Beijing Awarded 2022 Winter Olympics Despite No Snow and Toxic Air Pollution
A recent AP investigation revealed that Rio de Janeiro's waterways in which Olympic athletes will compete next summer are so contaminated with human feces that they risk becoming violently ill and unable to compete in the games. Many athletes have already fallen ill who are training on or in the water, and many more are sure to become sick as athletes take part in qualifying events in the water beginning this weekend.
— CNN International (@cnni) July 31, 2015
The city's atrocious water quality persists despite the fact that Brazilian officials vowed to clean up the city's waterways ahead of the games. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach told reporters this week that "some cleaning measures have begun already and others will be applied just before and during the Games," according to Voice of America. So, there is still hope for water quality to improve for athletes. But addressing the waste management system of a city whose population has hit a staggering 12 million is no small feat and sanitation projects are behind schedule.
So, now that Beijing was chosen Friday as the host city for the 2022 Winter Olympics, it begs the question, will Beijing succeed where Rio has failed? The Chinese capital city has been down this road before. It vowed to clean its dangerously polluted air ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympics, which it did manage to accomplish while the games were going on, but only through temporary measures such as closing factories and banning cars from the roads. But a wildly viral film on China's massive air pollution problem, which aired earlier this year, shows that Beijing's toxic smog has not gone away. In fact, cancer has become one of the leading causes of death in the city and throughout the country due to its abysmal air quality, according to Dr. David Suzuki.
Of course, in vying to secure its bid to host the 2022 Olympics, Beijing officials again made promises to clean the air. Last month, Beijing mayor Wang Anshun said the city will take "effective measures" to tackle air pollution and vowed to be up to the World Health Organization's air quality standards by 2020. Wang said that clean air is not only important for the games, but also for public health.
But maybe things will be different this time around. "Beijing has invested $130 billion in more than 80 measures to reduce pollution from primary sources, including fuel oil, coal, industrial emissions and construction dust," reports China Daily. And the measures seem to be working. The Beijing Municipal Bureau of Environmental Protection reported that air pollutants declined 17 percent in May from the same period last year. The city still has a long way to go, but city officials say they plan to do even more in the seven years leading up to the games, including further investment and more than 500 measures.
There's one other small issue with Beijing hosting the Olympics: not much snow. The areas outside of Beijing which will host alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and Nordic skiing "have minimal annual snowfall and for the Games would rely completely on artificial snow," reports Business Insider. "There would be no opportunity to haul snow from higher elevations for contingency maintenance to the racecourses so a contingency plan would rely on stockpiled man-made snow."
— TrivWorks (@TrivWorks) July 31, 2015
— Manuel Veth (@homosovieticus) July 31, 2015
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
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The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
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