Margaret Renkl | On an Endangered River, Another Toxic Disaster Is Waiting to Happen – The New York Times

Ms. Renkl is a contributing Opinion writer who covers flora, fauna, politics and culture in the American South.

“NASHVILLE — Almost four years ago, spurred by my decades-long fascination with Homer’s story of the lotus-eaters, my husband and I made a pilgrimage to the Mobile-Tensaw Delta in Alabama to see American lotuses in full bloom. Jimbo Meador, our guide, was happy to take us on his boat to see the extravagant flowers.

A certified master naturalist, he was also happy to take birders to see the more than 300 species of birds that have been identified in that magnificent delta and to talk with history buffs about the original peoples who lived in the area or the fort where the last major battle of the Civil War was fought or the spot in the river where a ghost fleet of World War II Liberty ships was once anchored. Mr. Meador has spent his whole life talking about the crucial role the Mobile-Tensaw Delta plays in the human and ecological life of the region.

The biologist E.O. Wilson called this delta “arguably the biologically richest place” Americans have.”

How Air Pollution Across America Reflects Racist Policy From the 1930s – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/09/climate/redlining-racism-air-pollution.html

“Urban neighborhoods that were redlined by federal officials in the 1930s tended to have higher levels of harmful air pollution eight decades later, a new study has found, adding to a body of evidence that reveals how racist policies in the past have contributed to inequalities across the United States today.

In the wake of the Great Depression, when the federal government graded neighborhoods in hundreds of cities for real estate investment, Black and immigrant areas were typically outlined in red on maps to denote risky places to lend. Racial discrimination in housing was outlawed in 1968. But the redlining maps entrenched discriminatory practices whose effects reverberate nearly a century later.”

“. . . With less green space and more paved surfaces to absorb and radiate heat, historically redlined neighborhoods are 5 degrees hotter in summer, on average, than other areas. A 2019 study of eight California cities found that residents of redlined neighborhoods were twice as likely to visit emergency rooms for asthma.

The latest study, which was published on Wednesday in the journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters, looked at neighborhoods in 202 cities and their exposure to two pollutants that are harmful to human health: nitrogen dioxide, a gas associated with vehicle exhaust, industrial facilities and other sources; and the dangerous microscopic particles known as PM 2.5. The study was funded in part by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.”

The World Is Awash in Plastic. Nations Plan a Treaty to Fix That. – The New York Times

“With the bang of a gavel made of recycled plastic and a standing ovation, representatives of 175 nations agreed on Wednesday to begin writing a global treaty that would restrict the explosive growth of plastic pollution.

The agreement commits nations to work on a broad and legally binding treaty that would not only aim to improve recycling and clean up the world’s plastic waste, but would encompass curbs on plastics production itself. That could put measures like a ban on single-use plastics, a major driver of waste, on the table.

Supporters have said that a global plastics treaty would be the most important environmental accord since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, in which nations agreed to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Negotiators are now set to meet this year for the first of many rounds of talks to hammer out the details of treaty on plastics, with a target of sealing a deal by 2024.”

David Lindsay: Guess which three countries are against this treaty? The United States, Japan and India. Our compromised country is run by the oil gas and coal oligarchs, and big business.

After Mounting a Comeback, Eagles Face a New Threat – The New York Times

“The bald eagle, whose resurgence is considered one of the great conservation success stories of the 21st century, is facing a serious threat: lead poisoning.

Researchers who tested the feathers, bones, livers and blood of 1,200 bald eagles and golden eagles, another bird of prey in the Northern Hemisphere, found that nearly half of them had been exposed repeatedly to lead, which can lead to death and slow population growth.

Scientists believe that the primary source of the lead is spent ammunition from hunters who shoot animals that eagles then scavenge, usually during the winter, according to the study, which was published on Thursday in the journal Science.”

DL: The solution exists. Hunters need only switch to copper bullets – lead free ammunition.

 

 

As Waste Rises in Senegal, So Does Plastic Recycling – The New York Times

“DAKAR, Senegal — A crowd of people holding curved metal spikes jumped on trash spilling out of a dump truck in Senegal’s biggest landfill, hacking at the garbage to find valuable plastic.

Nearby, sleeves rolled up, suds up to their elbows, women washed plastic jerrycans in rainbow colors, cut into pieces. Around them, piles of broken toys, plastic mayonnaise jars and hundreds of discarded synthetic wigs stretched as far as the eye could see, all ready to be sold and recycled.

Plastic waste is exploding in Senegal, as in many countries, as populations and incomes grow and with them, demand for packaged, mass-produced products.”

How Chemours and DuPont Avoid Paying for PFAS Pollution – The New York Times

“FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — One humid day this summer, Brian Long, a senior executive at the chemical company Chemours, took a reporter on a tour of the Fayetteville Works factory.

Mr. Long showed off the plant’s new antipollution technologies, designed to stop a chemical called GenX from pouring into the Cape Fear River, escaping into the air and seeping into the ground water.

There was a new high-tech filtration system. And a new thermal oxidizer, which heats waste to 2,000 degrees. And an underground wall — still under construction — to keep the chemicals out of the river. And more.

“They’re not Band-Aids,” Mr. Long said. “They’re long-term, robust solutions.”

Credit…Ed Kashi for The New York Times

Yet weeks later, North Carolina officials announced that Chemours had exceeded limits on how much GenX its Fayetteville factory was emitting. This month, the state fined the company $300,000 for the violations — the second time this year the company has been penalized by the state’s environmental regulator.

GenX is part of a family of chemicals called per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. They allow everyday items — frying pans, rain jackets, face masks, pizza boxes — to repel water, grease and stains. Exposure to the chemicals has been linked to cancer and other serious health problems.

To avoid responsibility for what many experts believe is a public health crisis, leading chemical companies like Chemours, DuPont and 3M have deployed a potent mix of tactics.

They have used public charm offensives to persuade regulators and lawmakers to back off. They have engineered complex corporate transactions to shield themselves from legal liability. And they have rolled out a conveyor belt of scantly tested substitute chemicals that sometimes turn out to be just as dangerous as their predecessors.”

This Fjord Shows Even Small Populations Create Giant Microfiber Pollution – The New York Times

“Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago chilling halfway between the Nordic country and the North Pole, is known as much for its rugged beauty as its remoteness. From the village of Longyearbyen, visitors and roughly 2,400 residents can appreciate the stark terrain around the fjord known as Adventfjorden.

But the beauty of this Arctic inlet conceals messier, microscopic secrets.

“People see this nice, clean, white landscape,” said Claudia Halsband, a marine ecologist in Tromso, Norway, “but that’s only part of the story.”

The fjord has a sizable problem with subtle trash — namely microfibers, a squiggly subset of microplastics that slough off synthetic fabrics. Microfibers are turning up everywhere, and among researchers, there’s growing recognition that sewage is helping to spread them, said Peter S. Ross, an ocean pollution scientist who has studied the plastic fouling the Arctic. While the precise impact of microfibers building up in ecosystems remains a topic of debate, tiny Longyearbyen expels an extraordinary amount of them in its sewage: A new study shows that the village of thousands emits roughly as many as all the microplastics emitted by a wastewater treatment plant near Vancouver that serves around 1.3 million people.”

Federal Judge Strikes Down Trump Rule Governing Water Pollution – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — A federal judge on Monday struck down a Trump-era environmental rule that drastically limited federal restrictions against pollution of millions of streams, wetlands and marshes across the country.

The Biden administration had already begun the lengthy process of undoing the policy, which President Donald J. Trump established in 2020 to please real estate developers and farmers. Mr. Trump’s policy allowed the discharge of pollutants such as fertilizers, pesticides and industrial chemicals into smaller streams and wetlands.

But on Monday, Judge Rosemary Márquez of the United States District Court for the District of Arizona found “fundamental, substantive flaws” with the Trump administration’s policy and said that it was in conflict with the 1972 Clean Water Act. She warned of the “possibility of serious environmental harm” if the Trump rule remained in place.”

Opinion | The Proliferation of Toxic Plastics and Chemicals Must End – The New York Times

“As the United States comes to grips with the climate crisis, fossil fuels will slowly recede from being primary sources of energy. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that the petrochemical industry is counting on greatly increasing the production of plastics and toxic chemicals made from fossil fuels to profit from its reserves of oil and gas.

That transition is why the challenges of climate, plastic pollution and chemical toxicity — which at first might each seem like distinct problems — are actually interrelated and require a systems approach to resolve. The danger is that if we focus on only a single metric, like greenhouse gas emissions, we may unintentionally encourage the shift from fuel to plastics and chemicals that are also unsafe and unsustainable.

Already, according to a 2018 report from the International Energy Agency, petrochemicals, which are made from petroleum and natural gas, “are rapidly becoming the largest driver of global oil demand.”

Petrochemicals are ubiquitous in everyday products, and many of them are poisoning us and our children. Stain repellents, flame retardants, phthalates and other toxics are contributing to cancer, falling sperm counts, obesity and a host of neurological, reproductive and immune problems, research has shown.”

Margaret Renkl | We Were Born to Be Wild – The New York Times

” . . . . During my childhood in the 1960s, it was common to see people casually throwing trash out of their car windows, but these days human indifference to the natural world tends to be better hidden, even from ourselves.

Market forces have worked hard to make sure we don’t notice the depredations we’re complicit in: the microplastics that pollute our waterways every time we wash a fleece jacket or a polyester blouse, the toilet tissue that’s destroying the boreal forest, the poisons we spray on our yards — up to 10 times as much, per acre, as farmers use — because they are marketed to us as benign “applications.”

As I waited in line at a garden center last week, I listened to the store owner telling another customer about a “treatment” she could spray on every bush and tree in her yard to “take care of” any kind of bug that might be feeding on them. He didn’t tell her it would also kill butterflies and bees and obscure bird grasshoppers. He didn’t tell her she would also be poisoning the songbirds that would feed on the poisoned insects or the predators that would feed on the weakened songbirds.

Perhaps she’ll remember making a “lantern” from a Mason jar when she was a child, and then maybe she’ll wonder why there are no lightning bugs for her own children to catch. But I wouldn’t bet on it.   . . . “