Environmental Report for May, 2019

May 7, 2019



I.  Climate Change


Should Climate Change Be Taught in U.S. Schools?
Story from NPR, Apr. 22, 2019; ASCD http://www.ascd.org/news-media/Press-Room/News-Releases/2019-Legislative-Agenda.aspx.

More than 80% of parents in the U.S. support the teaching of climate change, according to a new NPR/Ipsos poll.The subject of teaching climate change in schools and at what level has finally come up.  Teachers generally think it should be taught, but with the lack of resources, it’s not a high priority.  It has been a very divisive issue in this country but it seems even some Republicans are now believers but there are still those who insist on teaching “both sides of the argument”.  There really aren’t good text books for grammar, middle and high schools. 

Teachers in the U.S. face a certain amount of uncertainty and  many states legally control their young peoples’ education.  Political pressure plays a role in the lack of climate change education and teachers are not immune to those pressures.  On a brighter side, according to NPR, 19 states and the District of Columbia have adopted more stringent standards for science education.  Teachers in these schools are instructed to teach human-caused climate change in middle school.  There’s a definite lack of good textbooks that deal with the subject.  Many teachers use web sites like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for instructional purposes.  


The Polar Vortex Breakdown
Story from Live Science, Jan 18, 2019; the dynamic Earth model from Wikipedia. 

This year the U.S. experienced some of its coldest weather in memory.  We know it’s related to the Polar Vortex at the North Pole and a recent wobbling affect brought on by warming at the poles.  The Polar Vortex normally is contained in a counterclockwise movement centered around the pole.  As climate is warming, the Vortex is weakening and has in the last few years expanded southward and appears to wobble off its northern perch.  Image result for polar vortex imagesWhat we haven’t seen before is the breaking up of the main vortex into three smaller vortices.  One spun out over Siberia and another over eastern central Canada to make for a steep dip in the Jet Stream into the eastern half of the U.S.  This weak vortex in Canada accounted for the low temperatures experienced by our Midwest, East and South in January.  The weather graphic (above) is an early prediction in January of what might happen in the U.S.

So, a wobbling vortex along with a dipping Jet Stream brought on by melted sea ice at the northern polar region, and the nature of heat exchange in the atmosphere, all worked together to bring on this extreme cold weather phenomenon.  The same deep-wavy slow moving Jet Stream pattern that can exacerbate California droughts can cause extreme cold weather conditions to slide southward from the polar region. 

It’s really nature taking its course on an unnatural planet that is experiencing warming on a global scale due to human activity.  While the Earth has experienced colder and warmer climates in the geologic past over hundreds of thousands to millions of years, there’s nothing natural about the measurable increase in carbon dioxide in our historic past, especially in the last 100 years. 



II.  Fossil Fuels


A Primer on the Bay Area’s Five Refineries
Story from Sunflower Alliance website, May, 2019.

This easy-to-comprehend primer, produced by the Sunflower Alliance and 350 Bay Area, is about the refinery threats and what you can do about them.


Trump’s Offshore Oil Exploration Put on Hold
Story from NPR News, Apr 25, 2019; Reuters, Apr. 25, 2019.

Arctic oil drilling. Credit: Sergey Anisimov/Anadolu Agency/Getty ImagesA group of conservation and environmental organizations are fighting and winning court battles against the Trump administration.  In one case Judge Sharon Gleason, U.S. District Court, ruled to continue President Obama’s ban in 98% of the Arctic controlled by the U.S.  The ruling was simply based on the fact that a sitting president does not have the right to undo a previous  president’s withdrawal of unleased land from oil exploration.

Trump’s latest replacement for Secretary of Interior (David Bernhardt) announced he would be putting Trump’s offshore drilling plans on hold pending appeal.   Governors and other political leaders in every coastal state have petitioned in some form or other to leave their state out of offshore drilling operations.  Another case in Wyoming will delay drilling because of Obama’s law requiring oil and gas exploration to consider climate change on Bureau of Land Management holdings.  This case was filed by WildEarth Guardians and Physicians for Social Responsibility.  

Here is the list of organizations represented as plaintiffs in the Arctic drilling case: Earthjustice, Natural Resources Defense Council, League of Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, Alaska Wilderness League, Defenders of Wildlife, Northern Alaska Environmental Center, Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands, Center for Biological Diversity, Greenpeace, Inc., and The Wilderness Society.



III.  Water, Food, and Pesticide Reports


The EPA’s Plan for Water Reuse
Story from EPA , Apr. 18, 2019.

The EPA announced an awaited plan to steer the nation toward a grander campaign for reusing water on many levels.  While it’s a noble plan to make better use of our water it’ll be worth watching to see how the Trump Administration interprets this endeavor.  It, no doubt, has ample corporate input, but what it will mean to the people may be another matter.  While drought is a matter that deserves intelligent thought about reusing water, we don’t need corporations dumping their waste water on people and on our crops.  


Glyphosate Trial Judge Orders Mediation
Story from The Detroit News, Apr. 12, 2019; CNN News, May 1, 2019. 

Image result for RoundUp imagesU.S. District judge Vincent Chhabria advised Bayer (the company that now owns Monsanto) to settle litigation by mediation instead of a trial.  The trial was set to take place in May to determine hundreds of cases against Monsanto and its herbicide, RoundUp.  Since both sides are in compliance, May 22 was set as the date for a discussion about mediation with the possibility of setting a date for a new trial. 

The trial would have collected litigants from many districts to determine which cases would be dismissed and which ones would go to state or federal courts. The mediation would allow Bayer (the parent company) to settle some of those cases out of court without further damage to the company.  Bayer has lost about $34 billion since the trials began.

On May 1, the EPA made the announcement that glyphosate does not cause cancer in humans if used properly.  It’s listed as the only active ingredient in RoundUp.  The announcement said nothing about the formulation of RoundUp, the nation’s  most popular herbicide.  RoundUp’s formula is known to contain secret corporate ingredients that make it stick to plants, surfactants that enhance the chemical’s solubility, and other possible enhancing capabilities that strengthen the effects of glyphosate.



IV.  Politics


A Summary of the Green New Deal
Story from The Balance, Apr. 30, 2019.

This article focuses on the climate change intricacies of the Green New Deal (GND) and is also an attempt to summarize the entire resolution.  It presents some historical background of its origin, and “New Versions” of the GND.



V.  Miscellaneous Items


Plastic As An Environmental Justice Issue
Story from EcoWatch, Apr. 28, 2019.

We hear a lot about plastic pollution and its effects on wildlife like birds, turtles, whales, and many others.  What we don’t hear enough about is how it is mounting up in those regions of the world without resources to deal with the problem.  Private companies are touting the benefits of packaging their products in plastic because it can be recycled out of sight.  The truth is it’s flowing into all the wrong places and becoming a human health problem.




VI.  Events


Tuesday, May 7, 6:00 – 7:30pm, Film, Happening: A Clean Energy Revolution

  • A CleanPowerSF event at SF Public Library
  • Main Library, 100 Larkin St. , San Francisco.


Thursday, May 9, 10:30 – 11:15am, Kids Actively Learning Environmentalism

  • Engages kids ages up to 6 and their caregivers about environmentalism (Free)
  • Shorebird Park-Berkeley Marina, 160 University Ave Berkeley.


Thursdays, May 9-30,  5:00 – 7:00pm, DisposABILITIES

  • A group show with actors & actresses using repurposed disposal items.
  • 701 Amador St., SF.


Friday, May 10,  7:00pm, Sierra Club’s Green Friday

  • Presentation on “Save Bristol Bay Salmon”
  • Sierra Club Bay Chapter Office, 2530 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley.


Thursday, May 16, 6:00pm, Sierra Club Dinner and Presentation

  • Featuring The Portueguese Coastal Way to Santiago de Compostela by Seiji Kasamura
  • Grace Lutheran Church, 3201 Ulloa St., San Francisco.


Friday, May 17, 5:00-8:00pm, & Saturday, May 18, 1:00-3:00pm, Recology Artist in Residence Exhibition

  • Recology’s artist program will host the exhibition with the reception on Saturday
  • 401 Tunnel Rd., San Francisco.


Other Sources of Events:

Friends of the Earth – located at the David Brower Center, Berkeley.

350Bay Area – Includes other 350.org branches in the Bay Area.

Planet Drum – San Francisco bioregion awareness center.

David Brower Center – The environmental center in Berkeley.

Ecology Center – Berkeley sustainability center.

Sunflower Alliance – Bay Area umbrella organization for activism.

Sierra Club San Francisco – Bay Area website.


Image result for Environmental cartoons


The End