City asked to provide lead water filters to address ‘crisis’

Read the full story in the Chicago Sun-Times.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration must ramp up its distribution of free water filters to protect residents against lead poisoning as the city moves at a “glacial” pace to remove pipes with the brain-damaging metal, advocates said Monday.

Three environmental organizations and state Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, called on City Hall to improve access to free water filters to address the “crisis” of lead exposure. That move should also be part of a larger program to warn low-income residents about the hazards of lead, especially among children.

Lightfoot has boasted that she’s the first Chicago mayor to begin tackling the problem of removing almost 400,000 lead service lines in the city but her administration has fallen behind its own modest goals of replacements.

The Clean Water Act at 50: Big successes, more to be done

Read the full story at e360.

Sparked by the 1970s environmental movement, the Clean Water Act — which marks its 50th anniversary this month — transformed America’s polluted rivers. The Delaware, once an industrial cesspool, is one of the success stories, but its urban stretches remain a work in progress.

Digital Preservation Framework for Risk Assessment and Preservation Planning

NARA developed its Digital Preservation Framework to document and share recommended preservation actions based on its electronic record holdings and current capabilities. It is a comprehensive resource that includes:

  • A Matrix for file format risk analysis and prioritization for action;
  • Preservation Plans for 16 categories of electronic records (or “record types”), such as email, still images, and software, which identify “Significant Properties,” the properties that should, if possible, be retained in any format migration; and
  • Preservation Action Plans for over 650 file formats, including proposed preservation actions and tools.

The Digital Preservation Framework is publicly available on the NARA Github account for reuse and adaptation, and discussion.

National Hydrography Dataset

The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) represents the water drainage network of the United States with features such as rivers, streams, canals, lakes, ponds, coastline, dams, and streamgages.

The National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) is mapped at 1:24,000 or larger scale (1:63,360 or larger scale in Alaska). These data are updated and maintained through Stewardship partnerships with states and other collaborative bodies. The NHD, Watershed Boundary Dataset (WBD), and 3D Elevation Program (3DEP) data are used to create the NHDPlus High Resolution.

The NHD is available as a file geodatabase download, which maintains the richness of the complex NHD database model, including multiple feature datasets, feature classes, event feature classes, attribute tables, relationship classes, domains, and feature-level metadata. The NHD file geodatabase download contains NHD data in the Hydrography feature dataset. It also includes the WBD in a second feature dataset.

It is also available as a shapefile download, which simplifies this structure by containing all of the feature classes as separate shapefiles and tables as separate data files.

For information about NHD specifications, please see the Hydrography Standards and Specifications page.

Researchers confirm a western Pa. birdwatcher’s discovery: a new songbird hybrid

Read the full story from WESA.

Penn State researchers have identified a rare hybrid of two western Pennsylvania songbirds.

The bird is a combination of the rose-breasted grosbeak and brightly-colored scarlet tanager. Stephen Gosser—a self-described “diehard birder”— spotted it in Lawrence County, along the Commonwealth’s western edge, in June 2020.

But while the rose-breasted grosbeak tends to nest along the open edges of woodlands, tanagers prefer mature forest canopies. Scientists consider the two species highly divergent; they last shared a common ancestor over 10 million years ago.

Fast fashion giant Shein aims to cut emissions 25% by 2030

Read the full story at Supply Chain Dive.

Online retailer Shein plans to cut emissions across its supply chain by 25% by 2030, the company announced in September.

The targets are among the first public steps to cut carbon emissions for the company, which has become a formidable player in the U.S. fast fashion market. The growth has come with a heavy carbon footprint. Last year, Shein’s operations produced 6.3 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

ResearchBuzz Search Gizmos

Tara Calishain has taken her love of search engines and online information collections and mixed it with JavaScript to create ResearchBuzz Search Gizmos, an extension of ResearchBuzz (established 1998) and the ResearchBuzz Firehose (established 2015). There are some really nifty tools here.

‘Silent Spring’ 60 years on: 4 essential reads on pesticides and the environment

Spraying from either a ground-based vehicle or an airplane is a common method for applying pesticides. Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics via Getty Images

by Jennifer Weeks, The Conversation

In 1962, environmental scientist Rachel Carson published “Silent Spring,” a bestselling book that asserted that overuse of pesticides was harming the environment and threatening human health. Carson did not call for banning DDT, the most widely used pesticide at that time, but she argued for using it and similar products much more selectively and paying attention to their effects on nontargeted species.

“Silent Spring” is widely viewed as an inspiration for the modern environmental movement. These articles from The Conversation’s archive spotlight ongoing questions about pesticides and their effects.

1. Against absolutes

Although the chemical industry attacked “Silent Spring” as anti-science and anti-progress, Carson believed that chemicals had their place in agriculture. She “favored a restrained use of pesticides, but not a complete elimination, and did not oppose judicious use of manufactured fertilizers,” writes Harvard University sustainability scholar Robert Paarlberg.

A woman seated at a microphone delivers a statement to a Congressional committee.
Activist and author Rachel Carson, whose book ‘Silent Spring’ triggered a reassessment of pesticide use, testifies before a Senate Government Operations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., June 4, 1963. AP Photo/Charles Gorry

This approach put Carson at odds with the fledgling organic movement, which totally rejected synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Early organic advocates claimed Carson as a supporter nonetheless, but Carson kept them at arm’s length. “The organic farming movement was suspect in Carson’s eyes because most of its early leaders were not scientists,” Paarlberg observes.

This divergence has echoes today in debates about whether organic production or steady improvements in conventional farming have more potential to feed a growing world population.

2. Concerned cropdusters

Well before “Silent Spring” was published, a crop-dusting industry developed on the Great Plains in the years after World War II to apply newly commercialized pesticides. “Chemical companies made broad promises about these ‘miracle’ products, with little discussion of risks. But pilots and scientists took a much more cautious approach,” recounts University of Nebraska-Kearney historian David Vail.

As Vail’s research shows, many crop-dusting pilots and university agricultural scientists were well aware of how little they knew about how these new tools actually worked. They attended conferences, debated practices for applying pesticides and organized flight schools that taught agricultural science along with spraying techniques. When “Silent Spring” was published, many of these practitioners pushed back, arguing that they had developed strategies for managing pesticide risks. Archival footage of crop-dusters spraying in California in the 1950s.

Today aerial spraying is still practiced on the Great Plains, but it’s also clear that insects and weeds rapidly evolve resistance to every new generation of pesticides, trapping farmers on what Vail calls “a chemical-pest treadmill.” Carson anticipated this effect in “Silent Spring,” and called for more research into alternative pest control methods – an approach that has become mainstream today.

3. The osprey’s crash and recovery

In “Silent Spring,” Carson described in detail how chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides persisted in the environment long after they were sprayed, rising through the food chain and building up in the bodies of predators. Populations of fish-eating raptors, such as bald eagles and ospreys, were ravaged by these chemicals, which thinned the shells of the birds’ eggs so that they broke in the nest before they could hatch.

“Up to 1950, ospreys were one of the most widespread and abundant hawks in North America,” writes Cornell University research associate Alan Poole. “By the mid-1960s, the number of ospreys breeding along the Atlantic coast between New York City and Boston had fallen by 90%.”

Bans on DDT and other highly persistent pesticides opened the door to recovery. But by the 1970s, many former osprey nesting sites had been developed. To compensate, concerned naturalists built nesting poles along shorelines. Ospreys also learned to colonize light posts, cell towers and other human-made structures. Wildlife monitors band young ospreys in New York City’s Jamaica Bay to monitor their lives and movements.

Today, “Along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, nearly 20,000 ospreys now arrive to nest each spring – the largest concentration of breeding pairs in the world. Two-thirds of them nest on buoys and channel markers maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, who have become de facto osprey guardians,” writes Poole. “To have robust numbers of this species back again is a reward for all who value wild animals, and a reminder of how nature can rebound if we address the key threats.”

4. New concerns

Pesticide application techniques have become much more targeted in the 60 years since “Silent Spring” was published. One prominent example: crop seeds coated with neonicotinoids, the world’s most widely used class of insecticides. Coating the seeds makes it possible to introduce pesticides into the environment at the point where they are needed, without spraying a drop.

But a growing body of research indicates that even though coated seeds are highly targeted, much of their pesticide load washes off into nearby streams and lakes. “Studies show that neonicotinoids are poisoning and killing aquatic invertebrates that are vital food sources for fish, birds and other wildlife,” writes Penn State entomologist John Tooker.

In multiple studies, Tooker and colleagues have found that using coated seeds reduces populations of beneficial insects that prey on crop-destroying pests like slugs.

“As I see it, neonicotinoids can provide good value in controlling critical pest species, particularly in vegetable and fruit production, and managing invasive species like the spotted lanternfly. However, I believe the time has come to rein in their use as seed coatings in field crops like corn and soybeans, where they are providing little benefit and where the scale of their use is causing the most critical environmental problems,” Tooker writes.

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archive.

Jennifer Weeks, Senior Environment + Energy Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Report finds a decade of environmental neglect in Wisconsin

Read the full story at Wisconsin Examiner.

A new report by Wisconsin’s Green Fire, a nonprofit group whose mission is “to protect Wisconsin’s conservation legacy” by “promoting science-based management of natural resources,” says the state’s efforts to protect natural resources and human health are being paralyzed by special interests and political ideology, resulting in what the group calls a “public health crisis.”

Mushrooms break down asphalt shingles, create reusable materials

Read the full story at Environment + Energy Leader.

In an attempt to find a way to salvage asphalt shingles and decarbonize construction waste, organizers of a pilot program say they have successfully combined mushrooms and a process called mycoremediation to break down the materials to create a new by-product that could potentially be reused in the building industry.