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Today in Humans Destroying the Planet


1. You like Canadian tar sands? Then you’ll love domestic Utah tar sands, as Tara Lohan reports!

2. The EPA dropping a fracking study linking the practice to contaminated groundwater in Wyoming is just embarrassing and again suggests the one step forward, one step back approach to the environment under Obama. As Sarah Gilman at High Country News (the best newspaper on western environmental issues, you all should read it!) states:

On a higher level, though, it’s yet another example of the Obama administration coming out guns a-blazing, aiming at the high middle of progressive ambition on an environmental policy issue, only to shrink back (or roll back proposed rules) when things get politically ugly. It’s something HCN staffers have tracked with bemusement since Obama’s election in 2008. There were those new ozone limits that the administration had trumpeted as a necessary step to protect public health, for example, which it later withdrew and endlessly delayed for further review after a political flogging from the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. There were the Bureau of Land Management’s first-ever hydraulic fracturing rules, which the administration first tried to spin in terms of clearing the industry’s name and then later were systematically weakened after a top White House official met several times with industry groups.

Before last fall’s election, when Obama still had everything to lose by taking a stand that could be construed as anti-economy, his agencies’ wishywashyness sort of made sense. (Only sort of, though, since politicizing legitimate public health concerns actually doesn’t make moral sense at all.) Now, though, it’s baffling.

We can only hope that the lofty language and goals Obama laid out in his June 25 speech on how he (FINALLY!) plans to address the biggest environmental problem of all – climate change — won’t suffer the same fate as so many other of his administration’s environmental initiatives.


3. In our focus on energy, let’s not forget the joy of pesticides. Certainly people in Wilsonville, Oregon won’t forget:

Target shoppers in Wilsonville, Oregon found a tragedy in the parking lot as tens of thousands of of bumble bees were found dead and dying on the pavement, along with honey bees and ladybugs. Shoppers notified Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist with the Portland-based Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, who went to the scene to investigate.

Oregon officials say preliminary results point to an insecticide that was used on the nearby European Linden trees. The trees were sprayed with a pesticide called Safari to kill aphids, an insect that destroys plants and vegetation. Safari is part of a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids that are known to kill pollinators such as bumblebees, Associated Press reports. The investigation is still under way. If the pesticide is the confirmed cause and it wasn’t used according to the label instructions, civil penalties could be handed down ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation for gross negligence or willful misconduct, Dale Mitchell, program manager in the Agriculture Department’s pesticide compliance and enforcement section, told AP.

Why is this pesticide even legal? But hey, I’m sure that a pesticide that kills 50,000 bees has no effect on humans. So. Much. Confidence.

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  • max

    Why is this pesticide even legal?

    Organic types were using nicotine (the regular stuff) as an organic pesticide, because nicotine in large doses (much larger than a cigarette) is pretty deadly. Works good, breaks down quickly, what’s not to like?

    The pesticide manufacturers had already been working on the synthetic versions which work quite well compared to older families of pesticides with fewer nasty byproducts. Unfortunately, one of the side effects it does have is that it kills bees, apparently.

    (This is separate from the fact that lots of people massively overuse pesticides, just like they overuse antibiotics in farm animals or nitrogen fertilizers, which is an additional bonus problem. Massively overusing any chemicals is going to cause environmental problems.)

    Summary: everybody thought this was an improvement over the older stuff, and it is, except it isn’t.

    [‘They probably need to shut it down now, but I don’t think they will for awhile.’]

    • Foregone Conclusion

      There’s currently a moratorium on neonicotinoids in the EU, I think. Will be interesting to see the results come back from that.

    • +1

  • Leeds man

    one step forward, one step back

    Your pedometer needs recalibrating.

  • Linnaeus

    You like Canadian tar sands? Then you’ll love domestic Utah tar sands, as Tara Lohan reports!

    Great! Now some other community can enjoy the petcoke by-product just like Detroit is now!

    • Surely there must be some nearby Indian reservations where it can be dumped.

      • Linnaeus

        I would expect no less from our corporate malefactors.

      • rm

        There is this really big canyon running through southeastern Utah.

  • Calming Influence

    “Why is this pesticide even legal?”

    Pesticides that kill pollinators should be available only to licensed professionals, and only for extremely restricted use. And even that would worry me. But what really scares me is walking down the pesticide/herbicide/biocide isle in Home Depot/Lowes/WalMart and seeing what’s available to the general public to slop onto their lawns, spray into their trees, and pour down their drains in amounts way in excess of anything arborists or pest control professionals are responsible for.

    The use of powerful chemicals for the “improvement” of your personal property should no longer be considered a DIY project.

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      I think it was here, but I’m not sure, that I read about homeowners in some tony suburb having the frogs exterminated because they made too much racket. I just…. christ, we’re so fucking fussy about the most *stupid* things, like perfect lawns

      • sparks

        In my case, I’d give much to rid my property of squirrels. The neighborhood cats are too lazy to do it and it isn’t legal here to kill them like the vegan rats they are. This is no tony suburb, though. I don’t use pesticides on the garden or lawn, BTW.

        I remember years back a story about a man who found countless tiny frogs covering his lawn. So he mowed it.

        • NonyNony

          If you don’t want to get a cat yourself, you could try planing marigolds. Squirrels apparently hate the smell of marigolds – it keeps them out of our garden at least.

        • BigHank53

          Air rifles like the Gamo Whisper are pretty much silent. Keep the room dark, shoot from 3-4 feet back from the window and it’s unlikely anyone will ever see you.

          Please don’t shoot the red squirrels; those are the native ones. The grays are an invasive species.

          • sparks

            The grays have invaded neighborhoods to the northeast of me but haven’t displaced the reds where I live. It’s a matter of overpopulation and no predators to speak of. And many sources of food, including walnut and pecan trees they strip yearly, to go with my suspicion that neighbors are feeding them (peanut shells on my porch and I don’t eat peanuts in the shell). Last year I had eight squirrels on the roof of my garage sunning themselves one day. I took a photo, they are not at all camera shy – I can walk to within a couple of feet of them. Some even look to be posing.

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              they are crafty little bastards, I will say that. I’ve a dog that loves winter, because the snow slows ’em down enough she can catch them

              • sparks

                If I could make enough money off squirrel photos to offset the damage they do to the house, I’d call it square. Unfortunately it appears that everyone with a camera takes squirrel photos, so they’re of little value.

  • Weird Dave

    “Why is this pesticide even legal?”

    Ask George Bush.


  • Anonymous

    honestly, i don’t understand all the angst about neonics.

    the obvious solution is to engineer neonic-resistant bees.

    • Linnaeus

      A foolproof strategy, clearly.

      • NonyNony

        I for one welcome our new insect overlords.

    • BigHank53

      I can hardly wait to see the Winston-Salem logo on the honey they produce…and the Surgeon General’s warning.

  • Mart

    I met a man at a hotel bar in Quincy, IL who was former Amoco, now Enbridge pipeline constuction manager. He is building two 36 inch tar sand/shale oil pipelines from the Flanagan, IL terminal to the giant terminal in Cushing, OK. (Enbridge has been supplying the sludge to refineries across from St. Louis for several years.) Like what is planned for Keystone, from Cushing will go to Gulf Coast Refineries with access to tanker loading for shipping of refined tar sand oil to Asia. Off the top of my head the Flanagan to Cushing line will cross the Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri and Arkansas Rivers. Would not expect any potential problems with this plan.

    Google Enbridge + Projects to get the scope of their plans to kill all our children.

    I think Keystone is the Enbridge Trojan Horse. Everyone is worked up over Keystone, while Enbridge is going wild with plans to build north/south/east/west to any refinery with tanker access. Only pushback this Canadian company has had is from Alberta Canada.

  • cpinva

    “The EPA dropping a fracking study linking the practice to contaminated groundwater in Wyoming is just embarrassing “

    no more so than that same administration’s FDA ignoring the recommendations of its own scientists, and fighting, tooth & nail, to keep emergency contraceptives out of the hands of those most likely to need them.

    it’s a long, strange trip.

    • jeer9

      I prefer to be very upset about the SC’s pre-clearance ruling because Obama has total control over those reactionary judges. And I also blame Nader that the Dems didn’t filibuster Alito.

  • simple mind

    The press is reporting “poisonous linden trees” (yeah rite). No mention of Safari.

  • Paul Klos

    “Why is this pesticide even legal?”

    Likely because people like to eat – and you need more than one insecticide.

    Did you bother to look the label up? The Product is noted as being highly toxic to bees among other things and is loaded with warnings about its use…

    In this case as the the updated article notes clearly somebody very much likely violated use rules for a cosmetic purpose. Now its a fair question as to if legal penalties are sufficient and if in most cases they ever get imposed anyway. Cars kill 30-40,000 Americans should we be asking why they exit.

    Unless you want to ban all insecticides you are going to always face the issue that they you know kill bugs – which is kind of the point.

    In this case I think its worth questioning weather we need to have this product available for keeping a parking lot pretty. But I can see a lot areas where it could be useful. A greenhouse that has an infestation, or a farm field (you don’t seem to be allowed to use it on baring plants but presumably you could use to attack a resistant pest as part of a fallow, etc.).

  • Cody

    So the fine for causing bees to go extinct is less than writing with chalk on a sidewalk?


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