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Thought this would be of interest to folks here: (about 2 minutes)

The Facts About CAFOs Speak For Themselves

factory farm map

CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) proliferation is ruining Iowa. Jefferson County Farmers and Neighbors are fighting hard to save what we have left. Please share this article and help them get the facts out about CAFOs.

jfaniowa.org

Letter to Editor Submitted in Response to Burlington Hawkeye Article

In the October 11, 2015 edition of the Burlington Hawkeye, business editor Rex Troute published a column, “Tired of the Tears Over Big Hog Operations.” The article was in response to the JFAN Annual Meeting. You can read a hard copy PDF of the article here.

In response, JFAN submitted the following letter to the editor. As of November 9, the letter has not been published. We are sharing it with you in full below.

The Facts About CAFOs Speak for Themselves

by Diane Rosenberg | Executive Director, Jefferson County Famers & Neighbors, Inc.

Rex Troute says he’s tired of the “crying over modern hog production, ” that we can’t go back to the old days, and should just accept industrial farming in order to efficiently “feed the world.” Anyone can throw out platitudes to make their point, however statements have more significance when they are backed by medical, scientific and environmental research. The Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors Board of Directors takes exception to Mr. Troute’s comments and offers the following facts.

We’re going to have to change the way we raise hogs in Iowa because industrial hog production is destroying rural Iowa and infringing on the inalienable rights of thousands of Iowans to clean air and water and a good quality of life. And, yes, there are alternatives to CAFOs.

To address several of Mr. Troute’s points:

1. It’s a false argument to say rejecting CAFOs is just yearning for the “old days.” Many Iowans reject CAFOs because of the harm they cause to health, the environment, property values, rural economies, and quality of life – all documented in 50 years of scientific research.

2. Alternatives to CAFOs do exist. One example is raising hogs in hoop house operations using deeply bedded straw. Iowa State University researchers have found that the cost of raising hogs is comparable to CAFOs. The benefits? They employ more people, cost less to build, don’t need confinement pits or prophylactic antibiotics, and are humane. In fact, consumers are getting wise, increasingly demanding humanely raised, non-CAFO meat, opening up more opportunities for traditional producers.

3. There is no evidence that independent, traditional pork farmers can’t produce enough food without CAFOs. 80% of the world produces its food without the benefit of industrial agriculture reports the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Until the agribusiness expansion pushed out independent farmers, thousands of traditional family farms produced plenty of food for the US and beyond. Yes, we have a larger population to feed than 30 years ago. But had agribusiness expansion not decimated independent producers, the number of farmers would have grown to meet the demand, and rural communities would be robust.

3. The foul, debilitating stench from CAFOs is vastly different than the “smell of money” produced by traditional farms. Today’s hog manure putrefies for 6-12 months in underground pits devoid of air and light. It produces over 300 chemicals including 150 gases. Hydrogen sulfide and ammonia are among the worst, causing headaches, nausea, vomiting, confusion and respiratory ailments – all documented by peer-reviewed studies.

4. That some hog waste wound up in streams when hogs were on pasture is a typical industry talking point. But it’s an indisputable fact that the DNR documents a three-fold increase in impaired waterways over the last 15 years as CAFOs continue to replace traditional farms.

The health, wealth, future, and even heart and soul of rural Iowa are being sacrificed for corporate profits. Iowa needs more people crying for a change otherwise Iowa risks becoming the nation’s “throwaway state” for the benefit of agribusiness interests.

Reading Naomi Klein

This Changes EverythingUnlike the climate crisis story spoon fed to us in decreasing numbers of corporate media stories, in social media memes, and in fleeting conversations at community gatherings, in This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate, author Naomi Klein said there is a nascent, global movement preparing to take climate action.

“The climate movement has yet to find its full moral voice on the world stage,” Klein wrote. “But it is most certainly clearing its throat—beginning to put the very real thefts and torments that ineluctably flow from the decision to mock international climate commitments alongside history’s most damned crimes.”

If you haven’t read Klein’s 2014 book, you should. Not because of a desire to take sides in the public discussion of global warming and the need to keep global temperature increase to two degrees or less. But because a). reading a paper book can be good for us, and b). with Klein you can hear her broader story and learn new things. Here’s more on why you should pick up a copy at your library or bookstore if you haven’t already.

In Iowa, as home to the first in the nation caucuses, we are inundated with stories about politics. Elections matter, and we have seen how in the Republican awakening after Barack Obama’s 2008 election. Progressives hardly understood that Republicans, though in the minority in the Congress, would exercise such power that much of Obama’s agenda was sidelined from the beginning. Republican comebacks in 2010 and 2014 have turned the congress from Democratic to Republican, and right-wing hardliners have more input to the legislative process than their numbers warrant. Taking climate action in Congress has, for the most part, been a non-starter.

“It’s not just the people we vote into office and then complain about—it’s us,” Klein wrote. “For most of us living in post-industrial societies, when we see the crackling black-and-white footage of general strikes in the 1930s, victory gardens in the 1940s, and Freedom Rides in the 1960s, we simply cannot imagine being part of any mobilization of that depth and scale.”

“Where would we organize?” Klein asked. “Who would we trust enough to lead us? Who, moreover, is ‘we?'”

Klein’s book frames answers to those questions: People are organizing everywhere, resisting unbridled extraction of natural resources by corporations. “We” includes almost everyone.

This Changes Everything reviews the recent history of the climate movement. It covers extreme extraction of natural resources that leave behind waste heaps, fouled water and polluted air, then are burned and produce atmospheric gases that warm the planet. Everyone from fossil fuel companies to environmental groups have been involved in what Klein calls “extractivism.” There is a growing resistance, including environmental groups divesting from investments in the fossil fuel industry, indigenous people mounting court battles, and community groups violating international trade agreements to move to renewable energy sources. The book is a snapshot of where the climate movement currently stands.

While Klein has her point of view, she depicts the complexity of a global network of fossil fuel companies seeking to extract hydrocarbons scientists tells us must be left in the ground. While the resistance may not have found its full moral voice, Klein’s book makes the case it won’t be long and recounts the significant inroads indigenous people and communities near extraction sites are making.

When we talk about taking climate action, Naomi Klein’s work should be part of our conversation.

Senator Cruz And The Sierra Club

The exchange between U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and Sierra Club president Aaron Mair during an Oct. 6 Senate judiciary subcommittee hearing was a brief flash in the news cycle. Was it also a debate about climate change?

The subject was to have been the impact of federal regulations on minority communities. The junior senator from Texas turned it into something else — a desultory grilling of Mair in which he brought out some old sawhorses from the climate denial tool shed. Here is the exchange:

Sierra Club board member Donna Buell posted this on Facebook after the hearing:

Donna Buell FB Snippet 10-09-15

Mair was quick to reply on behalf of the Sierra Club:

[]

View the entire two-hour hearing if you have the stomach for it here.

Cruz asserted in an Oct. 7 press release he “proved, contrary to liberal assertions that man-caused climate change is ‘settled science,’ that there is still a healthy and vigorous debate about the causes and nature of climate change based on the data and scientific evidence.”

So does Cruz picking a fight indicate debate? Decidedly not. In fact, as Mair pointed out in his video response, Cruz’s claims during the hearing have been debunked by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency over which Cruz has oversight in his role as chair of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

What’s this about?

It is about the attempt of right wing politicians like Cruz to hijack reasonable discussion among people with differing opinions in favor of a personal agenda.

On Oct. 12, I was part of a Sierra Club panel of presenters in which I suggested attendees could continue the discussion Cruz and Mair started by bird dogging Cruz in Washington, Iowa Wednesday morning.

Miriam Kashia, a veteran of the Great March for Climate Action, raised her hand and said, “I’ve done that.”

She reported the incident in an Oct. 13 guest opinion in the Iowa City Press Citizen,

Then, during a media interview with Sen. Ted Cruz speaking about the terrorist threat, I jumped in and asked him, “What is your response to the fact that the Pentagon tells us that climate change is the biggest threat to America’s security?” His response, “You don’t have the right to ask any questions, because you’re not a member of the media.” The media, meanwhile, was not doing its job.

Statements by Cruz and his ilk so often go unchallenged. People agree with him, and in Texas helped elevate him to power in 2012. His supporters are vocal and much of what is said serves the conservative agenda or it doesn’t get heard. I don’t doubt there is a Cruz community that buys into his world view, even though it appears to be based in something other than reality.

What becomes clearer each time people like Cruz are examined is nothing is behind the verbiage but vapidness. Sarah Beckman pointed this out about Cruz in an Oct. 13 post on Iowa Starting Line.

If you spend enough time with Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz, you start to get the feeling that there is something “off” about him. His long pauses, his forlorn looks out into the audience, his deep crescendos and trailing whispers, his odd pop culture references. They all paint the picture that Cruz is maybe not as honest and authentic as he lets on while campaigning.

Never is Cruz talking about what we have in common, about how we can live better with each other, or how we solve the greatest problems of our time, like mitigating the causes of global warming.

Elections matter, and when the electorate elevates people like Cruz to positions of power over NASA, NOAA and the government’s scientific bodies, we are doing ourselves no favors.

If readers plan to move to Texas to sort out this mess, and elect someone who will enter the arena to fight for all of us, then God bless. I don’t see that happening.

Cruz gives us reason enough to engage in politics. Leaving important political work to others helped produce Senators Cruz, Ernst and Grassley, and the troubled time in which we live.

There is a better way, and it’s up to us to find and follow it.

RFK, Jr. Calls Koch Brothers “Deadly Parasites” On Democracy

koch brothers own americaEver wonder why you rarely see Robert Kennedy, Jr. on the TV?  Possibly because he is the most knowledgeable and articulate spokesman for the environment there is, and he is unafraid to tell the truth about corporate greed. Prepare to be blown away when you read this.

ringoffireradio.com/

Excerpts from an article that originally appeared on EcoWatch.

by Stefanie Spear

At this year’s Waterkeeper Alliance conference in Boulder, Colorado, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. delivered a provocative unscripted keynote that lambasted the carbon lobby for undermining democracy and subverting the common right to a healthy environment.

Speaking to a group of activists, including more than 200 Waterkeepers from 30 nations, Kennedy declared, “We are engaged, as Abraham Lincoln said, ‘in a great Civil War.’” This time, he said, “the conflict involves all the Earth’s peoples. It’s not just a battle to protect our waterways, our livelihoods, our property and our backyards. It’s a struggle for our sovereignty, our values, our health and our lives. It’s a battle for dignified humane and wholesome communities. It’s a defensive war against toxic and economic aggression by Big Oil and King Coal. It’s a struggle to break free of the ‘soft colonialism’ of carbon’s corporate tyranny and create an economic and energy system that is fair, rooted in justice, economic independence and freedom.”

“Polluters,” he explained, “assault soft targets first—and that means the poor.” He recounted how the majority of toxic industrial sites and noxious facilities are in lower income communities where residents lack political power or connections to protect themselves. He gave examples of these environmental injustices including, Emelle, Alabama, which is home to the largest toxic waste dump in America—one of the country’s most impoverished regions where one-third of the residents live below the poverty line and more than 65 percent of the residents are black—Chicago’s south side, which has more toxic waste sites than any other American community and East Los Angeles, a primarily black and Hispanic community, which is the most contaminated zip code in America.

“In these communities,” he said, “Not just the land and water, but the people have been commoditized—and everything becomes expendable in the drive for corporate profits.”

But he added, “It’s not just the poor who are under assault. The corporate hunger for profit is threatening all people with loss of their natural world and the other assets of their patrimony.”

Kennedy said that corporate efforts to privatize the commons are occurring in all parts of the world and that “environmental injury correlates almost perfectly with political tyranny.”

“In China, Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, environmental destruction went hand in hand with political despotism and corruption,” he continued. “Thanks to the Pinochet regime, the forests and waters of Chile are no longer owned by the Chilean people. Every single river in Chile is now owned by a Spanish company, Endessa which plans to dam all of them for private profit. So the people of that nation no longer own their rivers, they don’t own their forests. Even the highways, railroads, utilities, airports, stadiums and prisons—all the public spaces that once formed our civic lives are being occupied by private and corporate wealth.”

To give context to the history, Kennedy talked about the many environmental insults in the 1960’s that spurred the modern-day environmental movement, including the 1963 extinction of the Eastern Peregrine Falcon from DDT poisoning, the burning of the Cuyahoga River, the Santa Barbara oil spill and the declaration that Lake Erie was dead, which all occurred in 1969. The Santa Barbara spill held the record for the largest oil spill until Exxon Valdez and the BP Deepwater Horizon. In those three examples, polluters had effectively privatized a major American river, one of the Great Lakes and all the beaches in Southern California.

In response to such insults, in 1970, 20 million Americans, 10 percent of our population, came out on the streets for the first Earth Day in “a democratic reassertion of popular sovereignty over the common’s, those crowds demanded that our political leaders return to the American people the ancient environmental rights that had been stolen from our citizens since the Industrial Revolution,” Kennedy said.

In response to this massive public outpouring, Republicans and Democrats working together passed, over the next 10 years, 28 major environmental statutes, including the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, RCRA, TSCA, FIFRA, The Federal Mine Safety and Health Act and Superfund. All of these statutes were intended to restore our rights to the public commons. What happened next? “These new prohibitions against corporate pollution hurt the industry’s bottom line. So the polluters fought back,” he declared.

Throughout the next three decades, polluters funded politicians including Presidents George Bush and Ronald Reagan, their appointed judges and various Republican Congresses chipped away at the new environmental laws. But then, according to Kennedy, the industry achieved its most brazen and stunning victory. Kennedy said, “In the year of the millennium, the most corporate friendly Supreme Court since 1933 stopped the 2000 election vote count in Florida and stole the presidency from Senator Al Gore, the greenest presidential candidate in our history. That decision turned the White House over to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, two Texas oilmen.”

Even as they dismantled America’s environmental laws by statute, Bush and Cheney stocked the regulatory agencies with industry lackeys and profiteering cronies who weakened and auctioned off America’s public lands and forests to the campaign contributors at fire sale prices, according to Kennedy.

But George W. Bush wasn’t done. He next appointed two ultra-corporatist U.S. Supreme Court Justices—John G. Roberts in 2005 and Samuel Alito in 2006. Kennedy said that it is wrong to think of these judges as traditional conservatives. “They are not. They are corporatists. If you analyze their decisions, there is no coherent conservative political philosophy. They have taken the ‘conserve’ out of conservatism. The only predictable outcome of their rulings is that ‘the corporation always wins.’”

The apogee of their unctuous worship of unsheathed corporate power was the Supreme Court’s 2010 5 to 4 decision in favor of Citizens United, which, as Kennedy proclaimed, “turned American democracy over to large corporations.”

The so called “Citizens United” decision is the “most sweeping expansion of corporate power this century. In an acrimonious split decision, the five ‘conservative’ justices declared that, in the eyes of the Constitution, corporations were people and money is speech,” continued Kennedy.

“And today it’s hard to argue that we still have a democracy in this country when you have the Koch brothers, the two richest people in America, who have pledged already to put nearly $900 million into this presidential election, which is comparable to the amount spent by either political party,” said Kennedy. “This year’s presidential election is going to cost $10 billion with half of that coming from 100 wealthy families. Nearly $1 billion is coming from two brothers.”

And, said Kennedy, “You will hear no criticism from the press, the supposed guardians of our democracy. And that’s because most of that money will go to media advertising—the 4th estate has been bought off.”

“Whether we recognize it or not, we are all locked in a life and death struggle with these corporations over control of our landscapes and political sovereignty,” Kennedy said. “If a foreign nation did to our country what the coal and oil barons do every day, we would consider it an act of war! They poison our rivers and aquifers, steal our fish, flood our cities and trample our democracy. They are pilfering our values, robbing our culture, impoverishing our lives, sickening our children and stupefying our minds with pollution. They subvert our heritage by privatizing our patrimony. They are turning America into a colonial economy.

“Under the colonial model multinational corporations exploit weak political systems to commoditize and privatize a nation’s resources. A robust democracy would never allow a foreign company to plunder the nation’s natural resources, poison her landscapes and subjugate her people. So colonialism requires the multinationals to weaken and capture the indigenous political system of the target nation. They do so by making alliances with local oligarchs with military and intelligence apparatus and conservative religious organizations and buying off the media. All these indigenous elites get a share of the profits in exchange for allowing the theft of their country’s resources. Pollution is not just theft—it is treason. The Koch brothers are not just America’s biggest polluters—they are thieves and they are traitors to our country and their crimes against America and humanity have made them the richest men on Earth.

Corporations are a useful economic tool. However, “corporations should not be running our government because they don’t want the same thing for America as Americans want,” he continued. “They don’t want democracy. They want profits. They want no competition. They are corrupting our democracy. They are stealing everything that we care about in this country.

“I believe in a true free market where you can’t make yourself rich without making your neighbors rich and without enriching your community, where we properly value our national resources and where we reward efficiency. But polluters make themselves rich by making everybody else poor. They raise standards of living for themselves while lowering quality of life for everybody else. They undervalue natural resources or take them for free. And they do it all by escaping the discipline of the free market. Polluters externalize their costs to artificially lower the price of their product. The 28 environmental laws that we passed after the first Earth Day in 1970 were intended to restore true free market capitalism by forcing actors in the marketplace to pay the true cost to bring their product to market. There is a huge difference between true free market capitalism—which makes a nation more efficient, more prosperous and more democratic—and the kind of corporate crony capitalism which we have today.”

After 45-minutes of some of the most powerful comments about the reality of the world today, Kennedy finished by telling the crowd, “But we are not going quietly. We’ve heard the summons to the barricades and we are filling the streets. We are the soldiers in a revolution against carbon. And this is an industry that no longer has a justifiable economic model.”

Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.Pointing at the roaring crowd, he said, “Every single person here is willing to die with their boots on. That commitment is what brought you the Waterkeeper movement. We are going to keep fighting for these landscapes, for these rights, for these rivers and for all the values that we care for as a people and as a society.”

(click here to read the entire article)

Gibson Resolution On Climate Change

WHY-WHY-NOT(Editor’s Note: To some, eleven Republicans co-sponsoring the Gibson resolution to act on climate are merely stating obvious facts about the science of global warming, its impact on climate, and the need to take immediate action. Friends Committee on Legislation and Citizens Climate Lobby have both been supportive in developing the resolution and hope it will be a starting point toward the elimination of climate change denial in the Congress, and  the beginning of positive steps toward mitigating its causes. Following is the entire press release from FCNL).

On the eve of the Pope’s historic visit to Washington, a group of Republican lawmakers this week called upon Congress to commit to act to address changes in the climate, including efforts to balance the human impacts of climate change. The Friends Committee on National Legislation hailed the resolution introduced by Rep. Chris Gibson (NY-19) and ten other Republicans as the beginning of a new and more constructive spirit and dialogue in Congress about solutions to climate change.

“The Pope has called for a dialogue on how we care for the Earth. This resolution is the first step towards bipartisan conversations in the U.S. Congress about climate solutions, guided by principles of compassion, reconciliation, justice and stewardship,” stated Diane Randall, executive secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation. “We look forward to working with Rep. Gibson and other lawmakers to advance this conversation so that Congress can implement solutions for the sake of our common future.”

The 72-year-old Quaker lobby in the public interest has worked for nearly three years to build public support for an interfaith, moral call to conscience that centers on a non-partisan, Congressional resolution acknowledging dangers climate change poses to our common future and committing Congress to act. “We believe that bipartisan support is essential for Congress to act on climate change. This issue affects every person on the Earth,” explained Randall. “We’ve worked with Rep. Chris Gibson, Quakers and other faith and community groups around the country to build support for this resolution.”

“We will continue to mobilize faith communities across the country to support bipartisan, Congressional action on climate change,” she said. “As Quakers, we seek the Light of God within all people. FCNL began this grassroots moral call for action on climate change nearly three years ago, recognizing that all peoples – regardless of faith, party, race, age, or any other label – can and must be part of constructive dialogues and solutions to protect our shared Earth. People of faith have a special responsibility to transcend the partisan divides that have blocked Congressional action on this issue for so long. We are delighted to have contributed to this resolution, which commits the House to work constructively to create solutions, including efforts to balance human activities contributing to climate change.”

We are deeply grateful for the leadership shown by Reps. Gibson, Curbelo, Hanna, Stefanik, Fitzpatrick, Meehan, Ros-Lehtinen, Reichert, Dold, LoBiondo, and Costello. We support them in their efforts to address climate change in a bipartisan fashion.

~ The Friends Committee on National Legislation, the oldest registered religious lobby in Washington, is a non partisan Quaker lobby in the public interest. FCNL works with a nationwide network of tens of thousands of people from every state in the U.S. to advocate for social and economic justice, peace, and good government.

Denial and Denali

Denali Photo Credit - Wikimedia Commons

Denali Photo Credit – Wikimedia Commons

Environmentalists are having trouble wrapping their head around a president who visited Alaska above the Arctic Circle on Wednesday to speak on the need to mitigate the causes of climate change, while at the same time on Aug. 17 approved Royal Dutch Shell’s exploration and development of oil there.

It’s not that hard because the challenge of our time is the lack of political will to take action to reduce CO2 emissions in a culture dependent upon fossil fuels. The problem is politics, not physics.

Bill McKibben expressed the sentiment concisely:

It’s no use crying Bill McKibben’s tears.

In 2014, the U.S. used 6.95 billion barrels of crude oil with 27 percent being imported, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency. That’s 19.05 million barrels per day, including biofuels. Most of it is for gasoline, diesel, jet fuel, heating oil and liquefied petroleum gas. (The EIA explains how the oil was used here).

During President Obama’s administration the U.S. took substantial action to reduce dependence on imported oil. During the eight years of President George W. Bush, the country imported 28.6 billion barrels of oil or 3.574 billion barrels per year on average. In 2014, the U.S. imported 2.68 billion barrels or 25 percent less than the Bush average.

The rub is that in order to reduce imports, the Obama administration encouraged domestic production through an all of the above strategy that included hydraulic fracturing and increased exploration and discovery like Royal Dutch Shell had been doing in the Arctic in 2012. The strategy worked, and has been revitalized, but at what cost?

Doing nothing about global warming is not an option. The Obama administration has been and is doing something significant. As much as some would like to shut down the coal trains, end hydraulic fracturing and stop drilling for oil – leaving fossil fuels in the ground – it is only beginning to happen under Obama. Whoever is president in 2017, an “all of the above” strategy would mean quite different things with a Democrat or Republican in office.

Scientists understand the basic physics of global warming, and mostly have since the mid-1800s. As long as there is demand for fossil fuels, there is no reason to think exploration and discovery by oil companies will end any time soon. The problem with denial is not so much with political climate deniers. The physics will out, hopefully not too late.

A bigger problem is denial of our addiction to fossil fuels. Most continue to use them like there is no tomorrow. A reckoning is coming and it will take more than renaming that mountain to climb it.

Iowa Breaks Beach Warnings Record

Lake Macbride

Lake Macbride

(Editor’s Note: The Iowa Environmental Council released this statement Aug. 14 on record levels of microcystin produced by certain types of algae blooms. They rightly associate the problem with the nutrient-rich soup lakes and waterways have become as a result of nutrient runoff from farms).

Iowa breaks beach warnings record
Swimming advisories for harmful toxin produce by blue-green algae blooms reach new heights

DES MOINES – It’s Iowa State Fair time, and many Iowans are hoping to walk away with a blue ribbon or better yet, a new record. A record was broken today, but it’s not one any Iowan is likely to brag about.

Today, DNR issued two beach advisory warnings, instructing Iowans to stay out of the water at two State Park beaches due to high levels of microcystin, a toxin produced by blue-green algae blooms that can make people sick. The two beach advisories this week bring the total number of microcystin warnings posted this year to 25, which surpasses the previous record – 24 warnings – set in 2013.

“Many Iowans set aside time in August to squeeze in one last family vacation, head to the water with friends, or get in one more summer swim,” said Water Program Director Susan Heathcote. “Unfortunately, more and more Iowans are being greeted by signs warning them to stay out of the water due to harmful blue-green algae at their favorite shoreline spots. It’s likely we’ll continue to see additional beach warnings between now and Labor Day, the last week of the DNR beach monitoring program.”

Blue-green algae, which is caused by a combination of high levels of phosphorus pollution and increased temperatures, has long been an issue in Iowa. However, in recent years, the high levels of microcystin in Iowa lakes and resulting beach warnings have been on the rise.

Since 2006, DNR has issued 139* beach warnings for levels of microcystin exceeding 20ug/L, a level deemed unsafe by the World Health Organization. Nearly two thirds (91) of these warnings have been posted in the past four years. Additionally, more than half (23) of the 39 State Park beached monitored by DNR have made an appearance on the DNR warning list, many making repeat appearances. Of the 13 beaches with microcystin warnings posted this summer, five beaches – Lake Darling, Pine Lake, Red Haw Lake, Twin Lake West and Springbrook Lake – had their first microcystin toxin warnings posted this year.

“It’s important to note that while DNR monitors State Park beaches for this toxin, the problem is not isolated to these lakes. Many other public and private beaches not monitored by DNR are also susceptible to blue-green algae blooms, so it’s critical that Iowans know how to recognize the blooms and respond if exposed,” Heathcote said.

Toxic blue-green algae blooms create blue to green murky water, visible surface scum and a foul odor. The blooms can spread across the water, but tend to accumulate in shoreline areas. Contact with water at or above 20 ug/L can result in breathing problems, upset stomach, skin reactions, and even liver damage. Inhaling water droplets containing toxic blue-green algae can cause runny eyes and nose, cough, sore throat, chest pain, asthma-like symptoms, or allergic reactions.

Earlier this summer, Iowa’s public health leaders announced plans to require doctors to report “microcystin-toxin poisoning” to the Iowa Department of Public Health.

If you think you or your pets may have been exposed to toxic blue-green algae, thoroughly wash it off with fresh water. If you or your pet experience symptoms associated with high microcystin levels after suspected exposure, seek medical or veterinary care immediately.

“To reduce the occurrence of these harmful algae blooms we must reduce the phosphorus pollution coming from farms, city lawns and urban and industrial wastewater that is feeding the algae,” Heathcote said. “Failing to reduce these sources of phosphorus pollution not only puts our health at risk, but also threatens safe drinking water, has negative economic impacts on communities and our quality of life.”

Weekly beach advisories can be found on the DNR website. While swimming activities drop off after Labor Day, the danger of exposure to blue-green algae continues as long as the hot, sunny weather lasts, so the public must continue to be vigilant. Call the DNR Beach Monitoring Hotline at 515-725-3434 to report a potential blue-green algae bloom.

Records showing State Park Beaches with documented Microcystin levels exceeding 20 ug/L dating back to 2006 are available on the Iowa Environmental Council’s website.

*Excludes 2008 when beaches were not monitored due to a diversion of DNR resources to address extreme flooding in the state.

Oak Leaf Tatters And Herbicides

White Oak Leaf Tetters Photos Credit: Plant Management Network

White Oak Leaf Tatters – Photo Credit: Plant Management Network

What to make of a study of the impact of herbicide drift from farming operations on oak trees?

In a peer reviewed 2004 study at the University of Illinois, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences in Urbana, Ill., scientists found drift of chloroacetamide herbicides is a possible cause of the leaf tatters syndrome in White Oak trees.

During the last few decades, white oak (Quercus alba L.) in the north central region have developed malformed spring leaves often called “leaf tatters.” The symptoms begin with the death of some interveinal leaf tissues, eventually leaving only the main leaf veins with little interveinal tissues present (See Illustration Above). Leaf tatters reduces the overall canopy of trees, making them more susceptible to other stresses. Leaf tatters has been reported in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin.

It’s a single study, probably not enough data to fully ratify the relationship, even if there is concern among foresters about how herbicide drift may be affecting stands of trees in both urban and rural areas.

The topic is worth more study than it is getting, as chloroacetamide is the active ingredient in a number of herbicides used with row crop corn and soybeans.

Preserving our woodland heritage is more complicated than letting a stand of trees go on as it has. Existing oak-hickory forests are being subjected to a wide range of stress including growth of invasive species below the canopy, and a lack of significant events, like forest fires, to remove mature trees, permitting new growth. After being in place for thousands of years, the oak-hickory forest will become a thing of the past without modern forestry management.

If there are other studies of the impact of herbicide drift on forests, I couldn’t easily find them. In fact, I had to contact an acquaintance to locate the study referenced in this post. Besides a small group of scientists and foresters, I don’t know who else is even looking at this.

What this study suggests to me, and to others whose opinion I value, is chemical drift from large scale farming operations can impact life in urban areas where most of the population lives.

As we escape rural areas in favor of cities we remain connected to what goes on in the country. Part of that, perhaps, includes maladies caused by chemical drift from farms.

It is time we, as a society, spent time and resources determining what the relationship between chemical drift and our lives in the city is.

Iowa And The Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

Clean Power Plan

(Editor’s Note: The Iowa Environmental Council released the following Aug. 3. The coming debate will be about whether or not, and how, Iowa complies with the new rules. The press release outlines what they are).

Clean Power Plan presents opportunity for Iowa
Carbon pollution cuts will benefit Iowa economy, communities and working lands

DES MOINES – Monday the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the finalization of the Clean Power Plan, a landmark standard that sets the first-ever federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants. By establishing state-specific carbon pollution reduction goals based on each state’s energy portfolio, the Clean Power Plan will cut 32 percent of carbon pollution from U.S. power plants by 2030 (from 2005 levels).

The final Clean Power Plan calls for Iowa to reduce its carbon pollution rate to 1,283 lbs/MWh by 2030, a slight increase from the originally proposed 1,301 lbs/MWh. Both goals are based on reductions from 2012 carbon pollution levels. However, the baseline or starting point for those calculations has changed. Therefore, while the final Clean Power Plan calls for Iowa to cut carbon pollution from its power plants by 41 percent, this cannot be directly compared to the originally proposed 16 percent reduction.

As a national wind energy leader, Iowa is well-equipped to meet this modest goal, and could have achieved a significantly stronger goal. The final Clean Power Plan presents significant opportunities for Iowa’s wind sector to help reduce emissions in other states.

The Iowa Environmental Council issued the following statement in response to the announcement of the final standard:

“We applaud the EPA and Administrator McCarthy’s leadership in finalizing the Clean Power Plan. The plan will improve Iowa’s economy, protect our communities, safeguard our working lands and strengthen our energy independence. However, Iowa’s carbon reduction goal remains one of the lowest in the country. While achievable, this modest reduction goal doesn’t begin to realize Iowa’s full clean energy potential. As a national leader in wind energy generation and manufacturing, Iowa is already on track to achieve and surpass a its carbon reduction goal. Though the Council would have liked to see a stronger goal, we look forward to working with the state’s leaders over the next year to shape a strong implementation plan that maximizes Iowa’s potential for renewable energy growth and energy efficiency savings.”

Energy Program Director Nathaniel Baer was among leading clean energy advocates invited to join President Obama at the White House for a media event earlier this afternoon announcing the finalization of the plan.

Wind energy accounts for 28.5 percent of Iowa’s electrical generation – the highest of any state. Recent studies show that Iowa’s wind energy potential is over 570,000 MW and 20,000 MW of this could be developed by 2030. By increasing the regional and national demand for clean energy, the Clean Power Plan will expand opportunities for wind as well as solar energy development, strengthening Iowa’s economy and job market.

In addition to improving Iowa’s economy, the Clean Power Plan benefits the state’s communities, cultural heritage and environment. Power plants are our nation’s largest source of carbon pollution, which threatens public health, agriculture and Iowan’s quality of life. By cutting carbon pollution and encouraging a transition to clean energy, the Clean Power Plan will make Iowa a safer, healthier and more attractive place to live and work.