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From Civil Rights to Food Justice, Jim Embry Reflects on a Life of Creative Resistance

In 1972, he founded the Good Foods Co-op in Lexington. Then, in 2001, at a pivotal point of his life, Embry moved to the heart of Detroit, assuming the role of director at the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, where he began integrating his work for social justice into the effort to bring nutritious […] The post From Civil Rights to Food Justice, Jim Embry Reflects on a Life of Creative Resistance appeared first on Civil Eats.

Jim Embry sees tending to land as a sacred and spiritual responsibility. The food systems advocate, land steward, and beekeeper came of age during the civil rights movement in Kentucky and has spent five decades working for social and racial justice. In 1972, he founded the Good Foods Co-op in Lexington. Then, in 2001, at a pivotal point of his life, Embry moved to the heart of Detroit, assuming the role of director at the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership, where he began integrating his work for social justice into the effort to bring nutritious food to underserved communities. This move marked the culmination of 30 years of political collaboration with luminaries Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs. Embry’s focus on urban agriculture and food justice in Detroit drew a global audience, where he hosted audiences include the British Parliament, the Nobel Peace Prize Committee, and distinguished personalities such as Danny Glover, David Korten, and Joanna Macy. “I have developed a worldview that enlarged my concern for all the human and non-human people: the plant people, the animal people, the water people, the air people, the rock people, the fire people. These are all our relatives, and we are all children of the Earth.” Embry returned to his home state of Kentucky in 2006, and founded the Sustainable Communities Network (SCN), a nonprofit that connects and supports a variety of entities in a larger effort to build justice in the local food system. SCN works with nonprofits and schools in the region to integrate farming and food production into their work and advocates for local policy that supports school gardens, urban farms, and community gardens and helps get fresh produce to food insecure residents. He is also part of the Ujamaa Cooperative Farming Alliance, a Black- and Indigenous-led organization with a focus on African and African American crops. Since then, he has traveled and spoken extensively, including trips to the World Social Forum in Brazil and to Terra Madre, the International Slow Food Gathering in Italy. Embry now lives alongside his cousin in Richmond, Kentucky, on the 30-acre Ballew Farm, named after his great uncle Atrus, who died at age 100. In June 2023, Embry received a James Beard Leadership Award that recognized his many years of leadership within the justice food and food sovereignty movements. Embry strives to balance community activism and writing with “soil activism,” embodying the essence of a life dedicated to weaving harmony between humanity and the natural world. His ethos extends beyond human boundaries; he sees himself as “stardust condensed in human form, collaborating with kindred spirits to foster beloved communities where every being, from human to water, air, rock, animal, and plant, is held in sacred regard.” Civil Eats recently sat down with Embry to talk about his farm, his family’s agrarian history, and how he approaches his current role as an elder in the food system. Drawing from your experiences as an activist, farmer, and social justice leader, how have historical events influenced and shaped your passion for the social justice movement? I’ve been a participant in all the social justice movements for the past 65 years. In 1959, when I was a 10-year-old, I was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). My mother was the local chapter president. Those years of activism inspired me to develop a worldview that moves beyond 45, 90, and 180 degrees and approaches 360. My involvement in social justice movements encompasses all forms of oppression that humans are subject to. But I have also developed a worldview that enlarged my concern for all the human and non-human people: the plant people, the animal people, the water people, the air people, the rock people, the fire people. These are all our relatives, and we are all children of the Earth. As a social justice activist and organizer, I have not only participated in historical events, but I have also helped to plan and organize historical events. One case in point is the 1964 March on Frankfort, Kentucky, led by Dr. King and Jackie Robinson. As a president of the state youth chapter for the NAACP, my role was to travel around Kentucky and organize other young folks to attend the march, which attracted 10,000 people. I have gone on in my life to help organize probably 30 or 40 large events, have helped found 30 to 40 organizations, and I have never felt like dropping out. One very important historical moment that influenced my journey was attending Dr. King’s funeral in 1968. It was here that I met Ernie Greene, well known for his involvement in the Little Rock school integration effort. He invited me to spend the summer in New York City in 1968 working construction. It seemed like the whole world was in New York City. There were people there from all over the world, interacting together. It was there that I was exposed to questions around food justice, food apartheid, food access, and the racism within the food and agricultural system. Can you share the driving force behind your commitment to activism and the social justice movement, particularly in the context of fostering a more socially and environmentally sustainable world?  I grew up with a closeness to the land because of my upbringing in Madison County, which sits at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, is fed by the Kentucky River watershed, and is nourished by soil heavy mineralized in limestone rock. My grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins were all small farmers. So, my family culture was a culture of people connected to the land. I call us agrarian intellectual activists. Everything I do has been influenced by my family legacy as small farmers. How does your family history inform your understanding of the challenges faced by today’s small-scale farmers? My family’s history provides me an understanding that conditions during the years of enslavement, during the period after the Civil War, are all connected to what is happening today. The conditions that we faced after the Civil War were not resolved towards justice and are thus still prevalent. There were 180,000 Black men and women who fought . . . [and] brought about the Union victory, defeated the Confederacy, and reunified the country. Most all of those Black soldiers were listed as farmers for their occupation. So, it was Black farmers who saved the union. This is the history and legacy of Black farmers. Are you still actively involved in farming? Yes, I’m currently actively involved in farming, but in defined ways. I’m a beekeeper and I love all those momma bees that go out and gather pollen and nectar on our 15-acre pollinator conservation project as part of our 30-acre family farm. I currently [have] about 30 fruit trees with most every kind of fruit growing. And I have all kinds of berries and fig trees and a whole variety of medicinal and cooking herbs. On our property we have two high tunnels where we’re growing an assortment of veggies. And we do host farm tours, women’s retreats, dinners, and other educational activities here. My cousin next door raises chickens and makes value-added products from elderberries, herbs, teas, and tinctures. We have invested in mushroom logs, and we are replenishing native tree varieties while also intentionally planning additional medicinal herbs that are native to Kentucky forests. We have two ponds on the property, and they get used periodically by family members or friends to catch fish. We have adopted an organic agricultural transition plan and we are in the second year of that activity. But honestly, because of my speaking engagements, I’m away from home for about one-third of the year. Leadership winners Ira Wallace, Savonala “Savi” Horne, Valerie Horn, and Jim Embry speak onstage at the 2023 James Beard Restaurant And Chef Awards at Lyric Opera Of Chicago on June 5, 2023 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jeff Schear/Getty Images for The James Beard Foundation) For most of my life, I have not been involved in farming full-time. I moved to our family farm in 2012 to help look after our aunt and uncle who were both 90 years old at the time. They were like second parents to me, and so much that I do now in the food and agriculture system is based upon their teachings. This property that I live on now goes back to the year 1800 or so, when our ancestors were brought across the Appalachian Mountains to live here in Madison County. So, we claim ancestral stewardship of this land. We purchased it in 1889 from those folks who stole the land from Indigenous peoples. “Each decision we make around food is a political choice. It’s an economic choice. It’s a cultural choice. It’s a spiritual choice.” Over the years I’ve developed extensive knowledge about every aspect of the food agriculture system and recognize my role. My role as an elder is to have this systems view, to create synergy, to speak to everyone and point out that everyone has to change since everyone eats. Everyone has to change in how we relate to the food and agriculture system in our daily practice and the food choices we make. Each decision we make around food is a political choice. It’s an economic choice. It’s a cultural choice. It’s a spiritual choice. My dear friend, Wendell Berry, who I met as a student at the University of Kentucky back in 1968, says, “Eating is an agricultural act.” This means everyone is involved in the food agricultural system. Everybody has to change. I have spoken to presidents, peasants, university professors, preschoolers, famous actors, and to kids who are doing hip-hop, beats, and rhymes and working in some of our urban garden projects. I’ve talked to members of the Nobel Committee and kids in FFA, governors, mayors, local schoolteachers, and military veterans with missing limbs who want to farm. These are a few of the people, organizations, and institutions that I’ve been blessed to work with over the years. What are some notable best practices and challenges you believe exist in agriculture? If we lift up one of Albert Einstein’s famous quotes, which is, “We can’t solve today’s problems with the same way of thinking we used when we created them,” then we have to deeply examine that way of thinking. [We have] created unsustainable farming practices, damaging practices, toxic practices, practices that create injustice, health disparities, economic inequalities, loss of biodiversity, and environmental pandemics. Oftentimes, the “best practices” that emerge over time become “worst practices” and create even more problems. “Oftentimes, the ‘best practices’ that emerge over time become ‘worst practices’ and create even more problems.” There are many different schools of thought or different methodologies that people embrace as we do our farm work, and I have borrowed from many, but my favorite is agroecology. Agroecology is an integrated approach that combines ecological and social principles for sustainable agriculture and food systems. It emphasizes optimizing interactions among plants, animals, humans, and the environment while fostering equitable food systems where people have a say in their food choices and production. Agroecology has evolved to include ecological, sociocultural, technological, economic, and political aspects of food systems. The key elements of agroecology involve empowering farmers, promoting local value addition, and supporting short value chains. It enables farmers to adapt to climate change and sustainably manage natural resources and biodiversity. Agroecology stresses local knowledge, biodiversity, synergy, knowledge sharing, and economic diversification. It also focuses on fairness, connectivity, land governance, participatory learning, circular economies, and polycentric governance, serving as a science, practice set, and social movement. How do you envision agriculture’s role in shaping our future? Agriculture has had the biggest role in shaping human culture for the past 15,000 years. Agriculture developed some 12,000 to 15,000 years ago and was a gift to our species by women. Agri-culture—or the growing of food through the use of seeds—allowed us to move away from being primarily hunter-gatherers. This development (and domestication of animals) gave rise to what we call modern human civilization. In my view, it is within agriculture where we have the most profound need for change, and it is within agriculture where we have the most powerful fulcrum point for social transformation of all other human institutions. “In my view, it is within agriculture where we have the most profound need for change, and it is within agriculture where we have the most powerful fulcrum point for social transformation of all other human institutions.” After a sharp and comprehensive critique of our prevailing and dominant worldview of agriculture, we need to develop a farming philosophy, farming practices, farming research whose primary aim is the health of the people, health of the planet, health for all other species on the Earth, and the health of the economy. Right now, the dominant food and farming systems are used to promote profit, plunder, and have a predatory relationship with the Earth. We need a huge paradigm shift in both the philosophy and the practices of farming. That will mean changes in every aspect of the food and agriculture system from seeds to planting to production to harvest to distribution to education to marketing to eating to disposal. In the face of climate change and environmental devastation, every sector will require lots of significant changes or shifts in how we go about the work in this area. For us to enact changes we will need to develop an integrated systems approach. But we don’t have any choice if we want to become good ancestors and leave our great-great-grandchildren an Earth of abundance. What is your philosophy on caring for and giving back to the planet? George Washington Carver said any injustice to the soil is injustice to the farmer. Any injustice to the farmer is injustice to the soil. Our human quest now is to have a much more expanded view of our responsibility not just to resolving the conflicts and contradictions within the human realm but it’s also to be stewards of Earth protectors or protagonists in maintaining the sacred Earthly balance. What advice do you have for those looking to become more involved in advocating for their communities, land, and people striving to heal, reshape, and sustain our environment? I encourage people reading this to contact me. I invite folks to, as Bill Withers would say, use me up. I’m in my last quadrant. I’ve done all kinds of things and recognize the importance of passing on these understandings to the next generations. Secondly, get involved in organizations; they are critical to making change. Then form study groups to discuss ideas. Get out of the U.S.; travel internationally to see the cultures, the histories of other parts of the planet. Get engaged in your community. Become a voracious reader and read books like Farming While Black by Leah Penniman, We Are Each Other’s Harvest by Natalie Baszile, Freedom Farmers by Monica White, Collective Courage by Jessica Nembhard, and the great work of Thomas Berry and Wendell Berry. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. The post From Civil Rights to Food Justice, Jim Embry Reflects on a Life of Creative Resistance appeared first on Civil Eats.

We know how to save these beloved endangered whales. Yet we’re mindlessly killing them.

A North Atlantic right whale, entangled in fishing rope, next to her newborn, on December 2, 2021, near Cumberland Island, Georgia. | Georgia Department of Natural Resources/NOAA Permit #20556 via AP Two simple solutions would save the North Atlantic right whale. Why aren’t we using them? The story of the North Atlantic right whale, an icon of the East Coast, should be one of hope — a tale of recovery. Humanity’s strongest tools have been mobilized for their protection. For centuries, whalers hunted these graceful giants, which were once found throughout the North Atlantic, for their baleen and oily blubber. By the early 20th century, they were nearly extinct. But in 1935, alarmed by the shrinking number of right whales, international authorities banned commercial hunting of these animals. Decades later, as North Atlantic right whales were starting to recover, the US gave them another lifeline, listing them as endangered under the Endangered Species Act. That made killing or harming them a federal crime. On paper, these whales were — and still are — highly protected. The US and Canadian governments also invest millions into their conservation, as do nonprofit environmental groups. Yet they continue to perish, often tragically. Since summer 2017, more than 120 North Atlantic right whales have died, been seriously injured, or fallen sick, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Many deaths have likely gone undocumented, experts say. Today, officials estimate that there are just 360 of these animals left, down from a historic population that was likely in the tens of thousands, making them one of the most endangered whales on the planet. “North Atlantic right whales are approaching extinction,” NOAA has warned. The problem is no longer whaling. What’s killing these animals today is certain fishing and shipping practices — and the people and politicians who enable them. Lines of rope attached to crab and lobster traps are ensnaring right whales, slowly digging into their bodies over months and even years, often until they die. Fishing boats and container ships, meanwhile, are accidentally ramming into the marine giants, which are known to cruise near the surface. If you don’t fish or live far from the East Coast, this may seem like a distant concern, one to comfortably ignore. Yet most Americans are implicated in the demise of these whales if they buy goods shipped in from overseas or eat lobster, Michael Moore, a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, told Vox. “The wants and needs of today’s consumers indirectly and unintentionally precipitate vessel strikes and entanglement of whales and are the ultimate cause of the death of these animals,” Moore, one of the nation’s foremost right whale experts, wrote in a recent paper. David L. Ryan/Boston Globe via Getty Images A right whale seen feeding near Duxbury Beach in Massachusetts, just south of Boston. The story of the right whale is not only tragic but it reveals a flaw in modern environmental policies: They don’t work well when they run against consumerism and convenience, when they require industries and consumer behavior to change. It’s not that solutions to saving North Atlantic right whales don’t exist. They do — and as I’ll explain, they’re extremely simple. It’s that the economy of the US and elsewhere prioritizes cheap products over the lives and welfare of wild animals. Why are so many of these whales dying? Earlier this year, a young female North Atlantic right whale washed up dead on Martha’s Vineyard. She was thin. Somewhat gruesome images show thick rope sticking out of a large wound near her tail. A preliminary necropsy showed “chronic entanglement” and an analysis of the rope linked it to a fishery in Maine. This case was bleak. The animal, the only known calf of a whale called Squilla, had been entangled for more than a year. But these circumstances are not uncommon. Entanglements are a leading cause of death for North Atlantic right whales, according to government authorities and independent scientists. Most of that rope likely comes from lobster and crab fisheries, in Maine, eastern Canada, and elsewhere. Fishermen commonly use lines attached to buoys to mark and retrieve baited traps, which essentially turn large swaths of the North Atlantic into a minefield for whales. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA Permit #594-1759 via AP A female North Atlantic right whale trailing fishing line, seen on December 30, 2010. She died in early 2011. Entanglement is an “utter nightmare” for these animals, as Moore, a veterinarian who’s examined more than 40 dead North Atlantic right whales, wrote in his 2021 book We Are All Whalers. Here’s how he explained it in the book: Hitting a line makes them panic, and they tend to spin, trying to evade it, but instead they get multiple wraps of line around various body parts, such as the upper jaw, flippers, and tail. If they cannot disentangle themselves, the wraps constrict through time and slowly squeeze the life out of the animal over a matter of months. More than 85 percent of right whales have been entangled in fishing gear at least once, according to NOAA. And whales that die from entanglement are ensnared, on average, for six months, Moore’s older research shows. It’s hard to see this as anything other than brutal. Short of killing the whales, chronic entanglement also makes it hard for these animals to feed (by gulping up large mouthfuls of plankton, which they filter through their baleen) and have babies. Wrapped around their bodies, rope not only stresses out the animals but causes drag, meaning whales expend more energy swimming, eating into valuable fat stores. North Atlantic right whales were once able to produce a calf every three years, Moore said, but now it happens just once every six or seven years, on average. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, NOAA permit #24359 A 1-year-old female North Atlantic right whale that was found dead near Savannah, Georgia, likely after getting hit by a ship. The other major problem for these animals is fast-moving and abundant boats. North Atlantic right whales are slow swimmers that spend a lot of time at the ocean’s surface, where they catch their breath and socialize, making them especially vulnerable to strikes. These events, like entanglement, are not uncommon. Earlier this month, for example, a young female right whale, shown above, was found dead near Savannah, Georgia. She had a fractured skull, experts determined, which was consistent with a vessel strike. More than a dozen North Atlantic right whales have died from similar collisions in the last five years. The GIF below shows all of the ships (blue dots) that a single whale (red dot) has to contend with. Even small boats — such as sportfishing vessels, which take people fishing recreationally, or research ships — can cause serious injuries or death. NOAA Fisheries Researchers track the movement of a young right whale as it dodges ships off the East Coast in March 2021. (The noise produced by ships can also be a problem. It likely makes it harder for whales to communicate with each other, though it’s not clear what that means for their long-term survival.) There are clear solutions, yet the US has failed to implement them What scientists and environmental advocates I spoke to find especially frustrating is that much of this problem could be solved if fishers had the right incentives and support. “We know exactly what we have to do,” Moore said. “The science is all there.” Take, for example, entanglement. The problem, again, is rope that runs from a buoy on the surface to traps on the seafloor. Yet the fishing industry has the technology to catch lobsters and crabs without it. Various forms of ropeless gear, also known as on-demand technology, allow fishing boats to find and retrieve pots wirelessly — meaning they don’t need a buoyed line, visible from the sea surface, to find their catch and reel it in. A small number of fishers have started using these ropeless systems. Others are resisting change, for many reasons. On-demand gear is likely less reliable compared to traps made of rope and metal; more parts can fail. There are also concerns related to visibility. If there are no surface buoys to mark a trap, bottom trawlers might have a harder time avoiding them. “I think the fear is it would create more problems amongst each other just fishing,” Dave Casoni, a longtime lobster fisher, told NPR’s Lauren Sommer. “It’s a very busy, dangerous operation to begin with, and we don’t need to add that.” Then there’s the question of cost. Ropeless gear raises the cost of lobstering — the devices themselves are expensive, and these systems can slow down the speed of trapping. Nathan Klima/Boston Globe via Getty Images A dead right whale on the beach on Miscou Island, New Brunswick, Canada, on June 7, 2019. Georgia Department of Natural Resources via AP A dead young right whale near Tybee Island, Georgia, on February 14, 2024. Yet these challenges are fixable. NOAA is testing on-demand gear to iron out the technical issues. Plus, the government has allocated millions of dollars to these technologies and currently lends them out for free to fishermen. The longer-term goal, NOAA told Vox, is “to expand capacity to support all fishermen wishing to trial on-demand gear and, eventually, an experimental fishery encompassing many more participants.” What that ultimately means for the costs assumed by fishers — and the costs passed down to consumers — is not yet clear. “If the motivation is there, the dollars will be too,” Moore said. A bigger issue, Moore said, might be shifting the deeply ingrained culture of the lobster industry in Maine toward a new way of doing things. Contributing to this tension: The industry has long downplayed its role in killing whales, obscuring who ultimately feels responsible. After NOAA linked the dead right whale to the Maine fishery earlier this year, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association said that “entanglement in Maine gear is extremely rare.” The group, which advocates for the state’s lobster fishers, added that it “remains committed to finding a solution to ensure a future for right whales and Maine’s lobster fishery.” Moore says the risk of entanglement in these waters is significant, and until recently, it was challenging to trace gear back to Maine fisheries. Efforts to address ship strikes have been similarly sluggish. Once again, the solution is, at least on the surface, painfully clear: slow boats down. For more than a decade, NOAA has required that large ships (longer than 65 feet) reduce their speeds to 10 knots (~11.5 mph) in certain areas along the East Coast and at certain times of year to avoid whales. The agency also urges boats to avoid or slow down in areas where a handful of North Atlantic right whales have been detected. These rules are grossly inadequate, said Erica Fuller, an attorney at Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental group that advocates for whale conservation. A key problem, she said, is that “young animals continue to be killed by and seriously injured by boats that are smaller than 65 feet.” Plus, compliance with the current regulations is weak. In 2022, NOAA proposed new speed regulations that would apply to much smaller boats and across a much larger area of the ocean. These rules are an improvement, Fuller said, though she’s frustrated by how long it’s taking the government to adopt regulations that it knows are necessary. (Some special-interest groups, like the American Sportfishing Association, strongly oppose these changes. They have also questioned whether smaller boats are really harming whales.) Georgia Department of Natural Resources/NOAA Permit #20556 via AP A mom and calf near Wassaw Island, Georgia, on January 19, 2021. The true cost of consumer goods Protecting wild animals or ecosystems often requires giving something up. Stop hunting American alligators to save the American alligator. Don’t clear-cut old-growth forests to safeguard the northern spotted owl. This is not the case with North Atlantic right whales. We can save these animals and still eat lobster, and still get foreign-made goods at Walmart, and still go sportfishing. With technology like on-demand fishing gear, “you keep the fisherman fishing, and you can keep the whales swimming, entanglement-free,” said Erin Meyer-Gutbrod, an ocean scientist and right whale expert at the University of South Carolina. Fishing without rope and driving boats more slowly may make some of the products we love more expensive. But what are those extra dollars worth to us? Would you pay more for lobster if it meant that whales would suffer less? What if it meant saving a species from extinction? Maybe paying for food fished from the sea, from ecosystems that the US is trying to protect, should cost more. And it’s consumers who should be paying the difference, not fishers. “Where the rubber hits the road is in the politics of and the expectations of voters,” Moore said. “What matters to them is dinner on the table, kids in college, houses warm, clothes to wear, Christmas presents to give — none of that includes anything about biodiversity or right whales.” In many ways, saving the North Atlantic right whale should be easy. These animals are charismatic and intelligent. People love to see them. We love whales! Most important of all, we know what’s killing them and what to do about it. But so far, that’s not enough. Ensuring the survival of these animals will ultimately require a change in our economy and in our personal behavior. Every consumer has a part to play in this reckoning: Pay the true cost.

“Fascinating” New Animal Discovery Could Protect Crops Without Pesticides

A new species of nematode has the potential to safeguard crops without the need for pesticides. Scientists at UC Riverside have identified a new species...

Researchers at UC Riverside have discovered Steinernema adamsi, a new nematode species that kills insects, offering a promising biological control option for crop pests in challenging climates. This discovery adds a valuable tool to sustainable agriculture and pest management, with potential applications in understanding ecological and evolutionary dynamics. Steinernema adamsi being released from the body of a deceased host. Credit: Adler Dillman / UCRA new species of nematode has the potential to safeguard crops without the need for pesticides.Scientists at UC Riverside have identified a new species of tiny worms capable of infecting and eliminating insects. Known as nematodes, these worms offer a potential solution for managing crop pests in warm and humid regions where other beneficial nematodes struggle to survive.This new species is a member of a family of nematodes called Steinernema that have long been used in agriculture to control insect parasites without pesticides. Steinernema are not harmful to humans or other mammals and were first discovered in the 1920s.Contributions to Agricultural Pest Control“We spray trillions of them on crops every year, and they’re easy to buy,” said UCR nematology professor Adler Dillman, whose lab made the discovery. “Though there are more than 100 species of Steinernema, we’re always on the lookout for new ones because each has unique features. Some might be better in certain climates or with certain insects.” Hoping to gain a deeper understanding of a different Steinernema species, Dillman’s laboratory requested samples from colleagues in Thailand. “We did DNA analysis on the samples and realized they weren’t the ones we had requested. Genetically, they didn’t look like anything else that has ever been described,” Dillman said.Dillman and his colleagues have now described the new species in the Journal of Parasitology. They are nearly invisible to the naked eye, about half the width of a human hair and just under 1 millimeter long. “Several thousand in a flask looks like dusty water,” Dillman said.They’ve named the new species Steinernema adamsi after the American biologist Byron Adams, Biology Department chair at Brigham Young University.VIDEONew nematode species Steinernema adamsi close up under a microscope. Credit: Adler Dillman / UCR“Adams has helped refine our understanding of nematode species and their important role in ecology and recycling nutrients in the soil,” Dillman said. “He was also my undergraduate advisor and the person who introduced me to nematodes. This seemed a fitting tribute to him.”Adams, who is currently doing research on nematodes in Antarctica, said he is honored to have such a “cool” species bear his name in the scientific literature.Unique Features and Future Research“The biology of this animal is absolutely fascinating,” Adams said. “Aside from its obvious applications for alleviating human suffering caused by pest insects, it also has much to teach us about the ecological and evolutionary processes involved in the complex negotiations that take place between parasites, pathogens, their hosts, and their environmental microbiomes.”Learning about these worms’ life cycles as an undergraduate is what hooked Dillman on studying them. As juveniles, nematodes live in the soil with sealed mouths, in a state of arrested development. In that stage, they wander the soil looking for insects to infect. Once they find a victim, they enter the mouth or anus and defecate highly pathogenic bacteria.“A parasite that poops out pathogenic stuff to help kill its host, that’s unusual right out of the gate,” Dillman said. “It’s like something out of a James Cameron movie.”Within 48 hours of infection, the insect dies. “It essentially liquefies the insect, then you’re left with a bag that used to be its body. You might have 10 or 15 nematodes in a host, and 10 days later you have 80,000 new individuals in the soil looking for new insects to infect,” Dillman said.The researchers are certain that S. adamsi kills insects. They confirmed this by putting some of them in containers with wax moths. “It killed the moths in two days with a very low dose of the worms,” Dillman said.Going forward, the researchers hope to discover the nematode’s unique properties. “We don’t know yet if it can resist heat, UV light, or dryness. And we don’t yet know the breadth of insects it is capable of infecting.However, S. adamsi are members of a genus that can infect hundreds of types of insects. Therefore, the researchers are confident it will be beneficial on some level whether it turns out to be a specialist or a generalist parasite of multiple types of insects.“This is exciting because the discovery adds another insect killer that could teach us new and interesting biology,” Dillman said. “Also they’re from a warm, humid climate that could make them a good parasite of insects in environments where currently, commercially available orchard nematodes have been unable to flourish.”Reference: “Steinernema adamsi n. sp. (Rhabditida: Steinernematidae), a new entomopathogenic nematode from Thailand” by Anil Baniya, Chanakan Subkrasae, Jiranun Ardpairin, Kyle Anesko, Apichat Vitta and Adler R. Dillman, 9 February 2024, Journal of Parasitology.DOI: 10.1645/23-60

Climate Change and Wild Turkeys: New Study Overturns Conventional Wisdom

A recent research study has discovered that rainfall during the nesting season does not impact the breeding success of wild turkeys, challenging the commonly held...

Research from North Carolina State University reveals that precipitation levels during wild turkey nesting season don’t significantly impact reproductive success, challenging traditional beliefs and complicating predictions about the effects of climate change on these populations.A recent research study has discovered that rainfall during the nesting season does not impact the breeding success of wild turkeys, challenging the commonly held belief about the importance of precipitation for wild turkey nesting success. This revelation provides fresh insights into the potential effects of climate change on wild turkey populations.“We wanted to know how weather influences nesting success right now, and then use that data to assess how climate change may influence wild turkey populations in the future,” says Wesley Boone, corresponding author of a paper on the work and a postdoctoral researcher at North Carolina State University.“Wild turkeys are fairly tolerant of a wide range of conditions, but there are a host of factors that can affect their reproductive success,” says Chris Moorman, co-author of the study and a professor of forestry and environmental resources at NC State. “This work focused on two of those conditions, precipitation and temperature, and how they may influence nest survival during the incubation period.” For the study, researchers focused on daily nest survival, which is whether the eggs in the nest survive any given 24-hour period. Over the course of eight years, researchers monitored 715 turkey nests and collected daily precipitation and temperature data for each nest during the entire incubation period. For temperature, the researchers looked specifically at the extent to which temperatures at each nest varied from historical averages.The researchers analyzed all of this data to determine the extent to which precipitation and temperature were associated with daily nest survival.Findings on Precipitation and Temperature“The most surprising finding was that precipitation during nesting was not a good predictor of daily nest survival,” Moorman says. “It had been widely believed that particularly rainy weather made it more likely that eggs wouldn’t survive.”“We also found that temperatures which were higher than historical averages were associated with higher rates of daily nest survival during incubation,” says Boone. “Peak nesting season is generally in April, so we’re talking about warmer than average spring weather.”“Taken by itself, this might suggest that climate change could benefit turkey reproductive success and, by extension, turkey populations,” Moorman says. “However, we also looked at precipitation and temperature data for the months leading up to nesting season, and at the overall likelihood that a turkey nest will successfully hatch at least one egg. And when we looked at both of those datasets, things get a lot less clear.”“For example, the data suggest that more precipitation in January – long before nesting season – is associated with greater nest survival,” Boone says. “The data also suggest that higher temperatures in January are associated with worse nesting survival. But there is so much uncertainty related to those findings that it’s not clear whether there’s a real relationship there, or if it’s an anomaly. However, it does temper any enthusiasm we might have about the likelihood that climate change will benefit turkey populations.”Reference: “Robust assessment of associations between weather and eastern wild turkey nest success” by Wesley W. Boone, Christopher E. Moorman, David J. Moscicki, Bret A. Collier, Michael J. Chamberlain, Adam J. Terando and Krishna Pacifici, 15 November 2023, The Journal of Wildlife Management.DOI: 10.1002/jwmg.22524The paper was co-authored by David Moscicki, a Ph.D. student at NC State; Krishna Pacifici, an associate professor of forestry and environmental resources; Adam Terando, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey; Bret Collier, a professor of wildlife ecology at Louisiana State University; and Michael Chamberlain, the Terrell Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management at the University of Georgia.The research was done with support from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center, which is headquartered at NC State; and from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, under McIntire Stennis Project Number 7001494. Additional support was provided by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources-Wildlife Resources Division, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources at the University of Georgia and the School of Renewable Natural Resources at Louisiana State University.

Cobalt-Free Future: MIT’s New Organic Battery Material Could Revolutionize Electric Vehicles

Chemists at MIT have created a battery cathode from organic materials, which could reduce the electric vehicle industry’s dependence on rare metals. Many electric vehicles...

A new MIT battery material could offer a more sustainable way to power electric cars. Instead of cobalt or nickel, the new lithium-ion battery includes a cathode based on organic materials. In this image, lithium molecules are shown in glowing pink. Credit: MITChemists at MIT have created a battery cathode from organic materials, which could reduce the electric vehicle industry’s dependence on rare metals.Many electric vehicles are powered by batteries that contain cobalt — a metal that carries high financial, environmental, and social costs.MIT researchers have now designed a battery material that could offer a more sustainable way to power electric cars. The new lithium-ion battery includes a cathode based on organic materials, instead of cobalt or nickel (another metal often used in lithium-ion batteries).In a new study, the researchers showed that this material, which could be produced at much lower cost than cobalt-containing batteries, can conduct electricity at similar rates as cobalt batteries. The new battery also has comparable storage capacity and can be charged up faster than cobalt batteries, the researchers report. “I think this material could have a big impact because it works really well,” says Mircea Dincă, the W.M. Keck Professor of Energy at MIT. “It is already competitive with incumbent technologies, and it can save a lot of the cost and pain and environmental issues related to mining the metals that currently go into batteries.”Dincă is the senior author of the study, which was recently published in the journal ACS Central Science. Tianyang Chen PhD ’23 and Harish Banda, a former MIT postdoc, are the lead authors of the paper. Other authors include Jiande Wang, an MIT postdoc; Julius Oppenheim, an MIT graduate student; and Alessandro Franceschi, a research fellow at the University of Bologna.Alternatives to cobaltMost electric cars are powered by lithium-ion batteries, a type of battery that is recharged when lithium ions flow from a positively charged electrode, called a cathode, to a negatively electrode, called an anode. In most lithium-ion batteries, the cathode contains cobalt, a metal that offers high stability and energy density.However, cobalt has significant downsides. A scarce metal, its price can fluctuate dramatically, and much of the world’s cobalt deposits are located in politically unstable countries. Cobalt extraction creates hazardous working conditions and generates toxic waste that contaminates land, air, and water surrounding the mines.“Cobalt batteries can store a lot of energy, and they have all of features that people care about in terms of performance, but they have the issue of not being widely available, and the cost fluctuates broadly with commodity prices. And, as you transition to a much higher proportion of electrified vehicles in the consumer market, it’s certainly going to get more expensive,” Dincă says.Because of the many drawbacks to cobalt, a great deal of research has gone into trying to develop alternative battery materials. One such material is lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP), which some car manufacturers are beginning to use in electric vehicles. Although still practically useful, LFP has only about half the energy density of cobalt and nickel batteries.Another appealing option are organic materials, but so far most of these materials have not been able to match the conductivity, storage capacity, and lifetime of cobalt-containing batteries. Because of their low conductivity, such materials typically need to be mixed with binders such as polymers, which help them maintain a conductive network. These binders, which make up at least 50 percent of the overall material, bring down the battery’s storage capacity.About six years ago, Dincă’s lab began working on a project, funded by Lamborghini, to develop an organic battery that could be used to power electric cars. While working on porous materials that were partly organic and partly inorganic, Dincă and his students realized that a fully organic material they had made appeared that it might be a strong conductor.This material consists of many layers of TAQ (bis-tetraaminobenzoquinone), an organic small molecule that contains three fused hexagonal rings. These layers can extend outward in every direction, forming a structure similar to graphite. Within the molecules are chemical groups called quinones, which are the electron reservoirs, and amines, which help the material to form strong hydrogen bonds.Those hydrogen bonds make the material highly stable and also very insoluble. That insolubility is important because it prevents the material from dissolving into the battery electrolyte, as some organic battery materials do, thereby extending its lifetime.“One of the main methods of degradation for organic materials is that they simply dissolve into the battery electrolyte and cross over to the other side of the battery, essentially creating a short circuit. If you make the material completely insoluble, that process doesn’t happen, so we can go to over 2,000 charge cycles with minimal degradation,” Dincă says.Strong performanceTests of this material showed that its conductivity and storage capacity were comparable to that of traditional cobalt-containing batteries. Also, batteries with a TAQ cathode can be charged and discharged faster than existing batteries, which could speed up the charging rate for electric vehicles.To stabilize the organic material and increase its ability to adhere to the battery’s current collector, which is made of copper or aluminum, the researchers added filler materials such as cellulose and rubber. These fillers make up less than one-tenth of the overall cathode composite, so they don’t significantly reduce the battery’s storage capacity.These fillers also extend the lifetime of the battery cathode by preventing it from cracking when lithium ions flow into the cathode as the battery charges.The primary materials needed to manufacture this type of cathode are a quinone precursor and an amine precursor, which are already commercially available and produced in large quantities as commodity chemicals. The researchers estimate that the material cost of assembling these organic batteries could be about one-third to one-half the cost of cobalt batteries.Lamborghini has licensed the patent on the technology. Dincă’s lab plans to continue developing alternative battery materials and is exploring the possible replacement of lithium with sodium or magnesium, which are cheaper and more abundant than lithium.Reference: “A Layered Organic Cathode for High-Energy, Fast-Charging, and Long-Lasting Li-Ion Batteries” by Tianyang Chen, Harish Banda, Jiande Wang, Julius J. Oppenheim, Alessandro Franceschi and Mircea Dincǎ, 18 January 2024, ACS Central Science.DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.3c01478

The potential decline of PVC in global markets

A comprehensive analysis reveals the environmental and health risks of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), prompting international efforts to curb its use. Nicola Jones reports for Yale Environment 360.In short:PVC, associated with carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, is under scrutiny by environmentalists and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.The upcoming global plastics treaty aims to significantly reduce plastics pollution, possibly including a ban on PVC.Alternatives to PVC exist, but challenges remain in balancing cost, health, and environmental impacts.Key quote: "It’s the "worst of the worst" when it comes to plastics.— Judith Enck, policy expert with Beyond PlasticsWhy this matters: The reconsideration of PVC's place in our daily lives and industries is driven by its staggering impact on U.S. health and healthcare. The organization Beyond Plastics has welcomed the analysis calling it, "one of the most important chemical review processes ever undertaken by the EPA."

A comprehensive analysis reveals the environmental and health risks of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), prompting international efforts to curb its use. Nicola Jones reports for Yale Environment 360.In short:PVC, associated with carcinogenic and endocrine-disrupting chemicals, is under scrutiny by environmentalists and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.The upcoming global plastics treaty aims to significantly reduce plastics pollution, possibly including a ban on PVC.Alternatives to PVC exist, but challenges remain in balancing cost, health, and environmental impacts.Key quote: "It’s the "worst of the worst" when it comes to plastics.— Judith Enck, policy expert with Beyond PlasticsWhy this matters: The reconsideration of PVC's place in our daily lives and industries is driven by its staggering impact on U.S. health and healthcare. The organization Beyond Plastics has welcomed the analysis calling it, "one of the most important chemical review processes ever undertaken by the EPA."

What Will It Take for the EPA to Ban a Pesticide Linked to Parkinson’s?

Pesticides, Rachel Carson wrote in 1962, have “the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil—all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should be called … ‘biocides.’”Carson’s book, Silent Spring, helped launch the modern environmental movement. But more than six decades later, we are still struggling to heed her warning. Farmlands and lawns in the United States are drenched in about a billion pounds of pesticides per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.The Environmental Protection Agency recently reapproved paraquat, a toxic herbicide, even though a group of environmental and public health groups have been suing the agency for ignoring multiple studies showing paraquat exposure increases a person’s odds of developing Parkinson’s disease. That’s in addition to paraquat’s short-term effects, which can include heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, and lung scarring if even a small amount of it is ingested, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the CDC fact sheet on paraquat includes the striking recommendation that if you get any on your clothes you should cut the affected garment off your body—because it is too dangerous to pull it over your head and risk ingesting paraquat—and see a doctor immediately. The company that sells paraquat, according to documents leaked to The Guardian in 2022, has known about possible long-term neurological effects since 1975 and deliberately downplayed them.What’s particularly grim about the paraquat decision is that it was Rachel Carson’s writing—and the environmental movement her book helped to inspire—that led to the creation of the EPA in 1970, precisely to stem the flood of poisons she warned about. As Richard Nixon envisioned it, studying and regulating the impact of toxic chemicals on the environment was one of the new agency’s major tasks. Then, in 1972, Congress greatly strengthened the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, creating a much stricter regulatory framework for the EPA to follow.Over the last half-century, however, industry has grown ever more adept at creating and widening loopholes in that framework. The EPA also doesn’t make full use of its power. For example, despite having enormous authority to protect endangered species, the agency has never studied the impact of a pesticide on an endangered animal or plants prior to approving its use. When other organizations and government agencies have studied the effect of pesticides on biodiversity, they’ve concluded that the harm is staggering; a 2017 U.S. Fish and Wildlife study found that just two widely used pesticides alone posed an existential threat to some 1,300 species.Another example is the agency’s struggle to curb Roundup, a weed killer that has proved extremely dangerous to humans. Roundup contains glyphosate, which the World Health Organization has described as “probably carcinogenic.” In 2022, the CDC found that 80 percent of urine samples taken from U.S. adults and kids had traces of glyphosate in them. A follow-up by CDC and National Institutes of Health scientists found that people with glyphosate in their urine also have cancer biomarkers in their urine. Bayer, the company that owns the agrochemical manufacturer Monsanto, which makes Roundup, has faced numerous lawsuits over the herbicide’s toxic health effects. Courts have often ruled in favor of the company, but Bayer has spent billions settling many of the lawsuits, and more cases are currently proceeding. Plaintiffs have been winning some of them. Last week an appeals court in Georgia turned down Bayer’s effort to dismiss a suit arguing that Roundup caused cancer, and the previous week, a Philadelphia jury awarded $2.25 billion to a man who developed lymphoma after using the product on his own property for decades.Here again, the EPA has not been of much help and seems markedly less concerned than other U.S. government agencies. The EPA in 2020 said Roundup posed no “risks of concern to human health.”For decades, an anti-regulatory ideology has seeped into our government like atrazine leaching into our groundwater. But the EPA’s problems are more directly a result of deliberate interference by industry. Agribusiness spends heavily on lobbying the EPA and on extensive strategies to compromise research at the agency, according to exhaustive reporting by the Intercept in 2021.  But recent weeks have shown that the United States isn’t the only government struggling to regulate these poisons, 60 years after Rachel Carson’s death. The European Union announced that it was dropping an ambitious plan to cut pesticide use in half, following weeks of disruptive protests by farmers across Europe using tractors to block highways and railways and burning hay bales and tires. The farmers argued that the new rules would mire them in bureaucracy and hurt their businesses. Death threats and right-wing disinformation on the topic didn’t help matters. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the decision to abandon the bill, described the effort to reduce pesticides as “worthy” but said that it had become “a symbol of polarization.” Those still hoping, in the tradition of Rachel Carson, to stanch the flow of toxins, can claim some recent victories and momentum. Those most harmed by pesticides—from human babies to honeybees—are widely loved. It’s always politically fruitful to evoke that love, as Carson did when she confronted us with the threat of silencing some of our favorite sounds: the song of the birds and the leaping of the fish in our streams. That’s probably why in December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, not usually a politician feared by earth-ravaging special interests, signed the Birds and Bees Protection Act, prohibiting neonicotinoid pesticides, which are toxic to birds and pollinators, as well as other wildlife. Beekeepers in Vermont are pushing for a similar law.We have known about the damage from pesticides for such a long time—even longer than we’ve known about global warming. These “biocides” are every bit as dangerous as Rachel Carson once described, and our knowledge of their harms has only grown more horribly specific. It’s decades past time for our governments to choose life over disease, suffering, and death.  

Pesticides, Rachel Carson wrote in 1962, have “the power to kill every insect, the ‘good’ and the ‘bad,’ to still the song of birds and the leaping of fish in the streams, to coat the leaves with a deadly film, and to linger on in soil—all this though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects. Can anyone believe it is possible to lay down such a barrage of poisons on the surface of the earth without making it unfit for all life? They should be called … ‘biocides.’”Carson’s book, Silent Spring, helped launch the modern environmental movement. But more than six decades later, we are still struggling to heed her warning. Farmlands and lawns in the United States are drenched in about a billion pounds of pesticides per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.The Environmental Protection Agency recently reapproved paraquat, a toxic herbicide, even though a group of environmental and public health groups have been suing the agency for ignoring multiple studies showing paraquat exposure increases a person’s odds of developing Parkinson’s disease. That’s in addition to paraquat’s short-term effects, which can include heart failure, kidney failure, liver failure, and lung scarring if even a small amount of it is ingested, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In fact, the CDC fact sheet on paraquat includes the striking recommendation that if you get any on your clothes you should cut the affected garment off your body—because it is too dangerous to pull it over your head and risk ingesting paraquat—and see a doctor immediately. The company that sells paraquat, according to documents leaked to The Guardian in 2022, has known about possible long-term neurological effects since 1975 and deliberately downplayed them.What’s particularly grim about the paraquat decision is that it was Rachel Carson’s writing—and the environmental movement her book helped to inspire—that led to the creation of the EPA in 1970, precisely to stem the flood of poisons she warned about. As Richard Nixon envisioned it, studying and regulating the impact of toxic chemicals on the environment was one of the new agency’s major tasks. Then, in 1972, Congress greatly strengthened the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act, or FIFRA, creating a much stricter regulatory framework for the EPA to follow.Over the last half-century, however, industry has grown ever more adept at creating and widening loopholes in that framework. The EPA also doesn’t make full use of its power. For example, despite having enormous authority to protect endangered species, the agency has never studied the impact of a pesticide on an endangered animal or plants prior to approving its use. When other organizations and government agencies have studied the effect of pesticides on biodiversity, they’ve concluded that the harm is staggering; a 2017 U.S. Fish and Wildlife study found that just two widely used pesticides alone posed an existential threat to some 1,300 species.Another example is the agency’s struggle to curb Roundup, a weed killer that has proved extremely dangerous to humans. Roundup contains glyphosate, which the World Health Organization has described as “probably carcinogenic.” In 2022, the CDC found that 80 percent of urine samples taken from U.S. adults and kids had traces of glyphosate in them. A follow-up by CDC and National Institutes of Health scientists found that people with glyphosate in their urine also have cancer biomarkers in their urine. Bayer, the company that owns the agrochemical manufacturer Monsanto, which makes Roundup, has faced numerous lawsuits over the herbicide’s toxic health effects. Courts have often ruled in favor of the company, but Bayer has spent billions settling many of the lawsuits, and more cases are currently proceeding. Plaintiffs have been winning some of them. Last week an appeals court in Georgia turned down Bayer’s effort to dismiss a suit arguing that Roundup caused cancer, and the previous week, a Philadelphia jury awarded $2.25 billion to a man who developed lymphoma after using the product on his own property for decades.Here again, the EPA has not been of much help and seems markedly less concerned than other U.S. government agencies. The EPA in 2020 said Roundup posed no “risks of concern to human health.”For decades, an anti-regulatory ideology has seeped into our government like atrazine leaching into our groundwater. But the EPA’s problems are more directly a result of deliberate interference by industry. Agribusiness spends heavily on lobbying the EPA and on extensive strategies to compromise research at the agency, according to exhaustive reporting by the Intercept in 2021.  But recent weeks have shown that the United States isn’t the only government struggling to regulate these poisons, 60 years after Rachel Carson’s death. The European Union announced that it was dropping an ambitious plan to cut pesticide use in half, following weeks of disruptive protests by farmers across Europe using tractors to block highways and railways and burning hay bales and tires. The farmers argued that the new rules would mire them in bureaucracy and hurt their businesses. Death threats and right-wing disinformation on the topic didn’t help matters. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, announcing the decision to abandon the bill, described the effort to reduce pesticides as “worthy” but said that it had become “a symbol of polarization.” Those still hoping, in the tradition of Rachel Carson, to stanch the flow of toxins, can claim some recent victories and momentum. Those most harmed by pesticides—from human babies to honeybees—are widely loved. It’s always politically fruitful to evoke that love, as Carson did when she confronted us with the threat of silencing some of our favorite sounds: the song of the birds and the leaping of the fish in our streams. That’s probably why in December, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, not usually a politician feared by earth-ravaging special interests, signed the Birds and Bees Protection Act, prohibiting neonicotinoid pesticides, which are toxic to birds and pollinators, as well as other wildlife. Beekeepers in Vermont are pushing for a similar law.We have known about the damage from pesticides for such a long time—even longer than we’ve known about global warming. These “biocides” are every bit as dangerous as Rachel Carson once described, and our knowledge of their harms has only grown more horribly specific. It’s decades past time for our governments to choose life over disease, suffering, and death.  

Contamination incidents in Michigan incentivize a push for stronger environmental laws.

A push for legislative reform in Michigan reflects a larger national discourse on holding polluters accountable.Tracy Samilton reports for Michigan Public.In short:Southeast Michigan is grappling with two industrial contamination incidents, highlighting the urgency for "Polluter Pay" laws.More than 24,000 contaminated sites exist in Michigan, with recent incidents in Macomb and Wayne counties emphasizing the need for legislative action and corporate accountability.Proposed bills aim to reinstate Michigan's robust Polluter Pay law, demanding stricter cleanup standards and mandatory pollution insurance for high-risk industries.Key quote: "It’s a concept that most folks should have learned in preschool: If you make a mess, you should be responsible for cleaning it up." — Christy McGillivray, political and legislative director for Michigan Sierra Club.Why this matters: Stronger regulation and the enforcement to back it up is seen as a linchpin between industrial pollution and better public health policy. Environmental and public health advocates want both protections and accountability.

A push for legislative reform in Michigan reflects a larger national discourse on holding polluters accountable.Tracy Samilton reports for Michigan Public.In short:Southeast Michigan is grappling with two industrial contamination incidents, highlighting the urgency for "Polluter Pay" laws.More than 24,000 contaminated sites exist in Michigan, with recent incidents in Macomb and Wayne counties emphasizing the need for legislative action and corporate accountability.Proposed bills aim to reinstate Michigan's robust Polluter Pay law, demanding stricter cleanup standards and mandatory pollution insurance for high-risk industries.Key quote: "It’s a concept that most folks should have learned in preschool: If you make a mess, you should be responsible for cleaning it up." — Christy McGillivray, political and legislative director for Michigan Sierra Club.Why this matters: Stronger regulation and the enforcement to back it up is seen as a linchpin between industrial pollution and better public health policy. Environmental and public health advocates want both protections and accountability.

New Mexico community faces crisis with contaminated well water

Residents of La Cieneguilla, New Mexico, are grappling with the discovery of PFAS contamination in their well water, raising serious health concerns.Ed Williams reports for Searchlight New Mexico.In short:PFAS contamination in La Cieneguilla's wells was linked to nearby military activities, affecting local residents' health.The community, unaware of the risks, had been using the contaminated water for years.Efforts to address the contamination are underway, but solutions are complex and slow.Key quote:“Now I got this PFAS, this firefighting foam, in my sangre, in my blood. I have a right to be upset, right?”— Jose Villegas, resident of La CieneguillaWhy this matters:This situation highlights the broader issue of environmental justice and the impact of industrial and military activities on local communities. It underscores the need for more stringent regulations and quicker responses to prevent and address such health hazards.PFAS testing needed for people with elevated exposures, US science advisors say.

Residents of La Cieneguilla, New Mexico, are grappling with the discovery of PFAS contamination in their well water, raising serious health concerns.Ed Williams reports for Searchlight New Mexico.In short:PFAS contamination in La Cieneguilla's wells was linked to nearby military activities, affecting local residents' health.The community, unaware of the risks, had been using the contaminated water for years.Efforts to address the contamination are underway, but solutions are complex and slow.Key quote:“Now I got this PFAS, this firefighting foam, in my sangre, in my blood. I have a right to be upset, right?”— Jose Villegas, resident of La CieneguillaWhy this matters:This situation highlights the broader issue of environmental justice and the impact of industrial and military activities on local communities. It underscores the need for more stringent regulations and quicker responses to prevent and address such health hazards.PFAS testing needed for people with elevated exposures, US science advisors say.

Melbourne supermarkets trial a new soft plastic recycling program

In Melbourne, 12 supermarkets are piloting a new soft plastic recycling scheme, aiming to succeed where the previous REDcycle program failed.Anya Phelan reports for The Conversation.In short:The trial follows REDcycle's collapse, focusing on "scrunchable" food packaging recycling in a smaller, more manageable scale.Australia's Soft Plastics Taskforce, formed post-REDcycle, is spearheading this initiative, exploring sustainable end-uses for recycled plastics.Challenges include the complex nature of soft plastic recycling and the need for local, decentralized solutions to improve efficiency.Why this matters:This initiative is crucial for reducing landfill waste and pollution, highlighting the need for innovative, local recycling solutions in tackling environmental challenges. It represents a significant step in sustainable waste management, potentially influencing national policies on recycling and environmental conservation.Chemical recycling “a dangerous deception” for solving plastic pollution.

In Melbourne, 12 supermarkets are piloting a new soft plastic recycling scheme, aiming to succeed where the previous REDcycle program failed.Anya Phelan reports for The Conversation.In short:The trial follows REDcycle's collapse, focusing on "scrunchable" food packaging recycling in a smaller, more manageable scale.Australia's Soft Plastics Taskforce, formed post-REDcycle, is spearheading this initiative, exploring sustainable end-uses for recycled plastics.Challenges include the complex nature of soft plastic recycling and the need for local, decentralized solutions to improve efficiency.Why this matters:This initiative is crucial for reducing landfill waste and pollution, highlighting the need for innovative, local recycling solutions in tackling environmental challenges. It represents a significant step in sustainable waste management, potentially influencing national policies on recycling and environmental conservation.Chemical recycling “a dangerous deception” for solving plastic pollution.

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