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Susie Cagle's Posts


Climate changes for wine regions could mean hangovers for wildlife

red-wine-glass-green-istock.jpgWine grapes are about as sensitive as your head the morning after you've tied one on with a bottle of Bordeaux: They need just the right climate to thrive. And that climate, of course, is changing.

A new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts the rapid decline of wine-growing regions from California to Australia -- quite the headache for the $290-billion-a-year global wine industry.

The Guardian reports:

Researchers predict a two-thirds fall in production in the world's premier wine regions because of climate change. ...

The scientists used 17 different climate models to gauge the effects on nine major wine-producing areas. They used two different climate futures for 2050, one assuming a worst-case scenario with a 4.7C (8.5F) warming, the other a 2.5C increase.

Both forecast a radical re-ordering of the wine world. The most drastic decline was expected in Europe, where the scientists found a 85% decrease in production in Bordeaux, Rhone and Tuscany.

The future was also bleak for wine growing areas of Australia, with a 74% drop, and California, with a 70% fall


American kids still pretty lead-poisoned

Image (1) leadabatement_flickr_stevendepolo.jpg for post 49073

Lead-free gasoline: It's pretty great, as far as gasoline-without-extra-toxins goes. But even though we've made great strides in reducing lead pollution over the last few decades, America's still full of the stuff.

More than half a million American children under 5, or 1 in 38 young kids, have low-grade lead poisoning, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The surveys from 2007 to 2010 showed an 8.6 percent decrease in childhood lead poisoning compared to 1999-2002.

Until last year, the CDC only tracked people with 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, considered the threshold for lead poisoning by the CDC, World Heath Organization, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. But five micrograms per deciliter is considered enough to potentially cause damage.

Those approximately 535,000 kids aren't really a representative sample of American youth, though.

Read more: Living


Meet Roy Blunt, the senator from Missouri — and Monsanto

monsanto-withered-featureAfter much hemming, hawing, and Hulking, some crack reporters have solved the case of the Monsanto rider, the new law that gives GMO crops legal immunity.

It was Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) in the boardroom with the inappropriate relationships with Big Ag lobbyists!

Politico first broke the Blunt story, but Tom Philpott at Mother Jones highlights just how cozy the Missouri senator is with the GMO giant, who he "worked with" to write and pass the rider.

"If Sen. Blunt plans to continue carrying Monsanto's water in the Senate, the company will have gained the allegiance of a wily and proven political operator," he writes. More from MoJo:

The admission shines a light on Blunt's ties to Monsanto, whose office is located in the senator's home state. According to OpenSecrets, Monsanto first started contributing to Blunt back in 2008, when it handed him $10,000. At that point, Blunt was serving in the House of Representatives. In 2010, when Blunt successfully ran for the Senate, Monsanto upped its contribution to $44,250. And in 2012, the GMO seed/pesticide giant enriched Blunt's campaign war chest by $64,250.

Read more: Food, Politics


Good news, Arkansas: Tar-sands oil isn’t oil-oil

So far, the thousands of barrels of tar-sands oil that spilled into a middle-class neighborhood in central Arkansas on Friday have driven 22 families from their homes and killed and injured a grip of local wildlife. So far, the oil hasn't contaminated the local lake or drinking water supply, according to ExxonMobil. It's a "major spill," according to the EPA, and the cause is so far still under investigation.

But since it's not oil-oil, ExxonMobil hasn't paid into the government clean-up fund that would help bankroll the epic scrub-down necessary to rid poor unsuspecting Mayflower, Ark., of all that bitumen.

"A 1980 law ensures that diluted bitumen is not classified as oil, and companies transporting it in pipelines do not have to pay into the federal Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund," writes Ryan Koronowski at Climate Progress. "Other conventional crude producers pay 8 cents a barrel to ensure the fund has resources to help clean up some of the 54,000 barrels of pipeline oil that spilled 364 times last year."

Here, this helpful infographic might clear things up for you:



Two new bills aim to save California farmland from rampant sprawl

california_state_capitol_building_wikipedia_180x150.jpgCalifornia's super-productive farmland is being overrun by development projects. Sprawly exurban housing development and even solar projects threaten to gobble up all the Golden State's arable land. As of 2007, California was home to more than 25 million acres of cropland, but that's shrinking by more than 1 percent each year, according to the American Farmland Trust.

All's not lost, though: Two proposed bills could give a boost to California agriculture big and small, and potentially change the way the Golden State develops over the coming years.

Read more: Food, Politics


Even the Tea Party is pissed about the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’

Everybody’s gotta pitch in to bring down Hulk, er, Monsanto.
Denis Giles
Everybody’s gotta pitch in to bring down Hulk, er, Monsanto.

Feeling angry about the "Monsanto Protection Act"? You know, the sneakily passed piece of legislation that allows GMO crops to be planted even in defiance of a court order? Well, you’re not alone! The law is so scary that it's inspiring outrage from the far right.

It’s always a delight to see the left and right agree on anything, and when it comes to fighting genetically modified giant Monsanto, it may well take just that kind of a passionate coalition to get anything done.

But it’s not the GMO issue that’s turning Tea Party Patriot Dustin Siggins’ stomach — it’s the precedent this could set for other corporations that might want legal immunity. From Siggins' blog:

Read more: Food, Politics


All those fracking jobs come with an increased risk of lung cancer


While all the damage hydraulic fracturing could do to the Earth is pretty well-covered, we mostly overlook the risks it poses to fracking workers. Each well requires thousands of tons of fracking sand full of fine silica, which can penetrate lungs and lead to incurable silicosis and even lung cancer.

To find out how much those frackers were at risk, Eric Esswein, a workplace safety and exposure expert with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), strapped on a face mask and dug in. NPR reports:

He and his colleagues visited 11 fracking sites in five states: Arkansas, Colorado, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Texas. At every site, the researchers found high levels of silica in the air. It turned out that 79 percent of the collected samples exceeded the recommended exposure limit set by Esswein's agency.

There were some controls in place, says Esswein, who notes that "at every site that we went to, workers wore respirators."

But about one-third of the air samples they collected had such high levels of silica, the type of respirators typically worn wouldn't offer enough protection. ...

Read more: Climate & Energy


Sandy refugees set to be booted from NYC hotels

Coming up on the six-month anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, New York City is ready to move on. But more than 2,000 Sandy refugees still living in the city's hotels are not -- since they're, you know, homeless.

staten island new dorp sandy
John de Guzman
This is no longer a housing option -- and soon a hotel might not be either.

According to the city's Department of Homeless Services, upwards of 900 displaced families are living in more than 45 different hotels throughout the five boroughs. Since last October, more than 3,000 storm-swept families have spent one or more nights in a hotel through a city program, which is slated to end on April 30. A separate FEMA program does not yet have an end date.

"We're trying to get people focused on the future," Homeless Services commissioner Seth Diamond told The Wall Street Journal. That would be a future in which they might not have anywhere to live, apparently. Diamond said the city would be placing some people in public housing units, while others might receive federal Section 8 vouchers. Everyone else would apparently be on their own, with some potentially having to leave the city altogether.

From The New York Times:

Some housing experts and elected officials said the city’s reliance on hotels underscored how federal and local disaster planning had to be revised to include more emergency rental assistance.

“Why are we spending money on hotels instead of helping families pay the rent?” asked Rosanne Haggerty, president of Community Solutions, a nonprofit organization in New York that works to end homelessness. She added, “For a fraction of the cost, families could be in a stable situation and getting a running start in putting their lives together.”

The damage from Hurricane Sandy revealed how many residents of coastal areas in New York, especially in Brooklyn and Queens, were renters with low incomes.


Gene discovery could breed veggies for a warmer planet

Image (1) lettuce_425.jpg for post 35082The nearly $2 billion lettuce industries of California and Arizona are likely to get mighty wilted as temperatures in those hot states continue to rise. But science is here to save the day -- with GMOs.

A research team with USDA and National Science Foundation funding has identified a lettuce gene and enzyme that make the plants stop germinating when it's too hot -- so now scientists hope to tweak those lettuces to grow even when they naturally wouldn't. Currently growers have to cool soil and seeds with extra cool water, at great expense. The study, published in the journal The Planet Cell, was a collaboration between scientists at India's Ranga Agricultural University, the University of California at Davis, and scientists from Arcadia Biosciences.


Tar Sands Blockade wins sponsorship deal from Kryptonite bike locks

Disturbed by the recent tar-sands spills in Minnesota and Arkansas, Kryptonite lock company has decided to step up its efforts to protect the planet.

Today, the company offered corporate sponsorship to any of the Keystone XL pipeline protesters who raised the bar by chaining themselves to tar-sands equipment over the last year. (Needless to say, they've been burning through a lot of locks.)

Laura Borealis

"The people at Kryptonite have a pure passion for creating the best security in the world. And that includes creating security for the planet," the company said in a statement. “We recognized the blockaders for their creative use of our product, and we wanted to encourage more of their important work. Plus, Kryptonite's reinforced, anodyzed steel design resists removal 50 percent longer than competitors and is guaranteed to frustrate law enforcement.”

They may seem like odd bedfellows, but Kryptonite's products have already helped activists disrupt energy conferences and slow down pipeline construction.

Read more: Politics