Posts Tagged ‘Tamara Toles O’Laughlin’

posted by | on , , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care about Pollinator Protection?

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

As an urban environmentalist, I often find myself engaged in a hyper-conscious balancing act where I strive to prioritize meta issues of ecological import with the growing demands of the built environment. It requires a melding of world views and a mindful way of seeing, which mirrors the topography of any major city, layers upon layers of organic matter organized into neat and surreal spaces by use and design.  It’s a constant deconstruction of norms and assumptions in the service of holistic life.  Today, I’m curious about bees and what their survival means for the concrete nooks I call home.

Why should you care about pollinator protection?

The news is flush with information on the decline of bee colonies. Bees are dying off at an alarming rate thanks in no small part to insecticides and fungicides used on plants to prevent crop losses.  In particular, there is evidence that chemicals applied to signature US crops of modern American diet are linked to bee colony collapse.

What’s the big deal with bees?

bee-in-sweetpeaBees aren’t just the scourge of allergy allegory or the worry of weekend trips to sandy and grassy spaces. Bees are a landmark species. They are a marker of ecological health and an essential link in the food chain. Bees support hundreds of thousands of flowering plants through pollination and increase the yields of over ninety crops including but not limited to apples, blueberries, and cucumbers. Bee pollination forms the basis of growth for plants that quite literally provide us with lifesaving medicines. They cross-fertilize to give us a third of everything we eat.  Bees are the invisible engine of our agricultural system, which makes them kind of a big deal.

Predictions

The threat of a world without bees isn’t an abstract danger. A loss of wild and domestic bee colonies would affect the diversity and availability of foods available to the world population of roughly seven billion humans, which would feature approximately fifty percent of the fruit, vegetable, and agricultural food stores it now possesses. In short, what happens to them happens to us. Bees die off due to mass infections, susceptibility to poor nutrition, and illness from chemical exposure, and we do the same.

Responses and Solutions

Despite the bleak and dire forecast there are some plans in the works to address this issue and develop strategies to promote health of honeybees and other pollinators.  Our government is looking at the effects of large scale agricultural operations and related federal activities through the EPA’s Office of Pesticide Programs. In collaboration with public and private partners EPA has developed a proposal to protect bees, bats, and monarch butterflies which aims to reduce colony losses over the next ten years and restore or enhance lands for pollination.

albina-34431284019348nlf4In particular, the EPA Plan looks to mitigate losses by focusing on commercial pollination through label restrictions which warn of effects, and pesticide application engagement programs which are administered through managed pollination protection plans aimed at farmers and food growers.  These plans focus on the operational relationships between beekeepers and landowners who work together when bees are brought onto big farms to pollinate commercially (raise your hand if you knew they did that!) where pesticides have been applied.

EPA’s plans for mitigation are designed to better assess risk to pollinators, reduce potential risk from toxics, engage state and tribal partners, and expedite review of the managed plans.

What can you do to help the bees?

This effort will take more than federal interagency input and cooperation. The EPA is looking for public comments on its plan.  In fact, the public comment period was recently extended to July 29, 2015, from the original closing date of May 29, 2015. So, Ecowomen take a look at the plan and submit comments on the overall proposal, make your voice heard on landowner and beekeeper local agreements, and ways to evaluate plans effectiveness to reduce risks to bees. Additionally, the EPA needs more information on systemic pesticides, microbial pesticides before it advises on label changes on the affected chemicals by 2016.

Additionally, if you too are an urban environmentalist you can do a few things in your local community to support pollination. On your next trip to the farmer’s market support and purchase honey from your local bee man or woman.  At home, you can make your green space, yard or terrace and pots friendlier to bees by planting rosemary, and flowering plants such as the Black Eyed Susan, and avoid using pesticides to grow them during the warmer months. And if you are really feeling the call to action call upon your local government, council or representative to push for wholesale bans of toxic chemical applications in your local, municipal gardens and greenspaces.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on social and environmental justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and Vermont Law School.  Tamara has been a DC EcoWomen Board Member on the Professional Development Team since August 2014. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads,  travel, and yoga. 

posted by | on , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care about the Social Cost of Carbon?

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

I recently attended a briefing on the Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) sponsored by the Ayres Law Group and it set my wonky heart ablaze. It featured panelists from advocacy, policy, economic, and legal backgrounds who vividly discussed the future of this calculation which is intended to bring environmental damages or externalities back into the conversation on federal enterprise regulation. While eating up the jargon and enjoying the jockeying between doctorates, I thought that it might be fun to write a blog post and make it plain since, numbers aside, it’s actively being used to help humans calculate damages to the environment over large expanses of time, when they make stuff.

05a.Industrial.PC.VA.4jun06_(167428560)The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines the SCC as the economic damages assessed per metric ton of carbon dioxide emissions. Plainly put, it is the dollar figure attached to a specific amount of global carbon pollution. In the real world, this figure is used to develop a cost/benefit analysis that helps a project manager, developer or government define the savings realized by avoiding an action that puts carbon dioxide into the air we breathe.  Assigning costs and liabilities helps businesses make decisions about where and whether to set up shop.  The SCC is intended to make it easier to capture the full picture/bottom line on climate impacts by attaching that impact to dollars spent now and in the future. Government uses this calculation to define the present benefit of rules it makes to stem the negative effects of activity on the environment later.

President Obama has been an increasingly vocal advocate for an aggressive response to the impending reality that American style energy use has a negative global impact that contributes to climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions.  Cap and trade was originally proposed as a means to limit these impacts by creating a controlled system (delineated by a reduced impact target) for a steadily decreasing number of permits (i.e. rights) to pollute. It failed to get through the Senate and the President responded with a series of executive actions, including mandates, regulations, measurements, and fees to allow federal agencies like the EPA and the Department of Energy (DOE) to do what Congress could not, i.e. something.

The SCC monetizes the cost of doing business so that policies directed at big picture mitigation of climate change can fight static cost estimates with dynamic cost estimates. It also provides a neat and tidy-ish calculus as the reason to take or not take an action in the business world, making it a business decision regardless of whether it is a moral one.  It is a heck of a conversion that transforms trees, air, and life itself into figures, regression charts, and tables. In doing so, it engages large scale undertakings in their own language of profits and losses.

unnamedThere is some controversy about how the SCC is formulated. In fact, there are varying opinions on whether and how to fix that cost, what numbers accurately make up an appropriate period of time to measure impacts, and items such as what amount is an accurate reflection of the feasibility of an air conditioner or heat pump regulation, or whether a community building project gets beyond the environmental impact assessments required under the National Environmental Policy Act.   

Beyond fixing the issues of how much time captures the complete damage of carbon and whose dollar amount best represents that loss, SCC is important because it helps decision makers know what science to apply, how dangerous an activity will be, and what species, environments, and ecosystems will be affected by the increase in carbon represented by an activity. So why care? Because we should all know how far into the future our infrastructure decisions affect warming seas, mass migration, species extinction, and ecosystem failure. And that information isn’t just for wonks.

For more in- depth discussion of SCC Fund Models and other enviro tech details click here and here.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on social and environmental justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and Vermont Law School.  Tamara has been a DC EcoWomen Board Member on the Professional Development Team since August 2014. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads,  travel, and yoga.