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Rachel Carson Book Named "2016 Outstanding!"
Rachel Carson Council President, Dr. Robert K. Musil, has had his book Rachel Carson and Her Sisters: Extraordinary Women Who Have Shaped America's Environment named a "2016 Outstanding Book" by Choice magazine. Choice, the leading journal for libraries and academic researchers, reviews over 7,000 titles and selects their top choices each year.
Now in a new paperback edition from Rutgers Press, Rachel Carson and Her Sisters is available to supporters and friends of the Rachel Carson Council for a 30% discount with the discount code on this flyer with brief accolades for Musil's contribution to Rachel Carson's legacy.
SUNY Geneseo and Hofstra Join the RCCN
Rachel Carson Council President Dr. Robert K. Musil ended the 2016 spring semester with a flurry of appearances at American colleges beginning with an opening keynote speech at the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium (NECSC) conference held at Wellesley College, March 31-April 1. Twenty-one colleges were represented by sustainability directors and faculty who heard Musil urge them to connect their work and community projects to environmental groups like the Rachel Carson Council that can extend their influence to include national advocacy for policy changes in addition to campus and local sustainability initiatives.
At the State University of New York at Geneseo in upstate New York, Dr. Musil was invited to be the Presidential Sustainability Lecturer on April 12 by President Denise Battles and hosted for a two-day visit by Meg Reitz of the Department of Geological Sciences and Co-Chair of the President's Commission on Sustainability. Musil spoke about "Rachel Carson and Her New York Legacy for Today."
Most recently, Hofstra University in Hempstead, Long Island, joined the RCCN following a week-long residency, April 18-22, including Earth Day, by President Bob Musil as a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow. Musil was hosted by Professor Bret Bennington, Chair of the Department of Geology, Environment and Sustainability ...more
You're more likely to see an oil industry ad than a climate report on CNN
Planet Earth is shattering climate records left and right. But don't expect CNN viewers to know that. Over two recent weeks, the network aired more oil industry advertising than climate change coverage - nearly five times more.
Media Matters for America, a left-leaning advocacy group that tracks media bias, recently studied two weeks of CNN's daytime and prime-time coverage. The first week, Jan. 20-26, followed an announcement by scientists that 2015 had been the hottest year on record. The second week, March 17-23, came after a similar announcement that February 2016 was not only the warmest February on record, but by the largest monthly deviation ever recorded.
Yet during those two weeks, CNN aired 23 minutes and 30 seconds of American Petroleum Institute ads, compared to around five minutes of coverage of climate change and temperature records. And those figures don't even account for "dozens of Koch Industries ads that also ran on CNN, which were not energy-focused but did serve to boost the image of the oil billionaire Koch brothers' primary corporation," the Media Matters study notes ...Full article
Number One Antidote to Climate Change
North Carolina farmer Suzanne Nelson has this thing about farming as a regenerative rather than an extractive business.
She also has a thing for cows.
Nelson says people should do what they love doing. For her, "for whatever reason, I love cows. I loved cows before I knew I loved cows."
She says she now tends to Jersey dairy cows, St. Croix sheep, heritage pigs, laying hens, meat chicken and, seasonally, turkeys. Cows, she believes, "are the only animal that can live on one acre and make four acres fertile." She sees properly managed pastured livestock as "our number one antidote to climate change," helping, with a boost from legumes and soil microbes, boost soil fertility and keep carbon in the soils and not excessively in the atmosphere ...Full article
Ruined Chernobyl nuclear plant will remain a threat for 3,000 years
30 years since Chernobyl may seem like a long time, but it's really just the start. Below reactor's ruins is a 2,000-ton radioactive mass that can't be removed. How do you protect a site for as long a time as Western civilization has existed?
Before the fire, the vomiting, the deaths and the vanishing home, it was the promise of bumper cars that captured the imagination of the boys. It will be 30 years ago Tuesday that Pripyat and the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant became synonymous with nuclear disaster, that the word Chernobyl came to mean more than just a little village in rural Ukraine, and this place became more than just another spot in the shadowy Soviet Union. Even 30 years later - 25 years after the country that built it ceased to exist - the full damage of that day is still argued. Death toll estimates run from hundreds to millions. The area near the reactor is both a teeming wildlife refuge and an irradiated ghost-scape. Much of eastern and central Europe continues to deal with fallout aftermath. The infamous Reactor Number 4 remains a problem that is neither solved nor solvable ...Full article
Blind mice and bird brains: the silent spring of Chernobyl and Fukushima
Evolutionary biologist Timothy Mousseau and his colleagues have published 90 studies that prove beyond all doubt the deleterious genetic and developmental effects on wildlife of exposure to radiation from both the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. But all that peer-reviewed science has done little to dampen the 'official' perception of Chernobyl's silent forests as a thriving nature reserve.
Although it's too early to assess the long term impact on abundance and diversity around Fukushima, there are very few butterflies and many birds have declined in the more contaminated areas. If abundance is compressed, biodiversity will follow. He has spent 16 years looking at the effects on wildlife and the ecosystem of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. He and his colleagues have also spent the last five years studying how non-human biota is faring in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdowns in Japan.
"I suppose everyone loves a Cinderella story", speculated Mousseau, an evolutionary biologist based at the University of South Carolina. "They want that happy ending." But Mousseau felt sure the moment he read the Forum report, which, he noted, "contained few scientific citations", that the findings "could not possibly be true." ...Full article
Can we actually make a difference
by changing the way we eat?
You've probably seen the statistic: According to the United Nations, we'll need to produce 70 percent more food by 2050 to feed ourselves. That goal of increasing production by 70 percent, which is just as daunting as it sounds, is called the "food gap."
Food movement types generally hate this statistic - it's deceptive, they say, because we wouldn't need to increase production at all if we simply eliminated food waste, shared food equally, and controlled our appetite for meat. That's true in an abstract sense, but easier said than done. After all, pretty much every one of our resource problems, from food to energy to fast fashion, would disappear in a flash if we figured that out. But humanity doesn't tend to behave so honorably. Most people who have diligently crunched the numbers say we are going to have to use every option on the table to feed our growing population, including increasing farm productivity, curbing food waste, and shifting toward more plant-based diets ...Full article
Essay: Tracking a hummingbird's arrival,
for fun and science
I love watching a hummingbird zip in and hover over a flower or feeder. Turns out my observations could have an important role in assessing how the species is adapting to a shifting spring.
It's that lovely time of year when folks-myself included-don floppy hats, binoculars and notepads to monitor our migrating feathered friends.
We're a big bunch: There are an estimated 47 million birders in the United States. And we play an increasingly important role: Scientists need more than our interest and camera phone pictures for one important pollinator, the hummingbird. They need our observations.
As climate change threatens hummingbird habitat ranges they're reaching out to birders to help track the birds' habits and health. Hummingbirds could lose vast amounts of their range over the next 60 years.
Climate change creates imbalances in temperature and migratory bird timing, and scientists say hummingbirds, which are important wildflower pollinators in North America and food pollinators in tropical regions, are particularly vulnerable. A warming climate can alter when flowers bloom. This earlier blooming can create a mismatch between hummingbird arrival and flowers, which they suck nectar from throughout the day to stay alive.
A 2014 report from National Audubon Society scientists is grim: Hummingbirds could lose vast amounts of their current ranges over the next 60 years if climate change continues on its current path ...Full article
Three Out of Four Americans Register Concern Over Global Climate Change
More Than Half Note Warmer Temperatures, and Floridians Watch Seacoasts
SAINT LEO, FL - Three-quarters of Americans are either very concerned or somewhat concerned about global climate change, remaining at the same level as last year, according to the latest national online survey from the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu). The percentage level of concern reported in 2016 was 75.1 percent, compared to 73 percent last year, which is essentially a statistical tie ...more
The Clean Power Plan's on Hold,
but Clean Agriculture Can Move Forward
The Supreme Court's unexplained stay of the EPA's Clean Power Plan was "one of the most environmentally harmful judicial actions of all time," writes Michael Gerrard of Columbia Law School in this excellent blog post. But rather than vent outrage, Gerrard quickly moves on to explain that the Clean Power Plan isn't the only way to cut carbon pollution.
Ramping up fuel efficiency standards for cars, trucks and buildings, he notes, will also help reduce carbon pollution. Gerrard mentions a couple of points about agriculture, but often, this sector is overlooked when it comes to climate solutions. It's worth taking a closer look at some of the golden opportunities to reduce climate pollution from our food system ...Full article
A Year of Fear and Distrust in Dukeville
How tainted well water and conflicting health information have turned one North Carolina family's life upside down
Deborah Graham's life changed on April 18, 2015, with the arrival of a letter. Graham was in the kitchen, pouring a cup of coffee. Her husband, Marcelle, opened a large certified envelope just dropped off by the mail carrier. "The North Carolina Division of Public Health recommends that your well water not be used for drinking and cooking," the letter said. "What did you just say?" Graham asked, incredulous. "The water's contaminated," her husband replied. Graham's eyes flew to her kitchen faucet. She thought about the coffee she'd just swallowed. The food she'd cooked and sent over to her church. The two children she'd raised in this house. She dumped the rest of her coffee down the sink. The ordinary routines of the Graham household had been disrupted by vanadium, which can cause nausea, diarrhea and cramps. In animal studies, vanadium has caused decreased red blood cell counts, elevated blood pressure and neurological effects.
"We just want to be able to look at our water and not fear turning on the faucet."-Deborah Graham ...Full article
Fracking Wells Released Over
5 Billion Pounds of Methane in One Year
Being in close proximity to fracking operations could screw up your sexual health, cause developmental defects and cancer, induce seismic activity around you, and the list goes on.
Does all that doom and gloom seem, well, a little vague? An Environment America report released Thursday offers raw numbers, based on a set of industry-reported data going back for more than decade.
Frackers, the report concludes, have used billions of pounds of cancer-causing chemicals in at least 137,000 wells from 2005 to 2015, including:
• 5 billion pounds of hydrochloric acid, a caustic acid
• 1.2 billion pounds of petroleum distillates, which can irritate the throat, lungs and eyes; cause dizziness and nausea; and can include toxic and cancer-causing agents
• 445 million pounds of methanol, which is suspected of causing birth defects
Remember, that’s according to the industry’s own numbers. Not necessarily all of this is affecting drinking water, but some chemicals have made their way into private wells. For example, Pennsylvania officials found 260 instances of private well contamination from fracking in the past decade — a “severe” underestimation, says Environment America ...Full article
Disturbing New Evidence About What Common Pesticides Can Do to Brains
For defense against the fungal pathogens that attack crops-think the blight that bedeviled Irish potato fields in the 19th century-farmers turn to fungicides. They're widely sprayed on fruit, vegetable, and nut crops, and in the past decade, they've become quite common in the corn and soybean fields (see here and here for more). But as the use of fungicides has ramped up in recent years, some scientists are starting to wonder: What are these chemicals doing to the ecosystems they touch, and to us?
A new paper in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications adds to a disturbing body of evidence that fungicides might be doing more than just killing fungi. For the study, a team of University of North Carolina Neuroscience Center researchers led by Mark Zylka subjected mouse cortical neuron cultures-which are similar in cellular and molecular terms to the the human brain-to 294 chemicals "commonly found in the environment and on food." The idea was to see whether any of them triggered changes that mimicked patterns found in brain samples from people with autism, advanced age, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's ...Full article
Two widely used pesticides likely to harm 97% of endangered species in US
Malathion and chlorpyrifos are each likely to harm most of the 1,782 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants listed under the Endangered Species Act
The grizzly bear is one of the animals named in the EPA analysis. Almost all of the 1,700 most endangered plants and animals in the US are likely to be harmed by two widely used pesticides, an alarming new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) analysis has found.
Malathion, an insecticide registered for use in the US since 1956, is likely to cause harm to 97% of the 1,782 mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and plants listed under the Endangered Species Act. Malathion is commonly used to treat fruit, vegetables and plants for pests, as well as on pets to remove ticks.
A separate pesticide, chlorpyrifos, is also a severe risk to 97% of America's most threatened flora and fauna. Chlorpyrifos, which smells a little like rotten eggs, is regularly deployed to exterminate termites, mosquitoes and roundworms.
A third pesticide, diazinon, often used on cockroaches and ants, threatens 79% of endangered species. The EPA study is the first of its kind to look at whether common pesticides harm US wildlife.
The risk posed by malathion and chlorpyrifos is so widespread across the US that the few species considered not at risk are mainly those already classified as extinct, the EPA study found. In March last year, the World Health Organization said that malathion and diazinon are "probably carcinogenic to humans" ...Full article
In W. Virginia, frack wastewater may be messing with hormones
Waste leaching from frack disposal wells are the likely source of a spike in endocrine-disrupting compounds in downstream waterway-a troubling sign given the roughly 36,000 disposal sites across the U.S.
Water around and downstream from a fracking wastewater disposal facility in West Virginia contains compounds that may harm fish health by messing with endocrine systems, according to a new study. (Senior author Susan Nagel, left. Photo credit: Missouri.edu)
Researchers found high levels of endocrine disruption activity in the water near or downstream from the wastewater site in Fayetteville, West Virginia. The study, published today in the journal Science of the Total Environment, adds to evidence that some chemicals in hydraulic fracturing waste are hormone-mimickers or blockers and are leaching out of wastewater disposal wells and into nearby water, potentially impacting fish and human health.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a process that uses horizontal drilling and high volume fluid injections to release oil and gas. Along with water, the injections contain sand and a mix of chemicals-some of which have been linked to cancer, hormone impacts, and reproductive problems. It's estimated that every well produces more than one million gallons of wastewater, which is eventually pumped into disposal wells ...Full article
Study Finds Bay Osprey Are Thriving Despite Lingering Contaminants
The ospreys are back, flying to and fro along rivers and creeks of the estuary, gathering fish for their yound and putting the final touches on their nesting platforms.
In the 1970s, ospreys were in trouble. DDT, largely sprayed for mosquitoes, thinned the birds' egg shells. Osprey populations dwindled to fewer than 1,500 nesting pairs. Eagles were in even word condition - only about 90 breeding pairs remained.
Photo: Rebecca Lazarus/USGS
Today, the Chesapeake Bay is approaching 10,000 nesting pairs of osprey. State bird counts for eagle put their numbers at nearly 1,000 pairs for Maryland and Virginia, with hundred more in other watershed states ...Full article
How Colorado is Turning
Food Waste into Electricity
Americans throw away about a third of our available food.
But what some see as trash, others are seeing as a business opportunity. A new facility known as the Heartland Biogas Project is taking wasted food from Colorado's most populous areas and turning it into electricity.
Through a technology known as anaerobic digestion, spoiled milk, old pet food and vats of grease combine with helpful bacteria in massive tanks to generate gas. I went to check out the facility. It's located on a rural road in northern Colorado, situated a stone's throw from big beef cattle feedlots and dairy farms and a short drive from the state's populous, waste-generating urban core. Follow your nose to know you're in the right place. There's no way around it: The place stinks. The odor is a mix of cow poop and expired produce ...Full article
Study finds that fracking
contaminated a water supply
The potential upsides and downsides of fracking technology for oil and gas keep coming.
The Energy Department found half of all U.S. continental oil production now comes from fracking, bringing enhanced energy self-sufficiency.
But injecting wastewater from fracking underground has boosted the risk of earthquakes in parts of Oklahoma and Kansas to the same level as California, according to the U.S. Geology Survey.
Now, a new study focuses on alleged contamination of drinking water in one of the highest-profile, longstanding cases. The location is the small town of Pavillion, Wyoming, population 231. In 2004, Pavillion resident Louis Meeks said the company Encana drilled for natural gas by his house. And his water changed.
"In our toilets and stuff, we get a yellowish brown stain in there, which never happened til they drilled this well up here," Meeks said. "A lot of times you get in and take a shower and that fine mist will just clear your sinuses." ...Full article
Half of U.S. Oil is Now Fracked —
But it Might Not Stay That Way
The U.S. has quickly become a global fracking powerhouse, and it’s not slowing down. According to a March report from the Energy Information Administration, hydraulic fracturing now accounts for more than half of all U.S. oil output per day, compared with 2 percent in 2000. America’s 300,000 fracking wells pumped out 4.3 million barrels per day in 2015 — a staggering figure when compared to the 102,000 barrels a day in 2000. That growth has allowed the U.S. to “increase its oil production faster than at any time in its history,” the report notes, and places it third in the world for oil production, trailing only behind Saudi Arabia and Russia ...Full article
Maryland to Become First State to Ban Bee-Killing Pesticides for Consumer Use
In an effort to curb its plummeting honeybee population, Maryland is about to become the first state in the nation to pass strict restrictions on neonicotinoids for consumer use ...Full article
Flint Water Crisis Inquiry Finds
State Ignored Warning Signs
An independent panel has concluded that disregard for the concerns of poor and minority people contributed to the government's slow response to complaints from residents of Flint, Mich., about the foul and discolored water that was making them sick, determining that the crisis "is a story of government failure, intransigence, unpreparedness, delay, inaction and environmental injustice." The panel, which was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in October, when he first urged Flint's nearly 100,000 residents to stop drinking the city's tap water, laid blame for the water problems at the feet of government employees on every level. It particularly focused on state employees: analysts in charge of supervising water quality, state-appointed emergency managers who prized frugality over public safety, and staff members in the governor's office who adopted a "whack a mole" attitude to beat away persistent reports of problems ...Full article
Global Warming's Terrifying New Chemistry
Our leaders thought fracking
would save our climate.
They were wrong. Very wrong.
By Bill McKibben
A fracking well in the Eagle Ford Shale region, near Karnes City, Texas. (AP Photo/Aaron M. Sprecher)
Global warming is, in the end, not about the noisy political battles here on the planet's surface. It actually happens in constant, silent interactions in the atmosphere, where the molecular structure of certain gases traps heat that would otherwise radiate back out to space. If you get the chemistry wrong, it doesn't matter how many landmark climate agreements you sign or how many speeches you give. And it appears the United States may have gotten the chemistry wrong. Really wrong. There's one greenhouse gas everyone knows about: carbon dioxide, which is what you get when you burn fossil fuels. We talk about a "price on carbon" or argue about a carbon tax; our leaders boast about modest "carbon reductions." But in the last few weeks, CO2's nasty little brother has gotten some serious press. Meet methane, otherwise known as CH4 ...Full article
The Profound Planetary Consequences
of Eating Less Meat
A striking new study – but one that is bound to prove controversial – has provided a calculation of both the health benefits and the reduction in planetary greenhouse gases that might be achieved if the world shifted away from meat-based diets.
The results, while theoretical in nature, certainly make a strong case for treating the food system, and animal agriculture in particular, as a key part of the climate change issue. Namely, the researchers find that shifting diets toward eating more plant-based foods on a global scale could reduce between 6 and 10% of mortality – saving millions of iives and billions of dollars – even as it also cuts out 29 to 70% of greenhouse emissions linked to food by the year 2050 ...Full article
Pesticide Combination Impacts Often Greater Than the Sum of Their Parts, New Study Says
Exposure to multiple fumigants commonly used together in California may increase cancer risk.
Most scientists, farmers, and regulators usually consider the health effects of pesticides one at a time. But that's not always how they're used. A new report by researchers at the University of California Los Angeles's Sustainable Technology & Policy Program (STPP) took a rare look at several pesticides-all fumigants-that are often applied in combination, chloropicrin, 1,3-dichloropropene, and metam salts. It found that when mixed together, the chemicals can interact and become more toxic, endangering and leaving farmworkers, neighbors, and schoolchildren without adequate protection. "We know these are being applied on purpose together," and some have similar health effects, including cancer, says report co-author Susan Kegley, principal, and CEO of the California-based Pesticide Research Institute. Millions of pounds of these three pesticides are commonly used in combination to grow strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, nuts, and other crops. All together about 30 million pounds were used on California farm fields in 2013 alone and together they account for about a fifth of all pesticides used in the state ...Full article
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