Category Archives: not-so-green

Nuclear Is Not Clean

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There are communities in the Southwest still suffering from the effects of the uranium mining from the nuclear boom of the 1940′s – 1980′s (more below). But, when nuclear proponents tout the idea that nuclear energy is the clean energy savior for the planet, it is pretty convenient to ignore the community health disaster that uranium mining inevitably brings along. I wish it were more suprising to hear this:

On public lands within five miles of Grand Canyon National Park, there are now more than 1,100 uranium claims, compared with just 10 in January 2003, according to data from the Department of the Interior. [...] In the five Western states where uranium is mined in the U.S., 4,333 new claims were filed in 2004, according to the Interior Department; last year the number had swelled to 43,153.

The push to extract more uranium has caused controversy not just involving federal land but private and state land as well. In Virginia, a company’s plan to operate in a never-mined deposit spurred a hearing in the Legislature. In New Mexico, a Navajo activist group is challenging in federal court a license issued just over the reservation’s east border.

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Most of the new claims are in the vicinity of the Grand Canyon:

Uranium is “a special concern,” he added, because it is both a toxic heavy metal and a source of radiation. He worries about uranium escaping into the local water, and about its effect on fish in the Colorado River at the bottom of the gorge, and on the bald eagles, California condors and bighorn sheep that depend on the canyon’s seeps and springs. More than a third of the canyon’s species would be affected if water quality suffered, he said.

“If you can’t stop mining at the Grand Canyon, where can you stop it?” asked Richard Wiles, executive director of the Environmental Working Group.

The energy-versus-environment debate is apparent within the Interior Department, which granted the mining claims through its Bureau of Land Management. Among the mining critics is Steve Martin, superintendent of the Grand Canyon park and an Interior Department employee himself. “There should be some places that you just do not mine,” Martin said.

I wonder which places he thinks you should mine? Here is a look at a Tufts student’s research on the Navajo Nation’s experience with uranium mining:

In North America, many people think of clean drinking water and uncontaminated land as a birthright. For members of Navajo Nation, access to these basic needs isn’t as easy to come by. An area the size of West Virginia sandwiched between Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo reservation’s austere land of buttes and mesas is beautiful but burdened by toxic waste. Forty years of uranium mining has created an environmental justice nightmare that scientists and researchers like Jamie deLemos are working to redress.

deLemos, an environmental health doctoral candidate at Tufts School of Engineering and a student in the Water: Systems, Science, and Society program, has been working with engineering associate professor, John Durant, and Tufts Public Health and Family Medicine’s Doug Brugge as part of a large-scale project to understand the health impacts of uranium mining.

Uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation is the result of mining operations conducted during the boom of the atomic age in the 1940s through the 1980s. Many Navajos employed in the uranium mines were directly exposed to high levels of radiation toxicity from mining, but also indirectly from environmental exposures created by residual waste. As miners extracted uranium from the ore, leftover tailings–accumulated waste material from extraction and processing activities–open pits, and mine shafts dotted the landscape.

In July 1979, in Church Rock, NM, millions of gallons of low-level radioactive waste burst from a dam and contaminated the surrounding watershed of New Mexico and Arizona. Almost 30 years later, the U.S.EPA and Navajo Nation EPA are working to clean up these since-abandoned mines, and epidemiological researchers are assessing the extent of the health risk.

Although uranium is often associated with radiological toxicity, it is much more hazardous from a chemical toxicity standpoint. “Uranium is a kidney toxin. Kidney disease is three times higher among the Navajo (or Diné) people than in the general U.S. population,” deLemos said. Her information comes from working on a large community based-participatory research project called the Diné Network for Environmental Health, or DiNEH project. Along with Dr. Johnnye Lewis, director of University of New Mexico’s Community Environmental Health Program, and members of the Eastern Navajo Health Board, the project team has been studying the effects of toxic exposures on the Navajo Nation. Through work on this project, deLemos was named one of this year’s Switzer Environmental Fellows by the Robert & Patricia Switzer Foundation.

As part of Lewis’ team, deLemos uses her environmental health and geochemistry skills to address the extent of uranium contamination, to discover the chemistry that controls uranium transport in water and soil, and to identify areas at high risk for uranium exposures. In March 2006, deLemos and fellow graduate student Naomi Slagowski traveled to New Mexico to obtain 150 samples, including soil, water and vegetation from a heavily burdened mining area. deLemos and Slagowski worked with Tommy Rock, a Navajo and Northern Arizona University graduate student.

“Some people, because of the historical abuses–of which there are many–are not interested in letting you on their land,” said deLemos. “They’ll say, ‘How are you different from other researchers who’ve come and done nothing to change things for us or never come back and report what you’ve found?’” deLemos worked with Rock who translated the language and helped foster trust with community members. “People automatically accepted him through clanship and his Navajo language skills; and when he was with us, we were okay.”

As part of her geochemical assessment, deLemos worked with former mentor and geochemist Benjamin Bostick at Dartmouth College. Using a combination of laboratory and x-ray spectroscopic techniques, she evaluated the chemical form of uranium in contaminated sediments and how soluble these forms are. “One state is soluble and one isn’t,” said deLemos. “And the soluble form is much more toxic.” In 2000, the U.S. EPA issued the Radionuclides Rule, which set the maximum contaminant level safety standard at 30 micrograms per liter of drinking water. “What my data show is that when contaminated sediments are wet, the amount of uranium that dissolves into the water can exceed this rule by more than a factor of 100,” said deLemos. “This has serious implications for contaminating groundwater supplies.”

“People still haul water even if they’re on a public water supply, either for cultural reasons, or because they prefer the taste,” said deLemos. However, the Navajo Nation has deemed any unregulated water supplies unfit for human consumption, even though chemical and bacteriological analysis haven’t, as of yet, been systematically performed on all wells. “All water sources that have been tested are given a rating with a stop-light system, and everything unregulated is given a yellow or a red light,” deLemos said. “When people who are hauling water see this, it’s a little confusing. It’s hard for people to give up what they’ve been doing their whole lives–and when you can’t provide them with an acceptable alternative, it’s a real challenge.”

Providing clear information, and possible alternative water sources, perhaps in an easy-to-read map, is the next phase of deLemos’ project. “Historically, there’s been a lot of recommendations and no offer of alternatives and no follow up,” said deLemos, adding that in the past other researchers have issued statements such as, “‘We recommend that for your livestock, you don’t eat kidney or liver,’ but they eat the whole sheep as part of the culture,” deLemos said. “Or ‘We recommend you stay off the banks of the river.’ Well, that’s like telling someone around Boston to stay off of 95.”

After presenting her current research to the community at this summer’s 4th Annual Navajo Nation Drinking Water Conference hosted by the Navajo Nation EPA, deLemos realized that Navajos need straightforward answers.

“People have basic questions: Are my livestock going to get sick if they eat this grass? Can I take water from this well or pond? You have to balance between cutting-edge science and something that’s actually going to be immediately useful and relevant to these impacted communities.”

Profile written by Julia C. Keller, Communications Specialist, Tufts School of Engineering

[Grist, LATimes, Tufts E-News]

Vulcan Projecct: Texas Takes the Cake

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Here’s a map put together by scientists at Purdue University’s Vulcan Project of 2002 CO2 emissions per capita [click on the map for a high-res version]. So…is anyone surprised that Texas is the reddest state? I thought not. Interestingly, here is a map of CO2 concentration with out accounting for population density, which looks pretty much identical to a population map.  It also looks to be almost inversely proportional to the population map, which presents fairly good evidence that dense urban living is the most carbon efficient way to go.

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Here’s a 2000 US Census Bureau population map for comparison:
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Read the rest at WIRED, World Changing & catch an introductory video from the scientists at the Vulcan Project website.

Speechless

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I don’t know why anybody expected this man to have anything intelligent or productive to say on this topic this time around.

Here are the three things you need to know about Bush’s speech — the same three things you needed to know about his previous speeches on the subject:

  1. Bush’s speech is not meant to advance serious efforts to address climate change, but to thwart the efforts of others. This has been true of all three speeches he’s given — see Dan Froomkin on this. This time around, it’s meant to thwart Congressional Democrats, who show every sign of being on the verge of passing a carbon cap-and-trade bill.
  2. The targets Bush does announce would doom the planet. Last time around it was improving the “carbon intensity” of the economy — that is, releasing less CO2 per unit of GDP, even though total CO2 would continue rising. This time around, it’s “halting the growth” of U.S. emissions by 2025. By way of contrast, international folks are pushing for a peak in global emissions by 2020. If U.S. emissions keep rising until 2025 — and that’s what Bush is calling for, rising CO2 emissions for another 17 years — efforts to keep global CO2 levels below 450ppm, or even 550ppm, are futile, and unthinkable human misery lies on the horizon.
  3. The Republican Party will not accept even the weak initiatives Bush lays out. This piece in Roll Call ($ub. req’d) tells the story:

    Years after President Bush torpedoed the Kyoto global warming treaty, he is expected to outline principles this afternoon for passing legislation to reduce carbon emissions, but it’s unclear how much support he will find among Congressional Republicans.

[grist.org]

Food Riots Lead to Increased Push for Food Security

In response to the violent food riots in Haiti, Yemen, Egypt, and the riots that have taken place over the past year in Mexico, West Bengal, Camaroon, Burkina Faso and Senegal, French Agriculture minister Michel Barnier is urging the EU to take action immediately against biofuels sourced from edible crops. Four of France’s ministers also insist that similar food riots are on the brink in some 30 other countries.

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A demonstrator ate grass in front of a U.N. peacekeeping soldier during a protest against the high cost of living in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Political leaders from poor countries contend that biofuels, which Western countries have been encouraging, are driving up food prices and starving poor people, making biofuels a new flash point in global diplomacy.

Meanwhile, today marks the official enforcement of the 2.5% biofuels mandate UK-wide.

[BBC News; NYTimes, Daily Kos; Celsias]

An Open Letter to Hillary

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This is a letter written to Hillary by Linn Cohen-Cole, a Wellesley graduate, for Celsias. I am going to replicate it in its entirety, because it is that critical:

Dear Hillary,

By polling logic, I should be your supporter – Democrat, older woman, white, liberal. I was even in a dorm with you in college. I have pulled for you for years. But something this past summer fundamentally changed my responsibility to my children and grandchildren. In the time I have left in my life to protect them and others, I need to speak out.

I saw a News Hour piece on Maharastra, India, about farmers committing suicide [see here and here]. Monsanto, a US agricultural giant, hired Bollywood actors for ads telling illiterate farmers they could get rich (by their standards) from big yields with Monsanto’s Bt (genetically engineered) cotton seeds. The expensive seeds needed expensive fertilizer and pesticides (Monsanto, again) and irrigation. There is no irrigation there. Crops failed. Farmers had larger debt than they’d ever experienced.

And farmers couldn’t collect seeds from their own fields [see here and here] to try again (true since time immemorial). Monsanto “patents” their DNA-altered seeds as “intellectual property.” They have a $10 million budget and a staff of 75 devoted solely to prosecuting farmers [here]. Since the late 1990s (about when industrial agriculture took hold in India), 166,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide and 8 million have left the land.

Farmers in Europe, Asia, Africa, Indonesia,South America, Central America and here, have protested Monsanto and genetic engineering for years.

What does this have to do with you?

You have connections to Monsanto through the Rose Law Firm where you worked and through Bill who hired Monsanto people for central food-related roles. Your Orwellian-named “Rural Americans for Hillary” was planned withTroutman Sanders, Monsanto’s lobbyists.

Genetic engineering and industrialized food and animal production all come together at the Rose Law Firm, which represents the world’s largest GE corporation (Monsanto), GE’s most controversial project (DP&L’s – now Monsanto’s – terminator genes) [here], the world’s largest meat producer (Tyson), the world’s largest retailer and a dominant food retailer (Wal-Mart) [here].

The inbred-ness of Rose’s legal representation of corporations which own controlling interests in other corporations there and of corporate boards sharing members who are also shareholders of each other’s corporations there, is so thorough that it is hard to capture. Jon Jacoby, senior executive of the Stephens Group – one of the largest institutional shareholders of Tyson Foods, Walmart, DP&L – is also Chairman of the Board of DP&L and arranged the Wal-Mart deal. Jackson Stephens’ Stephens Group staked Sam Walton and financed Tyson Foods. Monsanto bought DP&L. All represented at Rose.

You didn’t just work there, you made friends. That shows in the flow of favors then and since. You were invited onto Walmart’s board, you were helped by a Tyson executive to make commodity trades (3 days before Bill became governor), netting you $100,000, Jackson Stephens strongly backed Bill for Governor, and then for President (donating $100,000).

Food and friends, in Clinton terms: Bill’s appointed friend Mike Espy, Secretary of Agriculture, who immediately significantly weakened federal chicken waste and contamination standards, opening the door to major expansion of Tyson’s chicken factory farms. Espy resigned, indicted for accepting bribes, illegal contributions, money laundering, illegal dispersal of USDA subsidies, …. Tyson Foods was the largest corporate offender.

But what Bill did for Monsanto “genetic engineering” goes beyond inadequate concepts of giving corporate friends influence: He unleashed genetic engineering into the world. And then he helped close off people’s escape from it.

Genetic engineering is many orders of magnitude different from “normal” (even polluting) business in its potential biologic ramifications. The warning myth of Pandora’a Box – letting irretrievable things rush out into nature – has become real. The harrowing change to the world from nuclear fission and fusion is the closest parallel.

What did Bill do?

1. Bill’s put Monsanto people in at the FDA, as US Agricultural Trade Representatives, on International Biotechnology Consultive Forums, and more … (http://www.commondreams.org/headlines/072600-03.htm) or http://www.monitor.net/monitor/9904b/monsantofda.html or http://www.mindfully.org/GE/Revolving-Door.htm

2. Bill’s FDA gave Monsanto permission to market rBGH (a GE bovine growth hormone), the first genetically engineered product let loose on us (or did tomatoes with fish DNA get there first?).

3. Despite reports of bovine illness and death, Bill’s FDA did not recall it or put warnings on it. Even “a very angry, very vocal nationwide consumer base” had no impact.

4. Bill’s FDA wouldn’t even label rBGH as “present” in milk.

5. When dairy farmers tried to label their own milk rBGH-free so the public could choose [more on rBGH and labelling here], Bill’s USDA threatened all dairies that their products could be confiscated from stores. Michael Taylor, USFDA Deputy Commissioner, was formerly Monsanto’s counsel.

6. How were consumers to protect their family, given Bill’s FDA enforced public blindness, except to buy only organic? But Bill’s FDA tried to close off that last escape, proposing to include in “organic” standards, “the dirty three” a: genetic engineering of plants and animals, use of irradiation in food processing and use of municipal sewage sludge as a fertilizer. The FDA backed down.

Had this gone through, Monsanto could have finally labeled rBGH milk … as “organic.” And animal waste from factory farms, a pollution nightmare for Tyson and others, could have been sold as fertilizer.

USDA head Dan Glickman: “This is probably the largest public response to an [Agriculture Department] rule in modern history.” In fact the response was 20 times greater than anything ever before proposed by the USDA.

Personally, I resent years of effort to protect my children and now grandchildren, from that crap.

Politically, Bill sided against small farmers and against the public’s right to know, and with Monsanto.

A snap shot of our food:

Oils: Sheep died in India after feeding on Bt cotton fields. We feed our children Bt cotton, as cottonseed oil in peanut butter and cookies.

Grains: 49% of US corn acreage was planted in Bt corn in 2007. A French study proved Monsanto’s GMO corn causes kidney and liver toxicity.

Soft drinks and candy have highly concentrated Bt corn, in the form of high fructose Bt corn syrup. The US food system depends most on two crops, soy (90% GMO, 90% of traits owned by Monsanto) and corn, the largest crop (60% GMO, nearly 100% Monsanto traits). “[E] ssentially our entire food supply is genetically modified, to the benefit of one company.” The Grocery Manufacturers of America in 2000 estimated that 70 percent of US food contains GM traits.

Meat: Steroids bulk up atheletes. Monsanto steroids bulk up animals – more weight, more profit. We feed our children steroids in meats. Is this why our children are fattening, like Hansel and Gretel?

Poultry: Bill’s USDA weakened chicken waste and contamination standards and attempted to allow sewage sludge as fertilize crops. I will say more about disease from industrialized poultry farms waste, at the end of this letter.

Milk: Over 30 scientific publications have shown increased levels of IGF-1 in milk with rBGH increases risks of breast cancer by up to seven-fold, also increasing colon and prostate cancers risks. Canada, 29 European nations, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa ban U.S. rBGH dairy products. Bill’s USFDA put no restrictions, no warning labels (not allowing labels at all).

American children eat that food and drink that milk, Hillary. Coincidentally, American children are increasingly fat and sick.

Here, Bill ignored pleas for labeling. Abroad, Bill ignored intense international objections over the same issue – unlabeled US food exports – badly straining trading relations. Monsanto’s “good ole boy,” he betrayed American families at the deepest levels conceivable – their family’s health and their democratic right to know. He betrayed our rural life and American family farmers – backing corporation deceit and control, over honesty and clean farming.

But, Hillary, it is one thing to not label a regular ‘ole food product to sell it, and quite another to sell a suspected-dangerous food product (rBGH), but Bill’s administration didn’t label (or stop) a well-known, terrifying threat – Mad Cow Disease.

Bill’s FDA’s August, 1997 regulation permitted “known TSE-positive [Transmissible spongiform encephalopathy] material to be used in pet food, pig, chicken and fish feed,” only requiring the label to read “Do not feed to cattle and other ruminants” in the US.

Monsanto added to the problem. “There is evidence that rbST use [Monsanto’s GE bovine growth hormone] reduces the useful lifespan of a dairy cow. … Given that the incubation period for BSE is at least three to five years and perhaps longer, rbST-treated cows could harbor “hidden” BSE. That is, they might be infected but still asymptomatic when sent to slaughter.” http://www.consumersunion.org/food/bgh-codex.htm

Bill let TSE into our entire food chain. And who owned the feed and slaughter and genetic engineering corporations which benefitted?

Please, tell me, Hillary, what he could possibly have gotten in friendship or favors, that could ever justify his exposing millions of people to this?

With genetic engineering itself, Bill did something to the whole world, which tried to object. Words are inadequate to express how astoundingly immoral, beyond human bounds and conceit and power, that was.

“Even for the biggest “winners,” it is like winning at poker on the Titanic.” Jerry Mander: Facing the Rising Tide

He had no right

Do you hear that?

Bill had sex from Monica Lewinsky. That’s “dinky immoral.” That’s chicken feed immoral – excuse the Tyson pun, excuse the TSE-laced pun. Bill let genetic engineering lose on NATURE itself.

Our way of life is likely to be more fundamentally transformed in the next several decades than in the previous one thousand years…Tens of thousands of novel transgenic bacteria, viruses, plants and animals could be released into the Earth’s ecosystems…Some of those releases, however, could wreak havoc with the planet’s biospheres. — Jeremy Rifkin, Biotech Century

Bill did this to us, like it was some nothing and he, some big dumb ass Southern boy, just smiling and getting in good with the Big Boys, thinking about as much about the consequences of something this immense and about us human beings out here, as he thought about you, when he was unfaithful with Monica. Just one big fool getting off on the power and used to getting away with things.

Terminator genes, developed by DP&L, a Rose Firm client, prevent seeds from “working” after only one season. Farmers “must” repurchase (patents and suing not certain enough control, it seems). Those “killing” genes pose the apocalyptic risk of breaking out into nature. Natural seeds could fail, too. Nature could fail.

Far-fetched?

GMO fields are already contaminating normal species Berkeley Professor of Microbiology, Ignacio Chapela, wrote an open letter, warning the Mexican government about just this breaking out phenomenon happening in maize

And it has already happened with weeds – pesticide resistant GMO seeds break lose and weeds become pesticide-resistant Superweeds. [here]

But Bill’s USDA spokesman, Willard Phelps said the USDA wanted the technology to be `widely licensed and made expeditiously available to many seed companies.’

Genetic Engineering is often justified as a human technology, one that feeds more people with better food. Nothing could be further from the truth. With very few exceptions, the whole point of genetic engineering is to increase sales of chemicals and bio-engineered products to dependent farmers. — David Ehrenfield: Professor of Biology, Rutgers University [also see previous link]

Hillary, one third of the world’s bee colonies have collapsed [here]. Gone. Farmers in India are killing themselves. Farmers and bees. Since organic farmers in India are fine and organic farmers report no colony collapse [here], what does these farming catatrophes say about “industrial agriculture” [here]

Mad Cow Disease is another direct result of industrial agriculture. And now ……. transnational poultry factories are implicated as the source of bird flu [here]. Small scale poultry farms and wild birds seem not to be the problem [just as small farmers are not the issue in Mad Cow Disease], and yet “initiatives are multiplying to ban outdoor poultry, squeeze out small producers and restock farms with genetically modified chickens. … http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/feb2006/2006-02-27-01.asp “Of the few outbreaks that did occur in [Laos], more than 90% broke out in commercial poultryoperations, not free-ranging flocks.”

Monsanto (and others) is currently working with the USDA to force small farmers to tag every animal with a global tracking device (NAIS – National Animal Identification System). Allegedly related to food safety, Monsanto and others would be creating a vast corporate digital library on every move of small farmers’ livestock.

But small farmers do not create the contaminated environments, do not supply the feed, do not grind up diseased animals into feed (how Mad Cow began) and then sell it. In fact, their farming methods, free range and small scale, are significantly healthier and safer for animals and food than the massive concentration of animals by corporate industrial agriculture.

Monsanto is also aggressively pushing for state laws to limit farmers’ right to choose what to plant and the public’s right to exclude GE plants from their communities.

Cattle bloated by steroids, lapse and loss of 10,000 year old normal seeds [here], immense pollution from factory farms [here], deadly-disease-ridden feed, world-wide bee colony collapse, poisoned soil and depleted water supplies, Superweeds, lawsuits against farmers, loss of family farms, and … India farmers killing themselves in what may be the largest mass suicide in recorded human history (on average … one farmer suicide every 30 minutes since 2002 – The Hindu 1.30.08) – that is industrial agriculture.

Monsanto and Tyson are two of the largest industrial agricultural corporations in the world. Industrial agriculture is represented by your Rose Law Firm.

Your claim to care about food safety is terrifying double-speak given what Bill did and who you take donations from. Your idea of a Department of Food Safety would centralize control of food – in whose corporate connected hands? You talk tough about labeling food – ah, but “foreign” food – a sleight of hand tricking a public desperate for safe US food. You talk about food safety but Bill degraded food in every imaginable way and prevented minimally sane labeling.

I am a person before I am a woman. Your gender means nothing. It is a media distraction. Your policies on health and food and women and children, are meaningless in the face of connections that have threatened those groups profoundly, connections you have never denounced.

Monsanto uses child labor in India, primarily very young girls, exposing them to a lethal pesticide 13-14 hours a day, for pennies in pay. But you take donations from their lobbyists. You say you care about black people but as the poorest people in this country, they are least able to buy organic and are forced to eat the contaminated foods Bill let into our food system. The National Black Farmers Association has a boycott out on all Monsanto products.

Do you eat organic?

So, who are you with, hapless black consumers and black farmers, or Monsanto? Mothers left to give their children rBGH milk, or Monsanto? Women exposed to 7 times greater risk of breast cancer, or Monsanto? Desperate farmers in India and young children forced into child labor in cottonseed factories there, or Monsanto? Animals suffering [here] from lives in filthy cages and disgusting feedlots, shot up with steroids and hormones and antibiotics, or Monsanto? Our children who eat candy with high fructose Bt corn syrup associated with kidney and liver toxicity, or Monsanto?

Edwards was right about your corporate connections. I just didn’t understand until I saw that PBS show and read about Monsanto, how personally affected my children and grandchildren, and all people around the world, have been.

I will not vote for you. I will vote for someone who will commit themselves to work on behalf of small farmers and real food and decent treatment of animals and to end this industrialized agricultural nightmare that is taking us off a cliff.

Linn Cohen-Cole, Atlanta

Disclaimer: I am not a scientist. I have read for months on this subject, and am including only a tiny portion of the horrifying things I have learned. I am expressing my opinion as person and may be wrong. Perhaps things are swell out there and rBGH is fabulous and TSE-laced feed is great, and genetic engineering is the best thing since manna. But I am scared for my family and I have not only a right to say so but an obligation to do so. I am angry that Monsanto was allowed the influence it had and has done the things it definitely seems to have. I am disgusted by industrialization of every tender and beautiful part of our world and hope, for all our children’s sake, we are not too late to pull back.

[Celsias]

Unofficial Quote of the Day 03.05.07

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After the US won the cold war, environmentalism became the new communism. It would take a better psychologist, or sociologist, than I to explain why.

Some might argue that aligning environmentalism with communism is not such a negative claim. However, within context, the heads making this claim intend for it to be negative in a way that pinches at people’s most sensitive of nerves. I pulled this out of a Sharon Begley quotation in an interesting article on TerraPass. Begley, of course, is not advocating the comparison, but it is scary the extent to which people actually believe this environmentalism = communism claim to be true.

Another couple classic gems on the topic:

[Environmentalism is] a green tree with red roots… a socialist dream… dressed up as compassion for the planet.

- Washington Post columnist George Will, May 31, 1992

With the collapse of Marxism, environmentalism has become the new refuge of socialist thinking.

- Rush Limbaugh, The Way Things Ought To Be, July 2, 1992

Most terrifyingly, I came across a comparison by George Reisman of environmentalism with not only Communism, but Nazism as well. The bulk of his argument is simply too ignorant for me to replicate here (check it for yourself if you so desire), but I will leave you with this:

SAY NO TO RECYCLED COMMUNISM AND NAZISM. SAY NO TO ENVIRONMENTALISM.

Dude is scary. Way scary.

[TerraPass]

Stop Flushing Your Drugs – the Fish are Overdosing!!

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And going sterile:

NO ONE EVER planned for fish to take birth control pills. But they are. As treated wastewater flows into rivers and streams every day, fish all over the world get a tiny dose of 17α-ethinylestradiol, a synthetic steroidal estrogen that’s used in birth control pills. They also get a little sip of the anticonvulsant carbamazepine, a nip of the antidepressant fluoxetine, and a taste of hundreds of other drugs that we take to make our lives better.

Let’s face it – we are a society obsessed with drugs, pharmaceutical and otherwise. Also, increasingly so, we are a society obsessed with keeping our bodies free of toxins. Conflict of interest much? The fish think so. Male fish inhabiting waters near water treatment plants, for example, are becoming feminized (aka growing eggs in their testes) as a result of our habits.

By far, the most dramatic example of this kind of pharmaceutical pollution has been the effect of estrogenic compounds on fish. In the 1990s, scientists working in the U.K. noted that male fish living downstream from wastewater treatment plants were becoming feminized. They were making proteins associated with egg production in female fish, and they were developing early-stage eggs in their testes. Feminized male fish have now been observed in rivers and streams in the U.S. and Europe.

Recent studies done by John Sumpter, an ecotoxicologist at England’s Brunel University and Karen A. Kidd, a biology professor at the Canadian Rivers Institute, University of New Brunswick, confirm that the level of pharmaceutical drug contamination in the waters is affecting the fish. The drugs are getting there via several paths (see image below) – in our bodily excretions, and through our drains (I know all you ninjas have flushed a little something down your toilets at some time or another). The levels are low – as low as the parts per trillion (ppt) range, but because drugs are specifically formulated to be effective at low levels, even the ppt range can affect the water populations.

FOR THREE SUMMERS, Kidd and her colleagues spiked a lake in Canada’s Experimental Lakes Area with 17α-ethinylestradiol at a concentration of 5 ppt—a concentration that has been measured in municipal wastewaters and in river waters downstream of discharges. During the autumn that followed the first addition of the estrogenic compound, the researchers observed delayed sperm cell development in male fathead minnows—the freshwater equivalent of a canary in a coal mine. A year later, the male fathead minnows were producing eggs and had largely stopped reproducing. The minnow population began to plummet. The decline continued for an additional three years until the fish had all but disappeared from the lake.

And as the circle of life goes, the loss of one species ripples through the food chain:

The fathead minnow wasn’t the only fish to feel the effects of the trace amounts of birth control. The population of lake trout, which feed on smaller fish, fell by about 30%. “The numbers of lake trout dropped not because of direct exposure to the estrogens but because they lost their food supply,” Kidd says.

But Kidd’s story is not all doom and gloom. In 2006, three years after her team stopped adding 17α-ethinylestradiol to the lake, the fathead minnow population rebounded. “So given enough time, once you remove the estrogens from a system, the fish can recover to their original population size,” Kidd notes.

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People and animals excrete pharmaceuticals and their metabolites, which then find their way into the environment through a variety of routes—treated wastewater, agricultural runoff, and biosolids and manure that are used as fertilizers. Pharmaceuticals also enter the environment when people dispose of medications by flushing them down the toilet or pouring them down the drain.

We cannot avoid the bodily excretion of drugs that make it through our systems, but we can use other means of disposing of unused drugs. C&EN recommends:

Getting people to stop flushing away their unwanted medication is one easy way to cut down on pharmaceutical pollution. So last year, the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) issued new federal guidelines for the proper disposal of prescription drugs. According to the guidelines, unused, unneeded, or expired prescription drugs should be removed from their original containers and thrown in the trash.

To prevent accidental poisonings or potential drug abuse, ONDCP recommends mixing meds with an undesirable substance, such as coffee grounds or kitty litter. The mix should be placed into impermeable, nondescript containers, such as empty cans or sealable plastic bags, before being tossed in the trash.

In some cases, the risk of poisoning or abuse outweighs the potential environmental impact. The Food & Drug Administration recommends that certain controlled substances, such as the painkillers OxyContin and Percocet, are best disposed of down the drain. A full list is available at ONDCP’s website (whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/drugfact/factsht/proper_disposal.html).

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Moral of the story: stop flushing your goods. And check C&EN for more details.

[Chemical & Engineering News]