OUTRAGEOUS: U.S. Forests Logged, Pelletized, Shipped Overseas in the Name of Renewable Energy
At a time when scientific evidence is mounting that burning trees for electricity will actually result in increased carbon emissions when compared to coal over the next 30 to 50 years, utilities in Europe are making a mad dash to convert coal burning power plants to wood, all in the name of “renewable energy.” The recent explosion in the use of wood to generate electricity in Europe has resulted in the proliferation of new mills across the southern U.S. that are turning whole trees into wood pellets for export to European utility companies. That’s right. Forests in the southern U.S. are being logged, turned into wood pellets and shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to Europe all in the name of “green energy.”
In what felt like a full on southern forest assault, in September, a multitude of new projects were announced that will help take tree burning to a whole new level. Between Sept. 18 and Sept. 24 four new wood pellet manufacturing facilities were announced, one in South Carolina and three in Georgia. Just two days later on Sept. 26 a port expansion project was announced in Moorhead City, North Carolina, for the stated purpose of supporting the growing wood pellet export market to Europe. New companies with catchy green-sounding names like “Enviva” and “Enova Energy” are popping up out of nowhere, staking their positions as leading suppliers of “sustainable, “renewable” energy. Heck, even the word “biomass” sounds kind of green, so it’s no wonder that the German utility company RWE that owns the biggest wood pellet facility in the south has branded it as simply, “Georgia Biomass.” When you click on their website the first thing you notice is a tree coming out of the logo next to the words “We’re Carbon Neutral.”
Also on Sept. 26, BusinessWeek reported that England’s biggest utility, Drax announced plans to convert the country’s biggest coal burning power plant into Western Europe’s largest burner of wood, which they describe as a major, $1 billion investment in “renewable” energy. This power plant will require the harvest of a forest equivalent to “four times the size of Rhode Island” every year! The company is now “investigating building wood pellet plants in North America.” Unfortunately, England’s recently proposed “sustainable biomass” standards do nothing to protect our forests or ensure real carbon emission reductions. Even worse, they allow companies to claim sustainability if their wood comes from bogus certification schemes like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) which has routinely certified as “sustainable” destructive logging practices such as the ditching and draining of wetlands along the Atlantic Coast to make way for pine plantations.
Perhaps the European government, utilities and pellet manufacturers are hoping that with a little “green” smoke, no one will be able to see what’s really going on. Never mind the mounting body of scientific evidence including the European Environmental Protection Agency’s own Scientific Committee warning that burning trees could actually accelerate climate change. Never mind that protecting forests is actually a much better strategy for reducing carbon emissions than burning them. Never mind that beyond climate change forests are critical protectors of drinking water or that countless species of plants and animals are already in serious danger of extinction because of habitat loss and degradation. Never mind all that. Let’s just call it “green,” “renewable” and “carbon neutral” and bulldoze ahead.
Never mind the people who live in the regions whose forests will be stripped and shipped to burn overseas. Never mind the existing industries (forest products, tourism and outdoor recreation) that employ millions of people that depend on that same limited resource. Never mind the huge economic disaster that will occur in the wake of catastrophic climate change if we don’t drastically reduce carbon emissions over the next two decades. Let’s just call it good for the economy and charge on ahead.
The time is now to stand up, make our collective voice heard and demand an immediate halt to the burning of whole trees in the name of “clean, green and renewable” energy. Europe is heading in the wrong direction and if the mad dash to burn forests for electricity isn’t redirected to truly green and clean sources of energy like solar and wind we might as well forget any chance of slowing climate change. We can’t afford to wait until the green smoke fades away and our forests are laid to waste to realize what a huge mistake it is to burn trees for electricity. Biomass is the new coal and it, too, must be stopped. The time is now to ramp up investment in energy conservation and truly clean energy like solar and wind.
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The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
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If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
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