The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
63 Dead, 631 Missing in Deadliest, Most Destructive Fire in California History
The death toll from the catastrophic Camp Fire—by far the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history—has now risen to 63, with 631 people still unaccounted for, the Huffington Post reported Friday.
The Butte County Sheriff's Office announced on Thursday that the death toll had risen from Wednesday's figure of 56 after the remains of seven more people were discovered in the wreckage.
The number of missing made a big jump from the 130 people officials said were unaccounted for on Wednesday. Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea told reporters at a news briefing that the increase was a result of officials looking tirelessly through reports after Wednesday's announcement, and many of the missing could be safely in shelters.
"The reason that that number went up is because after they went up, [emergency officials] didn't stop working, they continued to work into the night," Honea told reporters, according to The Huffington Post. "I'm fine with that update, because I would rather get that information out than wait too much longer to do that."
Honea told people to check the list of those reported missing to make sure they aren't on it.
"I want you to understand that there are a lot of people displaced and there are a lot of people who don't know we're looking for them," Honea said.
The Camp Fire has burned more than 11,800 structures so far, including 9,700 homes. The destruction has displaced more than 52,000 people in an area already facing a housing shortage, The Sacramento Bee reported.
Local officials told The Sacramento Bee that the fire could force migration comparable to what happened during the Dust Bowl during the 1930s, though on a smaller scale.
When asked if Butte County faced a humanitarian crisis, the executive director of the county's housing office Ed Mayer said, "We're on the edge."
Mayer said that 6,000 to 7,000 households were likely to be permanently displaced by the fire. The county has the means to rehouse only 800 to 1,000 households permanently, and officials are overwhelmed when it comes to short-term options.
"We could make the choice to put them in temporary (shelters) to try to absorb those households for three to five years, meaning refugee camps and trying to keep our community together. That's one choice," Mayer said. "The other choice is we say, 'We can't do it, we don't have the ability (to find shelters) and go fend for yourselves.'"
Conditions in the temporary shelters that do exist also aren't entirely healthy. A norovirus outbreak has sickened 141 people at four Butte County shelters, the county announced Thursday.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said it did not yet have a plan to house the survivors of the fire, but the fact that President Donald Trump signed a major emergency declaration for the fire Monday means that federal funds can now flow towards recovery efforts.
"We don't have a housing plan right this second," FEMA spokeswoman Brandi Richard said Tuesday, according to The Sacramento Bee. "That's something the state and local officials and FEMA teams are working on."
The fire has now burned 141,000 acres and is 40 percent contained, according to the most recent Cal Fire update.
The dry, windy conditions that fanned the flames are expected to persist, though National Weather Service meteorologist Aviva Braun said there could be rain by the end of next week, the Huffington Post reported.
- Wildfires 2018: humans are making fires worse at every step - Vox ›
- Why are California wildfires so bad? An interactive look | World ... ›
- In Photos: The 2018 California Wildfires as Seen from Space ›
- California fires leave devastation in their wake - CNN Video ›
- Camp Fire: Latest information, deaths, containment & how to help ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Farms with just one or a handful of different crops encourage fewer species of pollinating and pest-controlling insects to linger, ultimately winnowing away crop yields, according to a new study.
Up to half of the detrimental impacts of the "landscape simplification" that monocropping entails come as a result of a diminished mix of ecosystem service-providing insects, a team of scientists reported Oct. 16 in the journal Science Advances.
Monocrop palm oil plantation Honduras.
SHARE Foundation / Flickr / CC BY-NC 2.0
"Our study shows that biodiversity is essential to ensure the provision of ecosystem services and to maintain a high and stable agricultural production," Matteo Dainese, the study's lead author and a biologist at Eurac Research in Bolzano, Italy, said in a statement.
It stands to reason that, with declines in the sheer numbers of insects that ferry pollen from plant to plant and keep crop-eating pests under control, these services will wane as well. But until now, it hasn't been clear how monocultures affect the number and mix of these species or how crop yields might change as a result.
Aiming to solve these questions, Dainese and his colleagues pulled together data from 89 studies cutting across a variety of landscapes, from the tropics of Asia and Africa to the higher latitudes of northern Europe. They tabulated the number of pollinating and pest-controlling insects at these sites — both the absolute number of individuals and the number of species — along with an assessment of the ecosystem services the insects provided.
In almost all of the studies they looked at, the team found that a more diverse pool of these species translated into more pollination and greater pest control. They also showed that simplified landscapes supported fewer species of service-providing insects, which ultimately led to lower crop yields.
The researchers also looked at a third measure of the makeup of insect populations — what they called "evenness." In natural ecosystems, a handful of dominant species with many more individuals typically live alongside a higher number of rarer species. The team found as landscapes became less diverse, dominant species numbers dwindled and rare species gained ground. This resulting, more equitable mix led to less pollination (though it didn't end up affecting pest control).
"Our study provides strong empirical support for the potential benefits of new pathways to sustainable agriculture that aim to reconcile the protection of biodiversity and the production of food for increasing human populations," Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, one of the study's authors and an animal ecologist at the University of Würzburg in Germany, said in the statement.
The scientists figure that the richness of pollinator species explains around a third of the harmful impacts of less diverse landscapes, while the richness of pest-controlling species accounts for about half of the same measure. In their view, the results of their research point to the need to protect biodiversity on and around crops in an uncertain future.
"Under future conditions with ongoing global change and more frequent extreme climate events, the value of farmland biodiversity ensuring resilience against environmental disturbances will become even more important," Steffan-Dewenter said.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Mongabay.
Ivory Coast's rainforests have been decimated by cocoa production and what is left is put in peril by a new law that will remove legal protections for thousands of square miles of forests, according to The Guardian.
By Karin Kirk
Greenland had quite the summer. It rose from peaceful obscurity to global headliner as ice melted so swiftly and massively that many were left grasping for adjectives. Then, Greenland's profile was further boosted, albeit not to its delight, when President Trump expressed interest in buying it, only to be summarily dismissed by the Danish prime minister.
During that time I happened to be in East Greenland, both as an observer of the stark effects of climate change and as a witness to local dialogue about presidential real estate aspirations, polar bear migrations and Greenland's sudden emergence as a trending topic.
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market. Cirou Frederic / PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections / Getty Images
Heavy metals that may damage a developing brain are present in 95 percent of baby foods on the market, according to new research from the advocacy organization Healthy Babies Bright Futures (HBBF), which bills itself as an alliance of scientists, nonprofit organizations and donors trying to reduce exposures to neurotoxic chemicals during the first three years of development.
By Kerstin Palme
Creepy-crawlies are among the oldest life forms on this planet. Before dinosaurs ever walked the earth, insects were certainly already there. Some estimates date their origins to 400 million years ago. They're also extremely successful. Of the 7 to 8 million species documented on Earth, around three quarters are likely bugs.
But several insect species could disappear for good in the next few decades and that would have serious consequences for humans.
Volvo introduced its first-ever all-electric vehicle this week, kicking off an ambitious plan to slash emissions and phase out solely gas-powered vehicles starting this year.
The report, released Wednesday, found that almost every European who lives in a city is exposed to unhealthy air, Reuters reported.