Eric Freedman: Isle Royale

Great Lakes Echo:

6127571457_f2f22ce07e_b-768x576.jpg
The newly designated Minong Traditional Cultural Property covers Isle Royale and its entire archipelago of 450-plus northern Lake Superior islands and surrounding waters. It reflects many legacies, especially the cultural history of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, or Ojibwe.

The listing “recognizes and celebrates the lasting relationship” between Native Americans and Isle Royale and other nearby islands, said Seth DePasqual, the cultural resource manager at Isle Royale National Park. The Grand Portage Ojibwe have used the islands for many centuries.

Isle Royale has been a national park since 1945. In 1976, Congress set aside 99 percent of the main island as wilderness.

Daniel McGraw: Lake Erie Bill of Rights

The Guardian:

4768.jpg
The citizens of Toledo, on the western basin of Lake Erie, will now be voting on a controversial legal bill on 26 February. What they will be deciding is whether Lake Erie has the same legal rights as a corporation or person.

There have been cities and townships in the United States that have passed ordinances making some types of polluting illegal, but no American city or state has changed the legality of nature in a way that is this big and this extensive – effectively giving personhood to a gigantic lake.

Called the Lake Erie Bill of Rights, it would grant personhood status to the lake, with the citizens being the guardians of the body of water. If passed, citizens could sue a polluter on behalf of the lake, and if the court finds the polluter guilty, the judge could impose penalties in the form of designated clean-ups and/or prevention programs.

“What has happened in Toledo is that we have lost our faith in the current mechanisms of power, and decided to take things into our own hands,” said Bryan Twitchell, a Toledo school teacher.

Erin Jordan: Iowa Commission Won't Set Lake Pollution Limits

The Gazette:

AR-190219612.jpg&MaxH=500&MaxW=900.jpeg
The Iowa Environmental Protection Commission on Tuesday unanimously denied a petition asking the state to set pollution limits on Iowa lakes. The vote in Des Moines followed a presentation by the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Iowa Environmental Council, which jointly filed a petition for rule making. The groups argued numeric limits for water transparency, chlorophyll-a, total phosphorus and total nitrogen would better help the state protect lakes used for recreation and drinking water.

But the Iowa Department of Natural Resources recommended the commission deny the petition, saying numeric limits would result in costly changes and more federal regulation. The Law and Policy Center also asked for numeric limits in 2013, but the commission denied the petition then as well.

Interesting… aren’t there benefits of setting a pollution standard for a lake or a group of lakes?

Tom Jacobs: Mother Nature

Pacific Standard:

simon-rae-320817-unsplash.jpg
“Mother Nature” is a rather antiquated way of referring to the natural world. It seems ridiculous to anthropomorphize something so huge and diffuse, let alone to assign it a gender. But new research from China suggests that reviving this image could inspire people to act in more environmentally conscious ways.

”Our results show a robust implicit association between women and nature,” writes a research team led by Ting Liu of Nanjing University. “The metaphor ‘Mother Earth’ builds on this association and leads to increases [in] one’s connection with nature, which in turn leads to increases in pro-environmental behavior.”

The results suggest that anthropomorphizing nature as a mom “could be a relatively low-cost but useful strategy in environmental promotion.” They suggest that ads or public-service announcements promoting green behaviors should consider including elements “such as a female face and body characteristics” to reinforce the connection between nature and femininity.

The paper.

Prioritizing Lakes for Conservation

Lake and Reservoir Management:

ulrm20.v034.i04.cover.jpg
Abstract:
Identifying lakes in which to invest water quality conservation efforts can help more effectively target efforts and more efficiently utilize limited resources. The objective of this study was to compare different approaches to prioritize Minnesota lakes primarily for water quality protection or restoration. Lakes were objectively ranked using a multi-criteria values-based model that included phosphorus-loading resilience, level of watershed degradation, and feasibility of water quality protection or restoration. We explored how the list of priority lakes might change when incorporating benefit:cost ratios that used a hedonic model to predict land value increases with total phosphorus loading reductions. In addition, we examined the influence of including data on lakes with unique or high-quality biological communities. The multi-criteria values-based model was moderately correlated with the benefit:cost ratio approach; however, the exclusion of benefits and cost in the prioritization would likely result in the loss of a modest amount of potential benefit ($20%). A focus on impaired waters would likely result in considerable forgone benefit ($80%) and substantially higher costs. We provide recommendations on how to combine prioritization approaches along with a peer review process to produce lake priority lists that are both defensible and practical.

This article is available as a pdf for a limited time at this link.

Andrew Freedman: Only 5% of the Earth's Landscape Remains Unaltered

Axios:

1547164599306.jpg
Humans have a greater influence on the world’s landscape than previously thought, according to a comprehensive new high-resolution analysis of human modification of the planet. The map, published in the journal Global Change Biology, is meant to guide conservation strategy in the coming years. Why it matters: The new study finds that just 5% of the Earth’s land surface is currently unaffected by humans, far lower than a previous estimate of 19%.

The study found the least modified biomes tend to be in high latitudes and include tundra, boreal forests, or taiga and temperate coniferous forests. On the other hand, the most modified biomes include more tropical landscapes, such as temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, as well as mangroves.

Ibram X. Kendi: To the Deniers of Reality

The Atlantic:

lead_720_405.jpg
The disbelievers do not believe that either climate change or racism is real. Or they do not believe they are caused by emissions of greenhouse gases or racist policies. Or they do not believe that regulating them would be better for society.

All this disbelief rests on the same foundation: the transformation of science into belief. It is a foundation built from the economic, political, and ideological blocks that stand the most to lose from the aggressive reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions and racial inequities. These defensive voices engage in the same oratorical process, attack the credibility of scientists, disregarding their consensus and reducing their findings to personal beliefs.

The effect: Science becomes belief. Belief becomes science. Everything becomes nothing. Nothing becomes everything. All can believe and disbelieve all. We all can know everything and know nothing. Everyone lives as an expert on every subject. No experts live on any subject. Years of intense and specialized training and research and reflection are abandoned, like poor Latino immigrants, like the poor body of our planet...

Signs reign in the realm of belief. Belief reigns in the realm of what we cannot or do not know. Let me say it differently. I know because of science. When I do not know, I believe or disbelieve. As such, the end game of the transformation of science to belief is the execution of knowing. And the end of knowing is the end of human advancement...

Fascinating article, and read his conclusion. Nassim Taleb stated “you will never fully convince someone that he is wrong, only reality can”. I guess since our climate is changing at long time scales, many deniers can stick with their false beliefs for a long time. This is why civic leaders are so important — leaders can articulate the needs and push the necessary change forward.

William Laurance: Improving Environment Impact Assessments

ENSIA:

Illustration by Kelsey King

Illustration by Kelsey King

The EIA is the frontline of environmental protection in most countries. It’s a legal requirement placed on a developer to measure the impact on nature of their proposed development. If that impact includes anything the government has pledged to protect, such as a threatened species, then the development may be halted or redesigned to avoid the impact.

Or that’s the idea, anyway. The only problem is that the EIAs are rarely stopping bad projects. All around the world we see a growing catalog of cases where EIAs are giving green lights to developments that should never see the light of day — projects that are destroying irreplaceable habitat or threatening the last representatives of endangered species.

Here are eight things we can do to help:...

John Myers: BWCAW turns 40

Duluth News Tribune:

1-td6gQn7So-CVNCi0Dzytef6A0IvxZ0f.jpg
It passed the U.S. Senate in the last minutes of the last day of a Congressional session that may have been its last chance to pass.Democrats were in power in Minnesota and in Washington, and several Minnesotans were in President Jimmy Carter’s administration when the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act passed Congress on Oct. 15, 1978. That included Vice President Walter Mondale and Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland, whose department oversaw the U.S. Forest Service that managed what was then the BWCA.

The issue of wilderness, the definition of what wilderness should be in Minnesota’s Boundary Waters, was dividing the party at home, and DFLers were anxious to put the issue behind them.

After years of rancorous debate, the Senate quietly passed a version of the bill late at night on Oct. 4, 1978, by a voice vote, with no record of who voted yes or no. Eleven days later, after an all-night session, the House passed the bill 248-111 early on a Sunday morning... The Senate concurred at 12:30 p.m. that Sunday afternoon. By 3 p.m. everyone had adjourned to go home. Carter quietly signed the BWCAW bill into law Oct. 21.

The article is a reminder of the struggles it took to designate this wonderful place for enjoyment of wildness. The struggle continues.

Maggie Koerth-Baker: What is an Invasive Species?

FiveThirtyEight:

SMELT-MKB_diptcyh.jpg
This isn’t just trivia. Invasive species control is always expensive, and you only get the resources to launch a full-court press against a plant or animal — like the hundreds of millions of dollars spent in the last six decades to get sea lamprey populations under control — on the rare and shining occasion when everyone in power agrees on what “harm” is. And so the definition of invasive species has also created fights within the biological sciences. In 2011, Mark Davis, a biology professor at Minnesota’s Macalester College, published an essay in Nature in which he and 18 co-authors argued that the field of invasion biology had become too weighted toward viewing all non-native species as bad and worthy of eradication. “Harm,” he argued, had come to mean “change.” “And, boy, this world is a bad place to be if any change is viewed as bad,” Davis told me.

Mark Schapiro: Uphill Battle for Clean Water in Corn Country

Yale E360:

JohnsonField_web2.jpg
“Health trumps politics,” said Iowa State Senator David Johnson before taking the stage at a raucous rally in Des Moines last winter to support strengthening the state’s water quality. In the marble rotunda of the state capitol, he rose to denounce the nitrogen and phosphates that have been flowing in ever-increasing quantities into Iowa’s public water supplies — and was cheered by the small crowd of family farmers, concerned mothers, and his new political allies, the legislature’s drastically outnumbered Democrats. Johnson had been one of the longest-serving Republicans in Iowa until he left the party to become an independent in 2016 after defying it repeatedly on one of the most divisive issues in Iowa — the integrity of the state’s water.

Iowa’s nitrogen load has been accelerating despite more than $100 million spent by the federal and state governments to rein it in. Starting in 1999, the concentration of nitrogen in the state’s major waterways has increased almost 50 percent, according to a study from the University of Iowa, published last spring in PLOS One. The battle over Iowa’s water had long been posed as one between rural and urban interests, until Johnson, whose district is one of the most thinly populated and heavily farmed in the state, came along...

More than 750, or 58 percent, of the state’s rivers and streams do not meet federal water quality standards and are designated by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as too contaminated for swimming or consuming fish caught there — making a state once renowned for its lattice of waterways into a mess of inaccessible creeks, streams and lakes. Another 23 percent fall into a category of being “potentially impaired,” which the state defines as, “waters in need of further investigation.” Ninety-two percent of the nitrogen and 80 percent of phosphates in the state’s waterways, says the DNR, come from farms and animal feedlots.

Jonathan English: How to Fix American Mass Transit

CityLab:

940.jpg
The maps illustrate the vast swaths of urban areas untouched by full service bus routes. For those who do live near one, it’s quite likely that the bus wouldn’t get them where they need to go, unless their destination is downtown. A bus that comes once and hour, stops at 7 pm, and doesn’t run on Sundays—a typical service level in many American cities—restricts people’s lives so much that anyone who can drive, will drive. That keeps ridership per capita low.

What happened? Over the past hundred years the clearest cause is this: Transit providers in the U.S. have continually cut basic local service in a vain effort to improve their finances. But they only succeeded in driving riders and revenue away. When the transit service that cities provide is not attractive, the demand from passengers that might “justify” its improvement will never materialize.

Here’s how this has played out, era by era...

Jay Walljasper: A Green Neighborhood on the old Ford Plant Site

CityLab:

lead_large.jpg
Today, all that remains of the Ford factory is an expansive tract of bare land in the middle of the middle-class Highland Park neighborhood, where a lone smokestack juts up from the old steam plant. The top layer of heavily contaminated dirt has been scraped away and piled up in mounds underneath plastic covers, waiting to be removed. Diesel shovels and other heavy equipment dot the grounds.

But the Ford site is poised for a dramatic rebirth: Over the next 20 years, these 122 acres overlooking the Mississippi River are slated to grow into a dense mixed-use neighborhood designed to be a showpiece of energy efficiency, smart design, ecological stormwater management, and enlightened economic development. Last fall, the St. Paul City Council approved the Ford site master plan, developed by the city’s planning department after an intensive 11-year process. The plan maps out the vision for a transit-accessible community for up to 7,200 residents, an eco-village within the city that boasts a grid of bike- and pedestrian-friendly streets, abundant green space, and jobs for 1,500 workers—almost as many as the old Ford plant had at its height. Twenty percent of the development’s housing will be priced for lower-income residents.

It is a reasonable plan. One hopes that the car-free elements are expanded as development progresses.

Leyla Acaroglu: Use System Thinking to Solve Our Problems

ENSIA:

From the hypothesis-to-outcome structure of scientific investigations, through to the hyper-structured and inflexible departments of government ,  we have designed systems of silos that don’t connect to the bigger picture. These isolated systems create very linear perspectives of problems and limited approaches to solving them.

Here’s the thing: Problems never exist in isolation; they are always surrounded by other problems.

As renowned environmental scientist Donella Meadows put it: “Let’s face it. The universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent, and dynamic. It spends its time in transient behavior on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity and uniformity. That’s what makes the world interesting, that’s what makes it beautiful, and that’s what makes it work.”

If we really want to start to address the highly complex, often chaotic and incredibly urgent social and environmental issues at play in the world around us, we must overcome the reductionist perspective and build thinking and doing systems that work for all.

For more information, I suggest reading Thinking In Systems by Donella Meadows and the following website: http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/

 

Ron Meador: Lawsuits on Minnesota Mining Leases

MinnPost:

9059957168_5623815c32_z.jpg
Ask yourself: Would it be OK to revoke a mining company’s rights in the same way that these leases were restored?

Two more lawsuits were filed this week against the Trump administration’s about-face on Twin Metals Minnesota’s mineral leases at the edge of the Boundary Waters, bringing the total to three.

The documents bring some clarity and concision to the tangled procedural history of the leases’ renewals, cancellation and re-granting. And on mining’s threat to area businesses centered on paddling and quiet recreation, they present some compelling illustrations of potential job losses. But perhaps their main value will be the focus they bring to this question: Has ours become a government of whim, or do the law, the rules and settled procedures still matter?

For several years now, ever since Twin Metals’ challengers began to gain traction in Washington for their objections to industrializing the edge of a prime American wilderness, the company has asserted that its leases along the South Kawishiwi River carry an automatic right of renewal. Given that TMM’s renewal applications have undergone repeated review for potential impacts on the Superior National Forest and on waters downstream, that’s an odd position — at least, it’s odd if you make the common-sense assumption that the fact of review carries the possibility of rejection.

Adam Rogers: Our Engineering Made Mississippi River Floods Worse

Wired:

mississippidam-932220754.jpg
Scientists and anyone who lives within a hundred miles of the winding Mississippi River will tell you—have told you, repeatedly, for 150 years—that efforts to tame the river have only made it more feral. But scientists would like more than intuition, more than a history of 18th-century river level gauges and discharge stations, more than written and folkloric memory. They would like proof...

So climate change causes floods, right? Hah! Too easy. Muñoz’s group ran a statistical model, based on the climate over the entire period of time they now had flood records for, estimating how much more worse flooding should have gotten based on climate change alone. “It comes up with a little bit of an increase, like a 5 percent increase in how big the biggest floods should be,” Muñoz says. “But not all the increase.”

Overall flood risk has gone up 20 percent, the team says. But 75 percent of that risk comes from human engineering of the Mississippi for navigation and flood control.

Nathan Rott: Decline of Hunting Threatens Conservation

NPR:

f11c9c-20180320-hunting05.jpg
A new survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service shows that today, only about 5 percent of Americans, 16 years old and older, actually hunt. That’s half of what it was 50 years ago and the decline is expected to accelerate over the next decade. Meanwhile other wildlife-centered activities, like birdwatching, hiking and photography, are rapidly growing, as American society and attitudes towards wildlife change. The shift is being welcomed by some who morally oppose the sport, but it’s also leading to a crisis.

State wildlife agencies and the country’s wildlife conservation system are heavily dependent on sportsmen for funding. Money generated from license fees and excise taxes on guns, ammunition and angling equipment provide about 60 percent of the funding for state wildlife agencies, which manage most of the wildlife in the U.S.

This user-play, user-pay funding system for wildlife conservation has been lauded and emulated around the world. It has been incredibly successful at restoring the populations of North American game animals, some of which were once hunted nearly to extinction. But with the slide in hunting participation expected to speed up in the next 10 years, widening funding shortfalls that already exist, there’s a growing sense of urgency in the wildlife conservation community to broaden that funding base.

Sophie Yeo: Resilience to Climate Change

Pacific Standard:

three_pillar_point_kodiak_island_alaska.jpg
Kodiak Island Borough is a remote community of around 14,000 people that spreads down the coast of the Alaska Peninsula and across 16 islands. It sits downwind from a cluster of active volcanoes, and its six villages are accessible only by boat or plane. It is home to 3,500 oversized bears.

It is also one of the safest places to live in the United States—at least when it comes to climate change. A recent survey of America’s 3,135 counties concluded that this inhospitable stretch of land is the most climate-resilient place in the entire nation...

The results shed light on the vast inequalities in how different parts of the U.S. will deal with such hazards. While places like Kodiak Island are expected to fare well, residents of areas like Appalachia, the southeast, and western Texas are on course to suffer far worse than the average American.
e-2.png

Laurel Wamsley: Free Transit Considered for Germans

NPR:

gettyimages-77391691-a0af664f8d3d3b407c35b63618cfae9959c75b63-s700-c85.jpg
Germany is considering free public transit in its cities in order to curb car use, as it hurries to meet the European Union’s requirements for air quality. That proposal is put forth in a letter to from the German government to the EU’s Environment Commissioner. The free transit plan is part of a range of measures suggested in the letter, including low emission zones, incentives for electric cars, and technically retrofitting existing vehicles, Reuters reports.

”We are considering public transport free of charge in order to reduce the number of private cars,” the letter says, according to Agence France Presse. “Effectively fighting air pollution without any further unnecessary delays is of the highest priority for Germany.”