Peter Dykstra: Tomb of the unknown stories
The National Butterfly Center, Mission, Texas.

Peter Dykstra: Tomb of the unknown stories

Build the wall, make the butterflies pay for it.

Like many Americans, I sat slackjawed this week as the two most powerful Democrats in the nation hectored the President as if they were both 12-year-olds. And the President, off on a tear about who would pay for his border wall, behaved like a 9-year-old.


Meanwhile, the San Antonio Express-News reported on one quiet group that will pay for the Wall: butterflies.

Yes, butterflies. Moving north each year in gangs like the Monarchs, butterflies find sanctuary at the cleverly-named National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, just west of the border city of McAllen.

Plans for Wall construction would bisect the Center, putting 70 percent of it outside the Wall. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court rejected an appeal by several environmental groups, who had sued over the Trump Administration's waiver allowing Wall construction to ignore 28 environmental laws that might trip up the project.

The Wall would also slice through a nearby state park and a National Wildlife Refuge. And there's a bonus indignity: The Wall is two miles inland from the Rio Grande, the actual US-Mexico border – effectively ceding a big swath of riverside land to Mexico and negating the private property rights of ranchers and farmers, not just butterfly lovers.

The Butterfly Center has floated a new lawsuit, and is raising money through a GoFundMe page. As of this week, the page has raised less than 10 percent of its $100,000 goal.

Glyphosate grows up

For years, glyphosate was something of a rock star among herbicides, believed to be far safer than traditional chemicals.

As the key ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup, glyphosate flew off the shelves of hardware stores and WalMarts, racking up billions in annual sales. Bayer AG, the German chemical and pharmaceutical giant, acquired Monsanto this year, largely due to Monsanto's lucrative seed and pesticide businesses. But the World Health Organization has listed glyphosate as a probable carcinogen, despite intense industry lobbying.

The U.S. EPA considers glyphosate safe, and with the current agency leadership in rabidly pro-business mode, there's little chance that will change.

In August, a California jury awarded Dewayne Johnson, a school groundskeeper, $289 million for his claim that glyphosate caused Johnson's lymphoma. Monsanto/Bayer is appealing the verdict, and the legal tussle could very well outlive Johnson— doctors say he won't survive past 2020. In October, a judge reduced the award to $79 million.

It was only a matter of time before the whiplash lawyers came calling.

Knightline Legal, whose prior clientele include victims of hip and knee replacements and mesh hernia patches gone bad, are all over it. This ad has been ubiquitous on my TV screen ever since the verdict. So glyphosate has joined mesothelioma as precipitant for environmental disease, and a potential windfall for attorneys.

Drawing straws ... 

Credit: Horia Varlan/flickr

Let's say it up front: Disposable, single-use plastic straws are bad, no good, very bad for the environment, and efforts to curb their use are a good thing.

Plastic waste is not just in the oceans — but in Arctic ice and fresh water lakes, rivers and streams. The issue has emerged as an OMG crisis, and feel-good solutions like straw bans are more like a straw man—one of those anodyne remedies that may actually do more harm than good by persuading us that we're making progress.

So let's keep it up with outlawing plastic straws and bags, and plastic microbeads in consumer products. But let's not deceive ourselves—it's another global threat where we're losing.

Thus ending on a high note.

LNG gulf coast
Leo Dyson, a retired commercial fisherman. (Credit: Courtney O'Banion for the Louisiana Bucket Brigade)

LNG production comes with a price, Gulf Coast communities warn

US takes the global lead on liquid natural gas production and export, as economic promises and environmental worries collide.

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 2 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way
Coast Guard inspects Cameron LNG Facility in preparation for first LNG export in 2019. (Credit: Coast Guard News)

Amid LNG’s Gulf Coast expansion, community hopes to stand in its way

This 2-part series was co-produced by Environmental Health News and the journalism non-profit Economic Hardship Reporting Project. See part 1 here.Este ensayo también está disponible en español
Keep reading...Show less
Plastics industry's recycling deception
Credit: MPCA Photos/Flickr

Plastics industry's recycling deception exposed

A new report uncovers decades of misleading claims by plastic producers about the viability of recycling, revealing it as a flawed solution for waste management.

Dharna Noor reports for The Guardian.

Keep reading...Show less
highway expansion climate concerns
Credit: Storm Crypt/Flickr

Rethinking highway expansion in the face of climate concerns

As the U.S. grapples with climate change, activists are challenging the traditional expansion of highways, highlighting the environmental and community impacts.

Shannon Osaka reports for The Washington Post.

Keep reading...Show less

Youth activists demand climate action at Biden's campaign headquarters

Young climate activists from the Sunrise Movement confront Biden's campaign team, demanding decisive climate action and a ceasefire in Gaza.

Keerti Gopal for Inside Climate News.

Keep reading...Show less
Plastics industry misinformation campaign
Credit: Louis Vest/Flickr

Plastics and education: a critical conversation unfolds in schools

Petrochemical conglomerates take to the classroom in a concerted effort to focus responsibility for plastic waste on the consumer while absolving industry.

Evan Halper reports for The Washington Post.

Keep reading...Show less

Rally for safer work conditions in Queensland

In Brisbane, thousands of construction workers demand improved safety measures following a colleague's tragic death.

Michael Rennie and Antonia O'Flaherty report for ABC News.

Keep reading...Show less
From our Newsroom
petrochemical shell pennsylvania plastic

Tracking petrochemical accidents across the US

A new database monitors fires, flares, spills and other accidents at petrochemical plants.

petrochemical houston gulf coast

Lives “devastated’ by petrochemical industry pollution in Texas: Report

New analysis illustrates the climate, environmental, and human rights tolls linked to petrochemical production surrounding the Houston Ship Channel region.

LNG gulf coast

La producción de gas natural licuado tiene un precio, advierten las comunidades la Costa del Golfo

Entre promesas económicas y preocupaciones ambientales, Estados Unidos lidera la producción y exportación de gas natural licuado.

Ante la expansión del GNL en la costa del Golfo, la comunidad espera erigirse como un muro de contención

Ante la expansión del GNL en la costa del Golfo, la comunidad espera erigirse como un muro de contención

“La gente no sabe qué haríamos sin el petróleo y el gas. Esto nos sale muy caro”.

extreme heat

Op-ed: We are undercounting heat-related deaths in the US

Knowing how many people die or get sick from heat-related causes is essential for the policy arguments to equitably adapt to and mitigate climate change.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Idalmis Vaquero on turning community priorities into policies

“I wanted to find a way to connect the things I was learning in my classroom with the things I was seeing in my community.”

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.