Category Archives: Pollution

The American Chestnut Foundation puts forests at risk with Frankentrees!

The American Chestnut Foundation is leading efforts to introduce genetically engineered (GE) American Chestnut trees back into the eastern North American deciduous forest ecosystem. The native tree (Castanea dentata) was nearly obliterated by an imported blight during the first part of the 20th Century.  It was a crucial part of the forests ecosysystem which stretched from Maine in the U.S.; south through the Applachians and into Missouri; throughout much of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.  This forest also is found in Southeastern Canada including Quebec and Ontario. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, in collaboration with Global Justice Ecology Project is developing a major campaign to challenge the introduction of genetically engineered American Chestnuts into these ecosystems. Read a fact sheet here.

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range. -Source- American Chestnut Foundation

While lauded in many quarters as a step toward “bringing back the native forests,” there are critical reasons to believe that the introduction of GE American chestnut trees is a dangerous practice and may lead to further demise of ecosystems, the wildlife that depends on them, and ultimately human well-being. In their October campaign appeal, the American Chestnut Foundation may have let the real cat out of the bag, or revealed the camels nose under the tent. -Funding for research and introduction of synthetic trees into forest ecosystems.

Appeal letter from American Chestnut Foundation, October 2014 (excerpts)

“As important as the American chestnut is to our ecosystem, its successful restoration will have an even greater significance. We believe our model can be applied to other endangered trees such s the ash, elm, and hemlock. Our continue success will help ensure that other trees under grave threat of annihilation will also be saved.

Our scientists, in partnership with many universities and non-profits, are using the best tools available to advance our American chestnut breeding program. We are using cutting edge technologies to develop genetic makers for blight resistance, hypo virulence strategies, and advance screening techniques for ink disease. Only through science can we successfully restore this iconic species.”

by Betsy Gamber, Interim President and CEO

Kim Steiner, Ph.D Chairman of the Board of Directors

Read more about GE Chestnut work here.

We know that the ultimate achievements of these programs  will further institutionalize the commodficiation of forests and forest products turning more of our unprotected natural resources into short term profits for industry that considers the environment an externality. We want you to know this as well. Read more about GE Trees and the STOP GE Trees Campaign

We intend to stop this and we need your help. In the coming weeks and months we will be posting here at Climate Connections, educational posts and maybe an occasional fundraising appeal to support our work. We will work to keep ourselves, our partners, and our readers educated and informed on these critical forest and ecosystem issues.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, GMOs, Great Lakes, Greenwashing, Pollution, Synthetic Biology, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

BP still in denial about impact of Gulf oil disaster

A new report released this week by the National Academy of Sciences estimates that the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico Oil disaster from April of 2010 left at least 10 million gallons of congealed oil on the floor of the Gulf.

BP disputes the findings saying that “the authors fail to identify the source of the oil.”

Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig explodes and burns, April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico-

Deepwater Horizon Drilling Rig explodes and burns, April 21, 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico-

Tons of BP Oil Still on the Bottom of the Gulf of Mexico

A new study shows that cleanup barely scratched the surface

Tim McDonnell, Mother Jones. 27 October 2014

We all saw the images of oil-coated birds and shorelines in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. These were the most visible impacts of the catastrophe, but much of the oil that gushed from the busted Macondo wellhead 5,000 feet underwater never made it to the surface. Of the estimated 5 million barrels that spilled, approximately 2 million stayed trapped in the deep ocean. And up to 31 percent of that oil is now lying on the ocean floor, according to a new study.

Based on an analysis of sea-floor sediment samples collected from the the Gulf of Mexico, geochemists at the University of California-Santa Barbara were able to offer the first clues about the final resting place of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil. Their results were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The data, which was gathered as part of the ongoing federal damage assessment, shows “a smokingly clear signal, like a bulls-eye” around the Macondo well, said lead author David Valentine.

In a related story published last week in GRIST, researchers claim that they can now identify the fingerprints from tracking operations in polluted water contaminated by fracking. Maybe the day is not so far off where forensics will link BP to the world’s greatest ecological catastrophe in ways that are undeniable, even in their own minds.

Read more here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Human made disasters, Oceans, Oil, Pollution

Today ends the EPA’s public comment period for new standards on oil refineries

For people living in the shadows of oil refineries, simply breathing can be a major health risk. The EPA’s proposed new standards, aimed to reduce cancer risk, still leave a lot to be desired. According to an article on EarthJustice, more than 275,000 public comments, plus a comment letter from about 100 organizations, are not letting the EPA get away with providing the bare minimum of protection.

The ConocoPhillips oil refinery in Wilmington, California. PHOTO: JESSE MARQUEZ

The ConocoPhillips oil refinery in Wilmington, California. PHOTO: JESSE MARQUEZ

Today, Oct. 28, 2014, marks the end of the public comments period on these new proposals. However well-intended these suggestions are, regulations don’t reverse climate change. They also don’t cure cancer, asthma and death. More than regulations and new standards are needed to create real, sustainable climate change.

COMMUNITIES CALL FOR STRONGER PROTECTION FROM OIL REFINERIES’ AIR POLLUTION; EPA’S PUBLIC COMMENT PERIOD ENDING
by EarthJustice, 27 October 2014

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has received more than 275,000 public comments supporting strengthening health and safety standards proposed in May that would reduce hazardous air pollution from oil refineries. In addition, EPA received a comment letter from over 100 community, health, and environmental organizations.

Tomorrow, October 28, the EPA’s public comment period on the proposal ends.

Community comments provide support for finalizing a more robust standard by specifically calling for reducing emissions from not only some parts of a refinery, but also leaks and flaring of cancer-causing air toxics. Comments were generated by Earthjustice, CREDO, Sierra Club and many others.

Get the whole story here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Climate Change, Energy, EPA, Oil, 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.

 

 

Leave a Comment

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

projectplayground

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!

 

Leave a Comment

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.

Leave a Comment

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.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

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.

Leave a Comment

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.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Pollution