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Despite Biden’s promises, logging still threatens old forests and U.S. climate goals

Grist - 4 hours 58 min ago

On Earth Day 2022, President Joe Biden signed an executive order to protect important but overlooked partners in the fight against climate change: mature and old-growth forests that sequester carbon, without charging a dime. 

It came as a major relief to advocates, after four years of conservation rollbacks and climate science manipulation under President Donald Trump, which encouraged aggressive logging. Mature and old-growth trees provide essential ecosystems for the many organisms living within and beneath them, and protect the water quality of nearby communities, lakes, and streams by preventing erosion. They also fix nitrogen, which improves soil quality and ensures the health of the whole forest. 

Due to centuries of logging, most of these older trees are now only found on federal lands. Executive Order 14072 directed the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to define and inventory mature and old-growth forests on federal lands — those having taken generations to develop — and then to craft new policies to protect them.

But in spite of Biden’s recent commitment, federal agencies continue to move dozens of logging projects forward in federal forests across the United States, putting over 300,000 acres at risk, according to a recent report by non-profit group, Climate Forests. Lauren Anderson, climate forest program manager for the conservation group Oregon Wild, said that’s in part due to a glaring omission in the Biden administration’s executive order. “It did not highlight logging as a threat,” Anderson said.

Before (left) and after (right) photos from a Bureau of Land Management timber sale at Nails Creek near Cheshire, Oregon. Doug Heiken

As a result, chopping and hauling out mature and old-growth trees in critical ecosystems across the U.S. continues while the federal government works on counting what’s growing where. Swaths of bigleaf maples and Douglas firs in Oregon’s Rogue-Umpqua Divide, are among those recently axed, or marked to be logged any day now. The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Poor Windy Project in southwest Oregon contains 4,573 acres of mature and old-growth stands held in public trust—that are now being sold to timber companies. They’re some of the most carbon rich forests in the world, home to black bears and northern spotted owls.

Joseph Vaile, climate program director at Klamath Siskiyou Wildlands Center, says protecting these remaining elders couldn’t be more urgent. “In a lot of places, they’re [already] gone,” Vaile says.

BLM’s support for logging in these kinds of forests dates back to the 1930’s. The Oregon and California Revested Lands Sustained Yield Management Act placed over two million acres under the agency’s control, with the aim of ensuring the perpetual flow of timber for wood products.

But Vaile says the law’s objective, and the agency culture it codified, is outdated. “Since then, our economy and our social structures have completely transitioned away from an old-growth logging economy to a more diversified economy,” he says. “Instead of going after old-growth trees, what we should be doing is protecting people from fire, adapting these forests to climate change, and protecting water sources.”

It’s a nationwide problem. Timber sales are also underway in a 12,000 acre patch of the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest known as the Fourmile Vegetation Project, in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. Here, lichen-draped upland hardwoods mingle with red pines and aspens, creating a rich habitat for moose and endangered gray wolves. Though much of the landscape is still recovering from continuous logging, over half of the trees are 80 years and older; and a third are centenarians.

These mature and old-growth trees store more carbon than younger trees, so it’s imperative that we protect them, says Carolyn Ramírez, staff scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We can’t just cut them down and replant them and expect to have a net-zero carbon impact. It will take decades for that carbon to be restored in these forests, as well as all the myriad ecological benefits that leaving the trees provides,” Ramírez says. One mature tree can remove over 48 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere over the course of a year. The majority of that carbon-sequestering capacity occurs in the second half of a tree’s life, researchers have learned.

Ramírez visited Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in October, where further timber sales are currently underway. The difference in ecological diversity and surface temperature between areas where mature trees still grew, and others where the Forest Service had recently logged was “jarring,” Ramírez said. In addition to other ecosystem services, forests provide cooler microclimates for those nearby, which is significant in and of itself in a rapidly-warming world.

In response to a 2021 request by environmental groups to suspend and review operations at the Fourmile Vegetation Project on the grounds that continued logging there was at odds with national objectives on the climate crisis, Forest Service Chief Randy Moore wrote that the project would: “maintain or enhance existing forest research studies; contribute toward fulfilling demand for wood products; provide a safe and effective road system; increase public safety related to wildfire potential; and maintain or enhance recreation experiences.”

But Andy Olsen, a senior policy advocate for the Environmental Law & Policy Center, said those arguments don’t add up. For instance, the old trees harvested from the area are currently slated to be sold as pulpwood, for things like paper and plywood. In other words, mature and old-growth trees logged as part of this project will be ground down into a low-value timber product that could just as easily be produced by younger trees, grown on plantations that store less carbon and don’t serve as keystones to their ecosystems—which the Forest Service has plenty of, Olsen says. “They’re choosing to rush forward with these sales of very important lands. Why these forests, why now?” he said.

Other elements of the Forest Service’s justification are problematic as well. For example, older trees are actually more resistant to wildfires than younger ones. The ongoing timber sales are also at odds with the Biden administration’s global climate commitments, Olsen added, such as seeking to protect 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

Federal agencies have until Earth Day 2023 to define mature and old-growth forests, and to complete their inventory. As of this writing, over 130,000 people have submitted public comments urging the Department of Interior and the Department of Agriculture to set this definition at “80 years and older;” and a coalition of environmental groups is pushing for those agencies to propose what some advocates refer to as a “golden rule” for logging—one that would explicitly prohibit the logging of trees defined as mature and old-growth, given their unique carbon-capturing and biodiversity-protecting powers.

In the meantime, in an attempt to protect thousands of acres of majestic trees, groups including the Great Lakes Indian Fish & Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC) are also urging the Biden administration to pause logging in areas of concern—many of which are on tribal lands—until the inventory is complete. As Michael J. Isham, executive administrator for the GLIFWC wrote to the Forest Service in August 2022, doing so would help “to ensure that future generations of Ojibwe people can continue their Treaty protected relationship with all natural beings.”

Earlier this year, academic researchers published the first study to comprehensively map mature and old-growth forests in the U.S. Advocates say these maps, in support of the government’s inventory could usher in a new approach to forestry—one where trees are treated as venerable colleagues in the fight against the climate crisis.

Anderson, of Oregon Wild, added that currently, there’s no technology capable of pulling carbon out of the atmosphere at the scale that mature and old-growth trees can. “Getting forest managers to really think about old-growth trees the same way that other states think about [renewable technologies like] solar panels and wind turbines is the culture shift that needs to happen,” she said.

The Climate Forests Coalition works to protect mature and old-growth trees and forests from logging across America’s public lands as a cornerstone of U.S. climate policy.


This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Despite Biden’s promises, logging still threatens old forests and U.S. climate goals on Nov 28, 2022.

Categories: H. Green News

‘Free Water’ Was Never Free, Writes a Historian of the American West

The Revelator - 8 hours 11 min ago

The West uses too much water. For such a simple problem, the obvious solution — use less — lies frustratingly out of reach.

That inability to change may seem hard to understand, but the root of the problem becomes clearer if we consider the role of the West in the historical development of the United States:

The purpose of our system of “free water” — heavily subsidized water for irrigation — was to provide opportunities to settlers.

The frontier has served an important function in the Euro-American imagination since before there was a United States. For historians of the American West like me, the significance of the frontier has been at the center of our field for more than a century. Thomas Jefferson made the most notable case for westward expansion, prescribing it to relieve the social and political pressures that were building up as eastern populations grew and fought over limited resources. By the mid-1800s policymakers believed his ideal of yeoman homesteaders and their patchwork of farms was the Manifest Destiny of the United States’ exceptional democracy.

But that ideal never made it all the way across the continent. It ran into a problem right around the 100th meridian, west of which there wasn’t enough rainfall for agriculture.

Agriculture would require irrigation. A lot of it.

Colorado desert irrigation in 1990. Photo: Gary Todd (public domain)

To solve this problem, the United States formed the Reclamation Service (the precursor to the Bureau of Reclamation) just over a decade after the frontier closed in 1890. While the federal government wasn’t quite powerful or rich enough, at the time, to construct many major irrigation projects, the Service provided a signal of the nation’s commitment to investing in the West as a site for settlement. It was too important a project to leave to private irrigation companies and too much work for individual homesteaders. As historian Donald Pisani put it in his book Water and American Government, “Federal reclamation was the last stage of Manifest Destiny.”

With the New Deal, the Bureau of Reclamation came into its own: Hoover Dam, completed in 1935 as the world’s largest dam, served as a symbol for the country’s ability to conquer nature.

Progressives championed desert reclamation at the turn of the century, but the federal government’s willingness to build infrastructure and give water away on extravagantly lenient terms was just as appealing for conservatives after World War II. Even Barry Goldwater, while courting the libertarians of the nascent New Right, advocated for the federally funded Central Arizona Project in his home state so that farmers could grow cotton in the Sonoran Desert.

That’s the defining contradiction of life in the West: “Government,” in Western parlance, was and is the stuff of restrictions, even when it’s the government that underwrites ever-popular sprawl.

While some made fortunes off this deluge of government spending, the enrichment of a few landowners was not the policy objective. Rather, the purpose of all the free water was to retain the West as a “safety valve,” a place of refuge for those who wanted to avoid the taxes and regulations of the East. But to accommodate growth without limits as the population boomed, the region would need to heighten the contradictions and become increasingly profligate with its scarcest resource.

Agriculture was once the means for permanent settlement of the arid West, and it continues to drive water consumption today. Around 80% of Colorado River water goes toward agriculture. About half of that is directed toward alfalfa hay that feeds cattle, an extremely inefficient way to provide calories for humans.

AZ must reduce water usage by 21% — and smaller cuts are needed in NV and Mexico — to avoid a “catastrophic collapse” of the Colorado River, the U.S. govt says.

The area is facing its worst drought in 1,200 years — now ongoing for 23 years — largely due to the climate crisis.

— AJ+ (@ajplus) August 18, 2022

Agricultural water rights are some of the oldest in the West, and water law here revolves around seniority. Yet even if there were a ready legal pathway to divert water away from alfalfa fields, the fact remains that the apparatus for western water delivery was simply not built with a regulatory lever. The underlying imperative to grow without limits would inevitably lead back to a state of crisis.

Consider St. George, Utah. The fastest growing metropolitan area in the country consumes almost no agricultural water, yet its lawns and golf courses quickly suck up its scarce water supply. The city, a popular destination for retirees, is expected to double in population by 2050. Officials now find themselves struggling to find sources of water for the surge in residents. What is quickly becoming a crisis for humans is also creating additional pressure on other species such as the endangered woundfin and Virgin River chub.

Sprawl in St. George, Utah. Photo: Murray Foubister (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The system’s deference to ideology over pragmatism is clear when it comes to the Basin’s 30 Native American Tribes. Collectively, they control about 20% of the water rights in the Colorado River system, yet many of those rights consist of “paper water.” They’re unrealized due to a lack of infrastructure. Building the necessary water projects for the Tribes would not only cost money but also push the system past the point of collapse. The very viability of the free water system depends on a de facto denial of the water rights of Indigenous nations, just as broken treaties facilitated the “free land” policy of the 19th century.

Free water was destined to run out eventually. Facing this problem in the West will be difficult, considering that politics and culture have worked in tandem for so long to keep “government” out of government-subsidized water. It’s unclear whether the system can be retrofitted with an off switch and whether the necessary governments can work together to do so before the Colorado River system crashes.

So how do we move forward? Ending the current subsidies seems the most commonsense solution — as well as the most unlikely to gain political traction.

Another possible solution: commodities trading. The classic solution for an imbalance of supply and demand is to introduce markets. Yet applying this approach to western water faces logistical challenges and can do little about longstanding problems of equity.

Still, the problem is big enough that all interventions may be necessary. Perhaps these first two ideas can be implemented. And perhaps we can think bigger.

One way forward is for the government to recognize the inherent worth of natural waterways, rejecting the premise that all fresh water must be consumed. Giving legal rights to ecosystems is the goal of the rights of nature movement, which has had some success across the world and even in the U.S. West. The organization Save the Colorado helped the communities of Ridgway, Nederland, and Grand Lake in Colorado pass resolutions recognizing the intrinsic rights of their watersheds. I’m part of an organization, Save Our Great Salt Lake, that’s exploring a similar strategy.

Wherever the future leads, the aridification of the American West will have consequences not just for those living here, but for the entire country.

It’s conceivable that westerners will adapt more readily to a drier climate than the rest of the nation will adapt to the loss of a region that functions as a safety valve. At any rate, we’re approaching the end of an era in which water was taken for granted. Just as human beings physically depend on water, our policies and conversations need to align with the water cycle.

The opinions expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Revelator, the Center for Biological Diversity or their employees.

Previously in The Revelator:

Left Out to Dry: Wildlife Threatened by Colorado River Basin Water Crisis

The post ‘Free Water’ Was Never Free, Writes a Historian of the American West appeared first on The Revelator.

Categories: H. Green News

Herschel Walker, South Park, and the Prius: How loving gas-guzzlers became political

Grist - 9 hours 26 min ago

On the campaign trail earlier this month, U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker from Georgia delivered a strange defense of vehicles that spew gobs of pollution, celebrating their inefficiency. Walker, a Republican who’s facing a runoff race against Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, told supporters at a rally in Peachtree, Georgia, that America isn’t “ready for the green agenda.”

“What we need to do is keep having those gas-guzzling cars,” Walker said. “We got the good emissions under those cars.” 

It was a moment when Walker’s absurd remarks actually squared with the party’s line (unlike, say, his comments about America’s “good air” deciding to float over to China). Republicans have said similar things over the years, displaying a worldview that fossil fuels have inherent virtue, once described as “carbonism.” It’s the belief system that drove former President Donald Trump to bar California from setting stricter emissions standards in 2019, and what led Republican congressmen to defend fossil fuels at the international climate negotiations in Egypt earlier this month.

This pro-pollution point of view can be partly explained by the GOP’s close connection to the oil industry, which funnels millions into Republican campaigns every election year. Walker’s celebration of gas guzzlers can also be understood as a reaction to the notion, quiet but widespread among many environmentally conscious people, that cleaner cars are morally superior.

In 2000, the United States was introduced to the Toyota Prius, marketed as a holier-than-thou, eco-friendly choice. The hybrid car set off a backlash so intense, you can still hear its echoes today. Prius owners were parodied in the cartoon South Park. On the road, hybrid drivers were sometimes blasted by clouds of thick black smoke, targeted by truck owners who had removed their emissions controls. A popular bumper sticker of the mid-2010s simply read “Prius Repellent.” Even Toyota embraced the image with ironic ads.

Today, gasoline-free vehicles are finally starting to go mainstream. When the all-electric version of the Ford F-150 pickup truck — America’s longtime bestselling vehicle, and a favorite among Republicans — was released this spring, its waitlist was three years long. Sales of electric vehicles were up nearly 70 percent in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period last year. And 36 percent of Americans reported that they were considering buying an electric vehicle for their next car, according to polling by Consumer Reports this summer, largely because of high gas prices and cost savings over the long term. For many, the environmental benefits may be just a bonus — or not even be a consideration.

“I don’t have the disposable income to throw $50,000 or $60,000 at a car just to help the environment,” Russell Grooms, a librarian in Virginia who bought a battery-powered Nissan Leaf, recently told the New York Times. “It really came down to numbers.”

In a Prius commercial from 2008, a hitman drags a body out of his car in the middle of the night and dumps it in the river. “Well, at least he drives a Prius,” the ad says.

It was one of many advertisements that poked fun at the car’s environmental bona fides. The joke relies on understanding that driving a Prius is a form of moral “capital” that can be used to “offset life’s other sins,” wrote Sarah McFarland Taylor, a religion scholar, in the book Ecopiety: Green Media and the Dilemma of Environmental Virtue. 

Buying a Prius isn’t really that pious an act. After all, the vehicle takes a lot of fossil fuels to manufacture and runs mostly on gasoline. The most eco-friendly move: not buying a car at all. But that didn’t stop the hybrid from taking off as a righteous choice. Within two years of its release in America, the Prius had gathered a long list of celebrity owners, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and Larry David. In 2002, the Washington Post called the Prius “Hollywood’s latest politically correct status symbol.” 

For conservative commentators, that symbol made for a ripe target. “The bottom line here is that people that are buying Priuses are doing it for glamor reasons,” Rush Limbaugh said on his radio show in 2005. “They wanted to appear virtuous. But they’re accomplishing nothing … These liberals think they’re ahead of the game on these things, and they’re just suckers.”

It wasn’t just Limbaugh. In 2006, South Park devoted an entire episode, called “Smug Alert,” to making fun of holier-than-thou Prius owners. It opens with Kyle’s dad, Gerald, showing off his new hybrid car, the “Toyonda Pious.” 

“I just couldn’t sit back and be a part of destroying the Earth anymore,” Gerald tells his neighbor with a condescending smile.

“Well, there goes the high and mighty Gerald Broflovski,” one onlooker comments. “Yeah, ever since he got that new hybrid he thinks he’s better than everyone else,” another says. Not long after the episode aired, a market research firm found that 57 percent of Prius owners said the main reason they bought one was that “it makes a statement about me,” versus 36 percent who said they bought it for the good gas mileage.

The car remained popular — hitting the mark of 1 million vehicles sold by 2011 — and so did parodying it. In 2012, the satirical news site The Onion made a commercial about a new, even greener Prius that “reduces its driver’s carbon footprint to zero by impaling them through the lungs with spikes as soon as they get in the car.” 

The air of moral superiority around the Prius led to real-life consequences. Certain pickup truck owners took joy in rebelling against it, rolling up in front of hybrids and engulfing the vehicles in plumes of tailpipe smoke. This testosterone-fueled practice of “rolling coal” — modifying diesel engines to spew clouds of sooty exhaust — became a health menace in the mid-2010s. Directed at electric car owners, pedestrians, bikers, or anyone unlucky enough to be in the vicinity, rolling coal became for these aficionados a defiant symbol of American freedom — signaling “don’t tell me what to do.”

When states moved to ban rolling coal, some drivers pushed back, the New York Times reported in 2016. “Why don’t you go live in Sweden and get the heck out of our country,” one diesel truck owner wrote to an Illinois state representative who proposed a $5,000 fine for removing emissions equipment. “I will continue to roll coal anytime I feel like and fog your stupid eco-cars.”

One of the pitfalls of framing environmental concerns in moral terms is that it can provoke a counterreaction, especially when tied to individual behavior. One study found that listening to eco-friendly tips actually makes people less likely to do anything about climate change. Think about eating meat, often discussed as a moral issue among people concerned about animal rights or climate change. Fast-food chains like Taco Bell and Burger King have expanded their vegetarian menu items; meanwhile, Arby’s has leaned into the opposing “pro-meat” demographic. In 2018, Arby’s ran an ad with the tagline “Friends don’t let friends eat tofu.” The following year, the chain trolled vegans by introducing the “marrot,” a carrot made out of meat.

As America has grown more and more polarized, seemingly innocuous things have become associated with the other party, from pizza chains to sports leagues. One in five voters say that politics has hurt their friendships; there’s a growing aversion to dating people from the opposite party. With hybrids and electric vehicles owned most often by Democrats, Republicans like Walker might try to distance themselves from their perceived enemies by signaling their affection for fuel-hungry vehicles.

To be sure, the environment is still a major reason to buy a greener car for many Americans, especially among those on the political left. Almost three-quarters of those who would consider buying an electric vehicle said that helping the environment was a key consideration, according to polling from Pew Research. And in a survey released this month, 10 percent of Americans said it was “morally wrong” to drive a car that gets bad gas mileage. But even as they’re rolling out new electric models, car companies don’t seem to be chasing efficiency — instead, they’re making big trucks and SUVs. And they’re gaining popularity across party lines.

Aside from some lingering resentment against eco-friendly cars and what Walker called the “green agenda,” the United States seems to be moving beyond the hangups that surrounded the Prius. Over the last decade, the success of Tesla — which marketed its vehicles as cool and desirable, not a virtuous choice — paved the way for other carmakers to follow in hot pursuit. 

“The [Tesla] Model S completely delivered on its promise to change how the world thought about electric cars,” Jake Fisher, the senior director of Consumer Reports’ auto center, said earlier this year. “EVs were no longer the vegetables you should eat — they became the dessert you desired.”

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Herschel Walker, South Park, and the Prius: How loving gas-guzzlers became political on Nov 28, 2022.

Categories: H. Green News

As the outdoor industry ditches ‘forever chemicals,’ REI lags behind

Grist - 9 hours 41 min ago

Last week, REI Co-op stores around the country closed for Black Friday. It’s a company tradition dating back to 2015, where the outdoor retailer asks customers to “opt outside” rather than participate in a post-Thanksgiving shopping spree. 

But there’s one thing that REI hasn’t yet opted out of: a class of compounds known as “forever chemicals.” By using these chemicals in its water-resistant outdoor clothing, a coalition of nonprofits and health experts says REI is needlessly polluting the environment and damaging people’s health.

“It’s ironic that a company like REI … is selling products that are contaminating some of the most beautiful and wild places,” said Mike Schade, a program director for the nonprofit Toxic-Free Future. Similar companies such as Patagonia have already committed to phasing out per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — known as PFAS — and Schade’s organization is calling on REI to do the same.

PFAS comprise a class of chemicals that have been used in consumer products since the mid-19th century — often to give stain- and water-resistant properties to products like nonstick cookware, food packaging, and outdoor clothing. The problem, however, is that PFAS are linked to cancer, metabolic disorders, reduced fertility, and other health problems. Plus, they don’t break down once they escape into the environment, hence the nickname “forever chemicals.” Scientists are now finding PFAS just about everywhere they look — in drinking water, in breastmilk, in people’s bloodstreams. Even rainwater is now contaminated with unsafe levels of PFAS.

PFAS “tend to get into everything” and pose serious risks to public health, said Jimena Díaz Leiva, science director for the nonprofit Center for Environmental Health. They’re released not only by shearing off of contaminated materials like clothing, but at the manufacturing stage, where large quantities may enter the environment through wastewater or airborne particles.

REI is hardly the only company whose products have tested positive for PFAS. Toxic-Free Future organizers say they are targeting REI because it’s a large and well-respected outdoor retailer. REI doesn’t just produce its own lines of clothing, but also sells items from a huge array of other brands: The North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, Mammut, and Black Diamond, just to name a few. Some of these brands have already committed to phasing out PFAS. Still, Schade said REI could nudge them to move faster by screening products for PFAS, in addition to phasing the toxic materials from its own product lines.

REI has “a massive influence over the policies of the companies whose products they sell,” Schade said. “Requiring their suppliers to ban PFAS in their products … can have a ripple effect across the outdoor industry.”

REI says on its website that it’s already stopped using two of the most well-studied “forever” compounds — so-called “long-chain” PFAS known as PFOA and PFOS — and replaced them with short-chain PFAS “where viable alternatives do not yet exist.” But researchers warn short-chain PFAS may be just as problematic as their long-chain counterparts in terms of the threats they pose to environmental and human health.. 

In response to Grist’s request for comment, REI said it was “in the process of eliminating all remaining PFAS from our own products,” but it didn’t address questions about a timeline for that transition. 

REI hasn’t elaborated publicly on the barriers it faces as it moves away from PFAS. But accounts from other retailers describe a similar problem: It’s been hard to find PFAS replacements that are equally effective when creating durable outdoor products. 

PFAS give stain- and water-resistant properties to products like cookware, food packaging, and outdoor clothing. SSPL / Getty Images

PFAS worked “really, really well,” said Matt Dwyer, vice president of product impact and innovation for the outdoor clothing company Patagonia, which plans to eliminate PFAS from its products by 2024. For years, his company and others relied on the now-infamous class of chemicals to make rain gear waterproof — either by applying the chemicals externally in a “durable, water-repellent” finish, known in industry-speak as “DWR,” or by weaving them into a waterproof membrane that can be sandwiched between layers of fabric.

Early replacement candidates didn’t measure up, Dwyer said, likening them to “an artist’s hammer and chisel” next to the “dynamite” of PFAS. The alternatives also resulted in product side effects that compromised sustainability in other ways: Some early versions of a PFAS-free finish caused garments to fall apart, increasing concerns over textile waste

Still, some brands seem to have found sufficient solutions to move forward. Retailers including Marmot and Mountain Hardwear have released successful lines of PFAS-free items. Officials from Polartec, which makes fabrics for companies including Black Diamond and The North Face, switched to PFAS-free DWR treatments in July 2021 and has noted “no loss of performance from a water repellency or durability standpoint.” The outdoor brand Jack Wolfskin says they’ve already gone PFAS-free.

Swedish outdoor brand Fjällräven, which claims to be PFAS-free except for its zippers, says the only thing PFAS-free technologies seem unable to do is repel oil. But that’s a compromise the company says it’s been willing to make to address an urgent threat to public health and the environment. 

Why do these companies report such success while others haven’t? It’s unclear, since competitive clothing brands are generally tight-lipped about their PFAS replacements. Lydia Jahl, a science and policy associate for the nonprofit Green Science Policy Institute, said companies may be resistant to the costs of switching their product lines, or they may be running into supply chain issues. (Large fabric suppliers may not be ready to ditch PFAS, even when the retailers buying their materials are.) 

Some experts argue the challenges companies say they face when eliminating PFAS are overblown; after all, people have been making clothing for extreme sports since long before PFAS became ubiquitous. Back then, companies used wax-like finishes to keep water from soaking through their clothing. The British Air Force simply used tightly-woven cotton fabric.

In addition to bringing back some of those older techniques, today’s retailers have a growing number of options to replace PFAS. Fabrics from Marmot and Jack Wolfskin are using polyurethane, a kind of plastic material, to help repel water. Other companies use brand-name treatments like Empel and Bionic Finish Eco that market themselves as environmentally friendly. 

“There are alternatives,” Jahl said. “If they invest and put more resources into it, there are really good materials chemists … who can figure out the replacements for these companies.”

Schade, meanwhile, is hoping state legislation will force companies’ hands. California recently enacted a law to eliminate “intentionally added” PFAS from most apparel by 2025, and — because companies are unlikely to create separate product lines just for California — the law is expected to set a national industry standard. REI says it supports the law, which won’t apply to outdoor clothing for “severe wet conditions” until January 1, 2028.

Washington state is also eyeing stricter regulations for PFAS; the Evergreen State’s Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, signed a bill this spring that is expected to result in a quicker phaseout of the toxic substances, although a timeline hasn’t yet been specified.
“We are hopeful that these policies will prompt REI to reformulate their products,” Schade said — ideally, faster than the laws require. “The company has shown it can both do well and do good at the same time,” he said, pointing to its commitments on climate change and other hazardous chemicals. “We’d like to see REI be a leader and do the right thing to tackle chemicals that have polluted the drinking water for millions of Americans.”

Editor’s note: Patagonia is an advertiser with Grist. Advertisers have no role in Grist’s editorial decisions.

This story was originally published by Grist with the headline As the outdoor industry ditches ‘forever chemicals,’ REI lags behind on Nov 28, 2022.

Categories: H. Green News

Sawalmem – Healing our Relationship with the Earth – Interview with Michael ‘Pom’ Preston

Red, Green, and Blue - Sun, 11/27/2022 - 09:00

In his uplifting and internationally-acclaimed short film One Word Sawalmem, co-director Michael “Pom” Preston of the Winnemem Wintu tribe of Mt. Shasta, California gives us a rare look into the life of local Native cultural bearers – people who hold humanity’s most intimate knowledge about how to live in balance with the Earth and how […]

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Categories: H. Green News

Sen. Tina Smith, Rep. Paul Tonko to speak at Citizens’ Climate Lobby virtual conference

Red, Green, and Blue - Sun, 11/27/2022 - 06:15

The midterms have been pivotal in forecasting the political leanings of the next Congress, and Citizens’ Climate Lobby is poised to make a difference no matter who is in office. One way to make sure that you’re fully prepared for climate action going into the new year is to attend CCL’s free, virtual December conference! […]

The post Sen. Tina Smith, Rep. Paul Tonko to speak at Citizens’ Climate Lobby virtual conference appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

Action – Tell Congress to respect and protect Native American sacred places NOW!

Red, Green, and Blue - Sun, 11/27/2022 - 04:59

November is Native American Heritage month. But like the climate talks that just wrapped up in Egypt, the US Government’s approach to honoring Native people has been more “blah, blah, blah.” By RL Miller Climate Hawks Vote Exhibit A: Hundreds of Indigenous sacred sites across the country have been destroyed by the climate crisis and harmful […]

The post Action – Tell Congress to respect and protect Native American sacred places NOW! appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

FIFA World Cup: With climate change, will there still be a World Cup in 2100?

Red, Green, and Blue - Sat, 11/26/2022 - 17:00

Many major sports gatherings have been rocked by extreme weather events in recent years. A typhoon forced the postponement of several matches during the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. The air became unbreathable during the 2020 Australian Tennis Open because of bush fires. The Olympic Marathon was relocated further north to escape the oppressive […]

The post FIFA World Cup: With climate change, will there still be a World Cup in 2100? appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

NAACP climate director explains why now is the time to fight environmental racism

Red, Green, and Blue - Sat, 11/26/2022 - 12:00

For over a century, the NAACP, one of the nation’s leading civil rights organizations, has worked to combat racial discrimination and segregation. Through litigation, get-out-the-vote efforts and policy work, the organization has fought for fair housing, voting rights, education and criminal justice reform, among other initiatives. By Jessica Kutz The 19th News In more recent […]

The post NAACP climate director explains why now is the time to fight environmental racism appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

Next weekend, join Citizens’ Climate Lobby for their virtual climate conference online and in DC!

Red, Green, and Blue - Sat, 11/26/2022 - 09:00

With the recent midterm elections resulting in a divided Congress next year, Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s bipartisan approach will be critical in moving climate solutions forward. CCL’s volunteers will gather for a virtual conference early in December to prepare for the advocacy work that lies ahead.   By Steve Valk Citizens’ Climate Lobby Who: Citizens’ Climate Lobby volunteers […]

The post Next weekend, join Citizens’ Climate Lobby for their virtual climate conference online and in DC! appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

Greta Thunberg joins 630+ youth activists in climate lawsuit against Sweden

Red, Green, and Blue - Sat, 11/26/2022 - 06:24

Climate leader Greta Thunberg was among 636 young adults and children who submitted a class-action lawsuit against the Swedish government at a district court in Stockholm on Friday, arguing that the country’s right-wing leaders are failing to obey the Swedish constitution as they continue allowing planet-heating fossil fuel extraction. By Julia Conley Common Dreams About 2,000 […]

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Categories: H. Green News

What are you doing this holiday weekend? Can you devote a little time to electing a climate-friendly Senate?

Red, Green, and Blue - Sat, 11/26/2022 - 06:13

After the holiday weekend, you’ll wake up on Monday and there will be only 8 days left until Election Day in the Georgia US Senate runoff. Monday will also mark the beginning of in-person early voting for most Georgians (a few counties have already begun), and so I’m writing you this morning with a simple […]

The post What are you doing this holiday weekend? Can you devote a little time to electing a climate-friendly Senate? appeared first on Red, Green, and Blue.

Categories: H. Green News

Half of Replanted Tropical Trees Don’t Survive, New Study Finds

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 17:07

On average, about half of trees planted in tropical and sub-tropical forest restoration efforts do not survive more than five years, but there is enormous variation in outcomes, new research has found.

Categories: H. Green News

Iron-Rich Dust From South America Played Role in Last Two Glacial Periods, Says Study

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 17:02

Dust from the high Andes of southern Bolivia and northern Argentina was an important source of iron for the nutrient-deficient South Pacific in the last two glacial cycles, especially at the beginnings of these cycles.

Categories: H. Green News

Quantifying the Impact of Vegetation Changes on Water Availability

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 17:00

Dr Chris Huntingford from the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology collaborated on a new study which explains how global water availability is affected by changes in vegetation cover.

Categories: H. Green News

Less Intensively Managed Grasslands Have Higher Plant Diversity and Better Soil Health, Research Shows

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 16:58

Researchers have shown - for the first time - that less intensively managed British grazed grasslands have on average 50% more plant species and better soil health than intensively managed grassland.

Categories: H. Green News

Thanksgiving Weekend Weather: Mild for Most, Rainy for Some

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 12:05

As we head into Thanksgiving, NOAA forecasters anticipate temperatures close to seasonal normals in most areas of the country, but there will be increased chances of precipitation in some places. 

Categories: H. Green News

NASA Program Predicted Impact of Small Asteroid Over Ontario, Canada

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 12:04

2022 WJ1 was a tiny asteroid on a collision course with Earth. But astronomers saw it coming, and NASA’s Scout impact hazard assessment system calculated where it would hit.

Categories: H. Green News

NASA Satellite Precipitation Data Joins the Air Force

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 12:03

Rain gauges are plentiful around the United States, but that’s not the case elsewhere in the world – particularly over oceans and sparsely populated areas. 

Categories: H. Green News

Synthetic Fibres Discovered in Antarctic Samples Show the ‘Pristine’ Continent Is Now a Sink for Plastic Pollution

Environment News Service - Fri, 11/25/2022 - 12:01

As nations prepare to meet in Uruguay to negotiate a new Global Plastics Treaty, a new study has revealed the discovery of synthetic plastic fibres in air, seawater, sediment and sea ice sampled in the Antarctic Weddell Sea. 

Categories: H. Green News


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