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By Roz Pidcock

The buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases is warming the upper ocean four times faster than during the period 1960-1990, according to new research.

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The Tijuana River has extensive water quality issues in both Mexico and the U.S. Photo credit: Surfrider Foundation

A spill that originated in the Tijuana River in Mexico flowed north of the border, releasing 143 million gallons of sewage for 17 days. The spill was caused when a sewage pipe under rehabilitation ruptured at the juncture of Mexico's Tijuana and Alamar rivers. While three-quarters of the Tijuana River watershed is located in Mexico, it drains into the Pacific Ocean near Imperial Beach, California.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Meet Mr. Trash Wheel and Professor Trash Wheel—a pair of floating, solar and hydro-powered trash interceptors keeping Baltimore's waters clean. These frankly adorable trash wheels can collect as much as 38,000 pounds of debris in a single day.

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Norwegian zoologists have discovered some 30 plastic bags and other marine debris inside the stomach of a malnourished 20-foot Cuvier's beaked whale.

The whale was an adult male that weighed about 2 tons. Local authorities were forced to euthanize the distressed animal on Jan. 28 after repeatedly stranding itself off the shallow waters of Sotra, an island near Norway's southwestern coast.

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Key environmentally-related ballot measures in six states received mixed results yesterday.

On the plus side, Florida voters saw through utility industry efforts to thwart the state's burgeoning solar energy business and California voters appeared to affirm the state's ban on single-use plastic bags. Both Massachusetts and Oregon passed key animal protection laws.

But, two historically significant measures didn't fare as well. An energy and big business-backed state constitutional amendment passed in Colorado, while a controversial carbon tax initiative in Washington went down to defeat.

1. FLORIDA: Florida's utility-backed Amendment 1, disguised as a pro-solar bill, failed to reach the 60 percent yes vote needed to become law.

"Florida voters weren't fooled by the misleading campaign that the utilities tried to perpetrate," Tania Galloni, Earthjustice managing attorney for Florida, said.

A hard-fought grassroots campaign worked to educate voters on the deceptive nature of the proposed amendment to the Florida constitution. The amendment would have allowed utility companies to charge fees to solar customers and make it more difficult for private solar companies to work with homeowners.

Tory Perfetti, chairman of Floridians for Solar Choice, told the Miami Herald, "We defeated one of the most egregious and underhanded attempts at voter manipulation in this state's history."

2. WASHINGTON: Voters rejected Initiative 732, which would have created the nation's first tax on carbon. The proposal would have set a price of $25 per metric ton starting in 2018, increasing to $100 over the next 40 years. The measure was opposed not only by the Koch brothers, but also by the Sierra Club.

However, as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said days before the election, "By making Washington the premier American government to place a price on carbon, Evergreen voters will pioneer the trail away from our deadly carbon addiction and its murderous offspring: climate chaos."

3. COLORADO: Amendment 71, supported by the oil and gas industry, won approval in Colorado. Now, the state constitutional amendment makes it extremely difficult to get citizen initiatives on the ballot, essentially ceding control to big-money backers. An attempt to get an anti-fracking amendment on the ballot sparked the oil and gas industry to spend big on Amendment 71.

A group funded by Anadarko and Noble Energy donated at least $1 million to support passage. Other big backers included the Colorado Gaming Association, Colorado Dairy Farmers and the Colorado Association of Realtors.

4. CALIFORNIA: Two propositions affecting the use of plastic bags were on the state ballot this year. As of this morning, Proposition 67, which would keep the legislatively-enacted statewide ban on single-use plastic bags, appears to be winning. Proposition 65, which was an industry-backed effort to create an ill-defined environmental fund supported by the 10-cent bag fee, was defeated.

The Surfrider Foundation and other environmental groups opposed Prop 65. They said it was designed to confuse voters.

5. MASSACHUSETTS: Voters enacted a landmark law that will protect farm animals from extreme confinement. By 2022, the measure will prohibit the use of veal crates for baby calves, gestation crates for mother pigs and so-called battery cages for egg-laying hens. All three confine animals to spaces so small they can't turn around or spread their wings, in the case of hens, and are inhumane.

The newly-passed Massachusetts law also makes it illegal to sell meat or eggs from animals kept in these conditions, including from those farmed outside the state.

6. OREGON: Voters overwhelmingly approved Measure 100 by a 70-to-30 margin, which prohibits the sale of animal parts and products from 12 species, including rhino, cheetah, tiger, sea turtle, lion, elephant, whale, shark, pangolin, jaguar, ray, and leopard.

More than 150,000 signatures were gathered to put the measure on the ballot.

"Oregon has a long and proud history of supporting wildlife conservation. With this sweeping victory, Oregon has set an important example for the rest of the nation and joins efforts around the world to protect imperiled animals, such as elephants, whales and sea turtles," said Scott Beckstead, senior Oregon state director for The Humane Society of the United States.

For the next 30 days, I'm going to be wearing every single piece of trash that I create. At first that might sound crazy, but anybody who knows me, knows that I am indeed crazy ... crazy in a good way. My biggest goal in life is to inspire people to think about how our little daily actions affect the world around us both near and far.

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