Pet flea treatments poisoning rivers across England, scientists find

Pet flea treatments poisoning rivers across England, scientists find

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 17, 2020 SNIP: Highly toxic insecticides used on cats and dogs to kill fleas are poisoning rivers across England, a study has revealed. The discovery is “extremely concerning” for water insects, and the fish and birds that depend on them, the scientists said, who expect significant environmental damage is being done. The research found fipronil in 99% of samples from 20 rivers and the average level of one particularly toxic breakdown product of the pesticide was 38 times above the safety limit. Fipronil and another nerve agent called imidacloprid that was found in the rivers have been banned from use on farms for some years. There are about 10 million dogs and 11 million cats in the UK, with an estimated 80% receiving flea treatments, whether needed or not. The researchers said the blanket use of flea treatments should be discouraged and that new regulation is needed. Currently, the flea treatments are approved without an assessment of environmental damage. “Fipronil is one of the most commonly used flea products and recent studies have shown it degrades to compounds that are more toxic to most insects than fipronil itself,” said Rosemary Perkins at the University of Sussex, who led the study. “Our results are extremely concerning.” Prof Dave Goulson, also at the University of Sussex and part of the team, said: “I couldn’t quite believe the pesticides were so prevalent. Our rivers are routinely and chronically contaminated with both of these chemicals.” “The problem is these chemicals are so potent,” he said, even at tiny concentrations. “We would expect them to be having significant impacts...
Trump officials rush to auction drilling rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

Trump officials rush to auction drilling rights to Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

SOURCE: Seattle Times, Washington Post DATE: November 16, 2020 SNIP: The Trump administration has called for oil and gas firms to pick spots where they want to drill in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as it races to open the pristine wilderness to development and lock in drilling rights before President-elect Joe Biden takes office. The “call for nominations” to be published Tuesday allows companies to identify tracts to bid on during an upcoming lease sale on the refuge’s nearly 1.6-million-acre coastal plain, a sale that the Interior Department aims to hold before Biden takes the oath of office in January. The move would be a capstone of President Donald Trump’s efforts to open up public lands to logging, mining and grazing — something Biden strongly opposes. A GOP-controlled Congress in 2017 authorized drilling in the refuge, a vast wilderness that is home to tens of thousands of migrating caribou and waterfowl, along with polar bears and Arctic foxes. The administration is pressing ahead with other moves to expand energy development and scale back federal environmental rules over the next few weeks. It aims to finalize a plan to open up the vast majority of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska to drilling, as well as adopt a narrower definition of what constitutes critical habitat for endangered species and when companies are liable for killing migratory birds. At the Energy Department, officials may weaken energy-efficiency requirements for shower heads before Inauguration Day. Gwich’in Steering Committee executive director Bernadette Demientieff, whose people have traveled with the caribou on the refuge for thousands of years, said in a statement: “Any company thinking about...
The world’s largest wetlands are on fire. That’s a disaster for all of us

The world’s largest wetlands are on fire. That’s a disaster for all of us

SOURCE: CNN DATE: November 13, 2020 SNIP: The world watched as California and the Amazon went up in flames this year, but the largest tropical wetland on earth has been ablaze for months, largely unnoticed by the outside world. South America’s Pantanal region has been hit by the worst wildfires in decades. The blazes have already consumed about 28% of the vast floodplain that stretches across parts of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay. They are still not completely under control. The fires have destroyed unique habitats and wrecked the livelihoods of many of the Pantanal’s diverse indigenous communities. But their damaging impact reaches far beyond the region. Wetlands like the Pantanal are Earth’s most effective carbon sinks — ecosystems that absorb and store more carbon than they release, keeping it away from the atmosphere. At roughly 200,000 square kilometers, the Pantanal comprises about 3% of the globe’s wetlands and plays a key role in the carbon cycle. When these carbon-rich ecosystems burn, vast amounts of heat-trapping gases are released back into the atmosphere, contributing to the greenhouse effect. Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research (INPE) has detected more than 21,200 fires in the Pantanal biome so far this year, a figure that is already 69% higher than the full-year record from 2005, when INPE recorded roughly 12,500 fires. There were 8,106 fires in September alone — more than four times the historic average for the month. The Pantanal’s distinctive habitats rely on what scientists call the “flood pulse.” During the wet season between November and March, three quarters of the plain gets flooded, only for much of the water to...
UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

UN report says up to 850,000 animal viruses could be caught by humans, unless we protect nature

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: October 29, 2020 SNIP: Human damage to biodiversity is leading us into a pandemic era. The virus that causes COVID-19, for example, is linked to similar viruses in bats, which may have been passed to humans via pangolins or another species. Environmental destruction such as land clearing, deforestation, climate change, intense agriculture and the wildlife trade is putting humans into closer contact with wildlife. Animals carry microbes that can be transferred to people during these encounters. A major report released today says up to 850,000 undiscovered viruses which could be transferred to humans are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. The report, by The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), says to avoid future pandemics, humans must urgently transform our relationship with the environment. The report says, on average, five new diseases are transferred from animals to humans every year – all with pandemic potential. In the past century, these have included: the Ebola virus (from fruit bats), AIDS (from chimpazees), Lyme disease (from ticks), the Hendra virus (which first erupted at a Brisbane racing stable in 1994). The report says an estimated 1.7 million currently undiscovered viruses are thought to exist in mammal and avian hosts. Of these, 540,000-850,000 could infect humans. But rather than prioritising the prevention of pandemic outbreaks, governments around the world primarily focus on responding – through early detection, containment and hope for rapid development of vaccines and medicines. This approach can also damage biodiversity – for example, leading to large culls of identified carrier-species. Tens of thousands of wild animals were culled...
New York and New England Need More Clean [sic] Energy. Is Hydropower From Canada the Best Way to Get it?

New York and New England Need More Clean [sic] Energy. Is Hydropower From Canada the Best Way to Get it?

SOURCE: Inside Climate News DATE: October 4, 2020 SNIP: State and corporate officials are pushing for construction of a 53-mile-long power line corridor cutting right through [Maine’s North Woods], known for its natural beauty, diverse wildlife and recreational fishing. The corridor is part of the New England Clean Energy Connect, one of two major and highly controversial transmission line projects meant to deliver Canadian hydropower from the government-owned utility HydroQuébec to New England electricity consumers. As New England states rush to green their electric grids and combat the accelerating climate crisis, the simultaneous push from Canada to expand the market for hydroelectric power from its vast water resources has offered these states a critical lifeline at just the right moment. The other big hydropower transmission line project will deliver 1,000 megawatts of power, or enough to serve approximately one million residential customers, to the New York City metropolitan area, which includes the city, Long Island, and parts of the Hudson Valley, New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. The 333-mile-long Champlain Hudson Power Express project will consist of two high voltage direct current cables running underground and underwater from Canada, beneath Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, to Astoria, Queens. There, the Champlain Hudson project will interconnect to a sector of the New York electricity grid where city and corporate officials say the hydropower supplied can help reduce the fossil fuels that currently comprise significantly more of the base load than in other parts of the state. Though New York has yet to finalize a contract with HydroQuébec over its hydropower purchase, developers plan to start construction on the $2.2 billion...