Landmark Revisions Signed to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement
At today’s signing of the revised Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in Washington, D.C., representatives from Great Lakes United and the National Wildlife Federation applauded the completion of the agreement but cautioned the U.S. and Canadian governments that the hard work of implementing the Agreement is just beginning.
“We are honored to attend today the signing of landmark revisions to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, the U.S.-Canadian agreement that is so important to the health of the Great Lakes,” said John Jackson, interim executive director of Great Lakes United. “These revisions were eight years in the making. We hope they will lead to revitalized action from the governments and their partners working together bi-nationally across the entire Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin from Duluth to Québec City. Protection, cleanup and restoration are essential to ensure that we live in a vital, thriving Great Lakes basin. Today we applaud. Tomorrow we get to work.”
“If fully implemented, the agreement will benefit millions of people by restoring the health of the largest fresh water resource in the world,” said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation. “We are pleased to see that the governments have kept the focus of the Agreement on Great Lakes water quality. While the Agreement continues to focus on cleaning up pollution in the Great Lakes, the revisions are designed to address broader threats to water quality, including aquatic invasive species, climate change, habitat destruction and harmful substances that are not necessarily persistent toxic substances.”
The Agreement contains some targets for addressing these stresses. For example, it requires phosphorus reduction targets for Lake Erie within three years and action plans within five years. It sets a two-year deadline for the development and implementation of an early detection and rapid response system for aquatic invasive species. It does not include timelines for cleaning up Areas of Concern (toxic hotspots) or achieving virtual elimination of chemicals of concern.
Jackson said, “While we praise today the signing of this new Agreement, this is only the first step. No matter what the words on the page say, this Agreement will only be effective if the U.S. and Canadian governments act to implement it.”
“We know this from experience,” Buchsbaum said. “For example, when the governments enacted new laws and rules to implement the 1987 Amendments–as the U.S. Congress and the U.S. EPA and Environment Canada did to address persistent toxic substances in the Great Lakes–the Agreement helped bring the lakes back to health. But when the governments have failed to implement parts of the Agreement, the lakes suffer.”
U.S. and Canadian officials have stated in reports that the Great Lakes would be far better off today if the governments had more fully implemented the 1987 Agreement—the last time the Water Quality Agreement was updated.
“We ring this alarm bell with today’s revised Agreement,” Jackson said. “We call on the governments to ensure a more effective implementation of the Agreement they signed today.”
Great Lakes United and the National Wildlife Federation requested that the governments take the three following actions:
• Ensure that adequate resources are available to implement the Agreement. “Unfortunately, we are currently going the wrong direction on this matter,” Jackson said. “In the past year, the Canadian Government has moved swiftly towards its goal of eliminating hundreds of government scientist positions, even as they commit in the revised Agreement to science-based decision-making. Canada is planning to close down the major Canadian research station dedicated to freshwater experimentation that has been so important in deepening our understanding of problems and solutions.”
“On the U.S. side, there has been better news, but the future is worrisome,” Buchsbaum said. “We were pleased to see $475 million added to the Great Lakes budget in 2010 under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. But we now see budget fights that have reduced that budget to $300 million dollars annually. The federal fund to support sewage treatment upgrades (so important for the Great Lakes) has also been substantially cut. We fear what further cuts may come.”
• Strengthen and expand legislation and regulations as needed to protect the Great Lakes. In Canada, movement is in the opposite direction aimed at weakening legislation such as the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act and the Fisheries Act. In the U.S., Congressional efforts have been to gut the Clean Water Act protections that are the foundation of Great Lakes health.
“The Great Lakes need more protections, not fewer,” said Buchsbaum.
• Involve the public to ensure progress and accountability. “We need opportunities for more complete public and stakeholder engagement in the implementation of the Agreement,” said Jackson. The new Agreement has more references to involving the public than did the previous one—though it is weak in how it will specifically engage U.S. and Canadian citizens. The only specific commitment is a public forum once every three years. “We need true public engagement by, for example, including stakeholders as full members of working committees set up under the Agreement,” he said.
“We hope that this revised Agreement will revitalize the binational focus on protecting and restoring the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River ecosystem,” said Jackson. “This Agreement is the main way in which the governments work internationally across the basin on water quality issues. For the well-being of the millions of people who live in the basin, we must ensure that this new Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement is implemented fully and effectively.”
Visit EcoWatch’s WATER page for more related news on this topic.
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By Gwen Ranniger
In the midst of a pandemic, sales of cleaning products have skyrocketed, and many feel a need to clean more often. Knowing what to look for when purchasing cleaning supplies can help prevent unwanted and dangerous toxics from entering your home.
1. Fragrance – Avoid It<p>One of the fastest ways to narrow down your product options is immediately eliminating any product that promotes a fragrance, or parfum. That scent of "fresh breeze" or lemon might initially smell good, but the fragrance does not last. What does last? The concoction of various undisclosed and unregulated chemicals that created that fragrance.</p><p>Many fragrances contain phthalates, which are linked to many health risks including reproductive problems and cancer.</p>
2. With Bleach? Do Without<p>Going scent-free should have narrowed down your options substantially – now, check the front of the remaining packaging. Any that include ammonia or chlorine bleach ought to go, as these substances are irritating and corrosive to your body. While bleach is commonly known as a powerful disinfectant, there are safer alternatives that you can use in your home, such as sodium borate or hydrogen peroxide.</p><p>While you're at it, check if there are any warnings on the label – "flammable," "use in ventilated area," etc. – if the product is hazardous, that's a red flag and should be avoided.</p>
3. Check the Back Label<p>Flip to the back of the remaining contenders and check out that ingredient list. Less is more, here. Opt for a shorter ingredient list with words you recognize and/or can pronounce.</p><p>You may notice many products do not have ingredient lists – while this doesn't necessarily mean they contain toxic ingredients, transparency is key. Feel free to look up a list online, or stick to products that are open about their ingredients.</p>
4. Ingredients to Avoid<p>We already mentioned that cleaners containing fragrance or parfum, and bleach or ammonia should be avoided, but there are other ingredients to look out for as well.</p><ul><li>Quaternary ammonium "quats" – lung irritants that contribute to asthma and other breathing problems. Also linger on surfaces long after they've been cleaned.</li><li>Parabens – Known hormone disruptor; can contribute to ailments such as cancer</li><li>Triclosan – triclosan and other antibacterial chemicals are registered with the EPA as pesticides. Triclosan is a known hormone disruptor and can also impact your immune system.</li><li>Formaldehyde – Causes irritation of eyes, nose, and throat; studies suggest formaldehyde exposure is linked with certain varieties of cancer. Can be found in products or become a byproduct of chemical reactions in the air.</li></ul>
Cleaning Products and Toxics: The Bottom Line<p>Do your research. There are many cleaning products available, but taking these steps will drastically reduce your options and help keep your home toxic-free. Protecting your home from bacteria and viruses is important, but make sure you do so in a way that doesn't introduce other health risks into the home.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.ehn.org/how-to-shop-for-cleaning-products-while-avoiding-toxics-2648130273.html" target="_blank">Environmental Health News</a>. </em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649054624#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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Twenty-five years ago, a food called Tofurky made its debut on grocery store shelves. Since then, the tofu-based roast has become a beloved part of many vegetarians' holiday feasts.
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.