"Places like Picher are why Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980—better known as the Superfund bill." - Wired Magazine on the most toxic town in America, Picher, OK , and the people who still live there
With the climate bill dead and blame portioned, Ezra Klein asks what happens when congress fails? He concludes that "regulations to reduce carbon emissions are alive and well. The Environmental Protection Agency can attack carbon as a pollutant, and the Obama administration's announcement that efforts to hamstring the EPA will be vetoed suggests that they mean to do exactly that." [more inside]
"I don't see any future for whale species except extinction." A report (pdf) released Thursday by Ocean Alliance noted high levels of cadmium, aluminum, chromium, lead, silver, mercury and titanium in tissue samples taken by dart gun from nearly 1,000 whales over five years. Concentrations of chromium found in some whales was several times higher than the level required to kill healthy cells in a Petri dish. Mercury in some whales was 16 times higher than a typical shark or swordfish, both known for their high mercury levels. Beyond whales, "You could make a fairly tight argument to say that it is the single greatest health threat that has ever faced the human species."
The Plastics at SEA: North Atlantic Expedition is currently studying an area in the Atlantic Ocean similar to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch". [via] [more inside]
It sounded terribly fun and terribly disgusting at the same time: kayaking the polluted river systems of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.
Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, long nicknamed the "Lavender Lake" for its copious oil slicks, has gained a new title : Superfund Site. New Yorkers respond with really cool photography. While some developers bow out in light of the recent news, other area developers, hoping for a speedy cleanup of the industrial waste and, uh ... other things ... vow to continue their plans to revitalize the formerly-industrial corridor.
Overambitious eating: Tetrapod Zoology brings us a series of articles on overambitious gluttony by animals. seagull vs phone, small army, doll parts, a perentie trying for a spiky echidna, heron vs. lamprey, roadrunner vs. horned lizard, snake vs. centipede, and real lizard vs. plasic lizard. [more inside]
Ahead of the global climate talks, nine photographers from the photo agency NOOR photographed climate stories from around the world. Their goal: to document some of the causes and consequences, from deforestation to changing sea levels, as well as the people whose lives and jobs are part of that carbon culture. Warming threatens lifestyle of Russian herders | Refugees flee drought, war in East Africa | Greenland’s shrinking ice hurts natives [more inside]
25 years on, the industrial disaster at Bhopal's Union Carbide insecticide plant is still poisoning, maiming and killing people [YT]. [more inside]
Lu Guang, a freelance photographer, took disturbing photos of the effects of pollution in China. [more inside]
The nesting babies are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food to bring back to their young. (warning: photos of dead birds)
NASA recently released a series of photographs documenting the loss of the Aral Sea over the past ten years. The Aral Sea could be the poster child for human damage to the ecosystem. In a mere four decades, it has gone from a surface area of 68000 km^2 to less that a quarter of that, with a 10x drop in water volume. As its Wikipedia article points out, this is the equivalent of completely draining two of the five Great Lakes. [more inside]
The Seattle P-I is known for its in depth, epic, investigative reports. As the print edition closes down this week here is a look at one report that made the PI great: The Health of the Puget Sound. [more inside]
Environmental disaster in Tennessee. On Monday, 5.4 million cubic yards (over 1 billion gallons; the Exxon Valdez oil spill was about 11 million gallons) of toxic coal ash sludge broke through an earthen retaining wall of a holding pond at TVA’s Kingston power plant, damaging 12 homes and covering over 400 acres up to six feet deep.
The City Concealed A video tour of New York's infamously toxic Newtown Creek, with historical illustrations. The creek is the site of a 17 million gallon underground oil-spill (50% larger than Exxon-Valdez) which remains to be cleaned up, resulting in a Supreme Court battle between residents and oil companies. (Previously on MeFi.)
Not that this is a surprise, but the planned congestion charging/public transport scheme in Manchester has been rejected. Perhaps those in favor of the charging should have spent less on their web sites; like the no-campaign people did. You know, with more primary colours and exclamation marks. Instead, they should have spent their money on shark costumes. [more inside]
Smoke and Mirrors: The Subversion of the EPA. "This four-part series details how the Bush administration weakened the EPA. It installed a pliant agency chief, Stephen L. Johnson. Under him, the EPA created pro-industry regulations later thrown out by the courts. It promoted a flawed voluntary program to fight climate change. It bypassed air pollution recommendations from its own scientists to satisfy the White House." [Via Reality Base]
Oil sands will pollute Great Lakes The environmental impacts of Alberta's oil sands will not be restricted to Western Canada, researchers say, but will extend thousands of kilometres away to the Great Lakes, threatening water and air quality around the world's largest body of fresh water. *****Report: How the Oil Sands Got to the Great Lakes Basin***** (pdf) Policy makers around the lakes, in both Canada and the U.S., are largely unaware that the tar sands will lead to massive industrial development in their region, and consequently have no strategy to minimize the environmental impacts. [more inside]
Public television viewers from the seventies may remember being hectored and freaked out by anti-pollution animations. Three of the more catchy and memorable Willie Wimple cartoons (don't kill trees, don't litter, don't pollute the water, lyrics) that scared us away from a lifetime of casual littering were actually directed by Academy Award winning animator Abe Levitow -- also co-director of The Phantom Tollbooth (intro, time song) and director of Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol (full movie, songs: we're despicable, all alone in the world) -- as one of his final projects.
sandbag.org.uk is a not-for-profit website that allows members to buy up surplus "permits to pollute" that form the currency of the European Union's emissions trading scheme (or EU ETSs). Members can then "retire" them so that they cannot continue to be traded between the industrial polluters - cement, steel and car manufacturers etc - forced by EU regulation to operate within the system. "I suppose it's a bit like burning money in front of someone so they can't spend it on something bad," says the founder, Bryony Worthington, to the Guardian. [more inside]
China's Olympic beaches, choked by a plague of green algae. Sez David Suzuki: This is not an unusual occurrence, but it is a symptom of an underlying problem with potential repercussions far more serious than hampering Olympic events. [more inside]
According to TIME, there are at least 10 things good about high gas prices. Such as four-day work weeks, less pollution, and fewer traffic deaths.
Rehabilitating Carson: "Why do some people continue to hold Rachel Carson responsible for millions of malaria deaths?" [more inside]
The Olympic Boom is shaping a new Beijing. These fancy new venues and skyscrapers are being built largely by migrant workers facing a harsh reality. The non-stop construction has also threatened to make these "green games" brown. The city may be smoggy and mistreated migrant workery now, but don't you worry, a series of measures will be taken to curb the pollution for the events.
New maps show US fossil fuel emissions aren't where we thought they were. The Vulcan Project collects more accurate data at a higher resolution than previous studies. Explanatory video. via [more inside]
The Hanford Site in SoutheastWashington (located on the Columbia River) is considered the dirtiest place on earth. 177 Underground storage tanks hold over 50 million gallons of radioactive and toxic waste. And they are leaking. [more inside]
A two-ton 21-mpg 8-passenger V8 Chevy Tahoe? America, meet your 2008 Green Car of the Year!
Superfund365 is an online data visualization application by Brooke Singer. Each day for the next year, Superfund365 will visit one of the EPA’s Superfund sites and collect data on contaminants, corporate responsibility, photos of the sites, and stats on local inhabitants. In the end, it will have 365 visualizations of some of the worst toxic sites in the U.S. [Via The Underwire.]
Not ones for subtlety, the Death of Environmentalism guys (previously) are at it again with a Manifesto for a New Environmentalism. Their Apollo Alliance is getting early support from both Clinton and Obama. But it's not the only "new environmentalism" out there. There's this New Environmentalism, while others would include both market-based approaches among the the idols of old environmentalism.
Live, From Outer Space: rural fires [1, 2], The Haze in China [1 ,2, 3] and its movement, aerosols, and the brothers carbon monoxide [a photochemical smog agent] and carbon dioxide.
Bisphenol A: this extremely common chemical leaches out of food packaging and plastics, and was long considered safe. But a number of recent studies link it to developmental problems and cancer in lab animals in doses far lower than the current regulatory limit. Canada and the United States both review the scientific data available in the coming months, but critics already worry the process will be corrupted by industry. Industry, of course, insists that BPA is safe.
Cheatneutral. "When you cheat on your partner you add to the heartbreak, pain and jealousy in the atmosphere. Cheatneutral offsets your cheating by funding someone else to be faithful and NOT cheat. This neutralises the pain and unhappy emotion and leaves you with a clear conscience." [Via Gristmill.]
When I grow up I want to be an environmental engineer. I want to work on projects that can provide potable water for people. I want to clean the polluted Mother Ganga [Ganges] who provides life giving water from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal. Or the Nile, both blue and white, spilling fertility from her bunds on a regular cycle. I want to design products that use the least amount of energy and fuel, from recycled materials and are biodegradable. I want to seek alternative sources of energy, such as using biofuel to power cellphones. I want to design with maximum constraints. Call her mother earth, gaia, demeter, ceres or inanna, our planet is on the brink of no return. Or is it all just a matter of perspective?
How's the weather? Is it polluted? Do you have plenty of rainforests? Send someone a Geography Information Postcard and tell them about where you live by filling out infographics. (via)
A vanishing world... in a bowl of chowder. An extraordinary article by New York Times writer Molly O'Neill about how changes in the recipe for New England's favorite soup reveal sea changes happening at sea. [Images here.]
A Concrete Solution to Pollution With concerns over global warming and pollution control reaching an all-time high, an Italian company has developed an interesting solution. It is called TX Active: a concrete that literally breaks down pollutants in the air. The effects are significant: 'In large cities with persistent pollution problems caused by car emissions, smoke from heating systems, and industrial activities, both the company and outside experts estimate that covering 15% of all visible urban surfaces (painting the walls, repaving the roads) with products containing TX Active could abate pollution by up to 50%.' Even more significant is that the cost is only 30% over that of normal concrete. Remarkable.
Dead Ringers: the Science Museum asks us the question "should we upgrade our mobile phone?" "No" and "no" say the Times and the Observer, but we still do: on average every 18 months. What's the problem? Well it isn't just the lead, arsenic, beryllium and brominated fire-retardant cases (pollutants all) disappearing into our land fills (which are not covered by the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive [WEEE] in Europe). Coltan also goes into our phones. It occurs mainly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and as such our demand for upgrades has been contributing to a war (despite mobile phone companies' claims to the contrary, coltan is not regulated like timber). If we must upgrade, we can at least recycle or hack our old phones.
Altered Oceans: A Primeval Tide of Toxins The fireweed began each spring as tufts of hairy growth and spread across the seafloor fast enough to cover a football field in an hour. When fishermen touched it, their skin broke out in searing welts. Their lips blistered and peeled. Their eyes burned and swelled shut. Water that splashed from their nets spread the inflammation to their legs and torsos.
What if transit were free? For six days last month in San Francisco, it was. At a cost of about $14 million (USD) for all six Spare the Air days, about 1.3 million (15%) more people took transit. Festivity ensued. Now LA's mayor is proposing a Free Transit Week. More opinions.
"It's filthy. It's toxic. But it's water. And as we know in California, people are fighting over it." It's North America’s most polluted river, made up of 70% waste material and raw sewage. The New River, which starts in Mexicali, Mexico, flows past homes in the California border town of Calexico and winds up in the Salton Sea. The river contains a nightmare stew of about 100 biological contaminants, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and pesticides including: DDT, PCB, selenium, uranium, arsenic and mercury. The scary part? It's enough water for about 300,000 homes. Filthy or not, that’s real water. So L.A.’s Metropolitan Water District has filed a claim on New River water.
Tour America’s Toxic Towns. First off is Times Beach, MO. Uncle Sam bought the town for $32 million, disincorporated it, and evacuated its 2000 residents to spare them from levels of dioxin that were possibly 2,000 times higher than the dioxin content in Agent Orange. Next up is Centralia, PA, completely evacuated due to an underground coal fire that is still burning and may burn for the next 100 years. More recently, American Electric Power purchased Cheshire, OH for $20 million. The town, which was plagued by sulfurous clouds, is now completely deserted. And who can forget the granddaddy of toxic towns, Love Canal.
CO2: We Call it Life. Actual ads being run by the "Competitive Enterprise Institute," heavily funded by oil companies such as Exxon-Mobil, to counter the growing concerns about global warming and carbon dioxide emissions.