Tag Archives: greenstuff

Standing Rock Tribe Wins in Court After Years of Perseverance

Standing Rock Tribe Wins in Court After Years of Perseverance

A federal judge struck down permits for the Dakota Access Pipeline, even after COVID-19 precautions led to an unconventional day in court.




Tribes and allies gathered to defend Standing Rock Sioux territory from the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. A federal judge struck down the pipeline's permits on March 25, 2020, after years of litigation.Tribes and allies gathered to defend Standing Rock

Tribes and allies gathered to defend Standing Rock Sioux territory from the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016. After years of litigation, a court struck down the pipeline’s water permits on March 25, 2020.

Scott Olson / Getty Images

For the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, there has never been any question of backing down from the fight to protect their homeland from the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Every year since 2016, the Tribal council has voted unanimously to continue legal challenges to the pipeline, which shuttles 600,000 barrels of crude oil a day within a mile upstream from the Standing Rock reservation. An oil spill into the nearby Missouri River would destroy the Tribe’s way of life. Earthjustice has represented the Tribe in its litigation.

On March 25, the Tribe gained a significant victory after a federal court struck down a permit to route the pipeline under the Missouri River, finding that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers failed to consider the health and environmental impacts to the Tribe in the event of an oil spill. The court ordered the Corps to complete a full environmental review, and it also asked each side to weigh in on whether the pipeline should be shut down in the meantime.

The legal victory vindicates the Standing Rock Sioux’s perseverance. After the Tribe’s initial stand inspired global solidarity and a halt to the pipeline’s construction, the early wins were tragically reversed by the Trump administration, the oil started flowing, and the struggle shifted to the courts. The Tribe stood their ground through four years of legal fight and counting.

“After years of commitment to defending our water and earth, we welcome this news of a significant legal win,” says Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Mike Faith. “It’s humbling to see how actions we took four years ago to defend our ancestral homeland continue to inspire national conversations about how our choices ultimately affect this planet. Perhaps in the wake of this court ruling the federal government will begin to catch on, too, starting by actually listening to us when we voice our concerns.”

Last week’s hearing took place despite unprecedented hurdles, as traveling to D.C. became too dangerous amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Seattle-based Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman cancelled his flights and hotels – including a side trip to visit his mother in D.C. – and requested to hold the hearing via teleconference.

Yet heedless of the public health risk, Dakota Access’s lawyers, who are based in D.C., vehemently pushed back.

“They didn’t really have any good reasons,” says Hasselman. “It was incredibly tone-deaf to demand an in-person hearing in the middle of a public health crisis. But the court handled it very fairly. Nobody was at a disadvantage.”

On the day of the hearing, Hasselman delivered his case via phone, arguing that the Army Corps never fully assessed the imminent danger to the Tribe should the pipeline rupture. Despite not being able to read the courtroom or see the judge’s body language, Hasselman found ways to make the virtual accommodation work: Surrounded by fact sheets and regulatory citations taped to the wall of his home office, Hasselman had everything he needed to answer the judge’s questions.

The Tribe has persisted in challenging DAPL through the ups and downs of court victories and setbacks. In December 2016, the Obama administration put the pipeline on hold—only to have President Trump reverse that order on his second day in office. Even after a federal judge in late 2017 ordered the Army Corps to take into account the Tribe’s criticisms, construction continued. The Army Corps ignoredthat judge’s instructions.

The massive 2016 gathering of Tribes and allies defending Standing Rock Sioux territory from DAPL captured the world’s attention and attracted international media coverage. It helped give rise to a global movement of indigenous resistance to fossil-fuel infrastructure projects.

The March 25 court ruling could be the beginning of the end for the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is now preparing to argue that DAPL should be shut down while the Army Corps completes its review.

“This validates everything the Tribe has been saying all along about the risk of oil spills to the people of Standing Rock,” says Hasselman. “The Obama administration had it right when it moved to deny the permits in 2016, and this is the second time the Court has ruled that the government ran afoul of environmental laws when it permitted this pipeline. We will continue to see this through until DAPL has finally been shut down.”

Exclude from Recent Victories: 

Make Your Own Oat Milk At Home

vegan-oat-milk
 
Almond milk presents serious problems to the ecology: see our post about how the almond industry is devastating bees. Soy milk’s popularity slid down as soy’s effects on hormones, and its mostly GMO origins, are now known.  Rice milk has almost no nutrients, or flavor, to justify its price. What’s the solution, then?
 
Voilá, oat milk.
 
Oats have plenty of minerals and vitamins, but it’s not known at this time how much of that goodness remains in oat milk. Oat milk also has more carbs and less protein than dairy milk. Still, it’s nut- soy-, and dairy-free.  It’s also gluten-free, if it’s a brand that’s certified gluten-free. And it tastes good.
 

Are you looking at the cartons of oat milk in the grocery store? Examine the label and see if the brand suits your needs. Commercial oat milks often have added sugar. However, they have the advantage of being fortified with vitamin D and vitamin A; sometimes vitamin B12, riboflavin and calcium as well. 

 
If you decide to go with home-made, you’ll be pleased to see how little time it takes to make it. It’s a boon if you’re allergic to nut and nut-based milks. And naturally, making it yourself saves money.  You can flavor or sweeten it if you wish. A couple of pitted, chopped dates, vanilla extract, maple syrup or good honey can provide the slight sweetness most of us expect in milk.
 
There’s some difference of opinion as to whether the oats should be soaked ahead of time. Those who are in favor of soaking explain that oats contain phythic acid, which disrupts the absorption of minerals in your food. (Not all the food you eat over the day, only what you’re eating while drinking oat milk; and not all the minerals and vitamins in that meal either.)
 
Others say that phythic acid, present in many grains and pulses, including wheat, shouldn’t be a concern to people eating an otherwise balanced diet that includes a large variety of produce, including the occasional meat or dairy meal. In other words, strict vegans may prefer to soak the oats. It’s up to you! And the last word on the topic: phythic acid is destroyed in cooking, so don’t bother soaking if you’re planning on baking or cooking with oats.
 
Home-Made Oat Milk
Yield: 3 cups
 
Water to soak the oats, if desired 
1 cup rolled oats
3 cups filtered water
1 pinch sea salt
Optional: 2 pitted, chopped dates or 1 teaspoon honey, and/or 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
 
If pre-soaking, cover the oats in plenty of filtered water for 1 hour or overnight. Longer is better to soften the oats and remove phythic acid. 
 
Rinse the oats very well after soaking, to prevent a slimy, cooked-oats texture. Discard the soaking and rinse water.
 
Put the oats, 3 cups of fresh water, sea salt and optional flavoring in a blender. Blend 1 minute.
 
Strain the blended mass through a clean kitchen towel or cheesecloth folded into several layers.
 
Keep the oat milk refrigerated up to 5 days.
The milk may separate. Shake it up and it’ll be fine.
 
Image of home-made oat milk via http://www.thenutfreevegan.net
 
 

The post Make Your Own Oat Milk At Home appeared first on Green Prophet | Impact News for the Middle East.

In a first, a drone helps nab illegal logger in Peru

aerial-farm-768x432.jpg?sfvrsn=f7f7b4c4_

<br /><p>Jimmy Pinedo of Conservation International Peru, pictured above, operating a drone. (© Widber Flores Villacorta)</p><p>On Nov. 17 of last year, a man was caught illegally cutting down trees in Peru’s Alto Mayo Protected Forest.</p><p>Sadly, this was not out of the ordinary: Despite the area’s protected status, illegal farming and logging still occur in this swath of forest in the Amazon River basin, and people are routinely caught and fined.</p><p>What was out of the ordinary about this case: The culprit was caught by a drone.</p><p>That same week in November, Jimmy Pinedo of Conservation International Peru had been training a group of park rangers from Peru’s national protected-area agency (known by its acronym in Spanish, SERNANP) to use drones as a forest monitoring tool.
The eyes in the sky aim to provide a new weapon in the fight to stop illegal logging in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, a swath of dense rainforest twice the size of New York City.</p><p>Before the training, community members living in the Alto Mayo reported a suspiciously large amount of timber being collected on a property within the protected forest. A SERNANP ranger attempted to investigate the property, but it was located on the
opposite bank of the wide and aggressive Mayo River — an impossible trip to make in the limited time he had.</p><p>Instead, he attended the drone workshop — with the property’s coordinates in hand.</p><p>Drones are an <a href=”https://ift.tt/338dPlh&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>increasingly popular tool</a> for conservationists. The drones can capture detailed
high-resolution images of objects on the ground, as well as human activities that threaten nature, such as illegal logging, mining and poaching. These images spare rangers from long-distance hikes or travel to potentially dangerous areas.</p><p>The drones’ popularity is growing as the technology improves, says Max Wright, remote sensing and spatial modeling analyst at Conservation International. “It’s staggering how quickly drone technology is advancing,” he said. “The
drones that we are using today have much greater range and data-collection capabilities than even what was available a few years ago.”</p><p>This range proved useful in the case of the illegal logger in Peru.</p><p><b>Flying to the scene</b></p><p>At the drone workshop in Alto Mayo, park ranger Onmer Cenepo surveyed the property from a launch site about 2 kilometers (roughly 1.2 miles) upstream, using a <a href=”https://ift.tt/2kez5mB&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Phantom 4 DJI quadcopter</a>,
a camera-equipped drone capable of high speeds and long flights.</p><p>Hovering 100 meters (328 feet) above the ground, the drone showed the rangers a large quantity of wood piled up on the other side of the Mayo River. Armed with this evidence, Frank Ramirez, the Alto Mayo indigenous community’s chief and coordinator
of the Control and Monitoring department in the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, called authorities to take action.</p><p><img style=”display:block;margin-left:auto;margin-right:auto;” src=”https://ift.tt/337SGrF&#8221; sf-size=”100″ /><i>Aerial photo of the illegal logging, pictured above, captured by a drone. (© Conservation International Peru)</i></p><p>It turns out the offender had a permit to harvest roughly 57 cubic meters (2,000 cubic feet) of land, about the size of two school buses. Instead, he was harvesting an area three times that size — which was illegal. According to Ramirez, the logger
received a written citation and will be fined for the illegal timber extraction by the regional environmental authority.</p><p>The hope is that this incident, and others like it, will discourage other farmers from illegal logging and developing protected land. Conservation International and partners are ramping up efforts to train rangers to patrol and monitor using drones. There
is a clear need: Though deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon in 2017 was <a href=”https://ift.tt/2NwC8mr&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>down 13 percent</a> from 2016, and Peru
declared a <a href=”https://ift.tt/2nccciL&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>new national park</a> in early 2018, incidents like the one in November elicit
concern from conservationists for the future of Peru’s forests — and hope that drones can improve protection and enforcement.</p><p>“In the future, I could see small teams of rangers going out into the protected area to systematically map the forests at fine resolution or using drone imagery to verify deforestation events in remote — or even dangerous — areas,”
Wright said.</p><p>In the past two years, Conservation International has trained 10 SERNANP rangers and three partners from ECOAN (Asociación de Ecosistemas Andinos), a Peruvian organization that aims to reduce deforestation. The local indigenous community has also
been trained to operate drones. Conservation International is also piloting acoustic sensors that capture the sound of chainsaws and sends the coordinates to the ranger’s office, which can then send a drone to investigate.</p><p>As drones continue to get smaller and more powerful, they will play an increasingly important role — and offer hope for protecting Peru’s forests.</p><p><i>Cassandra Kane is the communications manager for Conservation International’s Conservation Finance Division.</i></p><p><i>Want to read more stories like this? Sign up for email updates <a target=”_blank” rel=”noopener” href=”https://www.conservation.org/act”>here</a&gt;. Donate to Conservation International <a href=”https://ift.tt/2WJfnA5&#8243; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>here.</a></i></p><hr /><p><b>Further reading</b></p><ul><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/2nccciL&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Peru establishes new national park in the Amazon<br /></a></li><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/338dPlh&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Conservation tools: How drones can save rainforests<br /></a></li><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/2JHLHhk&#8221; target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Low-flying, crime-sniffing drones: Coming soon to the Amazon?</a></li></ul><hr />

In palm oil, Liberia sees economic boom — but forests may lose

Will lead to ebola outbreak in Liberia. Plantations breed conditions that support disease.

<p><b><i>Editor’s note: </i></b><i>Surrounded by heavily deforested neighboring countries, Liberia resembles a green island in satellite images </i><i>— yet this forest’s future is by no means guaranteed. </i></p><p><i>Liberia views palm oil development as a huge opportunity for economic growth and international trade. But embracing the </i><a href=”https://ift.tt/30YLAUN&#8221; target=”_blank”><i>booming industry</i></a><i> is not without its costs. Without proper oversight, </i><i>the country’s vast forests could be cut down and replaced by oil palm plantations, </i><i>destroying critical natural resources and the benefits they provide for the communities who depend on them.</i></p><p><i>Once mired in decades of civil war, in recent years a more peaceful Liberia has emerged as a conservation leader focused on sustainable economic growth. To understand both the opportunities and the challenges that increased palm oil production poses for Liberia and its prized forests, Human Nature sat down with Liam Walsh, technical director for Conservation International (CI)’s Liberia office. </i></p><p><b>Question: Liberia’s forest resources are immense. Can you give us some background on them? </b></p><p><b>Answer: </b>Liberia’s forests provide a wide range of significant benefits to the Liberian people and the international community, such as habitat for globally important biodiversity, a range of ecological services, ecotourism potential, timber
and non-timber forest products and significant revenue for the country from commercial forestry development. To put it in perspective: Only one-tenth of West Africa’s original <a href=”https://ift.tt/2e7E7NI&#8221; target=”_blank”>Upper Guinean rainforest</a> remains, and 40 percent of that is in Liberia. Kept intact, this extensive forest has the incredible opportunity to help mitigate climate change.</p><p>CI started engaging with Liberia in 1999; the actual office here was set up in 2003. Initially, the focus was on helping Liberia create a network of protected areas across the country. The focus gradually shifted over time to include more <a href=”https://ift.tt/30S1LD6&#8243; target=”_blank”>work with communities living in or near forests that lie outside of the protected network</a>.</p><p><b>Q: What role did forests play in Liberia’s conflicts over the last few decades?</b></p><p><b>A:</b> During Liberia’s civil war, timber revenues were used to finance conflict. When the war ended, Liberia initiated a forest sector reform process and the United Nations lifted its three-year embargo on the sale of timber from Liberia. The
goal now is to transform Liberia’s forest into an engine for sustainable development. Questions remain on how this will take place — and whether the vast majority of Liberia’s population will benefit.</p><p><b>Q: </b><b>How are forests </b><b>— and natural resources more generally —</b><b> tied to Liberia’s economic development? </b></p><p><b>A: </b>In the aftermath of an extended period of civil war, Liberia is facing some severe development challenges. Consider this: At least 60 percent of the country’s population lives in predominantly forested ecosystems and depends substantially
on forests for their livelihoods, local food production and rural development. That’s nearly 700,000 households. However, poverty and the need for economic growth and development are significant drivers of degradation of natural resources in
the country.</p><p><b>Q: </b><b>What does the palm oil industry currently look like in Liberia?    </b></p><p><b>A: </b>Palm oil production in Liberia is considered by the government to be one of the most important industries for the future. They believe Liberia will become a major exporter of oil palm products in the West Africa region in the next five years,
and that, eventually, they can potentially export their products to Europe. Since 2009, four international palm oil companies have been granted concessions (areas of land the government grants companies to plant a crop) in Liberia for palm oil production
on 620,000 hectares (more than 1.5 million acres) of land. The palm oil industry has grown substantially across the globe and has made tangible contributions to poverty alleviation in parts of the world such as Indonesia and Malaysia. However, palm
oil production is also associated with a range of environmental issues including widespread deforestation.</p><p>Currently, palm oil development in Liberia is at a nascent stage, but given the scale of the concessions, the potential for growth is significant. Major land concessions in Liberia extend over vast areas that include forest that is high in biodiversity
and provides valuable ecosystem services for communities such as flood regulation, carbon sequestration, timber and ecotourism. In both industrial and conservation terms, landscapes in Liberia are in high demand. <i><b>(See drone footage of an oil palm plantation below.)</b></i></p><p></p><p><b>Q: What do palm oil concessions mean for Liberia’s forests?</b></p><p><b>A:</b> Palm oil is responsible for large-scale forest conversion in many parts of the tropics, particularly Indonesia and Malaysia. There is considerable conservation-worthy forest across the different palm oil concessions in Liberia, and the potential
for conversion of natural forest in these areas is very high. In fact, most deforestation that has occurred in the last 10 years in Liberia has occurred in areas where large-scale palm oil development is taking place.</p><p>So on the one hand, palm oil investment has the potential to support local agriculture and economic development — providing more jobs, economic growth and export opportunities. But on the other hand, the scale of these concessions raises concerns
about potential negative impacts on communities, forests and ecosystems. How do we balance those two seemingly competing objectives?</p><p><b>Q: Where does CI fit in? </b></p><p><b>A: </b>The position we take at CI is that <a href=”https://blog.conservation.org/2016/10/what-you-need-to-know-about-palm-oil-in-5-charts/”>palm oil is not the enemy</a> — the problem is where and how it’s grown.
And that essentially captures what we’re trying to do in Liberia; we want to influence where and how palm oil production takes place<b>. </b>Within palm oil landscapes, the first thing we want to do with palm oil producers and communities is
to use the best possible science to map what we refer to as “go” and “no-go” areas for palm oil development.</p><p>“No-go” areas are ones we have identified as being best suited for conservation. These are areas that are important not only for biodiversity but for the ecosystem services they provide for people such as flood regulation, carbon sequestration,
non-timber forest products and income from ecotourism. Once we’ve identified these areas and companies have agreed to set them aside, we then work closely with communities to conserve these forest areas in the long term.</p><p>“Go” areas are those areas where we think the sector can realize its economic potential. We identify degraded areas, or areas without much forest, that are suitable to be developed for palm oil —  both today and in the future, taking
into account the climate change impacts predicted for the area. Once areas for responsible cultivation are identified, we want to support sustainable production practices on that land, and ensure that companies are employing best agricultural practices
on the degraded land that they do cultivate, such as maintaining soil fertility and minimizing and controlling erosion.</p><p>We are also supporting implementation of better government policies that back sustainable palm oil production; ensure proper monitoring systems are put in place; and support national initiatives that bring different stakeholders within the sector together
to discuss key issues and build consensus. This holistic approach will allow us to find a way forward so the sector can progress in an environmentally and socially responsible manner — and potentially be replicated in other countries involved
in palm oil production.</p><p><b>Q: Outside of Liberia, what is CI trying to do in the larger context of palm oil?  </b></p><p><b>A: </b>In addition to mapping and identifying “go” and “no-go” areas for development, CI works with impacted communities and with governments to conserve forested areas within concessions and ensures the companies are following
best practices within the areas that they do cultivate.</p><p>Crucially, CI looks at things from a broader governance perspective, recognizing that national policies play a big role in palm oil production. We also work directly with companies that source palm oil to improve their supply chains and strengthen demand
for sustainable palm oil.</p><p><b>Q: What makes palm oil such an appealing and lucrative crop to grow?</b></p><p><b>A: </b>When you compare palm oil to other vegetable oils, it’s quite a remarkable crop. It can be grown in a lot of different areas, it’s a versatile product that can be used in so many different things. And there’s the simple fact
that if we were going to substitute palm oil for something else, we would probably need a lot more land to produce the same amount of oil that we need for all the consumer products that use it. So at CI, we’d rather see that people are focused
on getting palm oil production right rather than forcing people to use alternatives that will pose even greater challenges to keeping forests standing.</p><p><i>Liam Walsh is the technical director of CI Liberia. Sophie Bertazzo is a staff writer for CI.</i></p><p><i>Want to read more stories like this? </i><a href=”https://www.conservation.org/act”><i>Sign up</i></a><i> for email updates. </i><a href=”http://www.conservation.org/donate”><i>Donate</i></a><i&gt; to Conservation International.</i></p><hr /><p><b>Further reading</b></p><ul><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/30YLAUN&#8221; target=”_blank”>What you need to know about palm oil — in 5 charts</a></li><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/30S1LD6&#8243; target=”_blank”>Conservation agreements reduce people-park conflict in Liberia</a></li><li><a href=”https://blog.conservation.org/2014/04/why-palm-oil-isnt-the-enemy/”>Why palm oil isn’t the enemy</a></li><li><a href=”https://ift.tt/2LEaSnq&#8221; target=”_blank”>How ‘protected’ are Amazon’s protected areas?</a></li></ul><hr />

Keep Clear Of Germs and Wash Your Hands

Most of us have been taught to wash our hands since early childhood. But the hand hygiene we were taught can be improved. Especially now during summer vacation when we spend more time out of our own friendly-germ environment and possibly traveling, it makes sense to follow sensible precautions.

When do you wash hands? Naturally, after toilet use and after touching yucky things like garbage. How about:

  • Before starting to cook. While cooking, after you’ve handled raw meat. After any time you’ve handled raw meat.
  • Before eating. Coming in from the street and ravenous? Take a minute to wash before attacking the meal.
  • If you’re taking care of a sick person, wash before and after contact. Wash before and after treating a cut or a wound.
  • Wash well after changing diapers or wiping a child or adult.
  • Got a runny nose? Even if you’re not sick, do everyone a favor and wash your hands after a nose-blowing session. Cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow to minimize spreading airborne cooties.
  • You love your pets, but their body wastes and food are as germy yours. So wash after handling pet food and changing kitty litter or the newspaper in the hamster’s cage.

Running water and soap are your best tools for hand-washing. Remember that the backs of your hands and between your fingers need lathering too. Use a nail brush to get dirt out from under your nails. Avoid using water that’s already been used, for example, water standing in a basin.

How long to lather? 20 seconds will do it. Or hum “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice while soaping up.

Dry thoroughly. If no clean towel is available, swish your your hands around to dry in the air. Dirty towels are worse than useless, they’re dangerous, especially if sick people are using them.

A hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content will do instead of washing, but not as efficiently as water and soap, and especially if your hands are greasy or dirty with visible dirt. Rub the sanitizer between your palms, on the backs of your hands and between your fingers until it’s almost evaporated. Wave your hands to air dry.

Note that some substances, notably pesticides and heavy metals, aren’t removed from the skin with alcohol.If you’ve had contact with pesticides, wash with soap and water. Call a poison control center if the contact has been extensive, and follow instructions.

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol)-based hand sanitizers are safe when used as directed, but older children and adults might swallow some to get drunk. Bad idea.  Swallowing more than two mouthfuls will poison a person.

According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, from 2011 – 2015, U.S. poison control centers received nearly 85,000 calls about hand sanitizer exposures among children. Children may be particularly likely to swallow hand sanitizers that are scented, brightly colored, or attractively packaged.

Hand sanitizers should be stored out of the reach of young children and should be used with adult supervision. Child-resistant caps could also help reduce hand sanitizer-related poisonings among young children.

:: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention

 

Bees and Beekeepers Feel the Sting of Trump Administration’s Anti-Science Efforts

Bees and Beekeepers Feel the Sting of Trump Administration’s Anti-Science Efforts

Bee populations are suffering nationwide, yet regulators continue to approve anti-bee actions.




Beekeeper Jeff Anderson minds his colonies in a California cherry orchard.

Beekeeper Jeff Anderson says the Trump administration’s anti-bee and anti-science efforts are hurting his business.

Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

It’s been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. EPA announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.

The Trump administration pushed for these two anti-bee actions, even though our nation’s honeybee populations have been nosediving for years. Last winter, beekeepers reported a record 40 percent loss of their colonies.

A honey bee alights on a cherry blossom in Stockton, California.

A honey bee alights on a cherry blossom in Stockton, California.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

Longtime beekeeper Jeff Anderson, owner of California-Minnesota Honey Farms, says the picture is even grimmer if you look at bee losses across the entire year, particularly in the spring and summer when farmers are spraying pesticides. It’s not just bees that are suffering, he says. Beekeepers are also feeling the sting of the Trump administration’s anti-bee and anti-science efforts. And consumers of healthy, fresh foods are next.

Were you surprised to learn that the USDA pulled its honeybee colonies report?  

No. The USDA quit doing the honeybees survey because they absolutely don’t want to document what’s happening, because then they’d have to do something about it.

How do you feel about the EPA reregistering sulfoxaflor?

One thing that stood out to me in the EPA’s notice is that it said it’s “providing long-term certainty for U.S. growers to use an important tool to protect crops and avoid potentially significant economic losses, while maintaining strong protection for pollinators. The wording, “long-term certainty… to use,” seems totally wrong for a regulatory agency to make a promise like that. It predisposes a defensive position for all decisions going forward.

Basically, the EPA’s buddies at Dow AgroSciences want to make billions on this pesticide, and the EPA is going to let them. But please don’t lie to us and say that sulfoxaflor is somehow pollinator safe. I’m not buying.

Why do bees get such short shrift by regulators and legislators?

Beekeeping has always been the ugly stepchild in agriculture. Agriculture needs us, but not everybody in agriculture needs us. Corn growers and wheat growers don’t need my bees. Cherry, almond, and blueberry growers need my bees. Any of the healthy foods that are in our diet need insect pollination, and if you want to eat chicken, beef, whatever, most of that doesn’t need my bees. But when it comes to our healthy, nutritious foods like nuts and fruits, almost all of those need insect pollination.

Farmers know that pesticides are a problem. In Minnesota, the standard question I get from farmers when I walk into a room or get gas at a gas station is, “How are the bees doing?” I tell them, “Well, not so good.” And it’s getting to be that most farmers these days will say, “It’s all these chemicals, isn’t it?” I tell them, “It should give you some pause to think about that because you and I are next. We just haven’t started coughing as much yet.”

Our environment is sick and our bees are a good indicator when that’s the truth. When my beehive gets sick, there’s something not right within the flight range of those bees. But the chemical industry is the one who speaks for everybody on the Hill, so it doesn’t matter what farmers think. That’s the reality.

Anderson minds his colonies in a California cherry orchard.

Anderson minds his colonies in a California cherry orchard.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

How are your honeybees faring this year?

I’ve had about 90 percent honeybee loss between last spring and this spring. I typically run about 3,000 colonies in our spring count and we instead we had 300.

If you want to look at my winter losses, they were probably about like what the Bee Informed Partnership survey is claiming, around 40 percent. And that is almost exclusively painted up in the press like that’s the annual number that the industry is losing, which is absolute hogwash because it isn’t the full story. The spring losses are greater than the winter losses because generally most things die when they’re most exposed to pesticides. Is that rocket science? No. It’s just that nobody talks about it.

Has the bee die-off impacted your ability to do business?

I used to have all of my adult children working for me. My oldest, Jeremy, has worked with bees ever since he got out of diapers. He’s been my foreman for 20 years. Now, with honey production way down, he’s barely getting paid enough to put food on the table. Things are getting tight because our honey crops are way off. The most barrels of honey I ever produced was about 450. Last year, I had about 68 barrels. Sick bees don’t make honey.

That’s the other part of the bee story. I run a family operation and I can’t keep my kids employed anymore. When you can’t keep hives alive, you can’t keep income coming in. We all talk the demise of bees, but the demise of the beekeepers gets overlooked a lot of times. Beekeepers all have a form of PTSD. We just don’t get it in the military.

Is climate change impacting your bees?

Yes, but not like you’re thinking, where it’s too hot in the summer or too cold in the winter.

Neonicotinoid pesticides like sulfoxaflor cause problems with thermoregulation in affected insects. One of the problems we have with overwintering our bees is that the cold will now kill a beehive. That didn’t used to be normal. Before, most of the bees in the Midwest stayed all winter. The beekeeper would wrap them with insulation and give them a top entrance, so they could ventilate the moisture out of the colony. And the bees would be just fine, coming out in the spring big enough to split into separate hives. If you try to do that with a bee colony now, it’s dead by November.

It’s not the extreme temperatures. It doesn’t even have to get that cold. They have bee mortality in Florida at 40 degrees. The hive simply can’t thermoregulate.

Anderson works with members of his family in this photo from 2014. He once employed all of his adult children but can no longer afford to do so.

Anderson works with members of his family in this photo from 2014. He once employed all of his adult children but can no longer afford to do so.
Chris Jordan-Bloch / Earthjustice

Do you plan on continuing as a beekeeper?

My plan today should have been to go up to Fargo, North Dakota, for the bee convention with a for sale sign for anyone who wants my operation. That’s what I should have been doing.

My parents’ generation, they would have stuck with it because they knew you might have a bad year, but it was an anomaly, and the next year was going to be better. That’s what farmers always think. For the most part, that’s true. In the grand scheme of things, you’ve usually got one year in 20 that’s down, so it really wasn’t a stupid decision to dip into your savings to push things forward.

But in year after year after year we keep setting records for low honey production in the U.S. This year, we were down to 300-some hives. You don’t just take 300-some hives and magically sneeze and all of a sudden you’ve got 3,000. You work your tail off, you buy bees from other beekeepers, you get extra queens, etc. It costs a lot of money, and I decided I’m not gonna throw good money after bad in this operation. If Honey Farms can’t pay its way, than it’s going to cease to exist. I see no reason to put the 50 cents I have set aside for retirement into trying to manage a bee operation when I’m 62.  

What can people do to support bees?

Consumers are starting to understand that what they put in their mouth has a great deal to do with how often they see their doctor. There’s a direct connection between your health and what you eat. It’s not rocket science. Vote with your checkbook. The chemical industry is in charge on the Hill, unless we can un-buy Congress.


Editor’s note: In 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that sulfoxaflor could not be used in the United States, following an Earthjustice lawsuit. The court found the EPA violated the law by approving sulfoxaflor without reliable studies regarding the impact that the insecticide would have on honeybee colonies.

“At a time when honeybees and other pollinators are dying in greater numbers than ever before, Trump’s EPA decision to remove restrictions on yet another bee-killing pesticide is nothing short of reckless,” says Earthjustice attorney Greg Loarie, who litigated the sulfoxaflor case. “Scientists have long said pesticides like sulfoxaflor are the cause of the unprecedented colony collapse. Letting sulfoxaflor back on the market is dangerous for our food system, economy, and environment.”

Exclude from Recent Victories: 

COMMENT: USDA Disregards Congress, Plans to Relocate Research Agencies to Kansas City

FOR IMMEDIATE
RELEASE

Contact: Reana Kovalcik
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
202-547-5754, rkovalcik@sustainableagriculture.net

USDA Disregards Congress, Plans to Relocate Research Agencies to Kansas City, MO
NSAC urges Senate to take a final stand against relocation of ERS and NIFA

Washington, DC, June 13, 2019 – Despite ongoing opposition from core stakeholders and multiple warnings from Congress not to proceed, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has chosen to act with unprecedented disregard for good governance. Today, USDA charged forward with relocation and reorganization plans for two key federal research agencies: the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), announcing its decision to relocate a majority of the agencies’ services and staff to Kansas City, MO. The move is being carried out with little to no oversight from lawful federal procedural rules, and has been broadly opposed by Congress Members and many key stakeholders. In response to this announcement, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) issued the following comment:

“We are shocked and dismayed that USDA has from the beginning refused to go through the proper channels – including the solicitation of public comment and adhering to the directives of Congress – for such a significant and disruptive change as relocating essential government research agencies,” said Juli Obudzinski, NSAC Interim Policy Director.

“The fact that USDA has totally ignored good governance guidelines and congressional directives in their efforts to reorganize and relocate ERS and NIFA sets a dangerous precedent for the future. No Secretary has previously or should now have the authority to unilaterally uproot federal agencies and undermine core functions of government. Despite claims that this relocation will better serve American agriculture, the truth is that USDA’s decision has led to a mass exodus of highly trained experts from both ERS and NIFA. The resulting agency brain drain will ultimately cripple both agencies’ research functions, an effect that will be further exacerbated by isolating the offices more than a thousand miles away from key partners and collaborators in the nation’s capital.

NSAC is deeply troubled by the unilateral decision to uproot these core scientific agencies, and by the significant collateral damage that is sure to result. We call on Congress to fulfill its essential role in providing the proper checks and balances on the use of Executive power and urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead by standing against this ill-conceived proposal. We urge both Chambers of Congress to use their full authority to restrict USDA from using any current or future agency funds to relocate or reorganize either ERS or NIFA.”

###

About the National
Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC)

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition is a grassroots alliance that
advocates for federal policy reform supporting the long-term social, economic,
and environmental sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and rural
communities. Learn more and get involved at: http://sustainableagriculture.net

The post COMMENT: USDA Disregards Congress, Plans to Relocate Research Agencies to Kansas City appeared first on National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.