How We’re Collaborating to Eliminate Plastic in Washington DC
By 2018 Ocean Heroes: Claire MacQueen (13 years old), Sabine Thomas (13) and Ava Inskeep (14)
We despise single-use plastics. We want to keep our oceans and our beaches clean. Early last year I (Claire) lived in India for several months and became curious about plastic waste, as it was much more visible in India than back home in the U.S. Seeing all the plastic waste while I was visiting helped me to understand that much of the trash produced by the U.S. actually ends up in developing countries, like India, which does not have a proper waste management system like we do at home, which causes a ton of trash to end up in waterways and the ocean.
While I was in India, an activist that I got to know nominated me for the 2018 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, a global youth summit co-founded by Lonely Whale, Captain Planet Foundation and Point Break Foundation. The Bootcamp equips participants with tools to develop campaigns to fight plastic pollution.
I recruited my friend Sabine to join me at Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, and we both learned how we could help our community rely less on single-use plastic.
Once Sabine and I returned from the Bootcamp, our friend Ava also got involved, and we started the Instagram account, Straw Free D.C.
Sabine, Claire and Ava spoke with the Washington Post last month at the Washington International School.Theresa Vargas / The Washington Post
As eighth-grade students, we didn't know how much influence we would have across our nation's capital to eliminate single-use plastics in Washington DC but understanding that big results sometimes come from small steps, we decided to first focus on eliminating single-use plastics in our school.
We noticed a lot of unnecessary single-use plastics at school, like the cafeteria's plastic cutlery dispensers that dispense multiple single-use plastics at a time, causing many unused utensils to fall on the floor and land in the waste. When we raised this concern to the Washington International school, leadership invited us to help select our school's next food service provider, which will be decided by the end of the 2019 school year. Within this new role, we will get to weigh-in on each company's sustainability practices, including their use of single-use plastic.
While we were working to reduce plastics in our school, we were also developing our citywide campaign focused on single-use plastic straws. The timing of our campaign launch was very fortunate. To support the ban on plastic straws, our first step was to email the council-people who represent Wards 1, 2 and 4, because two are the representatives of the wards in which we live and the third is an at-large member who represents all DC residents. When we got in touch with Brianne Nadeau, representative of Ward 1, she told us about a proposed city wide ban on straws which they were already working on. After learning about the ban, and that it only included plastic straws and stirrers, we wanted to take things a step further and support legislation that would eliminate single-use plastic straws and utensils. So, we went back to our school and met with our principal to discuss plastic use in the cafeteria. Our school will soon be choosing a new food provider, and we will be able to advocate for the company that we think will be the most environmentally friendly.
We hope that our efforts can be a model for other DC schools to follow in the future. We also hope to continue growing our social media campaign to raise awareness across our community and the region.
We credit Ocean Heroes Bootcamp with the inspiration that helped us learn to work with each other and how to reach out to other activists fighting to eliminate single-use plastics in our community.
It's important that everyone is doing their part to make a difference for our environment—including the youth!
Kids have longer to live on this planet, so it's in our best interest to take care of it. If nothing changes, there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050 (we'll only be in our early 40's by then!)
Collaborating with friends and other activists is not only more fun, but also allows us to combine our different skill sets, and ultimately accomplish a lot more than we could on our own.
We're so excited for the 2019 Ocean Heroes Bootcamp and we're looking forward to learning new effective ways to beat plastic pollution and make a difference in our community.
Yet another former Trump administration staffer has come out with an endorsement for former Vice President Joe Biden, this time in response to President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
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Every September for the past 11 years, non-profit the Climate Group has hosted Climate Week NYC, a chance for business, government, activist and community leaders to come together and discuss solutions to the climate crisis.
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By Elliot Douglas
The coronavirus pandemic has altered economic priorities for governments around the world. But as wildfires tear up the west coast of the United States and Europe reels after one of its hottest summers on record, tackling climate change remains at the forefront of economic policy.
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By D. André Green II
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>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.