Friday Finds: Bumblebees Get Stung By Climate Change
It turns out honeybees aren’t the only pollinators experiencing mysterious, massive die-offs, reports Grist. Bumblebees, those fuzzy, buzzy bees that pollinate everything from alfalfa to apples, are also disappearing. That’s bad news for farmers...and anyone who happens to like eating food. According to research published last year, the abundance of some bumblebee species has declined by as much as 96 percent in a mere two decades. One reason for the massive die-off may be a lack of wildflower-rich habitats. Another may be pesticides, which have been under increased scrutiny after two scientific studies linked a commonly used corn pesticide to the die-offs of pollinating bees. And yet still another cause may be climate change, which impacts the bees’ habitat range.
The EPA estimates that up to 20,000 physician-diagnosed poisonings occur each year among agricultural workers but since no comprehensive database to track pesticide exposure incidents currently exists, there may be a lot more incidents that go unreported, reports iWatch News. Lack of data is just one of the many challenges in making agricultural fields safe for farmworkers, who often come in contact with toxic pesticides that can cause nose bleeds, rashes and vomiting. Another challenge is that many farmworkers are illegal immigrants, so they're reluctant to speak up in fear of getting reported to the federal authorities. Currently, Earthjustice, along with other groups, is trying to increase protections for farmworkers by pressing for upgrades to the Worker Protection Standard, which hasn’t been thoroughly revamped in 20 years.
Hydraulic gas drilling, also known as fracking, is not only polluting our air, our water and potentially our beer, it’s also pushing people out of their homes, reports Mother Jones. For example, in February, 32 families in a mobile home park in Pennsylvania found out that their homes were being taken away to make room for the state’s latest fracking operation. On top of being given less than six months to relocate, the homeowners had to find out about their forced evictions in the local newspaper. Unfortunately, forced evictions seem to be all-too-common in Pennsylvania, especially in poor communities, but what’s different about this case is that the mobile home community decided to fight back, Occupy-style, by refusing to leave their homes for almost two weeks. Though a private security firm eventually forced the home owners to move, the occupation may be the first of many as more homeowners are forcibly evicted for industry profit.
Americans may be big meat eaters, but most of us don’t want meat laden with drugs, which why a U.S. consumer group is asking local supermarkets as well as chains like Trader Joe’s to swear off buying and selling meat that comes from animals raised on antibiotics, reports United Press International. Almost 70 percent of U.S. antibiotics sold are given to healthy farm animals, both to fatten them up and to keep them healthy in, well, unhealthy living conditions. In addition to the obvious animal welfare issues that this practice creates, misuse of antibiotics leads to antibiotic-resistance in animals and humans, which can be deadly. Though earlier this year the USDA released guidelines for farmers to cut back on antibiotics in animals raised for food, the guidelines are voluntary, which means consumers probably shouldn’t expect a big change in antibiotic use anytime soon. If that makes you feel like you just stepped in a big cow pie, the good news is that a tech start up called Real Time Farms recently launched an interactive map that allows consumers to locate meat raised without antibiotics by simply typing in their zip code. Only time will tell whether you’ll be finding Trader Joe’s on that map.