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Ozone Hole Recovery Threatened by Fast-Rising Emissions of Paint Stripper Chemical

Restoration will be delayed by decades if dichloromethane emissions are not curbed, research reveals

The restoration of the globe’s protective shield of ozone will be delayed by decades if fast-rising emissions of a chemical used in paint stripper are not curbed, new research has revealed.

Atmospheric levels of the chemical have doubled in the last decade and its use is not restricted by the Montreal protocol that successfully outlawed the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) mainly responsible for the ozone hole. The ozone-destroying chemical is called dichloromethane and is also used as an industrial solvent, an aerosol spray propellant and a blowing agent for polyurethane foams. Little is known about where it is leaking from or why emissions have risen so rapidly.

photo of paint cansPhoto by Time SHeerman-Chase Dichloromethane, found in paint-stripping chemicals, has a relatively short lifespan so action to cut its emissions would have rapid benefits.

The loss of ozone was discovered in the 1980s and is greatest over Antarctica. But Ryan Hossaini, at Lancaster University in the UK and who led the new work, said: “It is important to remember that ozone depletion is a global phenomenon, and that while the peak depletion occurred over a decade ago, it is a persistent environmental problem and the track to recovery is expected to be a long and bumpy one.”

“Ozone shields us from harmful levels of UV radiation that would otherwise be detrimental to human, animal and plant health,” he said.

The new research, published in the journal Nature Communications, analysed the level of dichloromethane in the atmosphere and found it rose by 8 percent a year between 2004 and 2014. The scientists then used sophisticated computer models to find that, if this continues, the recovery of the ozone layer would be delayed by 30 years, until about 2090.

The chemical was not included in the 1987 Montreal protocol because it breaks down relatively quickly in the atmosphere, usually within six months, and had not therefore been expected to build up. In contrast, CFCs persist for decades or even centuries.

But the short lifespan of dichloromethane does mean that action to cut its emissions would have rapid benefits. “If policies were put in place to limit its production, then this gas could be flushed out of the atmosphere relatively quickly,” said Hossaini.

If the dichloromethane in the atmosphere was held at today’s level, the recovery of the ozone level would only be delayed by five years, the scientists found. …more

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Conservation Groups Sue Over Wildlife-Killing Program in California

Advocates push federal agency to consider best science and non-lethal management policies

Last week, Project Coyote partnered with four other wildlife conservation groups — the Center for Biological Diversity, Western Watersheds Project, Animal Welfare Institute, and WildEarth Guardians — in suing the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services program over its outdated wildlife-killing plan for Northern California. The organizations argue that federal trappers employed through the program regularly use painful leg hold traps, strangulation snares, poisons, and aerial gunning to kill wolves, coyotes, cougars, and other wild animals, primarily to benefit the agriculture industry. The noprofits further contend that the federal government has failed to properly analyze the impacts of the program as required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

photo of coyotePhoto by Josh MoreConservation groups have sued Wildlife Services over its outdated wildlife-killing plan for Northern California.

If successful, the lawsuit, filed in US District Court in San Francisco, would force the USDA to do an environmental analysis of its Wildlife Services program in the northern district of California, and to consider alternative wildlife management policies.

“There's an increasing body of scientific literature showing that the way predators have been managed in the United States is not in line with the best available science, nor is it in line with human values and attitudes about wildlife,” said Camilla Fox, founder and executive director of Project Coyote.

The lawsuit — which covers Butte, Humboldt, Lassen, Mendocino, Modoc, Nevada, Plumas, Sierra, Shasta, Siskiyou, Sutter, Trinity, and Yuba counties — is one of several legal actions in the Western United States to either stop counties from hiring federal trappers or force the government to alter its predator control policies. Other suits have been brought in Colorado, Oregon, and Wyoming. Most recently, Project Coyote and partners formally petitioned the Wildlife Services program for an immediate ban on the use of M-44 cyanide devices in Wyoming.

Few Americans have ever heard of Wildlife Services, a little-known USDA agency charged with managing wildlife, largely at the behest of ranchers and agribusiness. Since 1931, this agency has been waging war against wildlife with its lethal arsenal.

Officials with the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which oversees the wildlife management program, have repeatedly defended use of lethal force.

“As a federal leader in resolving human-wildlife conflict, Wildlife Services uses a responsible and science-based approach to address damage and problems caused by wildlife,” an agency spokesman wrote recently in response to a similar lawsuit by Project Coyote and partners in Mendocino County. …more

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A Sustainable Trip Around the World

Using clean technology to sail around the globe and visit every country on Earth

When I first considered the idea of sailing around the world and visiting every sovereign nation along the way, I was quite surprised to learn that no one has ever actually tried to do it. In an age when adrenaline junkies are desperate to set or break any record — when you read headlines about 13-year-old kids climbing Mt. Everest, for example, or corporate oligarchs in a race to become the first person to single-handedly take a submarine to the bottom of the Mariana Trench — it was refreshing to discover that such a straightforward goal, one that sounded so simple, at least in theory, had yet to be attained.

photo of sailboatPhoto by Daniel Ramirez The author is planning to sail around the globe and visit every country in the process. 

Of course, many people have sailed around the world, and quite a few have visited all 193 UN-recognized countries. Yet despite extensive research, I couldn’t find a single instance of anyone who had done both. The more I learned about what such a challenge would entail, the more clear it became that the person to attempt this feat would be me. This is not because I am particularly drawn to setting world records, but because this pursuit incorporates my two greatest goals since I was child and first read tales of Robin Lee Graham and Captain Cook: I wanted to sail around the world, and I wanted to go everywhere.

So often childhood dreams get pushed to the back burner when the realities of adulthood like unpaid bills and children come along, but my dreams just wouldn’t die. When, at the age of 14, I announced to my parents that I was going to drop out of school to sail around the world, things didn’t quite go as well as I had hoped, so instead I became a yacht delivery captain, sailing other people’s boats from point A to point B for a little bit of pocket change. It’s hardly a way to make a decent living, but the job offered something else — the chance to gain experience sailing on the open ocean and to see far-away lands, to anchor in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean and to swim beneath the waterfalls that tumble off mountains cloaked in green in the Marquesas Islands. It was a good life, most of the time.

But I also witnessed the coup in Thailand, saw …more

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Setting Free the Urban Tomato

Swiss project has city dwellers enthusiastically farming rare vegetable varieties while producing free seeds for all

Slivi Limonje looks like a lemon. Bulging Vincent’s appearance is deceptive, too: Is it a bell pepper or a tomato? Both are masters of disguise. Looking at a “bull’s heart,” we are quite certain it is a tomato — we’ve seen that one in our stores. In our minds, a tomato is supposed to be round and red, because our perception of variety is limited to what is offered at the supermarket.

photo of tomatoesPhoto Zacharias Thiel/ProSpecieRara The Swiss foundation ProSpecieRara engages urban dwellers in gardening rare species of tomatoes and other vegetables.

The people at ProSpecieRara want to change all of that by reintroducing old varieties that will turn our definition of a tomato on its head: pink giants, green minis, varieties that are striped red and yellow. The Swiss foundation cultivates 140 different types of tomatoes, helping to protect a total of 3,800 old cultivated plants and a few species of farm animals from extinction. Since its founding 34 years ago, wooly pigs, Appenzeller Spitzhauben chickens, and booted mountain goats have come back to live amongst the Holstein cattle; black corn and yellow raspberries have made Swiss fields and gardens more colorful. The Urban Tomatoes campaign seeks to raise botanical diversity in cityscapes, as well — all the way up to urban balconies! But how does one stir the interest of city dwellers in earthy agrarian topics? With seeds, shovels, and social media.

DIY-gardening is on the rise

For the past five years, ProSpecieRara, in collaboration with the cities of Geneva, Lausanne, and Zurich, has been producing tomato starter kits — seeds and a tutorial — which can be ordered on their website and via social media. Similar kits featuring lettuce and bell peppers are recent additions to the foundation’s portfolio. With a few posts in early spring, Nicole Egloff gets the ball, or rather the tomato, rolling. As soon as the first orders land in her inbox, her Basel office morphs into a veritable shipping factory. “We are able to process the large volume of orders thanks to many volunteers, interns, and our flexible office staff,” the 34-year-old head of communications explains. Ever since she came on board as a public relations intern over nine years ago, she has been driving fresh publicity campaigns together with project manager Anna Kornicker and advising hobby-gardeners when they run into problems, from brown leaves to white flies. Her PR skills were particularly needed this past year because the Urban Tomato …more

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Major Publishers Defend Greenpeace in Dispute with Logging Firm

Publishers concerned case could set dangerous precedent, have silencing effect on environmental organizations

The world’s biggest book publishers have been dragged into a bitter dispute between a US logging company and environmental campaigners Greenpeace. It follows legal action taken by the logging company, Resolute Forest Products, which campaigners and publishers fear has implications for freedom of speech.

photo of boreal forestPhoto by peupleloup, Flickr Greenpeace claims that Resolute Forest Product is repsonsible for the destruction of large areas of Canada's boreal forest.

The dispute centers on claims by Greenpeace about the company’s logging practices in sections of Canada’s boreal forest, which are home to Indigenous peoples as well as endangered wildlife. Greenpeace alleges that Resolute: “Is responsible for the destruction of vast areas of Canada’s magnificent boreal forest, damaging critical woodland caribou habitat and logging without the consent of impacted First Nations.”

Resolute strongly disputes the claims. Last year, it followed up a 2013 defamation and economic interference lawsuit launched in Canada with a $226 million US claim under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Passed in 1970 to counter organized crime, the use of the act has been criticized as an attempt to silence both Resolute’s critics and for setting a “dangerous” precedent for whistleblowers and NGOs.

Publishers, including Penguin Random House and Murdoch-owned HarperCollins, became involved after a petition signed by more than 100 authors in support of Greenpeace was handed in at US publishing trade show BookExpo. The petition called for publishers using Resolute products to use their clout to pressure the company into dropping the lawsuit and addressing alleged logging practices.

Hachette Livre, whose UK subsidiaries publish among others Ian Rankin, JK Rowling, and Cressida Cowell, expressed concern that the Rico action poses a threat to free speech and could be used to silence environmental organizations at a time when the US government has stated its intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement on climate change.

Emphasizing that Hachette had “no intention of taking sides,” but was “reaffirming our commitment to free speech,” Ronald Blunden, senior vice-president of corporate communications said: “It is the [scale] of the damages being sought in the suit. We are concerned that it is about muzzling Greenpeace at a time when the US government is pulling out of the Paris accord on climate change.”

He added: “You need these NGOs to be able to do their work and be whistleblowers, because if they disappear, and if the US pulls out …more

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Adventures in Canyonlands

On car troubles, nuclear power, and life in the desert

“Next services on I-70 110 miles,” warns the sign on the side of the highway just outside Green River, Utah, the longest stretch of Interstate in the country without a gas station.

And that’s one of the reasons I love Utah. Despite twenty-first century safety culture, where our own cars harass us if we don’t buckle up, the Beehive State is one of the last places in the US that respects our God-given right to risk an untimely death.

photo of canyonlandsPhoto by PDTillman The author has traveled to the desert every season for the last several years.

The gas gauge reads three-fourths full, which I figure is enough to get me to my destination and back out again, while the spare tire I bought two weeks earlier gives me that extra dose of confidence.

It’s late August and I’m coming back to the desert again, as I’ve done nearly every season for the last few years since moving to Colorado. I’m not sure what my obsession with canyon country is exactly, but it might have something to do with having spent most of my life among the sopping treescapes of the Northeast and Pacific Northwest. Enchanted for decades by the curve of emerald leaves and lush, frilly undergrowth, I’m now fixated on the stark bonework beneath.

I take the Hanksville exit and hurtle south on Highway 24 for 50 miles, the San Rafael Swell heaving off to my right. I pass the turnoff for Goblin Valley State Park and its globular mud fungi and take a quick left onto a nondescript red dirt road. The wooden sign at the intersection reads, “Horsehoe Canyon 32. Ranger Station 46. The Maze 4WD 80. Doll House 4WD 87. Hite Crossing 4WD 107.”

I’m at the brink of nowhere and my goal is to reach the middle, the Maze. The most difficult to access region of Canyonlands National Park, Backpacker Magazine has ranked the Maze as the most dangerous hike in America. My plan is to drive to its edge, set up camp, and enjoy a few days of backcountry exploration.

Though I’ll only be out here for four days, I’ve brought a week’s worth of food: pre-cooked packages of Tandoori rice and Mushroom Lo Mein, hardboiled eggs, salmon jerky, string cheese, almond bars, dried bananas, and a bag of kettle chips. Also, seven gallons of water, as temperatures still reach into the mid 90’s.

For the next 25 miles the …more

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Trump’s Planned EPA Cuts Will Hurt America’s Most Vulnerable

Administration's actions embrace a time when rivers caught fire and pollution darkened the skies

The Trump administration is using a deliberate and systematic approach to undermine, weaken, and disempower America's most vulnerable communities. The US Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) proposed budget cuts are a clear-cut example of this attack. The cuts will gravely reduce the ability to enhance communities across the US — including low-income communities made up of white, black, Latino, Indigenous, and Asian Americans, in urban and rural settings alike.

photo of power plantPhoto by glasseyes view, Flickr The road the Trump administration is taking us down puts of full-speed in reverse when it comes to environmental protections.

Now that Trump's appointed leader of the EPA testified on Capitol Hill Thursday, it is important to understand the consequences of the actions they want to take. The bottom line is that real people will get sick and many will prematurely die. Communities, particularly our most vulnerable, will greatly suffer if these cuts happen.

The road the Trump administration is taking us down puts us full-speed in reverse. Almost like a scene from Back to the Future, their actions would embrace a time when rivers caught fire and air pollution darkened the skies over our cities. A time when many communities of color were relegated to the back of the bus, and their voices did not have an influence in the decision-making process. Yep, the good ol' days were actually not so good for many of our citizens.

It is no secret on where the Trump administration is getting their ideas. They are running a systematic playbook put together by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank that has been around since the 1980s and is well funded by the infamous Koch brothers, among other individuals and corporations.

Their main office is just steps from the United States Capitol and the halls of Congress, where they wield unparalleled influence. Executing this game plan is a far cry from the "help the little guy" and "drain the swamp" mantra the president continues to tout. If you want to see what they will try to do next, just take a look at their report.

The EPA's proposed 2018 budget slashes protections, and slashes the workforce made up of good and honest people working long and difficult hours to uphold them. These protections are in place for a reason, each having been thoroughly developed after years of public input from millions of individuals across the …more

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