Sad milestone: the first bumblebee declared an endangered species


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❝ For the first time in the United States, a species of bumblebee is endangered.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday on its website that the rusty patched bumblebee (Bombus affinis), once a common sight, is “now balancing precariously on the brink of extinction.” Over the past two decades, the bumblebee’s population has declined 87 percent…

❝ The news comes just a few months after the first ever bees were declared endangered in the U.S. In September, seven species of Hawaiian bees, including the yellow-faced bee (Hylaeus anthracinus), received protection under the Endangered Species Act…

The threats facing those seven species are similar to the ones that have depleted rusty patched bumblebee populations: loss of habitat, diseases and parasites, pesticides, and climate change. This is a big deal not only for bees but for humans, too—after all, bees pollinate a lot of our food.

❝ “Bumblebees are among the most important pollinators of crops such as blueberries, cranberries, and clover and almost the only insect pollinators of tomatoes,” according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s rusty patched bumblebee profile. “The economic value of pollination services provided by native insects (mostly bees) is estimated at $3 billion per year in the United States.”…

Once spread across half the U.S., rusty patched bumblebees are now found in only 13 states.

You might hope that even an mostly urban realtor like Donald Trump had learned something of the critical role bees and other pollinators play in our food chain. Hope being the operative word. I see little or no display of any such understanding or comprehension.

That big white church on the Hill

❝ The share of U.S. adults who describe themselves as Christians has been declining for decades, but the U.S. Congress is about as Christian today as it was in the early 1960s, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center. Indeed, among members of the new, 115th Congress, 91% describe themselves as Christians. This is nearly the same percentage as in the 87th Congress (1961 to 1962, the earliest years for which comparable data are available), when 95% of members were Christian.

❝ Among the 293 Republicans elected to serve in the new, 115th Congress, all but two identify as Christians; there are two Jewish Republicans – Lee Zeldin of New York and David Kustoff of Tennessee – who both serve in the House. Democrats in Congress also are overwhelmingly Christian (80%), but there is more religious diversity on this side of the aisle. The 242 Democrats in Congress include 28 Jews, three Buddhists, three Hindus, two Muslims and one Unitarian Universalist – as well as the only member of Congress to describe herself as religiously unaffiliated, Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz. In addition, all 10 members of Congress who decline to state their religious affiliation are Democrats…

❝ The group that is most notably underrepresented is the religiously unaffiliated. This group – also known as religious “nones” – now accounts for 23% of the general public but just 0.2% of Congress…

❝ As with Republicans in the general public, Republican members of Congress are overwhelmingly Christian (99%). Among U.S. adults who identify with or lean toward the Republican Party, 82% are Christian…

There are fewer Christian Democrats than Republicans, both among U.S. adults overall (63% of those who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party are Christian) and in Congress, where eight-in-ten Democrats identify as Christians…

❝ Within Christianity, however, Congress has seen a major shift as the share of Protestants has declined, a trend mirrored in the overall decline of the U.S. Protestant population. Protestants made up fully three-quarters of the 87th Congress, compared with 56% of the current Congress. Meanwhile, Catholics, who made up 19% of the 87th Congress, now make up 31% of the body.

Like the people who voted for them, I imagine most members of Congress are probably driving today’s version of their father’s Oldsmobile, as well. Cultural lag really is a significant feature of American electoral politics.

Even more unfortunate, I can’t help but feel that our Congress-critters think of Americans as all belonging to “their” church.

Koch Bros new campaign wants to convince Black folks that dirty fuel is good for them

Fueling U.S. Forward, a public relations operation funded by the Koch brothers, is trying to spread the message that Black people benefit the most from cheap fossil fuels, according to a story in The New York Times. Clean energy, they say, is a threat.

Last month, the group sponsored a toy drive and gospel concert in Richmond, Virginia. The event included a panel discussion on how the holidays were only possible thanks to oil and gas.

What went unsaid, of course, was that people of color are far more likely to be harmed by the fossil fuel industry than helped. They’re more at risk from climate change and pollution and more likely to suffer health problems tied to burning fossil fuels.

Asthma is more common among Black people than white people, partially because they’re more likely to live near coal-fired power plants and other fossil-fuel infrastructure. That’s not exactly because they want those plants in their neighborhoods; it’s because they have less power to fight them.

And on and on. Black communities, Black neighborhoods, can always be certain to receive the “benefits” of walk-in jobs from polluting industries. Same as it ever was.