Category Archives: Pollution

Invasive Species and The GE/GMO Relationship

Most readers of Climate Connections know that we at the Global Justice Ecology Project, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, and Biofuelwatch, consider that GE Trees can be highly invasive species. These synthetic organisms live for a long time and introduce toxins into natural ecosystems. This profoundly and negatively impacts ecosystem services. The biotech industry wants us to believe that these products are safe. The  Convention for Biological Diversity adopted the The Precautionary Principle in 2001 because adequate GMO science is uncertain, ambiguous, has omitted research areas, and lacks the basic knowledge of crucial risk assessments.

An article published yesterday in Environmental Health News and Truthout tells the horrible story of the consequences of invasive species to birds in the Great Lakes of North America.

While the invasives in the story are not GE Trees, the lessons to be learned from this invasion are fundamental and are exactly why we have to be very careful when introducing invasive species into the wild.


Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin's gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Diane Borgreen from the Wildlife Health Office collects a Franklin’s gull affected by avian botulism. Botulism toxin paralyzes the muscles and results in the death of thousands of birds every year. (Photo: Lee Jones / USFWS)

Mass Murder by Botulism: surge in Great Lakes Bird Deaths Driven by Invaders

By Brian Bienkowski, Truthout. 15 October 2014

Leland, Michigan - A midsummer overcast lifts as Lake Michigan changes from inky black to a deep blue-green. Ben Turschak bends over the rail of the boat, staring into the abyss in search of an exact spot.

“There it is, there it is,” Turschak says. He points to an underwater buoy used to mark a stash of underwater cameras and monitoring equipment 60 feet below the surface.

Turschak, a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee graduate student, and his colleague Emily Tyner climb into bulky dry suits and strap on air tanks, masks and flippers, preparing for a plunge into the 60-degree water.

“I’m a little nervous, I haven’t dived here in two years. I’ve dived in the Caribbean and it’s just much harder here,” Tyner says. “This lake might as well be an ocean.”

Turschak leads Tyner down to the bottom. Ten minutes later they splash up, then climb back onto the boat and start unloading their bounty of water samples and a big bag of smelly green algae. “That’s the most gobies we’ve seen,” Tyner says. The aggressive bottom-feeding fish with a voracious appetite, accidentally imported from Eurasia, has taken over the nearshore waters here.

Read the full article here.



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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Great Lakes, Human made disasters, Monsanto, Pollution

Project tests air quality in Texas playgrounds, finds harmful chemicals and carcinogens from local natural gas plants


Tough week for Texas children: After yesterday’s story about the dumping near communities (including near schools) of airborne and highly toxic chemicals associated with oil and gas wells and fracking sludge, here’s a story from EcoWatch on a recent set of studies done by ShaleTest as part of a project funded by Patagonia. 

The project tested playgrounds and parks in an area near natural gas processing plants in the Barnett shale fracking area of Texas.

It showed, well, like I said, tough week for Texas children trying to play (hint: benzene).

Poisoned Fracking Playgrounds a Threat to Texas Kids
By Anastasia Pantsios. EcoWatch. October 2, 2014.

The air at Texas playgrounds could be hazardous to children’s health. That’s what nonprofit environmental testing group ShaleTest, which tracks the impact of shale oil and gas extraction for communities which can’t afford such tests, found as part of its Project Playground: Cleaner Air for Active Kids funded by Patagonia. The group ran air quality tests at five recreational parks and playgrounds in the north Texas, located near natural gas processing plants in the Barnett shale fracking area. It found harmful chemicals, including carcinogens, at all five.

Read the whole article here!


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Filed under Fracking, Pollution

First toxic algae and now cargo dumping in Great Lakes

Barely a month ago sink taps ran dry in the city of Toledo, Ohio, USA, due to toxic algae blooming in Lake Erie. Nearly half a million people were affected by the toxic concoction that occurred by a mixture of rising temperatures and dangerous pollutants.

So here’s a great solution — let’s let freighters dump their cargo into the Lakes.

Satellite image shows the colossal spread of the 2011 blooms on Lake Erie which can cause destructive health risks and create economical problems. Photo: NOAA

Satellite image shows the colossal spread of the 2011 blooms on Lake Erie which can cause destructive health risks and create economical problems. Photo: NOAA

An article in the Buffalo News quotes Glen G. Nekvasil, vice president of the Lake Carriers’ Association, as saying the amount of substances allowed to be dumped will be minuscule, posing no health risks. He then later quantifies minuscule as about the size of a football field.

Just how great does the U.S. government want these Great Lakes to be? If it’s illegal to litter on the land, then why is it legal to dump waste in the water?

New federal rule allows freighters to dump cargo remnants into Great Lakes

by T.J. Pignataro, Buffalo News, Sept. 30, 2014

Environmental groups came up short in their fight to prevent freighters from sweeping or washing limestone, iron ore, coal and other non-toxic remnants of their dry cargo into the Great Lakes.

A federal rule that went into effect earlier this year allows what has been a long-time practice in Great Lakes commerce: shipping vessels, under certain conditions, washing down residues in their cargo holds left behind after their deliveries.

Read the full article here.

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Filed under Great Lakes, Pollution, Water

Pipeline ruptures in rural Michigan; Trans Canada opens info center for residents

Photo from WBST news, taken by Jeff Ochs, of the leak.

Photo from WBST news, taken by Jeff Ochs, of the leak.

A Trans Canada gas pipeline that runs from Canada to TX ruptured early Wednesday in rural Michigan. Residents said it sounded like a tornado or huge thunderclap, and didn’t know what to do. 500 residents were evacuated. While the local news report here notes that some evacuations, within a certain distance, were mandatory, Trans Canada’s statement in the same news story is largely dismissive:

The Berrien County Sheriff’s Department made the decision to issue a voluntary evacuation within a one mile radius of the reported incident. We appreciate the cooperation of residents and encourage people to follow instructions from first responders so that we maintain a safe work area.

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But Trans Canada has an info center opened now, so it’s okay. This event might seem small in many ways–no injuries, limited population affected–but it’s exactly this type of event that shows the threat to fence-line communities throughout the US and the world.

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Filed under Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Pollution

Asthma-related ER visits on the rise

A new study out of Connecticut shows that the rates for the hospitalization of asthma has increased substantially in the last few years. In fact, in the Constitution State alone, asthma rates increased nearly 30 percent. The rates are higher in urban areas where pollution is more prevalent.

Air pollution is the leading cause of the increase in asthma rates. Photo:  Don Hammond

Air pollution is the leading cause of the increase in asthma rates. Photo: Don Hammond

Info from the U.S. Center for Disease Control shows that U.S. national rates are on the rise, too. Those at most risk live in urban areas with a low socioeconomic status. The rates of increase among children is nothing short of terrifying. The top triggers of asthma include smog, wood smoke, ash, ground level ozone (when smoke from cars combines with oxygen and sunlight), sulfur dioxide (the result of burning coal and crude oil) and nitrogen oxide (another gas emitted from pipes and smokestacks). It’s no surprise that air pollution is a leading cause of millions of Americans’ inability to breathe.

ER Visits And Hospitalizations For Asthma On The Rise

by Jodie Mozdzer, The Courant, 15 September 2014

Ava Passley covered her nose and giggled as Dr. Jacob Hen walked into an examination room at his pediatric pulmonology office in Trumbull recently.

Ava, 3, of Bridgeport, knows what to expect from a visit with Hen, having dealt with asthma since she was 1. She also spent several nights in the hospital after an attack in 2012.

“I had always heard about wheezing, but had never really heard it before that,” her mother, Beverly Passley, said.

Ava is part of a growing number of people in Connecticut who have used the emergency room for asthma symptoms, according to the most recent figures from the state Department of Public Health. Each year from 2005 to 2009, Connecticut residents with asthma symptoms on average visited the emergency room 22,000 times and were hospitalized 4,800 times.

Read the full story, with charts, tables and other visuals, here.

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Filed under Pollution

Why the UN is useless on Climate Change–from the BBC

Okay, so much for binding climate change agreements.  As we’ve mentioned previously, the UN Climate Convention is worse than useless.  It is controlled by corporate interests while pretending to do something useful–which in turn eliminates the space for real, effective (and justice based) action on climate change.  Yet another reason for more direct action at the People’s Climate March in NYC on the 21st of this month, and the Flood Wall Street action on the 22nd.

Greenhouse gas levels rising at fastest rate since 1984

A surge in atmospheric CO2 saw levels of greenhouse gases reach record levels in 2013, according to new figures.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere between 2012 and 2013 grew at their fastest rate since 1984.

The World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) says that it highlights the need for a global climate treaty.

But the UK’s energy secretary Ed Davey said that any such agreement might not contain legally binding emissions cuts, as has been previously envisaged.

The WMO’s annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin doesn’t measure emissions from power station smokestacks but instead records how much of the warming gases remain in the atmosphere after the complex interactions that take place between the air, the land and the oceans.

About half of all emissions are taken up by the seas, trees and living things.

According to the bulletin, the globally averaged amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached 396 parts per million (ppm) in 2013, an increase of almost 3ppm over the previous year.

“The Greenhouse Gas Bulletin shows that, far from falling, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere actually increased last year at the fastest rate for nearly 30 years,” said Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the WMO.

“We must reverse this trend by cutting emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases across the board,” he said.

“We are running out of time.”

Read the complete story here

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Oceans, Pollution, Uncategorized, UNFCCC

Half of North American Bird species face disruption,decline

The National Audubon Society released a report this past Tuesday, September 9, indicating that 314 North American Bird species are on the brink, due to shifting and shrinking ranges that have a fundamental cause in climate change.  This includes loss of habitat caused by a number of factors including climate shifts and commodification of natural resources such as forests.  126 species are identified in the report that will lose more than 50% of their current ranges, some up to 100% by 2050.  Another 188 species face catastrophic loss of range by 2080. The Bald Eagle is expected to loose 73% of its range by 2080.  Familiar birds like the Baltimore Oriole, Common Loon, the Purple Finch, and the Wood Thrush may  will be significantly effected.  Some like the Trumpeter Swan will not survive.


Warblers such as this Yellow-throated Warbler are vanishing. Photo by Jay Burney 2014

An article published tuesday in the New York Times tells the story of the Audubon Report.

Climate change will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says.

Felicity Barringer   New York Times  September 8, 2014

The Baltimore oriole will probably no longer live in Maryland, the common loon might leave Minnesota, and the trumpeter swan could be entirely gone.

Those are some of the grim prospects outlined in a report released on Monday by the National Audubon Society, which found that climate change is likely to so alter the bird population of North America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed over the next 65 years. If they do not — and for several dozen it will be very difficult — they could become extinct.

The four Audubon Society scientists who wrote the report projected in it that 21.4 percent of existing bird species studied will lose “more than half of the current climactic range by 2050 without the potential to make up losses by moving to other areas.” An additional 32 percent will be in the same predicament by 2080, they said.

Read the New York Times Story

Read the Audubon Report



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Filed under Biodiversity, BREAKING NEWS, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests and Climate Change, Great Lakes, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Human made disasters, Industrial agriculture, Latin America-Caribbean, Oceans, Pollution, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Uncategorized

Canada Now Leads Brazil in Deforestation

Scientists from the University of Maryland, Greenpeace, Global Forest Watch, and the World Resources Institute are tracking global forest decline and have announced that the rate of decline is accelerating.

Canada has now surpassed all other countries including Brazil as being responsible for loss of forest landscapes since 2000.  According to a story in the Ottawa Citizen published last week, the “main drivers are fire, logging, and energy and industrial development.”

Resource exploitation in the boreal forests of Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are particularly devastating. Satellite imagery shows that the boreal forests in the area of the oil sands between Fort McMurray and Lake Athabasca has been almost totally devastated.


Lakes, like these in Northern Ontario dot Canada's boreal forests and contain 25 percent of the world's wetlands.  Photo- Jeff Wells

Lakes, like these in Northern Ontario dot Canada’s boreal forests and contain 25 percent of the world’s wetlands. Photo- Jeff Wells

According to Dr Nigel Sizer, director of the forest program at the World Resources Institute, “if this rate of degradation continues “business as usual will lead to destruction of most remaining intact forests in this century”

Canada leads world in forest decline, report says
By William Marsden, Ottawa Citizen. September 3, 2014.

WASHINGTON – The world’s virgin forests are being lost at an increasing rate and the largest portion of the degradation is in Canada, according to a new report.

No longer is Brazil the main villain in the struggle to stop forest destruction.

“Canada is the number one in the world for the total area of the loss of intact forest landscapes since 2000,” Peter Lee, of Forest Watch Canada, said in an interview.

He said the main drivers are fires, logging and energy and industrial development.

“There is no political will at federal or provincial levels for conserving primary forests,” he said. “Most logging done in Canada is still to this day done in virgin forests.”

Using satellite technology, scientists from the University of Maryland, Greenpeace, Global Forest Watch and the World Resources Institute have tracked changes in the earth’s forest coverage. The scientists discovered that the pace of decline is accelerating with more than 104 million hectares – about 8.1 per cent of global undisturbed forests — lost from 2000 to 2013.

Read the whole article here




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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, BREAKING NEWS, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Coal, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Fracking, Great Lakes, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Hydroelectric dams, Industrial agriculture, Keystone XL, Mining, Mountaintop Removal, Oil, Pollution, Tar Sands, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Uncategorized, Water