Friday Finds: Snakes in the ‘Glades
Pythons and anacondas put the squeeze on the Everglades
Forget snakes on a plane. Snakes like pythons and anacondas are taking over the Florida Everglades and eating everything—including rabbits, raccoons and even deer—in sight, reports the Washington Post. Thanks to reckless owners releasing pets they no longer want, invasive snakes are slowly climbing their way to the top of the swamp food chain to the detriment of the Everglade ecosystem, which has been listed as a World Heritage Site and boasts many rare and endangered species like alligators and wood rats. The ecological upset puts added stress on an area already plagued by water pollution from nearby industrial sugar growing operations—a problem that Earthjustice has helped clean up through recurring litigation over the last two decades. Though the Obama administration recently banned the import and interstate commerce of several snake species, others like the boa constrictor managed to slither by, which means that the snake problem may not be going away anytime soon.
Bagged greens industry gets down and dirty with contamination
The salad greens industry is trying to clean up its E. coli-tainted image by exploring new options to keep its greens clean, reports the LA Times. Over the past few years, headlines about people being sickened by bacteria-tainted greens have caused consumers to lose faith in the industry’s ability to keep salad greens safe. The easiest way to eliminate bacteria is to, of course, cook the greens, but nobody wants soggy baby spinach, so the researchers are looking into alternative methods like chlorine alternatives, radiation and even ultrasound to remove germs from tainted lettuce. In the meantime, health experts continue to argue about whether rinsing those “triple-washed” bagged lettuces makes them safer…or more dangerous. Until the debate is settled, many agree that bagging bagged lettuce and growing your own greens may just be your best (and tastiest) option.
California flakes on winter
California is experiencing the driest winter in more than 30 years and it’s wreaking havoc on snowbirds and the industries that cater to them, reports the LA Times. Though volatile weather is common in California, the record-breaking lack of snow has ski resorts scrambling to find alternative activities like archery, bicycling and even mule rides for their disheartened guests. Others are taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather in places like Yosemite and Lake Tahoe by ice skating on lakes or hiking up mountains that would normally be covered in snow. Of course, California isn’t the only state experiencing “global weirding” and hotter, drier temperatures. Climate scientists have long predicted that a warmer world means more extreme weather across the globe.
A commonly used drug called ractopamine hydrochloride can sicken and kill pigs, reports the Food and Environment Reporting Network. The drug, which is banned in the European Union, China and elsewhere, reduces fat and increases lean meat production in animals. It also, however, makes the heart beat faster and relaxes blood vessels. According to the FDA, the drug has killed or sickened more than 218,000 pigs as of March 2011, more than any other animal drug on the market. Though the drug isn’t allowed for human use, traces of it are found in U.S. meat products. The FDA maintains that the levels of the drug found in meat doesn’t pose a risk to humans, but if eating meat from a sick animal gives you the willies, you can always buy meat from companies like Chipotle, Niman Ranch and Whole Foods, which avoid using meat produced with the feed additive drug.