Despite being a well-known port of call on the Caribbean cruise circuit, the City of Key West voted to ban large cruise ships from visiting and to restrict foot traffic from vessels. Supporters and opponents disagreed about the safety, environmental and economic merits of the proposals.
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By Scott Faber
No candidate for president has ever pledged to make the toxic "forever chemicals" known as PFAS a priority – until now.
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Like many other plant-based foods and products, CBD oil is one dietary supplement where "organic" labels are very important to consumers. However, there are little to no regulations within the hemp industry when it comes to deeming a product as organic, which makes it increasingly difficult for shoppers to find the best CBD oil products available on the market.
Charlotte's Web<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDcwMjk3NS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MzQ0NjM4N30.SaQ85SK10-MWjN3PwHo2RqpiUBdjhD0IRnHKTqKaU7Q/img.jpg?width=980" id="84700" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a2174067dcc0c4094be25b3472ce08c8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="charlottes web cbd oil" /><p>Perhaps one of the most well-known brands in the CBD landscape, Charlotte's Web has been growing sustainable hemp plants for several years. The company is currently in the process of achieving official USDA Organic Certification, but it already practices organic and sustainable cultivation techniques to enhance the overall health of the soil and the hemp plants themselves, which creates some of the highest quality CBD extracts. Charlotte's Web offers CBD oils in a range of different concentration options, and some even come in a few flavor options such as chocolate mint, orange blossom, and lemon twist.</p>
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By Matthew R Sanderson, Burke Griggs and Jacob A. Miller
A slow-moving crisis threatens the U.S. Central Plains, which grow a quarter of the nation's crops. Underground, the region's lifeblood – water – is disappearing, placing one of the world's major food-producing regions at risk.
Changes in Ogallala water levels from before the aquifer was tapped in the early 20th century to 2015. Gray indicates no significant change. Water levels have risen in some areas, especially Nebraska, but are mostly in decline. NCA 2018
A Production Treadmill<p>At first glance, farmers on the Plains appear to be doing well in 2020. Crop production increased this year. Corn, the largest crop in the U.S., had <a href="https://www.nass.usda.gov/Newsroom/2020/08-12-2020.php" target="_blank">a near-record year</a>, and farm incomes increased by <a href="https://www.ers.usda.gov/topics/farm-economy/farm-sector-income-finances/farm-sector-income-forecast" target="_blank">5.7% over 2019</a>.</p><p>But those figures hide massive government payments to farmers. Federal subsidies increased by <a href="https://www.agweb.com/article/usda-says-farm-income-increasing-gov-payments-are-record" target="_blank">a remarkable 65%</a> this year, totaling $37.2 billion. This sum includes money for <a href="https://theconversation.com/most-us-farmers-remain-loyal-to-trump-despite-pain-from-trade-wars-and-covid-19-146535" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">lost exports from escalating trade wars, as well as COVID-19-related relief payments.</a> Corn prices were too low to cover the cost of growing it this year, with federal subsidies making up the difference.</p><p>Our research finds that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1093/socpro/spy011" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">subsidies put farmers on a treadmill</a>, working harder to produce more while draining the resource that supports their livelihood. Government payments create a vicious cycle of overproduction that intensifies water use. Subsidies encourage farmers to expand and buy expensive equipment to irrigate larger areas.</p>
Irrigation pump in Haskell County, Kansas. Matthew Sanderson/Kansas State University, CC BY-ND<p>With <a href="https://www.agweb.com/markets/futures" target="_blank">low market prices for many crops</a>, production does not cover expenses on most farms. To stay afloat, many farmers buy or lease more acres. Growing larger amounts floods the market, further reducing crop prices and farm incomes. Subsidies support this cycle.</p><p>Few benefit, especially small and midsized operations. In a 2019 study of the region's 234 counties from 1980 to 2010, we found that larger irrigated acreage <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-019-00390-9" target="_blank">failed to increase incomes or improve education or health outcomes</a> for residents.</p>
Focus on Policy, Not Farmers<p>Four decades of federal, state and local conservation efforts have mainly targeted individual farmers, providing ways for them to voluntarily <a href="https://agriculture.ks.gov/divisions-programs/dwr/managing-kansas-water-resources/wca" target="_blank">reduce water use</a> or <a href="https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/national/programs/financial/eqip/" target="_blank">adopt more water-efficient technologies</a>.</p><p>While these initiatives are important, they haven't stemmed the aquifer's decline. In our view, what the Ogallala Aquifer region really needs is policy change.</p><p>A lot can be done at the federal level, but the first principle should be "do no harm." Whenever federal agencies have <a href="https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/1230/all-info" target="_blank">tried to regulate groundwater</a>, the backlash has been swift and intense, with farm states' congressional representatives <a href="https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2015-06-19/pdf/2015-15151.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">repudiating federal jurisdiction over groundwater</a>.</p><p>Nor should Congress propose to eliminate agricultural subsidies, as some <a href="https://www.ewg.org/agmag/subsidies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">environmental organizations</a> and <a href="https://www.cato.org/blog/five-reasons-repeal-farm-subsidies" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">free-market advocates</a> have proposed. Given the thin margins of farming and longstanding political realities, federal support is simply part of modern production agriculture.</p><p>With these cautions in mind, three initiatives could help ease pressure on farmers to keep expanding production. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's <a href="https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/conservation-programs/conservation-reserve-program/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Conservation Reserve Program</a> pays farmers to allow environmentally sensitive farmland to lie fallow for at least 10 years. With new provisions, the program could reduce water use by prohibiting expansion of irrigated acreage, permanently retiring marginal lands and linking subsidies to production of less water-intensive crops.</p><p>These initiatives could be implemented through the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/farmbill" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">federal farm bill</a>, which also sets funding levels for nonfarm subsidies such as the <a href="https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/supplemental-nutrition-assistance-program" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program</a>, or SNAP. SNAP payments, which increase needy families' food budgets, are an important tool for addressing poverty. Increasing these payments and adding financial assistance to local communities could offset lower tax revenues that result from from farming less acreage.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9a68a352afef927017e5c51944388e7b"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/RHJsdtLZGoY?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>Amending <a href="https://www.fsa.usda.gov/programs-and-services/farm-loan-programs/" target="_blank">federal farm credit rates</a> could also slow the treadmill. Generous terms promote borrowing for irrigation equipment; to pay that debt, borrowers farm more land. Offering lower rates for equipment that reduces water use and withholding loans for standard, wasteful equipment could nudge farmers toward conservation.</p><p>The most powerful tool is the tax code. Currently, farmers receive <a href="https://www.irs.gov/publications/p225#en_US_2020_publink1000218297" target="_blank">deductions for declining groundwater levels</a> and can write off depreciation on irrigation equipment. Replacing these perks with a tax credit for stabilizing groundwater and substituting a depreciation schedule favoring more efficient irrigation equipment could provide strong incentives to conserve water.</p>
Rewriting State Water Laws<p>Water rights are mostly determined by state law, so reforming state water policies is crucial. Case law demonstrates that simply owning water rights <a href="https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/224/107/" target="_blank">does not grant the legal right to waste water</a>. For more than a century courts have upheld state restrictions on waste, with <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/supreme-court/2d/3/489.html" target="_blank">rulings that allow for adaptation</a> by modifying the definitions of "beneficial use" and "waste" over time.</p><p>Using these precedents, state water agencies could designate thirsty crops, such as rice, cotton or corn, as wasteful in certain regions. Regulations preventing unreasonable water use <a href="https://law.justia.com/cases/california/court-of-appeal/2020/c085762.html" target="_blank">are not unconstitutional</a>.</p><p>Allowing farmers some flexibility will maximize profits, as long as they stabilize overall water use. If they irrigate less – or not at all – in years with low market prices, rules could allow more irrigation in better years. Ultimately, many farmers – and their bankers – are willing to exchange lower annual yields for a longer water supply.</p><p>As our research has shown, the vast majority of farmers in the region <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/gwat.12940" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">want to save groundwater</a>. They will need help from policymakers to do it. Forty years is long enough to learn that the Ogallala Aquifer's decline is not driven by weather or by individual farmers' preferences. Depletion is a structural problem embedded in agricultural policies. Groundwater depletion is a policy choice made by federal, state and local officials.</p>
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T. C. Knight / Getty Images
By Chaoqun Lu
Stream gauge measurements show that the amount of dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) moving from Mississippi River Basin states to the Gulf of Mexico fluctuates dramatically from year to year. Heavy rainfalls can produce higher nitrogen levels. Modified from Lu et al., 2020, CC BY-ND
Percentage increases in the amount of precipitation falling in very heavy events (defined as the heaviest 1% of all daily events) from 1958 to 2012. Globalchange.gov
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By Keith Schneider
In many ways, the story of Texas over the last century is the state's devout allegiance to the principle that mankind has dominion over nature.
Rising Demand Confronts Lower Supplies<p>There are a couple of ways to examine the coming hardship. The first is in numbers. The <a href="https://www.twdb.texas.gov/waterplanning/data/projections/index.asp" target="_blank">Texas Water Development Board found</a> that by 2070 the state's population will grow to 51 million people, 22 million more than today. The state's annual demand for water, the State Water Board projects, will climb to 21.6 million acre-feet (27 trillion liters), up from 18.4 million.</p><p>At the same time, a severe drought will bring increasing constraint. <a href="https://texasstatewaterplan.org/statewide" target="_blank">State authorities project</a> that in a drought comparable to the most severe on record, water supplies will fall over the next 50 years from 15.2 million acre-feet to 13.6 million acre-feet (17 trillion liters). During the driest periods, more people will have considerably less water.</p><p>Here's how that confrontation is playing out in the Hill Country, a region of rapid population growth and uncertain water supply west of Austin, Texas' capital city.</p><p>Two generations ago, about 40,000 people made their homes in Hays County, an epic, rural, rolling masterpiece of space and sky close to Austin and San Antonio. Authorities in Hays counted 14,000 homes that were supplied with water from the Trinity Aquifer, a giant freshwater reserve that lay below. <a href="https://www.circleofblue.org/2020/world/when-it-rains-texas-forgets-drought-and-worsening-water-scarcity/" target="_blank">In both wet years and dry, water was readily available</a>.</p>
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How does your burrito impact the environment? If you ordered it from Chipotle, there is now a way to find out.
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A pair of studies released Monday confirmed not only the presence of water and ice on the moon, but that it is more abundant than scientists previously thought. Those twin discoveries boost the prospect of a sustainable lunar base that could harvest the moon's resources to help sustain itself, according to the BBC.
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By Jennifer Ann Thomas
For the first time, researchers have developed a model capable of anticipating drought periods in the Amazon up to 18 months in advance. The study was conducted by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), in Germany, as part of the Tipping Points in the Earth System (TiPES) project, led by physicist Catrin Ciemer and published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
Average monthly sea surface temperature (in degrees Celsius, red scale) and average continental rainfall in South America (in millimeters/month, blue scale) from 1981 to 2016. Sea surface temperatures and precipitation are generally higher around the equator. On the left, the area where El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO) occurs; dotted lines indicate the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) in January and July, responsible for transporting heat and humidity from the oceans around the tropics.
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By Robert J. Orth, Jonathan Lefcheck and Karen McGlathery
A century ago Virginia's coastal lagoons were a natural paradise. Fishing boats bobbed on the waves as geese flocked overhead. Beneath the surface, miles of seagrass gently swayed in the surf, making the seabed look like a vast underwater prairie.
Why Didn’t Seagrasses Recover Naturally?<p>Development, nutrient runoff and other human impacts have damaged marshes, mangroves, coral reefs and seagrasses in many bays and estuaries worldwide. Loss or shrinkage of these key habitats has reduced commercial fisheries, increased erosion, made coastlines more vulnerable to floods and storms and harmed many types of aquatic life. Rapid climate change has compounded these effects through <a href="https://theconversation.com/ocean-warming-has-fisheries-on-the-move-helping-some-but-hurting-more-116248" target="_blank">rising global temperatures</a>, more <a href="https://theconversation.com/more-frequent-and-intense-tropical-storms-mean-less-recovery-time-for-the-worlds-coastlines-123335" target="_blank">frequent and severe storms</a> and <a href="https://theconversation.com/as-climate-change-alters-the-oceans-what-will-happen-to-dungeness-crabs-61501" target="_blank">ocean acidification</a>.</p><p>In the late 1990s, local residents told two of us who are longtime students of seagrasses (Robert "JJ" Orth and Karen McGlathery) that they had spotted small patches of eelgrass in shallow waters off Virginia's eastern shore. For years the conventional view had been that seagrasses in this area had not recovered from the events of the 1930s because human activities had <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aquabot.2005.07.007" target="_blank">made the area inhospitable for them</a>.</p><p>But studies showed that water quality in these coastal bays was <a href="https://doi.org/10.1007/BF02782971" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">comparatively good</a>. This led us to explore a different explanation: Seeds from healthy seagrass populations elsewhere along the Atlantic coast simply weren't reaching these isolated bays. Seagrasses are underwater flowering plants, so seeds are among the main ways they reproduce and spread to new environments.</p>
Eelgrass beds were restored in four bays at the southern tip of Virginia's eastern shore on the Atlantic coast. David J. Wilcox/VIMS, CC BY-ND
Sowing a New Crop<p>From our <a href="https://doi.org/10.2307/1941597" target="_blank">earlier research</a>, we knew that when eelgrass seeds fall from the parent plant, they sink to the sea bottom quickly and don't move far from where they land. We also knew that these seeds don't germinate until late fall or early winter. This meant that if we collected the seeds in spring, when eelgrass flowers, we could hold them until the fall, helping them survive over the months in between.</p><p>We decided to try reseeding eelgrass in the areas where they were missing. Starting in 1999, we collected seeds by hand from underwater meadows in nearby Chesapeake Bay – plucking the long reproductive shoots, bringing them back to our laboratory and holding them in large outdoor seawater tanks until they released their seeds naturally. After about 10 years we started gathering the grasses using a custom-built underwater "lawn mower" to collect many more of the reproductive shoots than we could by hand.</p><p>In 2001 we sowed our first round by simply tossing seeds from a boat. Our first test plots covered 28 acres of mud flats in waters 2 to 3 feet deep. Returning the following year, we saw new seedlings sprouting up.</p><p>Each year since then, the <a href="https://www.vims.edu/" target="_blank">Virginia Institute of Marine Science</a> and the <a href="https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/where-we-work/united-states/virginia/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Nature Conservancy's Virginia Coast Reserve</a>, along with staff and students from the <a href="https://www.vcrlter.virginia.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Virginia</a>, have led a team of scientists and citizens to collect and seed a combined 536 acres of bare bottom in several coastal bays.</p><p>These initial plots took off and rapidly expanded. By 2020 they covered 9,600 acres across four bays. Several factors helped them flourish. These bays are naturally flushed with cool, clean water from the Atlantic Ocean. And they lie off the tip of Virginia's eastern shore, where there is little coastal development.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a482c2146febd6782c99960c2b55feb8"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K9NyfPLINtk?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Sheltering Marine Life and Storing Carbon<p>Since eelgrass disappeared from these bays in the 1930s, human understanding of seagrass ecosystems has evolved. Today people don't pack their walls full of seagrass insulation but instead value different services they provide, such as habitat for fish and shellfish – including many <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/conl.12645" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">commercially and recreationally important species</a>.</p><p>Scientists and government agencies also have recognized the importance of coastal systems in capturing and storing so-called "<a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/bluecarbon.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">blue carbon</a>." In fact, we now know that seagrasses constitute a globally significant <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/ngeo1477" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon sink</a>. They are a key tool for reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-020-64094-1" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">slowing climate change</a></p><p>We are working to understand the valuable services that our restored seagrass beds provide. To our surprise, fish and invertebrates returned within only a few years as the meadows expanded. These organisms have established extensive food webs that include species ranging from tiny seahorses to 6-foot-long sandbar sharks.<br></p><p>Other benefits were equally dramatic. Water in the bays become clearer as the seagrass canopy trapped floating particles and deposited them onto the bottom, burying significant stocks of carbon and nitrogen in sediments bound by the grasses' roots. Our research is the first to verify the overall net carbon captured by seagrass, and is now being used to issue carbon offset credits that in turn <a href="https://vaseagrant.org/eelgrass-carbon-credits/" target="_blank">create more funds for restoration</a>.</p><p>One big question was whether restoring seagrasses could make it possible to bring back bay scallops, which once generated millions of dollars for the local economy. Since bay scallops no longer existed in Virginia, we obtained broodstock from North Carolina, which we have <a href="https://chesapeakebaymagazine.com/return-of-the-bay-scallop/" target="_blank">reared and released annually</a> since 2013. Regular surveys now reveal a growing population of bay scallops in the restored eelgrass, although there is still some way to go before they reach levels seen in the 1930s.</p>
Restored seagrass beds (dark areas) along Virginia's Atlantic coast, with sunlight reflecting from a small island. Jonathan Lefcheck, CC BY-ND
A Model for Coastal Restoration<p>Repairing damaged ecosystems is such an urgent mission worldwide that the United Nations has designated 2021-2030 as the <a href="https://www.decadeonrestoration.org/" target="_blank">U.N. Decade on Ecosystem Restoration</a>. We see the success we have achieved with eelgrass restoration as a prime model for similar efforts in coastal areas around the world.</p><p>Our project focused not only on reviving this essential habitat, but also on charting how restoring seagrasses affected the ecosystem and on the co-restoration of bay scallops. It provides a road map for involving scholars, nonprofits organizations, citizens and government agencies in an ecological mission where they can see the results of their work.</p><p>Recent assessments show that the restored zone only covers about 30% of the total habitable bottom in our project area. With continued support, eelgrass – and the many benefits it provides – may continue to thrive and expand well into the 21st century.</p>
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a rule change on Friday that will allow some coal power plants to ignore a court order to clean up coal ash ponds, which leech toxic materials into soil and groundwater. The rule change will allow some coal ash ponds to stay open for years while others that have no barrier to protect surrounding areas are allowed to stay open indefinitely, according to the AP.
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A new report finds that criminal prosecutions for polluting the environment in violation of the Clean Water Act or the Clean Air Act have dropped to their lowest levels in decades under the Trump administration, as The New York Times reported.
A federal judge in a U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California vacated a decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dredge and fill salt ponds in Redwood City, a town on the San Francisco Bay, as the AP reported.