Artificial light traps animals, PFCs distort hormones
Green Roundup — As beavers return to cities, gas cap works
Read on about reasons to despair and reasons to cheer. Of course, if we used geonomics, wed both have to pay for costs we impose and get a share of Earth’s worth, motivating better stewardship. We trim and blend four 2009 articles from: (1) BBC News, Jan 16, on light pollution by Kinver; (2) BBC News, Jan 29, on fertility; (3) Detroit Free Press, Feb 16, on beavers by Gallagher; and (4) the New York Times, Feb 16, on cap-and-trade by Kanter.
by Mark Kinver, by BBC, by John Gallagher, and by James Kanter
Light pollution forms ‘eco-traps’
Animals use the intensity of light to make decisions. Yet polarized light from structures within the built environment overwhelm these natural cues. Road surfaces and glass buildings are among the main sources of this form of light pollution.
For example, baby sea turtles rely on the direction of starlight and moonlight reflected off the water’s surface to find the ocean when they emerged from their nests. Yet in urbanized areas, often they head towards the brighter buildings and street lamps.
Light from the sun is vibrating in all possible directions, but after bouncing off smooth flat surfaces, like water, it only vibrates in the horizontal direction; it has become polarized. Artificial polarizing surfaces — asphalt, gravestones, cars, plastic sheeting and glass windows — are commonly mistaken for bodies of water.
To mitigate the problem, one can add white curtains to dark windows or white markings on roads. Meanwhile, polarized light could offer an alternative way to deal with problematic species, such as insects destroying trees.
The findings, by Bruce Robertson, an ecologist from Michigan State University, appear in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
Chemicals ‘may reduce fertility’
Women with higher levels in the blood of chemicals commonly found in food packaging, upholstery, and carpets were more likely to take more than a year to get pregnant.
The researchers, from the University of California in Los Angeles, measured levels of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) and published their findings in the journal Human Reproduction.
Dr Chunyuan Fei, one of the researchers, said that more women in the groups with higher exposure to PFCs also had problems with irregular menstrual cycles.
Earlier studies had suggested that PFCs might impair the growth of fetuses. High concentrations have been linked to organ damage in animals, and the chemicals have the ability to persist for long periods in the body.
PFCs are useful in industry because they are resistant to heat, and have the ability to repel water and oil.
JJS: Our modern custom — that polluting for profit is somehow OK, which is reflected in laws limiting the liability of perpetrators — needs to be jettisoned in favor of fully responsible enterprise. That is, the damage by PFCs needs to be included in price of PFCs. Presently, we spend less for PFCs but more for doctor and hospital bills. If pollution fees made PFCs more expensive, we would not actually be spending more money. Once price signals are made accurate, then researchers get busy and find safe replacements, which avoids downstream medical costs.
At the same time, itd be fair and sensible to quit taxing earnings, making it easier for firms and savers to invest in R&D and safe alternatives. And because many break-thru ideas come not from corporations but basement inventors, itd also be a good idea to recover and share the commonwealth, the socially-generated values of sites and resources. That extra income would liberate the inventive and entrepreneurial spirits. And speed up the slow progress underway.
Leave it to beaver to prove river cleaner
Furry beavers have returned to Detroit Michigan for the first time in perhaps a century. A single beaver lodge has been discovered in an intake canal at a power plant on Detroit’s east riverfront. Their return signals that a multiyear effort to clean up the river has paid off.
Many species have returned to the Detroit River area in recent years. Those include sturgeon, whitefish, peregrine falcons, bald eagles, walleye, and, now, a beaver. If it’s cleaner for them, it’s cleaner for humans, too.
Beavers played a huge role in the founding of Detroit (French for strait). The French explorer Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac established a fort on the strait to serve the trade in beaver pelts, which were in demand by European hat makers. For the next 150 years, French, British, American, and Native American trappers all but wiped out the animal in the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair region.
The animal is mostly nocturnal and survives by avoiding contact with humans. It enters and leaves its lodge, a pile of sticks and driftwood, under water. The animal will exhaust the supply of tree bark and other edibles near its lodge, then move somewhere else.
Group Says European Cap-and-Trade System Reduced Emissions
In the European Union last year, carbon emissions dropped by roughly 3%.
New Carbon Finance calculateds that the largest cause of the reduction was attributable to the trading system — because it had encouraged greater use of gas in power generation rather than dirtier fuels like coal.
The existence of a carbon price in 2009 indicates that banking of allowances is taking place and the design of the scheme is working as originally intended by the European Union.
The group estimated that the carbon price was responsible for 40% of the fall in emissions in 2008, with the recession accounting for a further 30%.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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