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[1THING] Blog: Archive for November, 2016

[ Canada Just Heroically Banned a Nasty Pesticide ]

While President-elect Donald Trump ponders which anti-regulation stalwart to place at the head of the US Environmental Protection Agency, Health Canada—our northern neighbor’s version of the EPA—just took a bold step toward protecting the environment. Last week, the Canadian agency declared in a preliminary assessment that a high-profile insecticide should be banned within five years, because it’s turning up in waterways “at levels that are harmful to aquatic insects”—the base the food chain for fish, birds, and other animals. 

Health Canada is soliciting public comment on its assessment through late February, after which it will decide whether to proceed with a phased-in ban. The chemical is imidacloprid, widely marketed by Bayer, the German chemical giant that recently bought US seed/agrichemical titan Monsanto in a deal pending approval by US and European antitrust authorities. Bayer was not amused by the finding, declaring itself “extremely disappointed.”

Imidacloprid is part of a class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, the globe’s most-used insecticides—and one that has come been linked by a growing body of research with the declining health of honeybees and other pollinators. 

The Canadian assessment has nothing to do with pollinators, though. The agency is conducting a separate evaluation of how the chemical affects them. It’s striking that that agency decided that the risk imidacloprid poses to water-borne insects is so great that the chemical should be banned. Mark Winston, a professor of apiculture at Simon Fraser University and senior fellow at the university’s Centre for Dialogue, told CBC News that the recommendation “really surprised” him, because “to take an action to phase out a chemical that is so ubiquitous, and for which there is so much lobbying pressure from industry … that’s a really bold move.”

Based on similar concerns, Health Canada has initiated reviews of two other prominent neonics, clothianidin or thiamethoxam. They, too, have potent corporate interests behind them—Bayer is a major producer of clothianidin, while the Chinese agrichemical giant Syngenta is the sole maker of thiamethoxam products on the Canadian market, according to Health Canada.

Meanwhile, south of the border, imidacloprid has also generated serious concern among regulatory agencies. Back in January, the EPA released a preliminary assessment finding that in two crops where it’s commonly used, cotton and citrus, imidacloprid harms bees and lowers honey production. As for the most prominent crop for imidacloprid of all, soybeans, the EPA noted that they’re “attractive to bees via pollen and nectar,” meaning they could expose bees to dangerous levels of imidacloprid. But the agency revealed that it doesn’t know whether it causes harm, because data on how much of the pesticide shows up in soybeans’ pollen and nectar are “unavailable” from both from Bayer and from independent researchers—even though it’s been on the market for 20 years.

Overall, the assessment was so dire that an EPA spokeswoman told me at the time that the agency “could potentially take action” to “restrict or limit the use” of the chemical by the end of this year. Such a move has yet to happen.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Trump has descended upon Washington. His main ag adviser during the campaign, Charles Herbster, regularly denounced regulation of agriculture. The man leading Trump’s EPA transition is an anti-regulation zealot, and according to Politico, the president-elect is mulling candidates of that ilk to head the agency. Soon, it may not just be disappointed Democrats who fantasize about emigrating north. Bees and aquatic insects may join them.


[ This EPA candidate brags about suing the agency, calls climate science “unsettled” ]

Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt used his current position to try to block some of the EPA’s most important air-quality rules.


[ Your Boss Should Let You Sleep In More Often ]

Feeling tired? Yeah, I know—it’s the middle of the week, and a lot of us are in the same boat: More than a third of Americans aren’t getting enough sleep on a regular basis. That’s doing more than messing with our moods and our health—it’s taking a measurable toll on the economy. A lack of shut-eye among US workers costs up to $411 billion every year, or 2.28 percent of the country’s GDP, according to a new study by RAND Europe, part of the RAND Corporation. That’s in part because exhaustion makes us less productive on the job.

To calculate this financial toll, RAND looked at data from more than 62,000 workers and considered how sleep-deprived people have higher mortality rates than well-rested people, miss more days of work or are less productive in the office, and may struggle to keep up in school. When it comes to the amount of money lost, the United States fares worse than some other wealthy countries from its lack of snoozing: We beat out Japan, which loses up to $138 billion annually (though Japan sacrifices a larger share of its GDP—almost 3 percent). We also lose more than Germany ($60 billion, or 1.56 percent of GDP), the United Kingdom ($50 billion, or 1.86 percent of GDP), and Canada ($21.4 billion, or 1.35 percent of GDP).

RAND Europe

If you’ve ever needed another reason to hit the snooze button, take a look at some of the RAND researchers’ other findings:

  • 1.2 million: the number of working days lost every year in the United States because of insufficient sleep. Compared with employees who sleep seven to nine hours a night, those who only get six to seven hours of rest take more time off from their jobs or aren’t as productive. On average, they lose nearly four extra days’ worth of working productivity every year compared with their better-rested colleagues. People who sleep less than six hours a night lose an average of six more days a year.
  • $226.4 billion: the amount of money we could add to the US economy if everyone who slept less than six hours a night boosted their time in bed to between six and seven hours. “Improving individual sleep habits and duration has huge implications,” explains Marco Hafner, the RAND study’s main author.
  • 9.2 minutes: the average amount of sleep lost every night for each employee who commutes 30 to 60 minutes home from the office, compared with those who commute 15 minutes or less. Other workplace factors can also affect sleep, the RAND researchers found, like pressure on the job. And the minutes add up, they explained: An employee who works irregular hours, commutes long distances to work, and is exposed to “workplace psychosocial risks,” such as unrealistic time pressures, sleeps on average about 28.5 minutes less per day—more than 173 hours of lost sleep per year.


[ How Trump Can Quash Obama’s Last Effort to Fight the Coal Industry ]

As the clock ticks down to the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Obama administration is moving to enact one final measure aimed at cutting coal pollution. According to a spokesperson for the Interior Department, the administration intends to release an update to a decades-old regulation protecting streams from the impacts of mining before Obama leaves office on January 20.

Obama’s climate and environmental policies have largely been defined by a slew of executive actions and new regulations, including limits on carbon and mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants; new fuel efficiency standards; and a moratorium on new coal leases on public lands. In recent weeks, the administration has finalized a rule that seeks to limit methane emissions from oil and gas facilities and has placed a chunk of the Arctic off limits to further offshore drilling.

The Stream Protection Rule revisions would be one more piece of the conservation puzzle. The original regulations, enacted more than 30 years ago, were intended to protect streams and their ecosystems from waste discharged during coal mining operations. According to the environmental impact statement released by the Interior Department, “Scientific studies published since [the original regulations were adopted in 1983] have indicated that surface coal mining operations continue to have significant negative impacts on streams, fish, and wildlife.”

Derek Teaney, senior attorney with the nonprofit Appalachian Mountain Advocates, says that environmentalists have been waiting years for the rule to be strengthened. It was last updated by the Bush administration in 2008, and critics complained that those changes left coal companies with too many loopholes. The Bush-era revisions were challenged in court by environmental groups, and the Interior Department withdrew them in 2014. 

The industry disputes the idea that the existing regulations are insufficient. In a statement, the National Mining Association warned that the proposed revisions would destroy coal jobs while providing “no discernable environmental benefits while duplicating extensive existing environmental protections.”

Republicans in Congress are also opposed. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the outgoing chair of the Senate’s environmental committee, said during a hearing in February that the proposal “would establish new onerous conditions.” He called it “an illegal power grab.”

The revised rule has remained in bureaucratic limbo for months, and now some activists are worried that the delays will make it easy for Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress to stop it from going into effect. The initial draft of the revised rule was released in 2015, and the Interior Department released an environmental impact statement on November 16. According to federal law, the rule cannot be finalized for at least 30 days from the date of the final environmental impact statement, meaning that the earliest it can be completed is mid-December.

The “Obama administration has frittered away its time,” said Teaney.

According to Thom Kay of the environmental group Appalachian Voices, congressional Republicans who oppose the new rule may now be able to use an obscure law called the Congressional Review Act to overturn it. Under the CRA, Congress has 60 days after receiving a finalized rule to file a resolution disapproving it. If both houses pass the resolution, it goes to the president’s desk, where it can be vetoed. (Last year, for example, Republicans in Congress attempted to use the CRA to overturn Obama’s Clean Power Plan. Obama simply vetoed the resolutions.) But there will be a new president and a new Congress just days after Interior says the new Stream Protection Rule will be finalized. Trump—who has promised to revitalize the coal industry and to “rescind all the job-destroying Obama executive actions“—is unlikely to veto a resolution sent by majorities of his own party.

If congressional Republicans do employ this strategy to try to defeat the rule, Kay said it would be a “tough fight for us,” but “one that we’re willing to take on.”

Local activists say the new rule is desperately needed to improve stream conditions. Matt Wasson, director of programs at Appalachian Voices, told Inhofe’s committee at a hearing in February that the rule could prevent further harm caused by coal pollution to residents and wildlife in Appalachia. He cited lower life expectancy in coal mining areas and concerns about diseases such as cancer.

Some members of the public, who were allowed to comment on the rule over a period of three months, echoed Wasson’s statements. One, identified by Wasson at the hearing as Gary Garrett from Tennessee, said: “It’s gone! What once was a gathering spot for many locals is no longer and will never be again. The cold, crystal clear, mountain water that brought many folks with empty water jugs in hand to fill to a small mountain stream which once flowed down 78 Old Standard Hill in the Clairfield area of Claiborne County, Tennessee is now covered up.”

Another commenter, identified as Patrick G. Jones, from Kentucky, said, “As a citizen of Kentucky and frequent visitor of West Virginia I have seen far too many perennial streams destroyed by strip and deep mine runoff. Time for this is past due. Please save our water [lest] it become polluted by chemicals that can not be removed.”


[ Congress votes to recognize the $646 billion outdoor recreation economy as part of the nation’s GDP ]

Michael Reinemer

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed H.R. 4665, Outdoor Recreation’s Economic Contributions (REC) Act, which President Obama is expected to sign into law.



[ Green Tips for the Holidays ]

So you live a green lifestyle all year long. You recycle, you minimize your impact by bringing your own bags and using a reusable cup for your morning coffee, you drive a low-emission car, and program your thermostat….you are set, right? Did you consider ways to green the holidays???? It doesn’t have to be difficult to make a difference!

* An obvious way would be to buy recycled wrapping paper, but you could take it a step further and use your old newspaper, or wrap it in another gift, such as a tablecloth, a scarf or a reusable shopping bag.

* As for the tree, real or fake? Cutting down trees and branches for decorations kills or injures trees, but a lot of the fake pine stuff is made from PVC which is toxic and energy intensive to make the plastic which releases gasses. There are fake pine decorations made from polyethylene which doesn’t carry the same health risks. Or use a potted real tree that can be planted in the spring.

*If you do use a real tree, be sure to give it new life at the end of the season! Mulch it or chip it. For more ideas check out the National Christmas Tree Association (www.realchristmastrees.org) and learn how to recycle it.

*LED lights are easy to find and will use a fraction of the energy that lights used to use. Use a timer for outdoor lights so they don’t stay on all night!

*Try upcycling! Get a little creative and turn something discarded into something usable. Recycle your old candles, jeans, tissue boxes, revamp glass bottles and jars, or turn old cookie tins into new fabulous gift tins. Pinterest.com is full of great ideas, just search UPCYCLE. There are thousands of ideas, surely one will appeal to you and your skill level.
Upcycle Candles
Glass Bottles and Jars
Give cookie tins a new life 

*Give green. Instead of giving someone another dust collector, donate to a charity that you or your recipient believe in. It’s a win-win! Some ideas to get you started:
Gifts that Give More
70 Years of Family Farming 
Sierra Club 
Nature Conservancy 

*If you do shop, shop local. Support the businesses in your local community and spend less gas driving all over. Art and craft shows are prevalent this time of year and you can support a local artist and give a gift of something thoughtful and artful. Pottery bowls can be esthetically pleasing and functional, or a hand knitted hat is stylish and warm.

*Eco-friendly gifts come in all shapes and sizes. Try gift cards for a group of friends to take a cooking class together. Make some jelly or jam, or bread that can be frozen for later. Be really green and give a worm composter so less food waste goes into the landfill. Try cloth dish towels and napkins as a gift to replace the paper ones. Give a fancy reusable water bottle or coffee/tea travel mug. Be super practical, and give LED bulbs or a blanket for the hot water heater. Reusable shopping bags are handy too! Programmable thermostat. Bus/train passes. Glass storage containers. A basket of nontoxic cleaners. Beeswax candles. Coupons to exchange for your time (ie babysitting or sharing a meal). Donate time to a local environmental group.

Eco Christmas
Eco Friendly Décor
Green Christmas 
Unique and Cheap Eco Friendly Gifts 
Green Gift Ideas

* December 30th is National Bicarbonate of Soda Day! Otherwise known as ordinary baking soda, bicarb has so many uses it belongs in every green house. Surely you have used it for your baked goods….but have you tried it as a facial scrub? Toothpaste? Or even deodorant? A paste of baking soda can relieve the itch from bug bites, and putting it in a bath can help relieve itchy skin and help you relax. Use it as a scrub to remove burnt on stuff from your pots and pans, mix it with vinegar to clean your sinks and tub, or even sprinkle it on your carpet before vacuuming to remove odors. And if you overindulge this season, use half a teaspoon in a glass of water to help with heartburn and indigestion.

51 Uses for Baking Soda


[ The Governor of North Dakota Has Ordered the Eviction of Thousands of Anti-Pipeline Protesters ]

North Dakota Governor Jack Dalyrimple has issued an executive order demanding the “mandatory evacuation of all persons” from the main site of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) protests near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. The executive order, issued earlier today, requires all people located on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers to leave immediately. They are forbidden from returning under penalty of arrest. The order could lead to the mass eviction and possible arrest of thousands of #NoDAPL protesters.

On Friday, the Army Corps of Engineers notified protesters that the agency planned to close the Ocheti Sakowin camp by December 5 due to safety concerns given the increasingly cold temperatures. This weekend, the camp was blanketed in snow and temperatures dropped to 26 degrees Fahrenheit. Two days later, in response to widespread criticism, the Corps backpedaled and said it had “no plans for forcible removal” and was “seeking a peaceful and orderly transition to a safer location.” The Army Corps promised to ticket protesters who refused to leave the Ocheti Sakowin camp.

The Ocheti Sakowin camp, one of three near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, is the only protest camp that on land owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of protesters have lived there since August within sight of the DAPL construction site. In anticipation of a possible crackdown, the number of “water protectors” staying in teepees, tents, and RVs at the Ocheti Sakowin camp has swelled to as many as 15,000. Many more, including a caravan of Army veterans known as the Veterans for Standing Rock, were planning on arriving in coming days to show solidarity with the protesters. Protesters are also staying on private land near the pipeline construction site.

Governor Dalyrimple’s executive order claims the mandatory evacuation is a result of concerns about the protesters’ safety due to dropping temperatures and snowstorms. “All of a sudden they are so concerned for our safety?” Jeane LaRance, a supporter of the anti-pipeline protests, said on Monday night. “They weren’t worried while spraying everyone with cold water in freezing weather!”

Last Sunday, Morton County Sheriffs sprayed a crowd of about 400 protesters with a water canon in sub-zero temperatures, drawing criticism from observers. According to Jade Begay, an activist with the Indigenous Environmental Network, 167 protesters were injured, and seven were hospitalized, including a woman whose arm was seriously injured by a “less-lethal” weapon.

“We don’t expect a forced removal or a sweep of this camp relatively soon,” said Dallas Goldtooth, a leader of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said in a video posted from his yurt at the Ocheti Sakowin camp. “But we as a camp are prepared, are preparing, for any scenario for the protection and safety of our folks.”


[ A polluter-funded lobbyist as the head of the EPA? ]

America needs an EPA administrator who is guided by science, respects America's environmental laws and believes in protecting public health.


[ We lose more than you think if NASA’s climate science is cut ]

A senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump wants to shut down NASA’s world-leading climate science work. It would hurt farmers, businesses, vulnerable states and the economy as a whole.


[ 4 pieces of climate progress President Trump’s policies can’t undo ]

The forces that are moving us towards a cleaner, safer world are strong – and Trump’s election hasn’t changed that.