Valerie Vande Panne: Battle for Rights of Lakes

EcoWatch:

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In February, the voters of Toledo, Ohio, passed a ballot initiative that gives Lake Erie and those who rely on the lake’s ecosystem a bill of rights. The idea is to protect and preserve the ecosystem so that the life that depends on it — humans included — can have access to safe, fresh drinking water.

On the surface, it seems pretty logical: Humans need water to survive, and if an ecosystem that is relied on for water—in this case, Lake Erie — is polluted (in this case, with algae), then the Lake Erie Bill of Rights (or LEBOR) would ensure the rights of humans would come before the polluters (in this case, big agriculture).

Except, that’s not what’s happening.

Rather, in a perhaps unsurprising move, the state of Ohio has at once both acknowledged rights of nature to exist, and taken them away, with a line written in, of all things, the state budget: “Nature or any ecosystem does not have standing to participate in or bring an action in any court of common pleas.”

David Freid: How New Zealand's Whanganui River Became a Legal Person

The Atlantic:

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For more than 700 years, the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, fought to maintain their spiritual connection to the Whanganui River. Mostly, it was a losing battle: Rapids were dynamited, gravel was extracted, and water was drained and polluted. Promises were broken. Generations of Maori looked on as awa tupua—their river of sacred power—was treated as a means to an end or, worse, as a dumping ground.

Then, in 2017, something unprecedented happened. The New Zealand government granted the Whanganui River legal personhood—a status that is in keeping with the Maori worldview that the river is a living entity. The legislation, which has yet to be codified into domestic law, refers to the river as an “indivisible, living whole,” conferring it “all the rights, powers, duties, and liabilities” of an individual.

David Freid’s short documentary The River Is Me seeks to understand how the landmark legislation came to pass, its significance for the Maori, and how the river’s new legal status will be enforced in future litigation. In the film, Freid interviews many experts on the subject, including the Maori leader and treaty negotiator Gerrard Albert and Chris Finlayson, the former attorney general of New Zealand who worked with the Maori to pass the legislation.

Alan Guebert: Corporations Have Rights; Why Not a Lake?

Farm & Food File:

If the ballot box is the ultimate source of power in the United States, then voters in Toledo, Ohio, used that power Feb. 26 to create what’s now being called a “Bill of Rights” for their wide, blue neighbor, Lake Erie. That vote, if it withstands court challenges (one was filed immediately after the referendum passed) gives any Toledo citizen legal standing to sue any person or corporation on behalf of Lake Erie over its “right” to be clean and environmentally healthy.

Lake Erie’s newly conferred/newly challenged rights have farmers in northwest Ohio deeply concerned because they have long been seen as a key source of the phosphorus run-off that fuels late-summer, toxic algae blooms in the lake, that also serves as Toledo’s public water source. But it’s not just Toledo. The toxic blooms, according to press reports, threaten the water supply of 12 million American and Canadian citizens living near Lake Erie and jeopardize more than $1 billion a year spent in Ohio on lake tourism.

Judith Weis: Phragmites - A Useful Native & Non-Native Plant

The Conversation:

But despite its bad reputation, Phragmites provides many benefits that are generally unknown and unappreciated. After studying salt marsh ecology and the impacts of stressors, including invasive plants, for many years, I have concluded that removing this invasive species wherever it is found – especially along vulnerable coastlines – is a very expensive and often foolish procedure.

Phragmites actually is native in the United States, but the native form comprises only a minor component of the high marsh – the zone that typically is above water. A new genetic variety arrived many decades ago and invaded brackish marshes.

In Europe and Asia, where Phragmites is also native, it is valued as an important wetland species. In China, where Spartina alterniflora has arrived, marsh scientists and managers are concerned with the effects of that invader replacing their beloved Phragmites. Human attitudes toward invasive species can be a bit subjective.

Avoiding the Invasive Trap: Policies for Aquatic Non-Indigenous Plant Management

User:Darkone; From Wikimedia Commons

User:Darkone; From Wikimedia Commons

ABSTRACT
Many aquatic invasive species (AIS) management programs are doing important work on preventing non-indigenous species movement to our wild places. Attitudes and perspectives on aquatic non-indigenous species and their management by ecologists and the public are fundamentally a question of human values. Despite eloquent philosophical writings on treatment of non-indigenous species, management agency rhetoric on ‘invasive’ species usually degenerates to a good versus evil language, often with questionable results and lost conservation dollars. We assess and learn from an established AIS program. We discuss an ethic framework and operational directives to minimise the trap of a binary classification of species into bad or good, and we advocate for a principled pragmatic approach to minimise conflicts. We make a case for not labelling species and instead focusing on managing nuisance conditions and protecting ecosystem health.

Paper link or here

Alma Gullermoprieto: Sunday Car Ban

National Geographic:

JUAN CRISTÓBAL COBO

JUAN CRISTÓBAL COBO

It’s like falling in love all over again; every Sunday without fail, and holidays too, the inhabitants of the car-choked, noise-filled, stressed-out city of Bogotá, 8,660 feet up in the thin air of the Andes, get to feel that the city belongs to them, and not to the 1,600,000 suicidal private cars, 50,000 homicidal taxis, nine thousand gasping buses, and some half-million demented motorcycles that otherwise pack into the buzzing capital of Colombia.

The weekly miracle occurs at an event you could call the Peaceful Community Gathering on Wheels, but is actually named the Ciclovía, or Bicycle Way. Starting at seven in the morning and until two in the afternoon, vast stretches of the city’s principal avenues and highways are turned over to everyone looking to enjoy a bit of fresh air. All kinds of transportation are welcome—bicycles, roller skates, scooters, wheelchairs, skateboards—as long as they are not motor-driven.

Feargus O'Sullivan: Eliminating Cars Parking

CityLab:

This week, Amsterdam is taking its reputation for pro-bike, anti-car polices one step further by announcing that it will systematically strip its inner city of parking spaces. Amsterdam transit commissioner Sharon Dijksma announced Thursday that starting this summer, the city plans to reduce the number of people permitted to park in the city core by around 1,500 per year. These people already require a permit to access a specific space (and the cost for that permit will also rise), and so by reducing these permits steadily in number, the city will also remove up to 11,200 parking spaces from its streets by the end of 2025.

The cleared spaces won’t be left empty, however. As room for cars is removed, it will be replaced by trees, bike parking, and wider sidewalks, allowing Amsterdammers to instantly see and feel the benefits of what will still be a fairly controversial policy among drivers.

Aaron Renn: Struggling Cities

CityLab:

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Too often, states try to help these cities through massive spending or tax giveaways. The disgraceful Foxconn and Amazon HQ2 site selection processes are emblematic of what goes on every day across America. Massachusetts included Pittsfield in its list of proposed Amazon HQ2 sites, for example, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, also put in a bid. But decades of subsidies haven’t worked and won’t work.

Instead, deeply challenged smaller post-industrial cities should do the basics: Local governments must address their often huge unfunded liabilities and get to structurally balanced budgets. They should reform their governance where necessary, especially by eliminating corruption. And, they need to start rebuilding core public services, especially public safety but also parks, etc. Make no mistake, this will require help from federal and state governments, and may involve painful steps like bankruptcy and prosecutions.

Eric Freedman: Isle Royale

Great Lakes Echo:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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“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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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“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:

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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...