Trump's Repeal of Plastic Water Bottle Ban in National Parks Depicts Lobbying Power of Big Business
Amidst the current political turbulence among a series of hot button issues this decision might seem trivial, but it's really not. Here's why:
It's an illogical decision driven purely by the undue influence of companies who profit from it.
Trump Eliminates Plastic Water Bottle Ban in National Parks, Removes White House Bikeshare Station https://t.co/H13hwtJrxB— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@Robert F. Kennedy Jr)1502986962.0
This repeal represents a decision steeped in tacit approval of the lobbying power of big business with profit-at-any-cost-to-the-environment motivations. This represents a policy reversal in order to drive the profitability of companies that package and distribute single use plastic water bottles. And let's be clear, it's no coincidence that this repeal comes weeks after the Senate confirmation of David Bernhardt as deputy interior secretary—whose involvement included his prior law firms' work on behalf of one of the largest single use plastic water bottlers in the U.S.
It's a decision that's unduly influenced by behind-the-scenes deal making, special interests and back-pocketing big corporations and lobbyist groups that nearly all Americans—on both the left and the right—have grown to despise. The opposition of which was one of the very building blocks that created a platform for two constituents (Sanders and Trump) ideologies that most agree represented the more extreme sides of the political spectrum.
For those who supported Trump, this repeal of an important environmental policy—which only works to support big corporations single use bottled water profit motives—is an explicit example of the very type of deal-making they declared, and specifically voted, that they were against.
The basis for this decision is a significant step backwards for environmental initiatives, and an even bigger one in terms of our political leadership's ability to separate solid policy decision making from the undue influence of powerful corporations and lobbyists that thwart forward progress of powerful policy that supports building a sustainable ecosystem.
As an American who cares deeply about our environmental stewardship and our future ecological system that we're responsible to pass onto our children, not only do I oppose the decision based on the environmental impact, I vehemently oppose it based on the basis of the conflict of interest represented by our new deputy interior secretary.
This represents a significant step backwards on environmental issues.
The writer Wallace Stegner called our national park system, "the best idea we've ever had" and the idea of which was simple: to make sure America's greatest national treasures remain protected and preserved forever—and for everyone. The entire basis of our national park system is one of conservationism.
Yet, here are the facts about single use plastic water bottles.
- The majority of 9 billion tons of plastic created since the 1950's are still lingering around—though only about 20 percent of those products remain in use.
- Most plastic water bottles do not biodegrade; instead they photo degrade. One piece turns into two, four, eight and so on—until the microparticulate are embedded into organic matter and poison our entire ecological and food system.
- American's consume nearly 50 billion single use plastic water bottles each year—80 percent of which end up polluting our oceans, lakes, rivers and landfills.
- To produce these bottles it requires the use of 20 billion barrels of oil, not to mention the millions of tons of CO2 byproduct emissions via the production process itself.
- The Grand Canyon National Park alone estimates that bottled water alone represented 300 tons of garbage required for annual disposal.
- Nearly half of all bottled water is glorified and repurposed tap water, which comes from municipal tap water sources—at 10,000 times the cost of tap water.
- The plastics within bottled water can be laced with chemicals that can contain thousands of endocrine (hormone) disruptors, which can permeate into the very water you drink. Not only does each bottle pollute the environment but it also pollutes your body.
- A recent study of women in pregnancy showed those who drank bottled water vs. those who did not had babies that were significantly more obese at birth—this is resultant effect of exposure to hormone-disrupting toxins that leech through plastic bottles over the short period of development in utero.
Even though only about 30 percent of the national parks have implemented a bottled water ban, with 300 million people visiting the national parks each year this repeal has squandered an opportunity to educate and encourage people to do right by the environment and their own health by eliminating the use of single use plastic water bottles.
Those supporting the repeal using arguments around the allowable sale of sugary beverages within the national parks are missing the point and use it only as a red herring. To make forward progress with ideology, one must not use remedial arguments of "well, it's better than…" And if there were a better argument, it would be one that substantiates a narrative around creating less governmental intervention in the free market—a general premise upon which I subscribe. Yet, there are critical and important measures where the government and policy should intervene—and this is yet one example. National parks are funded by each of the tax-paying Americans in an effort to preserve and protect the environment—using "policy" to help extend those measures to keep the environmental toxifying effects, as well direct and indirect costs, of single use plastic water bottles out of our national parks is a premise rooted neither in a "right" or "left" viewpoint, but rather a pragmatic one towards doing right for sustainability—versus the profits of a few companies at our expense.
Instead, with this repeal it's a considerable step backwards. One that removes sound sustainable policy designed specifically to support an ecosystem whose sole intent is to preserve some of our greatest natural resources in the U.S.—and we're doing this by re-entrenching consumers access to an environmental cigarette: single use plastic water bottles.
Rich Razgaitis is the CEO and co-founder of FloWater.
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By Zahida Sherman
Cooking has always intimidated me. As a child, I would anxiously peer into the kitchen as my mother prepared Christmas dinner for our family.
Falling in Love With Food All Over Again<p>Slowly, through my most intimate relationships with friends and partners, I began to see the beauty — and rewards — of cooking.</p><p>I got tired of giving in to defeat and always bringing chips or paper products to social gatherings. I started asking my mom to send me her Christmas and Thanksgiving recipes. I even volunteered to host Thanksgiving dinner at my place.</p><p>Each time I heard my loved ones sing the praises of the foods I prepared for them, I felt a tinge more confident that I could carry out our traditions my way.</p><p>In reaching out to other relatives for their favorite recipes, I learned that they had a little help of their own. They didn't rely solely on their ancestral cooking instincts. They turned to Black chefs for guidance.</p><p>These 7 cookbooks by Black chefs have inspired my family and fed us in nutrients, joy, and spiritual sustenance. They're also helping me overcome my personal fears of cooking.</p>
Get CookingWhether you're in recovery from cooking fears like me, or are just looking to expand your culinary confidence with dishes honoring Black heritage, these Black chefs are here to support you on your journey.Turn on some music, give yourself permission to make mistakes, and throw down for yourself or your loved ones. Glorious flavors await you.
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By Tara Lohan
The conclusion to decades of work to remove a dam on the Middle Fork Nooksack River east of Bellingham, Washington began with a bang yesterday as crews breached the dam with a carefully planned detonation. This explosive denouement is also a beginning.
The History<p>The Middle Fork Nooksack drains glacier-fed headwater streams that run off the icy summit of 10,778-foot Mt. Baker. The Middle Fork joins the North Fork and then the mainstem of the Nooksack River, which travels to Bellingham Bay and Puget Sound. The entire Nooksack watershed stretches 830 square miles across Washington and into British Columbia.</p>
A Plan Comes Together<p>The Middle Fork dam is not a pool dam built for water storage. Much of the time, water flows over the top until dam operators drop a floodgate to divert water to new locations. That water travels about 14 miles through tunnel and pipeline to Mirror Lake, then Anderson Creek, and to Lake Whatcom before finally being delivered to residents' taps.</p><p>Before removing the dam, engineers had to move the water intake 700 feet upstream and situate it at an elevation that still enabled city water withdrawals throughout the year, regardless of flow conditions.</p><p>They also needed to make sure that the rushing water didn't sweep up fish and accidentally send them through the water-supply system.</p><p>"The solution required a fairly complex design in the intake structure, including a fish exit pipe out of that structure to put fish back into the river in a way that meets current environmental permit standards," explains LaCroix.</p>
Project layout for the removal of the Middle Fork Nooksack diversion dam and rebuilding of water intake. City of Bellingham<p>Despite the cost and the work, she says, being able to continue to meet their municipal water obligations while opening up habitat for threatened species has been a win-win.</p><p>"I think there's a lot of benefits to having a dam removal versus fish passage — the main one being that you get a free-flowing river that can be a dynamic ecosystem and change over time," she says. "A static fish ladder just can't provide that same level of ecosystem benefit."</p>
Restoration Success<p>Despite local authorities' championing dam removal on the Middle Fork, the project has largely flown under the radar, overshadowed in the Pacific Northwest by heated discussions about a much larger potential project — removing <a href="https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/feds-reject-removal-of-4-snake-river-dams-in-key-report/" target="_blank">four federal hydroelectric dams on the lower Snake River</a>, a major tributary of the Columbia River.</p><p>Proponents of dam removal there see it as the best chance for recovering threatened salmon populations, including Chinook, which could help starving Southern Resident killer whales. Those dams also provide irrigation water, barge navigation and hydropower, so there's been more pushback against removal efforts.</p><p>Previous dam removals around the country, however, have proved successful at aiding fish recovery and river restoration.</p><p>Most notably the 1999 demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/edwards-dam-removal/" target="_blank">Edwards Dam on Maine's Kennebec River</a> restored the annual run of alewives, a type of herring essential to the food web. The fish run has gone from zero to 5 million in the two decades since dam removal. Blueback herring, striped bass, sturgeon and shad have also extended their reach. And the resurgence has brought back osprey, bald eagles and other wildlife, too.</p><p>The overwhelming success of river restoration on the Kennebec helped to spur a nationwide dam removal movement that's now seen 1,200 dams come down since 1999. Last year a record <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/conservation-resource/a-record-26-states-removed-dams-in-2019/" target="_blank">90 dams</a> were removed in 26 states, including <a href="https://therevelator.org/cleveland-forest-dam-removal/" target="_blank">20 dams in California's Cleveland National Forest</a>.</p>
Spider excavators remove on dam on San Juan Creek in California's Cleveland National Forest. Julie Donnell, USFS<p>The results have been seen in the Pacific Northwest, as well, which boasts the largest dam removal thus far in the country. In 2011 and 2014, the demolition of <a href="https://therevelator.org/elwha-dam-removal/" target="_blank">two dams</a> on Elwha River, which runs through Washington's Olympic National Park, opened up 70 miles of habitat that had been blocked for a century. Scientists have started seeing all five species of salmon native to the river coming back, particularly Chinook and coho. Bull trout, they've observed, have increased in size since the dams were removal.</p>
Benefits on the Middle Fork Nooksack<p>McEwan hopes to see a similar outcome on the Middle Fork.</p><p>Like the Elwha the Middle Fork Nooksack is a relatively pristine river with little development, and dam removal is expected to provide a big boost to fish. The additional miles of spawning habitat are important, but so is the temperature of that water.</p><p>The dam removal will open access to cold upstream waters, which are ideal for salmon and getting harder to come by as climate change warms waters and reduces mountain runoff.</p><p>"This is really great for the climate change resiliency for these species," says McEwan.</p><p>Steelhead will get back 45% of their historic habitat in the river, and scientists expect Chinook populations to increase in abundance by 31%.</p><p>That <em>could</em> help Southern Resident killer whales.</p><p>"When you get to the ocean, it's a little bit of a black box in terms of what you can model and say definitively is going to help, but more fish is better for orcas," McEwan says.</p><p>Upstream habitat will see benefits, too.</p><p>Oceangoing fish like salmon enrich their bodies with carbon and nitrogen while at sea. When they return to their natal rivers to spawn and die, the marine-derived nutrients they carry back upriver become important food and fertilizer for both riverine and terrestrial ecosystems — aiding everything from trees to birds to bears.</p><p>"Once the fish start making their way back, it will start changing the whole ecological system," says Delgado.</p><p><span></span>But any ecological benefit from salmon restoration, either in the ocean or the upper watershed, won't be immediate.<br></p><p>"The population of salmon on the Middle Fork is so low that we expect it's going to take quite a while to rebound," she says. "But the big picture is that what's good for salmon is good for the region — our history and our destiny are intricately intertwined."</p><p>After decades of work, that process of restoration has finally begun.</p>
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A new tool called The Food Systems Dashboard aims to save decision makers time and energy by painting a complete picture of a country's food system. Created by the Johns Hopkins' Alliance for a Healthier World, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Dashboard compiles food systems data from over 35 sources and offers it as a public good.
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It can grow to a maximum of six inches (16 centimeters), change color depending on mood and habitat, and, like all seahorses, the White's seahorse male gestates its young. But this tiny snouted fish is under threat.
Building an Ocean Seahorse Destination<p>Seahorses are found in tropical and temperate coastal water worldwide, but are most abundant around Australia, China and the Philippines. </p><p>Trade in the tiny creatures is strictly regulated because of their use in traditional medicine, aquariums and their sale as dried curios. But because they are poor swimmers and cannot easily move elsewhere, habitat loss is a particular threat for these curious animals. </p><p>Seahorses wrap their tails around seagrass and corals to avoid being carried away on currents. They use the habitat to spawn and hide from predators such as crabs, while also feeding on riches of plankton and small crustaceans living in the reef.</p><p><span></span>Where corals aren't available, <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/aqc.1217" target="_blank">scientists</a> found seahorses taking up residence in fishing nets and old crab traps abandoned at the bottom of the ocean. </p>
Mixing With the Locals<p>Baby seahorse mortality is high in the wild because they are easily caught, so those bred in the protected environment of the aquarium weren't ready to be released into the wild until early May.</p><p>The team released 90 new arrivals into Sydney Harbor, placing some directly into the purpose-built hotels, and others onto a net that wild seahorses had already settled on.</p><p>Before setting them free, the researchers marked each young seahorse with a fluorescent tag with unique IDs inserted just beneath the skin to track how they get on in the different environments. </p><p>"The most exciting part was being able to put these animals into the wild and then go back a month later and still see them surviving and growing," said McCracken. </p><p>The seahorses will be old enough to mate and reproduce around October or November 2020. And researchers hope that by then, they will be able to breed with the wild population. </p>
Building a Global Seahorse Hotel Chain<p>With seahorses everywhere facing the loss of their coral reef homes, similar projects have sprung up in places like Greece and South Africa, home to the world's most endangered seahorse, the Knysna seahorse. </p><p>"The endangered South African seahorse is benefiting from something quite similar, even though it wasn't intentional," said Peter Teske, professor at the Department of Zoology, University of Johannesburg.</p><p>In the South African <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/publication/322649251_An_endangered_seahorse_selectively_chooses_an_artificial_structure" target="_blank">case</a>, seahorses have bedded down in "Reno mattresses" — wire cages filled with rocks — that were used to build a new marina. Researchers from NGO Knysna Basin Project found the structures acted as a refuge for the animals.<span></span></p><p><span></span>While Teske describes the seahorse hotels as "a positive news story" and a great way to create public awareness of conservation, he added that establishing artificial habitats in some areas will only prevent the extinction of local populations.</p><p>"For a complete recovery, it is necessary to give the natural habitat a chance to regenerate," said the seahorse expert. </p>
Underwater Mascot<p>In Australia, the researchers hope the project could provide an opportunity to raise awareness not only of the plight of the Sydney seahorses but the other animals with which it shares its ocean habitat.</p><p>The waters around Sydney and the east coast are rich in biodiversity and include several threatened species like the weedy seadragon — a relative of the seahorse — and the grey nurse shark. Like the seahorse, they're also under pressure from pollution, ocean traffic and habitat loss through storms and coastal construction. </p><p>"It's a good thing to get people's support and interest. The seahorses are a useful vehicle to get people concerned if the harbor is in trouble," said David Booth, professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney who is also working on the project. </p><p>The hotels have become an attraction for divers hoping to catch a glimpse of these small but near mythical creatures. </p><p>"Everyone loves seahorses," added Booth, "they are so popular." </p>
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