Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The more we carve up natural landscapes with roads and fields, the closer we’re pushing large predators like lions and wolves, toward extinction.

by Larry Powell

While the consequences of habitat loss have been known for some time, new research just published, underlines just how grave the situation has become. 
While this latest research is German, animals like the grey wolf face similar disruption in North America. 

It’s called “habitat fragmentation.” And, it’s been happening on such a large scale, it’s been hard to tell what aspects are the most destructive. That's because ecologists - at least 'til now - haven't been able to properly keep track of all wildlife within an entire eco-system when human developments confine them to smaller and more isolated patches of livable space. 


Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Recent research contradicts a claim by the chemical giant, Bayer, that its newest bug-killer is safe for bees.

by Larry Powell

A honeybee colony in Manitoba. A PinP photo.

It's brand name is "Sivanto," (generic name - flupyradifurone). It's an insecticide designed to kill a wide range of bugs which eat food crops such as soybeans. Bayer is registering it in many jurisdictions around the world. 

After conducting various field studies, 
Bayer concludes, "Sivanto displayed a very promising safety profile." The company concedes, it works in ways similar to the neonicotinoids (a group of insecticides which has become notorious for its likely role in pollinator decline). Still, it finds, the product "can be considered safe to most beneficial insects, specifically pollinators." 
Image by Brian Robert Marshall.

But a team of scientists at the University of California, San Diego, reaches a different conclusion. In findings published earlier this year, the team gave a range of Sivanto doses to the bees, including ones they encounter in the field. By itself, the chemical did not appear to be harmful. But, when combined with the fungicide propiconazole (brand name "Banner Maxx"), widely-used by farmers, the harm was "greatly amplified." The bees either sickened or died, apparently because the fungicide weakened their ability to shake off the toxicity. It's not uncommon for pollinators to be subjected to a dizzying array of pesticides all at once, while foraging in the fields. It’s a process called "synergism," in which they can suffer harm they would not,  if  exposed to just a single one.

The spokesperson for the team, Dr. Simone Tosi, tells PinP, she does not believe that regulations in the US require manufacturers to test for synergistic effects when they apply to have their products approved. But neither does she think that such regulations prohibit such testing.

In a news release, her team says, "We believe this work is a step toward a better understanding of the risks that pesticides could pose to bees and the environment. Our results highlight the importance of assessing the effects pesticides have on the behaviour of animals, and demonstrate that synergism, seasonality and bee age are key factors that subtly change pesticide toxicity." They call for further studies to better assess the risks to pollinators.

But at least one of those other studies has already been done. It, too, comes up with similarly negative conclusions. A team from
 three German universities has found that flupyradifurone binds to the brain receptors of honeybees, damaging their motor skills.

Meanwhile, Bayer's marketing plans for its new product are ambitious. It promises to "develop, register and sell" Sivanto in many places across the world, including the US, Europe, Asia, Ghana and Brazil. While Canada isn't mentioned, specifically, there seems little doubt it will end up here, too. The company wants to see its product "in all major climatic zones allowing agriculture."

Last April, over three months ago, I e-mailed the federal Minister of Agriculture, Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada's Pest Management Regulatory Agency, Manitoba's Minister of Health, Kelvin Goertzen and Manitoba’s Deputy Minister of Agriculture to ask them about this new research and whether Sivanto will be registered in Canada. 
Apart from a couple of automated responses, I have gotten no substantive answers.



Saturday, July 27, 2019

Amazon deforestation accelerating towards unrecoverable 'tipping point'

The Guardian
Data confirms fears that Jair Bolsonaro’s policy encourages illegal logging in Brazil. 
Story here.
The Amazon rainforest near Manaus, capital of the
Brazilian state of Amazonas (largely untouched by human hands,
so far).Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

‘You can’t drink money’: Kootenay communities fight logging to protect their drinking water

The Narwhal
In Glade, BC, where clear-cutting could begin any day, determined residents are pulling out all the stops in an effort to protect their local creek — even though a judge ruled they have no right to clean water. Story here.
The south end of Kootenay Lk.
Photo by Shawn from Airdrie, Canada.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Modern Climate Change Is the Only Worldwide Warming Event of the Past 2,000 Years
New research finds that previous periods of warming and cooling driven by natural causes were regional shifts in temperature rather than global events. Story here.
A grey heron suffers during a heatwave - 2013.
Photo by Gail Hampshire from Cradley, Malvern, U.K

The smell, the noise, the dust: my neighbour, the factory farm

The Guardian
Industrial farms are spreading across Europe. Greenpeace campaigners went to talk to the people who live close by.Warning: readers may find some of the images upsetting. Story here.
Dead hogs in a dumpster at a Manitoba factory barn,
awaiting removal to an unknown location. A PinP photo.
Please also read -"In Hogs We Trust."  
A critique of Manitoba’s runaway hog industry.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Canada's high school curricula not giving students full picture of climate change

by University of British Columbia
A Pexels photo.
Canada's high school students may not be getting enough information on the negative impacts of climate change, scientific consensus behind human-caused warming or climate solutions, according to new research from the University of British Columbia and Lund University. Story here.

How Airplane Contrails Are Helping Make the Planet Warmer


Contrails over Manitoba. A PinP photo.

New research shows that condensation trails from aircraft exhaust are playing a significant role in global warming. Experts are concerned that efforts to change aviation engine design to reduce CO2 emissions could actually create more contrails and raise daily temperatures even more. Story here.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Canada needs to triple the amount of protected land and water to tackle 'nature emergency': report

CBC News
A Cape May warbler. So far, its populations are stable.
Photo by PinP.
Biodiversity is declining faster than at any other time in human history, study finds. Story here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

A popular farm fungicide, now banned in Europe as a suspected carcinogen, remains in widespread use in Canada today.

 The European Union halted sales of all crop fungicides containing the active ingredient, chlorothalonil this spring. The move followed advice from its Food Safety Agency (EFSA) that chlorothalonil "may cause cancer in humans." Canada, on the other hand, re-approved the same product just over year ago. Hard numbers on amounts still being applied in this country are hard to come by. But official government documents show it continues to be approved for use in no less than 29 crop protection products. 

by Larry Powell
A ground sprayer in Manitoba. Stats Canada says farmers in that 
province apply fungicides "more frequently" than their counterparts 
in any other province, "possibly due to its large potato sector."
A PinP photo.
Chlorothalonil is the active ingredient in several agricultural fungicides used to treat mildew, blight and mold in many food crops.    
It's been used worldwide, since bing approved in the US in the '60s. Almost 5 1/2 thousand tonnes were applied to American crops in 2017, making it the third most-used fungicide there, only after copper and sulphur. 

And, according to The Guardian, it's the most widely-used pesticide in all of the UK.
Chlorothalonil use in the
US in 2011.
A research project at the University of British Columbia, CAREX reports that 581 tonnes of chlorothalonil were sold in BC alone in 2010 - 1,121 tonnes in Ontario in 2008. No more recent figures are given and no other provinces are mentioned.

But tables which remains posted on a Government of Canada website (see bottom), shows chlorothalonil remains approved for use in no less than 29 different agricultural products.

And CAREX has reached the same conclusion as the EU. Its website declares, "Chlorothalonil is associated with cancer of 
the kidney and stomach." 

While Statistics Canada does not give a breakdown of active ingredients, the federal agency says almost one in four (23%) of all crop farms in this country applied fungicides of one kind or another in 2011. And it adds, farmers in Manitoba used them "more frequently than those in any other province," possibly due to that province's high level of potato production.

Here's what the European study finds: 

·      Chlorothalonil binds to red blood cells, delaying its removal from the body, 
·      is very toxic if inhaled and can cause serious damage to the eyes and skin, 
·      mainly attacks the kidneys and forstomach, producing both benign and malignant tumours, 
·      slows sexual maturity in treated lab animals and causes them to give birth to underweight young,
·     produces acute risks to amphibians and long-lasting damage to fish,                 
. could pose a hazard to groundwater, especially when it exceeds allowable standards.

But there was too little information to determine whether it harms wild mammals, aquatic species other than fish, or bees. (Earlier research, however, has linked it to diminishing numbers of bumblebees, as well.)The study was peer-reviewed by experts in the field.

Canada' approach - a study in contrasts

In May of last year, Canada's Pesticide Management Regulatory
Agency, PMRA - a division of Health Canada, released results 
of its "re-evaluation" of chlorothalonil. The agency did impose some restrictions, including its use on cut flowers grown in greenhouses. (Even that restriction, however, does not need to be met until next spring.)

But the PMRA's main finding was: "Most current 
standards for protection of human health or the environment. It’s continued registration is acceptable." 



July 16th, 2019. Still waiting for the PMRA to respond to my e-mail,
Media Qs

  • Larry Powell

    Mar. 31 at 9:16 p.m.

    Dear PMRA,

    I'm a journalist in Manitoba. I am attaching the draft

    of an article I am writing for my blog and perhaps

    some weekly newspapers here in Manitoba.

    My questions are;

  • Will you be reviewing the status of the fungicide chlorothalonil, now that the European Union is banning it?
    • How do you explain the differences between the findings of the EFSA and your own re-evaluation?
    • Would you kindly review my attached script and correct any factual errors you may encounter?
    • Please feel free to include any additional comments you feel may be relevant, which I can include in my final draft. 
    Many thanks for your attention.

    Have a green day!
    Please visit Planet in Peril -  "where science gets respect."
    Skype - larry.powell9

Thirty years of unique data reveal what's really killing coral reefs

Science News
Study is world's longest record of reactive nutrients, alga concentrations for coral reefs. Story here.
Bleached coral. Photo by NOAA.

The Uninhabitable Earth

New York Intelligencer. 
Famine, economic collapse, a sun that cooks us: 
What climate change could wreak — sooner than you think.  
Photo by Oxfam.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Guardian view on the climate emergency: a dangerous paralysis

The Guardian
The closer the prospect of disaster becomes, the less the government manages to do. 
 Story here.
A PinP photo.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Don’t believe carbon pricing really works? Just ask B.C.

Carbon tax holds key to clean innovation. Story here. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Seismic lines in Alberta's boreal forest boost methane emissions, according to UCalgary study

Newly discovered emissions would increase Canada's national reporting of greenhouse gases. 
Story here.
Photo by Roland "Roly" Roesler.

Photographer's Note

This is an aerial view of the Northern Alberta landscape, somewhere between Athabasca and Swan Hills. It consists of numerous shallow lakes, muskeg, and the typical vegetation including spruce, willow and poplars. The typical patterns of the vegetation are determined by the consistence and composition of the semi-solid soil underneath. 
The parallel lines that scar the landscape are seismic lines used for oil and gas exploration, and they cover good part of the province. Seismic exploration is somewhat similar in principle to radar, and even more similar to the ultrasound used in medical facilities. Straight, parallel stripes up to 10 m wide are cleared with bulldozers, and drilling equipment follows these stripes sinking explosive charges in the soil. The sound of the explosions bounces back of rock layers, is collected by listening devices and used for mapping the geology and potential resources. The statistic says that in this oil rich province more ground is cleared for seismic lines than by forestry.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...