A Database Just for Bumble Bees

Read the full story from the Agricultural Research Service.

Look up the word “bumble,” and the definition may read something like “To move or act in a confused, awkward or clumsy manner.” But the bumble bee, a member of the genus Bombus, is anything but clumsy. In fact, the insects are expert aviators, alighting with precision inside flowers and vigorously shaking pollen loose from their stamens.

Some bumble bee species are pollinating professionals on par with honey bees. At the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Pollinating Insect-Biology, Management, Systematics Research Unit in Logan, Utah, scientists are conducting multi-faceted studies on Bombus species of all shapes, sizes and colors to ensure their wellbeing and usefulness to agriculture—especially in pollinating greenhouse-grown plants, primarily tomatoes.

One project, the USBombus database, actually arose out of concern over the national decline of four Bombus species—including the western bumble bee, Bombus occidentalis, which had been reared commercially up until the early 2000s, notes James Strange, an ARS entomologist in Logan.

USBombus—the largest database of a contemporary North American bumble bee survey—was created in 2010, following a three-year effort by Strange and other ARS and university scientists to assess the abundance and distribution of wild Bombus populations across a wide range of habitats. These included urban, agricultural and natural environments, such as alpine forests and prairies.

North Carolina Bill Could Reverse State’s E-Cycling Progress

Read the full story in Waste360.

Five years after a new North Carolina law lightened municipalities’ financial load to recycle electronics, the state could face a radical change. A change that could threaten the state’s 100 plus electronics drop off sites, now free to citizens.

While the 2015 law required electronics manufacturers to pay into recycling the products they churn out, they will be relieved of this responsibility if House Bill 169 is signed into law. It recently passed the state senate.

E-Waste Empire

Read the full story at The Verge.

Over several weeks in early 2016, The Verge tracked just one of the countless e-waste recycling paths around the country, from a garbage room in an apartment building in Manhattan, to a drop-off site in Staten Island, to a sorting facility in New Jersey, to a bustling recycling warehouse in Massachusetts. The goal was simple: to get a broader sense of where all our old televisions, phones, and computers go when we don’t want them anymore.

The new system that uses sound to alleviate water shortage

Read the full story from Concordia University.

Concordia researchers have developed a technique to locate underground leaks with 99.5% accuracy.

The View from Two Feet on the Ground

Read the full post at U.S. EPA’s environmental justice blog.

In 2009 Perry Charley – a professor with the Navajo Nation’s Diné College – hosted me for an environmental tour of Shiprock, New Mexico, a town in the north-east reaches of the Navajo Nation. I got the education of a lifetime crammed into a few short days, and a project spanning seven years and counting.

In my time with Professor Charley, I learned that many Navajo families rely on wood to keep warm during the cold season, using stoves that are very old, are often cracked, and are sometimes no more than a 55-gallon drum. These stoves lose their heat quickly, leading many families to burn large chunks of low-grade coal to stay warm at night. The stoves are also often poorly vented, and are not designed to burn both wood and coal. As a result, many Navajo families are exposed to high levels of wood and coal smoke indoors and out.

Since that week in 2009, EPA has been working closely with Professor Charley, the Navajo Nation EPA, and many other partners to address the resulting health and environmental risks. Thanks to the education we’ve received from our community partners on the Navajo Nation, we have sought to incorporate Navajo traditional knowledge and to respect the preferences and traditions of the community.

Attorney General Bill Schuette sues companies in Flint water crisis

Read the full story in the Detroit Free Press.

The Michigan attorney general filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning against a water company and an engineering firm, plus several related companies, in connection with the Flint drinking water crisis, alleging the firms’ “acts and omission constitute professional negligence, fraud and public nuisance.”

Simulating a World Without Climate Change

Read the full story in Governing.

A new tool could help cities test whether (and how much) specific energy policies can slow global warming.

What the new Chemical Safety law means for business

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

It’s heralded as the first significant environmental legislation to come out of Congress in the last quarter century, a rare bipartisan accomplishment that will protect Americans from toxins.

But it’s also described as unnecessarily weak, with enforcement stretched so far into the future and funding so murky that it may do little to prevent the public — including children sleeping in flame retardant clothing or sipping from chemical-ladden plastic cups — from exposure to harmful substances for many years to come.

Under either viewpoint, when President Barack Obama signed the Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act today, his signature put into force a long awaited and debated update to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA).

Addressing the Carbon-Crime Blind Spot: A Carbon Footprint Approach

Skudder, H., Druckman, A., Cole, J., McInnes, A., Brunton-Smith, I. and Ansaloni, G. P. (2016). “Addressing the Carbon-Crime Blind Spot: A Carbon Footprint Approach.” Journal of Industrial Ecology doi: 10.1111/jiec.12457

Abstract: Governments estimate the social and economic impacts of crime, but its environmental impact is largely unacknowledged. Our study addresses this by estimating the carbon footprint of crime in England and Wales and identifies the largest sources of emissions. By applying environmentally extended input-output analysis–derived carbon emission factors to the monetized costs of crime, we estimate that crime committed in 2011 in England and Wales gave rise to over 4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. Burglary resulted in the largest proportion of the total footprint (30%), because of the carbon associated with replacing stolen/damaged goods. Emissions arising from criminal justice system services also accounted for a large proportion (21% of all offenses; 49% of police recorded offenses). Focus on these offenses and the carbon efficiency of these services may help reduce the overall emissions that result from crime. However, cutting crime does not automatically result in a net reduction in carbon, given that we need to take account of potential rebound effects. As an example, we consider the impact of reducing domestic burglary by 5%. Calculating this is inherently uncertain given that it depends on assumptions concerning how money would be spent in the absence of crime. We find the most likely rebound effect (our medium estimate) is an increase in emissions of 2%. Despite this uncertainty concerning carbon savings, our study goes some way toward informing policy makers of the scale of the environmental consequences of crime and thus enables it to be taken into account in policy appraisals.

FAO releases 2014 agriculture emissions data

Read the full story from the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture reached an all time high in 2014, at 5.25 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents per year (Gt CO2eq yr-1). The data released by FAO (13 June 2016) in the FAOSTAT Emissions database to the year 2014, are the first to be made available to the public and scientific community. They form the base of a new collaborative report on agriculture and GHG emissions by the University of Minnesota, written together with FAO, the CGIAR system and various universities.