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Second Silent Spring? Bird Declines Linked to Popular Pesticides
Neonicotinoids are aimed at insects, but they're affecting other animals too, study says.
Pesticides don't just kill pests. New research out of the Netherlands provides compelling evidence linking a widely used class of insecticides to population declines across 14 species of birds.
Those insecticides, called neonicotinoids, have been in the news lately due to the way they hurt bees and other pollinators. (Related: "The Plight of the Honeybee.")
This new paper, published online Wednesday in Nature, gets at another angle of the story—the way these chemicals can indirectly affect other creatures in the ecosystem.
Scientists from Radboud University in Nijmegen and the Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology and Birdlife Netherlands (SOVON) compared long-term data sets for both farmland bird populations and chemical concentrations in surface water. They found that in areas where water contained high concentrations of imidacloprid—a common neonicotinoid pesticide—bird populations tended to decline by an average of 3.5 percent annually.
"I think we are the first to show that this insecticide may have wide-scale, significant effects on our environment," said Hans de Kroon, an expert on population dynamics at Radboud University and one of the authors of the paper.
Second Silent Spring?
Pesticides and birds: If this story sounds familiar, it's probably because Rachel Carson wrote about it back in 1962. Carson's seminal Silent Spring was the first popular attempt to warn the world that pesticides were contributing to the "sudden silencing of the song of birds."
"I think there is a parallel, of course," said Ruud Foppen, an ornithologist at SOVON and co-author of the Nature paper.
Foppen says that while Carson battled against a totally different kind of chemicals—organophosphates like DDT—the effects he's seeing in the field are very much the same. Plainly stated, neonicotinoids are harming biodiversity.
"In this way, we can compare it to what happened decades ago," he said. "And if you look at it from that side, we didn't learn our lessons."
How Neonicotinoids Work
In the past 20 years, neonicotinoids (pronounced nee-oh-NIK-uh-tin-oyds) have become the fastest growing class of pesticides. They're extremely popular among farmers because they're effective at killing pests and easy to apply.
Commons refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. The resources held in common can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. The commons contains public property and private property, over which people have certain traditional rights. When commonly held property is transformed into private property this process alternatively is termed "enclosure" or more commonly, "privatization." - Wikipedia
Author(s): Margaret Wurth
Published in: the guardian
Some companies even allow for lower standards of protection for children in their US supply chain than for those elsewhere.
Grace, whose name has been changed to protect her privacy, doesn't smoke – at 15, she's too young to buy a pack of cigarettes, anyway – but she might as well have had a regular habit. At her job on a tobacco farm last summer, she handled tobacco plants for up to 12 hours a day, steadily absorbing nicotine through her skin.
Though precise numbers are hard to come by, it's fairly common to find kids working on US tobacco farms in the summer months (the height of the growing season). Yet while the US has laws to protect kids from the harms of nicotine in cigarettes, there are no restrictions to protect them from nicotine exposure in tobacco fields – despite evidence that such exposure may be especially harmful to children, whose brains and bodies are still developing.
In 2013, my colleagues and I interviewed 141 children who worked on tobacco farms in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, where 90% of US tobacco is produced. In each state, we heard similar stories of sickness and suffering.
April 25, 2014
The Archbishop of South Africa, Desmond Tutu, has called for an international “anti-apartheid-style boycott” against the fossil fuel industry in response to global warming. “People of conscience need to break their ties with corporations financing the injustice of climate change,” the Nobel Peace Prize laureate wrote in an essay earlier this month. Tutu’s call to action also urges a strategy of divestment, the selling off of stocks and other investments in the name of an urgent cause.
This week, Bill talks with two leaders who helped inspire the new fossil fuel divestment movement that Tutu is encouraging. Ellen Dorsey is executive director of the Wallace Global Fund and a catalyst in the coalition of 17 foundations known as Divest-Invest Philanthropy. Thomas Van Dyck is Senior Vice President – Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management, and founder of As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy foundation.
They are urging foundations, faith groups, pension funds, municipalities and universities to sell their shares in polluting industries and reinvest in companies committed to climate change solutions.
“The climate crisis is so urgent that if you own fossil fuels, you own climate change,” Dorsey tells Moyers. Van Dyck adds that reinvestment is needed to create “a sustainable economy that’s based on the energy of the future, not on the energy of the past.”
Producer: Candace White. Segment Producer: Robert Booth. Editor: Donna Marino.
By Emily Atkin on March 21, 2014 at 10:21 am
Photographs show Duke personnel using a portable water pump to empty its 1978 coal ash pond. The plant’s Clean Water Act permit only authorizes discharges when the pond level overtops the vertical discharge pipe visible in the photo, in order to reduce discharges of toxic solids in the effluent.
North Carolina regulators on Thursday cited Duke Energy for illegally and deliberately dumping 61 million gallons of toxic coal ash waste into a tributary of the Cape Fear River, which provides drinking water for several cities and towns in the state.
The incident marks the eighth time in less than a month that the company has been accused of violating environmental regulations. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said Duke — notorious for the February Dan River disaster which saw 82,000 tons of coal ash released into state waters — was taking bright blue wastewater from two of its coal ash impoundments and running it through hoses into a nearby canal and drain pipe.
Duke is reportedly permitted to discharge treated wastewater from the ash ponds into the canal, but only if they are filtered through so-called “risers,” pipes that allow heavier residue in the water to settle out. DENR told ABC News on Thursday that Duke’s pumping bypassed the risers.
“We’re concerned with the volume of water that was pumped and the manner it was pumped,” DENR Communications Director Drew Elliot told ABC. “It did not go through the treatment facility as it should have.”
Duke’s most recent incident was discovered after the environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance last week released aerial surveillance photos taken from a fixed-wing aircraft that showed Duke workers pumping wastewater from the two toxic coal ash lagoons into a canal.
Waterkeeper Alliance tried to go to the source of the pollution via boat but were warned off by plant employees and a policeman, so they resorted to aerial surveillance, as seen in this clip from the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.
The toxic water that Duke allegedly dumped is a byproduct of coal ash, a waste product from coal-fired power plants. Coal plants generate millions of tons of waste every year, and that waste is contaminated with toxic metals including lead, mercury, arsenic, chromium, and selenium. More than two-thirds of that waste — called coal ash — is dumped into landfills, storage ponds, or old mines.
The news is just the latest in a string of environmental violations surrounding Duke in the last few months. But Duke is not the only North Carolina entity that has been engaging in questionable conduct. DENR itself has earned a good deal of mistrust from environmentalists in no small part due to its questionable handling Duke’s many serious environmental violations. The U.S. Justice Department has recently opened a criminal investigation into DENR due to its handing of the February Dan River spill, questioning the relationship between the agency and Duke — a company that also was a 28-year employer of Gov. Pat McCrory.
In addition, emails obtained by the Associated Press last week suggested staff at DENR were coordinating with Duke Energy officials before intervening in a suit by citizen groups against the company.
The state has also been in the spotlight in past years for its climate change denial, most notably marked by a law passed in 2012 to stop the use of climate-related science to plan for future events. Specifically, that law forces coastal counties to ignore observations and the best science-based projections in planning for future sea level rise.
And the Big Tobacco-style campaign to bury it.
—By Mariah Blake
| March/April 2014 Issue
Photographs by Evan Kafka
Update (3/3/14): After this story went to press, the US Food and Drug Administration published a paper finding that BPA was safe in low doses. However, the underlying testing was done on a strain of lab rat known as the Charles River Sprague Dawley, which doesn't readily respond to synthetic estrogens, such as BPA. And, due to laboratory contamination, all of the animals—including the control group—were exposed to this chemical. Academic scientists say this raises serious questions about the study's credibility. Stay tuned for more in-depth reporting on the shortcomings of the FDA's most recent study.
Each night at dinnertime, a familiar ritual played out in Michael Green's home: He'd slide a stainless steel sippy cup across the table to his two-year-old daughter, Juliette, and she'd howl for the pink plastic one. Often, Green gave in. But he had a nagging feeling. As an environmental-health advocate, he had fought to rid sippy cups and baby bottles of the common plastic additive bisphenol A (BPA), which mimics the hormone estrogen and has been linked to a long list of serious health problems. Juliette's sippy cup was made from a new generation of BPA-free plastics, but Green, who runs the Oakland, California-based Center for Environmental Health, had come across research suggesting some of these contained synthetic estrogens, too.
From California to the Middle East, huge areas of the world are drying up and a billion people have no access to safe drinking water. US intelligence is warning of the dangers of shrinking resources and experts say the world is 'standing on a precipice'
The Observer, Saturday 8 February 2014
On 17 January, scientists downloaded fresh data from a pair of Nasa satellites and distributed the findings among the small group of researchers who track the world's water reserves. At the University of California, Irvine, hydrologist James Famiglietti looked over the data from the gravity-sensing Grace satellites with a rising sense of dread.
The data, released last week, showed California on the verge of an epic drought, with its backup systems of groundwater reserves so run down that the losses could be picked up by satellites orbiting 400km above the Earth's surface.
"It was definitely an 'oh my gosh moment'," Famiglietti said. "The groundwater is our strategic reserve. It's our backup, and so where do you go when the backup is gone?"
That same day, the state governor, Jerry Brown, declared a drought emergency and appealed to Californians to cut their water use by 20%. "Every day this drought goes on we are going to have to tighten the screws on what people are doing," he said.
Seventeen rural communities are in danger of running out of water within 60 days and that number is expected to rise, after the main municipal water distribution system announced it did not have enough supplies and would have to turn off the taps to local agencies.
There are other shock moments ahead – and not just for California – in a world where water is increasingly in short supply because of growing demands from agriculture, an expanding population, energy production and climate change.
Listen to Federman speak about his reporting on corporate and state spying on environmentalists today on the radio show Making Contact.
In 2010 the American Petroleum Institute (API) paid the global intelligence firm Stratfor more than $13,000 a month for weekly intelligence bulletins profiling activist organizations and their campaigns on everything from energy and climate change to tax policy and human rights, according to documents published by WikiLeaks in 2012.
Photo by Greenpeace FinlandThe weekly reports provided details on a wide range of environmental organizations including Greenpeace, NRDC, and the Union of Concerned Scientists. API was interested in anticipating which groups might be out to “attack” them.
API’s tracking of environmental organizations comes as the oil and gas industry faces a kind of existential crisis — or public relations dilemma, depending on your point of view — in how to address climate change and related issues. Even as some of API’s own members are inching toward compromise on relatively modest proposals like cap and trade legislation the lobbying group seems to be fighting a rearguard battle.