This Summer’s Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Could Be Bigger Than Connecticut

GR:  Farms are a far greater source of toxic wastes than urban areas. Farming does it all. First, it obliterates natural habitats, second, it increases soil erosion, and third, it invites pesticide poisons that kill insects and the wildlife that depend on them. Join the Union of Concerned Scientists’ call on Congress to reject the Trump administration’s unacceptable budget cuts at the USDA, and instead vote to fully fund proven programs that keep our water clean, improve farmers’ livelihoods and help hungry families.

“Summer is almost here, and you know what that means. Sun, sand and … a watery wasteland devoid of all life? Yep, this is the time each year when a team of federal and university scientists predicts the size of the so-called dead zone that will develop in the Gulf of Mexico later in the summer. We’re waiting for that official prediction, but based on federal nitrate flux data and Midwest weather patterns this spring, it seems likely that it will be bigger than usual.

“That means a swath of marine habitat considerably larger than the state of Connecticut could be lifeless by summer’s end—a haunting prospect for coastal ecosystems, fisheries, and the men and women who earn their livelihoods from them. And the Trump administration’s budget proposal and general antagonism toward science and environmental protection are likely to make the problem worse in the future.

“Marine and coastal dead zones are the result of a phenomenon called hypoxia—a state of low dissolved oxygen that occurs when excess pollutants, such as nitrogen and phosphorus, accumulate in bodies of water. These nutrients feed blooms of algae that, when they die and decompose, deplete the oxygen in the surrounding water. Hypoxia is a silent killer, suffocating organisms that can’t escape the low-oxygen zone quickly enough, and causing others to flee.

“As we wrote a year ago when the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an “average” (roughly Connecticut-sized) Gulf dead zone, even average is not the same as normal. Nitrogen and phosphorus can come from many sources, but the largest are due to human activity, including sewage discharges and fertilizers from farm fields running off into rivers and streams.

“In 2010, researchers at the University of Illinois showed that the problem of runoff from industrialized, corn-and-soybean intensive agriculture, with its system of underground drainage channels, dwarfs the impact of cities and other nutrient sources in the Midwest. Essentially, each year the Mississippi River and its many tributaries meandering through the Corn Belt quietly funnel a vast amount of agricultural pollution into the Gulf.” –Karen Perry Stillerman (More: This Summer’s Gulf ‘Dead Zone’ Could Be Bigger Than Connecticut.)

The extinction crisis is far worse than you think

GR:  This CNN Photo/Video/Data essay has high-quality images and interviews.  Recommended.

“Frogs, coral, elephants — all are on the brink. Three quarters of species could disappear. Why is this happening? CNN explores an unprecedented global crisis.” –CNN (Continue:  The extinction crisis is far worse than you think)

Requirements for the USDA Organic Seal of Approval

organics--us mapGR.–Take action for butterflies:  According to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), organic farms in the U. S. sales reached $5.5 billion in 2014, up 72 percent since 2008.  Save the pollinators and the animals that depend on them; go organic!  It’s the simplest way to boycott Monsanto and all the users of glyphosate and other pesticides.  Here’s what “organic” means:

usda_organic1-200x200From OnlyOrganic.org.–“The USDA certified organic seal is the only guarantee that your food has been grown without toxic pesticides, most synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, artificial hormones or genetically engineered seeds. It also indicates that food that has been produced in compliance with federal standards.

“To meet these standards, farmers must:

  • rotate crops to maintain soil health
  • reduce soil erosion to improve water quality
  • use buffers to prevent contamination from non-organic fields
  • prohibit the use of toxic pesticides, most synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, growth hormones, and genetically engineered seeds
  • provide animals with year-round access to fresh air, clean water, direct sunlight, and room to move

“Before a farmer can market their crops as organics, they must meet USDA organic standards.Becoming certified organic is a multi-step process. The US Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP) oversees organic agriculture and certification in our country, but accredited certifying agents are the ones who actually grant or deny the organic certification of goods. The certifying agents must first go through a rigorous review process to get accredited by NOP. Then, the accredited certifying agents put each company through an inspection and review process to become certified organic.”  Continue reading:  The Organic Seal of Approval | Only Organic

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Agreement turns I-35 into pollinator haven | Finance & Commerce

GR:  It is definitely time to get serious about pollinator protection.  Unfortunately, this agreement is not binding and it does not mention mowing or herbicides, the principal roadside vegetation management tools of departments of transportation.  If I-35 roadsides start to become wild and rough, it will be a sign that the effort to aid pollinators is sincere.  Fingers crossed!

DES MOINES, Iowa — Soon, passengers zipping along Interstate 35 will see a lusher refuge and more food for bees and butterflies in the hopes of helping the insects boost their declining populations, six states and the Federal Highway Administration announced Thursday.

That 1,500-mile stretch of road from northern Minnesota to southern Texas is a flyway for monarch butterflies that migrate between Mexico and Canada, and is surrounded by acres of public land that can serve as friendly territory for the bees and butterflies that pollinate the plants that produce much of the nation’s food, such as fruits and vegetables.

But the monarch butterfly has lost population in recent years, which researchers say is due in part to shrinking stands of milkweed, on which butterflies feed and lay eggs. And last year, beekeepers reported losing about 40 percent of honey bee colonies in part due to pesticide use, habitat loss and parasites.

The agreement signed Thursday by officials from Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas and the federal government is meant to improve the habitat and develop a branding campaign to informally name the interstate the Monarch Highway.  Source: Agreement turns I-35 into pollinator haven | Finance & Commerce