China Wrestles with the Toxic Aftermath of Rare Earth Mining

Read the full story at e360.

China has been a major source of rare earth metals used in high-tech products, from smartphones to wind turbines. As cleanup of these mining sites begins, experts argue that global companies that have benefited from access to these metals should help foot the bill.

Mothers in California are leading efforts to ban harmful pesticides

Read the full story from Grist.

Elisa Rivera’s face swelled up, her eyes watered, and soon she was struggling to breathe.

The 39-year-old first started to feel ill when the smell of pesticides drifted from nearby Fresno county fruit orchards on a recent afternoon: “We experience this all the time. People get used to it.”

Rivera and other activists have been fighting for years to stop the spread of toxic chemicals in California’s Central Valley, and they are hoping this kind of sickening drift will become less common following an unprecedented victory they won last month. California announced in May it was moving to ban chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that is linked to brain damage in children and is sprayed on almonds, citrus, cotton, grapes, walnuts, and other major crops.

The Golden State’s prohibition is a stand against the Trump administration, which has supported continued use of the chemical. Central Valley organizers are now pushing California to prevent hazardous materials from replacing chlorpyrifos. They’re hoping their movement can be a blueprint for grassroots activists across the U.S. of how coalitions can tackle environmental dangers – and the systems that enable their spread.

An Unexpected Collaboration Is Reducing Food Waste in Illinois

Read the full story at Food Tank.

Illinois is helping lead the way in reducing food waste, demonstrating what can be achieved once different organizations from opposite ends of the food value chain collaborate. In 2016, the Wasted Food Solutions Task Force was created, bridging the silos between a variety of organizations involved in food recovery. Vanessa Reese, the Program Manager at Fresh Taste—one of the several organizations that co-convened the task force—tells Food Tank how the Wasted Food Solutions Task Force is developing a cohesive action plan to make Illinois a leader in reducing waste while also creating open source projects that can be replicated in other cities.

U.S. Supreme Court to Review “Immensely Important” Environmental Case

Read the full story in the National Law Review.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on June 10, 2019, to review a case involving “immensely important” questions regarding clean-up activities required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). In Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) is seeking to overturn a decision by the Montana Supreme Court allowing property owners to seek in Montana state court restoration damages that went beyond a clean-up plan determined and mandated by the EPA. The EPA clean-up plan concerned the massive and historic Anaconda Smelter copper mining contamination that impacted more than 300 square miles, including residential communities. The EPA clean-up plan was ultimately agreed to by Anaconda’s successor, ARCO, after a lengthy and exhaustive remediation investigation and a Record of Decision consisting of more than 1,300 pages.

Pig-Pen effect: Mixing skin oil and ozone can produce a personal pollution cloud

Read the full story from Penn State.

When ozone and skin oils meet, the resulting reaction may help remove ozone from an indoor environment, but it can also produce a personal cloud of pollutants that affects indoor air quality, according to a team of researchers.

Bioplastics and circularity: Why can’t we be friends?

Read the full story at GreenBiz.

At GreenBiz’s circular economy conference, Circularity 19, in Minneapolis last week, Valerie Craig, deputy to the chief scientist and vice president of impact initiatives at National Geographic Society, said on the main stage: “Plastics have undeniably changed our lives — in a lot of ways for the better — but we have created a pollution crisis of almost an unfathomable scale.”

However, flexible plastic still has a place in a circular economy that’s fighting climate change — to protect food from spoiling, or decomposing, a process that produces the potent greenhouse gas methane; to create lighter, smaller products that optimize space and reduce emissions while transporting them, Craig noted.

So how do we keep the advantages with of plastic without contributing to the world’s waste problem? 

In Depth: How Algal Oil for Aquaculture Could Help Capture Value in the Food Industry

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Estimates peg the global aquaculture industry at about a $175 billion market, expected to grow to $225 billion by 2022,  and salmon aquaculture alone accounts for 70% of that total. However, two-thirds of the world’s fish stocks today are either fished at their limit or over-fished, according to to an analysis by the Bren School of Environmental Science and Earth Management at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and the Environmental Defense Fund. 

Each year 16 million metric tons of fish are caught solely to produce fish meal and fish oil, with 80% of the fish oil going directly to aquaculture feeds to give farmed fish the essential Omega-3 EPA and DHA fatty acids they need for health and growth. But as salmon demand has grown, many fish farmers have had to lower the amount of fish oil fed to aquaculture salmon because of the finite quantity of this natural resource, resulting in an overall decline in the Omega-3 levels in the flesh of the salmon sold to consumers, according to Veramaris, a joint venture between DSM and Evonik that produces algal oil from natural marine microalgae.

Yet one of the reasons people are eating more and more salmon is for the health benefits of its high levels of Omega-3 fatty acids. If the decade-long decline in Omega-3 in salmon can be corrected, it would help to “create and capture value in the food sector,” says Karim Kurmaly, CEO of Veramaris. With that in mind, Veramaris has developed an innovation that uses a natural marine algae to make an algal oil that can replace the fish oil derived from wild caught fish and still gives farmed fish the fatty acids they need for health and growth.

Meet the man bringing together farmers in Iowa to talk about climate change

Read the full story in Grist.

In early March, just a week before the Midwest was inundated by catastrophic flooding, a dozen farmers gathered at the First Presbyterian Church in Grinnell, Iowa, for an event billed as a conversation about “Faith, Farmers, and Climate Action.” “How is God calling you to use your farm to improve the world?” asked the evening’s facilitator, Matt Russell. “We’ve got this narrowing window of time in which we can act,” he said. “When we think about climate action—are you feeling any call to that?”

Russell directs the Iowa branch of Interfaith Power and Light, a nonprofit that promotes a religious response to global warming. A fifth-generation farmer who runs a livestock operation with his husband in nearby Lacona, Iowa, the 48-year-old nearly became a Catholic priest in his 20s but then got a degree in rural sociology. Now he preaches that America’s farmers—a demographic seen as religious and conservative—are a secret weapon in the climate fight.

Climate impact of clouds made from airplane contrails may triple by 2050

Read the full story from the European Geosciences Union.

In the right conditions, airplane contrails can linger in the sky as contrail cirrus — ice clouds that can trap heat inside the atmosphere. Their climate impact has been largely neglected in schemes to offset aviation emissions, even though contrail cirrus have contributed more to warming than all CO2 emitted by aircraft since the start of aviation. A new Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics study found that the climate impact of contrail cirrus will triple by 2050.

Applying pressure is way toward generating more electricity from waste heat

Read the full story from Osaka University.

The ability of a thermoelectric material to produce electricity from waste heat was improved more than twofold. The researchers applied pressure to the material to induce a Lifshitz phase transition and, in a world-first, found a direct link between the Lifshitz transition and changes in the material’s thermoelectric properties. Understanding the effect of the Lifshitz transition on quantum phenomena could lead to improved thermoelectric materials.