There's a wild place at the end of my street inside the city limits. Sixty acres of very big pin oaks, wild cherry, basswood, some old agricultural fields reverting back to wetlands and forest and an ancient fencerow of swamp white oaks that may be remnants of the original wilderness.
There are a few small ponds, too, that formed after sandstone quarrying a very long time ago. It's a great place to watch red foxes, hear frogs, wild turkey and wood thrushes singing in the spring, and escape the built environment. Generations of kids, and adults, have used it as a defacto park. Several years ago the city of Elyria, OH commissioned a study that recommended the wild spot be protected as a park, and then, the 3M Corporation bought it.
For a few years we all continued to enjoy our wild spot. But, the big trees were marked with a slash of spray paint last month and 3M decided to log it.
It's places like these that are the inspiration for a local kid to one day pursue a career in field biology and later landscape architecture. That kid was me, and now I've come home and can speak for this wild spot, and tell you why this isn't just another local issue of economic development at any cost.
This wild spot has links to regional, national and even international concerns and its potential loss is part of a cascading series of events that affect everyone, everywhere. Deforestation has been growing at an alarming rate here, and across the Midwest, as farmers are eliminating their woodlots for more corn production. As the economy tightens, many landowners are also logging to earn some fast cash. Several thousand acres of forest and wetland have been destroyed in this three county area in just the last year.
A closed canopy forest reflects and absorbs sunlight and prevents much of it from reaching the ground. This in turn has a modulating effect on local climate, cooling it and slowly releasing moisture back into the atmosphere as trees transpire water. A mature forest is like a big sponge, soaking up rainfall and storing it for slow release. A mature forest captures and stores carbon more efficiently. When forests and wetlands are destroyed flash floods result. Our local climate gets hotter and drier and costs associated with cooling buildings in the summer increase, damage from flooding increases and when you start adding local climates together, one soon reaches global climate change.
Biodiversity declines in forests that have been logged. When the eastern hardwood forest was wilderness and one continuous tract from the Atlantic to the Mississippi tornadoes would regularly level large areas of trees. The forest had a mechanism for reclaiming these disturbance sites as quickly as possible. Species eliminated in the disturbance could recolonize from surrounding undisturbed forest. Today, we have a fragmented landscape with patches of trees like islands, surrounded by a biological desert. Re-colonization is often not possible for many species of insects, amphibians, reptiles, plants and a host of other organisms. Each island has become an important reservoir of life.
We are in the midst of several ecological plagues. Ash trees are being completely eliminated by the emerald ash borer. Bat populations are dying out due to white nose disease and native arrow-wood and cranberry viburnum shrubs are also disappearing because of the viburnum leaf beetle. These viburnums were once part of the original forest's plant species that rushed into disturbed areas. They will no longer be available to perform that function. What that means now is that when a forest is logged it will be colonized by non-native invasive plants. These plants evolved in distant ecosystems and do not host our native insects which in turn causes a crash in insect diversity and the birds and animals that depend on them for food, and the other plant species that depend on them as pollinators.
Bats roost in mature trees and are the chief predator of mosquitoes. One little brown bat can consume up to 3,000 in a single night. Yet another plague is the West Nile virus-carried by mosquitoes. Human and livestock deaths from this infection are on the rise. 3M will tell you that they are actually "improving wildlife habitat" by logging. What they refer to is that white-tailed deer numbers increase in these types of edge habitats. Deer populations have skyrocketed across the country, especially in urban areas and they have denuded many woodlands of native plants that in turn once supported an entire web of biodiversity. Pollinating insects and ground nesting birds are especially hard hit. The ecosystem doesn't need more deer.
Neotropical birds are species that breed here and migrate to the tropics for the winter. Some go as far as South America. These birds are in serious decline throughout their range. The National Audubon Society recently released information that 25 percent of neotropical forest bird species are showing significant decline. The wood thrush that sings in our wild spot is a neotropical migrant.
Jared Diamond wrote a book called, Collapse-Why Civilizations Choose to Fail. He describes the predictable process that every civilization that has yet appeared has followed to its ultimate demise. Deforestation and ecological degradation are precursors to a civilizations failure. He also writes about the problem of "Distant Managers," people who make decisions from a distance that have no responsibility for, or stake in, the aftermath of that decision.
Big Oil drilling in the Amazon and leaving contaminated water, ruined villages/landscapes and ecological catastrophe are an example. So is the 3M Corporation in Elyria, OH. They will tell you about being a "good neighbor," and make the desire for a quick profit sound pretty benign through the rhetoric of their hired logger, but when pressed, simply resort to the adolescent attitude of "it’s our land and we'll do whatever we want." Many of us own land within the city limits and we can't just do whatever we want with it, and niether should 3M. We are fighting for our wild place. If you have a similar story to tell other wild place being destroyed, we'd like to hear about it by commenting below.
Craig Limpach is the conservation chair at Black River Audubon Society.
Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY page for more related news on this topic.
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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