How cars ruin wild animals’ lives

“The lives of wild animals are defined by mobility. You have all of these different scales, both spatial and temporal, in which animals are moving. They’re moving daily, as they roam around their territories looking for food. They’re moving seasonally, as they migrate between different habitats as the year turns. They have to move, in some cases, once in a lifetime, to disperse through new territory, or in search of a mate.
All of those movements are absolutely imperative to the survival of both individual animals and wildlife populations. Roads terminate or truncate those movements, by killing animals directly, as roadkill, but also by creating a barrier of traffic, what some researchers call a “moving fence” — this kind of impenetrable obstacle that prevents animals from navigating their habitats. To take a really dramatic, stark example, there are herds of mule deer and pronghorn in Wyoming that starve en masse while trying to reach low-elevation valleys to find food in winter because highways have blocked their migrations.”

“One of the really eye-opening experiences that I had working on this book was taking part in some bicycle surveys of roadkill in Montana. When you’re rolling along at 10 miles an hour and you’re much lower to the ground, rather than seated in the captain’s chair of an SUV, you see all of those small lives that you would never see at highway speeds in a car. I was struck by how many birds we saw: raptors, magpies, ravens, songbirds. The avian life along the side of the highway was really, really visible.”

“Hearing is one of the most important senses that wild animals have. It’s absolutely imperative for both predators and prey.”

“Wildlife crossings are incredibly effective, paired with roadside fencing that guides the animals to the crossings.”

“For the most part, the wildlife crossings that we’ve built are aimed at large, common animals that endanger driver safety, like deer and elk and moose: the animals that will wreck your car and maybe end your life if you hit them. We need more of those. But we also need more crossings that benefit the animals that don’t kill drivers on a regular basis, especially reptiles and amphibians, which are some of the most road- and car-endangered groups of animals in the world.

There are turtle culverts and toad tunnels out there, but they’re few and far between. There’s a lot of focus on wildlife crossings that pay for themselves, that prevent enough car crashes to recoup their own construction costs. But I think we’re also starting to see the rise of wildlife crossings that are aimed at conservation, rather than cost savings.”

The Great Salt Lake is shrinking rapidly, and Utah has failed to stop it, a lawsuit contends

“The risks of a diminished Great Salt Lake aren’t merely beached sailboats and wider shores; they also include species extinction and toxic dust clouds billowing over nearby communities, the lawsuit says.”

“The precipitous drop in water levels, which has shrunk the Great Salt Lake’s footprint by half over the past few decades, stems from a two-fold problem: Climate change has helped decimate the mountain streams that feed the lake, while demand for the streams’ fresh water has ballooned for new development, agriculture and industry.”

“Toxic chemicals — including arsenic, lead and mercury — are trapped in the lakebed. As more of the lakebed becomes exposed and dries, those chemicals are carried into the air by the wind. The consequent toxic dust storms could lower life expectancies, as well as heighten cancer and infant mortality rates, said Moench, citing past instances of lakes drying up across the world.”

America’s Trumpiest court just put itself in charge of nuclear safety

“Judge James Ho is not a nuclear scientist, an expert in energy policy, an atomic engineer, or anyone else with any specialized knowledge whatsoever on how to store and dispose of nuclear waste.
Nevertheless, Ho and two of his far-right colleagues on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit just put themselves in charge of much of America’s nuclear safety regime — invalidating the power of actual nuclear policy regulators to decide how to deal with nuclear waste in the process.”

How Louisiana — one of the nation’s wettest states — caught on fire

“Much like other places, Louisiana is experiencing record-breaking heat and dryness, which have made it easier for wildfires to proliferate.”

The myths we tell ourselves about American farming

“If you were to guess America’s biggest source of water pollution, chemical factories or oil refineries might come to mind. But it’s actually farms — especially those raising cows, pigs, and chickens.
The billions of animals farmed each year in the US for food generate nearly 2.5 billion pounds of waste every day — around twice as much as people do — yet none of it is treated like human waste. It’s either stored in giant pits, piled high as enormous mounds on farms, or spread onto crop fields as fertilizer. And a lot of it washes away into rivers and streams, as does synthetic fertilizer from the farms growing corn and soy to feed all those animals.

“These factory farms operate like sewerless cities,” said Tarah Heinzen, legal director of environmental nonprofit Food and Water Watch. Animal waste is “running off into waterways, it’s leaching into people’s drinking water, it’s harming wildlife, and threatening public health.”

Yet in practice, the Environmental Protection Agency appears to be largely fine with all that.”

“While the entire food sector benefits from agricultural exceptionalism, animal agriculture is especially privileged. Meat and dairy producers get far more subsidies than farmers growing more sustainable foods, like beans, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.”

“Big Ag often argues its exceptional status is justified because farming is indeed exceptional, given the essential nature of its product: food. But Secchi argues this is the wrong way of thinking about it. Since the early days of American agriculture, farming has been a business like any other, focused on high output, which has led to excess supply and profitable exports around the world.

And we don’t apply exceptionalist logic to any other industry. Energy production, for example, is highly polluting but essential to human flourishing, just like food, so we push to make our laws and economy limit the industry’s externalities and scale renewable forms of energy.”

“Jefferson’s vision never came to pass. Small farms have been squeezed out by big farms, due in part to American farm policy advocated for by the same elected officials who evoke the Jeffersonian ideal.

What’s left is a highly consolidated agricultural sector, with many farmers precariously employed as contractors for corporations, and a radically uneven distribution of farm wealth”

It’s even hot underwater

“Hotter surface water can slow upwelling, a phenomenon that brings nutrients from deep in the water like nitrogen and phosphorus compounds toward the surface, feeding the plankton that form the foundation of the food pyramid. Roughly half of the fish in the world are caught in upwelling zones.

Hotter water also holds onto less oxygen, which can suffocate sea life. Earlier this year, thousands of dead menhaden fish washed up on the shores of Texas, due in large part to high water temperatures. The water itself becomes more acidic as it heats up, which can disrupt coral formation. And when the temperature rises too high, coral will expel the symbiotic algae that live in their tissues, turning completely white. This is called coral bleaching. All these effects of hotter water temperatures can then make coral more vulnerable to disease.

Sargassum, a type of algae, has seen massive and growing blooms in the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean in recent years, but there’s been a record quantity this summer, enough to be seen from the sky, washing up on beaches from South America to Florida. As it rots, it emits smelly, toxic hydrogen sulfide gas. Higher water temperatures are likely a factor here as well.

It’s not clear yet exactly how the alarmingly hot waters of the Caribbean will affect seafood catches, but scientists warn that extreme marine heat has proven devastating to fisheries in the past.”

New Trees Are No Substitute for Old Trees

“When a forest burns, carbon storage is diminished and carbon dioxide is released adding to the concentration of greenhouse gases that are warming Earth’s atmosphere. When forests regrow, they can again absorb carbon from the atmosphere, but it takes a long time — many decades. In the meantime, such a cycle would almost certainly produce more wildfires and could be exacerbated by increased deforestation and inappropriate forest management.”

Socialism Is Bad for the Environment

“”We tried socialism,” says Palmer. “We ran the experiment. It was a catastrophe. Worst environmental record on the planet.”
In China, when socialist leaders noticed that sparrows ate valuable grain, they encouraged people to kill sparrows.

“Billions of birds were killed,” says Palmer.

Government officials shot birds. People without guns banged pans and blew horns, scaring sparrows into staying aloft for longer than they could tolerate.

“These poor exhausted birds fell from the skies,” says Palmer. “It was insanity.”

I pointed out that, watching video of people killing sparrows, it looked like they were happy to do it.

“If you failed to show enthusiasm for the socialist goals of the party,” Palmer responds, “you were going to be in trouble.”

The Party’s campaign succeeded. They killed nearly every sparrow.

But “all it takes is two minutes of thinking to figure, ‘Wait. Who’s going to eat all the bugs?'” says Palmer.

Without sparrows, insects multiplied. Bugs destroyed more crops than the sparrows had.

“People starved as a consequence,” says Palmer. “People confuse socialism with…a ‘nice government’ or a ‘government that’s sweet’ or ‘made up of my friends.'””

“Many Chinese lakes and rivers are bright green. Fertilizer runoff created algae blooms that kill all fish. A study in The Lancet says Chinese air pollution kills a million people per year.

Wherever socialism is tried, it creates nasty pollution.

In the Soviet Union, Joseph Stalin wanted cotton for his army. His central planners decided it should be grown near the Aral Sea. They drained so much water that the sea, once the fourth biggest inland lake in the world, shrank to less than half its size.

“Soviet planners caused catastrophic environmental costs to the whole population,” says Palmer.

I push back. “That was then. Now the rules would be different. Now the rule would be: ‘green.'”

“All the time we hear socialists say, ‘Next time, we’ll get it right.’ How many next times do you get?” asks Palmer.”

“Capitalists destroy nature, too. Free societies do need government rules to protect the environment.

But free markets with property rights often protect nature better than bureaucrats can.”

“Capitalism also protects the environment because it creates wealth. When people aren’t worried about starving or freezing, they get interested in protecting nature. That’s why capitalist countries have cleaner air.

Also, capitalists can afford to pay for wild animal preserves.”