Friday, June 30, 2017

New research warns, the world’s most widely-used family of insecticides, can decimate bee populations.

 Chemical companies, who helped fund the study, believe it provides a loophole they can use to support their case for their continued use.
by Larry Powell
Bumblebees forage on chives in a Canadian garden. 
A PinP photo.

It was the first, large-scale field trial of its kind in Europe. It looked at ways that two kinds of “neonics," (clothianidin and thiamethoxam) may affect tame honeybees and two wild bee species in the UK, Hungary and Germany. 

Its findings were published yesterday in the journal, Science.

In the UK and Hungary, honeybee colonies located near crops of “oilseed rape” (also called “Canola”) treated with clothianidin and planted the previous year, had almost one quarter (24%) fewer workers in the spring. (Thiamethoxam didn’t hurt them.)

As Richard Pywell, an ecologist at the UK-based Centre for Ecology & Hydrology,  puts it, “We’re showing significant negative effects at critical life-cycle stages, which is a cause for concern.” (Pywell co-authored a paper resulting from the field trial.)

But, in an unexpected twist, the results also found that the German bees seemed to have come through the trial without negative effects! 

Pywell believes he knows why. Wildflowers growing near the German fields may have kept those colonies healthier and more resistant to the toxic effects of the chemical than those in the other two countries.

A Canadian scientist, Prof. Nigel Raine of the University of Guelph, (R), believes the writing should now be on the wall as to the harm “neonics” can do to pollinators. 

"Whilst results from this large-scale study report varying impacts…the overall picture points towards appreciable negative impacts on these important pollinators across the time course of this study.  It is concerning that bumblebee colonies produce fewer queens, and solitary bees (Osmia bicornis) produce fewer offspring, where higher levels of exposure to neonics were found. These bees represent the basis for the next generation of these species in the following year, and fewer of these important individuals could have significant impacts on population size and persistence."

Prof. Raine is also worried that researchers found residues of the culprit chemical, clothianidin, in crops grown from what was supposed to be “clean” or “control” seed. “This suggests that residues from previous agricultural applications could still be affecting bees in the field even several years after the EU moratorium (of 2013) on these active ingredients came into effect. It provides additional support for restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids based on concerns about impacts on insect pollinator health. Such regulations must balance the benefits of using insecticides to control damaging crop pests appropriately against the unintended costs of harming beneficial insects exposed to these chemicals in agricultural landscapes. Pollinators are responsible for one in three mouthfuls of food we eat, so safeguarding their health is something we should all care deeply about.”

Another scientist shares Prof. Rain’s sentiments. In the words of David Goulson, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, “In the light of this new study, continuing to claim that use of neonicotinoids in farming does not harm bees is no longer a tenable position.”

In any case, few can fault this latest effort for not being thorough or extensive. It cost £2.8 million, lasted for two years and covered 33 sites in the three countries involved.

But it has also provided at least some perceived ammunition for the chemical industry to cling to its position that its products are safe for pollinators. Here’s what Dr Peter Campbell, Senior Environmental Risk Assessor at Syngenta (which manufactures and sells related products) has to say following publication of these new field trials.

This demonstrates that neonics can be used safely or even with benefit to bees under certain circumstances e.g. such as reported in Germany.”

Meanwhile, Health Canada is considering whether to take another member of the "neonic" family, imadacloprid, off the market. It has delayed its decision on the matter.



Planet in Peril. Famine in Africa. Sea-Level Rise in Atlantic Canada. (Video)

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Deadline 2020: Just Three Years, Say Experts, Before Global Tipping Point

Common Dreams

"Should emissions continue to rise beyond 2020, or even remain level, the temperature goals set in Paris become almost unattainable," they write. Story here.

A wildfire in Alberta. 2016. Wikimedia Commons.

These NASA Images Show Siberia Burning Up


Siberian wildfire season is off and running with multiple blazes searing the boreal forest and tundra. It’s the latest example of the vast shifts happening to the forests that cover Siberia and the rest of the northern tier of the world as climate change alters the landscape. Details here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Ten million tons of fish wasted every year despite declining fish stocks


Industrial fishing fleets dump nearly 10 million tonnes of good fish back into the ocean every year, according to new research. Story here.

A Plant in Government

George Monbiot

Another deadly tree disease threatens these islands, but the government will do nothing to keep it out. Details here.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Almost all of the 29 coral reefs on U.N. World Heritage list damaged by bleaching

There was good news and bad news for the world's coral reefs last week. Story here.

A bleached reef off Hawaii. Photo by NOAA.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Record high temperatures grip much of the globe, more hot weather to come – UN agency (Story & video)

UN News Centre
Extremely high May and June temperatures have broken records in parts of Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and the United States, the United Nations weather agency reported today, warning of more heatwaves to come. Story here.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Deadly Heatwaves Could Threaten Nearly Three-Quarters of World's Inhabitants

Common Dreams

New study released as "unusually early" heatwaves grip large swathes of globe. Details here.

PinP photo.

Moss study reveals widespread climate change in the Antarctic

Science Media Centre of Canada.

Moss from additional sites on the Antarctic Peninsula has allowed scientists to get a clear picture of the ecological changes the region underwent over the past 50 years. Details here.

Keep the Hives Alive! (Video)

Monday, June 19, 2017

We can’t fight climate change if we keep lying to ourselves

Nation of Change - Chris Hedges
The inability to see what is in front of our eyes replicates the blindness of all past civilizations that celebrated their eternal glory at moments of precipitous decline. Details here.
Recent wildfires in Portugal have incinerated more than 60 people in their homes and cars. Nsandre photo.

UN urges 'reboot' of drought responses to focus more on preparedness

UN News Centre

Investing in preparedness and building the resilience of farmers is fundamental to cope with extreme drought, because responding to such situations when they hit might be too late, the head of the United Nations agricultural agency said today. Story here.

Wildfires used to be rare in the U.S. Great Plains. They’ve more than tripled in 30 years

                                                        The Washington Post    

West Texas - 2011. Staff Sgt. Eric Harris
The grasslands of Great Plains have seen one of the sharpest increases in large and dangerous wildfires in the past three decades, with their numbers more than tripling between 1985 and 2014, according to new research. Story here.

Chip in to help us save the bees.

+SumOfUs Fighting for people over profits

The battle is on: A historic ban on bee-killing pesticides is on the table. But we’ve just learned that politicians in the European Parliament will try to stop it -- before member states even get the chance to vote! PLEASE DONATE HERE.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

It’s high time for a global ban on bee-killing pesticides


The European Commission is poised to propose a game-changing law to protect bees and other pollinators. The new ban on bee-killing pesticides would go far beyond current protections, banning three deadly neonics from fields all across Europe. PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION.
PinP photo.

62 dead in central Portugal forest fires


Heat from fires so intense, crews having trouble approaching flames. Details here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Help preserve land – our 'home and future' – UN urges on World Day to Combat Desertification

The UN News Centre

With hundreds of millions of people around the globe directly affected by desertification – the degradation of land ecosystems due to unsustainable farming or mining practices, or climate change – United Nations agencies have called for better management of land so that it can provide a place where individuals and communities “can build a future.” Story here.

Female elk can learn to avoid hunters with age

Strategies include moving less, and favouring safer areas when near roads. Story here.

Elk in Jasper Nat'l. Park, Canada. 
PinP photo.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Catastrophe of Aral Sea shows 'men can destroy the planet,' warns UN chief Guterres

UN News Centre

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres paid a recent visit the Aral Sea – once the world's fourth largest inland sea, that has now shrunk to about a quarter of its original size due to human mismanagement  Story here.

Changes for Manitoba's hog industry would lower standards (LETTER)

(Brandon Sun,13 June)
It's a funny thing how industries that are in trouble invariably take out full-page ads in the newspapers to proclaim their virtue in search of public approval. Such is the case with Saturday's ad by the Manitoba Pork Council featuring chairman George Mathison.

Chairman Mathison, referring to the "red tape reductions" proposed by the province, emphatically proclaims that "None of the proposed changes will lower environmental standards." Come now, George - that really is a bit of a stretch.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Churchill residents fear skyrocketing costs as flooded rail line closed indefinitely

Winnipeg Free Press
First, the grain shipments shut down, shuttering the Port of Churchill.
Then the blizzards hit, dumping 60 centimetres of snow in just three days last winter and forcing town authorities to call a state of emergency. Story here.

U of M climate change study postponed due to climate change

Winnipeg Free Press

The University of Manitoba's multi-year, multi-million dollar climate change study has been put on ice for a year -- because of climate change itself. Details here.

Hog Watch Manitoba (HWM) Calls for Safer Barns After Thousands of Animals Die in Another Fire.

WINNIPEG: HWM, a citizens’ group which monitors the industry in the province, calls the blaze “horrific.” Three thousand, five hundred pigs perished when two barns burned to the ground near New Bothwell last week.

It’s just the latest in a series of similar incidents in the province that have left thousands more hogs dead over the past decade. The barns are not equipped with the same fire walls or alarm/sprinkler systems that most other buildings must have.

And HWM fears that plans by the Pallister government to remove what it calls “impractical and costly” fire prevention regulations in barn construction, will only make a bad situation even worse.How can these changes make the situation better?

 “Although the thousands of pigs that have died in barn fires are not someone’s pet, they are all sentient beings that have the capacity to suffer fear and pain” says Vicki Burns of HWM. “If there were horrific fires like this in animal shelters like humane societies, the public would not tolerate it.  We should not be tolerating this for any animal housing, whether they are cats and dogs or animals raised for agricultural production. The degree of pain experienced in a fatal fire will be excruciating for any animals”.

Janine Gibson, an organic inspector and member of HWM, says “ These barn fires do not need to happen . We have the means to provide good fire prevention in our barns, just as we do in other buildings. Let’s make this happen to offer more humane circumstances for all animals."

HWM believes that hog producers need to receive enough remuneration that they can afford to build safe, healthy barns.

Angry Oceans. How Sea Level Rise is Impacting the World, including Atlantic Canada. (Story & Audio Podcast)

by Larry Powell

NEEPAWA, MB: Even tho I live in a little landlocked town on the Canadian prairies, I’ve long been fascinated with the role our oceans play in the evolution of manmade climate change. And, as a science writer, I also do lots of research, trying to keep on top of the issue. 

So, when I learned that “The Science Media Centre of Canada,” was sponsoring a “webinar” on climate change and sea level rise, I jumped at the chance to take part. (A webinar is a live, online event, a bit like a modern day teleconference.) So I tuned in and listened eagerly as four leading experts, three Canadians and an American, laid out in ways that were at once matter-of-fact and alarming, how the phenomenon of rising ocean levels is impacting our planet. 

Please read on, listen to the podcast below, or both!

Predictions surrounding rising
sea levels around the world and the threat they pose to millions of coastal dwellers, are sounding more and more ominous. This was evident as panel members told their stories. The moderator was Brigitte Noël (above). 

“Sea levels are on the rise. But they will not rise at equal levels around the world. As the climate changes and the planet warms, rising sea levels are now becoming one of the greatest threats to the world’s populations. The latest research published just 2 weeks ago shows rises in sea levels will double the frequency of severe coastal flooding in most of the world, with dire consequences for major cities that sit on coastlines, including those in Canada. The social and political fallout of displaced populations can prove to be one of the greatest challenges for future generations.

“According to a recent study in “Nature,” more than 13 million Americans will lose their homes to sea level rise by the end of this century. And Canada could face a similar fate. 

“When you hear about the global impacts from one of our panelists, 13 million might sadly begin to sound like a few drops in the ocean when it comes to how many will be affected.

“The repercussions of rising sea levels will challenge the way countries make planning decisions about climate change.”
Adam Fenech (above) directs the Climate Lab at the 

Dr. Fenech warns that some of the higher sea level rise predictions anywhere are for much of the eastern seaboard of North America. And that includes his home, PEI and Atlantic Canada.

“How important is it to PEI? Well this yellow arrow was pointing to Emmett McKenna’s property back in 1959 he purchased 3 acre from his Uncle for $55/acre & now it’s completely underwater. So almost during my lifetime, people on PEI have had waterfront property that’s now completely under water, both from a combination of sea level rise as well as coastal erosion. 

“We conducted a study a few years ago that looked at the coastline we looked at every single metre of PEI from the year 1968 to 2010 &, when you took that thin strip of land and added them all up, you could see that, overall there was 35 k2 of land that was eroded or lost. There was almost 15 k2 that were gained, & overall there was a net loss of 20 k2. That’s about 5,000 acres. That’s about half the size of Charlottetown. So the island’s not going anywhere fast. Under those rates of erosion, it’s going to take 10 thousand years for Prince Edward Island to completely disappear. But it is the most important part of PEI. Everybody loves to be close to the shoreline. There’s a lot of infrastructure that’s close to the shoreline. So when we look at all those metre changes that I talked about  between 1968 & 2010, and we looked at the average change that happened, we multiply that by 30, 60 & 90 yrs just to get a sense of what kind of infrastructure is going to be vulnerable. 

"Now we all think that the rates of erosion are going to increase because sea levels are increasing, the land itself is falling little bit. we’re getting more storms in terms of frequency in terms of magnitude, but just under current rates of erosion, things that we’ve seen over the last 40 yrs or so, there’s at least a thousand homes & cottages that are threatened or vulnerable. We have 17 lighthouses one of them is actually half in the water already. We even have wind turbines, ones that we’ve put in in the last 10 yrs or so, are vulnerable to coastal erosion. I think the big message here is, let’s not build so darn close to the shore.” 

Dr. Fench adds, a waste water treatment plant, even the First Nations Community of Lennox Island, just off PEI, are in the path of the rising waters, too.

More about "The Science Media Centre of Canada."

While the Centre has been around for nine years, I’d only heard about it recently. It is a non-profit, charitable organization “that helps journalists report on science issues.” I was delighted with my discovery. For years, I’ve been frustrated at the dearth of material readily available from Canadian sources. 

I especially remember an excellent article in an American publication recently. It warned of the growing seriousness of Lyme disease. Manmade climate change was resulting in an ever-expanding range for the tick which spreads it. The story documented the worsening situation in the U.S. and at least two places overseas. A map it displayed showed the vector spreading in the “lower 48,” then ending, magically, at the Canadian border! Nothing north of it. Nothing! Just a blank. The fact is, a very similar situation exists here in Canada, too. That article drove home to me, the pressing need for more and better access to scientific research in Canada - the kind now being provided by the Centre.

Oceans and Emotions. 
It’s tempting to ascribe human traits to our oceans, as you’ll see as you read on. If I appear to be doing that, I assure you, it’s only my feeble attempt at underlining the gravity of the crisis faced by both terrestrial and marine life in our modern age; not because of any “inner mystic” in me.

One might say, for example, that our oceans have actually been heroes, “saving our bacon,” as it were, and paying a terrible price in the process. 

How so? 

They’ve probably been absorbing more than 90% of the heat created by our profligate appetite for carbon fuels, sparing us from a home that might more closely resemble Mercury or Venus, than Earth. Warmer water is not only disrupting many marine life-forms who depend on colder water to survive, it is causing the oceans to expand, worsening the scourge of sea-level rise.

As if that weren’t enough, it’s believed oceans are absorbing almost a third of the carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, which human activity is producing. This is making oceans more acidic, threatening many marine life forms upon which we humans, and other sea-life, depend for survival.

So, are the oceans now "getting even" with us - biting back against the human population for treating them so shoddily? Of course not! The truth, which is often stranger than fiction, is this. Human behaviour is at the root of the profoundly disturbing state our earthly home is now in. And only we hold the key to the solution.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Epicentres of Climate and Security (Video)

Weaver crashes B.C. Hydro media briefing, chastises Hydro over Site C

The largest, most expensive project in B.C. history continued to degenerate into a political mess Wednesday, after B.C.’s Green party leader crashed a media briefing on the proposed $9-billion Site C dam and publicly rebuked top B.C. Hydro officials for misleading numbers. Story here.

Climate action opposites: Canada vs United Kingdom

Horizon Project. Alberta tar sands. Photo by "Beautiful Destruction."
Two nations. Opposite tactics, opposite results. As the United Kingdom racks up climate wins, Canada might want to be taking notes. More here.

Countries agree on decisive and urgent actions to restore marine world to health as Ocean Conference concludes

Universal agreement on need for measures to reverse ocean deterioration. Details here.

Friday, June 9, 2017

As climate change intensifies, here’s what could happen to Falkland Islands

Port Stanley, Falkland Islands. Photo by Tom L-C.
The melting of ice in Antarctica due to a warming climate threatens to upend the economic livelihoods of Falkland Islands residents, says its representative to Canada. STORY HERE.

Over 60 wildlife species at risk in Canada's changing North

a CISION company
Some populations of Lake Sturgeon (above), a large, very long-lived species affected by historical 
overfishing, are now on the endangered list (COSEWIC). US Fish & Wildlife photo.
Atlantic Walrus and Eastern Migratory Caribou are at risk of extinction. So concluded the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), which met recently in Whitehorse. The number of Canadian northern wildlife species considered to be at risk now stands at 62. Details here.

Do Marine Reserves Provide a Buffer Against the Ravages of Climate Change? Yes, say experts!

by Larry Powell

An international team of scientists is calling for more marine reserves as a way to lessen the impact of manmade climate change. 

The researchers believe, even if greenhouse gases are reduced in order to meet targets set out in the Paris Climate Accord, life on Earth will still face “serious stress and damage.” So more still needs to be done. 
A blue rockfish in the Channel Islands Marine Sanctuary. NOAA Photo Library

Marine reserves are areas of ocean where fishing and development are declared illegal. They’ve been shown to result in greater biodiversity, density, mass and size among fish and other marine life living there. Yet only a very small percentage of the world’s oceans have been set aside for this purpose.

The team suggests, well-managed marine reserves would help people adapt to “five prominent impacts” of climate change. These are; ocean acidification, sea-level rise, worsening storms, the distribution of marine life and decreased productivity and availability of oxygen. The scientists call marine reserves “a viable low-tech, cost-effective adaptation strategy that would improve the outlook, both locally and globally for the environment and people into the future.”   

A dozen scientists from several countries were involved in the study. Their findings were published recently in the proceedings of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences in the U.S.

Diesel vehicles in oil sands operations contribute to regional pollution

EurekAlert Wildfires, cigarette smoking and vehicles all emit a potentially harmful compound called isocyanic acid. The substance has been l...