Consumer Reports analysis offers a risk guide for 48 fruits and vegetables; recommends organic produce
When it comes to shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables, I usually follow a very basic rule of thumb: For leafy greens, berries, and anything that grows in direct contact with the soil — like onions, garlic, potatoes, and carrots — buy organic. For the rest, go with locally grown, even if it might not always be organic. The idea being to minimize exposure to toxic agricultural chemical residues as far as possible (and support the local farming economy). But it seems my method might not be quite as effective as I’d thought.
Photo by Natalie Maynor
A new study out today shows that the risk from pesticides on conventional produce varies dramatically — from very low to very high — depending on the type of produce and the country where it’s grown. Take green beans. According to the study, one serving of conventional US-grown green beans is 200 times riskier than a similar serving of locally-grown, conventional broccoli. On the other hand, conventionally grown lettuce and onions aren’t so bad after all. At least I had the carrots right!
The study, “Pesticide Use in Produce,” was conducted by Consumer Reports — a organization that works to improve the lives of consumers by driving marketplace change. Researchers at the organization’s Food Safety and Sustainability Center reviewed the risks of pesticide residues for 48 fruits and vegetables from around the globe and have came up with guidelines to help consumers reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals. They also looked at the consequences of pesticide use for the people who produce our food, as well as on wildlife and the environment. (An associated feature report, “Eat the Peach, Not the Pesticide: A Shopper’s Guide,” appears in the latest issue of Consumer Reports and at ConsumerReports.org.)
The researchers analyzed 12 years of data from United States Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program and found residues of two or more pesticides in about a third of the samples they tested, Dr Urvashi Rangan, a toxicologist and executive director of the Food Safety and Sustainability Center, told Earth Island Journal. The analysis is based on the risk to …more
Prized dolphin catch at the notorious "Cove" declined by 80% this hunting season
Another season of dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Japan, reached its end in February, although some dolphins, notably the pilot whales, will continue to be harpooned offshore through March at least. The gory hunt season, made notoriously famous by the award-winning documentary The Cove, lasts for six months, during which dolphin hunters cruise out of Taiji harbor in boats to herd pods of dolphins into the Cove, where the dolphins are netted off from the ocean and slaughtered in the most inhumane way imaginable.
What should be setting off the loudest alarm bells is the decline in catch of the bottlenose dolphin in Taiji. The bottlenose dolphin is the most prized dolphin sought for captivity in aquariums around the world. (Flipper in the iconic 1960s television show was a bottlenose dolphin, and Florida coastal populations of bottlenose dolphins for years supplied the circus acts in aquariums in the US, until the onset of artificial insemination and breeding of captive bottlenose dolphins.) A bottlenose dolphin killed and butchered for meat will fetch about $500-$600 in Japan markets, whereas a trained, live Taiji bottlenose dolphin can bring in $150,000 or more on the world market for the aquarium trade. Major markets for captives include Japan (with more than 100 dolphin captive facilities, according to our colleagues with the Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan), China, Russia, and the Middle East.
Last season (2013-2014), Taiji hunters caught 551 bottlenose dolphins, but this season only 108 were caught, a more than 80 percent decline. Fewer of them were killed this season for meat (28) compared to last season (144 killed).
Only 80 dolphins were kept this season for captivity, mostly 41 bottlenose dolphins and 24 spotted dolphins, with a half-dozen Pacific white-sided and Risso's dolphins each, plus two pilot whales. Here again, it is likely that orders for captive dolphins are lower than last season, when 158 dolphins were captured, condemning them to a life in captivity where their health is threatened and their lives shortened.
Are bottlenose populations being depleted by the Taiji hunts? Possibly.
Bottlenose dolphins are a widespread species around the world, but they don't exist in large dense populations, unlike some other dolphin species. And as the bottlenose species is the prime species used for captivity, the Taiji hunters probably have a major problem if they continue to deplete the local population for …more
Overpopulation is killing the wild world
“Except for giant meteorite strikes or other such catastrophes, Earth has never experienced anything like the contemporary human juggernaut. We are in a bottleneck of overpopulation and wasteful consumption that could push half of Earth’s species to extinction in this century.”
— E. O. Wilson
It’s painfully straightforward. We have come on like a swarm of locusts, and now at over 7 billion and counting, there are too many of us for Earth to harbor. But it is much worse for the other Earthlings – that is, all other living things we share the Earth with – tamed and untamed. A key insight of Charles Darwin’s is that all lifekinds can track their beginnings back to a shared forebear. Biologists today call this forebear the Last Common Ancestor or LCA. We – plants, animals, fungi, and microorganisms – are kin. We all share the name, “Earthling.”
Photo by Vivi Portela
For many years it has been the booming and spreading overflow of Man that has been the greatest threat to the life of other Earthlings. By Man I mean our species – Homo sapiens. (I use the word Man as a way to describe our kind that is not gender specific.)
Among we Earthlings are “wild things” – or all forms of untamed living things, from plants to wild animals. Aldo Leopold, a top conservation thinker of the twentieth century, wrote in the beginning of his wonderful book, A Sand County Almanac, “here are those who can live without wild things, and there are those who cannot.” Maybe you are like me; I’m one of those “cannots.” I don’t want to live in a world without wild things.
But unless we can freeze and then make Man’s footprint on Earth smaller, we will have an Earth with fewer and fewer wild things. I hope to show you that more of our kind means fewer wild things, that a stabilized human population means hope for wild things, and that a shrinking human population means a better world for wild things. As well as for men, women and children.
Here are some ideas …more
As progressive institutions, the Gates Foundation and Wellcome Trust should commit to taking their money out of the companies that are driving global warming, says The Guardian’s editor-in-chief
The world has much more coal, oil and gas in the ground than it can safely burn. That much is physics.
Anyone studying the question with an open mind will almost certainly come to a similar conclusion: if we and our children are to have a reasonable chance of living stable and secure lives 30 or so years from now, according to one recent study 80 percent of the known coal reserves will have to stay underground, along with half the gas and a third of the oil reserves.
If only science were enough.
If not science, then politics? MPs, presidents, prime ministers and members of congress are always telling us (often suggesting a surrender of civil liberties in return) that their first duty is the protection of the public.
But politics sometimes struggles with physics. Science is, at its best, long term and gives the best possible projection of future risk. Which is not always how politics works, even when it comes to our security. Politicians prefer certainty and find it difficult to make serious prudent planning on high probabilities.
On climate change, the public clamor is in inverse proportion to the enormity of the long-term threat. If only it were the other way round. And so, year after year, the people who represent us around the UN negotiating tables have moved inches, not miles.
When, as Guardian colleagues, we first started discussing this climate change series, there were advocates for focusing the main attention on governments. States own much of the fossil fuels that can never be allowed to be dug up. Only states, it was argued, can forge the treaties that count. In the end the politicians will have to save us through regulation – either by limiting the amount of stuff that is extracted, or else by taxing, pricing and limiting the carbon that’s burned.
If journalism has so far failed to animate the public to exert sufficient pressure on politics through reporting and analysis, it seemed doubtful whether many people would be motivated by the idea of campaigning for a paragraph to be inserted into the negotiating text at the UN climate talks in Paris this December. So we turned to an area where campaigners have recently begun to have …more
Toll expected to rise; top officials blame climate change
In a 4:00 p.m. EST, phone interview from Manhattan on Monday, Vanuatu’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Odo Tevi, updated Earth Island Journal as to the latest news regarding the cyclone that ravaged his South Pacific Island nation over the weekend: “We were hit by a Category 5 cyclone, Cyclone Pam… Currently, there are 24 confirmed deaths. Eleven are from Tafea province, eight from Efate [the main island where the capital of Port Vila is located], five from Tanna… Tafea province has about four islands.”
Photo courtesy of UNICEF
The speed of Pam’s winds was unprecedented for the South Seas Island chain located in Melanesia. “The cyclone was carrying winds of 300 kilometers an hour,” the Ambassador told EIJ. “We had a big cyclone in 1987 called Cyclone Uma. This [Pam] is the biggest cyclone ever in the history of Vanuatu [with] faster winds… I haven’t received any news on flooding; there was heavy winds and rains.” (The February 1987 Cyclone Uma was reportedly a Category 4 tropical cyclone that reached speeds of up to 195 kilometers per hour.)
“Currently, [the cyclone] has devastated the capital [Port Vila]… Especially the squatter settlement, because they don’t have permanent structures or buildings, they are mostly affected. The urban poor are affected. That is one of the challenges we’re facing. There are reports some school buildings have been destroyed by the cyclone,” Tevi said. “When the hurricane hit everything was down. But now they’re working on it and in the next few days there will be electricity. Some of the communications are up and running, but not everything as before. Maybe another week.”
The full scale of the damage wreaked by the storm is still unclear given the remoteness of the island chain and its severely damaged communications network. The death toll is expected to rise once communication between the far-flung islands is reestablished.
“The challenge now is that about 75 percent [of the population] is in the rural area, so we can’t really get information. In the next two, three days, we can get information in the rural area. But in the capital, which the hurricane also hit, there’s some information coming out now,” …more
‘Zoothanasia’ is a common practice in Europe and also occurs in the US. Some wildlife advocates say it’s unnecessary
The killing of a young giraffe at the Copenhagen Zoo in February 2014 shook the world, causing protests from animal advocates and the public alike. “Marius,” an 18 month-old giraffe that had been born at the Copenhagen Zoo, was healthy and likely would have lived a long life. The animal was put down (and then fed to lions at the zoo), because officials at the zoo concluded it was unsuitable for breeding. A month later, the same zoo euthanized four lions, again on the grounds of genetic purity and breeding.
Photo by Michael Button
Zoo administrators ended up receiving death threats, and the killings sparked a media feeding frenzy. The serial deaths ushered in a newfound awareness of a not-so-new practice and raised some overlooked questions: Is “zoothanasia,” as the practice has been called, really necessary? And how common is it?
Zoo animals are typically killed for two reasons: to control the population and manage “surplus animals,” or to maintain genetic strength and diversity within a captive breeding program. While many animal rights activists and some conservation biologists are against the use of euthanasia among zoo animals, organizations such as the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria and the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria defend the practice. “As an organization, we believe that culling has a valid scientific basis and must remain one of the tools open to our members, provided that it is carried out humanely,” says David Williams-Mitchell, a spokesperson for EAZA.
Marc Bekoff, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at University of Colorado-Boulder and the person credited with coining the term “zoothanasia,” disagrees. He says that killing captive animals is the opposite of conservation. “There simply is no reason to kill any animals, members of endangered species or not, in zoos unless she/he is mortally ill or injured,” says Bekoff, who is author of the book Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence.
Sometimes, zoo animals are killed because there’s just too many of them in their cages and enclosures. These “surplus animals” are the result of animals that have been allowed to …more
From the Amazon to the Mekong, from the Balkans to the Andes, civil society networks have sprung up to defend our planet's arteries
The Chong people consider the Areng River at the foot of Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains a sacred inheritance from their ancestors. The river sustains lush forests with rare elephant, tiger, and crocodile species. The Chong people fish, grow rice, and gather roots and mushrooms on the river banks. They say that piles of money could not replace their river if it were destroyed by a dam.
Photo courtesy of International Rivers
The Chong people are not alone in revering their river. We call our rivers Father Rhine and Mother Ganges. The Mekong, Nile and Zambezi are venerated as Rivers of Life. In India, rivers like the Yamuna and Narmada are worshipped as goddesses. Rivers feed us, connect us, and give us a sense of identity. This is why we celebrate them with an International Day of Action for Rivers on March 14 every year.
Scientists confirm what our ancestors knew from experience. Rivers connect land, freshwater, and marine ecosystems. They host some of the world’s most diverse plant and animal communities. Rivers sustain much of our agriculture, and their fisheries nourish millions. Their sediments protect our coastlines against erosion by the sea, and pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Healthy rivers act as natural buffers that balance ever more serious floods and droughts.
We often ignore that we depend on rivers for our long-term prosperity. We are damming them, polluting them, and sucking them dry. Some rivers don’t even reach the sea anymore. Between 10,000 and 20,000 freshwater species are at risk of extinction or have already died out. Because their migration routes have been cut, the survival of 24 of the world’s 26 majestic sturgeon species is threatened or near-threatened.
Rivers and other wetlands are more strongly affected by the loss of species than any other major ecosystem. Even so, they are currently faced by a dam-building boom of unprecedented proportions. No less than 3,700 hydropower dams are under construction or in the pipeline right now around the world. They include the Stung Cheay Areng Dam on Cambodia’s sacred Areng River.
From the Amazon to the Mekong, from the Himalayas to the …more