Nature is Vanishing Before Our Eyes

May 8, 2019 

       Today, after an exhaustive three-year study, the UN’s foremost body on biodiversity released some incredibly grim news. Humans are destroying Earth’s natural ecosystems at an unprecedented pace. As many as one million plant and animal species are now threatened with extinction because of farming, hunting, pollution and, increasingly, climate change. Almost everywhere you look, nature is vanishing before our eyes.

The cost to ecosystems is immense, and the projected impact on billions of people is staggering. Natural ecosystems provide invaluable material services to people, from mangrove forests that protect millions from coastal flooding to wild insects that pollinate our crops. When we destroy nature we undermine our own quality of life. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.

A lead author of the report said, “Life on Earth is an intricate fabric, and it’s not like we’re looking at it from the outside. We are threads in that fabric. If the fabric is getting holes and fraying, that affects us all.”

What can you do in your life to combat this dreadful scenario? As strangely specific as this sounds, one thing we can all do is watch our beef and palm oil consumption. Land being converted to agriculture was the top driver of negative impact. More than 247 acres of tropical forest were lost from 1980 to 2000, resulting mainly from cattle ranching in Latin America and plantations in Southeast Asia, of which 80% is for palm oil, used mostly in food, cosmetics, cleaning products and fuel.

But giving up burgers isn’t going to fix the environment without a lot of work coming from the top. The most important thing we can do is vote for leaders who will work towards, rather than against, remedying climate change with all of its dire problems.

Sources: “Talking about biodiversity loss,” by Brad Plumer. The New York Times, May 8, 2019. “Massive New Report Proves that Humans are the Worst Species,” by Melissa Breyer. Treehugger, May 6, 2019.

Court Rejects $4.5B TransMountain Pipeline

Indigenous Activists Win "David vs. Goliath" Victory

Dateline: Vancouver, BC

Democracy Now, Sept. 4, 2018.

Radiation Risk from Cell Phones Confirmed

March, 2018

    Data from the largest-ever animal study of cellphone radiation effects, released last month by the federal National Toxicology Program, confirms earlier evidence from human studies that cellphone radiation increases the risk of cancer. The developing brains of children and teenagers are especially at risk because their brains can absorb twice as much cellphone radiation as those of adults.

    What’s the concerned consumer to do? Follow these tips from the Environmental Working Group:


    Headsets emit much less radiation than phones. Choose either wired or wireless. Using your phone in speaker mode also reduces radiation to the head.


    The amount of radiation absorbed by your body decreases dramatically with even a small distance.


    Texting keeps radiation away from your head.


    Radiation exposure increases dramatically when cellphone signals are weak.


    Health agencies in at least six countries are recommending limits for children’s phone use, such as for emergencies only.


    Radiation shields such as antenna caps and keypad covers reduce the connection quality and force the phone to transmit with greater energy, generating more radiation. 

    More information about the federal study can be found here:

Source: Environmental Working Group.

Dunkin’ Donuts to have all paper coffee cups by 2020

March, 2018

Eliminating polystyrene foam cups starting this year, the company will eventually be saving 1 billion plastic coffee cups from the waste stream annually.

    From a press release for the new cups, the chain says:

As part of its commitment to serve both people and the planet responsibly, Dunkin’ Donuts, a leading retailer of hot, brewed coffee, today announced plans to eliminate all polystyrene foam cups in its global supply chain beginning in spring 2018, with a targeted completion date of 2020. In U.S. restaurants, Dunkin’ Donuts will replace the foam cup with a new, double-walled paper cup. The majority of Dunkin’ Donuts’ international markets are currently using paper cups, and the brand will work with its franchisees to eliminate foam cups from the remaining international markets by the 2020 goal.

    The new cup is made with paperboard certified to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Standard. The cups will be introduced at all Dunkin’ Donuts restaurants in New York City and California in spring 2018, and will be phased in across the U.S. as supplier manufacturing capabilities ramp up. 


Play by Play: California vs. Monsanto

     The drama being played out between the people's right to know and the right of business to make a profit is being played out before our eyes in the news. Scientists say glyphosate, the main ingredient in the popular weed killer Roundup, is carcinogenic and should be labeled as such. State courts rule with scientists and citizens right to know. Higher courts, with aid of high-powered lawyers paid by Monsanto (the maker of Roundup) claim glyphosate is safe. Here's the play by play so far: 

The most popular weed killer in the U.S.

The most popular weed killer in the U.S.

Roundup, a Probable Carcinogen?

 April, 2017

    A judge has ruled that the state of California can require Monsanto to label its popular weed killer Roundup as a possible cancer threat, despite insistence from Monsanto that the herbicide poses no risk to people. The problem is glyphosate, the active ingredient used as a broad spectrum post-emergent herbicide used to kill annual broadleaf weeds and grasses. Roundup is sold in more than 160 countries. California farmers use it on 250 types of crops.

    Is it toxic? Of course it is. It’s designed to kill living cells. That’s what the suffix “cide” means—to kill. But at what dose is it harmful to humans? That’s the question that has yet to be definitively determined.

    Nevertheless, the ruling is certain to harm sales of the product. California would be the first state to order such labeling. Once a chemical is added to a list of probable carcinogens, the manufacturer has a year before it must attach the label.

Source: Los Angeles Times, March 14, 2017


Warning: Glyphosate

April, 2017

      Glyphosate, the main ingredient in the pesticide Roundup, is much in the news lately. It was well on its way to being banned before Trump's team nixed the idea, allowing the chemical to be sprayed on agricultural crops and sold in garden centers without a warning as to its probable carcinogenic effects. It's buyer beware in the marketplace today. Stay informed.



November 15, 2017

    Crying "It's bad for business," Monsanto (the maker of glyphosate) has joined with farmers to stop the state of California from issuing a warning label on products containing the chemical, like Roundup, the most popularly used herbicide in the United States.



EPA Rules in Favor of Glyphosate

December 20, 2017

    Scott Pruitt’s EPA has rule in Monsanto’s favor on glyphosate—the key ingredient in Roundup, the top-selling weed killer. This ruling contradicts the World Health Organization, which classified the pesticide as a probable carcinogen. In addition, a group of Big Ag lobbyists, backed by Monsanto, has taken action to stop California from labeling Monsanto’s Roundup a carcinogen.

    For more than 40 years, farmers have applied glyphosate to crops, most recently as they have cultivated genetically modified corn and soybeans. Roundup is also sprayed on residential lawns and golf courses.

    In early 2017, Pruitt reversed the scheduled ban of the neurotoxic pesticide chlorpyrifos after meeting with its manufacturer, Dow Chemical.



Beware Glyphosate in Food

March, 2018

     I’ve been following the controversy surrounding glyphosate, the main ingredient in popular weed-killers, including the herbicide Roundup. I’ve got to admit, this scares me. According to studies by the World Health Organization, glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, but the U.S. EPA refuses to label it as such.  

      For more than 40 years, farmers have applied glyphosate to crops, most recently as they have cultivated genetically modified corn and soybeans. According to the Department of Agriculture, in 2014 approximately 240 million pounds of glyphosate were sprayed in the U.S. As a result, glyphosate now contaminates air, water, and soil across a vast expanse of the country and shows up in the food Americans eat every day.

      The EPA’s 2012 assessment of glyphosate estimated that American adults could be ingesting more than 5 milligrams of glyphosate every day – five times more than California's proposed limit and 500 times more than the Environmental Working Group recommends. It's unknown how much glyphosate is in Americans' bodies, because federal agencies responsible for pesticide safety have neither tested nor mandated testing for glyphosate in food, drinking water, or bodily fluids.

    Biomonitoring studies found glyphosate in the bodies of children and pregnant women. According to initial data, women who were more heavily exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy were more likely to give birth to premature babies that weighed less than average. 

    Biomonitoring studies of adults and children in agricultural and non-agricultural areas consistently find glyphosate in urine, indicating that glyphosate from food is absorbed into the body. Farmers and rural families have two to three times more glyphosate in their bodies compared to those in non-farming families.

    All the more reason to eat organic food. It's buyer beware in the marketplace today. Stay informed.


Source: The Environmental Working Group.


U.S. Judge RuleS FOR Monsanto

March 7, 2018

     Last week a U.S. judge ruled in Monsanto’s favor and blocked California from requiring Monsanto to label the pesticide glyphosate as a carcinogen. This ruling dismisses findings from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that the pesticide is a probable carcinogen.

Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, remains on the state’s list of chemicals known to cause cancer, but consumers won’t be warned about the risks if this ruling stands.

Cancer victims and their families have filed more than 300 lawsuits against Monsanto, claiming that Monsanto knew about glyphosate’s cancer risk and failed to warn them.



August, 2018

     A California judge ruled against Monsanto in a case where a groundkeeper sued the chemical giant for failing to put a health warning on Roundup, a Monsanto product containing the controversial chemical glyphosate. This is good news. Read all about it:


glyphosate found in cereal& snack bars

August, 2018

What’s for breakfast? Weed killer, that’s what. Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup (manufactured by Monsanto), was found in 43 of 45 conventional oat products tested by the Environmental Working Group. Researchers discovered the herbicide in a number of popular oat cereals, oatmeal, granola, and snack bars. More than two thirds of the products tested had glyphosate levels higher than those considered acceptable by scientists. Children are especially at risk because they are developing rapidly.

Glyphosate, the most heavily used herbicide in the U.S., is a systemic, broad-spectrum herbicide that kills things not genetically modified to resist it. The World Health Organization says that glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans. California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has added it to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer.

In August, 2018, a San Francisco jury awarded a California school groundskeeper $289 million in damages after ruling that Monsanto intentionally concealed the health risks of its Roundup products. The groundskeeper, who is dying of lymphoma caused by repeated exposure to large quantities of Roundup, is only one of thousands of victims who have filed lawsuits against the agricultural giant for similar allegations.

Popular oat products found to contain unacceptable levels of glyphosate include Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal, Lucky Charms, Back to Nature Classic Granola, Quaker Steel Cut Oats, Quaker Old Fashioned Oats, and Bob’s Red Mill Steel Cut Oats. You can find a partial list on the Environmental Working Group’s website here:

Sources: “Roundup Found in Popular Oatmeal, Granola & Kids' Cereals,” by Melissa Breyer, Treehugger, August 15, 2018.

“Breakfast with a Dose of Roundup,” by Alexis Temkin, Ph.D., Toxicologist; The Environmental Working Group, August 15, 2018.

Arsenic Found in Bottled Water

August, 2019

            Bottled water is now the nation’s best-selling bottled beverage. But a Consumer Reportsinvestigation has found that, in some cases, bottled water sold in U.S. stores contain potentially harmful levels of arsenic, sometimes more than would be allowed for tap water.

The federal threshold for arsenic in bottled water is 10 parts per billion. Growing research suggests that long-term arsenic exposure at levels well below this limit can pose health risks. Scientists believe the federal limit should be revised lower, to 3 parts per billion.

            Several widely sold brands of bottled water self-report levels above 3 parts per billion. They include Whole Foods owned Starkey spring water, Dr. Pepper-owned Penafiel, and Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring. Leading brands with barely detectable levels of arsenic, or none at all, include Aquafina, Arrowhead, Dasani, Evian, Fiji, Niagara, and Poland Spring.


Source:“What’s in Your Bottled Water?” by Ryan Felton. CR Consumer Reports, July 2019; pgs. 19-21.

For more info:

Why Glitter Must Be Banned

February, 2018

    Glitter used in everyday cosmetics, specialty make-up, hair products and party paraphernalia has negative effects on human health and the environment. They get into everything, and despite their tiny size, can have a devastating impact on humans and animals. Why?

    Glitter is one member of a large family of microplastics-- little bits of plastic less than five millimeters in size. Think microbeads, microfibers and fingernail-sized fragments of much larger plastic wastes that have broken down over time. When washed or flushed away, microplastics make their way into oceans and lakes, slowly accumulating over time, creating all sorts of health and environmental hazards.

    For one, there's the issue of how microplastics like cosmetic glitter—made by bonding aluminum with polyethylene terephthalate (or PET)—impact sensitive ecosystems. That's because PETs leach out endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which, when eaten by marine life, can cause adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects.

    Then there's the domino-like effect of microplastics through the food-chain, for the sheer volume of microplastics consumed by seafood-loving humans is staggering. One study found that Europeans who eat shellfish can consume as much as 11,000 microplastics per year. 

    But that’s not all. PETs attract and absorb persistent organic pollutants and pathogens, adding an extra layer of contamination. A growing body of research connects endocrine disrupting chemicals with the collapse of marine and freshwater fish populations, as well as the decline in male births in humans living adjacent to plastic factories.

    So vote with your wallet. Avoid glitter, as well as other microplastics. Indeed, avoid plastics altogether as much as you can.


A Troubling Discovery in the Depths of the Ocean

March 3, 2019

In the Mariana Trench, the lowest point in any ocean, every tiny animal tested had plastic pollution hiding in its gut.


Disposable America

A history of modern capitalism from the perspective of the straw. Seriously.

June, 2018


Costa Rica Bans Fossil Fuels

May 13, 2018

    ”We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels.”

    Costa Rica’s new president Carlos Alvarado announced a ban on fossil fuels Wednesday, establishing the small country as a major trailblazer in the global fight against climate change, according to Telesur TV.

    More than 2,000 people crowded the Plaza de la Democracy in the capital San Jose to witness the historic announcement. Alvarado, who officially took office Tuesday, underlined his commitment by arriving in a hydrogen-powered bus.

    "Decarbonization is the great task of our generation and Costa Rica must be one of the first countries in the world to accomplish it, if not the first," Alvarado said during the event.

    "We have the titanic and beautiful task of abolishing the use of fossil fuels in our economy to make way for the use of clean and renewable energies,” he added.

Read More:

Patagonia Launches Worn Wear

March. 2018

    The clothing brand Patagonia has long been at the forefront of environmental commitment. For years, they’ve been hosting pop-up events where customers can bring used clothing items for repair or exchange. These events have been so successful, the brand has now launched a permanent website, called Worn Wear, where you can trade, sell, and buy second-hand Patagonia goods--the brand's own thrift store.

    Worn Wear works like this. You buy clothing, either used or new, from Patagonia and wear it till you're done, then trade it in at a local Patagonia store. Staff will tell you how much it's worth, and do the washing, too. There are standard trade-in values listed at Patagonia says they will pay up to 50% of the price they will sell the item for. You'll get credit toward more Patagonia gear, either used or new.

    As a logical extension of their environmental commitment, Patagonia encourages you to buy only what you need. Clothing can have a much longer life than what we sometimes think.

     Of course, the best option is to wear your own clothing items for as long as you can, to the point where resale isn't an option because it's so worn out.

Source: “Patagonia launches Worn Wear, an online store for used gear,” by Katherine Maritinko.

NYC Divests from Fossil Fuels

February, 2018

    One of the planet’s central cities has gone fully on the attack against the fossil fuel industry, which means the tide is finally turning in the climate fight, according to Bill McKibbon at On January 10th, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made two major announcements: New York's pension funds will divest from the big oil and gas companies, and the city is suing the biggest of these corporations for the climate damage they've caused.

    This is a huge moment in the fight to stop climate change. A city as iconic as New York could trigger a wave of action against the fossil fuel industry from other powerful cities and states around the U.S. and globally. As one of the financial centers of the world, New York sends a powerful message about the fiscal folly of fossil fuels. 

    Not only is New York City divesting, it is also taking those most responsible to court. Fossil fuel companies – and their lobbyists – are to blame for the climate crisis we're in and it's high time they're held to account. 

    It also shows us what is possible when we step up and fight back. New Yorkers, still reeling from Superstorm Sandy, fought long and hard for this win. Now we need more people to take up this fight in their communities. There’s no excuse for any city or state, any province or region, any pension fund or portfolio, to be in business with this industry. 

Read more:

Aldi Stores Go Full Organic

April, 2017

   German retailer Aldi is rebranding itself as a health-focused supermarket rivaling Whole Foods for the organic market. With low prices AND a focus on health, Aldi is gaining a reputation as the food conscious shoppers go-to store.

   In its quest for quality announced that as of January 1st, 2017, the eight last remaining pesticides from all products on its U.S. stores shelves have been removed. The grocery chain is also expanding its organic food brands, removing some artificial ingredients from products and adding more gluten-free items. Additionally, it has removed certified synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils, and MSG from its private-label products (which make up 90% of sales).

   Aldi’s milk was free of artificial growth hormones, but now its yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and other dairy products are, as well.