The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted “emergency” clearance to sulfoxaflor – an insecticide that, by the agency’s own admission, is considered “very highly toxic” to bees. Sulfoxaflor will be used on over 16 million acres of crops that are attractive to bees.
The move has been denounced as unacceptable by the Center for Biological Diversity, a group that has railed against the cynical and routine use of “emergency” declarations that approve the use of pesticides across millions of acres in a manner that largely disregards risks to both the environment and to human health.
In a statement, senior scientist with the center Nathan Donley said:
“Spraying 16 million acres of bee-attractive crops with a bee-killing pesticide in a time of global insect decline is beyond the pale, even for the Trump administration … The EPA is routinely misusing the ’emergency’ process to get sulfoxaflor approved because it’s too toxic to make it through normal pesticide reviews.”
The Environmental Protection Agency just reported this week that in 2018 it issued “emergency” approvals to spray sulfoxaflor — an insecticide the agency considers “very toxic” to bees — on more than 16 million acres of crops known to attract bees.
— Center for Bio Div (@CenterForBioDiv) February 16, 2019
However, such warnings are unlikely to shake the EPA, which has exploited its authority under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act to rush through pesticides, including ones that haven’t yet passed regulatory review, under alleged “emergency” conditions such as the unexpected outbreak of insects that damage crops.
The Center for Biological Diversity has accused the EPA of widely abusing the process in a “routine and foreseeable” manner over the years with little regard for the contamination of pollinators due to the use of sulfoxaflor.
While sulfoxaflor had been widely touted as a bee-friendly version of neonicotinoids, the common insecticide responsible for drastically slashing bee numbers in the past, a study last year by researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London found that exposure to sulfoxaflor could reduce the size of bumblebee colonies and their offspring by 54 percent.
There’s a new dangerous pesticide on the block #Sulfoxaflor. And it’s been found to reduce bee colonies by half. Will you sign the petition to help stop this disastrous new #pesticide in its tracks? https://t.co/bLjb1jmFZu #SaveTheBees #Bees pic.twitter.com/AltIrC8IUN
— SumOfUs (@SumOfUs) November 14, 2018
In 2015, U.S. beekeepers and conservationists successfully sued the EPA for flouting federal law and streamlining the approval of sulfoxaflor without holding any reliable study of the neonic’s impact on bee populations. However, by 2016 the EPA introduced a new registration for sulfoxaflor – ostensibly on the grounds that it would ensure no exposure to bees – that allowed for its usage on crops like cotton and sorghum, both crops that attract the pollinators.
By 2018, these allowances allowed for the insecticide’s use in 16.2 million acres across the U.S. on an alleged “emergency” basis, with emergency approvals being granted in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
40% of insects, including bees and butterflies, are in danger of extinction, according to a new study pic.twitter.com/tJXvLpy1no
— Bloomberg QuickTake (@QuickTake) February 18, 2019
The news comes as scientists have issued increasingly stark warnings over the precipitous decline of insect species’ numbers across the globe, in large measure due to the overuse of pesticides, unsustainable agricultural production processes and climate change. Last week, a global scientific review noted that the extinction of insects worldwide threatens a “catastrophic collapse of nature’s ecosystems.”
“The conclusion is clear: unless we change our ways of producing food, insects as a whole will go down the path of extinction in a few decades,” the report warned.
Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie commented:
“This is language that scientists don’t typically use … They do when they are trying to flag a substantial crisis. And that’s exactly what this is. You don’t have an ecosystem without insects; insects are the bedrock upon which everyone else sits. We need a food system that is not bringing down the very centerpiece of our food chain.”
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years
Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.
Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.
The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.
Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.
It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.
“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”
Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.
Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.
“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.
“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”
Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.
“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.
Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.
“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”
In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.
Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.
A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.