Grist staff

Pesticide or Spermicide?

Frogs and men, beware: Pesticides are your enemy. Men exposed to pesticides commonly used on crops are far more likely to have defective sperm and low sperm counts than men who are not exposed, according to a study published yesterday in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study is the first to show a link between environmental toxins in men’s bodies and poor sperm count and quality. The study is also important because it involved men who did not work on or live next to farms, meaning they were most likely exposed to the pesticides through drinking water. Of the three pesticides …

Standing the Rules on Their Ear

More farmers are failing to comply with the rules for planting genetically modified (GM) corn than the biotechnology industry claims, according to a new study of government data. Almost 20 percent of U.S. farms growing BT corn, the main type of GM corn, violate the rules for doing so, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Those rules require farmers to plant at least 20 percent of their acreage with non-GM corn; 19 percent of surveyed farms that were not meeting that requirement, and 13 percent were planting no other corn varieties at all. The industry reports …

Idle Trucks Are the Devil’s Playthings

New gadgetry at truck stops could help slash pollution from idling big rigs. Most truck drivers across the U.S. leave their vehicles’ engines running all night while they’re parked at truck stops because it’s the only way to keep the heating or air conditioning on while they get some shuteye. Between 840 million and 2 billion gallons of gasoline are burned each year in the U.S. by these idling trucks, according to an estimate from the South Coast Air Quality Management District in southern California, and that results in a lot of dangerous diesel exhaust that can damage lungs and …

And other words from readers

  Re: Mobil-ized Dear Editor: Sometimes being anal pays off. I’ve been using Quicken since 1996 to track all my expenses, and I see here that I’ve spent $6,178.56 on gasoline over the past seven years. Of that total, $1,339.41 went to Mobil, $747.09 went to Exxon, and the rest to BP, Shell, and assorted other gas companies. In late 2001, I decided to stop buying gasoline from Mobil and Exxon due to their efforts to derail action on climate change and to hamper the effectiveness of key research bodies such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the …

The Mahogany and the Ecstasy

Brazil clamped down on the logging of mahogany in the Amazon Rainforest last week, putting in place new rules that require loggers to present plans showing how harvesting will be done sustainably. Brazil produces about half of the world’s supply of mahogany, a highly prized — and highly endangered — wood sought for the making of furniture and instruments. The move by the Brazilian government came less than a week after the U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected nine shipments of Brazilian mahogany on suspicion that the wood was logged illegally. The shipments had been held for more than a year …

The Price Pump Is Right

A growing number of California businesses are taking steps to become more eco-friendly, and are saving money in the process, according to a new survey conducted by the Sonoma County Economic Development Board. One example is the Price Pump Co. in Sonoma, which has switched to more environmentally conscious packaging, using brown boxes instead of bleached-white ones and eliminating use of nonbiodegradable foam packing material — moves that are cutting costs by about $40,000 a month. “My motivation is to stay in business and make money,” said Bob Piazza, president of Price Pump. “If I can do that and be …

And other words from readers

  Re: Greening the Elephant Dear Editor: The story about Martha Marks’s efforts to build Republicans for Environmental Protection is a good reminder of why some of us oldies wax nostalgic for the Good Old Days. She is right that the real Republicans used to be wonderful conservationists, with a string of landmark laws to their credit. But your article makes it seem as if somehow it is the conservationists who are to blame for the shift. Your summary of the article read: “As long as the environmental community reflexively backs one party and aggressively demonizes the other, responsible environmental …

The Endangered Endangered Species Act

The federal Endangered Species Act is so cash-strapped that it is effectively “broken,” the Interior Department announced yesterday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service blamed the financial trouble on the act’s “critical habitat” provision, which requires federal agencies to consult with the USFWS before embarking on any activity in areas set aside for wildlife recovery. The agency claims critical habitat designations are redundant, unnecessary, and lead to expensive lawsuits (often by environmentalists) that siphon money away from more important aspects of species protection. According to USFWS Assistant Secretary Craig Manson, critical habitat funds will run dry in July, but the …

Raising the Zanzibar

The island of Zanzibar, located just off the coast of Tanzania, is set to get its first national park. The island, which is independently governed, plans to convert the 12,355-acre Jozani Forest Reserve into a national park to promote better conservation, management, and natural-resource use, according to Mussa Ame Silima, Zanzibar’s minister of agriculture, natural resources, and the environment. The region is home to mangrove forests and the red colobus monkey, which has all but succumbed to extinction due to increased farming and logging. Some human rights and environmental organizations question how the government will ensure that local villagers benefit …