Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Tumbling Tumbleweeds

April 23, 2018

Tumbleweeds are tumbling all over Victorville, California, home of the old Roy Rogers Ranch. The town is buried in the things after wind gusts of 35 to 70 mph swept the thorny brush balls in from the high desert. The thorns will rip your hands if you don’t wear gloves, and the dry, accumulated brush is a fire hazard.

“Tumbleweeds — which, for many, only exist in movies or shows about the Wild West — have a history of invasion. Known as the Russian thistle, the invasive weed is thought to have been introduced to the U.S. in the 1870s through contaminated flax seeds brought by Russian immigrants to South Dakota. Once the plant matures, it breaks off at ground level and spreads seeds by tumbling with the wind.”

— “‘A nasty nightmare’: Homes in California, Utah invaded by prickly tumbleweeds again,” Allyson Chiu, Washington Post

More:

“Attack of the giant tumbleweed: California town swamped in invasion” Rory Carroll, The Guardian

“‘Houses Disappeared’ When Tumbleweeds Rolled Into This California City,” Amy Held, NPR

Related:

“The Weed That Won the West,” Diane Cook and Len Jenshel, National Geographic

 

Video: “Tumbling Tumbleweeds,” written by Bob Nolan, recorded by Roy Rogers and the Sons of the Pioneers, 1934.

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Scott Pruitt’s DC Bargain Bedroom Guide

April 6, 2018

Scott Pruitt's DC Bargain Bedroom Guide

Let’s say you were an energy state Attorney General who sued the EPA 13 times to reduce clean air restrictions on oil, gas, and coal use. You’d expect energy companies to donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to your election campaigns, even in 2014, when you ran unopposed. What you might not expect is for Donald Trump to name you EPA secretary. But he did, Scott Pruitt. Now you’ve got to stay in DC, at least when you can’t jet somewhere else.

Scott Pruitt doesn’t mind spending taxpayer dollars on first-class air travel, a custom soundproof phone booth for his office, dubious raises for his appointees, or a full-time security detail, but spending his own money when he’s in Washington? No way. Mr. Pruitt is the poorest member of the Trump Cabinet, so of course he accepted a sweetheart deal on a Capitol Hill condo owned by the wife of an energy lobbyist, $50 a night, at least half the AirBnB rate for the neighborhood.

Ethical lapses may mean Scott Pruitt is on the way out, but not before he’s destroyed his agency and America’s environmental safeguards.

More:

“Pruitt Had a $50-a-Day Condo Linked to Lobbyists. Their Client’s Project Got Approved,” Eric Lipton, New York Times

“Scott Pruitt’s D.C. Lobbyist Landlord Also Funded His Oklahoma Attorney General Campaign,” Sam Stein and Lachlan Markay, Daily Beast

“EPA chief Pruitt joined by family in condo tied to lobbyist ‘power couple,'” John Santucci, Matthew Mosk, and Stephanie Ebbs, ABC News

“EPA ethics official says he didn’t have all the facts on Pruitt’s lease,” Cristina Alesci, CNN

“5 lies Scott Pruitt told this week about his mounting scandals,” Umair Irfan, Vox

“Scott Pruitt’s defenses are crumbling,” Aaron Blake, Washington Post

“Scott Pruitt Stiffed Taxpayers for Around $3 Million in 24/7 Security and Expensive Flights,” Tom McKay, Gizmodo

“Top EPA staff who criticized Scott Pruitt were either demoted or reassigned,” Kyla Mandel, Think Progress

“Top Pruitt aide resigns amid growing scandal at EPA,” Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Trish Turner, and Stephanie Ebbs, ABC News

“Inside the EPA: ‘It’s just a slow-motion train wreck,’” Emily Holden, Politico

“Chief of Staff Advised a Resistant Trump to Fire the E.P.A. Chief,” Julie Hirschfeld Davis and Lisa Friedman, New York Times

“Let’s Meet Scott Pruitt’s Potential Replacements,” Brian Kahn, Earther

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Mr. Trash Wheel

March 9, 2018

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor features 10 museums, 5 historic ships, a sports complex, concert halls, an aquarium, restaurants, bars, and shopping, but everyone wants to see Mr. Trash Wheel. The floating water wheel has collected millions of stares, hundreds of Twitter followers, and 1,490,960 pounds of trash since May 2014, including 703,799 chip bags and 9,857,900 cigarette butts.

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Ocean Acidification: A Crash Course

February 20, 2018

As the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, it’s becoming more acidic—eroding the shells of marine life vital to the food web. Jim Toomey illustrates the issues. Produced by the Pew Trusts.

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How to Win Over Republicans On Renewable Energy

November 27, 2017

Gun-totin,’ Trump-votin’ Tea-Party environmental activist Debbie Dooley:  “If you think fossil fuel is not damaging the environment, pull your car in a garage, start up your engine, and inhale the exhaust fumes for a few minutes and see what happens.”

Ms. Dooley runs Conservatives for Energy Freedom, and advocates for the expansion of renewable energy. She explains how to explain renewable energy to her fellow conservatives: “If you lead off with climate change, they’re not going to pay a bit of attention to anything else you say.”

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Wildfire: Let It Burn

August 11, 2017

Wildfire: Let It Burn

“Scientists at the cutting edge of ecological research … argue that the century-old American practice of suppressing wildfires has been nothing less than a calamity. They are calling for a new approach that basically involves letting backcountry fires burn across millions of acres.

In principle, the federal government accepted a version of this argument years ago, but in practice, fires are still routinely stamped out across much of the country. To the biologists, that has imperiled the plants and animals — hundreds of them, it turns out — that prefer to live in recently burned forests.”

“Scientists are still trying to figure out how regularly forests burned in what is now the United States in the centuries before European settlement, but reams of evidence suggest the acreage that burned was more than is allowed to burn today — possibly 20 million or 30 million acres in a typical year. Today, closer to four million or five million acres burn every year.

‘From an ecological standpoint, everything I’ve learned teaches me this is a good idea: Stop putting out fires,’ said Jennifer R. Marlon, a geographer at Yale who was among the first to use the term “fire deficit” to describe the situation. ‘These forests are made to have fire.’

Human lives are at stake, too. Firefighters die, more than a dozen in some years, putting out fires that many scientists think should be allowed to burn.”

— Let Forest Fires Burn? What the Black-Backed Woodpecker Knows,” Justin Gillis, New York Times

More:

“The Future of Fighting Wildfires in the Era of Climate Change,” Bob Berwyn, Pacific Standard

“Benefits of Fire,” SmokeyBear.com

“Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes,” Tania Schoennagela, Jennifer K. Balcha, Hannah Brenkert-Smith et al., PNAS

“Fire Ecology,” Pacific Biodiversity Institute

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Top image (“Smokey Says ‘Let It Burn'”) by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

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Forage Fish

August 9, 2017

Herring, menhaden, anchovies, sprats, silversides, smelt, sardines. These fish play a massive role in the ocean’s ecosystem. Jim Toomey illustrates why they’re important. Produced by the Pew Trusts.

More about forage fish here.

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Wildfire Strategy: Let It Burn

July 14, 2017

Wildfire Strategy

Every year since the dawn of time, the Santa Ana winds lash Southern California’s dry autumn brushlands into explosive, blazing infernos. Every year since the dawn of the last century, Southern Californians express surprise as they are engulfed in a sea of flame. With climate change, things won’t get better.

“We will never be able to control wildfire,” explains Tania Schoennagel of the Institute for Alpine and Arctic Research, “We have to learn to live with it and adapt, just like we do with droughts and flooding. Our current wildfire policies can’t protect people and homes.”

More:

“The Future of Fighting Wildfires in the Era of Climate Change,” Bob Berwyn, Pacific Standard

“Adapt to more wildfire in western North American forests as climate changes,” Tania Schoennagela, Jennifer K. Balcha, Hannah Brenkert-Smith et al., PNAS

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Ain’t No Fish

March 6, 2017

“Some Days There Just Ain’t No Fish.” Produced and directed by Miki Cash and Tom Gasek of Wonky Films. Song written by Carl Sigman and Bob Russell; sung by Hoagy Carmichael.

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Judge Orders Bottled Water Delivery To Flint Residents

November 11, 2016

Judge Orders Bottled Water Delivery To Flint Residents

Federal Court Judge David M. Lawson has ordered Michigan state and local governments to provide home delivery of at least four cases of water a week to each resident of Flint, unless officials verify that the household has a properly installed and maintained water filter. Deliveries must continue until the city’s water lead hazard ends.

Bottled water had previously been available for pick-up at various locations throughout the city, but restrictive access hours and limits per family placed the burden on residents, 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line. Many do not own cars, and had to walk to and from the water supply centers.

As Judge Lawson observed:

“In modern society, when we turn on a faucet, we expect safe drinking water to flow out. As the evidence shows, this is no longer the case in Flint. The Flint water crisis has in effect turned back the clock to a time when people traveled to central water sources to fill their buckets and carry the water home.”

The water became tainted with lead in 2014 when the Republican state government privatized Flint’s water utility, which then instituted cost-cutting measure while charging residents some of the highest rates in the nation.

More:

“Federal judge orders delivery of bottled water in Flint,” Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

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