Citizens Lobby in D.C. for Clean Air
A small group of concerned citizens from across the nation will meet with top officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Congressional offices Nov. 14 to tell them that the health and well-being of their families, communities, national parks, wilderness areas and businesses depends on EPA’s enforcement of clean air laws. The group does not include a single paid lobbyist, but is instead made up of parents, small business owners, outdoorsmen, an educator, a local elected official and a college student from seven states and the Navajo Nation who volunteered the time away from their family and jobs to speak out against air pollution.
“National parks and public lands are among the most important national assets the U.S. has and they are precious to me and my family,” said attendee David Simon, president of Eco Think LLC in Albuquerque, N.M. “EPA needs to require clean-up of the San Juan Generating Station and other emission sources in the west to ensure the health of my family and protection of America’s crown jewels.”
The group is offering its support to the EPA to uphold the Clean Air Act and asking members of Congress for their support in preventing industries tied to air pollution, such as coal-fired powered plants, from undermining set laws and allowing poisonous and sight-impairing soot to continue being pumped into the air. The members of the group were driven to be a part of these meetings to stand up for the right of all Americans to breathe clean air and for our most prized and iconic natural treasures to be protected from murky and unhealthy air.
“My family and I have spent time in some of the most beautiful places on earth, from the Grand Canyon to Arches to Mesa Verde national parks,” said attendee Ashley Basta, a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder. “These places are too precious to be destroyed by preventable pollution like that from coal-fired power plants and other extractive industries. I was recently fortunate enough to take part in EcoFlight’s Flight Across America Student Program, which gave me a whole new appreciation for parks in the Southwest and an increased awareness of how fragile they are. The EPA’s rules are there for a reason. If they are not upheld, these treasured places are in danger of irreparable damage.”
Without the protections of the Clean Air Act, air pollution from antiquated coal-fired power plants and other industrial emitters will continue to contribute to health problems like asthma and heart disease and leave a muddy haze over our most treasured national parks and forests, driving away tourists and straining local businesses. For far too long, clean air to breathe and clear views at places across the nation like Shenandoah National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, Voyageurs National Park, Grand Teton National Park and many other national parks and forests have come in second to corporations who, despite a 30-year-old law requiring they operate more cleanly, have vehemently resisted installing proven technologies that would greatly reduce the pollutants that are belched into our air each day by their outdated facilities.
“My family consumes a large amount of wild game. It is a staple to our diet,” said attendee Darrell Spencer, a small business owner, hunter and father from Duluth, Minnesota. “We already are advised to limit our consumption of fish because of mercury from air pollution. It worries me to think what else may affect my family’s consumption of wild game in the future. It worries me even more that someday my kids may see haze pollution in the Class 1 areas of northern Minnesota. America’s hunters, anglers and the 79 billion dollar industry that supports them, are glad to see the long overdue EPA action to fulfill its obligation under the Clean Air Act’s Regional Haze Program.”
The EPA must be allowed to do its job, which is to protect the health and welfare of the people and our iconic national parks and forests, from special interests. Our children and grandchildren deserve better than to inherit a degraded, dirtier version of the nation we received.
To speak out to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson about the need for her agency to uphold the rules of the Clean Air Act, click here.
Below is a list of the individuals taking part in the meetings with EPA officials and members of Congress.
• Ashley Basta - Boulder, Colorado - a senior at the University of Colorado at Boulder, majoring in the interdisciplinary study of the humanities with an emphasis on community studies and creative writing.
• Bob Sanderson - Tempe, Arizona - a mechanical engineer by training, who owns and manages a small business in Phoenix dealing in industrial control hardware.
• Darrell Spencer - Duluth, Minnesota - a small business owner from Duluth, Minnesota. He spends 100 or more days a year fishing, hunting, skiing and hiking in Chippewa & Superior National Forest as well as the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Darrell and his wife Pam have two boys ages 8 and 14.
• Dan Smitherman - Bondurant, Wyoming - a retired Marine officer, a former outfitter in the Wyoming Range, and a current hunting and wilderness guide/outfitter in the Bridger Wilderness of the Bridger-Teton National Forest.
• Donna House - Teelch’int’í, Navajo Nation - a botanical consultant currently assisting Indigenous/Native American community-based organizations in protecting eco-cultural diversity from adverse development. She is a member of the Navajo Nation and inhabits a farm along the Rio Grande in Ohkay Owingeh territory and a home in Teelch’int’í on the Navajo Nation.
• Carol Jean Larsen - Bismarck, North Dakota - grew up in western North Dakota just a few miles from Theodore Roosevelt National Park. She is retired from a career that included teaching high school English, managing a travel agency, free-lance writing and managing a North Dakota state political party.
• Dave Norris - Charlottesville, Virginia - has served as Mayor of Charlottesville, Virginia, since January 2008. During his time in office, Dave has chaired Charlottesville's Environmental Sustainability Committee and has championed a wide range of clean energy, smart growth, alternative transportation and green space protection measures. Mere miles from Shenandoah National Park, Charlottesville is consistently rated as one of the best places in the country to live, work and enjoy the outdoors.
• David Simon - Albuquerque, New Mexico - president of Eco Think LLC, which focuses on protection of the great outdoors and cultural heritage, sustainable economic development, environmental education, nature-based wellness programs, and renewable energy. He has held leadership positions in public service as director of New Mexico State Parks and assistant commissioner at the New Mexico State Land Office.
For more information, click here.
By Dana M Bergstrom, Euan Ritchie, Lesley Hughes and Michael Depledge
In 1992, 1,700 scientists warned that human beings and the natural world were "on a collision course." Seventeen years later, scientists described planetary boundaries within which humans and other life could have a "safe space to operate." These are environmental thresholds, such as the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and changes in land use.
The Good and Bad News<p><span>Ecosystems consist of living and non-living components, and their interactions. They work like a super-complex engine: when some components are removed or stop working, knock-on consequences can lead to system failure.</span></p><p>Our study is based on measured data and observations, not modeling or predictions for the future. Encouragingly, not all ecosystems we examined have collapsed across their entire range. We still have, for instance, some intact reefs on the Great Barrier Reef, especially in deeper waters. And northern Australia has some of the most intact and least-modified stretches of savanna woodlands on Earth.</p><p><span>Still, collapses are happening, including in regions critical for growing food. This includes the </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/importance-murray-darling-basin/where-basin" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Murray-Darling Basin</a><span>, which covers around 14% of Australia's landmass. Its rivers and other freshwater systems support more than </span><a href="https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/[email protected]/latestproducts/94F2007584736094CA2574A50014B1B6?opendocument" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">30% of Australia's food</a><span> production.</span></p><p><span></span><span>The effects of floods, fires, heatwaves and storms do not stop at farm gates; they're felt equally in agricultural areas and natural ecosystems. We shouldn't forget how towns ran out of </span><a href="https://www.mdba.gov.au/issues-murray-darling-basin/drought#effects" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">drinking water</a><span> during the recent drought.</span></p><p><span></span><span>Drinking water is also at risk when ecosystems collapse in our water catchments. In Victoria, for example, the degradation of giant </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/logging-must-stop-in-melbournes-biggest-water-supply-catchment-106922" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mountain Ash forests</a><span> greatly reduces the amount of water flowing through the Thompson catchment, threatening nearly five million people's drinking water in Melbourne.</span></p><p>This is a dire <em data-redactor-tag="em">wake-up</em> call — not just a <em data-redactor-tag="em">warning</em>. Put bluntly, current changes across the continent, and their potential outcomes, pose an existential threat to our survival, and other life we share environments with.</p><p><span>In investigating patterns of collapse, we found most ecosystems experience multiple, concurrent pressures from both global climate change and regional human impacts (such as land clearing). Pressures are often </span><a href="https://besjournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/1365-2664.13427" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">additive and extreme</a><span>.</span></p><p>Take the last 11 years in Western Australia as an example.</p><p>In the summer of 2010 and 2011, a <a href="https://theconversation.com/marine-heatwaves-are-getting-hotter-lasting-longer-and-doing-more-damage-95637" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">heatwave</a> spanning more than 300,000 square kilometers ravaged both marine and land ecosystems. The extreme heat devastated forests and woodlands, kelp forests, seagrass meadows and coral reefs. This catastrophe was followed by two cyclones.</p><p>A record-breaking, marine heatwave in late 2019 dealt a further blow. And another marine heatwave is predicted for <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/dec/24/wa-coastline-facing-marine-heatwave-in-early-2021-csiro-predicts" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">this April</a>.</p>
What to Do About It?<p><span>Our brains trust comprises 38 experts from 21 universities, CSIRO and the federal Department of Agriculture Water and Environment. Beyond quantifying and reporting more doom and gloom, we asked the question: what can be done?</span></p><p>We devised a simple but tractable scheme called the 3As:</p><ul><li>Awareness of what is important</li><li>Anticipation of what is coming down the line</li><li>Action to stop the pressures or deal with impacts.</li></ul><p>In our paper, we identify positive actions to help protect or restore ecosystems. Many are already happening. In some cases, ecosystems might be better left to recover by themselves, such as coral after a cyclone.</p><p>In other cases, active human intervention will be required – for example, placing artificial nesting boxes for Carnaby's black cockatoos in areas where old trees have been <a href="https://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/threatened/publications/factsheet-carnabys-black-cockatoo-calyptorhynchus-latirostris" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">removed</a>.</p><p><span>"Future-ready" actions are also vital. This includes reinstating </span><a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/a-burning-question-fire/12395700" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultural burning practices</a><span>, which have </span><a href="https://theconversation.com/australia-you-have-unfinished-business-its-time-to-let-our-fire-people-care-for-this-land-135196" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">multiple values and benefits for Aboriginal communities</a><span> and can help minimize the risk and strength of bushfires.</span></p><p>It might also include replanting banks along the Murray River with species better suited to <a href="https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/my-garden-path---matt-hansen/12322978" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">warmer conditions</a>.</p><p>Some actions may be small and localized, but have substantial positive benefits.</p><p>For example, billions of migrating Bogong moths, the main summer food for critically endangered mountain pygmy possums, have not arrived in their typical numbers in Australian alpine regions in recent years. This was further exacerbated by the <a href="https://theconversation.com/six-million-hectares-of-threatened-species-habitat-up-in-smoke-129438" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">2019-20</a> fires. Brilliantly, <a href="https://www.zoo.org.au/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Zoos Victoria</a> anticipated this pressure and developed supplementary food — <a href="https://theconversation.com/looks-like-an-anzac-biscuit-tastes-like-a-protein-bar-bogong-bikkies-help-mountain-pygmy-possums-after-fire-131045" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Bogong bikkies</a>.</p><p><span>Other more challenging, global or large-scale actions must address the </span><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iICpI9H0GkU&t=34s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">root cause of environmental threats</a><span>, such as </span><a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41559-018-0504-8" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">human population growth and per-capita consumption</a><span> of environmental resources.</span><br></p><p>We must rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero, remove or suppress invasive species such as <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/mam.12080" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">feral cats</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/the-buffel-kerfuffle-how-one-species-quietly-destroys-native-wildlife-and-cultural-sites-in-arid-australia-149456" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">buffel grass</a>, and stop widespread <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-reduce-fire-risk-and-meet-climate-targets-over-300-scientists-call-for-stronger-land-clearing-laws-113172" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">land clearing</a> and other forms of habitat destruction.</p>
Our Lives Depend On It<p>The multiple ecosystem collapses we have documented in Australia are a harbinger for <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/protected-areas/202102/natures-future-our-future-world-speaks" target="_blank">environments globally</a>.</p><p>The simplicity of the 3As is to show people <em>can</em> do something positive, either at the local level of a landcare group, or at the level of government departments and conservation agencies.</p><p>Our lives and those of our <a href="https://theconversation.com/children-are-our-future-and-the-planets-heres-how-you-can-teach-them-to-take-care-of-it-113759" target="_blank">children</a>, as well as our <a href="https://theconversation.com/taking-care-of-business-the-private-sector-is-waking-up-to-natures-value-153786" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">economies</a>, societies and <a href="https://theconversation.com/to-address-the-ecological-crisis-aboriginal-peoples-must-be-restored-as-custodians-of-country-108594" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cultures</a>, depend on it.</p><p>We simply cannot afford any further delay.</p><p><em><a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/dana-m-bergstrom-1008495" target="_blank" style="">Dana M Bergstrom</a> is a principal research scientist at the University of Wollongong. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/euan-ritchie-735" target="_blank" style="">Euan Ritchie</a> is a professor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation, Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life & Environmental Sciences at Deakin University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/lesley-hughes-5823" target="_blank">Lesley Hughes</a> is a professor at the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University. <a rel="noopener noreferrer" href="https://theconversation.com/profiles/michael-depledge-114659" target="_blank">Michael Depledge</a> is a professor and chair, Environment and Human Health, at the University of Exeter. </em></p><p><em>Disclosure statements: Dana Bergstrom works for the Australian Antarctic Division and is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Wollongong. Her research including fieldwork on Macquarie Island and in Antarctica was supported by the Australian Antarctic Division.</em></p><p><em>Euan Ritchie receives funding from the Australian Research Council, The Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, Australian Geographic, Parks Victoria, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC. Euan Ritchie is a Director (Media Working Group) of the Ecological Society of Australia, and a member of the Australian Mammal Society.</em></p><p><em>Lesley Hughes receives funding from the Australian Research Council. She is a Councillor with the Climate Council of Australia, a member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists and a Director of WWF-Australia.</em></p><p><em>Michael Depledge does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.</em></p><p><em>Reposted with permission from <a href="https://theconversation.com/existential-threat-to-our-survival-see-the-19-australian-ecosystems-already-collapsing-154077" target="_blank" style="">The Conversation</a>. </em></p>
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