Grist staff

Frog Days of Summer

For the first time, scientists have found evidence linking agricultural runoff to the rise in grotesque hind-limb deformities in frogs. In the past, the deformities were associated with a common parasite, the burrowing trematode worm, which seemed to affect the development of tadpoles. Now, writing in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers have found that exposure to even minute quantities of the pesticides atrazine and malathion appears to make frogs more vulnerable to the parasite by weakening their immune systems. Both pesticides are controversial but common in the U.S., where they are used …

The Name of the Haze

The U.S. National Weather Service has long maintained the tradition of giving names to hurricanes, but in Toronto, the environmental organization Greenpeace is taking matters one step further by naming excessively smoggy days after national politicians. The program is designed to call attention to the failure of the Canadian government to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and shame politicians into action. The naming kicked off yesterday with Smog Day Augustine, named after Parliament Member Jean Augustine, who “for nine years … has taken Toronto’s votes but done nothing to clean Toronto’s air,” said Greenpeace Executive Director Peter Tabuns. …

And other words from readers

  Re: Whale Killers Dear Editor: As people who live near the sea and watch both orca whales and their watchers several times each week during the summer months, we were waiting for this to happen. As we suspected, big-money interests are trying to push the little guys out of the whale-watching business. But let us tell you the truth about whale watching up here in the Gulf Islands. The large boats — usually coming from the direction of the San Juan Islands in Washington State, it seems — that are supposed to “keep a safe distance” are the noisiest …

Dropping the Bali

Negotiations at a two-week meeting in Bali, Indonesia, to establish the agenda for the upcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development ended in stalemate on Friday. Delegates could not agree on several key issues and were ultimately forced to admit defeat; former Indonesian Environment Minister Emil Salim, who chaired the meeting, blamed the failure on a lack of good faith among the negotiators. The contentious issues included a demand by the U.S. that development aid be contingent on efforts to fight corruption, as well as developing countries’ call for richer nations to commit to widening their markets to trade and the …

Dentist the Menace

Here’s one more reason to dread your dentist: Many dental offices flush old fillings down the drain, washing the mercury inside them into the nation’s waterways. That makes dentists the single largest discharger of the toxic metal, according to a national study entitled “Dentist the Menace?” and published by a collection of health and environmental groups. All told, dentists use about 40 tons of mercury per year to make silver fillings, a practice they’ve been engaged in for some 150 years. While the mercury might not do damage in people’s mouths, it spends many more years in the natural environment, …

The Little Solar Station That Could

The Columbia Generating Station, a nuclear power plant at Washington state’s Hanford nuclear reservation, sits just one mile from the White Bluffs Solar Station. For the past three weeks, Energy Northwest, the Pacific Northwest’s nuclear power producer, has been generating a tiny amount of electricity from solar panels at White Bluffs and selling it to the Bonneville Power Administration. Energy Northwest says it’s experimenting with solar power because it would like to be known as an environmentally conscious utility, and because it recognizes a growing market demand for clean energy. Still, the experiment is minuscule; the 1,200-megawatt nuclear power plant …

Violent objections

Re: The Violence of the Lambs Dear Editor: The item about the first organization dedicated to combating eco-terrorism was rather disturbing by virtue of the manner in which it mocked industry for having funded such an endeavor and the way in which it glamorized the eco-terrorist with David Barbarash’s asinine quote. What we have to remember is that in retaliating against people and companies for exercising the rights they have, terrorists are not assaulting criminals — they are assaulting liberty. If the problem is that companies have the freedom to plunder and plow, then we must work to revoke that …

Catch a Taiga By the Toe

No one needs to tell the Amur tiger that species worldwide are endangered. A resident of Russia’s far-eastern taiga forests, the tigers are severely threatened by insatiable and generally illegal logging in the region. In theory, Russia has some of the world’s strictest logging laws, but the taiga’s old-growth trees (such as Manchurian oak and Korean pine) fetch the highest prices on the market, so the rewards for logging outweigh the risks. As the trees go, so go the tigers, of which fewer than 500 are thought to remain. Also threatened are Russia’s indigenous Udege people, who make their home …

The Shipping News

Salmon and other imperiled species would not be damaged by a proposed deepening of the Columbia River channel, federal scientists announced yesterday. Those findings — biological opinions required under the Endangered Species Act — will enable the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to proceed with the next steps in a $196 million project to deepen by about three feet 100 miles of shipping channel on the river between Vancouver, Wash., and Astoria, Ore. The National Marine Fisheries Service looked at the effects of deepening on Stellar sea lion and 12 salmon runs, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gauged …

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