Getting Green in the 'Hood Wed, 23 Apr 2014 21:24:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Barns Owls – Guess whooooo’s killing them? Wed, 23 Apr 2014 21:19:51 +0000 BKessler By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

No sooner did I discover some new friends, a Texas barn owl family on Cornell’s Ornithology Cam, than I learned that mom, pop and the four incubating babies were in mortal danger.

That’s because too many people don’t understand that when they use rodenticide, they’re launching a killing spree. Barn owls used to occasionally die from rodenticides. Back in the early 1980s, about 5 percent of dead barn owls were found to have been poisoned by them because they’d eaten a poisoned rat or mouse, according to The Barn Own Trust.

Barn Owls April 17

Here’s what the Barn Owl cam looks like. The owls sleep some during the day and dad stands look out while mom’s on the nest (or are we gender stereotyping?) Their nest is at an undisclosed location in Texas.

Today, the proportion of Barn Owls killed by rodenticides is “a staggering 91 percent,” according to the conservation group.

That is staggering. Any of you who’ve read Silent Spring are probably now thinking about the bald eagles and how DDT crept up and sent them to live in history with the passenger pigeon. This was a similar story of poison and ignorance. In the name of Rachel Carson, let’s not let this happen to owls.

By the way, it’s not just me and the trust that are concerned. Heartthrob Ian Somerhalder, of Lost and The Vampire Diaries fame, is raising money and awareness about the secondary poisoning of owls through his foundation.

Owls, like so many birds, insects and bees, are suffering these days from the knee-jerk human response to squash things that seem unpleasant. Got an ant problem? Get out the poison. Bugs on the flowers? There’s an array of sprays for that. Rats traipsing around? Time to poison them.

We profess to love birds and yet we’re killing them with all the toxics we launch at varmints. It’s pretty simple elementary school science: We kill their prey and that ripples up the food chain. We even kill songbirds, not directly, but by killing off their food in the pursuit of a perfect lawn.

What’s really sickening is how these practices are so blithely accepted. Few people, apparently, stop to think that when they use a rodenticide, they’re also killing owls and creating toxic bait for small mammals like foxes, which also have been known to die from anticoagulant poisons.

“Ignorance is the biggest problem and it is only made worse by the misleading information on rodenticide containers,” says David Ramsden, a senior conservation officer with the Barn Owl Trust in Great Britain. “The way in which these poisons kill owls and raptors is not even mentioned. Instructions give the impression that bait covering and carcass removal will adequately protect predators but this is simply not true.”

The Barn Owl Trust wants tighter controls on rodenticides and for people to understand their ripple effect.

Barn Owl, Ian Somerhalder Foundation

A Barn Owl on the Ian Somerhalder Foundation site.

“The rodenticide industry knows that their products kill owls and birds of prey and yet they do nothing about it. In the UK, government figures show that 84% of Barn Owls, 94% of Kites and 100% of Kestrels are contaminated and some die as a direct result, says Ramsden.

In other words, almost all the birds of prey tested suffer from a sub-lethal doses of poison, while others end up dead from an accumulated or bigger dose. The Barn Owl Trust considers that’s to be an “outrageous” outcome just to allow the pest manufacturers to continue without changes, Ramsden said. (He also said it would be “wonderful” if people could support the trust financially.)

Sometimes rodenticides kill a pet. That happens. And that’s not all. About 10,000 children are accidently exposed to rat and mouse poison every day, according to the EPA, which recently cracked down on rat poisons.

The thrust of the EPA campaign was to stop the use of poisons that let poisoned mice and rats run off, dying later where wildlife, pets and possibly kids can come into contact with them. The EPA is promoting rat and mice traps – with or without poison — that capture or contain the pest animal; and banning poisons with anticoagulants that kill all the animals that eat them slowly and painfully.

The agency took action against D-Con, the one company that refused to comply with the EPA’s required bait/poison changes.

That type of rat bait does threaten kids and pets, but more typically, it’s going to be one of those magnificent raptors that “takes the bait.”

Dale Kemery, the EPA spokesman for pesticides did not get back with us, so we’re not exactly sure how the fight with D-Con ended up. We’ll shoot him another email.


A little Screech Owl. These small owls are not as affected by rodenticides, but do suffer loss of forest habitat and food. (Photo: GRN)

Maybe the Barn Owl Trust’s fight for better labeling – some labels say “harmful to wildlife” but the trust wants it to be more explicit — will lop over to the US so we can all start to understand this problem.

We can all help to turn this tragedy around by using safer rodent control, instead of spreading death far and wide.

Here’s what the Barn Owl Trust recommends:

1 – Remove access to food. Get rid of whatever the rodents are eating. Cover up chicken feed tightly, for instance.

2 – Remove the places where rodents are hiding or living. Block access holes with cement or ferrous metal balls.

3 – Encourage domestic predators like Barn Owls! Also other types of owls and kestrals. You can even build nest boxes up high. (That’s the funny thing, if we let the raptors alone, we’d have less of a rodent problem. Duh.)

4 – Domestic predators can help in some situations. The Barn Owl Trust recommends Jack Russell terriers, which love “ratting.” Let’s not dwell on this one.

5 – Use live traps (Have-a-Hart and other brands) which can be baited. (This takes time, but builds good karma.)

6 – Non-toxic rodenticide such as Readibait, powdered corn cob, is lethal to rats when it’s all they’re eating, and does not affect predators. (We’ve got some reservations about this, as it starves the rats, not a humane death.)

7 – Fumigants such as aluminum phosphide, which cause a quick, humane death. Call a pest company.

Here’s another tip that’s kid-safe for around the house. Use scented corn cob material to oust rats and mice from a garage at attic, driving them out, where they can live or die of natural predation. Many hardware and farm stores will carry “Fresh Cab,” developed by a North Dakota farmer’s wife who wanted a more humane way and environmentally friendly way to deal with rodent pests.

Find retailers at their website. (The EarthKind company making Fresh Cab cites statistics from a University of California Davis study showing that 77 percent of 138 dead owls analyzed had been exposed to rodent poisons.

(Photo of Barn owl. Take by GRN, courtesy the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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How to dispose of excess, expired prescription drugs Wed, 23 Apr 2014 17:58:19 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

Would like some mood stabilizers and anti-convulsants with your lunch? You might be getting some some in that glass of water you just ordered with your sandwich.

Drugs Take Back got_drugs_bannerIt’s true. Various studies have turned up trace amounts of dozens of medications that linger in the rivers, watersheds, even aquifers. So unless you’ve got a heavy-duty household water filter, and maybe even then, you and all of the rest of America are randomly drinking tiny cocktails of drugs and endocrine disruptors.

Thanks to the explosion of prescriptions that Americans use, and don’t use, every day, tons of prescription drugs end up in landfills where they leach into the ground or are flushed into the toilet by people who think that they’re getting rid of them.
But some drugs, anti-depressants and hormones (Viagra anyone?) to name two types, boomerang. Studies show that these drugs persist in water, even surviving water treatment to revisit us in our home tap or in bottled tap water. Eww. Yes?

A lot of officials who deal in drugs, from both sides of the counter, would like to curb this problem before it worsens. That’s why we have National Drug Take-Back Day, which aims to recapture the unused, expired and excess prescription drugs that Americans have stashed in their cupboards so these chemicals can be disposed of properly.

So this Saturday, April 26, find your nearest disposal station – it’s likely to be a school or police department – and get rid of your unneeded drugs in an eco-friendly way.

Prescription Drugs turned in

This pile of prescription drugs, worth more than $4,000 came from mail order drug accounts that just kept coming, even after they were no longer needed. (Photo: Dispose My Meds)

The Drug Enforcement Administration is helping with this take-back, which serves their agenda of getting drugs into a proper disposal system to keep them out of the wrong hands. Prescription drug abuse is a problem among teens, and a motivation for thefts that can endanger elderly people. (But that’s a story for another day.)

Don’t worry if you cannot make the date. Pharmacists across the US have united under the Dispose My Meds program to offer year-round opportunities to return unneeded prescriptions.

Check their website locator for details on finding a participating pharmacist near you.

Dispose My Meds will scare you straight about drug disposal, as they dispense info nuggets from a USA Today investigation such as these:

  • More than 100 different pharmaceuticals have been detected in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and streams throughout the world.
  • A vast array of pharmaceuticals — including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilizers and sex hormones — have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41 million Americans.
  • The New York state health department and the USGS tested the source of the city’s water, upstate. They found trace concentrations of heart medicine, antibiotics, estrogen, anti-convulsants, a mood stabilizer and a tranquilizer
  • Even users of bottled water and home filtration systems don’t necessarily avoid exposure. Bottlers, some of which simply repackage tap water, do not typically treat or test for pharmaceuticals, according to the industry’s main trade group. The same goes for the makers of home filtration systems.

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For Earth Day, plant a tree Tue, 22 Apr 2014 20:35:38 +0000 BKessler By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Tree, oak, at LBJ Wildflower Center

Sturdy oak at the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. (Photo: GRN)

It’s Earth Day. How silly. We’re on this planet 24/7. But I guess after the Cuyahoga River went up in flames, it was time for a reminder.

Today, as we roast under a greenhouse gas blanket of around 400 ppm carbon dioxide, higher than it’s ever been for humans, the reminder’s still valuable.

There are about 100 things you could do on Earth Day. You can pledge, repair or restore something to mark the day so many ways. And there are about 100 books telling you what and how to do this. If you’ve got something in mind – getting an electric car or remembering your reusable grocery bags – go for it!

The point is, take steps.

This year, I’m thinking, what if everyone just planted a tree? In their own backyard, or via a contribution to a tree planting group? It would make a difference. Just add a tree. Maybe two.

Trees help cleanse the air, slow runoff, feed bugs, nurture birds, cool the planet and calm our nerves. This is all scientifically proven. (And I just read a sweet book about an endearing tree nut, called The Man Who Planted Trees. This book extols the value of native trees and chronicles our stupid ignorant abuse of them, which reminds me of other good books about trees, like the one for little kids called Seeds of Change about Kenyan Greenbelt founder Wangari Maathai or that tear-jerker for all ages, The Giving Tree.)

Mother Nature knew what she was up to when she endowed trees with her magical powers.

The Giving Tree

A masterpiece with layered meanings by Shel Silverstein.

Did you know that the roots of trees sustain microorganisms that enrich the soil? That supports the trees and the understory plants, which feeds the wildlife, which sustains the ecosystem, which may even help plump up the clouds, which keeps our giant rock in balance and suitable for our life. Or as they say in grade school, and the green grass grew all around.

Of course, a little 2, 4-D weed and feed messes up that virtuous root-planet cycle.

Because we now understand that trees could help us avert climate disaster, we’re actually putting trees back in Europe and the US. We reforesting.

Meanwhile, our consumerist alter-ego is furiously burning forests in Indonesia for palm oil, and sending out the bulldozer to make space for soybeans and livestock in South America.

Geopolitics aside, liking trees is not controversial. You can be a tree-hugger. Be a tree-hugger. Be a tree-hugger in your own town. Just not in your own mind. Later, you can learn more about the orangutans being blasted from existence because of snack foods.

For now, start with just one tree. Maybe it produces lemons on your patio. Voile! You’re a local food producer. Maybe it shelters your home. AC bill, take that!

Or, if you contribute to a tree group (like Austin’s Tree Folks), you can help restore the air, the rainforests, or the Rocky Mountain pines savaged by a tiny beetle unleashed by climate change. You don’t have to blockade Exxon’s offices or picket the White House, you can do this from your own home. In fact, do it from your own home. Because that’s what this is ultimately about, your home and your family. Your future and theirs.

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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Retirees at an Austin retirement community show their green projects Mon, 21 Apr 2014 21:49:17 +0000 BKessler Retirees at the Clairmont Retirement Community in Austin are not letting Earth Day pass them by. They’ve got a variety of green projects going, from recycling to gardening.

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Small solar and wind producers about to get burned in Oklahoma Fri, 18 Apr 2014 22:53:30 +0000 BKessler By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Senate Bill 1456, approved by the House this week, and headed for expected signature by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday, will place a surcharge on small wind and solar producers who contribute to distributed generation.

This means that people who go to the time, trouble and expense to equip their homes with solar panels or to set up their own wind energy to power their farm will have to pay a monthly surcharge for the privilege of feeding their excess power back to the grid.

Solar Panels on a house in Tulsa - Sun-City

Solar panels on a house in Tulsa. (Photo: SunCity)

This plan flies in the face of what utilities should be doing, which is welcoming the supplemental, green power than can help stabilize the grid at times of peak demand.

Instead, the big utilities that proposed this bill and got it passed by the compliant Oklahoma legislature want to penalize these small power providers with a fee that could be high or low — it will be set at a later time by state energy regulators.

Ostensibly this fee will pay for the utilities to connect the small producers to the grid.

But on its face, it’s clear that in the Sooner state, big utilities would just as soon have all the power under their control, minus any participation by the little guys.

“It’s really meant to discourage people from producing some of their own energy. This is what monopolists do,” said Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice. Miller explained that two giant electricity companies — Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Gas & Electric — were the main instigators of the surcharge.

“This is a tax on solar homeowners and on family farms and we call on Governor Fallin to veto this tax,” said Miller, whose group has been fighting similar incursions against small energy producers in other states.

The Oklahoma bill curtails energy choices by making it a little less financially attractive to switch to on-site wind or solar power. Oklahoma does have net metering, which allows small solar and wind owners to sell excess power back to the grid; but the new surcharge will cut into that incentive.

Meanwhile, the wind whipping down the plains in Oklahoma, which ranks as the 9th state in the US in terms of natural wind capacity, is a growing business, at the commercial level. Big Wind won’t be subject to the surcharge.

wind farm and cattle photo argonne national laboratory“It’s disappointing to see Senate Bill 1456 moving forward in Oklahoma. This legislation does nothing but jeopardize renewable energy growth in the state. Distributed forms of energy generation like small and community wind and solar power help to keep the lights on and Oklahomans at work. The state legislature should be examining legislation that will support this growing industry, and utilities should be encouraging distributed generation instead of trying to penalize it,” said Distributed Wind Energy Association Executive Director Jennifer Jenkins.

Turner said he was especially concerned about the independent farmers who’re using wind to provide their own power, a move that can save them money over the long haul.

DWEA’s president, Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman, OK, expressed a similar worry.

“It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own,” Bergey said.

“Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”

Bergey also said that the measure could cost more to put into place than it will save.

“The truly ironic thing is that net metering, a standard policy in 42 states, saves utility administration costs and, because so little small wind and solar capacity is installed in Oklahoma, implementing SB 1456 through the Corporation Commission would cost ratepayers and taxpayers $5 for every $1 that it could theoretically save the utility.”

Fallin has until Monday to sign the bill. Her office could not be reached.

Fallin, who this week celebrated a new law forbidding cities to set their own minimum wage, was getting blasted on the solar power bill by a few constituents on her Facebook page.

“…Here we have government at all levels encouraging clean energy, and Oklahoma shows its usual BACKWARDNESS by punishing those who try to use renewable energy sources. YOU are partly to blame for this, and we will not forget. We will NOT forget,” said Carol Henry Madding.

Barbara J. Cobuzzi asked: “Why are you taxing people who are Tur[n]ing to clean energy? You are allowing your masters [to] control you so that they can increase their fortune in dirty energy and continue polluting the earth and destroying our clean water because a worth of $100 billion is not enough…”

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

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The veggies and fruits you’ll pay more for because of the California drought Thu, 17 Apr 2014 17:22:20 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

It’s no surprise that the historic drought in California will affect supplies, and then the prices, of the many fruits and vegetables grown there.

Tomatoes, homegrown

Crops that require a lot of water will be hardest hit, and see big price increases.

But for those living in say, New York or Minnesota, far from the parched growing fields of the “Valley” the price hikes may come as a bit of a shock. Texas residents may be among the few who see the price hikes blunted as produce from the Rio Grande Valley and Mexico fills in gaps.

Timothy Richards, the Morrison Chair professor at the Morrison School of Agribusiness at Arizona State University, researched which crops are likely to be hardest hit and most expensive as a result of California’s distress.

He estimated that the prices of several foods will mushroom, no pun intended, as crops are conscripted or damaged by the water shortages. The worst hit will be avocados and lettuce, which could experience a price jump of about one-third.

Veggie lovers get ready, the full list of produce that will see significant price increases includes berries, broccoli, grapes, melons, peppers, tomatoes and packaged salads (meaning mixed greens will be affected). The professor estimates that the drought will force price increases like this:

• Avocados likely to go up 17 to 35 cents to as much as $1.60 each.
• Berries likely to rise 21 to 43 cents to as much as $3.46 per clamshell container.
• Broccoli likely to go up 20 to 40 cents to a possible $2.18 per pound.
• Grapes likely to rise 26 to 50 cents to a possible $2.93 per pound.
• Lettuce likely to rise 31 to 62 cents to as much as $2.44 per head.
• Packaged salad likely to go up 17 to 34 cents to a possible $3.03 per bag.
• Peppers likely to go up 18 to 35 cents to a possible $2.48 per pound.
• Tomatoes likely to rise 22 to 45 cents to a possible $2.84 per pound.

Richards used retail-sales data from Nielsen Perishables Group, an industry consulting firm, to determine price variances. The Nielsen group predicts a ripple effect in other types of groceries as produce prices rise.

For instance, as some customers forgo guacamole, the sales of tortilla chips would likely slump.

Other foods might pick up sales as they replace the pricier produce. “While some consumers will pay the increased prices, others will substitute or leave the category completely,” said Sherry Frey, vice president of Nielsen Perishables Group.

The crisis in California will also make it harder to “shop local” – or nearly so — for US consumers.

“One other thing for shoppers to understand – because prices are going to go up so much, retailers will start looking elsewhere for produce. This means we’ll see a lot more imports from places like Chile and Mexico, which may be an issue for certain grocery customers who want domestic fruit and vegetables,” Richards said.

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Austin’s annual Give 5 % to Mother Earth Day is next week Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:13:38 +0000 BKessler Austin has a special way of celebrating Earth Day. On April 22, dozens of eateries and shops will give back 5 percent of their profits to local conservation and environmental groups.

Give 5 Percent to Mother Earth thumbnailThe Give 5% to Mother Earth Day will benefit the Texas Campaign for the Environment, Urban Roots, Clean Water Fund, Hill Country Conservancy, Friends of Barton Springs Pool, Texas Land Conservancy and Tree Folks.

All residents need to do is to shop, eat, exercise or get their cars worked on at the diverse group of businesses that are participating in this 5th annual event. Here’s a list of the participating businesses.

Last year Give 5% raised more than $100,000 for the beneficiaries.


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Bean eaters be glad; your diet helps lower cholesterol Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:42:47 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

Bean and Kale soup

White Bean and Kale soup (Photo: GRN)

Simple beans, a staple protein for vegetarians and in Middle Eastern and Hispanic cuisines, can help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, according to a meta-analysis by the Canadian Medical Association.

The analysis suggests that those eating the traditional Western diet which is low in beans should make more room on their plate for legumes because controlled studies showed that consuming a 3/4 cup serving of beans per day (on average) for six weeks cut LDL cholesterol by an average of 5 percent.

LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol contributes to heart disease by creating plaque build-up inside blood vessels. The meta-analysis reviewed 26 randomized controlled trials that included 1,037 people. Men showed the greatest reduction in LDL cholesterol after adding beans to their meals compared with women, perhaps because their diets were not as good to begin with, the researchers said.

The findings mean that anyone concerned about their heart health has a very simple and affordable route to improving their cholesterol, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine noted in reporting about the study.

Beans that help reduce lipids come in a staggering variety, including pintos, black and white, navy, cannellini and kidney beans as well as chickpeas, peas and lentils, according to the study. Their direct heart-health benefit likely comes from their fiber and also from the fact that they displace fatty meats in the diet.

Beans, like other plant foods, also are a lower carbon food, compared with meat, which requires more energy inputs. So replacing meat meals with those using beans as the main protein can help lower one’s carbon footprint.

(Photo: Bean and Kale Soup, GRN)


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Bamboo: Why you need it in your kitchen, and six ways to get it there Wed, 09 Apr 2014 16:31:00 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

Kitchen stuff should be either durable or compostable, if you want to consider the health planet when stocking up.

Fortunately, bamboo products are among the few kitchen tools that are both hardy and biodegradable. Treated right, bamboo can last a long time. It is sturdy and resists water and heat damage. But in the end, it’s also a natural product that can be counted on to return to the earth. Bamboo’s also quick-growing, reaching maturity in four to six years, instead of the 20 or 30 years it can take for a tree to reach harvest. The eco-implications are obvious.

Here are a few bamboo products to consider for your kitchen:

Bamboo Steamer-Hi ResThe IMUSA Bamboo Steamer is a classic way to steam cook and retain flavor, vitamins and nutrients in your veggies. Bamboo steamers also work well for seafood and dim sum. The woven bottom allows steam to pass through, while the multiple layers allow cooks to separate and steam a variety of foods simultaneously. Available at for $30.00

Bamboo Mortar and pestle with siliconeNew for spring 2014 in the IMUSA line, is this Bamboo Mortar & Pestle, which can crush fresh herbs and spices. Think meat rubs and focaccia toppings. The set feature orange silicone accents that create a better grip and non-slip bottom. Handy and attractive, this little kitchen helper will be available soon at for $17.99

Style: "Agfa"IMUSA’s Bamboo Tostonera makes perfectly pressed Tostones, crispy fried plantains, with just the right thickness and shape. Tostones, if you don’t know them, are popular in Hispanic cuisine as a side dish or appetizer. Available at for $9.99

Bamboo Bread Box by COREWe adore the nifty double-utility of this CORE Bamboo Bread Box. It keeps your bread out of sight, and when you open it, the door doubles as a bread board. Buy it directly from CORE Bamboo online, or look for it at select retailers. Made from 100% organically grown bamboo, this bread box measures 15” x 8” x 8”. Buy it at Core Bamboo for $66.

Bamboo Tray SetCore Bamboo bamboozled us again with this Sandwich Board Set that’s tre’ cute. Because the boards store upright on the rack, it’s a space saver, but provides ample cheese/cutting/fruit board space for serving. It’s perfect for appetizers or hors d’oeuvres, but we might even use it for sandwiches. $30 retail at Core Bamboo.

Bamboo UtensilsThese To-Go Ware RePEaT Bamboo Utensil Sets, each with a fork, knife, spoon and chopsticks, aren’t really for your kitchen, but you can keep them there when they’re not in your or your kids’ lunch bags. These lightweight, washable and lasting utensils will save you from disposables for a long time. Reviewers who’ve bought them love them, and say they’re habit forming. The set is wrapped in a fabric made from recycled PET plastic (hence the funky RePEaT name) that keeps it neat and clean. Buy it at for $12.95.

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BP oil disaster continues to kill wildlife, report says Tue, 08 Apr 2014 18:44:57 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

Damage from the 2010 BP oil spill into the Gulf of Mexico continues to turn up in the form of dead dolphins and sea turtles, according to a report released today by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF).

Dolphin, Still Waiting Restoration reportAfter studying 14 species affected by the April 2010 spill, researchers concluded that the ongoing demise of these marine mammals and amphibians is easier than ever to link to the oil disaster by looking at population trends, their physical symptoms and the areas of the gulf affected.

They report that:

  • Scientific evidence suggests strongly that the ongoing illnesses of dolphins in a heavily oiled section of Louisiana is related to oil exposure. More than 900 bottlenose dolphins have been found dead or stranded in the area of the spill, which released 200 million gallons of crude oil into the gulf. In 2013, dolphins were still being found dead at more than three times normal rates. Tests of these animals show they are underweight, anemic and suffering from lung and liver disease.
  • Roughly five hundred dead sea turtles have been found every year for the past three years in the area affected by the spill—a dramatic increase over normal rates.
  • Oyster reproduction remained low over large areas of the northern Gulf at least through the fall of 2012.
  • Tests of affected wildlife continue to turn up chemicals from oil in their flesh or blood. One such chemical has been shown to cause irregular heartbeats in bluefin and yellowfin tuna that can lead to heart attacks, or even death. Loons that winter on the Louisiana coast also have shown increasing concentrations of toxic oil compounds in their blood.
  • Sperm whales in the Gulf of Mexico have higher levels of DNA-damaging metals than sperm whales elsewhere in the world—metals that were present in oil from BP’s well.
  • Blue crab populations did not drop immediately after the spill, but did in 2013. The crabs shown lesions that were similar to those found on shrimp in the aftermath of the spill.

“Four years later, wildlife in the Gulf are still feeling the impacts of the spill,” said Doug Inkley, senior scientist for the National Wildlife Federation. “Bottlenose dolphins in oiled areas are still sick and dying and the evidence is stronger than ever that these deaths are connected to the Deepwater Horizon [the oil rig that exploded]. The science is telling us that this is not over.”

The critically endangered Kemp’s ridley sea turtle, whose populations had been rebounding before the spill, also suffered a critical setback. Four years ago, “the numbers of Kemp’s ridley appear to have flat-lined,” said Pamela Plotkin, an associate research professor of oceanography at Texas A&M University and director of Texas Sea Grant. “We need to monitor this species carefully, as the next few years will be critical.”

Read a summary of the report at

Download the full report here.


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Monarch numbers could be at historic lows this year, says Texas A&M professor Tue, 01 Apr 2014 13:06:11 +0000 Green Right Now Reports Monarch resting in the central Texas area (Photo: Texas A&M)

Monarch resting in the central Texas area (Photo: Texas A&M)

Monarch butterflies may be named for their large size and majestic beauty, but once again their numbers are anything but king-sized – in fact, 2014 may go down as one of the worst years ever for the colorful insects, says a Texas A&M Monarch watcher who is proposing a national effort to help feed Monarchs.

Craig Wilson, a senior research associate in the Center for Mathematics and Science Education and a longtime butterfly enthusiast, says reports coming from Mexico where the Monarchs have their overwintering grounds show their numbers are significantly down yet again — so much so that this year might be one of the lowest yet for the butterfly.

It’s been a disturbing trend that has been going for most of the past decade, he points out. This year, Monarchs face a triple whammy: a lingering drought, unusually cold winter temperatures and lack of milkweed, their primary food source.

Citing figures from the Mexican government and the World Wildlife Fund, Wilson says, “In 1996, the Monarch breeding grounds in Mexico covered about 45 acres, and so far this year, it looks like only about 1.65 acres. That means fewer Monarchs will likely reach Texas to lay eggs, perhaps the lowest numbers ever of returning butterflies.”

Wilson says the colder-than-usual winter, which set record lows in many parts of Texas and even Mexico, has had a chilling effect on Monarchs.

“Unfortunately, the harsh and lingering cold conditions mean that the milkweed plants that Monarch caterpillars must have to live have yet to start growing, and these are the only plants on which they can lay eggs to provide food for their caterpillars,” he adds.

Wilson says that last fall, the number of Monarchs that were netted and tagged in the College Station area was one-fifth the number tagged in 2012.
The dry conditions during the past decade and changing farming practices are hampering the growth of milkweed, the only type of plant the Monarch caterpillars will digest as the multiple generational migration heads north.

Texas also has had dozens of wildfires in the past few years that have hampered milkweed growth, and even though there are more than 30 types of milkweed in the state, the numbers are not there to sustain the Monarchs as they start their 2,000-mile migration trip to Canada. Increased use of pesticides is also adversely affecting milkweed production in a huge way, he notes.

“The severe drought in Texas and much of the Southwest continues to wreak havoc with the number of Monarchs,” Wilson explains, adding that the wintering sites in the Mexican state of Michoacán are at near-historic lows. “The conditions have been dry both here and in Mexico in recent years. It takes four generations of the insects to make it all of the way up to Canada, and because of lack of milkweed along the way, a lot of them just don’t make it.

“But if people want to help, they can pick up some milkweed plants right now at local farmer’s cooperative stores,” he says, “and this would be a small but helpful step to aid in their migration journey and to raise awareness of the plight.”

Wilson says there has to be a national effort to save Monarchs or their declining numbers will reach the critical stage.

“We need a national priority of planting milkweed to assure that this magical migration of Monarchs will continue for future generations,” he says. “If we could get several states to collaborate, we might be able to promote a program where the north-south interstates were planted with milkweed, such as Lady Bird Johnson’s program to plant native seeds along Texas highways 35-40 years ago. This would provide a ‘feeding’ corridor right up to Canada for the Monarchs.”

Wilson is currently adding a variety of milkweed plants to the existing Cynthia Woods Mitchell Garden on the Texas A&M campus. He recommends the following sites for Monarch followers: Journey North, Texas Monarch Watch and Monarch Watch.

(Source: Texas A & M University)

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Texas sets new wind power peak, getting 40 percent of its power from wind on Wednesday Fri, 28 Mar 2014 18:35:29 +0000 BKessler GRN Reports

wind farm and cattleWind power in Texas hit its highest point ever, contributing 10,296 megawatts to the grid at about 9 p.m. this past Wednesday night, which meant wind was providing nearly 40 percent of the electricity on the grid at that time, according tot the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT).

High winds in West Texas combined with more wind farms connecting to the grid, which is being expanded and upgraded to bring more wind power to the state’s urban centers, contributed to the new high point, ERCOT and the American Wind Energy Association reported. The previous record of around 9,600 megawatts provided about 35 percent of electricity demand.

“ERCOT’s record is now the highest megawatt wind output for any U.S. power system,” AWEA noted on its Into The Wind blog.

Wind was also in the news this week when a new study determined it is price competitive with natural gas, once carbon pollution is factored in. The study by the University of California, Irvine; UC – Berkeley and Syracuse University found that after adjusting for the environmental impact of natural gas and the anticipated rise in its cost over the next 20 years, the cost of wind was only about 1/3 of a penny more per kWh.

“The true cost of electricity from wind power and natural gas are effectively indistinguishable, yet because the cost of carbon emissions is not included in the market price of gas, wind has not been a competitive form of energy use in most of the United States without government pricing support,” said Jason Dedrick, associate professor at Syracuse’s School of Information Studies and collaborator on the study.

The analysis also noted that current estimates for natural gas and wind compare the two without taking into consideration the anticipated price stability of wind, as well as the societal (environmental) costs of natural gas.

“Current national-average estimates from the DOE are 8.7 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for wind and 6.6 cents for gas-fired energy—making gas appear as a much cheaper alternative, explained Greg Linden, a senior research associate at the University of California, Berkeley. “Incorporating the new metric into the analysis” shows that the Production Tax Credit for wind can actually compensate “for a market failure to price the future cost to society of carbon emissions.”

In this way, the study sought to show that the much-debated PTC credit for wind, often derided by Congressional budget hawks as a subsidy, could be viewed as an equalizer, standing in to “make the market reflect the true costs of energy.”




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