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Our Daily Planet: Mayors Battle EPA, Bottled or tap, 100,000 Enviro Voters, Puerto Rican Voting Block, Toxic Masculinity, Drugs in the Hudson!
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By: Monica Medina and Miro Korenha

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Thursday, February 22nd, 2018

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 Climate Change

Photo: Cloud Nine Aerial via EcoWatch
Mayors Take A Stand for Climate Action

Mayors across the country this week urged EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to leave the Clean Power Plan in place.  In a letter to Pruitt, they argued that, "[a]s 236 mayors of communities across the U.S., representing over 51 million residents in 47 states & territories we strongly oppose the repeal of the Clean Power Plan, which would put our citizens at risk and undermine our efforts to prepare for and protect against the worst impacts of climate change." President Trump signed an executive order last March instructing the EPA to review the rule for a possible repeal. The EPA is in the midst of taking comments from the public on the repeal. 

And now thirteen cities are providing on their websites information about climate change that the Trump Administration deleted from the EPA's website last year.  The "Climate Change is Real" site contains information on the basic science behind climate change, the ways weather is impacted from increased greenhouse gas emissions and actions the federal government has taken to reduce the impact. The cities now hosting the climate information are: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Evanston (IL), Fayetteville (AR), Houston, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Portand, San Francisco, Seattle and St. Louis.  

Why This Matters:  The Clean Power Plan was years in the making and implements the basic provisions of the Clean Air Act guaranteeing air quality for every American.  The final version of the Clean Power Plan would reduce carbon dioxide emissions from electrical power generation by 32 percent by 2030. Moreover, removing climate information from government websites does not make it any less real.  This information belongs to the public whose tax dollars paid for it. These city websites providing the information ensure that the public has access to climate research EPA has developed over decades. 

To Comment on the Clean Power Plan Repeal, click hereTo Host the "deleted" climate information on a website, click here.


Photo: Lori Van Buren/Albany Times Union
Drugs in the Hudson Pose a Risk to Aquatic Life 

A new study revealed that the Hudson River is full of drugs! Not necessarily the ones you'd imagine but "biologist Andrew Juhl of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University said that in 2016, his research team collected samples from 72 spots on the river — from New York City to Albany. The samples contained 16 types of compounds, from antibiotics and acetaminophen to drugs for treating high blood pressure, high cholesterol, epilepsy, ulcers, and heartburn." 

While these contaminants probably won't affect people who enjoy recreational activities on the Hudson (or even get their drinking water from it), it is bad news if you're a fish. As Juhl told WNYC, "There's a difference between drinking treated drinking water and living your life marinated in a soup of pharmaceuticals and that's what the aquatic organisms are facing."  Pharmaceutical substances can last in water for a long time, and travel via currents and tides causing DNA damage to fish. 

Why This Matters: Most of these substances have made it into the Hudson River through human wastewater because most water treatment plants lack the technology (like UV light) to neutralize them. In the US we're due for a water infrastructure overhaul as some of our sewers are older than bathrooms as we know them and allow untreated wastewater to seep into waterways. 


Puerto Rican Climate Refugees Are Shaping Florida's Political Future

After the devastation caused by hurricanes Maria and Irma thousands (perhaps even hundreds of thousands) of Puerto Ricans migrated to the mainland US. Many of them came to Florida (where there are already large Puerto Rican populations), but also to other states. Though nobody really knows exactly how many settled permanently in the United States these are the best indicators we have to make an estimate:
Graphic: CNN
Puerto Ricans are US citizens and therefore will vote in the 2018 midterm election, on issues like climate change. As a whole, they don't need to be convinced that climate change is happening. Even before the hurricanes they experienced changing environmental conditions on the island: drought, sea level rise, and shifting water distribution patterns have had to be endured by citizens (especially local farmers) for years. While Puerto Ricans had adopted climate-conscious behavior they still felt as if they were being victimized. Katia Avilés-Vázquez, a member of sustainable farming resource group Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica, explained to EcoWatch that  "[Puerto Ricans] are a small population. We can carbon sink or recycle and bike more and plant all the trees we want, but that won't change anything on the larger scale. "We're bearing the brunt of climate change and we're not really responsible for it."

Why This Matters: Florida is a swing state and in the last election Donald Trump won the state by 113,000 votes. Since taking office he has alienated Hispanics and, in the minds of many, treated Puerto Rico's relief efforts with poor taste. Puerto Ricans have not forgotten. If there truly are 300,000 new Puerto Rican residents in Florida, then their votes could make a big difference for Florida's candidates. While Floridians are cognizant of the effects of climate change in their state, Puerto Ricans see climate action as imperative to their home island's survival, are enthusiastic voters, and consider voting a matter of cultural pride. In fact, voter turnout for the island's quadrennial elections was 50 percent higher than for mainland presidential contests. Candidates, take note! 



Massive Environmental Voter Push Planned

The Environmental Voter Project (EVP) plans to add 100,000 new environmentalists to the electorate in 2018, targeting 2.4 million voters in Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Georgia, and Massachusetts.  The Environmental Voter Project is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that uses cutting-edge behavioral science and data analytics to turn poorly-voting environmentalists into consistent super-voters. 

EVP’s successful voter mobilizations in the 2017 municipal elections showed that their efforts can increase turnout by 2.8% - 6.9% per election – enough to swing a close race to the pro-conservation candidate. In St. Petersburg, Florida, for example, EVP targeted 14,920 environmentalists who were unlikely to vote in the mayoral election last year and increased turnout among this group by 4.5%, adding 671 new voters to the electorate. The St. Petersburg mayoral race was decided by only 2,186 votes. 
Why This Matters: Every vote counts. Environmental voters have not been consistently exercising this important right of citizenship.  The EVP has identified 15.78 million environmentalists nationwide who rarely or never vote.  It would be great if more pro-conservation voters consistently vote in every election. 

What You Can Do:  If you want to help the Environmental Voter Project to achieve their goal, there are two things you can do:


Graphic: Business Insider
Bottled or Tap?

As it turns out, your favorite bottled water may actually be nothing more than tap water you could pour yourself.  Business Insider first reported on this fact in 2016.  And to be sure, the water bottle labels do seem clear -- the water that comes from springs is labeled as such.  According to a new report from Food & Water Watch, the majority of bottled water sold today (nearly 64 percent) comes from municipal tap water, and costs 2000x as much as tap water.  In fact, at $9.50/gallon it costs roughly three times a gallon of gas and four times a gallon of milk.  And the environmental cost of all those plastic water bottles is high too -- using about four billion pounds of plastic for packaging in 2016—which required an energy input equal to at least 45 million barrels of oil.   Companies using municipal water can deplete local supplies. Nestlé pumped California water during the recent historic drought, withdrawing 705 million gallons of water annually — enough to supply nearly 2,200 families per year.  Still, for people who live in municipalities with water safety problems, there is no choice but to use bottled water. 

Why This Matters:  Minority and poor communities with unsafe water are paying a high price to purchase essentially ordinary (clean) tap water.  The government should be doing more to clean up water supplies in these municipalities and ensure that water companies are not tapping out local water supplies in drought-prone areas.  The packaging is problematic too.  There are a few water companies that now sell water in more sustainable packaging.  The entertainer Will Smith and his son founded an eco-friendly water company called Just that makes its packaging almost entirely from renewable resources.  “This was a company born out of a child’s love for the ocean,” Will Smith told The Associated Press, and the idea was hatched after watching a show about the problem of the great garbage patch in the Pacific.  

To Go Deeper:  If you want to learn where your bottled water of either type comes from, we recommend this Business Insider Video.  

What You Can Do: Carry and use a reusable water bottle whenever possible.  


Bro-yota Tacoma (sorry, couldn't help ourselves) 
'Toxic Masculinity' Is Bad News For The Planet

It turns out that men are less likely to adopt eco-friendly behavior because they don't view doing so as masculine. Women have long surpassed men when it comes to environmental action and across all age groups and countries women tend to live more sustainable lives. 

Scientific American conducted research on the topic and concluded that men do this because they "tend to want to feel macho, and they worry that eco-friendly behaviors might brand them as feminine." The research involved 2,000 Chinese and American participants and examined the link between eco-friendly behavior and femininity noting that participants found "greenness" to be inherently feminine. "In one experiment, participants of both sexes described an individual who brought a reusable canvas bag to the grocery store as more feminine than someone who used a plastic bag—regardless of whether the shopper was a male or female."

To get more men to live more sustainably researchers suggested “men-vironmentally-friendly” and the use of “more masculine fonts, colors, words, and images.”

Why This Matters: Instead of better marketing what if we redefined gender roles and encouraged eco-friendly behavior in one another? It's going to take women AND men to change their consumption habits if we are to tackle waste issues like the massive amounts of plastic in our oceans. Being aware of our actions and words toward one another is essential if we're to adopt greener values. As Grist put it, "If gender roles are toxic for people and the planet, it’s time to rethink them."

Take a Deeper Dive: In his cheeky song "Gone Green," Country music star Brad Paisley paints a picture of what it's like to challenge your established values and choose a more sustainable life even at the bewilderment of your peers: 
It's the little things we take for granted
When we sacrifice to save the planet
The darndest thing I've ever seen
That old redneck has done gone green

Listen to the full song below:
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