News of the week

Leaded airplane fuel. Climate change and coffee. Saving caribou in Canada and forests in Tanzania. Romanian forest photos. And more.

Brief summaries of environmental news from this week. For more details, click the links.

Groups ask EPA to regulate lead in airplane fuel

This is one of those things I ran across that surprised me. The health and environmental problems with leaded automobile gasoline were recognized in the 1970s, and by 1996, lead had been completely phased out of automobile and truck fuel.

Yet there are tens of thousands of airplanes and helicopters that are powered by leaded fuel. In 2020, the EPA issued a report that found lead particles around and downwind of U.S. airports.

I have written before about lead and how poisonous it is. There is no safe level of lead for humans. Getting it inside your body can lead to a number of ailments, including abdominal pains, loss of appetite, and memory loss. For children it’s worse. They can experience permanent neurological damage and intellectual disability from lead exposure. Pregnant women exposed to lead can miscarry or have stillborn babies. The body more readily absorbs lead when it is breathed in, which is the way the folks who live around airports would experience lead exposure. Lead also has detrimental environmental effects, such as poisoning of carnivores1 and the near extinction of the California condor.2

This week Friends of the Earth and 38 other individuals and organizations signed a letter to the EPA, calling on the government agency to regulate lead in aircraft fuel. (Friends of the Earth)

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Oh no! Climate change will bring you a bad cup of joe

Most of the world prefers coffee made from arabica beans, which are sweeter and more flavorful than robusta brews. Brazilian coffee growers, however, are finding out that robusta beans, which make a harsher, more caffeinated, coffee, grow better in the warmer weather that climate change is bringing to their fields. Robusta plants also have a higher yield. So be it Peet’s, your corner cafe, or the mermaid herself, get ready for a more bitter, climate changed cup of coffee. (Reuters)

You can find out more about the coffee in Brazil from Mr. Sinatra.

New push for Caribou conservation in Alberta

The boreal forest of northern Alberta is large, covering half of the province, yet mining, oil drilling, and logging have taken their toll on the Canadian ecosystem and leading to declining populations of caribou.

Today a unique coalition of industry, government, and environmental organizations are launching a conservation program for the province’s caribou. Alberta-Pacific Forest Industries, a timber company and part of the new coalition, is pledging to implement new forestry practices. The program also includes restoration of forest bulldozed during exploration by oil and gas companies. (Forest Stewardship Council)

Inspiring first-person account of restoring forest and saving species in Tanzania

It sounds daunting, as Tanzania is losing almost 700 square miles of forest a year, but one man is working with local villages to reforest his country. Azaria Kilimba convinces locals to set aside a portion of their ancestral lands in exchange for instruction on better farming practices that help the farmer to turn a profit.

His efforts have included finding and propagating a tree thought to be extinct, the coral tree, whose bark has been used to cure children of fever. As of this date, Kilimba and others have planted over 30,000 coral trees. (Global Landscapes Forum)

Video from Yale360

One of the best sources for environmental news is Yale 360. Not only do they cover cogent topics, but the writing is tops. Here is a video from the Yale group on limestone mining in India. Used in the production of cement, limestone mining can also have great environmental costs. (Yale 360)

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Romanian forest photo contest winners

The Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), an international NGO that promotes sustainable forest management, just announced the winners of their Romanian Photo Contest with the theme “The people of the forest, the forest of the people.” (PEFC)

Help prevent plants and animals from extinction

The Center for Biological Diversity is asking folks to notify Congress of their support for the Extinction Prevention Act. Clicking this link will take you to a form that the Center has put together to notify your Congressperson of your support for the bill. (Center for Biological Diversity)

1

Kerry R. Foresman, et al. "Lead Exposure In Large Carnivores In The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem." Journal Of Wildlife Management 76.3 (2012): 575-582.

2

Cade, Tom J. "Exposure Of California Condors To Lead From Spent Ammunition." Journal Of Wildlife Management 71.7 (2007): 2125-2133.