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A Kroger in Norfolk, Virginia. Supermarkets are responsible for 40 percent of the plastic packaging we use. Wikimedia Commons

An online petition calling on the nation's largest supermarket chain to open a plastic-free aisle has surpassed 85,000 signatures.

The Care2 petition, launched less than a week ago, asks Kroger Co. to curb plastic packaging in its 2,800 branches.

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Pathway to Paris

Pathway to Paris gave voice to the urgent issue of climate change on Sunday night at Carnegie Hall, celebrating the launch of its 1000 Cities initiative and the organization's three years of environmental advocacy. Founded by Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon, Pathway to Paris orchestrated the event in partnership with the UN Development Programme and 350.org—bringing together a collection of artists, activists, academics, musicians, politicians and innovators to shine a light on 1000 Cities' imperative mission, supported by a Care2 petition which invites the world's cities to transition off of fossil fuels in a call to action.

The evening opened with powerful speeches and performances by Pathway to Paris founders and curators of the evening, Jesse Paris Smith and Rebecca Foon, encapsulating the essence of Pathway to Paris. "Climate change is our unifying global concern," said Jesse Paris Smith. "It breaks down and defines the geographical borders and walls we have created, it unifies us all and urges us to realize our collective voice."

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Marc Nozell / Flickr

A Care2 petition that surfaced online Wednesday demanding the World Meteorological Association change the name of Hurricane Irma to Hurricane Ivanka is more than halfway towards its 10,000-signature goal.

According to the petition's letter, President Trump's eldest daughter, "who promised to try to influence her father on certain issues like climate change, has quietly accepted the administration's lack of action on this very serious issue."

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Christian Kaiser / Greenpeace

By Steve Williams

A new report indicates that more than half of wild primate species are facing extinction. With nearly three quarters of the world's primate population already under threat, is there anything we can do to save our primate cousins?

The study, which was conducted by a team of 31 leading scientists from across the globe, looked at the current data we have on the state of primates around the world and the challenges they face, utilizing data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) among other sources. While we have several smaller studies that give us a worrying insight into the decline of primates, this research aims to provide a broader snapshot—and the results aren't encouraging.

Of the total 504 primate species that we have on record it is estimated that 60 percent are under threat of extinction, while 75 percent have populations that are declining. What's more, the researchers believe that unless we take concerted action right now, several primate species may have as little as 25 years before extinction claims them.

To give an idea of how desperate the situation is, the Hainan gibbon, which is found in China, is now thought to have reached just 25 individuals. In fact, 22 out of the 26 primate species residing in China are now either critically endangered or under threat. The picture is similar in other areas like Indonesia and Madagascar, the latter of which is home to lemurs and shares some of the highest burden of primate population loss in the world.

Unfortunately, even when it comes to species who have received global attention and are being protected with conservation efforts, the picture is still worrying.

For example, figures show that the critically endangered Sumatran orangutan saw its habitat decline by nearly sixty percent during the period 1985 and 2007. One of the major contributors to this problem has been land clearing so that humans can use areas that were once the orangutan's home for farming.

While we have previously learned that orangutan populations have shown some surprising resilience to this threat, they cannot survive the onslaught for much longer. Though campaigners have urged tighter controls on things like palm oil and soy production, which together with livestock farming is leading to massive deforestation and thereby driving down habitable areas for the orangutan, action has been sadly lacking.

One thing the study does highlight that intersects with human political development is that civil unrest in the primates' home countries may be one driving force behind this rapid descent toward extinction. In countries where food scarcity has become a problem due to civil war and internal conflict, the scientists noted people may turn to hunting primates as a source of food and particularly as a source of rich protein.

Furthermore, in countries where poverty and a lack of job opportunities create systemic financial burdens, people may turn to hunting primates and sell them on the black market. Obviously both of these are terrible, but unless we tackle the root cause of these actions, namely extreme poverty and conflict, it's unlikely we can create meaningful change.

So can we do anything to stop this decline? The answer is yes and one way actually comes down to many of our buying choices. While global governments can help by utilizing international aid as well as peacemaking to ensure that nations are protecting their primates, we can use our spending power to avoid products that are going to contribute to deforestation and, as a result, species decline.

Prof. Jo Setchell from Durham University, one of the researchers in this study, is quoted by the BBC as saying, "Simple examples are don't buy tropical timber, don't eat palm oil." In terms of broader actions, Setchell also points out, "we need to raise local, regional and global public awareness of the plight of the world's primates and what this means for ecosystem health, human culture and ultimately human survival."

Given that primates are our closest animal cousins, they can teach us so much about ourselves. They also provide a vital link to the animal kingdom that teaches us about other species, too. As primates are often a key species in biodiversity and are a good marker for wider habitat loss, their extinction would signal not just the loss of a profoundly important part of our heritage, but it would mean that the natural world as we know it will have changed fundamentally and not for the better.

If you would like more tips on how you can help save species like the orangutan, Care2 has a guide. We also have information on how to choose products that do not contribute to deforestation and primate loss.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

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By Kevin Mathews

If you like to eat shellfish, you may want to start reconsidering your dietary choices in light of our changing environment. As NPR reports, researchers are linking climate change with an increase in potentially lethal neurotoxins found in shellfish.

Published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a new study demonstrated that when oceans get warmer (a direct consequence of the rising atmospheric temperatures,) production of these neurotoxins, known as domoic acid, is boosted.

To find the source of domoic acid, you have to go straight to the bottom of the food chain: algae. When shellfish like clams, mussels and crabs consume tainted algae, the poison doesn't affect them directly, but they carry the neurotoxins in their body, which subsequently have consequences in the people who eat them.

(Not all creatures are impacted equally, however. While clams may hold on to the toxins for as long as a year, mussels can cleanse themselves of the dangerous acids within a matter of weeks).

Humans who wind up consuming shellfish containing domoic acid can develop respiratory problems, experience memory loss and in some cases death. In acute cases, the victims generally suffer from stomach problems like diarrhea and vomiting.

Even animal lovers who don't include shellfish in their diets should be alarmed by this news. Other creatures like birds and seals that eat life with the toxins can suffer just like a human would. Last year, the Marine Mammal Center reported that 75 percent of its sea lion patients were the victims of domoic acid toxicity.

The good news is that health officials are able to test seafood samples to identify whether a toxin outbreak is present in the waters, but it's not practical to verify whether all mussels, clams and crabs can be tested on an individual basis. Besides, these tests can't help spare the sea lions and birds that will continue to unwittingly eat tainted shellfish.

In 2015, lofty ocean temperatures ushered in so much domoic acid that the Dungeness crab industry on the U.S.'s Pacific coast had to stop fishing because the crabs were too risky to eat. Scientists believe that that blockage is a sign of what's to come.

As Scientific American points out, the seafood industry is already putting this research to use by starting to track ocean temperatures to determine when shellfish are most susceptible to domoic acid. This knowledge could help companies to plan around impending economic hardship, not to mention prevent a public health crisis.

Sadly, domoic acid is just one consequence of rising ocean temperatures. Other devastating examples include:

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

By Michelle Schoffro Cook

MSG by any other name would still be just as harmful. When most people hear the name monosodium glutamate or MSG, they assume this chemical food additive is only found in Chinese food. While it is true that this chemical flavor tends to be used in many Chinese food restaurants, this brain and nervous system toxin masquerades under many different guises and is found in a huge number of common foods.

Monosodium glutamate has been linked to many serious health conditions, including: hormonal imbalances, weight gain, brain damage, obesity, headaches and more, you may be shocked to learn how prevalent it is. MSG is almost always found in processed, prepared and packaged foods. Even when there is no sign of it on the label, it is still frequently hidden in many prepared foods. That's because it goes by a wide variety of other names, including: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extract, textured protein, autolyzed yeast and hydrolyzed oat flour.

What's even more shocking than MSG's seemingly ubiquitous nature is how the additive affects the brain. There is a protective mechanism in the brain known as the blood-brain barrier. The brain depends on careful control of chemicals to operate smoothly. Even small fluctuations in the concentrations of chemicals can cause drastic disruptions in brain function. When a category of chemicals known as excitotoxins enter the brain, they literally excite brain cells until they die. Monosodium glutamate is added to foods as a taste enhancer, but it is a well-established excitotoxin.

Additionally, some parts of the brain such as the hypothalamus and the pineal are not protected by the blood-brain barrier, yet these parts of the brain control many hormones in the body as well as other bodily functions, including mood. When MSG enters the brain, not only does it kill brain cells, it wreaks havoc on brain functions.

Many people react within 48 hours of ingesting MSG, even in minute amounts, which can make it difficult to trace back to the food source that caused the reaction. The effects can include: headaches, hives, canker sores, runny nose, insomnia, seizures, mood swings, panic attacks, heart palpitations and other heart irregularities, nausea, numbness, asthma attacks and migraines. Many of my clients report experiencing restless leg syndrome after accidental ingestion of MSG.

Research by neurologist and author of the book Excitotoxins: the Taste that Kills, Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD, shows that MSG slowly enters the brain, bypasses the blood-brain barrier and reaches peak concentrations in the brain three hours after ingesting it. The high levels of MSG in the brain remain for 24 hours after the initial ingesting of the contaminated food.

According to Dr. Blaylock, MSG can be especially detrimental to people who have experienced some sort of brain injury or a genetic predisposition to brain disease.

Avoid prepared and packaged foods as much as possible. Avoid eating at fast food restaurants since they are notorious culprits when it comes to MSG usage. If food products, such as those made in-house at the bakery and deli departments in grocery stores, don't contain an ingredient list, you should assume it contains MSG. These types of food items frequently contain MSG. Avoiding as many of the MSG-containing culprits listed above can also help reduce your exposure.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

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For health-minded folks, 2016 will probably go down as the year of acai bowls, mindfulness and yoga festivals. Kale and lemon water also had their moments in the spotlight, as did raw vegan recipes. With the year coming to a close, wellness experts are starting to predict what trends we can look forward to in 2017.

Here are a few of our favorite ideas:

1. Sober Parties

Last summer, booze-free dance parties really came into their own as a source of fun in the conscious community (pregnant ladies everywhere rejoiced too!). In 2017, experts are predicting that the trend will continue to grow.

Daybreaker is one of the companies pioneering this movement. With events in cities all over the world, Daybreakers has hosted sober raves, silent rooftop dance parties (in which everyone gets his or her own pair of headphones) and yoga happy hours.

The benefit of these kinds of events? No one imbibes and everyone has a great time. Most of these events are held in the morning hours, too, so you get a shot of positive energy right before heading into work.

2. Minimalism

Minimalism also saw a lot of buzz in 2016 and it's likely to continue into 2017. In particular, fashion minimalism may replace trends such as thrift store shopping. Instead of buying tons of vintage frocks and shoes, the new outlook toward fashion may simple be "less is more."

Consider the concept of a capsule wardrobe. This idea, pioneered by fashion bloggers and YouTubers, encourages participants to chose 33 wardrobe items per season. This includes pants, shoes, tops, tanks, jackets—literally everything you might need (minus underwear, pajamas and activewear). Because you're limited in inventory, you're forced to choose items that all go well together and suit your everyday needs. This process requires you to think more critically about any fashion choices you do buy, as you need to adhere to the mentality of "one comes in, one goes out." It's basically ultra-efficiency in fashion form.

3. Homemade Bread

What gluten-free eating was to 2016, healthy carbs will be to 2017. Homemade bread is making a big comeback, with health-conscious eaters turning to their own kitchens for healthy sources of starches and carbs.

Healthy whole grain and sourdough breads will be on the rise, as will artisan creations. And to those who haven't made bread at home before, don't worry—you don't actually need a breadmaker to make a fresh homemade loaf.

4. The Ketogenic Diet

While Paleo has enjoyed a hot minute in the spotlight, it will be the Ketogenic diet that consumes our minds next year. While Paleo favors a high-protein approach to eating, the Ketogenic diet is all about healthy fats and only moderate amounts of protein … which means eating a ton of meat is totally off-limits.

Rather, eating Keto involves consuming lots of olive oil, coconut oil, organ meats, free-range eggs, avocados, organic dairy and bone broth. It has demonstrable health benefits, including weight loss, better skin, slowed aging, more energy, blood sugar regulation and reduced risk of dementia.

5. Cooking With Teff

Teff flour is a African grain that is projected to be majorly en vogue next year. It's basically the next quinoa. According to Bob's Red Mill, teff flour is a "nutritional powerhouse" that contains high levels of iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc. It can be made into cakes, breads, polenta and veggie burgers and is naturally gluten-free.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

By Maggie McCracken

Cooking with ancient flours and grains is appealing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their heritage health factor. Flours that ancient people have been using for thousands of years often come with a number of health benefits that give us a little something extra from standard modern wheat flour.

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The Vancouver Aquarium is back in the spotlight this week, following the death of another beluga who died shortly after losing her calf.

Sally Anderson / Flickr

Just over a week ago, a 21-year-old beluga named Qila died of causes that are still unknown. Shortly after, her 29-year-old mother Aurora started showing the same symptoms Qila exhibited and was reported to have suffered from abdominal cramping, a loss of appetite and lethargy.

Sadly, despite receiving round-the-clock care from veterinarians and staff, she also passed away. According to the aquarium, the cause of their deaths is still being investigated, but it's suspected that they were caused by a virus or toxin.

Aurora's passing adds to the growing death toll for captive belugas and the tragedy of her loss is only compounded by life she experienced. Not only did she lose her freedom, she watched three of her babies die during her time in Vancouver.

Qila was Aurora's first born. Tuvaq, her second, who was a male, was born in 2002 and died in 2005. Nala, her third, was born in 2009, but died just a year later.

Qila herself also gave birth to one calf, Tiqa, in 2008, but just three years later she was also dead.

The ongoing mistreatment of belugas and continued attempts to breed them landed the Vancouver Aquarium on In Defense of Animals' (IDA) first annual list of the 10 Worst Tanks for Dolphins and Whales in North America over the summer.

While the Vancouver Aquarium owns five other belugas who are on loan to marine parks in the U.S., there are now no belugas at the aquarium and organizations including IDA and the Vancouver Humane Society, and the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are calling on the aquarium to shut down its cetacean exhibits forever.

"Aurora and Qilas' horrific deaths should be a wake-up call for Vancouver," said IDA's cetacean scientist, Dr. Toni Frohoff. "Even the most modern technology, veterinary care and infrastructure could not help Aurora, Qila or the many other belugas who have suffered and died in captivity. It's time to stop exploiting these intelligent and sensitive animals and close Vancouver's dying pools for good."

Following Qila's death, the head of Vancouver's park board announced she was going to formally propose bringing the issue of captive cetaceans to voters during the next civic election in 2018. Animal advocates are hopeful that move could potentially stop an expansion of the aquarium's current beluga exhibit, which is expected to start early next year and will ultimately keep belugas out permanently.

For more on efforts to retire whales and dolphins who are currently in captivity to sea sanctuaries, check out the Whale Sanctuary Project and Whale and Dolphin Conservation.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

By Jordyn Cormier

If you suffer from chronic pain or health issues, you've probably considered (or been told to consider) acupuncture. But, if you can't fathom how a little, painless "needle" is going to fix your migraines or help with your hormonal imbalance, you're not alone. Acupuncture is a highly misunderstood practice, especially in Western medicine.

Acupuncture is a highly misunderstood practice, especially in Western medicine.Shutterstock

Acupuncture has been around for thousands of years. In a session, the "needle" is used to stimulate specific, powerful sites (acupoints) along meridian lines, which is though to promote healing throughout the body's various systems. Acupuncture has been successfully used to treat pain, PTSD, arthritis, chronic stress, addiction, insomnia, migraines, digestive disorders and much more. But there is no steadfast answer as to how or why acupuncture works. Here are four of the most common hypotheses for how acupuncture helps to restore balance to the body:

1. Unblock Energy Flow

In Eastern medicine, acupuncture is said to release energy blockages in the body. Energy or qi, flows through specific meridian lines in the body. By releasing areas of congestion and stagnation through acupuncture, qi is allowed to flow unfettered and promote health and balance. If your energy life-force is healthy, the physical body follows. Unfortunately, this explanation isn't widely accepted in Western medicine

2. Placebo Effect

Many doctors in Western medicine believe that the bulk of the benefits seen with acupuncture are heavily rooted in the mind-bending placebo effect. Whether this is true or not, the mind is a powerful source of healing energy. If acupuncture can unlock that energy successfully, why complain? Utilize it as a healing tool. Placebos should not be dismissed so quickly.

3. Stimulate the Body's Healing Powers

Some believe that stimulating nerves with the fine needle activates the body's internal healing mechanisms. In turn, the brain sends signals to that area in order to restore balance, when it may not have been actively addressing that area before. The action of inserting "needles" gently into the skin may increase hormone production and chemical signaling by drawing attention to important, neglected areas of our vast bodies, and alerting the brain that it is time to "clean house." It also helps that many people find acupuncture very relaxing and soothing for chronic stress, which also signals to the brain that it has the time and space to restore and repair the body.

4. Fascial Release

Perhaps the most recent theory as to how acupuncture works addresses the fascia. Fascia has been getting a lot of attention lately as it is becoming more recognized for its responsibilities in proper body function. Fascia is essentially an extensive compression sock that keeps your whole body contained. The issue is, with imbalance and inactivity, areas of fascia can become stiff, thick and unhealthy, leading to pain, inflammation and mis-signaling in the body.

According to a study conducted at University of Burlington, more than 80 percent of acupuncture points lie where connective tissue planes converge. With this in mind, it is possible that acupuncture could release stagnant, essential points in the fascia, so as to enable chemical messages to pass through more easily. This could explain why a "needle" in your ankle could help you with pain in your lower back.

If you're skeptical of acupuncture because no one is certain how or why it works, consider this: Western medicine still doesn't know exactly how the certain pills/drugs works either, yet millions take them every day. If you ask me, acupuncture is a lot less risky.

Of course, neither acupuncture or acupressure will miraculously heal all that ails you. Without a balanced and healthy lifestyle, acupuncture can only help you so much. Work to keep a clean diet, be mindful of stress levels, exercise regularly and be kind to yourself. Acupuncture is just another powerful modality of healing to assist you on life's journey.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

By Steve Williams

An estate in Ireland has revealed plans to create a redwood grove that will be the largest of its kind outside California. The initiative serves as a testament both to Ireland's heritage and its commitment to fighting global warming.

The initiative, Giants Grove, is spearheaded by the seventh Earl of Rosse, Brendan Parsons and the environmental organization Crann, which promotes the preservation of trees, hedgerows and woodlands throughout Ireland.

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The Earl has designated land on the grounds of the Birr Castle Gardens in Offlay to house around 2,000 redwoods, making it the biggest forest outside of California.

What's more, this would be a historic homecoming for redwoods. The trees were once abundant in Ireland but were largely wiped out following the last Ice Age.

Lord Rosse explained:

"Our grandchildren, their grandchildren, Birr, Ireland and the world will benefit from this magnificent forest grove. These will be the biggest trees in Ireland and the largest collection outside of California. By investing in this project with us, the sponsors will have the opportunity to make a personal impact on Ireland's environment and world biodiversity conservation."

As stated above, the project will be supported by the estate and other groups, but it aims for public funding. Individuals will be able to sponsor an area within the giant redwood plantation, ensuring the site and the redwoods themselves will last for future generations.

The notion isn't just to return a piece of Ireland's lost heritage, though. Giants Grove will attempt to help redwood forests and other ecosystems unique to Ireland survive.

The trees face significant pressures, including the effects of climate change. Rising temperatures and a resulting lack of coastal fog means that California's plantation has measurably declined in health. Other stress factors like land clearing and human encroachment mean that tree health isn't as robust as environmentalists would like it to be.

What's more, recent studies suggest that trees like the giant redwoods are crucial for their ability to fight climate change itself. Thus, ensuring their survival helps to ensure ours.

This project will also work to maintain Ireland's forest cover—and that's got an environmental importance of its own.

This is a trial in future-proofing, as Ireland is predicted to warm up significantly due to climate change. By planting redwoods now, the country could be taking steps to transition into that warmer climate with habitable forests already in the making.

It's a smart idea—and one that conservation groups believe may be the key to preserving future biodiversity.

So what's next?

The aim of the project is to deploy the redwoods in two phases. Phase one is slated to begin this autumn, while the second phase will occur in the spring of 2017. Both phases will include planting the giant coastal redwoods to create an inner copse, which will then be surrounded by the more robust giant mountain redwoods. Some native trees will also be included, such as holly trees, to encourage biodiversity and to provide interest for forest visitors.

To be sure, this project alone cannot ensure the survival of the redwoods or keep Ireland's biodiversity intact. However, the project has been greeted warmly by environmentalists who view this as an example in maintaining biodiversity for other nations. While climate change will mean we need to approach conservation differently, there are transition strategies that can enrich environments.

The Giants Grove project, then, is an exciting seed of an idea for long-term biodiversity conservation.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Care2.

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