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.

solar power schools

Solar power at Pennsylvania schools doubled during the pandemic

“If this growth continues, schools could set Pennsylvania up as a clean energy leader and not just the fossil fuels we’re known for.”

NORTH BRADDOCK, Penn.—On Wednesday evening, 10th grader Abby Wypych stood in front of Woodland Hills School District’s board and urged them to approve a feasibility study on installing solar panels.

Keep reading...Show less
Sunrise in the woods

Get our Good News newsletter

Get the best positive, solutions-oriented stories we've seen on the intersection of our health and environment, FREE every Tuesday in your inbox. Subscribe here today. Keep the change tomorrow.

As biomass burning surges in Japan and South Korea, where will Asia get its wood?

The UK and EU were the primary users of woody biomass for energy. But Japan and South Korea have drastically stepped up their burning of wood pellets — potentially threatening forests, biodiversity, and the climate.

The price of oil spills in Peru and Colombia? Millions of dollars in fines

Who’s behind the hundreds of oil spills in the Amazon and the Orinoquía in Colombia? What’s their background?

This is where dirty old cars go to die

The electric vehicle revolution is gathering speed—but what happens to all those polluting cars already on the road?
Nuclear fusion is already facing a fuel crisis
Sandia Labs/Flickr

Nuclear fusion is already facing a fuel crisis

It doesn’t even work yet, but nuclear fusion has encountered a shortage of tritium, the key fuel source for the most prominent experimental reactors.

Scotland's billionaires are turning climate change into a trophy game

A net-zero land rush is sweeping the country, and both locals and wealthy “green lairds” are trying to buy in.
Africa’s sinking coastal heritage
ljubar/Flickr

Africa’s sinking coastal heritage

Dozens of important cultural, social, and ecological sites are already at risk from climate hazards.
From our Newsroom
environmental justice

Op-Ed: Black gold and the color line

How historical racist redlining practices are linked to higher exposures to oil and gas wells.

Our mothers' gifts: Readers respond

Our mothers' gifts: Readers respond

We asked you to share one "big lesson" your mother gave. And you responded

Lake Mead

Dykstra: A corpse in a barrel in a drying reservoir

And other climate change tales for our age

A mother's gift

Gifts from our mothers

What one "big gift" did your mother give you? We want your story.

Bird photography

Earth Day 2022: Amidst the crises, don’t forget the beauty

Words and images from our founder, Pete Myers, on how bird photography keeps him connected to and curious about a planet in peril.

fracking pennsylvania

Public health in Pennsylvania ignored during fracking rush: Report

A new report outlines the alleged missteps in protecting Pennsylvanians from the health impacts of fracking.

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