Sign Up for Our Newsletter


Hooligans on the High Seas, American Refugees, a Vegetarian Piranha?
Our top picks: today's environmental news and best #greenreads.

Testing the waters: For the first time in 19 years, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration removed an animal from the threatened species list. The delisting will only affect eastern populations of the Steller sea lion, keeping those sea lions from Cape Suckling, Alaska, to Russia under federal protection. (The Marine Mammal Act will still protect all the pinnipeds.) NOAA has also decided to double the traditional 5-year monitoring plan that comes with delisting. Associated Press

Pollution by number: Earlier this week, the US Energy Information Administration announced that carbon emissions are at their lowest levels since 1994. But what’s behind these numbers? For starters, the Great Recession and a shift from coal to natural gas have had a large impact on CO2 emissions. But there’s more—the service industry has supplanted manufacturing as our “dominant engine of growth,” and as a post-industrial age country, our energy intensity is generally on the downswing. Unfortunately, while CO2 is down, methane may be on the rise. The shift toward shale oil and gas production may represent a robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul scenario when it comes to greenhouse gas pollution. Christian Science Monitor, Climate Central

Reality rising: A week ago we told you about the world’s first official climate change refugee. Well, we have them here, too. On the southern tip of Louisiana, the Isle de Jean Charles used to be 5 miles long by 12 miles wide, but now the only land left to measure is a shocking 2 miles by 1 mile. For the band of Biloxi-Chitimacha Choctaw Indians who live on the island, those measurements mean evacuation, desertion, and defeat. “Some may be ignoring this reality, but we don't have that luxury,” writes tribal spokesperson Babs Roaming Buffalo Bagwell. “When the water's edge is at your doorstep, sea level rise and extreme rainstorms aren't political, they're personal.” Huffington Post

All agreed? Really?: After 16 days of bickering and shutdown shenanigans, Congress proved they could still get things done by voting in legislation that aims to create jobs through commercial navigation, flood control, and environmental restoration projects, though it also caps spending and the time spent on environmental reviews. But at least Democrats were able to fend off Republican-backed amendments that promised to weaken the Clean Water Act—and that’s something, right? Bloomberg

Escalation of arms: Poachers these days have bigger guns, better transportation (like oh, I don’t know … helicopters!), and plenty of money to grease local officials. They also have more brutal tactics—like poisoning entire lakes with cyanide to get at elephants. To combat the global illegal wildlife trade (worth $19 billion annually), conservation groups have turned to technology. For instance, they’re now putting microchips in rhino horns to track them and using drones to monitor remote areas. But will it be enough to win the war? Slate

Small graces?: Russia has downgraded the charges against 30 Greenpeace activists from piracy to hooliganism, a crime that still carries with it 7 years in prison. (Russian prison, mind you.) The environmental group contends that this is still a “wildly disproportionate” outcome for activists engaged in peaceful protest. (The accused were hanging a banner on an Arctic drilling platform.) “They are both fantasy charges that bear no relation to reality,” says Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia. “The [activists] are no more hooligans than they were pirates.” Reuters


New species extravaganza: Vegetarian piranhas, monkeys that purr like kitty-cats, and a passion flower made out of purple spaghetti? These oddities are among the 441 new species discovered in the Amazon rainforest in the last three years. The findings illustrate just how little we know about the forest and why we need to save it—and the creatures that live there—at all costs. For medicines, for biodiversity, and so the world can see the look on the face of this monkey. Huffington Post


Arctic Temperatures Reach Highest Levels in 44,000 Years, Study Finds Huffington Post

Ancestors’ Exposure to DDT May Contribute to Obesity, Study Says Los Angeles Times

Koch Brother Wages 12-Year Fight over Wind Farm New York Times

Interview: Gina McCarthy, Obama’s Environmental Watchdog Men’s Journal

Oil Spill in North Dakota Raises Detection Concerns New York Times

Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)

Like this article? Donate to NRDC to support OnEarth's groundbreaking nonprofit journalism.