Weekend Reads: Monk Seal Murders, Poison in Peru, Coming Soon: a GOP for Climate Action?
Five #greenreads to read to your mother after brunch.
Jon Mooallem in the New York Times Magazine on a tragic homecoming: Monk seals disappeared from the Hawaiian Islands about 1,500 years ago, presumably becoming big, blubbery treats to newly arriving Polynesians. Fewer than 1,000 seals now remain (mostly in the Leeward Islands), but the seals have slowly begun returning to Hawaii. With “the round eyes of an apologetic child,” this endangered species is adorable and charmingly gross, dubbed “the Zach Galifianakises of marine mammals” by Mooallem. So why would people assassinate these animals as they sleep on the beach? Sure, the seals have been making fishing more difficult for locals, but the motive for the killings goes deeper than that. The species is caught in culture war between well-meaning, mostly white conservationists from the mainland and native Hawaiians defending themselves from what they see as a government conspiracy to control the islands and their people. The fact that no one remembers the monk seals ever before living on the islands – which would earn them status as native Hawaiians, too -- isn’t helping.
Jonathan Chait in New York Magazine on a climate comeback?: Environmentalists have been waiting for a lot of "change" that President Obama promised during election time, but when it comes to climate, they've often been disappointed. Chait puts their distress into context: "The sort of steady progress that would leave activists on other issues giddy does not satisfy the sort of person whose waking hours are spent watching the glaciers melt irreversibly." While the president has made concerted efforts to kickstart the renewable energy industry, the 2010 demise of cap-and-trade, legislation that sought to limit carbon emissions, was a particularly hard blow to the green movement. But Obama has a chance to attack climate change from another angle: the Clean Air Act. Passed in 1970, this legislation requires that the Environmental Protection Agency regulate air pollution that endangers public health and welfare. Back then carbon dioxide didn't fall into that category, but it sure does now. Thanks to an ingenious regulatory twist by the NRDC (which publishes OnEarth), the president has one last shot at cracking down on climate. And we will be waiting for him to take it.
Barbara Fraser for Environmental Health News on eating lead: When dangerously high levels of lead turned up in the blood of children living deep in the Peruvian Amazon, researchers first suspected it was the fault of oil drilling upstream from the village. They were wrong. Then the scientists saw the kids sculpting a soft metal into fishing weights, with their teeth. Bingo! The villagers, it turns out, have been stripping electrical cables and melting batteries to obtain the lead. So this health threat has an easy fix, right? Just tell them to stop using the lead. Wrong again. Despite the fact that lead exposure can lower IQs and lead to aggressive behavior in children, the community is hostile toward efforts to provide non-toxic gear to their young fleet of fishermen. “No one likes to be told that they’re doing something untoward to themselves and their children,” says Dr. Michael Weitzman. They'd rather just keep blaming the oil drilling.
Coral Davenport in the National Journal on dissention in the ranks: One day, and maybe sooner than we think, the Republican Party just might accept climate change as scientific fact (which it is). While older, and more extreme ends of the GOP spectrum still deny global warming as a liberal conspiracy, more moderate and youthful members fear that ideology may be trumping practicality in this case. And thus, leading the party (and the environment) into disaster. In addition to poll numbers showing increasing concern over climate issues, a growing numbers of conservatives, Davenport finds, see global warming and clean air as a part of their mission to protect family values. Says former South Carolina congressman Bob Inglis, “The most enduring heresy was saying, ‘Climate change is real and we should do something about it … [but] these heresies and orthodoxies change so quickly.” In the meantime, denying science still seems to better their chances at getting re-elected – no matter what they say about climate behind closed doors.
Victoria Schlesinger in Modern Farmer on the battle for bees: Beekeepers and environmentalists haven't always seen eye to eye, but bees -- or rather, the absence of bees -- have brought them together in recent years. "The two camps are unlikely partners in a David and Goliath battle," writes Victoria Schlesinger. Bee farmers and environmentalists have teamed up to sue the Environmental Protection Agency, in order to stop the use of neonicotinoid -- a class of pesticides, which has likely killed 30 percent of bees nationwide. In a one-two punch, they're also challenging the way the EPA approves pesticides (which is a complete joke). “I’m hopeful this will be a catalyst to a better place," says one beekeeper. "We don’t want to be the last generation doing this.”
Tired of reading yet? Watch this.
Harry W. Hanbury and Ben Howard for Retro Report on a ship without a port: Remember the Mobro 4000, the garbage barge that spent five months in 1987 wandering the Atlantic, looking for a place to dump its putrid payload? It's time to look back at the incident to see how much, if anything, has changed in how we tend to our trash.
Tips: @OnEarthMag (tag it #greenreads)
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