News of the week

Summertime heat in New York. Invasion of the red swamp crayfish. Biden nixes coastal sand mining. The vaquita. Lead pipes in my hometown

Inequalities in New York’s summertime heat

Something oft repeated in the coverage and discussion of climate change is that folks who are least responsible for the causation of global warming, the poor, will suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change. A new report from WE ACT for Environmental Justice and the Natural Resources Defense Council on reconfirms this truism for New York City. Poor New Yorkers suffer more from summertime heat than the well-off. Climate change is making it worse.

As has been discussed earlier this month in The Green Dispatch, the urban heat island effect makes cities hotter than the surrounding countryside. The report finds that the heat island effect is unevenly distributed among the neighborhoods of New York, with some of the warmest being the poorest.

One observation of the report is that poor neighborhoods lack greenery in their streets and there is a lack of public parks with lawns and trees, all of which cool urban environments. The posh places to live, along Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue, are adjacent to or close to Central Park, which cools Manhattan with its trees and green open spaces. Many of the poorer neighborhoods that lack greenery are black and Latino. (Natural Resources Defense Council)

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Invasive Louisiana crayfish found in Michigan and Western Australia

Chances are, if you’ve ever visited New Orleans or dined on authentic Cajun cuisine, that you’ve feasted on the red swamp crayfish. They are the morsels in crayfish étouffée and crayfish boil.

A delectable delight and part of the wetlands ecosystem through all of Louisiana, most of Texas, and parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, and western Tennessee, the red swamp crayfish is also a prized addition to home and commercial aquariums, due to its striking red coloration. (It is sometimes advertised as a freshwater lobster.)

That folks love it so much may be the root cause in this species becoming a nussinace. It is thought that folks release the crayfish accidentally or on purpose, leading to their spread from their native Gulf Coastal Plain. They have been found in 34 states outside their native range, including Alaska. They have also invaded Europe. In The Green Dispatch of March 1, 2021 I discussed how the dams in European rivers aid the red swamp crayfish and other invasive crayfish, as they prefer stream areas with low flow velocity and warmer waters, which the naming of streams provides.

The red swamp crayfish is the epitome of an invasive species, outcompeting native crayfish populations for prey and territory. They also affect other species besides crayfish, outcompeting dragonflies and amphibians for their prey. Their burrowing activities can exceed those of native crayfish, leading to destabilized stream banks and degraded water quality. Collapsing dams and levees have been blamed on the crayfish.

Although it is banned from the state, the red swamp crayfish has now invaded Michigan, found in the waters in the southeastern part of the state. Organizations, such as the Huron River Watershed Council, are working with local governmental agencies for control or eradication of the unwanted crayfish. Studies are being conducted on possible routes of introduction.

It is illegal to possess or transport red crayfish in Western Australia, but this past week police there uncovered a cache of 70 of the crustaceans in Bunbury, a coastal city that lies 100 miles south of Perth. The individuals found with the crayfish could face fines of up to $10,000 under Western Australia’s Fish Resources Management Act. Red swamp crayfish carry crayfish plague, which has been know to eradicate 100 percent of crayfish populations, has yet to spread to Australia. (Huron River Watershed Council)

Presiden Biden revokes Trump rule allowing for coastal sand mining

Last Friday, July 16th, President Biden’s Interior Department announced that it is overturning a Trump administration rule that allowed for sand mining in protected coastal habitats.

Two and a half weeks before leaving office President Trump signed the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act of 2018, removing thousands of acres of coasts and wetlands from previous protections.1

For the last four decades thousands of miles of beaches and coastal wetlands have been protected by The Coastal Barrier Resources Act. Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law in 1982, and it was even supported by his Interior Secretary, James Watt,2 who was known for his anti-environmental views. Perhaps its broad support could be credited to it not only protected coastal ecosystems, but was expected to save taxpayers a then whopping $5 to $11 billion over the next 20 years.3

The legislation signed by Trump carved out exceptions to the protections provided by the 1980s legislation. Despite the actions of Biden’s administration, there will be increasing pressure to roll back protections for beaches and coasts for sand mining. After water, sand is the most consumed commodity in the world. We make a lot of glass. That’s made out of sand. Sand is a key component of concrete. Look around, see all that concrete in our roads and buildings? That’s all made of sand, too. Due to construction booms in China and the Middle East, there is a world-wide sand shortage.

The Audubon Society and other conservation organizations applaud the move by the Interior Department. (Audubon Society)

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Do what you can for the vaquita

The vaquita is a small porpoise that lives in the northern waters of the Gulf of California. The last remaining individuals of this species, perhaps only ten, are now further threatened by the Mexican government easing enforcement of fishing bans in the habitat that the few vaquitas inhabit.

It now goes from a complete ban to complicated variable enforcement. Fishermen use gillnets, long walls of netting that they hang in the water to catch their fish. The porpoises get entangled in the nets then drown. Without a ban it is difficult to see the vaquita being able to rebound.

There is nonetheless some hope. International pressure on Mexico to do the right thing has been increasing The United States has already banned fishery imports from Mexico, and The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is considering imposing international trade sanctions against Mexico for its treatment of the vaquita.

You can help by supporting the organizations on the front line of defense for the vaquita: the Animal Welfare Institute, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for Biological Diversity. Any amount helps. (Center For Biological Diversity)

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EPA puts my hometown on notice for lead pipes

As my hometown is Clarksburg, West Virginia, this press release from the EPA caught my eye. The federal agency has put the city in northeastern West Virginia on notice for lead in its water, directing the Clarksburg Water Board to identify homes and businesses with lead piping.

The EPA is also directing Clarksburg to provide filters capable of removing lead or alternative sources of drinking water for the affected residents. According to the EPA, Clarksburg’s Water Board failed to timely notify the public about the risk of lead exposure as required in an administrative order issued by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources on July 2nd.

Lead is highly toxic. The Center For Disease Control says that no safe blood level has been identified for children, and that even low levels of lead in children’s blood can lead to deficiencies in learning, paying attention, and academic achievement.

So now I am left wondering how much lead I consumed when I drank from the water fountains in my home town. ( United States Environmental Protection Agency)

1

"R Street Institute Applauds President Trump's Signing the Strengthening Coastal Communities Act." Targeted News Service Jan 02 2019 ProQuest. 21 July 2021 .

2

"Clark's Opening to a New Environmentalism by John Baden." Wall Street Journal Jan 04 1984, Eastern edition ed.: 1. ProQuest. 21 July 2021 .

3

ibid