In Kenya, Masai pastoralists often spear or poison lions to retaliate after predators have killed their livestock. The Guardians pays the Masai warriors, who are called limurran, about $100 per month to warn herders about nearby lions, recover lost livestock, reinforce protective fencing, and stop lion-hunting parties. The tribesmen are taught to read, write, and communicate in Swahili, and monitor lion movements through a mix of traditional knowledge and modern radio-tracking.
The Lion Guardians program is now expanding. It has 52 Lion Guardians employed in East Africa protecting more than 1,700 square miles of vital habitat with growing lion populations. And at a cost of $41 per square kilometer per year, itâ€™s about half the expense of its most common alternative, compensation programs for livestock killed by predators.
Over the years, the Chesapeake Bay has been known for many things: bountiful seafood, such as clams, oysters and the bayâ€™s iconic blue crabs; its boating, fishing and water sports industry; its curly-haired duck-hunting dogs.
Now, however, the bay has become famous for something else: its pollution.
For more than 30 years, states in the region have tried to restore the bay, the largest estuary in the U.S. and a body of water which has effectively served as a dumping ground for agricultural pesticides, pharmaceuticals and other chemicals from urban runoff and industrial sources for decades. In the last few years â€” and after numerous failed attempts â€” theyâ€™ve inched closer to succeeding, thanks to an Environmental Protection Agency-led plan that puts limits on the amount of agricultural nutrients entering the bay, pollution that has spawned numerous oxygen-free, marine life-killing â€œdead zonesâ€ in the bay and its tributaries. The plan was created at the request of the six Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia, and according to Claudia Friedetzky of the Maryland Sierra Club, is â€œthe best chance that we have ever had to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.â€
But to a group of 21 Attorneys General from states almost exclusively outside the Chesapeake Bay region, the plan means only one thing: EPA overreach.
Earlier this year, a group of 21 Attorneys General from states as far away from the Chesapeake Bay as Alaska and Wyoming submitted an amicus brief that aims to strike down the EPAâ€™s Chesapeake cleanup plan. The AGs argue that the cleanup plan raises serious concerns about statesâ€™ rights, and they worry that if the plan is left to stand, the EPA could enact similar pollution limits on watersheds such as the Mississippi.
Oh yeah, itâ€™s backed by big agriculture lobbyists.
To understand why the 21 state AGs care about a cleanup plan that is, for the most part, outside of their boundaries, you first have to understand why outside groups are suing to strike down the cleanup plan in the first place. That comes down to the interests of one powerful entity: the U.S. agriculture industry.
When the EPA enacted its latest cleanup plan, the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, in December 2010, major agriculture groups were quick to sue, arguing the agency didnâ€™t have the power to restrict the amount of pollutants that enter the bay. Their response came as no surprise, considering agriculture is the largest contributor of nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, accounting for 42 percent of the nitrogen, 58 percent of the phosphorous and 58 percent of the sediment that entered the bay in 2012. The EPAâ€™s new cleanup plan established a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment can enter the bay each year, potentially cutting pollution by 20-25 percent.
Those pollution limits, Baker said, are exactly what the bay needs to recover and â€œabsolutely consistent with what science says is needed to address the Chesapeake Bay.â€ Successfully reducing nutrient runoff could mean shrinking the dangerous â€œdead zonesâ€ â€” oxygen-free areas that kill clams and worms, key food sources for blue crabs â€” and deadly algal blooms that have plagued the bay for decades. The pollution diet, as itâ€™s written, also allows states â€œmaximum flexibilityâ€ in determining how to meet the limits set forth by the EPA, Terri White, press officer at the EPA, told ThinkProgress.
The American Farm Bureau, a powerful agricultural interest group which has sued the EPA on behalf of farmers multiple times before, has led the charge against the EPA, claiming theyâ€™re concerned the agencyâ€™s actions in the Chesapeake Bay region could lead to similar plans in the Mississippi River watershed. The Mississippi runs through the heart of agricultural country in the U.S. and empties into the Gulf of Mexico, a water body thatâ€™s been plagued by massive dead zones for years.
So yeah, this is about agriculture companies selling farmers fertilizer. Â Weird thing is that good farming practices (which we donâ€™t enforce in Saskatchewan) would eliminate most of the pollution going into the water (there and here).
But Cleo Braver, who runs the organic Cottingham Farm in Easton, Maryland, said she thinks a pollution diet is exactly what the bay needs. A dirty bay has implications for the communityâ€™s environment and health, and she said farmers should step up to improve their practices.
â€œFarmers can be a part of changing [the bay] for the better, and I think we have a long, long way to go to clean up our farming,â€ she said.
Braver said sheâ€™s been looking for ways to reduce nutrient pollution since she started her farm. She uses buffer strips â€” things like grass and vegetative barriers which can remove up to half of the nutrients and pesticides and 75 percent of the sediment from farm runoff, something Hutchison has on his farm, as well. Braver has also used cover crops, which cut down on the need for fertilizers, for the past seven or so years. She said other farmers should be encouraged to do more of the same if they want to do their part in improving the bay.
While many of the farmers who own their land in Maryland have implemented these pollution-reduction measures, Braver said the farmers who donâ€™t â€” often those who are paid to farm land that doesnâ€™t belong to them â€” arenâ€™t pushing for the landowners to plant things like buffer strips on their farms. Farmers can get financial help to install pollution control measures through Marylandâ€™s EQIP initiative, which provides incentives for conservation on farms.
There are differing opinions on how much progress has been made in constructing buffers in the bay region. In December, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said farmers in bay states were falling behind in planting buffer trees around their farmland, an effort thatâ€™s part of a pledge by the bay states to plant 185,000 acres of trees on farmland by 2025 to help reduce pollution. The Farm Bureau, however, maintains that farmers have done enough to help the bay recover. The group states that farmers in the bay watershed have implemented pollution-reducing measures in 96 percent of the cropland acres in production in the region, which has resulted in nutrient runoff reductions.
For the record, we do maintain these strips in the logging industry.
So here is my question. Â If the agriculture lobby is so powerful down in the United States, how big of an influence it on Saskatchewan and our own rather lax environmental regulations. Â While the legislation has passed that require lobbyists to register, the registry and protocols are still months away. Â I think it is naive to think that the multi-national companies that are trying to block improved environmental legislation in the United States are not aggressively lobbying against environmental legislation here in Canada.
Meet the tiny, translucent “sea butterfly,” whose home is currently being transformed into an acid bath. Off the US’s west coast, there are anywhere between 100 and 15,000 of these free-swimming sea snails per square meter. And the oceans are beginning to dissolve the tiny shells right off their backs.
A new study, among the first to examine how the process called ocean acidification impacts marine life, has confirmed that about half of all the pteropods off the west coast are fighting off the acid burn. It builds on previous work that has shown pteropods dissolving in other waters; it’s a disturbing trend, considering they’re a key link in the oceanic food chain.
The world’s oceans have absorbed a third of humans’ carbon emissions, a process that increases their acidity. Scientists have long noted the changing chemistry of the waters, and voiced concern that this leaves calcium-based creatures, like coral and pteropods, extremely vulnerable. Now, it appears, they have proof.
“These are some of the first insights into how marine creatures are affected by acidification,” Dr. Nina Bednarsek told me in a phone interview. She’s the lead author of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration study, which was just published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. The research determined that “large portions of the shelf waters are corrosive to pteropods in the natural environment.”
“Fifty percent of those pteropods are affected by acidification,” Bednarsek said. “It’s a lotâ€”more than we expected.” And sooner. She tells me that acidification is happening sooner and on a larger scale than scientists predicted. “This is just an indication of how much we are changing the natural environment,” she said.
Against the decaying skyline here, a one-of-a-kind engineering project is rising near the remains of the worldâ€™s worst civilian nuclear disaster.
An army of workers, shielded from radiation by thick concrete slabs, is constructing a huge arch, sheathed in acres of gleaming stainless steel and vast enough to cover the Statue of Liberty. The structure is so otherworldly it looks like it could have been dropped by aliens onto this Soviet-era industrial landscape.
Greenlandâ€™s contribution to global sea level has soared in the past two decades. An important new study finds that the massive northeastern part of the ice sheet, previously thought to be stable, has begun shedding ice. If this trend continues â€” and researchers say â€œa self-perpetuating feedback process may have been triggeredâ€ â€” actual sea level rise this century will likely be higher than many current models had projected.
Covering 660,000 square miles â€” roughly 80 percent of the country â€” Greenlandâ€™s ice sheet is second only in size to Antarcticaâ€™s. Scientists estimate that melting from the ice sheet as a whole has accounted for about 16 percent of sea level rise every year for the last two decades.
Research had also long suggested the northeastern portion of the ice sheet was stable. As a result, it was largely left out of the models used to anticipate future sea level rise.
But the new study, â€œSustained mass loss of the northeast Greenland ice sheet triggered by regional warming,â€ published in Nature Climate Change (subs. reqâ€™d), suggests the northeastern portion began melting rapidly around 2003. And after first jumping from an ice loss rate of zero to about 10 billion metric tons per year, itâ€™s now approaching 15 or 20 billion metric tons per year and may well keep accelerating.
â€œMost projections of the future behaviour of the ice sheet have no, or little, contribution from this part of Greenland,â€ said Professor Jeremy Bamber of Bristol University, a co-author of the study. â€œBut these new results suggest that this region is sensitive to changes in climate and has the potential to contribute significantly now and in the future.â€
The team arrived at their conclusion using a combination of surface elevation data from airplanes and four different satellites, along with a GPS-linked network of 50 stations located along the coast of Greenlandâ€™s ice sheet. The overall collection of data spanned 1978 to 2012 and was used to essentially weigh the ice sheetâ€™s mass.
Specifically, the study suggests a series of particularly warm summers leading up to 2003 â€” bringing higher temperatures in both the atmosphere and the surrounding ocean â€” triggered the speed up in melting.
The â€œIf global warming is real, then why is it cold out?â€ line of argument has been around since the early days of the climate change debate, but the positively Hoth-esque temperatures have increased the volume of those hoping to undercut the â€œinconvenient truthâ€ of anthropogenic global warming. So, does the recent spate of cold snaps prove Al Gore a filthy, PowerPoint-loving, Oscar-winning liar? No. Sorry, Donald.
Most obviously, climate is different than weatherâ€”thatâ€™s why the Midwest and Northeast have faced three snowstorms in the past two weeks while the drought in California has been so severe that water deliveries from reservoirs to the Central Valley have been cut to zero. Climate trends are exactly that: trends. One swallow doesnâ€™t make a summer, and one blisteringly cold month doesnâ€™t prove 97 percent of climate scientists wrong.
Another key component of â€œglobal warmingâ€ is right there in the name: â€œglobal.â€ In December 2013, North America was colder than average, but Russia and most of Europe were far hotter. Despite what Ted Cruz thinks (or wants), the world extends beyond the continental United States, and most of it has been crazy hot. For every cold snap in the U.S., thereâ€™s a wildfire in Australia so intense that it creates its own weather.
Itâ€™s also important to note that although, baby, itâ€™s cold outside, itâ€™s not nearly as cold as it was generations ago. The East River froze at least a dozen times between 1780 and 1888. In fact, after a particularly hard winter in 1866-1867, frustration with halted ferry service eventually led to the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge. As webcomic xkcd noted, St. Louis, once the frozen home to a handful of sub-zero temperatures every year, hasnâ€™t had a day that cold since the 1990s. Thatâ€™s the thing about extreme weather: Itâ€™s extreme. The colds get colder, the hots get hotter, and the hurricanes get more destructive.
A tide of discontent is sweeping across Russia’s “rust belt” as the Kremlin tries to convince tens of thousands to relocate from their homes.
Authorities are offering up to $25,000 in state support for people willing to leave 142 struggling so-called “monotowns,” communities depending on a single industry.
Many Russians are unhappy about being asked to leave places that several generations of their families have called home. Critics also allege the level of compensation isn’t enough and say it will create dozens of “ghost towns.”
“I honestly earned pennies, but still income,” he said. “I am struggling to sell my house for $2,000 — nobody wants it. If I move to a big town, I will have to spend at least $60,000 to buy myself a place.”
By Dec. 28, the final 800 mill workers will lose their jobs — another significant blow to the Siberian town of 14,000 people.
The fate of 700 other people still employed at a different part of the mill which provides heat to all of Baikalsk will be decided by the spring.
RussianÂ Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev last year pledged $1 billionÂ to transform the town on the edge of Lake Baikal into a tourist hotspot. Lake Baikal is a natural treasure that contains more water than all of the Great Lakes combined.
But there has beenÂ little sign of investment in the wake of Medvedev’s visit. The townâ€™s central square remains unpaved, hotels and cafes struggle and local newspapers publish pages of advertisements placed by residents looking to sell their apartments in Baikalsk and move closer to Moscow or St. Petersburg.
The lack of action has resulted in angry protests by fired workers in the regional center of Irkutsk.
â€œThe Kremlin simply lied to us; they promised to first create jobs and then close the mill in 2015,” said Yuri Nabokov, the leader of the millâ€™s professional union. “The mill is closed and hundreds of workers have no chance to live their normal lives in their hometown with their families; authorities tell us to go to far north and work on shifts at oil fields â€“ that makes us even angrier.”
The article also points out the Sochi are costing $50 billion. Â How messed up is that? Â Vancouver by comparison cost around $1.84 billion and generated about $2.5 billion in GDP. Â What is Russia doing?
Today Yemen faces environmental ruin, with exhausted aquifers, unchecked deforestation, and rapid urbanization that aims to support a population expected to double in just over two decades. For a majority of the population, finding the next meal is the only thing that matters.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has sent a letter to U.S. President Barack Obama formally proposing “joint action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the oil and gas sector,” if that is what’s needed to gain approval of the Keystone XL pipeline through America’s heartland, CBC News has learned.
Sources told CBC News the prime minister is willing to accept targets proposed by the United States for reducing the climate-changing emissions and is prepared to work in concert with Obama to provide whatever political cover he needs to approve the project.
The letter, sent in late August, is a clear signal Canada is prepared to make concessions to get the presidential permit for TransCanada Corp.’s controversial $7-billion pipeline, which will connect the Alberta oilsands to refineries in Texas.
When Uranium Energy Corp. sought permission to launch a large-scale mining project in Goliad County, Texas, it seemed as if the Environmental Protection Agency would stand in its way.
To get the ore out of the ground, the company needed a permit to pollute a pristine supply of underground drinking water in an area already parched by drought.
Further, EPA scientists feared that radioactive contaminants would flow from the mining site into water wells used by nearby homes. Uranium Energy said the pollution would remain contained, but resisted doing the advanced scientific testing and modeling the government asked for to prove it.
The plan appeared to be dead on arrival until late 2011, when Uranium Energy hired Heather Podesta, a lobbyist and prolific Democratic fundraiser whose pull with the Obama administration prompted The Washington Post to name her the Capitol’s latest “It girl.”
Podesta — the sister-in-law of John Podesta, who co-chaired President Obama’s transition team — appealed directly to the EPA’s second in command, Bob Perciasepe, pressing the agency’s highest-level administrators to get directly involved and bring the agency’s local staff in Texas back to the table to reconsider their position, according to emails obtained by ProPublica through the Freedom of Information Act.
By the end of 2012, the EPA reversed its position in Goliad, approving an exemption allowing Uranium Energy to pollute the aquifer, though in a somewhat smaller area than was originally proposed.
An EPA spokesperson said companies routinely lobby the agency on regulatory issues and that Podesta’s entreaties to Perciasepe, now the agency’s acting administrator while Obama’s nominee to head the EPA, Gina McCarthy, awaits confirmation, played no part in the agency’s final decision.
“Bob’s involvement was literally a part of what he does on a weekly or daily basis,” the spokesperson said. “Lobbyists, etcetera, get in touch, he meets with them, he points them in the right direction.”
Factors other than Podesta’s efforts clearly weighed on the EPA as the Goliad case played out, including the agency’s fraught relationship with Texas officials and the Obama administration’s desire to demonstrate support for energy development.
Still, documents leave little doubt that Podesta, described by Corporate Board Member magazine as the number one person “you need to know in Obama’s Washington,” kept the Goliad County issue alive when the EPA’s scientific analysis seemed to doom it to failure.
Two thoughts. Â
- Remember when you all foolishly thought Obama was a liberal?
- Why do governments even hire scientists when lobbyists can have then overruled?
Guatemala’s president declared a national emergency Friday over the spread of coffee rust, saying the fungus that has hit other Central American countries is affecting 70 percent of this nation’s crop.
President Otto Molina Perez ordered the release of more than $14 million to aid coffee growers. He said the funds would help 60,000 small farmers buy pesticides and also finance instruction to teach them how to prevent the disease and stop it from spreading.
“If we don’t take the needed measures, in 2013-2014 our production could drop by 40 percent,” Molina said in making his country the third in the region to decree emergencies in recent weeks.
Coffee rust, which can kill plants by withering their leaves, also is affecting plantations in El Salvador, Honduras, Panama and Costa Rica. Mexico’s agriculture authorities said the fungus has been detected there but so far has not damaged plants.
Molina said the pesticides will start being applied to coffee plants in April and two more applications will be needed during the year.
Nils Leporowsky, president of the National Coffee Association of Guatemala, or Anacafe, said coffee is grown in 206 of the country’s 333 municipalities.Â
“We have planted 667,000 acres (270,000 hectares) of coffee and of that 477,000 acres (193,000 hectares) have rust, affecting 70 percent of the total,” he added.
Leporowsky said coffee growing generates 500,000 direct jobs as well as 700,000 additional jobs in related businesses each year.”We have lost 100,000 direct jobs already and that will affect millions of people,” he said.
Experts say the fungus has been present in Central American since the 1970s but production hadn’t previously been affected so severely as what is feared this year.
Otto Cabrera, an adviser with Anacafe, said coffee rust arrived in Guatemala in the 1980s.
“The fungus directly affects coffee leaves, initially with yellow spots that later turn orange and reaches around the foliage of coffee, then makes the leaves fall,” he said. “The plant loses its foliage. It’s not able to breathe, so it ceases producing and it eventually dies.”
Cabrera said climate change has brought a rise in average temperatures of about 2 degrees Celsius in Central American areas where the fungus was present, encouraging its growth and increasing the threat of severe damage.
A rough calculation of current rates of soil degradation suggests we have about 60 years of topsoil left. Some 40% of soil used for agriculture around the world is classed as either degraded or seriously degraded â€“ the latter means that 70% of the topsoil, the layer allowing plants to grow, is gone. Because of various farming methods that strip the soil of carbon and make it less robust as well as weaker in nutrients, soil is being lost at between 10 and 40 times the rate at which it can be naturally replenished. Even the well-maintained farming land in Europe, which may look idyllic, is being lost at unsustainable rates.
The US consumes 25% of the world’s oil — but as energy tycoon T. Boone Pickens points out onstage, the country has no energy policy to prepare for the inevitable. Is alternative energy our bridge to an oil-free future? After losing $150 million investing in wind energy, Pickens suggests it isn’t, not yet. What might get us there? Natural gas.