Environmental Issues

Europe / Land / Global Warming / World Court / Ocean / Green Energy / Invasive Species / News / Oil Industry / Plastic / Carbon


Finland Set to Become First Country in the World to Ban Coal

America's Southern Forests Are Being Decimated to Supply Europe With Energy Millions of acres of forests and hundreds of species are at risk. By Adam Macon / AlterNet October 14, 2016

France is the First Country to Ban All Plastic Plates and Cups September 17, 2016 Organic Consumers Association

All disposable dishes in France will instead have to be made from biologically sourced materials. The products must be able to be composted.

France banned plastic bags in July, a move other countries have also made, but France is the first to extend these types of bans to plastic cutlery and dishes.

Land Preservation

How You Can Support Standing Rock This is your pipeline battle too. Whatever you have to offer, we need it. Wherever you are, take one step deeper. Find your voice. Find your own front lines.

I am a settler on this land but have spent the past couple of years supporting indigenous battles against new oil pipelines. These are the front lines of the struggle to end the desecration of Mother Earth, the catastrophes of climate change, and the ongoing genocidal occupation of Indigenous lands that makes that all possible.

Sunrise on the Cannonball River and the Oceti Sakowin camp, Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Photo by Thane Maxwell.

Across the continent, Big Oil is pushing a massive new network of oil and gas infrastructure, retooling in a desperate attempt to extract the dirtiest fuels on the planet and squeeze the last few drops of profit out of an era that clearly needs to end. Without exception, these projects threaten tribal lands, and without exception, they face bold Indigenous resistance.

A historic new chapter in this story is now unfolding on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation. Thousands of people from hundreds of tribes and First Nations have gathered in solidarity to stop construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. I am one of the organizers helping to leverage resources and coordinate the campaign, and every day I hear from allies across the continent asking how to support the movement.

Federal Bill Seeks First Native American Land Grab in 100 Years Even as the Dakota Access Pipeline protest in Standing Rock has galvanized Native Americans across the U.S., a bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Utah Republican Congressmen Rob Bishop and Jason Chaffetz seeks to take 100,000 acres of Ute tribal lands and hand them over to oil and mining companies.

The proposed bill also seeks to remove protection from 18 million acres of land in eastern Utah and prevent President Obama from designating the Bears Ears area a national monument.

Adjoining Canyonlands National Park and the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Bears Ears is an unprotected culturally significant region that contains more than 100,000 Native American archeological sites. These sacred sites are subject to continual looting and desecration. More than a dozen serious looting cases were reported between May 2014 and April 2015.

The area has been inhabited for at least 11,000 years. Many Southwestern tribes have longstanding connections to this land, including Navajo, Ute and Paiute peoples. The Navajo Nation and the White Mesa Ute Reservation border Bears Ears. Rock paintings and petroglyphs are found throughout the area.

Global Warming

The Last Time Summer Was This Hot, Human Beings Hadn’t Yet Left Africa (Video)

World Court

ICC widens remit to include environmental destruction cases In change of focus, Hague court will prosecute government and individuals for environmental crimes such as landgrabs

Environmental destruction and landgrabs could lead to governments and individuals being prosecuted for crimes against humanity by the international criminal court following a decision to expand its remit.

The UN-backed court, which sits in The Hague, has mostly ruled on cases of genocide and war crimes since it was set up in 2002. It has been criticised for its reluctance to investigate major environmental and cultural crimes, which often happen in peacetime.

In a change of focus, the ICC said on Thursday it would also prioritise crimes that result in the “destruction of the environment”, “exploitation of natural resources” and the “illegal dispossession” of land. It also included an explicit reference to land-grabbing.

The court, which is funded by governments and is regarded as the court of last resort, said it would now take many crimes that have been traditionally under-prosecuted into consideration.

The ICC is not formally extending its jurisdiction, but the court said it would assess existing offences, such as crimes against humanity, in a broader context.

“The terrible impacts of land-grabbing and environmental destruction have been acknowledged at the highest level of criminal justice, and private sector actors could now be put on trial for their role in illegally seizing land, flattening rainforests or poisoning water sources.”

International lawyers said broadening the priority cases to include land-grabbing would recognise that mass human rights violations committed during peacetime and in the name of profit could be just as serious as traditional war crimes.

The ICC paper also lists other crimes, such as arms trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism and financial crimes, in which it intends to provide more help to individual states to carry out national prosecutions.


Seagrass: The most important habitat nobody ever talks about? When we talk about threatened ecosystems, seagrass meadows are not often high on society's priority list. Yet they exist on coastlines on every continent except Antarctica, and they act as a crucial nursery for many species of fish, turtles, seahorses and more.

Not only that, but some research suggests they store more carbon than forests. So maybe we shouldn't mess them up?

The BBC reports that more than 100 scientists from 28 countries around the world have just issued a statement urging immediate and ambitious action to protect seagrass meadows around the world.

The World Seagrass Association statement — being issued ahead of a major international conference on seagrass protection in North Wales—notes that seagrass meadows are being lost at a global rate of 2% per year. With climate-related challenges such as unusually high rainfall being compounded by the impact of human activities such as boating, agricultural runoff, tourism, aquaculture, ports, energy projects and housing, the scientists argue that we need broad and coordinated action to stem the destruction.

Invasive Species

The invasive species that nobody is talking about Non-native species like zebra mussels make national news, but the dangerous plant variable milfoil is rarely discussed outside of lake communities.

Myriophyllum heterophyllum, commonly referred to as variable milfoil, is an invasive aquatic plant that has been contaminating lakes throughout the Northeastern United States since the 1960s.

It looks harmless enough, resembling a green squirrel tail with the occasional small, reddish flower. Yet, variable milfoil can grow up to 15 feet long, forming dense mats of vegetation that choke out native species. These mats block sunlight from reaching other submerged plants, killing them, and can deplete oxygen levels in the water while decaying, which hurts fish and other aquatic animals.

The plant not only destroys ecosystems but also inhibits recreational water activities, as the dense mats of milfoil make boating or swimming impossible. Furthermore, these large clusters of plant matter are the perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes, more bad news for those who visit lakes.

Variable milfoil most seriously affects Maine and New Hampshire due to an absence of natural predators and ideal water conditions for plant growth. The plant is found in over 90 water bodies in these two states alone, including Lake Winnipesaukee, the largest lake in New Hampshire.

Variable milfoil was likely brought to the Northeast from the Southern United States, its native habitat, attached to the bottoms of boats as a kind of “aquatic hitchhiker.” Small fragments of milfoil were chopped up by boat propellers and then floated to different parts of the lake, quickly growing to form masses of plant matter. Milfoil spreads most easily by fragmentation, but loose milfoil seeds can also grow into full plants in a short period of time.

Despite the dangers of variable milfoil, it is rarely discussed, except by members of already affected lake communities. Today, the plant is even sold in pet stores for use as a decoration in fish tanks with little or no indication of its invasive nature.

Minimal research has been conducted concerning variable milfoil, but there do exist some studies that focus on another member of the milfoil genus, Myriophyllum spicatum or Eurasian watermilfoil. Native to Europe, North Africa, and Asia, Eurasian watermilfoil is now found in every continent except Antarctica and Australia. Its global impact has caused variable milfoil to take a backseat in the discussion of invasive plants, often being written off as a less severe relative of Eurasian watermilfoil.

However, Eurasian watermilfoil and variable milfoil are not always found in the same lakes due to differing pH preferences, and control methods for the two species can vary. For example, Euhrychiopsis lecontei, colloquially referred to as the milfoil weevil, is a small beetle that eats certain milfoil species. Its ability to consume and damage M. spicatum stems allows the weevil to be a successful biocontrol agent for Eurasian watermilfoil, curbing populations when introduced into infested lakes. Yet, it won’t touch variable milfoil.

New Guinea flatworm, one of the world’s worst invasive species, found in US International team says discovery poses a significant threat.

It’s very flat, it’s two inches long and less than a quarter inch wide. It’s black and olive in color with a stripe down its back; it has an elongated head with big black eyes and mouth in the middle of its belly.

It’s name is Platydemus manokwari and although on first glance it just seems a harmless ground-dwelling worm, in fact it can climb trees. Which it does to eat snails, and eat them it does. The New Guinea flatworm, as P. manokwari is commonly called, consumes snails with voracity and endangers endemic species. It is considered such a threatening invasive species that it holds the distinction of being the only land planarian (flatworm) to be included in “100 worst invasive alien species” list.

And the species has now been identified in several gardens in Miami.

Already found in 15 territories around the world, mostly in the Pacific area and in France, a group of 14 international experts have undertaken an intensive research effort and have written a paper describing how the little guy has now been identified in six more territories as well: New Caledonia (including mainland and two of the Loyalty Islands, Lifou and Maré), Wallis and Futuna Islands, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida.

P. manokwari is a known threat for endemic terrestrial mollusks, and the appearance of the flatworm in Florida is of special concern. Until now, infested areas have been mostly islands, the water surrounding acting as a protective barrier to keep the invasions somewhat contained. However, the flatworms now established in Florida have nothing to hold them back. And not only will they likely spread on their own, but they can be easily spread through human agency and passively spread with infested plants, plant parts and soil.

This invasive plant is swallowing the U.S. at the rate of 50,000 baseball fields per year Choking ecosystems, releasing carbon from the soil...

In the dictionary next to the definition of "invasive species", they could show a photo of kudzu. Nothing seems to stop it: Below you can see it growing over trees in Atlanta, Georgia. Since it was first introduced to the U.S. at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, it has been swallowing the country from an epicenter in the South-East at the rate of about 50,000 baseball fields per year, occupying an estimated 3,000,000 hectares today. Kudzu can grow up to 60 feet per season, or about one foot per day.

Kudzu is extremely bad for the ecosystems that it invades because it smothers other plants and trees under a blanket of leaves, hogging all the sunlight and keeping other species in its shade. It can also survive in low nitrogen areas and during droughts, allowing it to out-compete native species that don't have those superpowers.

The great kudzu invasion all started out with a mistake: The Soil Erosion Service and Civilian Conservation Corp intentionally planted it to control soil erosion in the state of Pennsylvania. It was then used in the South East to to provide shade to homes, and as an ornamental species.

But as you can see in the map above, the result is more like a fast-growing cancer than anything else. How can you get rid of a plant that covers around a quarter of the country?

As if that wasn't bad enough, kudzu also screws with the soil's ability to sequester carbon, thus contributes to climate change.

This is probably because kudzu's organic matter degrades a lot more easily than what it replaces (like organic matter from trees).

The most Earth-friendly way to fight kudzu seems to be with goats, but it would take quite a lot of them to get through all the kudzu in the U.S... But if you need to deal with invasive species and don't have goats, you can conveniently rent a herd, as we've written about before with Rent-a-Goat.

Green Energy

Wind-powered device can produce 11 gallons per day of clean drinking water from the air WaterSeer is a low-tech, low-cost atmospheric water condenser that could help create water self-sufficiency in communities around the world.

A new device developed by VICI-Labs, in collaboration with UC Berkeley and the National Peace Corps Association, aims to provide a sustainable source of clean safe water for the millions without a reliable water supply. In the developed world, where most homes and businesses have ready access to clean water at the turn of a tap, we don't really have to worry about most waterborne diseases, or dehydration, or the ability to wash our selves, our clothes, or our eating utensils, but those worries are still very real for the millions around the world without a reliable clean water source. The WaterSeer could help to alleviate some of those water poverty issues.

The WaterSeer is relatively simple device, designed to be operated without an external power input, and without the need for costly chemicals or maintenance, that can 'pull' moisture from thin air and condense it into water using the temperature difference between the above-ground turbine and the collection chamber installed six feet underground. The potable water can then be delivered to the surface for use via a simple pump and hose, and the device is said to be able to produce up to 11 gallons per day, even in arid regions.

And the best part? The WaterSeer will be priced at just $134.

This tiny black rectangle disinfects water in minutes One of the major crises facing the world is access to clean drinking water. Because of that, we've seen a variety of water purification gadgets and materials over the years that could make it easier for people to attain clean water. One approach is using UV rays to disinfect water, but since UV rays only carry about 4 percent of the sun's energy, that method can take up to 48 hours, which limits the amount of water people can treat at a time.

Stanford University researchers and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory decided there had to be a faster way. What it you could use the visible part of the solar spectrum, not just UV rays, harnessing 50 percent of the sun's energy? With that in mind, the researchers created a small device that when dropped in water uses solar energy to disinfect it in just minutes.

“Our device looks like a little rectangle of black glass. We just dropped it into the water and put everything under the sun, and the sun did all the work,” said Chong Liu, lead author of the report published in Nature Nanotechnology.

The nanostructured device is about half the size of a postage stamp. When sunlight hits it, it forms hydrogen peroxide and other bacteria-killing chemicals that are able to eliminate 99.999 percent of the bacteria present in the water sample in only 20 minutes. The chemicals then dissipate and leave pure water behind.

The small glass is topped with what the researchers call "nanoflakes" of molybdenum disulfide. The thin flakes are stacked on their edges, creating a labyrinth like shape that resembles a fingerprint when viewed with a microscope.

Molybdenum disulfide is an industrial lubricant, but in very thin layers like what is used in this device, it becomes a photocatalyst, releasing electrons that take part in chemical reactions. The researchers were able to create layers that absorb the full range of visible sunlight and trigger reactions with oxygen, like hydrogen peroxide, which kills the bacteria present in the water.

While the device does disinfect the water, it's not able to remove any chemical pollutants, so it's best suited for areas that are mostly concerned with microbes in the water, not industrial pollution.


Climate News Network

France is the First Country to Ban All Plastic Plates and Cups

Breaking: Journalist Amy Goodman May Be Charged with 'Participating in a Riot' for Covering North Dakota Pipeline Protest Journalist Amy Goodman was faced with charges of trespassing that have since been dropped. By Democracy Now! October 15, 2016

A North Dakota state prosecutor has sought to charge award-winning journalist Amy Goodman with participating in a "riot" for filming an attack on Native American-led anti-pipeline protesters. The new charge comes after the prosecutor dropped criminal trespassing charges.

State’s Attorney Ladd R Erickson filed the new charges on Friday before District Judge John Grinsteiner who will decide on Monday (October 17) whether probable cause exists for the riot charge.

Goodman has traveled to North Dakota to face the charges and will appear at Morton County court on Monday at 1:30 pm local time (CDT) if the charges are approved.

“I came back to North Dakota to fight a trespass charge. They saw that they could never make that charge stick, so now they want to charge me with rioting, " said Goodman. "I wasn’t trespassing, I wasn’t engaging in a riot, I was doing my job as a journalist by covering a violent attack on Native American protesters."

10 Shocking Environmental Facts That Make This Veggie Burger More Delicious Than Ever It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the momentous issues facing our environment today. Between rampant deforestation, rising greenhouse gas emissions, mass species extinctions, water scarcity and food shortages, things are not looking up.

More than any other industry, animal agriculture has become a leading driver of all these major issues. Producing the incredibly high volume of animal products demanded by our meat-centric diets requires an inordinate amount of land resources and freshwater supplies.

On top of this, animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gases emissions than any other industry, and yet, 850 million people across the world still suffer from lack of food. As our population grows to nine billion by 2050, these major issues are only set to grow exponentially, pushing our planet’s finite resources past their limit.

The majority of the world’s arable land is dedicated to livestock production.

Worldwatch Institute

We’re using precious land resources to produce food for our food. Not exactly efficient.

Global Benefits of Eating Less Meat

Only a small portion of all the grain grown in the U.S. actually goes to feed people.

Global Issues

If we fed these grains to people instead of livestock, it could make a huge dent in world hunger.


If we fed these grains to people instead of livestock, it could make a huge dent in world hunger.


As the amount of land needed to grow livestock feed and graze cattle grows, the need to convert forests into agriculture land grows. This comes at a huge cost to native wildlife and plants..

Center for Biological Diversity

Animal agriculture’s track record for water use isn’t much better.

Worldwatch Institute

The bulk of our water footprints comes from “virtual” water in the meat we eat.

National Geographic

In addition to land and water, fossil fuels are also used to produce fertilizers for livestock feed as well as in transportation and processing of animal products.

Worldwatch Institute

As if pollution from fossil fuels weren’t bad enough…

Tufts University

When you combine the greenhouse gases emitted from fossil fuel use, deforestation, and the animals themselves, animal agriculture has a huge carbon footprint.

UN FAO/Worldwatch Institute

Join the #EatForThePlanet Movement

While all of these statistics are incredibly daunting, it is crucial to remember that we all have the power to make a positive change every time we sit down for a meal. By opting to leave meat and animal products off our plates and eating more plant-based foods, we can leave these destructive figures off the menu as well.

Reducing or eliminating your consumption of animal products can help save species from extinction, conserve land, water and grain resources, and lower greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, if you just take meat off your plate, you can cut your carbon footprint in half! Some pretty powerful stuff, huh?

Oil Industry

220 'Significant' Pipeline Spills Already This Year Exposes Troubling Safety Record

See also Corporate Crime

and Oil

Imagine the filth that the oil industry brings
to this fragile environment! The bastards.


This Man Has Invented a Genius Way to Filter Tiny Bits of Plastic Out of the Ocean (VIDEO)

Meet the Future of Plastic: 100 Percent Biodegradable, Organic Bags You Can Eat! India has been pushing hard to reduce its plastic waste as a nation and their efforts have been very successful. In the country’s most recent triumph over plastic pollution, the capital region of Delhi issued a ban on all disposable plastics, which will take effect in 2017. But India has been moving away from plastics for many years and many cities have already issued plastic bag bans.

While legislation like this helps to protect our environment and wildlife, a young entrepreneur, Ashwath Hegde, noticed that it was a hardship for many Indians. “People were concerned bout how they would carry products from the market now. Everyone cannot afford a bag worth Rs. 5 or Rs. 15 to carry a kilogram of sugar,” Hegde told The Better India. So he decided to come up with a solution that would be sustainable and affordable.

Hegde founded EnviGreen and began to tinker with ways to make plastic-like substances that would be: “100 percent organic, biodegradable, and eco-friendly.” He eventually landed on a combination of natural starch and vegetable oils to make a bag that looks and feels just like plastic with none of the negative environmental impacts of a plastic vessel. EnviGreen’s bags will naturally degrade in 180 days and if they are submerged in water they disappear in a day. Oh and also – these bags are edible. This means that when animals encounter non-degraded bags, they can eat them with no adverse effects. To prove that these bags are completely safe to ingest, Hegde dropped one into some boiling water and gulped it down and smiled at the end of his interview with The Better India.

Ashwath Hegde

India is not the only country fighting reduce plastic pollution. Britain recently passed a law putting a tax on plastic bags that has greatly reduced the plastic waste on their beaches.

But we should all join in the fight against plastic because it affects the entire planet. Right now we use over 100 billion single-use plastic bags and most of them end up in the ocean. There are over 270 million tons of plastic in our oceans and we add 8.8 million tons of new plastic waste to them each year. Over 700 species are endangered because of plastic waste and over 90 percent of seabirds have plastic in their stomachs. So until EnviGreen’s bags are available at your supermarket, bring your own from home.

3 Ways You Could be Sending Plastic Into the Oceans Without Realizing It Three hundred million tons of plastic are consumed every year, but only 15 percent of it is recycled. The rest of it typically goes straight to landfill, where it causes serious problems for land animals and local people, as it is commonly mistaken for food by animals, and also leaches toxic chemicals into the surrounding soil.

Animals who encounter land-based plastic often end up being seriously injured, or even dying, as a result of ingesting or becoming entangled in it.

Sadly, an estimated 8.8 million tons of plastic finds its way into the oceans every year, where the risk of plastic ingestion and entanglement is threatening 700 marine species with extinction.

The amount of waste that we collectively send into the oceans has reached such epidemic proportions that a number of “trash islands” have formed in certain areas. The most well-known of these is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is already twice as large as the entire state of Texas.

Considering the fact that many forms of plastic do not biodegrade for up to a thousand years, the problem is only going to worsen unless we figure out how to reduce our consumption of plastic and seek out more planet-friendly alternatives instead.

Sadly, experts predict that if we continue with our current plastic consumption rate, the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by the year 2050. So, how can one person start making a difference? Plastic is undoubtedly difficult to avoid, but by making a few simple changes to our everyday lives, we can help ensure that the mountains of waste that we send into the oceans every year do not get the chance to destroy all forms of marine life as we know them. Getting rid of single-use plastic items and bottles would be a fantastic place to start.


White House releases strategy for deep decarbonization by 2050 A critically important document was released by the White House recently, laying out a strategy for deep decarbonization of the USA. Alas, it was released the same week that a new president was elected, one who will send it straight to the shredder, because the very first paragraph notes:

Public Domain United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization

Human activities, particularly CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion, have driven atmospheric greenhouse gas (GHG) concentration levels higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years. As a result, the Earth has warmed at an alarming rate over the past century, with average temperatures increasing by more than 0.8°C (1.5°F). The consequences are already severe. Heat waves and droughts are more common, wildfire seasons are longer and fires larger and more costly, and extreme weather is becoming more intense and unpredictable. Left unchecked, from 2000 to 2100, global average temperature increases of 2 to 5°C (3.6 to 9°F) and sea level rise of two to four feet are likely, and much larger increases are possible. Climate change will reduce long-run economic growth and jeopardize national security.

United States Mid-Century Strategy for Deep Decarbonization/Public Domain

The document then lays out a strategy that involves transitioning to a low-carbon energy system, primarily through cutting energy waste, and improving energy efficiency. It goes after the big pieces of pie first: Buildings and cars, and not just by improving efficiency but actually changing the ways that they are designed and used.

It’s a grand vision for essentially being carbon-free by 2050, Producing electricity from clean generation sources including nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, and with any remaining fossil fuel plants hooked up to carbon capture and storage systems.

The Transportation sector would be cleaned up through the use of electric cars for light vehicles, fuel cells and biomass “drop in” biofuels. But again, the study recognizes that why we get around is has to change, and that this can have a big impact on how we get around.

Effect of smart growth on fuel consumption/Public Domain

Transportation energy demand is influenced not only by available technology but also by societal trends. Improved and highly utilized mass transit, higher-density and mixed-use development, increased and efficient ridesharing, and walkable and bikeable neighborhoods can reduce the usage of passenger vehicles… Further, advances in IT and the sharing economy are initiating a shift from a vehicle ownership society to one of shared mobility, where mobility is purchased by the mile rather than by the vehicle. Smart urban planning can capitalize on this shift, freeing up land that is now needed to house vehicles for alternative and more societally beneficial uses, including more compact, walkable cities. Finally, improved freight logistics and modal shifting of freight from long-haul trucks to rail have the potential to drive down the distance traveled and corresponding emissions from heavy-duty vehicles.

That paragraph anticipates the end of low density suburban sprawl, individual car ownership, and calls for more investment in transit and rail. In the buildings sector, the study proposes a mix of increased energy efficiency and electrification of space heating through the use of heat pumps. And because buildings last so long, we have to move quickly. “This slow stock turnover elevates the importance of ensuring that starting today, new buildings and buildings features are designed for optimal efficiency and low carbon emissions.”

The report goes on to cover the forest and agriculture sectors, calling for significant reforestation, better management, protecting natural landscapes:

It also calls for using more wood in construction:

Harvested wood products (HWP) can help reduce net CO2 emissions by substituting for carbon-intensive products such as steel and concrete. In the United States, new HWPs can be deployed in place of carbon-intensive concrete, steel, and aluminum products in non-residential and high-rise construction. Cross-laminated timber and other innovative wood products have enabled the construction of tall wood buildings over 10 stories, which are starting to be deployed in several U.S. cities. Buildings like shopping malls and hospitals could also begin to utilize wood products to reduce steel, concrete, and aluminum use.

Non-CO2 emissions are also considered, such as those from livestock, fertilizers, landfills, food waste and more. Refrigerants and foam blowing agents will all have to be modified. And so it goes, through every aspect of the American economy.

The strategy lays out a grand vision for decarbonizing the nation by 2050. It is totally doable too, if anyone cared to actually do it. The White House has created a well thought out road map, a coherent vision for a low carbon future; download it here before it disappears on January 21st.

The Plan


Send comments to co@dadbyrn.com, Colby Glass, MLIS, PhDc, Professor Emeritus