Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers

GR: Over the past four years that I’ve reported bad news, this is the worst. We’ve known that insects were declining, but no one would have guessed the decline was this deep. Habitat loss is probably the leading cause (Yay farmers!), but pesticides applied to farms, roadsides, and settled areas undoubtedly play a serious part.

A raging disaster of this magnitude should spur a massive response. Can we reduce the human population and its growing demand for food, can we clean up our environment,can we stop using pesticides, can we cluster our homes and leave more untouched wild nature? Of course we can. If we don’t, the consequences for Earth and for humanity will be deep and dark.

Three-quarters of flying insects in nature reserves across Germany have vanished in 25 years, with serious implications for all life on Earth.

As well as being pollinators insects provide food for birds and other animals and help control pests. Photograph: Kevin Elsby/Alamy

“The abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years, according to a new study that has shocked scientists.

Insects are an integral part of life on Earth as both pollinators and prey for other wildlife and it was known that some species such as butterflies were declining. But the newly revealed scale of the losses to all insects has prompted warnings that the world is “on course for ecological Armageddon”, with profound impacts on human society.

The traps were set in protected areas and reserves, which scientists say makes the declines even more worrying. Photograph: Courtesy of Courtesy of Entomologisher Verein Krefeld

“The new data was gathered in nature reserves across Germany but has implications for all landscapes dominated by agriculture, the researchers said.

“The cause of the huge decline is as yet unclear, although the destruction of wild areas and widespread use of pesticides are the most likely factors and climate change may play a role. The scientists were able to rule out weather and changes to landscape in the reserves as causes, but data on pesticide levels has not been collected.

“The fact that the number of flying insects is decreasing at such a high rate in such a large area is an alarming discovery,” said Hans de Kroon, at Radboud University in the Netherlands and who led the new research.

“Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline,” said Prof Dave Goulson of Sussex University, UK, and part of the team behind the new study. “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”

“The research, published in the journal Plos One, is based on the work of dozens of amateur entomologists across Germany who began using strictly standardised ways of collecting insects in 1989. Special tents called malaise traps were used to capture more than 1,500 samples of all flying insects at 63 different nature reserves.

“When the total weight of the insects in each sample was measured a startling decline was revealed. The annual average fell by 76% over the 27 year period, but the fall was even higher – 82% – in summer, when insect numbers reach their peak.” –Damian Carrington (Continue reading: Warning of ‘ecological Armageddon’ after dramatic plunge in insect numbers | Environment | The Guardian.)

Take Action: Tell Your Senators to Vote Against EPA Nominee with Chemical Industry Ties

Crony-Capitalism. Is this us? (Click image to read the fine print.)

GR: The Trump/Republican choices for government office are people who 1) lack experience or 2) have close ties to businesses or 3) wish to profit from their positions (For example, Rex Tillerson’s huge Exxon Mobile oil deal with Russia). The instance described below is the second type.

“Tell your U.S. Senators to oppose the Trump Administration’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, Michael L. Dourson, Ph.D., who has spent a good deal of his career helping chemical companies resist restrictions on their toxic compounds. The U.S. Senate’s August 20 hearing on Dr. Dourson’s nomination, was abruptly postponed on August 19, with no reason offered, but later held on October 4 under a cloud of controversy.

Write your U.S. Senators now!

“Critics, including former EPA officials, Congressional Democrats, and public health scientists say that Dr. Dourson’s close ties to the chemical industry should disqualify him from becoming the country’s chief regulator of toxic chemicals.

“U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, said, “Dr. Dourson’s consistent endorsement of chemical safety standards that not only match industry’s views, but are also significantly less protective than EPA and other regulators have recommended, raises serious doubts about his ability to lead those efforts. This is the first time anyone with such clear and extensive ties to the chemical industry has been [nominated] to regulate that industry.”

“Dr. Dourson’s professional history provides important context for considering his nomination. He did a turn at EPA from 1980 to 1994, starting as a staff toxicologist, and then leading a pesticide and toxics group that supports EPA’s regulatory work. However, in 1995, Dr. Dourson started the consulting group, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment (TERA), which has done contract work for chemical companies, producing research and reports that often “downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds.” Source: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog » Blog Archive Take Action: Tell Your Senators to Vote Against EPA Nominee with Chemical Industry Ties – Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog

The Ever-Revolving Door: Industry and the EPA

GR: The ‘revolving door’ between government and industry creates close ties that often weaken regulation of business activities. Here’s an example. The article below gives another well-documented example of this insidious problem within our government.

Beyond Pesticides, October 3, 2017– “On August 20, the U.S. Senate was to have held a hearing on the Trump Administration’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency Assistant Administrator for chemical safety, Michael L. Dourson, PhD. The hearing was abruptly postponed on August 19, with no reason offered, and has not yet been rescheduled.

“Dr. Dourson has spent a good deal of his career helping companies resist constraints on their use of potentially toxic compounds in consumer products. Critics, including former EPA officials, Congressional Democrats, and public health scientists say that these ties with the chemical industry, in particular, should keep him from becoming the country’s chief regulator of toxic chemicals.

“U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-DE) said, “Dr. Dourson’s consistent endorsement of chemical safety standards that not only match industry’s views, but are also significantly less protective than EPA and other regulators have recommended, raises serious doubts about his ability to lead those efforts. This is the first time anyone with such clear and extensive ties to the chemical industry has been [nominated] to regulate that industry.”

“Dr. Dourson is perhaps the most recent example of the “revolving door” phenomenon — the movement of people between roles as agency regulators or legislators, and positions in the industries that are affected by laws and regulations promulgated through those government roles. The door revolves in both directions, with folks leaving industry to join government, and vice versa. Critics say that this ready switching of roles creates unavoidable conflicts of interest and that those who do so have dubious ethical standing for undertaking the positions they seek. Indeed, ethics experts say that, if confirmed, Dr. Dourson’s work on behalf of industry could constitute significant conflicts of interest.

“Dr. Dourson’s professional history provides important context in which to consider his nomination. He did a turn at EPA from 1980 to 1994, starting as a staff toxicologist. By 1989, he headed a pesticides and toxics group, supervising scientists who support EPA’s regulatory work. In 1995, Dr. Dourson started his consulting group, Toxicology Excellence for Risk Assessment, or TERA, which has done contract work for chemical companies, producing research and reports that often “downplayed the health risks posed by their compounds.” — Source: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog » Blog Archive The Ever-Revolving Door: Industry and the EPA

Illegal Pot Farms Are Fouling California Waterways with Banned Pesticides

GR: Legalizing marijuana has been a progressive goal for many years. Over the same period, illegal pot farming and distribution has been one of the nation’s largest illegal industries. Now, the industry is becoming legal. Fine; people should have freedom to make personal choices. However, the pot industry, like most other industries has no concern for the consequences of its business operations. The story below is about pesticides, but other reporters have described the loss of wilderness, wildlife, soil, and water as pot farmers shove nature aside to make a profit.

Legalizing an industry can give public (government) control over product safety and environmental abuse. Of course, the current American administration is working hard to give all industries unregulated freedom comparable to the illegal pot industry. We all hope that this is a temporary blip in public control of the irresponsible actions of the weaker members of our species and that we can reinstate regulations soon.

“Illegal cannabis grow operations are polluting California waterways with banned pesticides, according to reports from Reuters. Despite recent legalization of recreational marijuana in the state, California still accounts for over 90% of illegal grow operations within the U.S. The extent of contamination puts wildlife and drinking water at risk, necessitating increased monitoring and enforcement to stop ongoing ecological damage.

“Unreleased reports obtained by Reuters indicate the presence of pesticides, such as diazinon and carbofuran, which have been linked to a range of adverse human health outcomes. Both chemicals inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE), an enzyme important for the transmission of nerve impulses. When AChE is inhibited, acetylcholine accumulates leading to overstimulation of neurotransmitters, resulting in muscle weakness, confusion, and paralysis, among other symptoms. Both chemicals have also been shown to be highly toxic to birds. According to EPA reports from the 1980s, carbofuran applications contributed to the death of between one and two million birds each year. Diazinon has likewise been linked to hundreds of bird kill incidents, with reports in the 1980s involving over 23 bird species in 18 states.

Ecologist Mourad Gabriel of Integral Ecology Research Center stands amid an illegal marijuana grow site in Northern California. (Courtesy Mark Higley/Hoopa Valley Tribal Forestry/University of California Davis Faculty/Handout via REUTERS)

“Reuters reports that law enforcement officers have been hospitalized from only touching plants or equipment contaminated with illegal pesticides. A police dog almost died from jumping in contaminated water, and there have been accounts of cows poisoned by nearby grow operations. “Carbofuran is in the water, and it’s not supposed to be,” said Mourad Gabriel, PhD, an ecologist who works with law enforcement on marijuana contamination issues to Reuters.

“According to Dr. Gabriel, half of the streams in eight watersheds known for illegal cannabis cultivation are contaminated with pesticide residues. “It’s like a layer cake,” Dr. Gabriel indicated. “They put chemical on chemical on chemical. We’ll find different chemicals in the water on different years.” Indeed, while some creeks tested clear during one season, return testing is finding new chemicals making their way into streams, likely as a result of their movement through the soil.” –Beyond Pesticides (Continue: Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog » Blog Archive Illegal Cannabis Operations Are Fouling California Waterways with Banned Pesticides – Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog.)