A guest post by Greg Schiefer, Anne Fairbrother, Wayne Landis, Keith Solomon, Ralph Stahl, Jane Staveley
We are worried about the recently released White House budget and the failure to customarily renew one-term members of a key review panel, in particular, the Board of Scientific Counselors. Financial cuts and the absence of scientific rigor and integrity will permanently alter the way science informs policy.
Specifically, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is under attack, and we are compelled to speak up in its defense as representatives of a leading professional society composed of environmental scientists working in academia, business, NGOs and government. We are writing to both defend the science produced by the EPA and to express deep concerns with the unprecedented efforts to undercut EPA’s goal of protecting the nation’s environment and the health of U.S. citizens. Continue reading →
We live in the world of fast fashion, which Kate Fletcher defines as low-cost clothing collections based on current, high-cost luxury fashion trends—it is a system that encourages disposability and is based on the rapid production of a large variety of clothing items that are not made to last and are used only a few times before being thrown away. Not surprisingly, the global production of clothing doubled between 2000 and 2014. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013 in the United States and, of these, only 2.3 million tons were recovered through recycling. Sustainability is not a concept that consumers typically associate with fashion—the result is a general lack of awareness of the environmental impact of clothes manufacturing. With the increased rapid production of large amounts of newly generated textiles, it’s time to examine on the extent of this impact. Continue reading →
We face a steady, sobering news stream about the deforestation of the humid tropics, the warming of the Arctic, and more recently, the greening of Antarctica. In contrast, we hear very little about drylands, the arid regions that cover more than 40% of Earth’s land surface. Although the United Nations has periodically focused on drylands, the popular and scientific media have given little coverage to them, partly because of the absence of a focused international program. However, in the past few years, we have been hearing more about drylands, including the recent unveiling of what has been touted as a secret—they are home to large forests, much larger than previously thought. Continue reading →
The heat is on in the Arctic. This region is now warming at a rate faster than twice the global average—known as Arctic amplification. Consequently, the ice that covers the North Pole and surrounding areas, and melts to its lowest extent each September, has been disappearing at an alarming rate. Continue reading →
Microplastics—the tiny bits of plastic that are now infamously and ubiquitously present in the world’s waterways—are polluting aquatic life and ending up in our food supply. As evidence of the damage that microplastics inflict on aquatic life accumulates, so does the amount of microplastics dispersed in oceans, seas, lakes, and rivers. Virtually indestructible in natural environments, these tiny bits of plastic contain a combination of very small particles—microparticles and nanoparticles—that derive from the breakdown of larger plastic items, for example plastic bags and bottles, and include, among others, pre-production plastic pellets (the so-called nurdles), microbeads from personal care products, and microfibers from textiles.
Methane, the primary ingredient of natural gas, has been receiving more bad press than usual lately—courtesy of the massive natural gas leak that erupted on Oct. 23, 2015, at the Aliso Canyon underground storage facility near Los Angeles. California Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency, and thousands of families were evacuated. After unsuccessful initial attempts to plug the leak, Southern California Gas Company was finally able to build a relief well to capture the leaking gas. On February 18, 2016, nearly four months later, officials announced the leak had been permanently sealed.
Microbeads—tiny, plastic beads added to face scrubs, soap, toothpaste, and the like—cause environmental damage at the macro scale. Their function is to provide a bit of grit, but they end up in lakes, rivers, and other aquatic habitats. Once there, microbeads are mistaken for food and gobbled up by zooplankton, thus becoming incorporated into the aquatic food chain. Small fish, and other organisms that swallow the contaminated zooplankton, are eaten by bigger fish and eventually, microbeads make their way to the top of the food chain, reaching other wildlife and even humans. However, there is more to this story. Continue reading →