(TMU) — On June 17, the Environmental Protection Agency announced new “emergency” approvals allowing the spraying of an insecticide which has previously been linked to health problems in bee populations. The approval allows 11 states to begin spraying cotton and sorghum with sulfoxaflor, the controversial insecticide—a specific type of pesticide that targets and kills insects—which at least one court attempted to ban.
The order from the Trump administration is the latest “emergency” approval in four consecutive years, continuing a trend that started with the Obama administration. A similar emergency approval was granted by the EPA in February 2019.
“The only emergency here is the Trump EPA’s reckless approval of this dangerous bee-killing pesticide,” said Lori Ann Burd, Environmental Health Director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “It’s sickening that even amid the current insect apocalypse, the EPA’s priority is protecting pesticide industry profits.”
In September 2015, a federal appeals court issued a ruling that blocked the use of sulfoxaflor because it was believed to be causing harm to honey bees. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the U.S. EPA insufficiently tested the pesticide sulfoxaflor before approving its use in 2013. Sulfoxaflor is a type of insecticide known as neonicotinoids, or neonics, which are used on citrus and cotton crops. Circuit Judge Mary Schroeder stated the EPA should have done further research once initial studies showed sulfoxaflor was highly toxic to honey bees. Schroeder wrote:
“In this case, given the precariousness of bee populations, leaving the EPA’s registration of sulfoxaflor in place risks more potential environmental harm than vacating it.”
The harm caused by neonics like sulfoxalor has been well documented. A July 2016 study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that neonicotinoids do not kill drone honey bees, but instead drastically reduce the amount of live sperm produced by the male population. Researchers at Switzerland’s University of Bern found that the bees who ate pollen treated with neonicotinoids produced 39 percent less live sperm than the bees who did not eat the treated pollen.
The latest “emergency” approval by the EPA comes on the heels of a newly published study detailing how the United States leads the world in use of pesticides which have been banned by other nations. The Center for Biological Diversity published a paper highlighting that U.S. farmers use 72 pesticides that are banned in the European Union, 17 agricultural substances that are outlawed in China and 11 pesticides that are no longer allowed in Brazil.
“Of the 85 pesticides approved in the USA and banned in at least one of the other nations, most are herbicides,” study author Nathan Donley told Courthouse News. “The USA is generally regarded as being highly regulated and having protective pesticide safeguards in place. This study contradicts that narrative.”
The study, published in scientific journal Environmental Health, examined data from 2016 to determine that U.S. farmers applied 1.2 billion pounds of pesticides. The use of pesticides by the U.S. included 322 million pounds of chemicals no longer allowed in the EU, 40 million pounds of pesticides banned in China and 26 million pounds banned in Brazil. The study found that total bans are the “most effective way to prevent intentional or accidental exposure.”
As the Mind Unleashed previously reported, the abundant use of pesticides has become such an issue that a recent analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture data found that 70% of fresh fruits and vegetables in the United States carry pesticide residue, even after being washed. The analysis by the Environmental Working Group found that crops like spinach and strawberries are among the most contaminated.
Unfortunately, the recent approvals of dangerous pesticides like sulfoxalor will only make the situation worse. It has never been more important to support or join local community gardens, urban farms, and support farmers who do not use these toxic chemicals.
Scientists Thrilled by Discovery of Rare, Mammoth 400-Year-Old Coral
A massive 400-year-old hard coral discovered on the Great Barrier Reef has scientists expressing their sense of surprise and excitement.
Named Muga dambhi by the Manbarra people, the Indigenous group who have traditionally taken care of the land, the “exceptionally large” brown and cream-colored coral is located off the coast of Goolboodi or Orpheus Island in the Great Barrier Reef.
It is believed that the coral was spawned some 421 to 438 years ago, meaning that its age predates the arrival of Captain James Cook and the advent of colonization in Australia, notes the Guardian.
The spectacular coral is about 35 feet wide and over 17 feet high, and is double the size of the nearest coral.
Scientists and members of the community participating in a marine science course discovered the specimen earlier this year.
While not the largest coral in the world, the huge find is of major significance to the local ecosystem, according to Adam Smith, an adjunct professor at James Cook University who wrote the field note on the find.
“It’s like a block of apartments,” Smith said. “It attracts other species. There’s other corals, there’s fish, there’s other animals around that use it for shelter or for feeding, so it’s pretty important for them.”
“It’s a bit like finding a giant redwood tree in the middle of a botanic gardens,” he added.
It is likely that the coral hasn’t been discovered for such a long time due to its location in a relatively remote and unvisited portion of a Marine National Park zone that enjoys a high degree of protection.
“Over the last 20 or 30 years, no one has noticed, or observed, or thought it newsworthy enough to share photos, or document, or do research on this giant coral,” Smith said.
The coral is in remarkable condition, with over 70 percent of its surface covered in live coral, coral rock and microalgae. No disease, bleaching or recently deceased coral has been recorded on the specimen.
“The cumulative impact of almost 100 bleaching events and up to 80 major cyclones over a period of four centuries, plus declining nearshore water quality contextualise the high resilience of this Porites coral,” the field note added.
The specific coral has been given the name Muga dhambi, meaning big coral, out of respect for the Indigenous knowledge, language, and culture of the Manbarra Traditional Owners.
Greenland Ice Washed Away as Summit Sees Rain for First Time in Recorded History
For the first time in recorded history, torrential downpours of rain have struck Greenland’s icy summit nearly two miles above sea level.
Greenland, an environmentally sensitive island, is typically known for its majestic ice sheet and snowy climate, but this is fast changing due to a massive melt taking place this summer.
However, the typical snowfall has been replaced in recent years not simply by a few showers, but by heavy rainfall. The torrential downpour last week was so huge, in fact, that it washed away a terrifying amount of ice across some 337,000 square miles of the ice shelf’s surface, reports Earther.
Temperatures at the ice shelf had simultaneously warmed to a significant degree, with the summit reaching 33 degrees Fahrenheit – within a degree above freezing and the third time that the shelf has surpassed freezing temperatures this decade.
The fact that rain is falling on ice rather than snow is also significant because it is melting ice across much of southern Greenland, which already saw huge melting events last month, while hastening rising sea levels that threaten to submerge whole coastal cities and communities.
To make matters worse, any new ice formed by the freezing rainwater will not last long. The ice shelf currently existing on Greenland was formed by the compression of snow over innumerable years, which shines bright white and reflects sunlight away rather than absorbing it, as ice from frozen rain does.
The huge scale of the melt and accompanying rainfall illustrate the growing peril of rapidly warming climate conditions across the globe.
“This event by itself does not have a huge impact, but it’s indicative of the increasing extent, duration, and intensity of melting on Greenland,” wrote Ted Scambos, a senior research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado. “Like the heat wave in the [U.S. Pacific] northwest, it’s something that’s hard to imagine without the influence of global climate change.”
“Greenland, like the rest of the world, is changing,” Scambos told the Washington Post. “We now see three melting events in a decade in Greenland — and before 1990, that happened about once every 150 years. And now rainfall: in an area where rain never fell.”
South Korean Toilet Turns Poo Into Green Energy and Pays Its Users Digital Cash
What if your morning #2 not only powered your stove to cook your eggs, but also allowed you to pay for your coffee and pastry on the way to class?
It seems like an absurd question, but one university in South Korea has invented a toilet that allows human excrement to not only be used for clean power, but also dumps a bit of digital currency into your wallet that can be exchanged for some fruit or cup noodles at the campus canteen, reports Reuters.
The BeeVi toilet – short for Bee-Vision – was designed by urban and environmental engineering professor Cho Jae-weon of the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology (UNIST), and is meant to not only save resources but also reward students for their feces.
The toilet is designed to first deliver your excrement into a special underground tank, reducing water use, before microorganisms break the waste down into methane, a clean source of energy that can power the numerous appliances that dorm life requires.
“If we think out of the box, feces has precious value to make energy and manure,” Cho explained. “I have put this value into ecological circulation.”
The toilet can transform approximately a pound of solid human waste – roughly the average amount people poop per day – into some 50 liters of methane gas, said Cho. That’s about enough to generate half a kilowatt hour of electricity, enough to transport a student throughout campus for some of their school day.
Cho has even devised a special virtual currency for the BeeVi toilet called Ggool, or honey in Korean. Users of the toilet can expect to earn 10 Ggool per day, covering some of the many expenses students rack up on campus every day.
Students have given the new system glowing reviews, and don’t even mind discussing their bodily functions at lunchtime – even expressing their hopes to use their fecal credits to purchase books.