead, Silent Spring sparked research on the chemical while the chemical industry condoned her, and even J.Edgar Hoover performed a private investigation on her.  Many criticized Silent Spring for its unsettling tone; USA Today reported (great video at this site too!) that Carson developed breast cancer while writing Silent Spring and that led to some of the dark and strong language in the book.  Carson passed away only 18 months after the book was published. Her intention for Silent Spring was to show people that if they harm nature, nature could harm them back.  I think we’ve all seen this time after time, disaster after disaster across the world.

My favorite Rachel Carson quote:

“Man is a part of nature, and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself.”

Have a great weekend, and get outdoors to appreciate the fall foliage. Cheers.

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Hold onto your hats for this announcement.  NASCAR fans are in for some environmental education.  Not the sit down classroom kind, but the kind that provides resources on recycling, green products, and sustainability (just what The Green Light loves) at its races.  Last week, NASCAR and EPA signed an agreement to promote environmental awareness at NASCAR events and to work together on solutions that benefit the environment (can hybrids hit the same speeds as race cars?).  Perhaps the next Fast & Furious film will include hybrid race cars – they are making a F&F 6!  Maybe it will include this Porsche electric race car?

Mobil appears to be a fan of electric race cars

That aside, the announcement is exciting (despite the immediate fan backlash in the comments section on the NASCAR press release).  NASCAR is the second most popular sport in the U.S. to football, which is a very large fan base!  Initial practices under this agreement will include:

information on sustainable concessions at NASCAR events, expanding the use of DfE-labeled chemical products, conserving water, and continuing to grow the promotion and practice of all applicable types of recycling.

Additionally, NASCAR is committed to adopting greener products and to reducing its footprint such as proper recycling of automotive fluids.  Congrats to NASCAR and EPA on reaching this agreement; I too believe that if you show the benefits of sustainable practices it can save people and businesses money and protect your health.  Cheers.

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Do you need anybody? I need somebody to love.

Dan and I are very aware during our morning commutes (rabbits are cuter than tvs).  I found this lonely straggler on my block two days ago on my way to work.  I assume it was left for the bulk trash collectors or maybe for someone to enjoy a 1950’s TV.  Regardless, electronics have a proper home too and it’s not with bulk trash collectors, it’s with proper electronics recyclers.  All of the electronics we use on a daily basis contain dozens of chemicals you and I have trouble pronouncing and many that have been grandfathered in under the Toxic Substances Control Act (where the threat to human health is untested/undetermined).  When electronics are broken down and collected with bulk trash chemicals are released and tamper our air, soil and water and more recently it’s been found that electronics waste (aka e-waste) is now being shipped overseas into developing countries.  Due to our digital era, e-waste is the fastest growing waste sector.  Many retailers like Best Buy and Staples recycle old computers and laptops, and many e-manufacturers will recycle televisions; you can find everything you need on how to recycle your electronics here.  Just this month I carried my old printer on the metro to be recycled at Staples near my office.  If you have any questions about electronics pickups in your town I would call your local Department of Public Works or City Hall official.

I hope this was helpful, and enjoy the rest of your week.  The Green Light will now be posting on Sundays as well. Cheers.

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