As 2020 draws to a close, one of the most recognizable symbols of the year may be the protective face mask.
As the novel coronavirus swept across the globe earlier this year, billions of people began wearing face coverings, with one study estimating that no less than 129 billion face masks were being used every month around the world.
However, as face masks have become ubiquitous in our day-to-day lives, they’ve also grown to litter every corner of our neighborhoods, from storm drains to creeks, parks to beaches.
And now, it turns out that our oceans are swimming with face masks, according to a new report from marine conservation NGO OceansAsia.
“Once plastic enters the marine environment, it’s very difficult to move,” Dr. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, the group’s director of research, told Denver 7.
The fact that we are starting to find masks that are breaking up indicates that this is a real problem, that microplastics are being produced by masks,” Bondaroff said.
The Hong Kong-based group estimates that some 1.56 billion face masks will have flooded our oceans in 2020 alone – a grim statistic that they have witnessed firsthand since face masks began washing up on a small island off the coast of the Chinese mega-city since the start of the pandemic.
The masks could become yet another major contributor to the ongoing crisis of plastic pollution in our ocean, with disposable face masks taking as long as 450 years to break down.
The single-use masks that are recommended by health authorities and used as personal protective equipment in hospitals across the world are made of multiple layers of polypropylene, which are thin fibers of plastic.
And with 52 billion masks being manufactured this year, with the average weight of each single-use polypropylene surgical face mask being 3 to 4 grams, we could be looking at anywhere from 4,680 to 6,240 metric tons of new marine plastic pollution.
Ocean pollution has already reached such monstrous proportions that an estimated 100 million tons of plastic can now be found in the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations. Between 80 and 90 percent of it comes from land-based sources. And according to a report prepared for the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, by 2050 it is estimated that plastic waste in the ocean will outweigh all fish.
In recent years, ocean biologists and conservationists have expressed alarm over the growing problem of plastics and microplastics inundating the world’s oceans and water supplies, leaching carcinogenic toxins and chemicals into the marine environment, with plastic drink containers trapping and confining — and ultimately killing — marine wildlife.
“The question that we couldn’t answer was how many [masks] are entering our oceans? We just didn’t know,” Dr. Bondaroff said.
OceansAsia’s recent study could offer some alarming clues as to the extent of the pollution, however.
“The 1.56 billion face masks that have entered our oceans in 2020 are there for the long run,” he said. “They will remain in the ocean for 450 years or more, and they’ll break into smaller pieces.”
The report notes that the global sales force of face masks has grown exponentially, increasing from $800 million in 2019 to $166 billion in 2020.
The surging sales come as health authorities like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued official health guidance urging U.S. residents to always wear a face mask in public in lieu of or in addition to physical distancing measures meant to help prevent person-to-person transmission of the deadly disease.
“That’s important, we need to keep people safe, but at the same time that has a lasting impact on our environment, and we’re seeing that on the beaches,” Bondaroff added.
The report requests that the public wear reusable masks when possible while also disposing of masks properly as a step toward drawing down overall consumption of single-use plastics.
The group also calls on authorities to encourage the use of reusable masks, including releasing guidelines on the proper manufacture and use of reusable masks, while also educating the public about responsibly disposing of masks, among other measures.
Newest data from the New Hampshire legislative commission confirms wireless technology produces a significant negative effect on humans, animals, insects, and plants
In the race for hyperfast internet speed and connectivity, experts are making comparisons between the release of 5G and the lies told by the tobacco and oil industries
The structure required to support 5G will place cell antenna ports close to your home and workplace, making it nearly impossible to avoid and raising your risk of excessive oxidative stress that may lead to anxiety, depression, and Alzheimer’s
It is important to get involved in helping to prevent the implementation of 5G by contacting your local lawmakers and signing local petitions. Consider taking steps in your home to reduce exposure
Flying under the radar, so to speak, during the media coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic, is the rollout of a hyperfast speed 5G wireless network. As millions of Americans are suddenly working remotely, it has proven to be a powerful opportunity for regulators to move 5G forward. Yet, in the face of expanding wireless connections, a landmark study recommends reducing exposure.
Despite concern by many experts, the implementation is moving forward under the guise of bringing a faster and more efficient internet, at any cost. The term 5G stands for the fifth generation of wireless access, which Jonathon Adelstein, head of the Wireless Infrastructure Association, characterizes as “4G on steroids.”1 The association represents nearly 200 companies in the telecommunications industry.2
However, Adelstein’s characterization of 4G on steroids is not quite accurate. While the 4G network uses under 6 gigahertz (GHz) on the radio frequency spectrum, 5G will occupy from 30 GHz to 300 GHz, which are shorter millimeter wavelengths.3 The health effects of consistent exposure to pulses of these wavelengths have not been thoroughly studied, but the initial evidence shows it is likely dangerous.
If faster speed and reliability are truly the end goals, then fiber-optic connections are a far better and safer way forward. It’s not the faster speeds of 5G that are of concern to scientists but, rather, the distribution of wireless data when in most cases it could be routed more easily and less expensively over fiber optic cables.
Newest Data Confirms Past Evidence
Following the passage of New Hampshire House Bill 522, the New Hampshire legislative Commission to Study the Environmental and Health Effects of Evolving 5G Technology was formed.4 The commission was engaged to “study the environmental and health effects of 5G wireless technology in 2019.”5
The commission was made up of 13 members whose education included epidemiology, occupational health, toxicology, physics, engineering electromagnetics, and a representative from the wireless industry. As quoted from EMF Safety Network, the commission was asked to answer eight pointed questions, including:6
Why thousands of peer-reviewed radiofrequency (RF) studies that show a wide range of health effects, including DNA damage, brain and heart tumors, infertility, and many other ailments, have been ignored by the Federal Communication Commission (FCC)
Why the FCC guidelines do not account for health effects of wireless technology
Why the FCC RF limits are 100 times higher than those in other countries
Why the FCC is ignoring the World Health Organization classification of wireless as a possible carcinogen
Why, when the world’s leading scientists signed an appeal to protect public health from wireless radiation, nothing has been done
The commission heard from experts and ultimately all except the telecommunication representative acknowledged that RF radiation coming from wireless devices had an effect on humans, animals, insects, and plants. The commission wrote:7
“There is mounting evidence that DNA damage can occur from radiation outside of the ionizing part of the spectrum. The Commission heard arguments on both sides of this issue with many now saying there are findings showing biological effects in this range. This argument gets amplified as millimeter waves within the microwave range are beginning to be utilized.”
Their first recommendation was “an independent review of the current RF standards of the electromagnetic radiation in the 300MHz to 300GHz microwave spectrum” to assess the health risks that were linked to cellular communications.8
The remaining recommendations included those that would reduce an individual’s exposure to the 5G network and increase the public’s knowledge and awareness of their exposure.
Included was a shorter minority report written by the business and industry representative and the telecommunications representative, who were not in agreement with the majority of experts. The EMF Safety Network wrote, “This minority report parrots the language of the telecommunications industry and exposes their agenda to ignore science and continue to confuse the public.”9
Safety Is Taking a Backseat to Speed
In much the same way the tobacco industry convinced the public that smoking was not dangerous, so is the telecommunications industry selling the public on speed over safety. In the interview above with Greater Earth Media, IT professional Jon Humphrey made the glaringly obvious comparison between the actions of telecommunication, tobacco, and leaded gas industries, saying:10
“So, they know the technology is dangerous and that’s why they’re just trying to get as much of it out there as they can before they’re finally held accountable. Sadly, we’ve seen this all before.
We saw it with big tobacco, we saw it with leaded gas and in every single case the big corporations did what they always do — they lied and then they paid off politicians and they paid scientists and they silenced people and discredited them and sadly they did get away with a lot of it and that’s what we need to make sure doesn’t happen with 5G.”
The promise is that speeds will be from 10 to 100 times faster than 4G running primarily on millimeter-wave (MMW) bandwidth. According to EMF coach and author Lloyd Burrell, the signals will likely be weaker since the wavelengths do not penetrate buildings and tend to be incorporated into rain and plants. To adjust, the 5G network will use:11
“… smaller cell stations (and the technology of beamforming) that’ll scramble/unscramble and redirect packets of data on a no-interference path back to us. This could mean wireless antennas on every lamp post, utility pole, home and business throughout entire neighborhoods, towns and cities.”
This requires a new infrastructure mounting 5G cell stations on existing structures, such as utility poles. During U.S. Senate hearings on the topic, when asked about the safety studies on these small cell stations, representatives from the industry stated they were not aware if any such studies existed.12
This led Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., to say, “So there really is no research ongoing. We’re kind of flying blind here.” An article published in Scientific American by Joel M. Moskowitz, Ph.D., director for the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, identified another challenge:13
“5G will not replace 4G; it will accompany 4G for the near future and possibly over the long term. If there are synergistic effects from simultaneous exposures to multiple types of RFR, our overall risk of harm from RFR may increase substantially. Cancer is not the only risk as there is considerable evidence that RFR causes neurological disorders and reproductive harm, likely due to oxidative stress.”
How Is 5G Different From 4G?
As explained in this video by IEEE Spectrum, part of a large organization devoted to engineering, there are several differences between 4G and 5G technology. Considering there are already many who struggle with electromagnetic hypersensitivity, saturating cities and suburban areas with additional radio frequencies will only add to this once rare affliction.
One of the significant problems with the technology is that it relies primarily on MMW, which is known to penetrate human tissue up to 2 millimeters, where it is absorbed by the surface of the cornea and is conducted by sweat glands within the skin.14 Each of these factors leads to an association with a number of potential health problems.
For example, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is using MMW in crowd control weapons called the Active Denial System because it produces a severe burning sensation. The DOD writes, “The Active Denial System generates a focused and very directional millimeter-wave radio frequency beam.”15
MMW is also known to suppress your immune function16 and increase cellular stress, harmful free radicals, learning deficits17, and, potentially, bacterial antibiotic resistance.18 There is nothing to suggest that 5G will produce less harm than the current technology, and there are thousands of studies demonstrating the harmful effects of that.
Research by Martin Pall, Ph.D., details how excessive oxidative stress triggered by microwave exposure from wireless technology can lead to reproductive harm and neurological disorders, such as anxiety, depression, autism, and Alzheimer’s.19
Without the Choice to Opt-Out, What Can You Do?
Once it’s installed in your neighborhood, you won’t have a choice to opt-out of 5G exposure. “5G will be virtually everywhere, with the options of being able to simply “get away from it” is very limited as millions of small cell devices are rolled out,” Humphrey says.20
There’s no doubt in my mind that microwave radiation from wireless technologies is a significant health hazard that needs to be addressed if you’re concerned about your health. Unfortunately, the rollout of 5G will make remedial action difficult, which is why we all need to get involved and do what we can to prevent it in the first place, such as contacting your local lawmakers and signing local petitions.
Below are several suggestions to help reduce your exposure and mitigate the damage from wireless technology. In addition, you can download a free chapter from my book, “EMF*D,” that summarizes many of the major recommendations. This is handy to keep on your desktop as a reference as you’re making changes in your home.
Identify major sources of EMF in your home, such as your cellphone, cordless phones, Wi-Fi routers, Bluetooth headsets, and other Bluetooth-equipped items, wireless mice, keyboards, smart thermostats, baby monitors, smart meters, and the microwave in your kitchen. Ideally, address each source and determine how you can best limit their use.
Barring a life-threatening emergency, children should not use a cellphone or a wireless device of any type. Children are far more vulnerable to cellphone radiation than adults due to having thinner skull bones and developing immune systems and brains.
Research also demonstrates that infants under the age of 1 do not effectively learn language from videos, and do not transfer what they learn from the iPad to the real world, so it’s a mistake to think electronic devices provide valuable educational experiences.21
Connect your desktop computer to the internet via a wired Ethernet connection and be sure to put your desktop in airplane mode. Also avoid wireless keyboards, trackballs, mice, game systems, printers, and portable house phones. Opt for the wired versions.
If you must use Wi-Fi, shut it off when not in use, especially at night when you are sleeping. Ideally, work toward hardwiring your house so you can eliminate Wi-Fi altogether. If you have a notebook without any Ethernet ports, a USB Ethernet adapter will allow you to connect to the internet with a wired connection.
Avoid using wireless chargers for your cellphone, as they too will increase EMFs throughout your home. Wireless charging is also far less energy efficient than using a dongle attached to a power plug, as it draws continuous power (and emits EMF) whether you’re using it or not.
Shut off the electricity to your bedroom at night. This typically works to reduce electrical fields from the wires in your wall unless there is an adjoining room next to your bedroom. If that is the case, you will need to use a meter to determine if you also need to turn off power in the adjacent room.
Use a battery-powered alarm clock, ideally one without any light. I use a talking clock for the visually impaired.22
If you still use a microwave oven, consider replacing it with a steam convection oven, which will heat your food as quickly and far more safely.
Avoid using “smart” appliances and thermostats that depend on wireless signaling. This includes all-new “smart” TVs as they emit a Wi-Fi signal and, unlike your computer, you cannot shut the Wi-Fi signal off. Consider using a large computer monitor as your TV instead, as they don’t emit Wi-Fi.
Refuse a smart meter on your home as long as you can, or add a shield to an existing smart meter, some of which have been shown to reduce radiation as much as 98%.23
Consider moving your baby’s bed into your room instead of using a wireless baby monitor. Alternatively, use a hard-wired monitor.
Replace CFL bulbs with incandescent bulbs. Ideally, remove all fluorescent lights from your house. Not only do they emit unhealthy light, but more importantly, they transfer current to your body just by being close to the bulbs.
Avoid carrying your cellphone on your body unless in airplane mode and never sleep with it in your bedroom unless it is in airplane mode. Even in airplane mode, it can emit signals, which is why I put my phone in a Faraday bag.24
When using your cellphone, use the speakerphone and hold the phone at least 3 feet away from you. Seek to radically decrease your time on the cellphone. Instead, use VoIP software phones that you can use while connected to the internet via a wired connection.
Avoid using your cellphone and other electronic devices at least an hour (preferably several hours) before bed, as the blue light from the screen and EMFs both inhibit melatonin production.25,26 If you must use your phone make sure you have the blue light filters activated and have it in dark mode.
The effects of EMFs are reduced by calcium-channel blockers, so make sure you’re getting enough magnesium. Most people are deficient in magnesium, which will worsen the impact of EMFs.
Pall has published a paper suggesting that raising your level of Nrf2 may help ameliorate EMF damage.27 One simple way to activate Nrf2 is to consume Nrf2-boosting foods, such as cruciferous vegetables and fermented foods and beverages.28
Exercise, calorie restriction (such as intermittent fasting), and activating the nitric oxide signaling pathway (one way of doing that is the Nitric Oxide Dump exercise) will also raise Nrf2.
Archive of 4,000 Documents Reveals Government Knew Decades Ago About Health Impact of Wireless Technology
Zorach (Zory) Glaser Ph.D., LT, MSC, USNR, is one of the most important scientists to study the impact of wireless technology on human health. His career as a government research scientist spans decades working for the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Public Health Service, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Bureau of Radiological Health.
Glaser’s extensive archive of nearly 4,000 documents, now available to the public, provides clear evidence that the harmful effects of wireless were known long before cell phones and wireless technology were commercialized in the early 1980s.
The archive materials reveal that the U.S. government, particularly the military, knew for decades of the harm wireless technology can cause to human health. During World War II, the U.S. military started to use radar, and the use of radio telecommunications systems was growing.
Soldiers working with these systems, which use radio and microwave frequencies — the same frequencies used for wireless devices such as cell phones and Wi-Fi — began to complain of adverse health effects from exposure to the radiation emitted by these systems.
At the time, the illness experienced by these soldiers was referred to as “Radiation Sickness /Microwave Sickness.”
Glaser was assigned by the U.S. Navy’s Naval Medical Research Center to investigate. He spent about a decade collecting every study conducted within and outside the U.S. showing that the radiation emitted from radio frequencies (RFs) and microwave frequencies may cause adverse health effects.
Dr. Glaser’s report, “Bibliography of Reported Biological Phenomena (“Effects”) and Clinical Manifestations Attributed to Microwave and Radio-Frequency Radiation,” was published in 1971. The report references more than 2,300 studies showing multiple adverse biological responses to radio- and microwave-frequency radiation.
Pages 5-12 of the report’s bibliography list these adverse effects, including damage to vital organs and other tissues and the central nervous system, physiological and psychological effects, blood and vascular disorders, metabolic and gastrointestinal disorders, and endocrine and histological changes.
At that time, it was mostly only military personnel who were exposed to high levels of microwaves and RF radiation and who developed Microwave/Radiation Sickness.
But today, the whole population is exposed to levels of radiation that are millions and sometimes billions of times higher than they were when Glaser started his work a few decades ago.
The “Microwave Sickness” symptoms suffered then by the military personnel are now widely seen among growing numbers of people in the general population who are exposed to this electro-smog pollution from wireless devices. The sickness also referred to as electro-sensitivity, is estimated to affect 10% of the general population.
Glasers’ studies and reports are of the utmost importance and relevance to existing harms from current wireless technology, including 5G, cell towers, Wi-Fi, and cell phones which use the same type of frequencies and intensities as those studied by Glaser. For this reason, Glaser’s reports have been crucial in supporting advocacy efforts and letting the public know that despite what the government and telecom say, there is more than ample evidence of harm from these exposures.
A few years ago, when Glaser realized the importance of his archives, he donated them to Dr. Magda Havas, Ph.D. of Trent University in Canada. Havas, an associate professor of environmental and resource studies, has worked for more than a decade to expose the harms of wireless technology.
According to Havas, Glaser’s archive contains quite a few “gems.” “Zory was a packrat (his words) and he kept everything, Havas said. “I found one paper that was circulated to only nine people with health recommendations that were ignored.”
To make these important documents available to the public, Havas and her team have worked for years to scan all the documents and make them searchable. So far Havas’ team has scanned 20 out of the 25 boxes of Glaser’s archives.
Because of the archive’s magnitude, the public is invited to help review the documents. Scholars who are interested are invited to write short overviews of some of the more useful and relevant finds and post those overviews on Zory’s website. People who find important information are asked to let Havas know.
If you are interested in participating in this project, please contact Dr. Magda Havas (email@example.com) with a subject heading of “Zory’s Archive.”
In a comprehensive study released earlier this month, scientists report that pesticide poisonings on farms around the world have risen dramatically since the last global assessment 30 years ago. Based on an evaluation of available poisoning data from countries all over the world, the researchers conclude that there are about 385 million cases of acute poisonings each year, up from an estimated 25 million cases in 1990.
This means that of the 860 million farmers and agricultural workers in the world, about 44% are poisoned every year.
The systematic review of unintentional acute pesticide poisonings was published today in the peer-reviewed journal BMC Public Health. The article, “The Global Distribution of Acute Unintentional Pesticide Poisoning: Estimations Based on a Systematic Review,” is the first such global estimate since 1990.
“These findings underscore the urgency of reducing and eliminating the use of highly hazardous pesticides,” says Kristin Schafer, coordinator of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) International. “These pesticides are causing the unacceptable poisoning of those who produce our food, but also chronic health effects such as cancer and ecological impacts such as the collapse of biodiversity. Time for global action is long overdue.”
The study found that the greatest number of non-fatal poisoning cases was in southern Asia, followed by Southeast Asia and East Africa. The highest single national incidence was in Burkina Faso, where nearly 84% of farmers and farmworkers experience unintentional acute pesticide poisonings annually.
Total fatalities around the world from unintended pesticide poisonings are estimated at around 11,000 deaths per year. Nearly 60% of which occur in just one country, India, indicating serious problems with pesticide use, according to the researchers.
“Pesticide poisonings are a public health crisis that must be addressed,” said Sarojeni Rengam, Executive Director of PAN Asia Pacific. “Beyond the immediate suffering, poisonings can also reflect exposure that causes long term, chronic health effects. It’s shocking and shameful that this problem has gotten worse rather than better over the past 30 years.”
The authors of the new study conducted a systematic review of the scientific literature published between 2006 and 2018, selecting a total of 157 papers after assessing over 800 papers for eligibility according to set criteria, and additional data from the WHO cause-of-death database. The data covered 141 countries in total. Most studies focused on occupational poisonings, particularly of farmers and agricultural workers.
“We realize there are limitations in the data on pesticide poisonings,” notes Javier Souza, PAN Latin America’s coordinator. “But this study clearly shows this as a serious, global problem that warrants immediate action. Highly hazardous pesticides must be phased out by 2030 to meet global Sustainable Development Goals, and we must shift to healthier and more resilient systems like agroecology. ”
The estimated number of global nonfatal unintended pesticide poisonings in the current study is significantly greater than previous estimates. This is in part because the current study covers a greater number of countries, and also because there has been an 81% increase in pesticide use since 1990 (an estimated 4.1 million tonnes of pesticides were used worldwide in 2017). The researchers point to underreporting to explain the relatively low estimates of fatalities.
Underreporting is also an issue for pesticide poisonings overall, as many country-specific reporting systems lack a central reporting point or lack a legal mechanism requiring incident reporting.
The authors conclude that the heavy burden of non-fatal unintended pesticide poisonings, particularly for farmers and farm workers, brings into focus the current policy bias towards focusing only on fatalities, and the need to more seriously address the overall pesticide poisoning problem in international and national policies and regulations.
Note: While this study did not cover pesticide poisoning suicides, an estimated 14 million people have died from suicide using pesticides since the Green Revolution in the 1960s. A recent systematic review of data on suicides from 2006-2015, which this review did not cover, found that pesticides accounted for 14-20% of global suicides leading to 110,000-168,000 deaths annually during the period 2010-2014.
A new meta-analysis study reveals that exposure to radiation from wireless devices such as cell phones, iPads, and laptops significantly increases the risk of breast cancer.
The meta-analysis study (a statistical analysis that combines the results of multiple scientific studies) examined eight studies that were published between 1996-2015. The highest risk was found in women over 50.
There are many studies that can provide a causal mechanism. For example, it has been shown that exposure to radiofrequency (RF) radiation (the radiation emitted from wireless devices) may cause a decrease in melatonin production, and studies have demonstrated that reduced melatonin levels may lead to breast cancer.
Dr. John West, a breast cancer specialist, has published case studies that provide clinical support to these findings. West published some of these cases in a 2013 paper, “Multifocal Breast Cancer in Young Women with Prolonged Contact between Their Breasts and Their Cellular Phones.” These cases reveal breast cancer in women under 40 even though breast cancer is rare in women that young when there is no family history or genetic predisposition.
Four cases of women ages 21 to 39 show multifocal invasive breast cancer. The spread of the tumors and the fact that all of these women reported carrying their smartphones in their bra suggests a possible association with exposure to radiation from cell phones.
West recently joined the advisory board of Physicians for Safe Technology, an organization of physicians and health professionals whose mission is to provide trusted leadership in promoting safer use of technology.
Other doctors report similar findings. In a video posted by Kevin Kunze, producer of the movie “Mobilize,” Dr. Robert Nagourney presents the case of one of his patients, Donna, a young healthy athletic woman who kept her cell phone in her bra and developed breast cancer. The spread of the tumors in her breast resembles the shape of a cell phone.
A 10-year study by the U.S. government found clear evidence that cell phones cause cancer. The study was conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), the U.S. expert agency on toxins, and it was the biggest study of its kind. The results were confirmed by another major study by a leading scientific body, the Ramazzini Institute.
Nevertheless, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), which is entrusted with regulating the impact of wireless technology on health, dismissed the results of the study and refused to review its 1996 guidelines that deny adverse health effects of wireless technology. In February 2020, Children’s Health Defense filed a lawsuit against the FCC challenging the FCC’s decision not to review the guidelines. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit will hear oral arguments in the case on Jan. 25, 2021.
Water may be the basis for all life on earth, but it may soon become one of the hottest commodities on the Wall Street futures market due to its scarcity as a good.
Water will soon see its price fluctuating like other commodities including wheat, gold, and oil, now that the CME Group has launched futures contracts tied to the spot price of water.
The Nasdaq Veles California Water Index, which measures the volume-weighted average price of water in California’s five primary watersheds, began trading under the ticker NQH20 on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange on Monday.
On Tuesday morning, it was trading at about $486.53 per Acre Foot ($/AF).
The contracts will let both investors and farmers bet on future prices of the precious liquid with contracts tied to the $1.1 California spot water market, reports Business Insider.
Historically, this is the first time that water has been traded this way.
In the last year, the price of water in California has doubled, increasing fears of the scarcity of this crucial resource. Market analysts claim that the arrival of water futures to the international market will allow better management of the risks tied to any shortage of this good.
For example, those who are in need of extra water in a drought-stricken year – when prices are much higher – will now be able to bet on futures contracts to offset the higher prices they would have to pay in the water market in the future.
Large agricultural firms and municipalities would also theoretically have the ability to protect themselves from large swings in the price of the commodity.
“The NQH20 futures will be an innovative tool to provide agricultural, commercial, and municipal water users with greater transparency, price discovery, and risk transfer, which can help to more efficiently align supply and demand of this vital resource,” said the CME Group.
The financial group touted the NQH2O index as the likely benchmark for global water markets.
The new futures market also creates the possibility that water will be the subject of cut-throat speculation from financial giants, including major banks and hedge funds.
“Climate change, droughts, population growth, and pollution are likely to make water scarcity issues and pricing a hot topic for years to come,” RBC Capital Markets managing director and analyst Deane Dray told Bloomberg. “We are definitely going to watch how this new water futures contract develops.”
China and the United States are the world’s top consumers of water, with California accounting for some 9 percent of the nation’s daily consumption.
California’s water market is about four times bigger than that of any other state, with water transactions totaling $2.6 billion between 2012 and 2019.
In addition to being an agricultural giant where high-value crops like almonds and pistachios regularly require massive amounts of water, California is also filled with oil production facilities that use huge amounts of water while fracking for oil and gas.
However, the state is frequently hit with major droughts, leading to volatility in the price of the resource, reports CNN.
According to the United Nations, about 2 billion people live in countries where basic access to water is a serious problem. In the next few years, up to two-thirds of the planet could experience water shortages, leading to the displacement of millions of people.
The precious liquid has been excessively exploited by the mining sector and huge industries, while climate change has also been a driver of the increasing scarcity of water.
Top Action to ‘Save the Planet’? Crack Down on Industry Money in Politics
The Center for Biological Diversity last week called on President-elect Joe Biden to make good on his pledge to not “just tinker around the edges” of solutions to the climate and planetary crisis, releasing a report detailing 50 steps Biden can take without relying on Congress to address biological diversity, pollution, environmental injustice and the heating of the planet.
The group’s report — “The Last Decade to Save the Planet” — takes its name from climate scientists’ warning that greenhouse gas emissions must be slashed by 50% in the next 10 years in order to have any hope of limiting global warming to 1.5º Celsius by 2050.
The report focuses on five key areas in which Biden can make a lasting difference in how the U.S. government confronts the planetary emergency, as Congress did decades ago with legislation including the National Environmental Policy Act and Endangered Species Act.
The incoming administration must crackdown on corruption and the influence of corporate polluters, address the climate crisis, protect environmental and human health from dangerous chemicals, restore abundant wildlife populations and strengthen safeguards for public lands, the report says.
The first step Biden can take to confront the climate and ecological crises, the report says, is to officially declare the crises national emergencies under the National Emergencies Act of 1976, a move that would immediately unlock emergency powers “that can hasten a just transition off fossil fuels.”
After making the declaration, Biden could reinstate the decades-old crude oil export ban which was lifted in 2015; create millions of jobs by ordering the manufacture of solar photovoltaic panels, installation hardware, batteries, microgrid, and energy efficiency hardware under the Defense Production Act; and redirect military funds toward the construction of clean and renewable energy and smart-grid infrastructure projects on government properties.
“President-elect Biden said his administration wouldn’t just tinker around the edges, but instead would lock in progress no future president can rollback. Our recommendations are a roadmap for doing exactly that,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “By declaring that both the climate and extinction crises are true national emergencies and then acting accordingly, we can ensure our planet remains vibrant for generations to come.”
Another top priority for Biden must be revoking approximately 200 executive orders and unilateral environmental policies pushed through by the Trump administration, the group said. Starting just days after he took office in 2017, Trump ordered the expedition of environmental reviews to move destructive fossil fuel projects like the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines forward; began dismantling two national monuments; and gutted protections for clean air and water.
“Because it would take too much time to uncover and understand the full extent of the damage caused by Trump’s political operatives, we recommend that President Biden order every federal agency to inventory every policy, guidance, and memorandum issued during the Trump administration within the first 100 days of his administration and repeal all of them without exception,” the report says.
In the section of the report detailing how Biden can protect human and environmental health without the approval of Congress, where Republicans are likely to control the Senate, the Center for Biological Diversity recommends the president-elect phase out the 100 most dangerous pesticides; update limitation guidelines for toxic materials and plastics to eliminate water pollution, and require all EPA programs to consider the impact on endangered species when setting pollution limits.
“That’s something the agency has never done, but it would result in far more protective pollution safeguards across the board,” the organization said in a statement.
In the report, the group notes that the coronavirus pandemic has provided a stark picture of the devastating consequences of “recklessly exploiting wildlife.”
Among other recommendations, the Center for Biological Diversity calls on Biden to implement a 100% traceability program at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, for all wildlife trade. The coronavirus is believed to have “jumped” from animals to humans late last year, setting off the pandemic which has now killed more than 1.5 million people.
“Even before COVID-19, zoonotic diseases — those that jump from wildlife or domestic animals to humans — caused over two million deaths worldwide each year,” the report reads.
“The emergence of novel zoonotic diseases like COVID-19 continue to occur — and with more frequency — primarily because of the legal trade of wildlife. Most importantly, because a person who is infected by a zoonotic disease can now travel halfway around the world on an airplane in under 24 hours — less time than the incubation period of most diseases — it is critical to address wildlife trade everywhere it’s occurring.”
In addition to implementing a traceability program, the report says, Biden should use the Pelly Amendment to prohibit the importation of any products from countries which engage in illegal trade that “diminishes the effectiveness of an international wildlife treaty.”
“If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we must fundamentally reset our relationship with wildlife and the natural world,” said Hartl. “If we protect the planet’s most imperiled species, we’ll take care of people too. Their protection will give us cleaner air and water and less risk of another zoonotic pandemic sweeping across the globe.”
A pair of United Nations (UN) reports released Wednesday detail the dire state of the planet’s heating caused by the chasm between expected fossil fuel use and the dramatic reductions needed to avoid the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.
2020 is set to be the third-warmest year since the industrial revolution, just behind 2016 and 2019, according to the “State of the Global Climate” report released by the UN World Meteorological Office (WMO) and other UN agencies. Global temperatures are expected to average 1.2°C above the pre-industrial baseline, with a 20% chance of hitting the critical 1.5°C thresholds outlined in the Paris Agreement by 2024.
The WMO warnings are heightened by the parallel “Production Gap” report, released by the UN Environment Program and four NGOs, finding that instead of cutting fossil fuel extraction by 6% per year over the next decade, countries are planning to increase extraction by 2% annually.
“Humanity is waging war on nature. This is suicidal,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in an address on the release of the WMO report. “Nature always strikes back — and it is already doing so with growing force and fury.”
The Environmental Protection Agency released a draft biological evaluation on Wednesday finding that glyphosate is likely to injure or kill 93% of the plants and animals protected under the Endangered Species Act.
The long-anticipated draft biological evaluation released by the agency’s pesticide office found that 1,676 endangered species are likely to be harmed by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup and the world’s most-used pesticide.
The draft biological opinion also found that glyphosate adversely modifies critical habitat for 759 endangered species or 96% of all species for which critical habitat has been designated.
“The hideous impacts of glyphosate on the nation’s most endangered species are impossible to ignore now,” said Lori Ann Burd, environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Glyphosate use is so widespread that even the EPA’s notoriously industry-friendly pesticide office had to conclude that there are hardly any endangered species that can manage to evade its toxic impacts.”
Hundreds of millions of pounds of glyphosate are used each year in the United States, mostly in agriculture but also on lawns, gardens, landscaping, roadsides, schoolyards, national forests, rangelands, power lines, and more.
According to the EPA, 280 million pounds of glyphosate are used just in agriculture, and glyphosate is sprayed on 298 million acres of cropland each year. Eighty-four percent of glyphosate pounds applied in agriculture are applied to soy, corn, and cotton, commodity crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate being drenched with quantities of glyphosate that would normally kill a plant.
Glyphosate is also widely used in oats, wheat, pulses, fruit, and vegetable production.
“If we want to stop the extinction of amazing creatures like monarch butterflies, we need the EPA to take action to stop the out-of-control spraying of deadly poisons,” Burd continued.
The EPA has, for decades, steadfastly refused to comply with its obligation under the Endangered Species Act to assess the harms of pesticides to protected plants and animals. But it was finally forced to do this evaluation under the terms of a 2016 legal agreement with the Center for Biological Diversity.
According to a survey by the NSC, 7 in 10 Americans feel safest at home. In reality, the NSC reveals that 75% of preventable incidents are prone to happen at the heart of our supposedly safe homes. What’s even more worrying is that a whopping 40% of individuals have suffered preventable death at home.
This begs an important question: What is unsafe housing? The majority of individuals tend to describe a crumbling property with visible signs of damage and wear and tear when they think about unsafe housing. But in reality, your cozy home with its elegant interior style and comfortable couch could be just as unsafe, even though you can’t see the risks.
The coronavirus pandemic has made the home a place of safety. Globally, there’s been a common approach to managing and reducing covid risks by encouraging people to stay home. So, it can seem odd that the United States has not tried to manage the eviction crisis in the middle of a pandemic. Failure to ban evictions across the country has led to over 433,000 preventable COVID-19 cases and over 10,700 deaths. Why would landlords choose to remove vulnerable tenants when stable housing would have saved many lives nationwide? The answer, unfortunately, is measurable in rent money. It so happened that over 10,700 lives during the study periods were not worth, in the eyes of their landlords, the cost of the monthly rent. Stable and safe housing begins with the realization from landlords that the leniency in this unique global crisis is a matter of life and death.
Invisible radiations at home
What does a typical evening look like? If you’re likely to spend it watching your favorite show on Netflix while heating your dinner in the microwave, you may want to read about EMF radiation risks. Electromagnetic radiations can be both of electric and magnetic nature. Unfortunately, most people assume that high energy radiations, such as UV rays or even x-rays, are the electromagnetic waves that present a risk to the human body. In fact, it is foolish to assume that low frequency and energy radiation, such as the one emitted by your microwave or your TV, is safe. According to a study, it’s been linked to miscarriages and even a type of brain cancer. The bottom line: Your home could receive and produce possibly carcinogenic signals.
City life is too loud
City life and pollution are a match made in hell. Yet, pollution doesn’t only relate to car fumes. Traffic sounds can reach over 60 decibels, even if you live far above the ground. Manhattan inhabitants who like in the high-rise buildings along Interstate 95 have recorded noise levels around 66 decibels on the 8th floor. For comparison, that’s like having a vacuum cleaner always running inside your home.
What’s the effects of noise pollution?. For children, it can affect the way they learn a language, including their native tongue. For adults, the consequences can lead to increased anxiety, depression and even contribute to heart disease. Life at home is not just a little loud. The noise is literally killing you, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Dirty indoor air
Even if you keep a strict chore schedule, your home is unlikely to be as sparkling clean as it looks. But, you say, I don’t see any dirt. Granted, to the naked eye, your interior is clean. But try measuring thelevels of indoor air pollution before making any assumptions. Indoor pollution can combine a variety of particles and substances: particulate matter. Particulate matter could be dust, fungi, bacteria, smoke, etc. You don’t see any of it, as the larger particles measure less than 10 micrometers in diameters. These are safely caught by your nose hair, causing sinus discomfort and allergies. According to the WHO, the smaller ones can reach your lungs, leading to 5% of all lung cancer deaths.
What are the most common synthetic textiles inside your home?
Acrylic, viscose, and polyester are some of the prevalent fabrics you can find in your cushion covers, throws, rugs, curtains, etc. Artificial fabrics can be harmful to your health, leading to allergic reactions, respiratory distress, and even headaches.
But synthetic materials can go a lot further than throwing a viscose cushion cover on your couch. Your beloved furniture could contain formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen that is invisible to the naked eye. It is typically found in plastic, plywood, fiberboard, and particle boards. Because it tends to be used as an adhesive, you’re likely to have it in most modern furniture units. At room temperature, formaldehyde becomes a gas. According to the Healthy House Institute, it can take up to 10 years to out-gas formaldehyde, which means that your furniture could be releasing harmful substances for up to a decade.
Your smart home shares all your secrets
The home sweet home can be managed from your smartphone. With a click, you can turn the heating up or light up the bedroom. Smart homes are not just a tech trend. They also help individuals with reduced mobility to maintain their life comfort, and independence. As such, smart tech has become a convenient choice to keep control of your interior. Many homeowners even believe that their devices make the home safer.
However, according to recent computer studies, your smart home provides many points of entry for hackers. Imagine that you’ve programmed your heating or light bulbs to turn on when you arrive home. If a hacker can access your settings, they can figure out when you are at home and gain control over your security system. Smart devices have been found easy to hack, which makes your home more vulnerable to burglary.
Vitamin D deficiency indoors
Our modern lifestyle contributes to sedentary habits. Most people didn’t need to be told to stay at home during the pandemic because they’d been staying at home already! Unfortunately, indoor living reduces your exposure to direct sunlight, which in turn causes vitamin D deficiency.
However, sitting behind glass windows doesn’t mean you are safe from harmful UV rays. Vitamin D is produced when the skin is exposed to UVB rays. However, most glass windows block UVBs from entering your home. What they fail to block, though, are UVA rays, which are associated with skin cancer.
Over 50% of American houses are poorly insulated. Many use fiberglass batts, whose fibers are a lung irritant. More to the point, fiberglass batt doesn’t meet insulation standards, providing a low performance. While fiberglass batt is a suitable alternative for formaldehyde, not every builder understands how to install it properly. The bottom line: New homes are likely to have significant air leakages as a result. Homeowners are, therefore, more likely to have high energy costs and put their immune systems at risk. An overheated property can lead to respiratory discomfort. On the other hand, air leakage can increase moisture levels and lead to mold formation and allergies.
374,000 homes catch fire every year
According to the National Fire Protection Association, every year, 2,600 lives are lost in a house fire. Cooking is responsible for 40% of all house fires, highlighting the role of working smoke detectors in the home. Additionally, heaters, electrical or fuel-based, are likely to increase the risk of fire in winter, especially if your home contains highly inflammable materials.
The answer is that you’re never as safe as you think. Whether you could lose your shelter to a landlord’s greediness in the middle of a pandemic or accidentally start a fire by leaving the oven unattended, our modern technology has not resolved the unsafe housing problem in America.
Fences Have Big Effects on Land and Wildlife Around the World That Are Rarely Measured
Australia’s dingo fences, built to protect livestock from wild dogs, stretch for thousands of kilometers. Marian Deschain/Wikimedia, CC BY-SA
What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads. If our planet’s fences were stretched end to end, they would likely bridge the distance from Earth to the Sun multiple times.
On every continent, from cities to rural areas and from ancient to modern times, humans have built fences. But we know almost nothing about their ecological effects. Border fences are often in the news, but other fences are so ubiquitous that they disappear into the landscape, becoming scenery rather than subject.
In a recently published study, our team sought to change this situation by offering a set of findings, frameworks, and questions that can form the basis of a new discipline: fence ecology. By compiling studies from ecosystems around the world, our research shows that fences produce a complex range of ecological effects.
Conservationists and scientists have raised concerns about the ecological effects of the U.S.-Mexico border wall, most of which is essentially a fence.
Connecting the dots
If fences seem like an odd thing for ecologists to study, consider that until recently no one thought much about how roads affected the places around them. Then, in a burst of research in the 1990s, scientists showed that roads – which also have been part of human civilization for millennia – had narrow footprints but produced enormous environmental effects.
Our research team became interested in fences by watching animals. In California, Kenya, China, and Mongolia, we had all observed animals behaving oddly around fences – gazelles taking long detours around them, for example, or predators following “highways” along fence lines.
We reviewed a large body of academic literature looking for explanations. There were many studies of individual species, but each of them told us only a little on its own. Research had not yet connected the dots between many disparate findings. By linking all these studies together, we uncovered important new discoveries about our fenced world.
Early advertisement for barbed wire fencing, 1880-1889. The advent of barbed wire dramatically changed ranching and land use in the American West by ending the open range system. Kansas Historical Society, CC BY-ND
Perhaps the most striking pattern we found was that fences rarely are unambiguously good or bad for an ecosystem. Instead, they have myriad ecological effects that produce winners and losers, helping to dictate the rules of the ecosystems where they occur.
One finding that we believe is critical is that for every winner, fences typically produce multiple losers. As a result, they can create ecological “no man’s lands” where only species and ecosystems with a narrow range of traits can survive and thrive.
Altering regions and continents
Examples from around the world demonstrate fences’ powerful and often unintended consequences. The U.S.-Mexico border wall – most of which fits our definition of a fence – has genetically isolated populations of large mammals such as bighorn sheep, leading to population declines and genetic isolation. It has even had surprising effects on birds, like ferruginous pygmy owls, that fly low to the ground.
Australia’s dingo fences, built to protect livestock from the nation’s iconic canines, are among the world’s longest man-made structures, stretching thousands of kilometers each. These fences have started ecological chain reactions called trophic cascades that have affected an entire continent’s ecology.
The absence of dingoes, a top predator, from one side of the fence means that populations of prey species like kangaroos can explode, causing categorical shifts in plant composition and even depleting the soil of nutrients. On either side of the fence there now are two distinct “ecological universes.”
Our review shows that fences affect ecosystems at every scale, leading to cascades of change that may, in the worst cases, culminate in what some conservation biologists have described as a total “ecological meltdown.” But this peril often is overlooked.
Fences clearly are here to stay. As fence ecology develops into a discipline, its practitioners should consider the complex roles fences play in human social, economic, and political systems. Even now, however, there is enough evidence to identify actions that could reduce their harmful impacts.
There are many ways to change fence design and construction without affecting their functionality. For example, in Wyoming and Montana, federal land managers have experimented with wildlife-friendly designs that allow species like pronghorn antelope to pass through fences with fewer obstacles and injuries. This kind of modification shows great promise for wildlife and may produce broader ecological benefits.
Some incredible non-COVID19 content for you today: hundreds of pronghorn (aka speed goats!) migrating through Natrona County, Wyoming, in search of hospitable winter range. Prime example of why wildlife-friendly fencing is so crucial. #FenceEcologyhttps://t.co/5TbaFi0173
Another option is aligning fences along natural ecological boundaries, like watercourses or topographical features. This approach can help minimize their effects on ecosystems at a low cost. And land agencies or nonprofit organizations could offer incentives for landowners to remove fences that are derelict and no longer serve a purpose.
Knowing this, we believe that policymakers and landowners should be more cautious about installing fences in the first place. Instead of considering only a fence’s short-term purpose and the landscape nearby, we would like to see people view a new fence as yet another permanent link in a chain encircling the planet many times over.
Surviving Change: How Plants And Animals Are Evolving
Nations across the globe are waking up to the threat of climate change. Climate change is progressing faster each day, leading to higher temperatures and altered precipitation. In regions that are already very dry now, like deserts, the effects of climate change predict even lower precipitation levels. In order to survive under these new conditions, organisms must adapt very quickly. So what do the animals and plants do to ensure their survival?
A few ways in which animals are coping are by moving to cooler regions, adapting to the warmer environment, and some are even adapting and evolving as a whole species. Often when scientists put up global warming models, they ignore the adaptive capacity of life. A geneticist from the University of Melbourne, Australia, Ary Hoffmann explains that organisms are not static. If the earth and its climate are undergoing a change, why should we assume plants and animals won’t?
HOW ARE ORGANISMS SURVIVING CLIMATE CHANGE?
A 2011 review had already shown how hundreds of species are on the move. There was a median shift to higher altitudes of 36 feet (11 meters) per decade and a median shift to higher latitudes of about 10.5 miles (17 kilometers) per decade. And you don’t have to be a scientist to notice this. Be it gardeners or nature lovers, they all notice how more and more animals are reacting to the effects of climate change.
Nine-banded armadillos are moving from the south into regions of North Caroline. Trees are shifting to higher altitudes as are many animals. The endangered quino checkerspot butterfly was on the verge of extinction, but they shifted to higher altitudes.
Not just moving physically though. With Spring arriving almost 2 days earlier than it used to in the 1950s, plants and animals are changing their patterns too. Be it nesting of birds or flowering of plants, they all know how to adapt fast. A live experiment on corals proved just how fast living organisms are able to adapt.
Marine ecologist Stephen Palumbi from Stanford University, California, tested the heat tolerance of some Acropora hyacinthus corals. The ones from cooler pools were put in a hot pool. After a year, their heat tolerance was measured. Previously Palumbi had found 55% of corals being stressed under such conditions. But when left for a year, only 32.5% showed signs of stress. The rest had miraculously adapted to the warmer environment!
Two things are at play here: firstly the genetic evolution that allows life to persist. And secondly, phenotypic plasticity, which implies there was not genetic change yet living organisms could adapt and evolve with their environment in a short period of time.
SNAILS, SALMONS, AND OTHERS
European large banded snails with light color shells have become more prevalent in the Netherlands. Even in dark and wooded places where one expects darker shells, the light ones are now dominating. And since genes are responsible for shell color, this another correlation between evolution in animals, global warming, and climate change.
Alaskan Pink salmon are migrating from the Auke Creek where the water is heating up by about 0.03 degrees each year. And in Finland, tawny owls used to be light gray to camouflage with the snow. With declining levels of snow since the 1970s, brown tawnies are becoming more common.
Genetic modification in plants to survive climate change also includes the changing colors of petals. A research team led by Professor Katja Tielbörger from the Institute of Evolution and Ecology found how plants can modify their genes over a short time period to survive drought conditions. With a 12 years-long experiment, they manipulated the precipitation levels of plant communities. Plants used to humid conditions quickly adapted with earlier flowing time and put resources to produce seeds. But other processes like water efficiency and seed dormancy remained the same. This indicates some processes could be too slow for organisms to make the final cut.
But these isolated cases might seem hopeful for now, at best, they serve as grace periods. If human consumption continues the way it has, even these fast-adapting organisms might not stand a chance.
Are we ready to make the changes we need to make? Only reducing carbon emissions is not the answer. These plants and animals need our protection and care to ensure their survival. Climate change is creating ripples everywhere, are we prepared yet?
Sir David Attenborough Sounds Extinction Warning To World Leaders
Environmentalist Sir David Attenborough warned world leaders at a recent United Nations (UN) meeting that they need to work together and act now to prevent an extinction crisis.
This followed in the wake of a UN report in 2019 which calculated that a mind-blowing one million species are under threat of extinction.
Although we are not yet at an irreversible situation, time is quickly running out.
“The Report also tells us that it is not too late to make a difference, but only if we start now at every level from local to global,” said Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services Chair, Sir Robert Watson.
Speaking at a more recent virtual UN event, Sir David Attenborough told international delegates including 65 heads of state and government officials that “if ever we needed a strong signal from world leaders, for people like you, that we are going to solve this, then this is now.”
Among the main threats to species survival are the destruction of natural habitats to build cities, roads, railways and other infrastructure. A growing population is increasing the problem. So are hunting and activities such as mining and logging as well as climate change.
Increasing human encroachment into nature and exposure to wild animals is thought to be the reason behind some diseases and it’s believed by some scientists that Covid-19 originated from bats.
The attendees at the UN meeting signed a global pledge to reverse losses nature by 2030.
BORIS JOHNSON PROMISES TO BACK ATTENBOROUGH
The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, also emphasized the need to act quickly.
“We cannot afford dither and delay because biodiversity loss is happening today and it is happening at a frightening rate,” he said.
Johnson pledged to increase the amount of protected land in the United Kingdom from the current 26% to 30% within the next 10 years.
‘Seismic Shift’ in World’s Approach to Land Use, Wildlife, and Climate Action Needed to Avoid New ‘Era of Pandemics,’ Study Says
Deforestation is among the human activities which threaten to lead to another, more deadly pandemic, scientists say. (Photo: Matt Zimmerman/Flickr/cc)
Warning that without a “seismic shift” in how world governments approach the treatment of wildlife, land conservation, and public health, the planet could be entering an “era of pandemics,” a United Nations-backed report released Thursday emphasized that the ability to avoid more public health crises like Covid-19 is entirely within the human population’s control.
Resulting from an urgent virtual workshop attended by 22 experts from around the world, the report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services notes that more than five new diseases emerge in people each year, and each of these has the potential to develop into a global pandemic as the coronavirus did.
“We have the increasing ability to prevent pandemics—but the way we are tackling them right now largely ignores that ability.”
—Dr. Peter Daszak, EcoHealth Alliance
The novel coronavirus has origins in microbes detected in animal species and is believed to have “jumped” from an animal to the human population in Wuhan, China, and human activity has made it dangerously easy for this sort of jump to happen again and again.
Scientists estimate that 1.7 million unknown viruses currently exist in mammals and birds and that up to 850,000 of them could potentially infect humans.
“There is no great mystery about the cause of the Covid-19 pandemic—or of any modern pandemic,” said Dr. Peter Daszak, president of EcoHealth Alliance and chair of the IPBES workshop. “The same human activities that drive climate change and biodiversity loss also drive pandemic risk through their impacts on our environment. Changes in the way we use the land; the expansion and intensification of agriculture; and unsustainable trade, production, and consumption disrupt nature and increase contact between wildlife.”
To stop a new era of pandemics from emerging, the experts say, governments must work together to stop the exploitation of land and wildlife by profit-driven systems, which cause humans and animals to come into close enough contact for pathogens to jump to humans.
Unsafe contact between humans and wildlife would be reduced by conservation efforts to protect biodiversity and natural habitats, the promotion of “responsible consumption” and a reduction in “excessive consumption of meat from livestock production,” and climate action, the report reads.
“Climate change has been implicated in disease emergence (e.g. tick-borne encephalitis in Scandinavia) and will likely cause substantial future pandemic risk by the driving movement of people, wildlife, reservoirs, and vectors, and spread of their pathogens, in ways that lead to new contact among species, increased contact among species or otherwise disrupts natural host-pathogen dynamics,” the IPBES wrote.
According to the report, land-use change has been linked to the emergence of more than 30% of new diseases in the human population since 1960.
“Land-use change includes deforestation, human settlement is primarily wildlife habitat, the growth of crop and livestock production, and urbanization,” the report reads.
“The solution here seems pretty clear,” tweeted Dr. Scott Sampson, executive director of the California Academy of Sciences, in response to the report’s section on land-use change.
The study includes a number of suggested reforms which could help to keep pathogens from spreading to humans, including:
Launching a high-level intergovernmental council on pandemic prevention to provide decision-makers with the best science and evidence on emerging diseases; predict high-risk areas; evaluate the economic impact of potential pandemics and to highlight research gaps.
Institutionalizing the ‘One Health’ approach in national governments to build pandemic preparedness, enhance pandemic prevention programs, and to investigate and control outbreaks across sectors.
Ensuring that the economic cost of pandemics is factored into consumption, production, and government policies and budgets.
Enabling changes to reduce the types of consumption, globalized agricultural expansion, and trade that has led to pandemics—this could include taxes or levies on meat consumption, livestock production, and other forms of high pandemic-risk activities.
Reducing zoonotic disease risks in the international wildlife trade through a new intergovernmental ‘health and trade’ partnership; reducing or removing high disease-risk species in the wildlife trade; enhancing law enforcement in all aspects of the illegal wildlife trade and improving community education in disease hotspots about the health risks of wildlife trade.
Valuing Indigenous Peoples and local communities’ engagement and knowledge in pandemic prevention programs, achieving greater food security, and reducing consumption of wildlife.
The cost of confronting global public health emergencies after they’ve arrived—including damage to economies around the world, healthcare costs, and vaccine research—is roughly 100 times what it would cost to prevent another pandemic, the IPBES said.
“We have the increasing ability to prevent pandemics—but the way we are tackling them right now largely ignores that ability,” said Daszak. “Our approach has effectively stagnated—we still rely on attempts to contain and control diseases after they emerge, through vaccines and therapeutics. We can escape the era of pandemics, but this requires a much greater focus on prevention in addition to reaction.”
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WASHINGTON—The Environmental Protection Agency reapproved dozens of toxic pesticides today that are known to cause serious harm to people, wildlife and the environment.
The pesticide reapprovals, known as interim decisions, finalize the EPA’s own assessments of human and environmental impacts, which have found far-ranging harms from these chemicals.
The hasty reapprovals include paraquat, which is extremely toxic to people and has been shown to double the risk of Parkinson’s disease in farmworkers. They also include most of the extremely dangerous pyrethroid insecticides that are linked to autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and are highly toxic to pollinators and fish.
“The EPA’s reckless reapproval of all these extremely toxic, old pesticides will cause serious long-term harm to people and wildlife,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “We should be banning many of these dangerous pesticides. Instead the EPA has actually loosened its own prior restrictions for some of them, imperiling farmworkers and children and our crashing pollinator populations.”
The EPA has steadfastly refused to complete legally required analyses of the impacts of these herbicides, insecticides and fumigants on endangered plants and animals. Today’s blitz of reapprovals will allow the agency to keep these pesticides on the market until 2035.
Today’s interim decisions include:
Paraquat, which has been shown to more than double the risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in farmworkers and others suffering occupational exposure;
Most pyrethroid insecticides, linked to autism, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and known to be highly toxic to pollinators and fish;
Methomyl, a neurotoxic insecticide in the carbamate class very similar to organophosphates such as chlorpyrifos, which the EPA recently found was likely to harm more than 1,100 endangered species —– including highly endangered whooping cranes, San Joaquin kit foxes and all species of protected salmon.
Paraquat is one of only two pesticides still used in the United States that is either banned or being phased out in the European Union, China and Brazil. It’s the most acutely lethal herbicide still in use today and has resulted in the death of at least 30 people in the United States in the past 30 years.
In addition, occupational paraquat exposure has been associated with an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. In response to the EPA’s proposal to reapprove paraquat, 52 farmworker, public health, environmental justice, conservation and farmer advocates joined a letter urging the EPA to ban the chemical because of its substantial and demonstrated risks. Despite its well-documented harms, paraquat use in the United States is higher than it’s been in the past 25 years, with use rising nearly 200% since 2009. The increase has been triggered by its use on superweeds that have developed resistance to glyphosate, commonly sold as Bayer’s Roundup.
For pyrethroids, insecticides that are known to cause serious harms to human health, pollinators and waterways, the EPA had initially considered a 66-foot-wide buffer of permanent vegetation between fields sprayed with the pesticides and any water body, as well as a 10 mph wind-speed cutoff for spraying. But with today’s interim decision the agency slashes its own proposed protections, mandating only a 10- to 25-foot-wide buffer and a wind-speed cutoff of 15 mph.
Today’s decision follows the EPA’s announcement last year that it had granted a pesticide industry request to end long-running safeguards legally mandated to protect young children from pyrethroids, which have been shown to cause learning deficiencies.
The agency’s decision to increase threefold the amount of pyrethroid exposure considered safe for children relied almost exclusively on confidential pesticide-industry studies and a model developed by a group of pesticide companies that sell pyrethroids. It ignored contradictory evidence from peer-reviewed, independent studies and advice from two separate scientific advisory panels in making the decision.
Its decision on 1,3-D (dichloropropene) has downgraded the pesticide’s cancer rating from “likely to be a carcinogen” to “suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential.” The pesticide was initially listed as a probable carcinogen in 1985 by the EPA, a finding that was reconfirmed in 1989 and 2005. Today’s downgrade means the agency does not have to analyze the true cancer risk to people, especially farmworkers, exposed to this poison. The United States uses about 40 million to 50 million pounds of 1,3-D each year, making it the fourth-most used pesticide in agriculture. 1,3-D is still listed as known to cause cancer under California’s Proposition 65.
“The EPA’s pesticide office has sunk to a despicable new low in allowing farmworkers, small children and the environment to be sacrificial pawns in the profit schemes of its friends in the pesticide industry,” said Donley. “In rushing to reapprove these deadly chemicals, it’s ignored its own scientists and independent researchers, refused to protect human health and the environment, and shown itself to be the panting lapdog of a morally bankrupt industry.”
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.7 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.