Equilibrium/Sustainability — Letting weeds run wild
Cites around America are borrowing from the British and letting their lawns run wild this “No Mow May.”
The No Mow May movement began in the U.K. in 2019 but now includes dozens of cities across the U.S., where residents are leaving their lawns untouched and helping pollinators thrive this entire month, Popular Science reported.
The movement was brought to the U.S. in 2020 by Israel Del Toro, a biology instructor at Lawrence University in Wisconsin who heard about No Mow May during a trip to Wales, according to Popular Science.
This year, the movement has reached more than 35 cities in the Northeast and Midwest.
“Clovers, dandelions, violets—those things we would normally associate as weeds—are actually really beneficial to our pollinators,” Del Toro told Popular Science.
“That’s what No Mow May is all about: having those things we would normally call weeds come to flower and feeding the bees along the way,” he added.
Welcome to Equilibrium, a newsletter that tracks the growing global battle over the future of sustainability. We’re Saul Elbein and Sharon Udasin. Send us tips and feedback. A friend forward this newsletter to you? Subscribe here.
Today we’ll look at how pregnant women may be increasingly exposed to chemicals that may harm fetal development. Then we’ll examine a Vermont veto of pivotal climate legislation and possible attempts to override it.
Toxic chemicals threat rises
Pregnant women are increasingly exposed to an array of toxic chemicals that may be harmful to fetal development, a new study has found.
Many of these substances are so-called “replacement chemicals” — new forms of compounds that have been banned or phased out, but that may be just as dangerous as the ones they replaced, according to the study, published on Tuesday in Environmental Science & Technology.
Some women face greater exposure: While the researchers studied a highly diverse group of pregnant women, they found that Latinas had particularly high levels of many potentially dangerous chemicals.
“Our findings make clear that the number and scope of chemicals in pregnant women are increasing during a very vulnerable time of development for both the pregnant person and the fetus,” senior author Tracey Woodruff, of the University of California, San Francisco, said in a statement.
Pesticides, plastics: The scientists measured 103 chemicals — mostly from pesticides, plastics and replacement chemicals for BPA and phthalates — using a new method that can capture dozens of chemicals or chemical traces from a single urine sample, according to the study.
More chemicals than before: More than 80 percent of the chemicals that the scientists identified were found in at least one of the women in the study, and more than a third of the chemicals were found in a majority of the participants.
The researchers also determined that some of these compounds were present in greater quantities than had been seen in previous studies.
From a wealth of sources: Prenatal exposure to such toxins can come from air, food, water, plastics and a variety of consumer products, the authors noted. While many of the chemicals could be harmful to both pregnancy and child development, few are monitored in people.
To read the full story, please click here.
VERMONT LAWMAKERS MULL CLIMATE BILL DESPITE VETO
Vermont lawmakers may vote to override their governor’s veto of a bill that would disincentivize fossil fuels for home heating, local CBS affiliate WCAX reported.
The Clean Heat Standard — which WCAX described as “the centerpiece” of Vermont’s climate ambitions — would aim make it gradually more expensive to buy and sell fossil fuel-based forms of home heating.
Too much authority: Last week, however, Gov. Phil Scott (R) vetoed the bill, arguing that it would give regulators too much rulemaking authority, according to WCAX.
Scott also said in his veto message that the legislation fails to include details on costs and impacts, the Burlington Free Press reported.
Why is this bill so pivotal? It’s the biggest piece of emissions-slashing policy within Vermont’s new Climate Action Plan, Vermont Public Radio reported.
Heating accounts for about 35 percent of Vermont’s overall emissions and is the second largest source of emissions in the state, behind only transportation, according to Vermont Public Radio.
Clean heat credits: The bill would require the Public Utilities Commission to develop regulations that decrease the use of fossil fuels in buildings, while creating a clean heat credit program, Vermont Public Radio reported.
Some ways to earn credits:
- Installing cold climate heat pumps
- Switching to higher efficiency wood heat or using biofuels
Business interests: On Monday, an annual meeting of more than 200 companies that specialize in gas, propane and home heating fuels gathered to discuss the toll such a bill would take on their businesses and customers, WCAX reported.
Uncertain climate future: Agency of Natural Resources Secretary Julie Moore told WCAX that Vermont appears to be on track to meet its 2025 climate goals, but that the status of its 2030 are far less certain.
“We know that regulatory approaches are less cost-effective and less equitable than the types of incentive programs that are contemplated through the Clean Heat Standard and hope not to get to that point,” Moore said.
Texans cut off
Urban grids are being strained as a brutal heat wave moves north across the country’s interior, raising concerns about how prepared municipal grids are for a warming future.
A northward wave: Rising temperatures are moving north this week as far as Iowa, Wisconsin and South Dakota, which will see temperatures in the high 90s, AccuWeather reported.
Hot in Austin: About 3,600 people in Austin,Texas, saw their power cut off by local utilities over the weekend — as temperatures passed 100 degrees, leading to spiking demand, local station KVUE reported.
“We took this action Saturday in order to avoid a larger outage and ensure greater reliability as we enter summer,” an Austin Energy spokesperson told KVUE.
Worse is coming: The current spate of heat waves is happening on a planet about
1 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures, according to NASA’s Earth Observatory.
But there’s a 50-50 chance that the world will pass 1.5 Celsius above preindustrial temperatures — at least temporarily — between now and 2026, our colleague Rachel Frazin reported for The Hill.
And there’s a 93 percent chance of at least one year before 2026 becoming the hottest year on record, Frazin reported.
Cities aren’t ready: “Communities are experiencing extreme heat earlier in the season, more intensely, more frequently, and for longer periods,” urban heat expert Ladd Keith of the University of Arizona told Equilibrium.
The poor suffer worst: Keith pointed to events in India, where a scorching heat wave has killed dozens in a disaster that is a “snapshot” of the global future, according to CBS News.
“Extreme heat is more likely to adversely affect lower-income and marginalized communities that may have limited or no access to indoor cooling,” Keith said.
Cooling the people: That disproportionate danger makes it vital that policymakers make sure to protect the most vulnerable during heat waves, he added.
Right now that means improving public infrastructure like indoor cooling centers, he added.
But over the long term, they need “to increase affordable and quality housing with reliable and accessible indoor cooling,” he said.
Preparing for power loss: Residents preparing for a heat event — and possible brownout — like the one that hit Central Texasneed to start preparing early, Keith said.
He advised three steps:
- Become familiar with the signs of heat stress and know how to address them.
- Weather strip windows and doors and better insulate walls to help keep homes cool.
- Be familiar with the locations of safe locations — like cooling centers — in case power shuts down.
And if you can’t afford upgrades? Federal grants are available for home upgrades to face extreme heat under programs like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
VIRTUAL EVENT INVITE
The Opioid Crisis & the Criminal Justice System, Wednesday, May 18 at 1 p.m. ET
According to SAMHSA, nearly 20 percent of incarcerated individuals have reported regular opioid use. Yet only a small percentage of them are receiving medication-assisted treatment in jails and prisons. How do we improve access to addiction treatment within the criminal justice system? What efforts are needed to ensure a safe and successful return to society and the workforce? The Hill hosts a discussion on improving addiction treatment and recovery across the criminal justice system with Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.), Rep. Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), Fairfax County Sheriff Stacey Kincaid and more. RSVP now.
Europe raises solar stakes
The European Union just rolled out plans for a massive new expansion in solar in a development that could reshape the global solar supply chains amid U.S. trade disputes with China.
Ambitious goals: “Solar electricity and heat are key for phasing out E.U.’s dependence on Russian natural gas,” according to a draft of the declaration published in Reuters.
Per that draft, the plan would:
- Cut permitting times for new rooftop solar installations to under three months
- Invest in solar innovation and training
- Install solar panels on the rooftops of all suitable buildings by 2025
Envy in the U.S.: “Solar energy is more affordable and more reliable than fossil fuels, and today’s announcement demonstrates that the rest of the world is outpacing us in solar deployments,” Phyllis Cuttino, executive director for Local Solar for All, told Equilibrium.
Yea on tax credits: Local Solar for All, a campaign focused on developing a more decentralized, distributed energy, wants to see the administration work to pass “clean energy tax credits and investments stalled in Congress.”
Nay on tariffs: They also want to see the administration to cut the “meritless” tariffs that currently raise the prices of importing solar panels from China and other East Asian countries, which we reported on last week.
A key supplier: Chinese companies supplied 75 percent of Europe’s solar panels in 2020, Reuters reported.
The Biden administration has frozen imports from key producer countries like Thailand and Cambodia, which it suspects Chinese companies are using as fronts to evade U.S. tariffs, as our colleague Zack Budryk reported last week.
Solar installers want restrictions dropped: Those tariffs “only stifle competitiveness and slow the expansion of clean energy in the United States,” Cuttino said.
Utah suffers extreme drought, Tesla’s Shanghai factory shuts down and San Francisco EV chargers malfunction.
Almost all of Utah weathering extreme drought
- Ninety-nine percent of Utah is experiencing either “severe” or “extreme” drought levels, Fox 13 reported. “We had hoped to get a really good snowpack and we only got about 75% of the snowpack that we’d hoped for,” Laura Haskell, of the Utah Division of Water Resources, told Fox 13.
Tesla’s biggest factory shuts down again
- Customers waiting on a Tesla delivery will have to be patient: Supply issues stemming from China’s pandemic-related lockdowns have forced the electric vehicle giant to shut down its massive Shanghai factory for the second time in two months, The Hill reported.
Twenty-five percent of San Francisco EV chargers don’t work
- San Francisco Bay electric vehicle (EV) drivers seeking an on-the-go recharge may be in for an unpleasant surprise: More than a quarter of area charging stations don’t work, according to a study covered in Business Insider.
Please visit The Hill’s Sustainability section online for the web version of this newsletter and more stories. We’ll see you tomorrow.
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