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South Carolina's coastal adaptation debates stir community concerns

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Tuesday, March 26, 2024

In a bid to tackle coastal erosion, South Carolina communities and environmentalists clash over the construction of erosion control structures called groins at Debidue Beach. Daniel Shailer reports for Inside Climate News.In short:Environmental advocates argue that the construction of groins could harm the North Inlet-Winyah Bay reserve by disrupting natural sand movement.Debidue Beach residents advocate for these structures to protect their homes from increasing erosion, highlighting tensions between climate resilience and coastal development.Legal challenges and confusion over state coastal management regulations underscore the difficulties of balancing property protection with environmental conservation.Key quote:"Equity plays a huge part in this. When you look at environmental justice communities throughout the United States, you see an intentional disinvestment in those communities."— Omar Muhammad, executive director of the Lowcountry Alliance for Model CommunitiesWhy this matters:By preserving beaches, groins also support local economies that depend on tourism. On the other hand, groins can have unintended consequences. For instance, while they may accumulate sand on one side, they can also starve areas down drift of sand, leading to increased erosion elsewhere. Disparate state, local, private and federal conservation efforts are failing to protect biodiversity. Connectivity and coordination would help, say agency scientists and conservation leaders.

In a bid to tackle coastal erosion, South Carolina communities and environmentalists clash over the construction of erosion control structures called groins at Debidue Beach. Daniel Shailer reports for Inside Climate News.In short:Environmental advocates argue that the construction of groins could harm the North Inlet-Winyah Bay reserve by disrupting natural sand movement.Debidue Beach residents advocate for these structures to protect their homes from increasing erosion, highlighting tensions between climate resilience and coastal development.Legal challenges and confusion over state coastal management regulations underscore the difficulties of balancing property protection with environmental conservation.Key quote:"Equity plays a huge part in this. When you look at environmental justice communities throughout the United States, you see an intentional disinvestment in those communities."— Omar Muhammad, executive director of the Lowcountry Alliance for Model CommunitiesWhy this matters:By preserving beaches, groins also support local economies that depend on tourism. On the other hand, groins can have unintended consequences. For instance, while they may accumulate sand on one side, they can also starve areas down drift of sand, leading to increased erosion elsewhere. Disparate state, local, private and federal conservation efforts are failing to protect biodiversity. Connectivity and coordination would help, say agency scientists and conservation leaders.



In a bid to tackle coastal erosion, South Carolina communities and environmentalists clash over the construction of erosion control structures called groins at Debidue Beach.

Daniel Shailer reports for Inside Climate News.


In short:

  • Environmental advocates argue that the construction of groins could harm the North Inlet-Winyah Bay reserve by disrupting natural sand movement.
  • Debidue Beach residents advocate for these structures to protect their homes from increasing erosion, highlighting tensions between climate resilience and coastal development.
  • Legal challenges and confusion over state coastal management regulations underscore the difficulties of balancing property protection with environmental conservation.

Key quote:

"Equity plays a huge part in this. When you look at environmental justice communities throughout the United States, you see an intentional disinvestment in those communities."

— Omar Muhammad, executive director of the Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities

Why this matters:

By preserving beaches, groins also support local economies that depend on tourism. On the other hand, groins can have unintended consequences. For instance, while they may accumulate sand on one side, they can also starve areas down drift of sand, leading to increased erosion elsewhere.

Disparate state, local, private and federal conservation efforts are failing to protect biodiversity. Connectivity and coordination would help, say agency scientists and conservation leaders.

Read the full story here.
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Revelator Reads: 15 Random Books That Every Environmentalist Should Read

These aren’t books that will get filed under “climate change” or “wildlife,” but they all offer a glimpse into our changing world. The post Revelator Reads: 15 Random Books That Every Environmentalist Should Read appeared first on The Revelator.

A few months ago, I decided to take a break from reading environmental books. I didn’t make the decision lightly — I’m an environmental journalist, after all. But I’ve spent the past seven years reading and reviewing hundreds of weighty tomes on climate change, endangered species and environmental justice. With a rare (and now-completed) sabbatical on the horizon, I felt the need to recharge and immerse myself in different forms of writing. So I chose to put the eco-books aside for a while and devote my free time to history, poetry, philosophy, literature and pure entertainment. Oh, what a fool I was. Because you can’t escape tough topics like global warming, extinction and injustice — even in the pages of political analysis, science fiction, Buddhist teachings, poetry and comic books. The natural world is all around us, and the best writers bring it to life in their work, no matter the broader topic. Science history? That’s an environmental subject. Religion? That’s an environmental issue. Batman? He’s named after an animal, naturally. They’re all reflections of the cultures we live in, the pain we feel, our relationships and our transitions. I found myself reflecting on the environmental messages contained in these diverse volumes. In my first book-review column of 2024, below, I dig into some of them, mostly published in the past couple of years. Few were marketed as “environmental” books, but they contain wisdom environmentalists may enjoy. 1919 by Eve L. Ewing — This poetry collection is easily one of the most powerful and vital books I’ve read in the past year. It’s based on a painfully real series of events that took place in Chicago more than a century ago, when a deadly heat wave and a history of inequality combined to create an even deadlier racial conflict. This all happened long before the era of runaway climate change, but Ewing’s poetic accounts — drawn from little-seen documents contemporary to what became known as the Chicago Race Riot — feel painfully relevant. Could raging heat and injustice cause a violent crisis like this in the future? You’d better believe it. How to Walk by Thich Nhat Hanh — Parallax Press has condensed the late Buddhist teacher’s writings and speeches into 11 pocket-sized books called the “Mindfulness Essentials” series. I read them the entire series during my sabbatical, and each volume has at least something to do with the environment — this one more than most. It touches on the importance of placing our feet on the ground and — as we take each step — recognizing where we are in the greater scheme of our neighborhoods, our communities, the planet and the universe. These are lessons I’ve already come back to it a few times. (Also relevant and recommended: How to Fight, How to Connect, and How to Relax.) Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski & Amelia Nagoski — A book every environmentalist should read — or at least keep on the shelf for when they need it. And trust me, you’re probably going to need it. This doesn’t specifically cover environmental topics, and it’s written chiefly for women and the pressures they face, but it contains tips and tools for recovering from burnout that can help us rebuild for the long fight ahead. (Side note: My local library had a 17-week reservation backlog when I first tried to read this, so maybe put in your request early?) The Einstein Effect: How the World’s Favorite Genius Got into Our Cars, Our Bathrooms, and Our Minds by Benyamin Cohen — A planet-hopping travelog through the late scientist’s achievements and impact on the world, including several surprising environmental tie-ins. You’ll gain a new appreciation for the white-haired icon and a better understanding of how one person can have a powerful ripple effect that lasts for decades. Plus, you get to find out what happened to Einstein’s brain after he died. (Spoiler alert: It ain’t pretty). Late in the Day: Poems 2010–2014 by Ursula K. Le Guin — Only one poem in this book by the late science-fiction author contains any real environmental themes, but coincidentally, it may also be the best poem I’ve ever read. And no, I’m not going to tell you which one. Go find out for yourself. Poison Ivy Vol. 1: The Virtuous Cycle and Poison Ivy Vol. 2: Unethical Consumption by G. Willow Wilson, Marcio Takara & Atagun Ilhan — Stories featuring this green-clad Batman villain, who controls plants and seeks to wipe humans off the face of the planet, usually leave me cold. In the wrong creative hands, Poison Ivy makes for boring, didactic storytelling. But in this new iteration, Ivy’s in the right hands. This is a marvelously illustrated series, written by the creator of Muslim superhero Ms. Marvel, that deftly tackles all manner of environmental issues in ways that entertain, educate and challenge the reader. Along the way Wilson shows us how a character considered by some as an “ecoterrorist” may have the best intentions in the world (even if she is, in this case, an occasional murderer). Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings: Poems by Joy Harjo — Pure beauty (with more than a little emotion thrown in for good measure). This collection by the former U.S. poet laureate touches many themes, including environmental ones, although I found the poems about music and loss to be the most resonant. Kepler by David Duchovny & Phillip Sevy — This graphic novel flips the script from Duchovny’s X-Files days: What if humans landed on a less advanced alien planet and promptly taught the residents to make the same mistakes we’ve made here? The result: political divides, corruption, injustice, climate change, violence and all the other things that make humanity not so great. The resulting book has flaws, but it wears its satire proudly on its sleeve — and at least it has something to say. Earthdivers Vol. 1: Kill Columbus by Stephen Graham Jones & Davide Gianfelice — A graphic novel that packs a punch. In a future ruined by climate change, a lone Native American man travels back in time to rewrite history by… well, you can probably guess from the title. (Spoiler: It doesn’t go well.) Like all time-travel stories, the twists and turns and paradoxes get a little confusing if you’re not paying close attention, but it pays off (at least for now; the story is far from concluded in this first book). I came to this expecting some strong Indigenous storytelling about racial and cultural justice, but found the environmental themes provided extra relevance and raised the stakes even higher. It left me wondering: How long do we have to right our wrongs? Porcelain by Moby — A memoir by the electronic music star, who touches upon veganism and animal rights throughout the book. But it’s also about finding beauty, purpose and community in a harsh, harsh world. It’s told through the lens of New York City in decades past, and that had me wondering about our collective future. Strongmen by Ruth Ben-Ghiat; Sedition Hunters by Ryan J. Reilly; and Doppelganger by Naomi Klein — These books help clarify the threats people and the planet face from authoritarianism, disinformation and conspiracies — and the followers complicit in those crimes. Our Fragile Moment: How Lessons from Earth’s Past Can Help Us Survive the Climate Crisis by Michael E. Mann — OK, I had to squeeze one explicitly environmental book into this column, and it’s a good one. Mann, the climate scientist who originated the famed “hockey stick” graph, has a right to be completely pessimistic about the future, but the fact that he leans into optimism gives me strength. I’ve come back to this one a few times as I look for inspiration to reach people with powerful messages about the struggles we’ll face over the coming years. We’ll be back next month with several brand-new environmental books — and this time they’ll fully embrace the subject matter. Get more from The Revelator. Subscribe to our newsletter, or follow us on Facebook and LinkedIn.  Previously in The Revelator: The Perils of Capitalism and Disinformation: 4 Critical New Books The post Revelator Reads: 15 Random Books That Every Environmentalist Should Read appeared first on The Revelator.

California has to rid itself of a ‘no’ mentality to change its relationship with cars

California's failure to build important infrastructure is at the heart of our overreliance on cars. It was once estimated that 50% of the land in American cities is devoted to vehicular infrastructure, and nearly one-quarter is dedicated to parking lots. The solution is right under our noses. 

Earth Day Op-Ed Contest Winner: Second Place More than 70 high school students across California submitted opinion pieces to CalMatters’ second annual Earth Day contest. The 2024 contest theme was “What solution should Californians running for office support to help address climate change?” Guest Commentary written by Sophia Bella Sophia Bella is a junior at Burlingame High School. She is an avid writer and serves as the managing editor for her school’s student publication. Streamlining public transportation has long been a favored approach to combat climate change, and rightfully so. The advent of the automobile completely changed our relationship with space, redesigning the layout of our cities to specifically accommodate cars.  But over time we learned that car transport is antithetical to efficient urban life. That’s where the problem lies: Sustainable cities depend on effective public transportation.  So why can’t we build it? Experiencing the public transportation system in Japan for the first time was unforgettable. As a Bay Area native, my 18-mile weekend trips to San Francisco via CalTrain and Muni could sometimes take upwards of two hours. You can imagine the sense of awe I felt when I took the Shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto – a distance of 280 miles – in almost the same two hours. This stark contrast brought to mind California’s own aspirations for high-speed rail. In 2008, voters sanctioned a nearly $10 billion bond to construct a rail line that could connect San Francisco to Los Angeles in under three hours. We now know that the approach to the project was a bust. High-speed rail had an unrealistic timeline, with the system expected to be fully operational by 2020 and an estimated cost of $33 billion. Fast forward four years, and the entire route is still far from completion, with its projected cost ballooning to nearly $100 billion more than the initial budget. Our failure to build important infrastructure is at the heart of our overreliance on cars. It was once estimated that 50% of the land in American cities is devoted to vehicular infrastructure, and nearly one-quarter is dedicated to parking lots.  In San Bernardino, for example, they account for 49% of the city’s core.  If we de-emphasized cars as a pillar of our urban planning, we could reclaim half of our cities. The solution is right under our noses.  We have the technology. We have the resources. We have the knowledge. So why haven’t we accomplished anything? It’s easy to say that Californians running for office this year should rally behind better public transit and other infrastructural improvements to limit urban sprawl. But the reality is that there is a preliminary challenge that we need to tackle. The high-speed rail project illustrates the greater issue at large: No matter how innovative or ambitious the solution is, California just can’t seem to get these infrastructure plans off the ground.  First and foremost, legislators need to support streamlining the process of infrastructure construction – and it starts with realistic project goals and transparent planning.  Our history suggests that we chronically underestimate the cost of projects, encountering scope creep that escalates both prices and stakes. Each time a new interest-holder raises a concern in the midst of a project, it becomes more expensive and more problematic. California needs planning processes that involve stakeholders from the outset – something more future-proof and inclusive. California has already made strides in this direction, as seen in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s infrastructure streamlining package. In Newsom’s words, it’s about tackling California’s “pervasive mindset of ‘no.’” Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton observed that a big reason for this mindset is that Californians have become increasingly environmentally conscious. Yes, environmental concerns are often used as justification to oppose projects, but this awareness is a strength. More awareness means we can now make more informed and sustainable decisions, creating infrastructure that contributes positively to our surroundings rather than detracts.  Unimplemented ideas have little value. People are losing trust in the state’s ability to build things, and climate change isn’t going to wait.

Global climate impacts are set to drastically reduce average income levels by 2050

A new study reveals that by 2050, global incomes will decrease by almost 20% on average due to severe climate impacts, which will cost significantly more than proactive measures to limit temperature rises.Jonathan Watts reports for The Guardian.In short:The study predicts $38 trillion in annual damages by mid-century due to climate change, significantly outpacing earlier estimates.Income reductions will vary, with North America and Europe seeing about 11% decreases, while hotter regions like Africa and South Asia face over 20% losses.The research advocates for rapid emission reductions to mitigate severe future economic and environmental impacts.Key quote:"It’s devastating... The inequality dimension was really shocking."— Leonie Wenz, scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchWhy this matters:The study's authors note that the cost of damage from extreme weather events is six times more than what it would cost to limit warming to 2 degrees. How do we get to real solutions? John Harte, a physicist-turned-ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, provides some answers.

A new study reveals that by 2050, global incomes will decrease by almost 20% on average due to severe climate impacts, which will cost significantly more than proactive measures to limit temperature rises.Jonathan Watts reports for The Guardian.In short:The study predicts $38 trillion in annual damages by mid-century due to climate change, significantly outpacing earlier estimates.Income reductions will vary, with North America and Europe seeing about 11% decreases, while hotter regions like Africa and South Asia face over 20% losses.The research advocates for rapid emission reductions to mitigate severe future economic and environmental impacts.Key quote:"It’s devastating... The inequality dimension was really shocking."— Leonie Wenz, scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchWhy this matters:The study's authors note that the cost of damage from extreme weather events is six times more than what it would cost to limit warming to 2 degrees. How do we get to real solutions? John Harte, a physicist-turned-ecologist at the University of California, Berkeley, provides some answers.

Indonesian religious leaders push for environmental action through Islamic teachings

In Indonesia, clerics are leading a movement to merge Islamic teachings with environmental conservation efforts.Sui-Lee Wee reports for The New York Times.In short:Grand Imam Nasaruddin Umar advocates for environmental guardianship as a religious duty, encouraging sustainable practices like planting trees and using renewable energy in mosques.Indonesian clerics have issued fatwas that frame environmental protection as a religious obligation, aiming to curb climate change and preserve the nation’s biodiversity.Efforts to green mosques have gained momentum, with the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta setting a precedent by winning a green building award and installing energy-saving technologies.Key quote: "The greedier we are toward nature, the sooner doomsday will arrive." — Grand Imam Nasaruddin Umar, head of Istiqlal MosqueWhy this matters: Indonesia's unique approach of integrating faith with ecology serves as a potential model for global environmental reform, particularly in regions where religion significantly influences daily life and policy. Read more about the intersection of religion and the environmental movement: Unconventional pathways to science, with Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.

In Indonesia, clerics are leading a movement to merge Islamic teachings with environmental conservation efforts.Sui-Lee Wee reports for The New York Times.In short:Grand Imam Nasaruddin Umar advocates for environmental guardianship as a religious duty, encouraging sustainable practices like planting trees and using renewable energy in mosques.Indonesian clerics have issued fatwas that frame environmental protection as a religious obligation, aiming to curb climate change and preserve the nation’s biodiversity.Efforts to green mosques have gained momentum, with the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta setting a precedent by winning a green building award and installing energy-saving technologies.Key quote: "The greedier we are toward nature, the sooner doomsday will arrive." — Grand Imam Nasaruddin Umar, head of Istiqlal MosqueWhy this matters: Indonesia's unique approach of integrating faith with ecology serves as a potential model for global environmental reform, particularly in regions where religion significantly influences daily life and policy. Read more about the intersection of religion and the environmental movement: Unconventional pathways to science, with Dr. Katharine Hayhoe.

California the culprit for spike in little-known greenhouse gas more potent than CO2

State revealed as America’s overwhelming emitter of sulfuryl fluoride, used by $4.2bn pest-control industry to kill termitesLevels of a potent greenhouse gas are quietly spiking in the atmosphere and increasingly worrying environmental groups that say its use needs to be reined in if the US is to avoid climate catastrophe.Furthermore, recent research has found the vast majority of the little-known gas, known as sulfuryl fluoride, is attributable to a state typically known for its climate-forward policies: California. Continue reading...

Levels of a potent greenhouse gas are quietly spiking in the atmosphere and increasingly worrying environmental groups that say its use needs to be reined in if the US is to avoid climate catastrophe.Furthermore, recent research has found the vast majority of the little-known gas, known as sulfuryl fluoride, is attributable to a state typically known for its climate-forward policies: California.About 85% of US emissions of sulfuryl fluoride were traced by a recent peer-reviewed study to southern California, where the state’s $4.2bn pest-control industry uses it for drywood termite control. Sulfuryl fluoride is estimated to be up to 7,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its greenhouse-gas potential.The gas, which is also highly toxic, “has slipped under the radar”, said Johns Hopkins University study co-author Dylan Gaeta, in large part because it only started to be widely used in recent years.State regulators in 2023 rejected a petition calling for a sulfuryl fluoride phaseout, and Gaeta and others say the findings highlight the need for urgent regulatory action.“Without some form of intervention, sulfuryl fluoride is going to keep accumulating in our atmosphere,” he added.The US Environmental Protection Agency first approved sulfuryl fluoride in about 1960, but it was not used widely until methyl bromide, a common pesticide and powerful greenhouse gas previously utilized in termite treatment, was phased out around 20 years ago.Sulfuryl fluoride is primarily used in structural fumigation in which a home is covered with a material the study’s authors likened to a circus tent. When the fumigation is complete, the gas trapped under the tent is simply released into the atmosphere. Sulfuryl fluoride is also used to kill pests in agricultural commodities that are shipped abroad to try to prevent the spread of invasive species.But research has increasingly found the gas is not as safe as once thought, in large part because it stays in the atmosphere for about 40 years.“It doesn’t have the same ozone-depleting problem as methyl bromide, but it has a long lifetime in the atmosphere, so over that time period it acts as a pretty potent greenhouse gas,” said Gaeta.Average concentrations of sulfuryl fluoride in the atmosphere remain relatively low compared with carbon dioxide, but it is being released at levels faster than it breaks down. It stores heat energy at higher levels, and its presence in the atmosphere is ten times greater than 50 years ago.“There’s a heck of a lot less sulfuryl fluoride in the air than carbon dioxide, but one molecule of sulfuryl dioxide is much more potent than one molecule of CO2,” study co-author Scot Miller said.Toxicity is also a concern. Among other health issues, short-term exposure is linked to respiratory ailments, stomach pain, seizures, muscle twitching and other nervous system problems.Exposure has killed some pest-control workers, as well as thieves who have broken into homes that are being fumigated, and long-term exposure is linked to cancer and cognitive damage. The study’s authors say their findings highlight the need for California and the EPA to include sulfuryl fluoride in their greenhouse-gas monitoring inventories.The gas also is not included in global greenhouse gas reduction efforts, such as the Paris agreement, which were developed before sulfuryl fluoride was widely used.The Bay Bridge. California has pledged to reduce emissions by 48% by 2030. One group estimates phasing out sulfuryl fluoride would be equivalent to removing 1m cars from the road annually. Photograph: Ben Margot/APStill, the California Air Resources Board (Carb) rejected a 2022 petition from the Center for Biological Diversity calling on it to phase out sulfuryl fluoride.California has set a goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 48% below 1990 levels by 2030. Phasing out sulfuryl fluoride would be equivalent to removing 1m automobiles from the road annually, the CBD estimated in the petition.But the board rejected the request, claiming the agency “lacks sufficient information at this time to determine whether a sulfuryl fluoride phase-out is warranted given its use and overall impact on global temperature changes”.It also said it does not currently have regulatory authority, nor does it plan to take the steps to give itself that authority.The CBD disagrees with those claims, said Jonathan Evans, who developed the group’s petition.“They have the ability to begin to tackle this highly potent greenhouse gas that is also toxic, but they didn’t just fail to phase it out, they also failed to track it,” he said.In a statement to the Guardian, a Carb spokesperson said the agency is monitoring new information and “collaborating with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation”, the state agency that regulates the industry, to “determine any future action on sulfuryl fluoride, including availability of pest control alternatives”.However, the pesticides agency has been unreliable because it receives funding from the sale of pesticides it regulates, which provides incentives to allow products such as sulfuryl fluoride to be sold, Evans said.Banning the gas is also “not a slam-dunk” because there is no cost-effective alternative, Gaeta said. Though other states use pesticides that do not release greenhouse gases, the western drywood termite common in southern California cannot be killed with most other treatments, he added.However, the pest control industry could trap and destroy the gas instead of releasing it post-treatment, which researchers say would significantly reduce emissions.Evans said heating infested areas to 120F (49C) for roughly 30 minutes can eradicate the termites, and some localized treatments are effective. While some of these methods may be more expensive, they are “certainly less costly than climate change”, Evans said.The CBD may approach the state’s legislature for action if regulatory agencies continue to ignore the problem, Evans added.“It’s clear that sulfuryl fluoride is an incredibly dangerous pesticide, California is the country’s leading emitter, and it’s a highly potent greenhouse gas, and it’s alarming that California regulators aren’t addressing it,” he said.

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