There are so many issues impacting the health of the planet, but fortunately our country is full of people who put their hearts and souls every day into protecting our remaining natural resources. I would hate to see what the planet would look like if we didn't have environmental advocates fighting for a healthier world.
I just finished watching Pete McBride's Chasing Water video, in which he follows the 1,500 mile course of the Colorado River from its headwaters in the Rocky Mountain National Park to the high and dry land 80 miles from the sea providing insights on a problem that is desperately in need of solutions. Yesterday, Waterkeeper Alliance filed suit against Taylor Energy for ongoing Clean Water Act and Resource Conservation and Recovery Act violations stemming from an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that has continued to flow for more than seven years.
Josh Fox, director of the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, continues to fight for the rights of communities and clean water in his pursuit to expose the environmental and health issues related to the fracking industry. His arrest on Wednesday, while filming a House Science Committee hearing on Capitol Hill that was examining the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s investigation of potential water contamination from natural gas drilling in Pavillion, Wyoming, shows the impact a single individual can have in creating change. The fracking issue has ignited one of the largest grassroots environmental efforts our country has ever seen. From the daily formations of new community groups to protect water supplies, like the Citizens for a Healthy Community in Colorado, to the leadership of large organizations like the Sierra Club's Michael Brune denouncing fracking, one cannot underestimate the importance of grassroots advocacy in the fight to restore democracy and prevent the privatization of natural resources.
Unfortunately these fights seems to last so long. The campaign to stop mountaintop removal has been going on for more than a decade. Thanks to Jeff Biggers for his relentless coverage of the issue and call for an immediate moratorium on all mountaintop removal mining operations.
In my more than two decades working on environmental issues, the call to prevent drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) has been a continual battle. On Feb. 1, Republican leaders of the House Natural Resources Committee did the bidding of Big Oil once again and voted to open up the pristine ANWR—in addition to the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the protected eastern Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Bristol Bay—to oil drilling, all under the pretext of funding this year’s transportation bill.
The fight to protect our food supply is another long-time issue receiving great attention from the grassroots movement. From exposing Monsanto's and other big agriculture's energy-intensive industrial farming practices that rely on toxic chemicals and genetically engineered crops that are making people sick and destroying the planet, to solution-based projects where school lunchrooms support local foods and healthy choices, advocates in communities throughout the world are changing the way people eat.
The work being done by people who care is vital to creating a sustainable future and providing the next generation with a healthy world that will allow them to thrive. The choice is ours. Do we want to continue to pollute the planet, kill ourselves and have no regard for anything wild, or will more people join the grassroots environmental movement and take a stand against corporations that put profits first?
I, for one, am proud to be working with people who value our natural world and understand how we fit within the ecosystem of this incredibly beautiful planet, and feel fortunate every day to be able to promote this work through the online news service EcoWatch.org.
In 2018, a team of researchers went to West Africa's Nimba Mountains in search of one critically endangered species of bat. Along the way, they ended up discovering another.
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By Jim Palardy
As 2021 dawns, people, ecosystems, and wildlife worldwide are facing a panoply of environmental issues. In an effort to help experts and policymakers determine where they might focus research, a panel of 25 scientists and practitioners — including me — from around the globe held discussions in the fall to identify emerging issues that deserve increased attention.
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By Elliott Negin
What a difference an election makes. Thanks to the Biden-Harris victory in November, the next administration is poised to make a 180-degree turn to again address the climate crisis.
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By Suresh Dhaniyala and Byron Erath
A fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 has been found in at least 10 states, and people are wondering: How do I protect myself now?
Airborne Particles Are Still the Biggest Problem<p>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/why-it-matters-that-the-coronavirus-is-changing-and-what-this-means-for-vaccine-effectiveness-152383" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">SARS-CoV-2 variants</a> are believed to spread primarily through the air rather than on surfaces.</p><p>When someone with the coronavirus in their respiratory tract coughs, talks, sings or even just breathes, infectious respiratory droplets can be expelled into the air. These droplets are tiny, predominantly in the range of <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0021850211001200?casa_token=KtyrsEfbeqcAAAAA:vv10sSxm33tzg0EQvNMIFtV7GCu5gE9QAzuyzHKr2_4Cl0OFkUJoGwzn4d0ZnEWS19NsOTuH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">1-100 micrometers</a>. For comparison, a human hair is about 70 micrometers in diameter.</p><p>The larger droplets fall to the ground quickly, rarely traveling farther than 6 feet from the source. The bigger problem for disease transmission is the tiniest droplets – those less than 10 micrometers in diameter – which can remain suspended in the air as aerosols for <a href="https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/50/5/693/325466" target="_blank">hours at a time</a>.</p>
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What Can You Do to Stay Safe?<p>1) Pay attention to the type of face mask you use, and how it fits.</p><p>Most off-the-shelf face coverings are not 100% effective at preventing droplet emission. With the new variant spreading more easily and likely infectious at lower concentrations, it's important to select coverings with materials that are most effective at stopping droplet spread.</p><p>When available, N95 and surgical masks consistently perform the best. Otherwise, face coverings that use <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352431620301802?casa_token=-Dj6nGBAm24AAAAA:qq9BpbzCKaPDFcV73ohA2fCnhE_Zlkss6Bei3kUwq9QYndhHj0Vafbbd-ef_855lx6knDfUt" target="_blank">multiple layers of material</a> are preferable. Ideally, the material should be a tight weave. High thread count cotton sheets are an example. Proper fit is also crucial, as gaps around the nose and mouth can <a href="https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acsnano.0c03252" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">decrease the effectiveness by 50%</a>.</p><p>2) Follow social distancing guidelines.</p><p>While the current social distancing guidelines are not perfect – <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-a-smoky-bar-can-teach-us-about-the-6-foot-rule-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-145517" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">6 feet isn't always enough</a> – they do offer a useful starting point. Because aerosol concentrations levels and infectivity are highest in the space immediately surrounding anyone with the virus, increasing physical distancing can help reduce risk. Remember that people are infectious <a href="https://medical.mit.edu/faqs/COVID-19#faq-10" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">before they start showing symptoms</a>, and they many never show symptoms, so don't count on seeing signs of illness.</p><p>3) Think carefully about the environment when entering an enclosed area, both the ventilation and how people interact.</p><p>Limiting the size of gatherings helps reduce the potential for exposure. Controlling indoor environments in other ways can also be a highly effective strategy for reducing risk. This includes <a href="https://theconversation.com/what-a-smoky-bar-can-teach-us-about-the-6-foot-rule-during-the-covid-19-pandemic-145517" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">increasing ventilation rates</a> to bring in <a href="https://theconversation.com/keeping-indoor-air-clean-can-reduce-the-chance-of-spreading-coronavirus-149512" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">fresh air and filtering existing air</a> to dilute aerosol concentrations.</p><p>On a personal level, it is helpful to pay attention to the types of interactions that are taking place. For example, many individuals shouting can create a higher risk than one individual speaking. In all cases, it's important to minimize the amount of time spent indoors with others.</p><p>The CDC has warned that B.1.1.7 could <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/70/wr/mm7003e2.htm?s_cid=mm7003e2_w" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">become the dominant SARS-CoV-2 variant</a> in the U.S. by March. Other fast-spreading variants have also been found in <a href="https://virological.org/t/genomic-characterisation-of-an-emergent-sars-cov-2-lineage-in-manaus-preliminary-findings/586" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Brazil</a> and <a href="https://www.who.int/csr/don/31-december-2020-sars-cov2-variants/en/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">South Africa</a>. Increased vigilance and complying with health guidelines should continue to be of highest priority.</p>
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