A third of our nation’s honeybee colonies died last year

❝ An annual survey shows a third of America’s bee colonies were lost over the past year, and over 10 years, the numbers are even more troubling…

America’s beekeepers watched as a third of the country’s honeybee colonies were lost over the last year, part of a decade-long die-off experts said may threaten our food supply.

The annual survey of roughly 5,000 beekeepers showed the 33% dip from April 2016 to April 2017. The decrease is small compared to the survey’s previous 10 years, when the decrease hovered at roughly 40%. From 2012 to 2013, nearly half of the nation’s colonies died.

❝ “I would stop short of calling this ‘good’ news,” said Dennis vanEngelsdorp, an assistant professor at the University of Maryland. “Colony loss of more than 30% over the entire year is high. It’s hard to imagine any other agricultural sector being able to stay in business with such consistently high losses.”…

❝ One in every three bites of food, van Engelsdorp said, is directly or indirectly pollinated by honeybees, who pollinate about $15 billion worth of U.S. crops each year…

“Keeping bees healthy is really essential in order to meet that demand,” said vanEngelsdorp. He said there are concerns it won’t.

❝ So what’s killing the honeybees? Parasites, diseases, poor nutrition, and pesticides among many others. The chief killer is the varroa mite, a “lethal parasite,” which researchers said spreads among colonies…

vanEngelsdorp said people can do their part to save bee colonies by buying honey from a local beekeeper, becoming a beekeeper, avoiding using pesticides in your yard and making room for pollinators, such as honeybees, in your yard.

“Bees are good indicators of the landscape as a whole,” said Nathalie Steinhauer, who led data collection on the project. “To keep healthy bees, you need a good environment and you need your neighbors to keep healthy bees. Honeybee health is a community matter.”

Taking healthy care of the critters which fly and crawl around your own home patch are part of the larger environment for which we should all assume responsibility. Otherwise – we’re part responsible for the death and failure of that environment.

Latest air pollution finding shouldn’t surprise anyone…


Click to enlargeKieran Doherty/Reuters

A smoggy day in London town…

❝ The hearts of people who live in polluted areas are weaker than those who regularly breathe cleaner air, according to a new study which adds to the growing volume of evidence that fossil fuels are killing us.

The researchers said they found evidence of harmful effects even when levels of pollution associated with diesel vehicles were less than half the safety limit set by the European Union…

❝ According to a UK government estimate, about 40,000 people die prematurely because of the air they breathe…

❝ The process by which air pollution harms the body has been poorly understood. Until recently it was not known if fine particles could pass through the lungs into the bloodstream.

However, a study in which volunteers inhaled gold nanoparticles showed it was possible for this to happen with gold showing up in their blood and urine 15 minutes after they had breathed it in. The particles were still there up to three months later.

…Shouldn’t surprise anyone, that is, except heartless conservatives!

Our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic


BURP! — Wildest Arctic

❝ Of course, all our plastic crap ends up in the Arctic.

It isn’t freaking Narnia!

❝ The Arctic, in our popular imagination, is a frozen expanse teetering figuratively and literally on the edges of human culture. It remains primal and wild and unsullied by human contagions…

The Arctic, as a physical place, is directly connected to the same ecosystems that we humans are polluting closer to home. It’s foolish to think that harming one part of a connected ecosystem doesn’t harm the others, as a study released on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances makes clear. The study found that even in the remote Arctic we can’t escape the megatons of plastic waste humanity unleashes upon the world…

❝ Plastic in the world’s oceans has been a growing concern since at least 1997 when Charles Moore stumbled across the Great Pacific Garbage patch as he crossed the Pacific after competing in the Transpacific Yacht Race. Today we know that there are at least six main garbage patches filled with plastic plaguing the seas. By some estimates as much as 300,000 tons of plastics are in the world’s oceans…

❝ Plastic in the ocean isn’t just unsightly. In fact, the plastic debris that we see is less of a problem than the plastic that is too small to see easily. That’s because plastic never biodegrades. It doesn’t revert back to its molecular elements the way other materials do.

Given enough time a leaf laying on the soil floor will be eaten by bugs and microbes to become soil that once again provides the tree with nourishment. Given enough time plastic will become a smaller piece of plastic. That’s it – this stuff never goes away. Eventually, after being buffeted about by sun and salt water, it becomes small enough that sea animals confuse it with morsels of food such as seaweed, or plankton. A 2015 study found that roughly 20 percent of small fish have plastic in their bellies. Researchers have also found that some northern fulmar’s, a sea bird that hangs out mostly in the subarctic, have elevated levels of ingested plastic. Plastic it seems, is not just an occasional snack, but a steady part of their diets. Tasty.

Most societies, most governments – which you might think would know better – still think of oceans as an open sewer. You can throw any of your society’s debris in and it will somehow disappear.

Wrong.

If the EPA isn’t allowed to use science, what’s left? Witch doctors? Oil company pimps?

Note: This is part four of a four-part series about the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The agency, its policies, and the science that underpins those regulations have been under scrutiny in recent weeks. In fact, the agency is in danger of being drastically cut back or dismantled entirely. You can learn more about that by reading part one, part two, and part three, as well viewing a gallery of photos of what America looked like in the early days of the EPA. This week, we’ll focus on where the EPA stands right now.


Nothing in this photo Trump doesn’t approve of – except the kid isn’t blonde

The Environmental Protection Agency is supposed to make and enforce regulations that protect the environment. But as the scientific agency seems to throw science out the window, it’s worth asking: what happens when the EPA stops putting our health and wellbeing first?

On April 2, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court made a decision that was easy to miss…The 2007 case dates back to an earlier lawsuit, where Massachusetts sued the EPA for failing to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, which are known to contribute to climate change. Whether the EPA has such an obligation depends on how you interpret a specific clause of the Clean Air Act. The clause states that the EPA Administrator must set an emissions standard for any air pollutant “from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.”…

In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that the EPA had to regulate greenhouse gas emissions unless it could prove that they did not endanger public welfare.

The EPA based its decision on more than 100 peer-reviewed studies and input from a public comment period. The summary reads, “The Administrator finds that the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)—in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”

Greenhouse gases are putting us at risk. Luckily, the EPA is obligated to limit their emission. That is, as long as the agency chooses to accept the facts.

Earlier this week, current EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the following on CNBC: “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

It was an odd (and incorrect) statement from the Administrator of the EPA, an agency that — based on the best available scientific evidence — disagrees with Pruitt’s position, as does NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Center for Disease Control, the U.K.’s Met Office, and the Japan Meteorological Organization.

But, then, there’s nothing new about any of Trump’s appointed flunkies acting like anything other than pimps for the worst corporate barons in American capitalism. It may seem like he’s only carrying on the strongest traditions from previous Republican Administrations – but, that wouldn’t be true, either.

Trump is so confident of the backing of the chumps who voted him into office he has permission to skip over the soft rationales of most Big-C Conservatives and go straight into his repertoire of bald-faced lies, made-up data, alternative truth. Flunkies like Pruitt did this for years back in Oklahoma. Oil and gas companies would write rules and regulations allowing pollution for him to cut-and-paste into official government policy.

They deserve each other. So do the ignoranuses who voted them into national office. Trouble is – the rest of us are stuck with the results of their ignorance and corruption. Until and unless we fight back – and hard enough to win.

1 out of 50 new jobs in the United States came from the solar industry last year

❝ The number of jobs created to make, sell and install solar panels in the U.S. grew at a record pace last year, and grew much faster than the overall American economy, which is welcome news for the solar industry in the face of policy uncertainty.

❝ The new figures were issued recently courtesy of a new report from The Solar Foundation. The report — the seventh annual edition to come from the nonprofit — found that there were 260,077 solar workers as of November 2016, which represents nearly 25 percent growth from the amount of solar jobs recorded the year prior. In comparison, jobs in the overall U.S. economy grew at a rate of 1.45 percent.

❝ Last year’s solar market performance made 2016 the fourth consecutive year that U.S. solar jobs grew by 20 percent or more, the report found. It also made for some eye-popping figures, like how 1 out of every 50 new jobs, or 2 percent of new jobs, created in the U.S. in 2016 came from the solar industry…

The solar industry is an American success story,” said Andrea Luecke, executive director of The Solar Foundation, and these numbers “are proof positive” of that. “Despite partisanship and the election, people really do love solar. Every poll says so. Even conservative Republicans favor solar,” added Luecke.

❝ While Trump has said he’s in favor of job creation from any energy sector, he emphasized the fossil fuel industries during his campaign.

Like his peers in all factions in the Republican Party and the US Chamber of Commerce, the fossil fuel barons own his testicles.

❝ Forty-one percent of the current solar jobs in the U.S. are in residential solar installations, and workers get paid on average $26 per hour, the report found. In 2017, residential solar jobs are expected to see the biggest growth in comparison to other solar sectors, which will likely continue for years to come.

Electricity has only come to full use in economies offering providers the same grants and discounts common to oil and gas providers for decades. Our government still provides billion$ in tax dollar to fossil fuel corporate giants – in every administration. Subsidies for electric cars and solar home installations are building on an even playing ground…for the first time.

Some facts take a really long time to sink in. Some bought-and-paid-for politicians never get it!

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Our latest creepy Republican liar-for-president is appointing one of the sleaziest and most corrupt public officials in the United States to head the Environmental Protection Agency. This is like appointing B’rer Fox to oversee hen-house construction. Backdoor guaranteed.

Scott Pruitt is known to take press releases from his Oklahoma oil and gas buddies and reprint them on his official letterhead as state attorney general – as if they were the product of his own research. Scumbag politician of the worst sort.

BTW, Snopes.com has already verified the article and searched deeper finding an article in Popular Mechanics that preceded newspaper coverage.

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Examples of China’s commitment to combating climate change


Click to enlargeReuters/Jason Lee

❝ Two years after President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that their countries would work together to combat climate change, Republicans and conservatives in the U.S. continue to cite China’s rising carbon emissions as a reason not to bother cutting our own.

Earlier this month, Donald Trump’s economic advisor Stephen Moore claimed that limiting our carbon pollution is pointless because of China’s supposedly growing coal dependency. “Every time we shut down a coal plant in the U.S., China builds 10,” Moore told E&E News. “So how does that reduce global warming?”

❝ Not only is Moore’s statement simply untrue, but the broader conservative theory behind it is badly outdated. China’s coal use and carbon emissions have dropped for the last two years. In 2015, China cut its coal use 3.7 percent and its emissions declined an estimated 1–2 percent, following similar decreases in 2014.

If China continues to cut its emissions, or even just keeps them at current levels, the country will be way ahead of its goal of peaking emissions by around 2030, which it laid out in 2014 and recommitted to during the Paris climate talks last December.

❝ In part, China’s emissions are dropping because the country is undergoing a dramatic shift in the nature of its economy. For years, China had been rapidly industrializing and growing at a breakneck pace. Growth often causes emissions to rise, all the more so when a country has an expanding manufacturing sector and is building out its basic infrastructure such as highways and rail lines. Heavy industrial activity — especially making cement and steel, which are needed for things like buildings, roads, and rail tracks — can be extremely energy intensive and have a massive carbon footprint…Now, as China is becoming more fully industrialized, its growth is slower and driven more by service industries, like technology, that are much less carbon intensive.

RTFA for several indicators. The author missed one of the most important because it’s still mostly under the radar of those who don’t read deeply into political economy.

Like the UK and many industrial Europeans nations – before the 1960s – China has relied on home coal fires for heating and cooking. China now is on the way to making the same change the West did. Switching to gas. Major pipeline conduits are under construction to bring natgas from Siberia, other regions outside of China. Different pipelines will link into LNG landing facilities at major harbors. As the last-mile, last city block hookups fall into place, the change will be rapid. And welcome.

China wants to deal with their immediate air pollution as much as the ongoing effect on climate. That shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Sinkhole sucks millions of gallons of fertilizer wastewater into Florida drinking water


Click to enlargeJim Damaske/AP

The hole in the middle of that now-empty pond is 45 feet in diameter

❝ More than 200 million gallons of contaminated wastewater from a fertilizer plant in central Florida leaked into one of the state’s main underground sources of drinking water after a huge sinkhole opened up beneath a storage pond…

Mosaic, the world’s largest supplier of phosphate, said the hole opened up beneath a pile of waste material called a “gypsum stack”. The 215 million gallon storage pond sat atop the waste mineral pile…

“Groundwater moves very slowly,” said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s senior director for environmental and phosphate projects. “There’s absolutely nobody at risk.”…

Does that mean he’s drinking water from a local source — every day?

❝ The sinkhole, discovered by a worker on 27 August, is believed to reach down to the Floridan aquifer, the company said in a news release…

The Floridan aquifer is a major source of drinking water in the state. One of the highest-producing aquifers in the world, it underlies all of Florida and extends into southern Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

According to the University of Florida, it’s the principal source of groundwater for much of the state, and the cities of Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Gainesville, Orlando, Daytona Beach, Tampa, and St Petersburg all rely on it. The aquifer also supplies water to thousands of domestic, industrial and irrigation wells throughout the state…

❝ The incident comes less than a year after Mosaic, one of the world’s largest fertilizer makers, settled a vast federal environmental lawsuit with the US Environmental Protection Agency in which the company agreed to nearly $2 billion in fixes, improvements and cleanups at its plants…

The usual lies will continue from free market politicians and libertarians who hold that voluntary policing, self-regulation is all that corporate exploiters ever need. That lawsuit after lawsuit is required on an annual basis to acquire any level of environmental safety and sanity doesn’t seem to dent the myths that insulate conservative brains from reality.

A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming — in 20 seconds!

❝ A clear contrast of sustainable and unsustainable farming practices — in 20 seconds! Of course, there are scores of variables when it comes to sustainable farming, but this little video shows the huge difference between no-till and conventional farming:

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Click to access video and the complete article

❝ The video starts on a no-till field — one that isn’t ever plowed. Instead of tilling, or turning over the soil to kill weeds, farmers plant directly into the thatch of grasses and usually use an application of herbicide to knock down weeds. When farmers leave fields bare, like in the other field, soil washes away and local waters are polluted.

Some farmers on this silly little planet continue to grow no till-crops decades after the invention of machines that increase profits. And also require tons of added and otherwise unnecessary chemicals to produce those crops.