Category: Environment

The latest-to-be-discovered species on the planet is named after Ruth Bader Ginsburg

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The title and hyperlink of this blog post has been edited to correct a spelling error.


The latest-to-be-discovered species of life on Earth has been officially named in honor a true American badass:

Scientists from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History researching female praying mantis genitalia have named a newly discovered species after an unlikely subject: Associate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The new species, Ilomantis ginsburgae, comes from Madagascar and is the first praying mantis species to be delineated by observing the female genitalia, as opposed to the male genitalia that are generally the standard for classifying species.

The researchers said they named the mantis for the 83-year-old justice for two reasons: Her “commitment to women’s rights and gender equality,” and her penchant for wearing a jabot — Ginsburg’s signature lace collar, which looks much like the insect’s neck plate.

The Ginsburg Praying Mantis (scientific name: Ilomantis ginsburgae) is officially named after Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a progressive Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Very awesome!

Madison, Wisconsin replaces every single lead pipe in the city

Madison, Wisconsin, the second-largest city in Wisconsin, did something incredible with their water supply. They replaced every single lead pipe in the city’s water system in response to the lead concentration in the water supply being one part per billion over the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limit for lead concentration in the water:

Long before Flint, Mich., faced a water-contamination crisis, this city dealt with one of its own. The local utility had sampled residents’ tap water in accordance with the federal government’s new Lead and Copper Rule and discovered unacceptable levels of lead.

But Madison’s response was like hitting a gnat with a sledgehammer. It was so aggressive that only one other major municipality in the United States has followed its approach so far. It’s also why some people now call Madison the anti-Flint, a place where water problems linked to the toxic substance simply couldn’t happen today.

Madison residents and businesses dug out and replaced their lead pipes — 8,000 of them. All because lead in their water had been measured at 16 parts per billion — one part per billion over the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard.

Although the federal government defines lead contamination of water as the lead concentration level in water being over 15 parts per billion, no level of lead in water is safe. Madison has proved yet again why it’s America’s most forward-thinking city.

Rick Synder administration provided clean water to state employees long before they did to Flint residents

Michigan state government officials based in state government offices in Flint, Michigan knew about and complained about the lead contamination in the Flint water supply in January 2015, and the state government sent bottled water to the state government offices over a year before Gov. Rick Snyder (R-MI) activated the Michigan National Guard to provide bottled water to Flint residents:

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget decided to haul water coolers into the Flint state building in January of 2015 out of concern over the city’s water quality, a year before bottled water was being made available to residents, according to documents obtained by Progress Michigan.

…concerns raised over water quality were enough for officials in the state’s capitol of Lansing to decide to give state employees the option to drink bottled water from coolers, rather than from water fountains. Coolers were placed next to the fountains on each occupied floor, according to the documents, and were to be provided “as long as the public water does not meet treatment requirements.”

You can view the proof here. The Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget (MI DTMB) issued the notice that water coolers were going to be distributed to the state government building in Flint on January 7, 2015. Synder activated the Michigan National Guard to distribute bottled water to Flint residents on January 13, 2016.

The Flint Water Crisis is something that one would expect in a third-world country, not right here in America. People in Flint are being sickened by contaminated tap water, and that, as well as the months and months of inaction from Rick Synder, is highly unacceptable.

Bundy Family and militia takes over Malheur National Wildlife Refuge headquarters, CNN isn’t reporting about it online

Ammon Bundy, the son of far-right anti-government crackpot Cliven Bundy, two of Ammon’s brothers, and far-right militiamen have taken over the administration building of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon.

As of 9:30 P.M. PST/11:30 P.M. CST, CNN.com, CNN’s website, has reported absolutely nothing about the right-wing militia taking over the Malheur NWR headquarters. There’s nothing on the front page about the takeover, and there’s nothing on the U.S. page about the takeover. In fact, the Wikipedia page on Malheur NWR was edited at 1:57 A.M. GMT/5:57 P.M. PST/7:57 CST to include a one-sentence reference to the Bundy/militia takeover.

This story is clearly of national importance, because right-wing terrorists and members of the Bundy family of right-wing extremists have responded to the legitimate conviction of two Oregon ranchers who set fire to federal land set aside for the protection of wildlife, not for ranching, by an armed takeover of the Malheur NWR headquarters.

Furthermore, some corporate media outlets are trying to claim that the Bundy/militia occupiers are non-violent protesters, when, in fact, Ammon Bundy has openly called for militia members to join the occupation and bring weapons with them. This is clearly not a non-violent protest, although I’ve heard no reports of shots fired or any other acts of violence at this time.

CNN has become an absolute joke of a news organization, and most other corporate media outlets are not much better.

My list of America’s top 10 state parks

While our national parks contain some of America’s most prized natural features, some of America’s most beautiful landscapes and historical landmarks are located in state parks. Sadly, our nation’s state parks are often unappreciated by the public and by politicians, as many states have severely cut, or even eliminated, public funding to state parks in recent years.

I’m going to list my ten most favorite state parks in the entire country. In order to qualify for consideration for this list, a “state park” is a park, forest, recreation area, historical site, or other type of area administered by a state government agency that is responsible for the operation of state parks.

#10: Bethpage State Park, New York

Bethpage State Park, located near Farmingdale, New York on Long Island, is not your typical state park. Instead of natural beauty, Bethpage consists of five 18-hole golf courses. Bethpage’s Black Course, one of the most difficult golf courses in the entire country, hosted the 102nd and 109th U.S. Open golf championships in 2002 and 2009, respectively. In addition to golf courses, Bethpage State Park also has a polo field.

#9: Crater of Diamonds State Park, Arkansas

Arkansas is home to the only publicly-accessible diamond-bearing site: Crater of Diamonds State Park, located in the Ouachita Mountains near Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Tourists can search for diamonds in 37.5-acre plowed field in the park.

#8: Starved Rock State Park, Illinois

Located along the Illinois River near North Utica, Illinois, Starved Rock State Park is proof that Illinois has some impressive natural wonders. Outcroppings of soft sandstone provide some very impressive geography, including cliffs, canyons, and waterfalls.

#7: Custer State Park, South Dakota

Named after U.S. Army Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, who was killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, Custer State Park includes some of the majestic terrain of South Dakota’s Black Hills, the scenic Needles Highway, and a heard of free-roaming bison.

#6: Lost Dutchman State Park, Arizona

While Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are located in a federally-administered national forest, you can get an impressive view of the mountains from nearby Lost Dutchman State Park. The park includes desert scenery and hiking trails that lead into the national forest. The park gets its name from the legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine.

#5: Washington Monument State Park, Maryland

Believe it or not, there are actually three monuments to George Washington, our nation’s first president. The most famous Washington Monument is run by the federal government and located in Washington, D.C., and there’s also a Washington Monument in Baltimore, Maryland. However, a lesser-known Washington Monument is located west of Boonsboro, Maryland, in Washington Monument State Park. The Boonsboro Washington Monument is the oldest of the three, having been completed in 1827, The monument sits near the top of Monument Knob, one of many peaks on South Mountain, a long ridge that extends from Maryland into Pennsylvania.

#4: Red Rock Canyon State Park, California

Located at the southern end of the Sierra Nevada near Cantil, California, Red Rock Canyon State Park provides some of the most beautiful desert scenery you’ll find anywhere. Cliffs, buttes, and rock formations provide a spectacular landscape that has been featured in many movies.

#3: John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Florida

Located near Key Largo in the Florida Keys is John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, an underwater state park in Florida. Named after conservationist John Pennekamp, the park features coral reefs and associated marine wildlife.

#2: Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

Located near Davis, West Virginia, Blackwater Falls State Park provides some of Appalachia’s most splendid scenery. The park gets its name from the 62-foot Blackwater Falls, where the tannic acid-darkened water of the Blackwater River flows into Blackwater Canyon.

#1: Copper Falls State Park, Wisconsin

While Wisconsin Dells and Door County state parks are far more famous, Wisconsin’s Copper Falls State Park, located near Mellen in the northwestern part of the state, is what I consider to be Wisconsin’s most beautiful state park, and my favorite state park in the entire country. The Bad River and Tylers Forks, a tributary of the Bad River, flow over a series of waterfalls within the park. The park also includes Loon Lake, trails, a campground, and a ton of opportunities for recreation.

State parks provide this country with natural scenery, historical landmarks, and wonderful recreation opportunities. They deserve more funding and public support.

A cautionary tale about how room-and-pillar mining destroys Illinois farmland

Larry Skinner, a farmer from near Newman, Illinois, located in the east-central region of the state, is still dealing with environmental damage from a coal mine under his farm that closed in the 1980’s. Specifically, his farmland is subsiding due to the room-and-pillar mining leaving the ground very weak, especially above where “rooms” created by the mining. Much of Skinner’s land is now unsuitable for farming due to the areas where the ground has sunk being too wet or flooded, and Skinner has to pay out of his own pocket to fix the subsidence, because the mining company that closed the mine under his land all those years ago has long since changed hands.

Skinner’s story, which you can read about here, serves as a cautionary tale about how room-and-pillar coal mining turns some of the most fertile farmland in the entire world into low spots where rainwater collects and renders the land unsuitable for growing crops like corn and soybeans. While room-and-pillar mining is designed to prevent subsidence, in practice, areas where “rooms” have been created by mining between “pillars” left untouched by the mining are very prone to subsiding and causing environmental damage.

Despite the damage that room-and-pillar mining has done to farmland in east-central Illinois, one mining company, the Indiana-based Sunrise Coal company, wants to put even more Illinois farmland at risk of serious environmental damage. The proposed Sunrise Coal mine, which would be located in southwestern Vermilion County, would consist of a room-and-pillar mining operation under fertile farmland, as well as a 500-acre, above-ground coal processing plant and rail transfer point. Additionally, ponds would need to be constructed to store liquid slurry waste generated from the washing process used to remove impurities from the coal. In addition to the risk of farmland subsidence associated with room-and-pillar mining, there’s additional environmental threats associated with the proposed mine, such as coal dust ending up on crops and farmland from the processing plant, as well as the risk of the slurry ponds leaking and causing groundwater to become contaminated. The environmental risks associated with the proposed mine are so severe, Sue Smith and her husband, who own a 1,600-acre farm near the site of the proposed mine, have refused to sell the mineral rights to their land to Sunrise Coal.

As someone from a community, located about 13 miles or so to the northeast of the proposed mining site, that was built around coal mines in the early 20th century, I’m not completely against coal mining. However, there are significant environmental risks associated with the proposed room-and-pillar coal mining operation in southwestern Vermilion County that could cause long-term environmental damage that would negatively impact the area for decades, if not permanently.

Kate Murphy whines about cold indoor spaces in New York Times piece on air conditioning

Ladies and gentlemen, we officially have a war on air conditioning in America.

Kate Murphy, a Houston, Texas-based journalist for The New York Times, recently wrote a column on air conditioning, in which she complained about indoor spaces that she thinks are too cold because of what she considers to be excessive air conditioning in places like offices, courtrooms, movie theaters, coffee shops, and department stores:

IT’S summertime. The season when you can write your name in the condensation on the windows at Starbucks, people pull on parkas to go to the movies and judges have been known to pause proceedings so bailiffs can escort jurors outside the courthouse to warm up.

On these, the hottest days of the year, office workers huddle under fleece blankets in their cubicles. Cold complaints trend on Twitter with posts like, “I could preserve dead bodies in the office it’s so cold in here.” And fashion and style bloggers offer advice for layered looks for coming in and out of the cold.

Why is America so over air-conditioned? It seems absurd, if not unconscionable, when you consider the money and energy wasted — not to mention the negative impact on the environment from the associated greenhouse-gas emissions. Architects, engineers, building owners and energy experts sigh with exasperation when asked for an explanation. They tick off a number of reasons — probably the most vexing is cultural.

[…]

Commercial real estate brokers and building managers say sophisticated tenants specify so-called chilling capacity in their lease agreements so they are guaranteed cold cachet. In retailing, luxury stores like Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue are kept colder than more down-market Target, Walmart and Old Navy. Whole Foods is chillier than Kroger, which is chillier than Piggly Wiggly.

While Murphy has a few valid points in her piece, such as wasted energy associated with air conditioning, greenhouse gas emissions associated with air conditioning, and luxury retailers using more air conditioning than low-end retailers (which is what I like to call chill inequality), I hate hot places and hot spaces with a passion. During the summer months here in the east-central part of Illinois, it can get extremely hot outside, and I would feel very uncomfortable for months on end without air conditioning. I have air conditioning in my bedroom, and that’s where I’m the most comfortable in the summer months. The only reason why I don’t set the temperature lower on my window air conditioner than I have it now (75°F) is because my parents would complain about me running up the power bill if I set the air conditioner temperature lower.

I’m shocked that a Texan like Kate Murphy would complain about air conditioning, given how excessively hot Texas can get during the summer months.

Milwaukee’s ticking oil train time bomb (Cochant train de pétrole la bombe à retardement de Milwaukee)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: The following article includes a French translation, courtesy of Google Translate. I have no actual working knowledge of the French language. Below the first page break is the English-language article, and below the second page break is the French-language translation.

NOTE DE L’AUTEUR: L’article suivant contient une traduction en français, gracieuseté de Google Translate. Je ne connais pas de travail effectif de la langue française. Ci-dessous le premier saut de page est l’article de langue anglaise, et en dessous de la deuxième saut de page est la traduction en langue française.


Two years and three days ago, a train carrying crude oil from the Bakken rock formation along the border between the United States and Canada in the northern Great Plains derailed in the town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, Canada, causing explosions of oil tank cars that destroyed dozens of buildings in the central part of Lac-Mégantic and killed 47 people.

The train that derailed in Lac-Mégantic passed through Milwaukee, the largest city in the American state of Wisconsin, where a railroad bridge responsible for carrying trains loaded with oil tank cars has deteriorated so badly, some of the beams supported the place have been rusted hollow. Earlier this week, a protest was held at the bridge, which runs right next to lofts in the Fifth Ward area of Milwaukee that would likely be destroyed in the event that an oil train derails and explodes, whether it occurs because of the bridge collapsing or for some other reason. Protesters were critical of both the deteriorating condition of the bridge and the oil trains that use it frequently, and they called for the release of bridge inspection reports and for the development of an evacuation plan in the event that either an oil train or other type of train carrying hazardous materials were to derail.

The deteriorating railroad bridge in Milwaukee is owned by Canadian Pacific Railway, a company, which is based in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, that runs freight trains through the United States and Canada. Under United States federal law, Canadian Pacific is legally responsible for inspecting the bridge and maintaining inspection reports. However, because the bridge has rusted and deteriorated so badly, a proper inspection of the bridge is impossible, according to a steel engineer that WITI-TV, a local television station in Milwaukee, brought to the bridge with them. Despite requests from WITI, Canadian Pacific has repeatedly refused to make the bridge inspection reports available to them. Additionally, the United States Federal Railroad Administration, the only government entity in the United States that can demand the release of bridge audits from Canadian Pacific, has claimed to have never asked for the Milwaukee bridge inspection reports from Canadian Pacific.

Because of deteriorating railroad infrastructure and more trains carrying tank cars full of highly-explosive oil across America, places like Milwaukee could become the next Lac-Mégantic if action isn’t taken to fix our crumbling infrastructure and increase the amount of energy being generated from renewable sources like solar and wind.


Il ya deux ans et trois jours, un train transportant du pétrole brut de la formation rocheuse Bakken long de la frontière entre les États-Unis et au Canada dans les Grandes Plaines du Nord a déraillé dans la ville de Lac-Mégantic, Québec, Canada, provoquant des explosions de wagons-citernes de pétrole qui a détruit des dizaines de bâtiments dans la partie centrale de Lac-Mégantic et tué 47 (quarante-sept) personnes.

Le train qui a déraillé à Lac-Mégantic passé par Milwaukee, la plus grande ville dans l’état américain du Wisconsin, où un pont responsable de l’exécution des trains chargés de wagons-citernes d’huile de chemin de fer a tellement détériorée, quelques-unes des poutres supportées l’endroit ont été rouillé creux. Plus tôt cette semaine, une manifestation a eu lieu sur le pont, qui passe juste à côté de lofts dans la cinquième zone de pupille de Milwaukee qui serait susceptible d’être détruite dans le cas où un train d’huile déraille et explose, si elle se produit en raison du pont effondrement ou pour une autre raison. Les manifestants ont critiqué à la fois l’état de détérioration du pont et les trains de pétrole qui l’utilisent fréquemment, et ils ont appelé à la publication des rapports d’inspection des ponts et pour l’élaboration d’un plan d’évacuation dans le cas où soit un train de pétrole ou autre type de train transportant des matières dangereuses étaient à dérailler.

Le pont de chemin de fer détérioration de Milwaukee est possédée par Chemin de fer Canadien Pacifique, une société, qui est basée à Calgary, Alberta, Canada, qui gère les trains de marchandises à travers les États-Unis et au Canada. États-Unis en vertu de la loi fédérale, le Canadien Pacifique est légalement responsable pour inspecter le pont et le maintien de rapports d’inspection. Cependant, parce que le pont a rouillé et tellement détériorée, une bonne inspection du pont est impossible, selon un ingénieur en acier qui WITI-TV, une station de télévision locale à Milwaukee, a apporté sur le pont avec eux. Malgré les demandes des WITI, le Canadien Pacifique a refusé à plusieurs reprises que les rapports d’inspection des ponts à leur disposition. En outre, les Etats-Unis la l’administration des chemins de fer fédéraux, la seule entité du gouvernement des États-Unis qui peuvent exiger la libération des audits de pont du Canadien Pacifique, a affirmé avoir jamais demandé les rapports d’inspection des ponts Milwaukee de Canadien Pacifique.

En raison de la détérioration des infrastructures de chemin de fer et plus de trains transportant des wagons-citernes plein d’huile hautement explosive à travers l’Amérique, des endroits comme Milwaukee pourraient devenir la prochaine Lac-Mégantic si des mesures ne sont pas prises pour corriger notre infrastructure en ruine et d’augmenter la quantité d’énergie produite à partir de de sources renouvelables comme l’énergie solaire et éolienne.

Monticello, Illinois officials caught pumping raw sewage into city streets

There has been at least one documented instance of officials in the city of Monticello, Illinois, which has a population of slightly over 5,000 people and is located in Piatt County in the central part of the state, pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage into city streets, where it flows through storm drains and into the Sangamon River. Now, the Office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is suing the city over it:

The city (of Monticello, Illinois) is accused of pumping raw sewage into its streets. Now the state is taking the city to court. The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is suing the city of Monticello. Court documents state the city pumped almost a million gallons of raw sewage into the Sangamon River.

One city council member says it’s been happening for years. Court documents state it all started with a thunderstorm. On July 12, 2014, Monticello got three inches of rain and the city didn’t have a place to put all of the water.

Pictures residents took that day show water being pumped from the sewer into the streets. Normally, rainfall is supposed to flow into the storm drains, which eventually goes into the Sangamon River. The drains can’t handle a lot of rain and it gets diverted into the sewer lines, but when that happens the sewer could overflow.

Guess what Monticello, Illinois is spending its money on instead of investing in a new water treatment plant to replace the nearly 80-year-old water treatment facility…:

“Until now, nobody’s really paid attention,” said Alderman Joe Brown. “We’ve been putting money towards athletic fields instead of our sewer lines. So hopefully they’ll take it serious. Hopefully we’ll re-allocate the money so that we can fix our infrastructure.”

(emphasis mine)

The city of Monticello, Illinois clearly has serious problems with its sewage system, yet the city is spending money on athletic facilities instead of new sewage lines or a new water treatment plant. It’s clear to me that officials in Monticello clearly have the wrong priorities.

Sadly, what is going on in Monticello is only a microcosm of what is going on in the entire country. While stadiums, arenas, and other athletic facilities get millions of dollars in taxpayer money, our nation’s roads, rail lines, water lines, sewage systems, and other forms of infrastructure are falling apart.

Wisconsin Republicans propose the dreaded Mary Burke Tax

The Republican-controlled Wisconsin state government has floated yet another ridiculously bad idea…a $25 fee on new bicycles, or, as I like to call it, the Mary Burke Tax. Burke is a former Trek Bicycles executive who ran a horrible campaign for Governor of Wisconsin in 2014, losing to Republican incumbent Scott Walker. This proposal, along with the repeal of the Wisconsin Complete Streets law, which requires bicycle and pedestrian uses to be factored into transportation projects in Wisconsin, is part of a political war on cycling in Wisconsin.

More than anything else, this is clearly the Republicans’ way of getting political payback at Burke for running against Walker. After all, the Republicans usually don’t support anything that could even be remotely interpreted as raising taxes….except, of course, if the new tax or tax increase primarily affects Democrats, liberals, progressives, environmentally-conscious people, women, minorities, businesses they don’t like, and/or the poor.

While I’ve not seen Republicans in Wisconsin use this talking point, at least one Republican in the State of Washington tried to claim that, because people breathe out carbon dioxide, bicyclists cause more pollution than people using other forms of transportation, while trying to defend a proposed bicycle tax in Washington state. That’s a false argument, since it doesn’t factor in the fact that plants breathe in carbon dioxide as part of the carbon cycle.

While I’ve not been on a bicycle since I was five or six years old, and I’m too clumsy to ride a bicycle because I have Asperger’s syndrome, waging a political war on cycling will lead to more pollution and more traffic crashes involving bicyclists, something that Wisconsin, Washington state, and the rest of this country simply can’t afford. Should state governments need to fill transportation budget deficits, I recommend enacting taxes on automobiles that get very poor gas mileage and taxes on gasoline-powered automobiles (i.e., automobiles that are not electric or hybrid) worth more than $50,000, if a particular state doesn’t already collect such taxes.