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March 30, 2013

The Kayapo: Our River has no Price

On March 5th, chiefs from 26 Kayapo communities located principally east of the Xingu River in Para and represented by their NGO "Protected Forest Association" resolved not to accept any money from Eletrobras.

"Your word means nothing. Our conversation is over. The Xingu is our home and you are not welcome" 

This rejection is a great step towards the protection of the Kayapo lands and their water source, the Xingu River. There is still work to be done. Kayapo Indigenous leaders must meet to develop united strategy for protecting their forests from escalating threat in the Brazilian Amazon.  A historic meeting of all Kayapo leaders young and old is being organized. Kayapo lands are so large that many of their communities can be reached only by small plane.

The Kayapo have achieved more for preservation of tropical forest than any other group or organization on earth.

Learn more about the Kayapo Project.

March 29, 2013

What's in Your Water?

If you're drinking a glass of water, you might want to put it down before you read this post.

Burning coal for electricity produces ash and sludge full of arsenic, boron, cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, and selenium. Where do you think it all goes? 

That's right -- the same power plants that are causing asthma with their soot and wrecking our climate with their carbon are also dumping tons of toxins into our waters. And without federal rules to stop them, those plants would keep on sending toxic sludge into rivers and streams, where it threatens swimmers and boaters, poisons wildlife, and wrecks ecosystems. 

Power plants produce more toxic waste than any other industry in the United States, including the chemical, plastic, and paint manufacturing industries. They spew millions of pounds of pollutants into our waters every year -- toxins that are dangerous even in very low concentrations.Your drinking water is safe because we do a great job of filtering and cleaning, but our wildlife and ecosystems aren't so lucky. 

The problem's only getting worse as coal plants get older and dirtier. The EPA estimates that the amount of toxic wastewater from these plants is going to increase 28% over the next 15 years. That means more heavy metals and more toxic sludge in our waters -- more contaminated rivers, more unhealthy streams, more poisoned wildlife. 

Every step we take toward clean air and water helps keep our communities and our environment healthy... and it also takes us one step closer to the clean-energy future where our nation finally realizes that coal's real cost -- in climate destruction, toxic water, and poison air -- is simply too high. 

Thanks for everything you do to protect the environment.

Cleaner Fuel, Cleaner Air

The EPA has just announced historic new standards to reduce soot, smog and other dangerous pollution that spews from the tailpipes of our cars and trucks.

With every breath, these standards will deliver cleaner, healthier air to the lungs of millions of Americans, producing billions of dollars of public health benefits every year. And they will cost less than a penny per gallon of gas which is why they are widely applauded by not only the environmental community, but have earned broad praise from U.S. automakers, state health commissioners, recreation groups, consumers, and public health advocates.

Cars and trucks are the second largest emitters of the primary ozone-forming pollutants. They emit more than half of all carbon monoxide pollution as well as dangerous levels of particulate matter in our air.

These standards will dramatically reduce these emissions and the cleaner fuel will slash smog-forming pollution at a level comparable to taking 33 million of today’s new cars off the roads.

Today is a great day for clean air and environmental progress. 

China's "River Pigs" Closer to Extinction than the Panda

China's wild finless porpoises are heading toward extinction, a conservation group said Thursday, with the dolphin-like animals now rarer than the giant panda.

With a stubby nose and grey body, the porpoises inhabit the Yangtze River and are famed for their cuteness in China, where they are known as "river pigs".

But their numbers in the Yangtze, which is the country's longest river, have more than halved in six years, according to an extensive survey.

Scientists spent over a month last year scanning more than 3,400 kilometres of the river in a hunt for the porpoises, but only saw 380, the conservation group WWF said in a statement.

Based on that observation, combined with sightings of the porpoises in lakes connected to the river, the total number alive in the wild was likely to be a little more than 1,000, the WWF said.

There are around 1,600 giant pandas living in the wild, according to the WWF, which has said the porpoise could become extinct in 15 years if no action is taken.

The species is "moving fast toward its extinction," the WWF quoted Wang Ding, head of the research expedition, as saying.

The finless porpoise, which unlike the dolphin has a small dorsal ridge rather than a fin, has been hurt by human intrusion and environmental degradation.

"Food shortage and human disturbance such as increased shipping traffic are the major threats," the WWF said, adding that researchers also discovered "traps that could affect finless porpoises".

Waterways in China have become heavily contaminated with toxic waste from factories and farms -- pollution blamed on more than three decades of rapid economic growth and lax enforcement of environmental protection laws.

Environmental activists also say the huge Three Gorges Dam and other hydropower projects on the Yangtze have upset the delicate ecological balance and harmed aquatic life in the river.

The survey failed to find any trace of the Baiji Dolphin, a close relative of the finless porpoise that was declared "functionally extinct," after a survey in 2006.

March 21, 2013

Getting Eerie in Lake Erie

For Lake Erie residents and visitors, the spring rains are more of a curse than a blessing. It's these rains that predict how serious the summer algae blooms will be: the more frequent and heavy the downpours, the worse the outbreak. In 2011, the toxic algae covered a sixth of Erie's waters, contributing to the expanding dead zone on its bottom, reducing fish populations, fouling beaches and crippling a tourism industry. To cut the phosphorus levels that contribute to the growth in algae, scientists say that the farming habits and equipment along the Erie shore must change. 

March 19, 2013

Removing Dams to Restore Rivers

From Amethyst Brook, MA to Wychus Creek, OR, communities in 19 states restored 400 miles of rivers and streams by removing 65 outdated or unsafe dams in 2012. The annual list, put out by American Rivers, brings the total of U.S. dam removals up to almost 1,100. There are hundreds of thousands of dams blocking rivers across the U.S. - many serve useful purposes, others are obsolete or abandoned. These outdated dams are barriers to migrating fish and limit river recreation opportunities like canoeing and fishing. Dams can also create drowning hazards and can threaten the safety of downstream communities. Removal of the deteriorating dams will restore river health and clean water, revitalize fish and wildlife, improve public safety and enhance local economies. 

March 4, 2013

Ten Reasons Why We Need Plants

Swamp Pink (Helonias bullata) a Threatened Species

Human activities have greatly altered the face of the earth, particularly the forests and fields that cover it. Every time we allow a species to slip into extinction, we are throwing away a biological component of the world that might or might not be of crucial importance. Just because we do not know whether a species is useful to the human economy or to the community of species of which it is a part does not mean that we can cast it aside. I present a ten-point argument that plants do not just cover the earth but keep it alive as well:
  1. Plants have produced nearly all of the oxygen that is in the atmosphere.
  2. Plants remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to regulate the greenhouse effect.
  3. Plants create cool shade.
  4. Plants help to prevent floods and droughts.
  5. Plants put sunlight energy into the entire food chain of earth.
  6. Plants transform dirt into soil.
  7. Plants create the habitats in which all organisms live.
  8. Plants grow back after disturbances, restoring habitats.
  9. Plants are the basis of agriculture.
  10. The diversity of plant species sustains natural habitats and human activities.
Economists have estimated that the "ecosystem services" provided by the natural world, mostly by plants, and for which we do not have to pay, are worth $33 trillion to the world economy - an amount equivalent to about half of its total annual pro-ductivitiy.

Naturalists like myself are on a mission: to proclaim to the world the importance of plants and why we should save those that are endangered. We need to preserve the wild plants of forests and fields as if our lives depended on it - because they do. The greatest extinction of plant species that has ever occurred is now under way, and it is unnoticed by most people.


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