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4 Million People Demand Obama Administration to Protect Bees from Toxic Insecticides

4 Million People Demand Obama Administration to Protect Bees from Toxic Insecticides

Today, a coalition of more than 125 conservation, beekeeping, food safety, religious and farming advocacy groups rallied in front of the White House and delivered more than four million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to put forth strong protections for bees and other pollinators.

Representatives Earl Blumenauer and John Conyers reintroduced the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, which would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the U.S. EPA conducts a full review of their safety.

The rally coincided with both a D.C. metro ad campaign, and Representatives Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and John Conyers’ (D-MI) reintroduction of the Saving America’s Pollinators Act, "which would suspend the use of four of the most toxic neonicotinoids until the Environmental Protection Agency conducts a full review of their safety," said Friends of the Earth.

Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides that are known to have acute and chronic effects on honey bees and other pollinator species, and are considered a major factor in overall population declines. Twenty-nine independent scientists conducted a global review of 1,121 independent studies and found overwhelming evidence of pesticides linked to bee declines.

Concerned citizens refuse to sit idly by as pollinator species plummet. The action today followed a letter on Monday drafted by the coalition urging President Obama and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to "take swift and meaningful action to address the impacts of toxic pesticides on pollinator species." While the European Union passed a two-year moratorium on three of the most widely used neonicotinoids, the U.S. government has done very little.

“The EPA plans to wait until 2018 before reviewing the registration of neonicotinoids. But America’s bees cannot wait three more years. Neither can the thousands of farmers that rely on pollinators,” said Representative Conyers. “Our honeybees are critical to ecological sustainability and to our economy. I am urging all of my colleagues to please protect our pollinators and support the Saving America’s Pollinators Act.”

A broad coalition of advocacy groups rallied in front of the White House and delivered more than four million petition signatures calling on the Obama administration to put forth strong protections for bees and other pollinators. Photo credit: Josette Matoto, Friends of the Earth

President Obama announced the creation of the Pollinator Health Task Force this past June and recommendations are expected later this month. “Given the historic decline in the population of pollinators—bees, butterflies and birds—it is critical that the president and White House Task Force show forceful leadership in addressing all factors contributing to the crisis, with the suspension of neonicotinoid insecticides being a critically necessary action,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, who spoke at today’s rally.

Advocates remain hopeful that the task force will take a strong stance, but they worry that federal agencies might do more of the same—voluntary farming management practices, insignificant pesticide label changes and weak state pollinator plans, according to Friends of the Earth. Given the EPA's continued registration of pesticides that are known to be highly toxic to pollinators, there's reason for concern.

Forward-thinking businesses that employ triple bottom line principles understand what's at stake. “Business leaders nationally recognize the importance of pollinators to the well-being of the economy, people, and ecosystems,” said Fran Teplitz, Co-Executive Director, Green Business Network and Bryan McGannon, Deputy Director, American Sustainable Business Council. “Businesses committed to sustainability support strong federal action to protect pollinators from pesticides linked to their decline; now is the time to act.”

The four million signatures were collected by Avaaz, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, CREDO, Earthjustice, Environment America, Food and Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, Friends of the Earth U.S., Green America, MoveOn, Organic Consumers Association, Pesticide Action Network, Save Our Environment, TakePart and Toxic Free North Carolina.

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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