As September ends, Planet Experts looks back on the stories we ran this month and decides which were the most important to the environment and the planet as a whole. We’ve told you the six best things about September 2015, the five worst and the five most promising stories for the future. Now it’s time to review the five stories that made us bury our faces in our hands, moan, groan and gnash our teeth. These are the kind of stories we’re tired of writing, because, frankly, we as a species need to stop doing this shit.
Arguably, this one’s a little unfair. The subjects of this story are all well-meaning groups and individuals who just want to clean the ocean. There’s nothing stupid about that. The problem, as detailed here by the 5 Gyres Institute, is that rather than discuss the sources of ocean pollution, the media would rather fixate on these “miracle” inventions that can purportedly scrub the seas of plastic and make everything okay. There’s no accountability required for the manufacturers and no discussion of whether or not we should really be churning out 288 million tons of plastic every year. And, sadly, it’s unlikely that these inventions can actually fix the problem. Read More
We were sorely tempted to put this one in the “Worst” list, but to be fair nothing’s actually happened yet. The National Geographic Society, after years of losing money, has sold a good portion of its media holdings to 21st Century Fox – a corporation owned by the generally cantankerous and admitted climate change skeptic Rupert Murdoch. Yeah, the guy who owns Fox News – a network with an equally dim view of how science works. Obviously this deal was made for financial reasons – and NGS itself remains autonomous – but it just feels like a violation of everything that National Geographic stands for. Time will tell with this one. Read More
3) Republicans Continue to Crap on the Environment
Whoo, boy. You knew the GOP was gonna show up somewhere on this list. There were two big stories we ran this month that focused on Republicans’ plans for the nation’s environmental health. Neither paints the party in a positive light, and no apology is going to be made for that here. First off, we’ve got reports of Republicans calling up foreign embassies ahead of the huge Paris Climate Summit that will convene later this year and telling them, in no uncertain terms, that no matter what Obama promises in December, Congress won’t agree to any of it. Aides have said that they want foreign governments to know that, not only does Congress control what initiatives get funded in the country, they also are trying to fight the President’s Clean Power Plan. So that’s nice.
The second story is rather tame by comparison: Republicans have submitted some 84 pieces of legislation aimed at dismantling the Endangered Species Act. Real crackerjack group of folks, the GOP…
Look, no one’s accusing Eli Roth of having taste. The – for lack of a better word – director has previously grossed out audiences with movies such as Hostel and Hostel II: Because You People Will Pay to See This S*&! Twice, and with that kind of filmography, it’s impossible to mistake what Mr. Roth is selling. But the fact that he legitimately thought the world needed another, lesser Cannibal Holocaust is a testament to tastelessness. This exploitative, inaccurate depiction of indigenous Amazonians is just not acceptable in 2015. As a species, we should be past this kind of thing; as filmgoers, we ought to be. Amazon Watch’s Andrew E. Miller delivers a fantastic takedown of this despicable travesty. Read It Here
It sounds silly, I know. Who needs to protect bees? They have stingers and stuff. Well, you should protect bees. Yes, you. And me. And Flea. As pollinators, bees are responsible for helping grow a significant portion of our crops – contributing almost $27 billion in service to the US Economy and nearly 10 times that to the global economy. And yet bees are dying all over the world. Scientists aren’t completely sure why, but one of the likeliest culprits is neonicotinoid pesticides, which can severely damage bees‘ nervous systems. In 2013, one of these neonic pesticides, sulfoxaflor, was approved for use on US crops by the EPA. But the story has a happy ending. This month, a federal appeals court told the EPA where it could stick its sulfoxaflor.
It was an inspiring decision from the court, one made based on an informed reading of the facts and science. “I am inclined to believe the EPA…decided to register sulfoxaflor unconditionally in response to public pressure for the product and attempted to support its decision retroactively with studies it had previously found inadequate,” wrote Circuit Judge N.R. Smith. Bravo.
So why is this story the stupidest of the month when it’s a prime example of real good being done by informed, responsible individuals? Because the EPA was anything but. The Environmental Protection Agency has a duty to protect the health of not only the American people but also the creatures that make their lives worth living. The EPA dropped this ball so hard it’s bouncing in China by now. Read More
For more of the top stories of September 2015, check out these lists: