If you came looking for Apple Guardians, you found it! Only the site name has changed. All else stays the same. Welcome back.

September 30, 2012

Who was the “Greenest” President?

Recently, the heads of 12 environmental organizations were asked to rank the greenest Presidents in US history. Now, think to yourself, what's the most liberal, the most radical of the major environmental organizations? Many of you will have chosen Greenpeace for that distinction.
Now, which President would you think the head of Greenpeace, Phil Radford, would choose as the greenest President? Barack Obama? Nope.
Maybe Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton; LBJ or FRD? Gotta be a Democrat right?
Phil's choice for the greenest President was Richard Milhous Nixon.
Nixon had a "dynamic duo" on the environment: Russell Train and William Ruckelshaus. Mr. Train died Monday at the age of 92. Much of the credit for President Nixon's and President Ford's environmental achievements goes to Mr. Train. He is rightly regarded as one of the most important environmental policymakers in the history of the United States.

September 28, 2012

23 More Species Protected in Hawaii

An important win for some of Hawaii's rarest species: On Monday the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finalized Endangered Species Act protections for 23 Oahu species and protected more than 42,000 acres of those species' most important habitats. The decision is the latest product of the Center for Biological Diversity's historic agreement last year to speed up protection decisions for 757 imperiled plants and animals around the country.
Twenty of the species in this week's decision are plants, including four identified as the "rarest of the rare," numbering fewer than 50 individuals remaining in the wild. The other three species are damselflies -- shiny-winged insects that metamorphose like butterflies -- and most of these species have been declining, and on the waiting list for protection, for years.

September 24, 2012

Oil Rigs and Conservation

First life, oil rig; next life, reef?

(Reuters) - In an ironic twist, scientists, fishermen and conservationists are urging that hundreds of dormant oil rigs be left standing in the Gulf of Mexico, arguing that a U.S. federal plan to remove them will endanger coral reefs and fish.
While environmentalists might more typically be expected to oppose artificial intrusions in the marine habitat, those seeking a halt to the removal want time to study the impact of rig destruction on the Gulf Coast's economy and to catalog the species, some rare and endangered, that are clinging to the sunken metal.
"I am not supporting oil rigs. I am supporting fish habitat that just happens to on petroleum platforms," said Bob Shipp (AFS member, 89), chairman of the Department of Marine Sciences at the University of South Alabama.
U.S. Department of Interior officials say the federal "idle iron" policy, updated in 2010, makes good sense after storms during the 2005 hurricane season toppled 150 defunct oil rigs, causing considerable damage.
If defunct rigs are toppled by storms, they can break loose and hit other rigs - potentially causing an oil spill - be swept to land and destroy a dock or a bridge, knock into and damage natural reefs and cause problems with ship navigation.
"Cleaning up afterwards is a lot more expensive and inefficient," said David Smith, spokesman for the department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement.
Federal law has long required the removal of drilling infrastructure no longer in use, but a 2010 agency notice asked operators to detail plans for 650 dormant oil and gas production platforms in the Gulf of Mexico and 3,500 inactive wells.
Companies have to demonstrate the infrastructure will be put to use eventually or offer a plan to move ahead with decommissioning, the agency said.
The structures have attracted as many as 3 acres (1.2 hectares) of coral habitat per rig, and some 30,000 fish live off of each reef, according to Shipp.
"They developed into an oasis for reef fishes," said Shipp, a member of the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

September 23, 2012

Meet the New Mobile App - Rippl

Ocean Conservancy has announced their very first mobile app: Rippl.
I pulled the summary up on my iPhone, and here’s what it says:
“Rippl is a free app that helps you make sustainable lifestyle choices by delivering weekly green living tips for simple changes we all want to make. This one-of-a-kind app provides opportunities to build green living habits into your daily routine through customizable reminders. We provide you a suggested change and you decide how the app will interact with you based on your own personal schedule. Always forgetting your reusable bags?” (Yes, argh!). “Rippl will remind you to grab them before you leave the house and then track your progress to show you just how big an impact you are having. This is your first step in forming habits that will not only help save you money but will also help keep trash out of our landfills and the environment.”
I just downloaded it!

September 22, 2012

Fighting the Arctic Thaw

"Record Ice Thaw in Arctic, Greenland" read the September 6 headline.

No, it wasn't on Treehugger -- it was on the pages of the "Wall Street Journal." Recent reports show that Arctic sea ice has melted more than ever before, with estimates that the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer months by as early as 2020.
We count on the Arctic ice cap to help regulate our global climate, as it reflects light and helps keep the ocean from overheating. This Arctic thaw is also contributing to rising ocean temperatures, and accelerating global warming. To make matters worse, the Greenland ice shelf is melting at increasing and alarming rates, causing sea levels to rise. You can learn more in "Sea Level Rise: It's Real and NoJoke" and get the facts about the Arctic thaw.

Frack Attack

Toxic spills ... poisoned drinking water ... air that’s unsafe to breathe.
This could be the new reality for thousands of communities across America -- unless we fight back and Stop the Frack Attack right now. Send a message to President Obama. Ask him to build on his environmental record by imposing tough safeguards on oil and gas drilling!
Oil and gas companies are running amok as they race to expand dangerous fracking operations in dozens of states -- leaving poisoned water, polluted landscapes and plummeting property values in their wake.
The result? Local communities, once quiet and peaceful, have been transformed into nightmarish industrial zones.
Incredibly, fracking is now exempt from some of our country’s most important environmental protections.
That’s because, in 2005, Vice-President Dick Cheney asked his cronies in the energy industry what they wanted, and they got their wish: the Halliburton Loophole, which exempts fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act and laws that govern disposal of toxic waste!
And there’s plenty that’s toxic about fracking. It works by blasting massive amounts of water, sand and toxic chemicals into the ground in order to release oil or gas that is trapped in rock. Frackers can use up to 300 different chemicals, many of which are known to be cancer-causing.
But if you want to know which of these potentially deadly chemicals Big Oil is pumping into the ground near your home -- tough luck! Federal law doesn’t require oil and gas companies to disclose what chemicals they’re using.
In the past five years, ExxonMobil, Shell and other energy companies have drilled more than 200,000 new wells across the United States -- many virtually in the backyards of tens of thousands of Americans. And they’re chomping at the bit to drill more.

September 21, 2012

Stop the Poaching

Ten billion dollars: That's just an estimate of how much criminals will make this year by selling illegal wildlife parts and products. The same gangs trading in drugs, arms and humans will plunder some of our most iconic species in the wild. They've already started.
Their billions come at the cost of rhinos, elephants, tigers and other rare wildlife. Their crimes also put at risk the lives of rangers and local community members on the front lines of conservation and jeopardize the economies and national security of many governments--including the United States.
We cannot afford to treat wildlife crime lightly.
This year it is estimated that:
•tens of thousands of elephants will be brutally poached, further shrinking their populations in places like Central Africa, an area where one out of every two elephants have been lost since the mid-1990s
•nearly 18,000 pounds of illicit rhino horn will reach Asian markets, where the street price rivals that of pure gold
•the remaining 3,200 wild tigers will continue to be relentlessly targeted by poachers to meet the high demand from a thriving black market.
Show your passion for wildlife by signing this pledge to stop wildlife crime.
Your personal commitment will help to underscore the seriousness of wildlife crime. It will also show that you care not only about Earth’s magnificent wildlife, but also about the people and ecosystems that benefit from them.
Together we can stop wildlife crime.

Shell has Stopped its Arctic Drilling!

Shell announced on Tuesday that it was stopping its Arctic drilling program for 2012!

This is great news and a strong reminder of the power that people have when they come together around a single idea.

Shell was set to kickstart the Arctic oil rush. The company had already invested seven years and about five billion dollars to make it happen. But thanks to Mother Nature, Shell’s own incompetence and the millions of people who have taken action to save the Arctic, Shell's plans have been put on hold until next year.

This is our opportunity to make sure Shell doesn’t get a second chance next year and to save the Arctic once and for all.

Join the millions who have already taken action to save the Arctic and add your name to the petition calling for a global sanctuary in the high Arctic.

The importance of this moment can’t be overestimated. Other major oil companies are now questioning the logic of Arctic drilling. Only a few days ago, the Norwegian company Statoil said it was going to wait and see how Shell’s plan goes before moving forward with its own in the Arctic.

It should now be pretty clear to Shell that Arctic oil drilling is an expensive and risky mistake.

This is huge in the campaign to save the Arctic. But the fight isn’t over. There is still work to do if we want to permanently protect the Arctic from Big Oil and climate change.

Add your name to the petition today, and let’s create a global sanctuary in the high Arctic where polar bears and the other living creatures that call it home will be protected.

Plastic Pollution in our Oceans

Plastic debris in our oceans kills hundreds of thousands of seabirds, endangered sea turtles, rare seals and other marine species every year. Roughly 40% of the world's oceans are covered in giant, swirling convergences of garbage, including billions of pounds of plastic that have become semi-permanent floating islands.
More plastic has been produced in the past decade than in the entire 20th century, and much of it ends up in the ocean. For instance, in the Los Angeles area alone, 20 tons of plastic fragments -- grocery bags, straws and soda bottles -- are carried into the Pacific every day. All this plastic takes a deadly toll on hundreds of marine animals, from brown boobies (pictured above) to great white sharks.
Please take a moment to sign the petition asking the Environmental Protection Agency to curb plastic pollution on our beaches and in our oceans.

Polar Bears Arrested in Russia

Moscow police have arrested 10 environmental activists, including four dressed in polar bear costumes, who were protesting outside the main office of Gazprom, the Russian oil and natural gas giant. A Russian Greenpeace member told local news reporters that oil exploration in the Arctic would "inevitably lead to physical destruction of the region" and that Greenpeace is trying to "create a conversation zone around the North Pole."

September 20, 2012

How NOT to Save the Rainforest

This is a fast-paced, adventure-packed, rainforest-saving video.
And it’s awesome!
Check it out.

Follow the Frog.

Rare Deep-Sea Anglerfish Recorded

Scientists say they've captured the first-ever video of a rare anglerfish first identified from a dead specimen in 1891 but never seen alive. Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are reporting the first observations of the deep-sea anglerfish Chaunacops coloratus using remotely operated undersea vehicles. The fish, which can “walk” and changes color throughout its life, was found nearly 11,000 feet below the surface.

September 19, 2012

Back to School Fall Reminiscence

My daughter is a freshman in college this year studying animal sciences, and I’m reminded of the start of my freshman year many years ago.

What I wanted were chickens. I had always wanted them. But chickens need special housing, more specifically a coop and a pen, and that’s why, in part, I’d never had them. But when I was a freshman in college, I did raise a lovely leghorn chick – one I’d kidnapped from a lab – where it was about to undergo experiments on its eyes.
I saw the tiny pink comb emerging from the cocoa brown stripes on its little head and I couldn’t bear to think of him going under the knife. I asked the professor if I might have him, and he assented. Being newly hatched, he imprinted on me as his mother and followed me wherever I went, a chicken on campus. Thinking back on it, I believe that I, with my ripped jeans, tailbone-length hair, and imprinted chicken, continued to be admitted to that institution for comic relief.
I raised him until he was a lanky, freely pooping adolescent rooster. My suite mates weren’t exactly sure how to behave. He lived in our common room and was pleasant enough as long as I kept his papers fresh. Then he began to croon and moan, and I knew midnight crowing could not be far behind. Before he found his voice, I would have to find him a real home, and I was determined that it not be a laboratory. I asked around the administration offices until I found a woman with a weekend farm in the hill country. She told me that her flock rooster was getting old and this new one would do nicely. What a relief. I packed him into a cardboard box and left him with her on a Friday afternoon. I’m sure having a harem sure beats donating your lenses to science.

That year chicken fever reached a pitch by the time the county fair rolled around at the end of September. I couldn’t bear to look at the white meat chickens, with their huge breast muscles and stocky legs. Like the turkeys, they looked maladapted, over-weight, and miserable. No, I stared at the show bantams in their tiny cages like a car fanatic at an auto show, taking in every detail, every finely penciled feather and glossy hackle. The silver Sebright laid me low. M.C. Escher couldn’t have invented a more beautiful chicken. Only nature can do that.

Most people, I suspect, want chickens for one of two things: meat or eggs. The thought of offing these chickens for meat would be, for me, similar to murder.

Dogs Make Waves at Social Surf-A-Thon Competition

This is so awesome!

About a week ago the seventh annual Surf-A-Thon dog-surfing competition brought a few hundred dogs and their proud owners to Dog Beach in Del Mar in the annual competition to raise funds for the Helen Woodward Animal Center. The dogs were judged based on how well they rode the waves and stayed on their boards, as well as whether they appeared to be having a good time. A young Golden Retriever and semi-pro surfer, Ricochet, rode the waves to victory both standing and sitting with tremendous grace and style.

September 18, 2012

Meet Lawrence’s Goldfinch

The Lawrence’s Goldfinch is a striking little finch, with gray body plumage, yellow and black wing, and a yellow breast patch; males also sport a black face, forehead, and chin.
This bird is known for its wandering ways; it can be common in a certain area one year and totally absent the next. It feeds almost entirely on seeds, particularly those of the common fiddleneck plant. It will also visit backyard feeders for niger thistle seed. During the breeding season, males form small flocks while females nest. Outside the breeding season, both sexes gather in small flocks of fewer than 50 birds, sometimes with other small, seed-eating birds.
Much of this goldfinch’s breeding range is under pressure from rising human populations and development. Since it has a relatively small population, habitat loss may put it at risk.  Its breeding status and distribution is still poorly known; more study is needed to fully understand its population dynamics.

Vote for Wildlife

Wildlife depend on us voting this November to elect a President and Congress who will address global warming--and defeat Big Polluters and special interests who are trying to roll back critical environmental laws.
A lot is at stake for wildlife in the coming elections. This summer's extreme droughts and heat waves caused by climate change set Western wildlife habitat ablaze; tar sands production threatens Canada's wolves as ancient boreal forests are destroyed; and conservation programs that protect the critically endangered Florida panther are under attack.

Voting is one of the most direct ways we can make a difference for wildlife whose survival hangs in the balance. That is why I am asking you to join in the ranks of wildlife advocates who are pledging to vote for wildlife.

Together, we can elect the best candidates to protect wildlife by voting for wildlife on November 6th.

If climate-deniers and anti-environmental candidates are given power in November, a hundred years of environmental protections could be destroyed, and along with it--our chance to protect panthers, polar bears, river otters and sea turtles from Big Polluters.

There are only 56 days left until the November 6th election. Now is the time to commit to vote for wildlife-friendly candidates, and stay informed on how candidates measure up on protecting wildlife habitat and fighting climate change.

Wildlife cannot vote, but you can.

Can Sea Otters Save the World from Global Warming?

A new study by two UC Santa Cruz researchers suggests that a thriving sea otter population that keeps sea urchins in check will in turn allow kelp forests to prosper. The spreading kelp can absorb as much as 12 times the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere than if it were subject to ravenous sea urchins. Researchers gathered 40 years worth of data on otters and kelp blooms from Vancouver Island to the western edge of Alaska's Aleutian Islands.


September 17, 2012

Top 10 Toxic Products You Don’t Need

HCHW - Isn’t it time to purge what isn’t necessary? Let’s start by eliminating common, everyday items that contain toxic chemicals and contaminate your food, air, and body.
Here they are; listed in no particular order:
1. Vinyl plastic: Vinyl is the worst plastic for the environment. Banned in over 14 countries and the European Union, PVC, also known as vinyl, is still legally sold by U.S. retailers although it threatens environmental and consumer health at every stage of its product life cycle, according to the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice (CHEJ). When it's in your home, PVC can leach phthalates (linked to hormone disruption) and lead (a potent neurotoxicant) - contaminating air, dust, and eventually you. Go PVC-free by reading packages and avoiding the #3 in the chasing arrows symbol (usually found on the bottom of a product). If a plastic is not labeled, call the manufacturer.
2. Fragrance products: When surveyed, Facebook fans repeatedly cited dryer sheets as a toxic product they’d be happy to live without (and many wished their neighbors would stop using them too). Fragrances found in everyday products like air fresheners and perfumes can trigger asthma. Some of the chemicals of concern mimic estrogen, a process that may increase the risk of breast cancer. For example, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is absorbed through the skin and can accumulate in human fat tissue. Phthalates are suspected carcinogens and hormone disruptors that are increasingly being linked to reproductive disorders.
It's not so simple to avoid phthalates by switching products because they are rarely listed on product ingredient labels. Phthalates are claimed as a part of trade secret formulas, and are exempt from federal labeling requirements. Until the law changes and consumers get the right to know which chemicals are in products, choose fragrance-free products or use those scented with natural fragrances like essential oils.
3. Canned food: It's probably shocking to find a food item on a toxic product list, but it's no mistake. Food cans are lined bisphenol-A (BPA). Most experts believe this is our main source of exposure to BPA, which has been linked to early puberty, cancer, obesity, heart disease, depression in young girls and much more. Eden Foods was the first company to eschew BPA, but many other brands have gone BPA free, including Campbell’s Soup. But beware: some companies have switched to BPS, BPA’s chemical cousin, which has been linked many of the same health effects. To be safe, opt for fresh, frozen, dried or jarred foods.
4. Dirty cleaners: Admit it: it’s a bit odd to wipe toxic chemicals all over your oven, floors, counters, and toilets to get them “clean.” Corrosive or caustic cleaners, such as the lye and acids found in drain cleaners, oven cleaners and acid-based toilet bowl cleaners, are the most dangerous cleaning products because they burn skin, eyes and internal tissue easily. It’s simple and effective to use non-toxic cleaners or to make your own. You won’t miss the toxic fumes in your home either!
5. Pesticides: This is a huge category of products, but they deserve inclusion in their entirety because of how extremely toxic they are. They're made to be. That's how they kill things. But, solving your pest problem may leave you with another problem - residual poisons that linger on surfaces, contaminate air, and get tracked onto carpet from the bottom of shoes. There are so many non-toxic ways to eliminate pests and weeds - next time you need to get on the offense, check out the recommendations at Beyond Pesticides.
6. Bottled water: Americans buy half a billion bottles of water every week, according to the film The Story of Bottled Water. Most people buy bottled water thinking they're avoiding any contaminants that may be present in their tap water. For the most part, they're wrong. Bottled water can be just as, or even more, contaminated than tap water. In fact, some bottled water IS tap water - just packaged (in plastic that can leach chemicals into the water) and over-priced. Also, from manufacture to disposal, bottled water creates an enormous amount of pollution - making our water even less drinkable. Do yourself and the world a favor and invest in a reusable stainless steel water bottle and a water filter.
7. Lead lipstick: Can you believe lead, a known neurotoxin that has no safe level of exposure, is found in women’s lipsticks? A study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration discovered lead in 400 lipsticks tested, at levels two times higher than found in a previous FDA study. There is no safe level of lead exposure. Pregnant women and children are at special risk, as lead can interfere with normal brain development. To find a safe lipstick, as well as other personal care products like shampoo and lotion, check out the Skin Deep Database.
8. Nonstick Cookware: Just get this stuff out of your kitchen now. Studies show that perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), which make products stain-and stick resistant, are linked to cancer and low birth weights. They are incredibly persistent and can now be found all over the globe, including in the bodies of polar bears. Not only are PFCs found in cookware, but microwave popcorn bags and pizza boxes, some dental flosses, furniture and clothing. To steer clear of PFCs, avoid products made with Teflon or list ingredients beginning with “fluoro” or “perfluoro.”
9. Triclosan: This antibacterial agent is found in soaps, toothpastes, mouthwashes, deodorants, and even clothing. Studies have found triclosan may harm the human immune system, which makes them more likely to develop allergies, and reduces muscle strength in humans and animals. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns consumers to read labels for triclosan and recommends using just plain soap to clean up. Instead of using antibacterial hand sanitizers made with triclosan, choose an alternative made with at least 60 percent alcohol.
10. Oil-based paints and finishes: There are 300 toxic chemicals and 150 carcinogens potentially present in oil-based paint, according to a John Hopkins University study. Still interested in coating your walls and furniture with this gunk? I hope not. Look for water-based options - ideally those that are low- or no-VOC. You could also explore natural finishes like milk paint and vegetable or wax based wood finishes.

Pick the 7 Endangered Wonders

Make your voice heard in a fun way and take part in a new initiative designed to bring increased attention – and ultimately protection – to some of the world’s most endangered animals.
The Alliance for Zero Extinction’s (AZE) new 7 Wonders campaign asks conservation-minded people like you to help select seven sites from around the globe to highlight the plight of species on the brink. The winning sites will be featured in a campaign to help conserve endangered species.
You can vote for your top sites from a list of 20. Each site is the last refuge on Earth for one or more endangered species. If any of these sites is lost to development, logging, agriculture, or other threat, the endangered species it harbors will go extinct. The 7 Wonders campaign highlights the precarious nature of these places and their species, and the urgent need to save them.
The 20 candidate sites were selected from among 587 sites around the world that were identified by scientists working with AZE. Voting will be open through November, and can be carried out at the campaign website: www.AZE7Wonders.org.

Green Competition on Facebook

As initiatives that target behavior to curb energy consumption spread nationwide, competition is emerging as an increasingly useful tool to motivate people.
Comparing people with their peers is one of the most effective ways to get them to lower their energy consumption – even if they don't care about the environment. With competition in the air, given the Olympics and the U.S. presidential race, take a moment to learn how friends and neighbors embrace their competitive spirit to save energy at home and at work.
Opower is known for encouraging neighbors to compete for energy savings with its home energy reports, which feature easy-to-read energy-use comparisons of neighboring homes. But the software company has recently been making headlines for its Social Energy app, a Facebook app that encourages friendly competition among Facebook friends.
The app's competitive features include "Friend Rank," which compares your energy usage to that of your friends. App users can also invite friends to a "group" with a specific energy goal. In a group, members compare energy use, boast, and goad each other onto sometimes creative energy-saving tactics – one recent conversation revolved around the energy-saving potential of forgoing reality TV.
Although the app is only four months old and still in its beta testing stage, Opower is already seeing the signs of energy-savings to come. "What we're seeing is that people are having really authentic conversations about their energy use," said Wayne Lin, Opower's product management director. Lin noted that it's hard for utilities to generate buzz around energy use because their language can be "markety," but the social aspect of Facebook is continuously spawning genuine conversations about how to save energy.
"And if people can have genuine discussions about energy use, that can lead to behavior change and reducing the amount of energy they’re using," Lin said.
The app has over 5,000 monthly users and 800 Likes, and Opower expects that to rise exponentially as word gets around.
In the meantime, social app users are trying out some advanced competitive features, like "badges" that indicate how much of an energy efficiency rockstar you are. The badges, which get posted on your Facebook wall, indicate how many kWh of energy you used in the past month. There are 11 types of badges, including the "tree house" badge (see image, above) for those who only used 100 kWh in the past month, and the coveted "tent" badge for 50 kWh users.
Check Out the Social Energy App by Facebook, NRDC, Opower.

Sarcasm and the Apple

Here is the biggest problem I face every day: I want to eat an apple as a healthy snack to get me through the afternoon, but eating a whole apple is really too much for me given my busy schedule. So I cut an apple into slices and put half the slices in the fridge for the next day. But when I go to eat the other half the apple slices have turned brown. Forget adding lemon juice, that’s one step too many! Luckily, human ingenuity has finally delivered. The good folks at Okanagan Specialty Fruits up in Canada recently submitted their Arctic® Apple, which has been genetically engineered so it doesn’t brown when exposed to oxygen, to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for approval. Never mind that consumers won’t see GE labeling on these apples, or that apple biodiversity could be irreversibly contaminated. I don’t have time to worry about those things; I want my apple slices and I want them to be pretty.
(p.s. – Are you freakin’ kidding me?)

Say "no" to genetically engineered apples!

Glowing Pet Fish Could Threaten Natural Species

Back in 2003, biotech company Yorktown Technologies developed a genetically modified fluorescent fish that was neon-bright and glowed in the dark under black light. Since that time, the company has sold millions of these "GloFish," which have made their way into various living room aquariums and sushi bars. But now it appears that they may be ending up somewhere else — namely our lakes and rivers. And needless to say, a number of scientists are saying this is not a good thing.


September 16, 2012

Winged Funerals

When western scrub jays spot the lifeless body of another on the ground, they cease their foraging and flight to alert fellow jays. And from great distances the others come, gathering around their dead and singing their cacophonous dirge -- what ornithologists call "zeeps," "scolds" and "zeep-scolds" -- to encourage those even farther away to attend.
According to a recent study published in the journal Animal Behaviour, these funerary rites help jays share information about nearby danger. In the study, Western scrub jays reacted differently to a series of objects set out by observers from the University of California, Davis: They attempted to scare off a stuffed predator, scolded a stuffed jay, ignored painted scraps resembling a dead jay, but gathered to better understand the implications of a true death.
Of course, such practical yet metaphysical contemplation isn't entirely shocking coming from such a smart bird. Recent research also suggests western scrub jays may be among the most intelligent animals, with a brain-to-body-mass ratio that rivals that of chimps and whales and an uncanny ability to plan for the future -- long believed a uniquely human trait.
Read more in BBC Nature.

Five State Capitols Receive Green Design from EPA

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that the capital cities of Kentucky, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana and Indiana will be awarded design assistance from EPA to create healthy, prosperous communities through green development. EPA’s Greening America’s Capitals (GAC) program will help these capital cities stimulate economic development, provide more housing and transportation choices, and reduce infrastructure and energy costs. Through this project, EPA will provide design assistance from private-sector experts to help these capital cities demonstrate sustainable designs that create vibrant neighborhoods while strengthening the local economies and protecting people’s health.

The following five cities were selected through a national competition for assistance.

    Frankfort, Ky. will receive assistance to enhance walkability and add bike lanes between the historic downtown and the State Capitol. The project will also connect the downtown with the proposed Kentucky River trail.
    Des Moines, Iowa will receive assistance to incorporate green infrastructure elements into a proposed streetscape plan for a one-mile segment of 6th Avenue. The project will revitalize the commercial street that serves as the northern gateway to the city’s downtown.
    Baton Rouge, La. will receive assistance to incorporate green infrastructure elements into a proposed walking and biking trail that connects Louisiana State University with the city’s downtown.
    Helena, Mont. will receive assistance to improve the walkability and add bike lanes along Last Chance Gulch, a street that connects the northern part of the Helena business district with the historic downtown. The project will also explore design alternatives for a five-way intersection to enhance walkability.
    Indianapolis, Ind. will receive assistance to make streets more pedestrian-friendly and revitalize public plazas within and adjacent to the Market Square redevelopment area. The project will tie in with the city’s larger plan to develop businesses in a new green cultural district.
GAC is a project of the Partnership for Sustainable Communities among EPA, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). The partnership is helping communities across the country create more housing and transportation choices, reinforce existing investments, and support vibrant and healthy neighborhoods that attract businesses. This is the third year of the Greening America’s Capitals program. Capital cities selected in the first two years included Boston, Mass.; Charleston, W.Va.; Hartford, Conn.; Jackson, Miss.; Jefferson City, Mo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Little Rock, Ark.; Montgomery, Ala.; Phoenix, Ariz.; and Washington, D.C.
More information on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities: http://www.sustainablecommunities.gov

Larry Gibson

There are certain people whose voice and vision have an outsized influence, their work expanding in a ripple effect that catalyzes real social change. Larry Gibson, founder of Keeper of the Mountains, protector of Appalachia and fighter of coal mining, was one of those heroes.
On Sunday, Larry Gibson died of a heart attack while working at his home on Kayford Mountain, West Virginia—land that had been in his family for generations and that he turned into a prime exhibit of the highly destructive practice of mountaintop removal coal mining. A piece of land he stubbornly refused to sell despite being offered millions by mining companies.

As Larry famously said, "I'm not collateral damage. I am not a victim. I am somebody. I am just as good as anyone. I deserve the same quality of air and health that everyone does that lives away from the coal fields."

Many, like me, first heard about the fight to stop mountaintop removal coal mining through Larry’s courageous protection of his family home.

One of the most important things we can do today to memorialize Larry’s legacy is to make a collective promise to keep fighting, to continue fending off King Coal, to protect our air, our mountains, our water, our climate and our communities. Today you can help by sharing Larry’s legacy, ensuring that one more person in your community is part of Larry’s ripple effect and is inspired to join the fight.

As writer Jeff Biggers eloquently put it, “Few people in our country were so fearless in the face of political pressure, bankers, Big Coal backlash and even death threats; and fewer people had the inspiring impact of this determined mountaineer, who had spent the last two decades crisscrossing the country, leading protests and beseeching power brokers to defend his Appalachian mountains from reckless strip mining operations.”

He will be so sincerely missed, but it is in our hands to ensure his legacy is not forgotten.

Hurricane Isaac Washes Up 2010 Gulf Oil Spill Remnants

Waves from Hurricane Isaac uncovered oil previously buried along Gulf Coast beaches, exposing crude that wasn't cleaned up after the BP spill in 2010.  Tests run by Louisiana State University for state wildlife officials confirmed that oil found on Elmer's Island and Grand Isle matched the biological fingerprint of the hundreds of millions of gallons of oil that spewed from BP's Macondo well. According to the US Coast Guard, oiled pelicans and other wildlife have been found in Louisiana marshes as well. Hurricane Issac, which stirred up intense winds and dumped over a foot of rain in some parts of Louisiana, has also disturbed some deposits that hadn’t been cleaned up after the spill. Reports of tar balls washing up on beaches after the storm were reported in Alabama and Louisiana, the two states that got hit hard by BP's massive offshore oil spill.


September 15, 2012

“Test It Maybe” Video

Right now, our nation’s primary chemical law is the Toxic Substances Control Act, which has not been updated since it was passed in 1976. The law is badly broken, allowing the EPA to test only a few hundred of the over 84,000 chemicals on the market today. This means that most of the chemicals in our products — everything from the backpacks our children wear to the furniture in our houses — are not tested for their long term effects on our health and the environment.

To the tune of "Call Me Maybe," conservationists from a non-profit organization put this video together. OK, it's really quirky, but the message is clear. And by the end you might catch yourself smiling at how silly they are.

Rising rates of diseases like asthma, diabetes, childhood cancers, infertility, and learning and behavioral disorders have been linked to toxic chemical exposure. We need our government to protect our families from these chronic illnesses by requiring adequate testing of chemicals before they accumulate in our bodies and environment. The Safe Chemicals Act will ensure that the chemicals surrounding us every day are safe, but we’ll only be able to make it a reality if you speak out today.

Share this video with others!

Illinois Coal Plant Owner Wants Permission to Pollute Beyond Legal Limit

Ameren, one of the largest coal plant owners in Illinois, is requesting special treatment that would allow it to continue polluting beyond the legal standard ELPC helped pass in 2006. This summer, ELPC coordinated a sign-on letter for nearly 100physicians and scientists from across the state as well as additional public comments from ELPC eAdvocates to ask the state to deny Ameren’s request.
The company cut a deal with the state 6 years ago – an extension for complying with one part of the standard (mercury pollution) in exchange for a more aggressive schedule for reducing other pollutants (sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide). The state held up its end of the bargain, and now Ameren wants to walk away from its commitment. Other coal plant owners, such as Dynegy, have already invested in equipment to meet the state standards and say it is ‘challenging’ when one competitor seeks an exemption from rules others have agreed to.

Read an article from Midwest Energy News.

September 11, 2012

Diver Films Himself Holding Hands With a Seal

An underwater wildlife cameraman has filmed the moment a grey seal held his hand while he was diving off the English coast. While deep sea diving, English doctor Ben Burville, encountered this friendly grey seal off the coast of Northumberland. What follows is absolutely heartwarming: The front flippers of the Atlantic pup can grasp much like a human - proving that perhaps we're not that different after all.

September 10, 2012

Awakening the Dreamer

With moving reflections from community leaders and data from participants, Luke Terrell’s beautiful short film shows the impact the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium has had in Australia.


Rediscovered Bay Area Plant

One of San Francisco's most important biological discoveries -- a single Franciscan manzanita plant found in 2009 after the species was presumed extinct in the wild for six decades -- will gain Endangered Species Act protection, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced on Tuesday. The Service is also proposing to protect more than 300 acres of critical habitat for the plant, in 11 different areas of the city, to aid recovery and reintroduction.

The previous last-known wild specimens of San Francisco's namesake manzanita had been rescued by heroic botanists for nursery cultivation in 1947, just before bulldozers destroyed their last habitat.

With its new federal protection, the manzanita, which has small, oval leaves and bulbous flowers, finally has a shot at survival and even recovery.

Tiny Pacific Islands Create World's Largest Marine Park

The world’s largest marine park will soon be created in the Cook Islands located in the Pacific Ocean over 1,800 miles from New Zealand. Covering an area of more than 400,000 square miles, the park will be three times the size of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park and twice as large as the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean that topped the list of marine protected areas for two years. The nation’s 15 islands have a combined land mass barely larger than Washington DC, but its waters include environmentally valuable coral reefs, seagrass beds and fisheries.

September 9, 2012

Have You Signed Up Yet?

This is it – in just one week, our grassroots leaders will help execute the world's biggest trash cleanup – the International Coastal Cleanup. Last year, we had over 600,000 volunteers collect over 9 million pounds of trash on our beaches, in our neighborhoods, and at local open spaces and parks.
We see trash on our streets and in our neighborhoods every day, and it's not just an eyesore. Much of this trash ends up in our waterways, beginning a long, slow march to the ocean where it impacts the health of our ocean, the food we eat, and the water we drink.

You can help do something about it. It's easy – go to the registration website, www.signuptocleanup.org, search for events in your area, and sign up for one. Then just grab some water, put on some sneakers, and join our hundreds of thousands of volunteers to help pick-up trash and protect our ocean and waterways.

How Much Food are YOU Wasting?

Did your mother ever use the line "there are starving children in Africa" to get you to clear your dinner plate as a child? While that may not have been the most effective tactic, her heart was in the right place. As a society, though, we haven’t exactly made our moms proud since then. A new NRDC report shows that in America up to 40 percent of all edible food is not eaten, which translates to about $28-$43 worth of food every month per person -- not to mention the staggering environmental costs of producing, packaging, and transporting food that gets discarded. Find out how you can lessen the burden on your own wallet.
To read more about food waste, check out Laura Wright Treadway's terrific OnEarth article, which was one of the first pieces to give the issue widespread attention and is still one of OnEarth's most popular columns. Read the article.

Shell Oil's Arctic Drilling Gets Green Light

In a terrible blow to our climate's health, the federal government granted Shell Oil its permit to start oil drilling in Alaska's Chukchi Sea last week -- and the company's first drillship has now arrived in the Arctic.

The day after President Barack Obama approved initial drilling in the Arctic, the Environmental Protection Agency also issued an air-permit waiver letting Shell breeze past clean-air standards. In June the corporation requested a threefold increase in nitrogen oxide emissions and a tenfold increase in harmful particulate matter emissions.

Shell may have ignored pollution safeguards, but no one can ignore the dangers of drilling in the Far North. It's impossible to clean an oil spill in the Arctic's icy waters and harsh weather: Hundreds of polar bears, migratory birds and whales are now in imminent peril.

Take action to demand the Obama administration refuse Shell's request for a drilling-season extension, read more of the BloombergBusinessweek article, and watch this video of Shell's drillship arriving in the Arctic.

Los Angeles Unified School District Bans Styrofoam

The largest school district in California and the second largest in the nation, LAUSD, delivered a memorable civics lesson to the children of Thomas Starr King Middle School by granting the students' public request for a ban on food trays made of polystyrene (aka Styrofoam). The students took action and requested a ban on polystyrene food trays after they learned during a class trip to a Los Angeles recycling center that polystyrene contaminated with food does not get recycled; instead it goes straight to the dump. The district uses about 40 million trays a year. The new paper tray is about 3 to 4 cents cheaper per unit and saves the district about $5 million to $6 million.

September 8, 2012

Scotts Miracle-Gro Hurting the Environment

WASHINGTON – The Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, a producer of pesticides for commercial and consumer lawn and garden uses, was sentenced on Friday in federal district court in Columbus, Ohio, to pay a $4 million fine and perform community service for eleven criminal violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which governs the manufacture, distribution, and sale of pesticides. Scotts pleaded guilty in February 2012 to illegally applying insecticides to its wild bird food products that are toxic to birds, falsifying pesticide registration documents, distributing pesticides with misleading and unapproved labels, and distributing unregistered pesticides. This is the largest criminal penalty under FIFRA to date.
In a separate civil agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scotts agreed to pay more than $6 million in penalties and spend $2 million on environmental projects to resolves additional civil pesticide violations. The violations include distributing or selling unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. This is the largest civil settlement under FIFRA to date.

“The misuse or mislabeling of pesticide products can cause serious illness in humans and be toxic to wildlife,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentence and unprecedented civil settlement hold Scotts accountable for widespread company noncompliance with pesticide laws, which put products into the hands of consumers without the proper authorization or warning labels.”

“As the world’s largest marketer of residential use pesticides, Scotts has a special obligation to make certain that it observes the laws governing the sale and use of its products. For having failed to do so, Scotts has been sentenced to pay the largest fine in the history of FIFRA enforcement," said Ignacia S. Moreno, assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the Department of Justice. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with EPA to assure that pesticides applied in homes and on lawns and food are sold and used in compliance with the laws intended to assure their safety.”

In the plea agreement, Scotts admitted that it applied the pesticides Actellic 5E and Storcide II to its bird food products even though EPA had prohibited this use. Scotts had done so to protect its bird foods from insect infestation during storage. Scotts admitted that it used these pesticides contrary to EPA directives and in spite of the warning label appearing on all Storicide II containers stating, “Storcide II is extremely toxic to fish and toxic to birds and other wildlife.” Scotts sold this illegally treated bird food for two years after it began marketing its bird food line and for six months after employees specifically warned Scotts management of the dangers of these pesticides. By the time it voluntarily recalled these products in March 2008, Scotts had sold more than 70 million units of bird food illegally treated with pesticide that is toxic to birds.

Scotts also pleaded guilty to submitting false documents to EPA and to state regulatory agencies in an effort to deceive them into believing that numerous pesticides were registered with EPA when in fact they were not. The company also pleaded guilty to having illegally sold the unregistered pesticides and to marketing pesticides bearing labels containing false and misleading claims not approved by EPA. The falsified documents submitted to EPA and states were attributed to a federal product manager at Scotts.

In addition to the $4 million criminal fine, Scotts will contribute $500,000 to organizations that protect bird habitat, including $100,000 each to the Ohio Audubon’s Important Bird Area Program, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Urban Forestry Program, the Columbus Metro-Parks Bird Habitat Enhancement Program, the Cornell University Ornithology Laboratory, and The Nature Conservancy of Ohio to support the protection of bird populations and habitats through conservation, research, and education.

At the time the criminal violations were discovered, EPA also began a civil investigation that uncovered numerous civil violations spanning five years. Scotts’ FIFRA civil violations included the nationwide distribution or sale of unregistered, canceled, or misbranded pesticides, including products with inadequate warnings or cautions. As a result, EPA issued more than 40 Stop Sale, Use or Removal Orders to Scotts to address more than 100 pesticide products.

In addition to the $6 million civil penalty, Scotts will complete environmental projects, valued at $2 million, to acquire, restore and protect 300 acres of land to prevent runoff of agricultural chemicals into nearby waterways.

The criminal case was investigated by EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division and the Environmental Enforcement Unit of the Ohio Attorney General's Office, Bureau of Criminal Identification & Investigation. It was prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Jeremy F. Korzenik of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section of the Environment and Natural Resources Division, by Michael J. McClary, EPA Criminal Enforcement Counsel and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney and by Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Michael Marous.

The civil case was investigated by U.S. EPA Region 5’s Land and Chemicals Division and Office of Regional Counsel, and the U.S. EPA Headquarters Office of Civil Enforcement, assisted by the Office of Pesticides Program.

More information about the civil settlement and recalled products…


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