Conservation Groups Say No to Tar Sands Mine Expansion
Conservation groups from Canada and the U.S., represented by Earthjustice and Ecojustice, have submitted a letter to the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency asking its Joint Review Panel to decide that Shell Canada's proposed Jackpine Mine Expansion project in Alberta, Canada should not proceed as it will cause significant adverse effects and will not be in the public interest. The agency will hold its hearing on Oct. 29. The letter describes how tar sands operations are harming at least 130 migratory bird species, including endangered whooping cranes, as well as threatened woodland caribou herds. The letter also highlights shocking data from a recent report, produced by Shell, which determined there will be severe impacts on wildlife habitat if tar sands operations expand as planned in the region.
“It's critical that the Canadian government consider that Shell itself recently concluded that if the Shell Jackpine Mine Expansion project and other proposed projects are approved, woodland caribou would lose a staggering 47 percent of their high quality habitat, as compared to pre-industrial conditions," said Sarah Burt, an attorney at Earthjustice. “Such negative impacts greatly undermine international protections and conservation efforts."
The Shell report also identified at least two bird species protected under the Migratory Bird Convention that would be severely affected: horned grebes would lose 26 percent of their high quality habitat as compared to pre-industrial conditions, while olive-sided flycatchers would lose 13 percent.
“Considering the cumulative impacts that the Shell mine expansion would exacerbate, we urge the review panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency to conclude that the Shell mine expansion would have significant adverse effects, and is not in the public interest," said Melissa Gorrie, staff counsel with Ecojustice.
“We know that tar sands mining permanently damages the environment and destroys forests and wetlands with vast infrastructure, open pit mines, and toxic wastewater ponds up to three miles wide." said James Murphy, senior counsel at National Wildlife Federation. “Waterbirds mistake those tailings ponds for natural ponds. They land in the contaminated water and get coated in oil and other toxins. They often drown, die from hypothermia, or suffer from ingestion of toxins."
“We are facing the extinction of most of Alberta's woodland caribou herds and the loss of millions of migratory birds in the tar sands region in the next few decades," said Susan Casey-Lefkowitz, director of the International Program at Natural Resources Defense Council. “Whooping cranes are particularly vulnerable to the risk of landing in a tailings pond. The Shell mine is in the migratory flight path of the entire global population of wild, migratory whooping cranes—only 400 are left. Expanding tar sands mining in the region increases risks for this remarkable endangered species."
“Tar sands are a massive source of greenhouse gas pollution that will increase wildfires, droughts, and vegetation shifts in Alberta's boreal forests and contribute to rising seas and severe storms in the U.S.," said Devorah Ancel, attorney at the Sierra Club. "Mining tar sands in Canada also has significant downstream impacts, including risks of catastrophic spills and air quality degradation because tar sands are transported to the U.S. for refining. The Canadian government must take action to prevent mining from expanding as proposed."
The letter marks the one year anniversary of the submission of a similar petition to the Secretary of the Interior of the U.S. calling for the certification of Canada regarding Canada's failure to prevent takings of woodland caribou and migratory birds, including whooping cranes, which result from large-scale tar sands development in Alberta. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service forwarded the petition to the Canadian government but has not received a response. U.S. officials state they cannot move forward on the petition without a response from Canada. The coalition is now addressing these issues directly with the Canadian government by issuing this letter.
Conservation groups that signed the letter include Center for Biological Diversity, Council of Canadians, Environmental Defence, Forest Ethics, Friends of the Earth, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club.
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With more than 1.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and more than 100,000 deaths from the virus, physicians face unprecedented challenges in their efforts to keep Americans safe.
They also encounter what some call an "infodemic," an outbreak of misinformation that's making it more difficult to treat patients.
When Leaders and Doctors Spread Misinformation<p>When people in charge of towns, cities, states, and countries spread misinformation, the potential for belief in misinformation to result in policies can have harmful effects.</p><p><a href="https://www.northwell.edu/find-care/find-a-doctor?q=Bruce+E.+Hirsch%2C+MD&insurance=&location=&query_type=provider&physician_partners=false&default_view=list&gender=&language=&sort=relevancy" target="_blank">Dr. Bruce E. Hirsch</a>, attending physician and assistant professor in the infectious disease division of Northwell Health in Manhasset, New York, says an example of this is when President Trump informed the public he was taking hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure.</p><p>"To approach this enormous challenge, we need some intellectual honesty and clarity, and to disregard expertise and to make decisions and model decisions based on hunches is inviting us to handle challenges on the basis of rumor and uninformed opinion. The magnitude of that error is epic," Hirsch told Healthline.</p><p>Stukus agrees, noting that the harm of this proclamation is documented.</p><p>"Early on when the president touted the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, people started to hoard this medicine, and state boards had to shut it down because they were getting so many prescriptions for this unproven therapy that it was not available for those who truly needed it, such as those who have lupus and autoimmune conditions," Stukus said.</p><p>He adds that calls to poison control centers increased after the president suggested using disinfectant to prevent contracting the new coronavirus.</p>
Listen to Science, Even When it Changes<p>When recommendations change or evidence flip-flops, skepticism may arise. However, Stukus says change is the beauty of science.</p><p>"That shows us that we can evolve, and if the evidence shows that our prior thoughts were incorrect, we need to be able to change our recommendations and advice based upon the best quality of evidence at the time," he said.</p><p>Pierre agrees.</p><p>"Science is an iterative process, whereby we arrive at facts and truth through repeated and controlled observations. That means that it's inherently self-correcting as we revise conclusions based on ongoing research. Scientific facts aren't immutable dogma chiseled on a tablet. They change based on the best available evidence we have at a given point in time," he said.</p><p>Because research of COVID-19 has only been underway for 6 months, information is evolving rapidly, and new information may contradict old.</p><p>"There's still much we don't know about exactly how [COVID-19] spreads, what effects it has on the body, or how to best treat it. That means that the best available evidence is preliminary, but that doesn't mean that we should ignore it or turn to other sources of information or opinion as if they're just as valid," Pierre said.</p><p>He explains that conspiracy theories based on mistrust lead to vulnerability to misinformation.</p><p>If people mistrust science because it sometimes "changes its mind," Pierre said, "that shouldn't be used to embrace other opinions based on no evidence at all, which are typically selected based on confirmation bias: what we want to believe rather than what the objective evidence supports."</p>
Where to Find the Best Information<p>Stukus says to start with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a> and <a href="https://www.nih.gov/health-information/coronavirus" target="_blank">NIH</a>. Then check with your local health officials, because COVID-19 guidelines may vary depending on where you live.</p><p>If you can't find information you need or have questions specifically related to you, call your primary care doctor.</p><p>"Your personal doctor should always be a resource for individual specific questions because they know best how to apply all the nuances retaining to your health, and how to incorporate all the other general [COVID-19] recommendations," Stukus said.</p><p><a href="https://www.eehealth.org/find-a-doctor/b/boyd-laura-b/" target="_blank">Dr. Laura Boyd</a>, primary care physician at Edward-Elmhurst Health Center in Elmhurst, Illinois, says her clinic receives a lot of calls about COVID-19.</p><p>"Most doctors' offices are receiving calls and answering questions, and doing phone or video visits to help clarify and/or order testing over the phone based on patients' symptoms. It is always best to call your doctor's office first instead of worrying about symptoms and waiting too long to seek treatment," she told Healthline.</p><p>If your primary care doctor has limited testing, she suggests looking on your state's public health website for available testing sites.</p><p>With a lot of unknowns related to this virus and disease, Boyd says many patients are feeling overwhelmed and anxious for a treatment.</p><p>"Unfortunately, there is no specific medication recommended for COVID for outpatient. There are a lot of ongoing studies with various drugs going on within the hospital setting. Patients should always contact their doctors about their specific symptoms as they can treat the symptoms that go along with COVID, but there is no cure," Boyd said.</p><p>While we wait for treatment and a vaccine, Hirsch, who treats patients hospitalized for COVID-19 complications on a daily basis, says everyone can do their part by washing hands, wearing a mask, and staying 6 feet apart.</p><p>"As an infectious disease doctor working in the hospital, I see the damage of the pandemic and the worst cases of what's happening. We are trying to get the best possible outcome and confronting this overwhelming biologic reality of this terrible epidemic the best we can," Hirsch said.</p><p>Everyone at home can help in the fight too, he adds.</p><p>"Follow information that is science- and evidence-based, and avoid that which is not," he said.</p>
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