Weekend Reader for Sunday, Nov. 26

Last week, the Commander-in-Chief met the national symbol, a recovering endangered species.

News and opinion from Thanksgiving week.


President Trump performed the pre-Thanksgiving ritual of pardoning two Thanksgiving turkeys. Meanwhile, his countrymen baked or fried and ate 50 million more. And thanks for modern genetics and chemicals, the turkeys are far, far bigger than they used to be.

With Congress taking a break and much of Washington on holiday, the environmental rollbacks slowed. But nuclear weapons worries spread beyond North Korea, with concerns that modernizing nuclear weapons would lead to a renewed arms race.

Two of the most interesting stories in this edition of the Weekend Reader are about institutional omerta -- the time-honored Mafia code of silence. In one, chemical giant Chemours has gone into silence about alleged drinking water contamination from a North Carolina factory complex. In the other, Russia's gone mum over apparent radiation leaks.

So much of our national media bandwidth is flowing in two directions: Legitimate, vital stories about healthcare, tax reform, sexual abuse, guns, collusion and North Korea. And childish stories about petty Twitter feuds between Donald Trump and sports figures or Gold Star families. That leaves little space on newscasts, websites, and front pages for the irreversible damage being done to environment and climate policy by Trump Administration rollbacks. Non-profit journalism is helping to level the playing field by speaking truth to power. Please remember Environmental Health News on Giving Tuesday, November 28. Thanks! -- Peter Dykstra

Top weekend news

Chemical company's response to water worries -- silence (Associated Press)

Spun off from DuPont Corp. two years ago, chemical giant Chemours goes into radio silence amid fears of drinking water contamination in North Carolina.

A radiation cloud, and a mystery, from Russia (New York Times)

When a container of radioactive waste exploded at the Mayak factory 60 years ago, in one of the worst accidents of the nuclear age, the episode was so shrouded in secrecy that even residents of nearby towns had little clue of the danger.

Monsanto says Mexico revokes permit to sell GMO soy in seven states (Reuters)

Monsanto Co said on Thursday that Mexico's agriculture sanitation authority SENASICA had revoked its permit to commercialize genetically modified soy in seven states, criticizing the decision as unjustified.

Susan Sarandon: "I thought Hillary was very dangerous. If she'd won, we'd be at war." (Guardian Q&A)

One gets the feeling that the Harvey Weinstein business simply isn't very interesting to Sarandon, that there are other causes – the Keystone pipeline, fracking, oil and gas money in politics – that she considers more urgent

Opinions and Editorials

Breathless in Delhi: A taste of environmental Armageddon (Brigid Delaney, Guardian)

It was 2am on Sunday in Delhi and a friend and I were traveling in a rickshaw, heading home from a party. It was a hellscape.

Wanted: Aggressive Lake Michigan protection (Chicago Tribune editorial)

Environmental activists and particularly Chicago's surfing community welcomed news this week that the city of Chicago is initiating legal action against a Lake Michigan polluter based in Indiana.

Should Virginia join the carbon trading club? (Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial)

Virginia has made some modest steps toward reducing total carbon emissions, but it could be doing more — and should. The question is how.

Keystone must deliver on its promises (Bismarck, ND Tribune)

The timing couldn't have been worse. Four days before Nebraska regulators were to vote on a route through the state for the Keystone XL oil pipeline the company reported an oil spill in South Dakota.

Is Trump changing on climate and the environment? (Springfield, MA Republican)

Massachusetts newspaper editorial offers hope -- or maybe wishful thinking.

President Donald Trump has been the worst nightmare of environmental advocates, but there are signs he is modifying his stance.

Living On Earth: Beyond the Headlines

This week in Beyond the Headlines, Peter Dykstra and host Steve Curwood discuss the rapid rise in people registering for federal disaster aid after this year's record-breaking hurricanes, wild fires and floods. Then they note how the Pope regards climate denial, and remember an infamous environmental computer hack.

This Week in Trump

With Congress out and Trump flying out to Mar-a-Lago, the focus has been on nasty-tweeting basketball parents and football stars. But there was still some rollback action in Washington.

Donald Trump's science office is a ghost town (CBS News)

Science and environment get the silent treatment in Trump Administration staffing.

Trump's EPA canceled funding for the Chesapeake Bay Journal (Buzzfeed)

After a political appointee took charge of EPA grants, the agency cut short a six-year, $1.95 million grant to a Pennsylvania newspaper covering the Chesapeake Bay. Now a fight is brewing.

Elephant advocate sue Trump Administration on trophy hunting (Reuters)

Conservation groups sued the U.S. government on Monday over a plan to allow hunters to bring home elephant and lion trophies from Zimbabwe, following changing statements about the possible move by President Donald Trump's administration.




pipeline protest
Protesters rallying in opposition to the PennEast pipeline. (Credit: Delaware Riverkeeper Network)

Protesting oil and gas line development harms mental health and creates distrust in government: Study

“The number of stress-activated health conditions people reported was quite staggering."

PITTSBURGH — Engaging in public participation during permitting for oil and gas pipelines often harms mental health and creates distrust in government, according to a new study.

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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
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Wildland firefighters face a national crisis amid low pay and high risks

The U.S. is grappling with a dwindling number of wildland firefighters, essential defenders against the escalating threat of wildfires, as inadequate government support and compensation push these crucial workers to the brink.

Abe Streep reports for ProPublica.

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South Sudan braces for a scorching fortnight, closing schools in anticipation

In a proactive move against an impending heat wave, South Sudan shuts all educational institutions, urging indoor safety for children.

Deng Machol reports for the Associated Press.

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Scientists debate the pace of climate change amid record heat
Credit: Lucian/Unsplash

Scientists debate the pace of climate change amid record heat

Amid record-breaking global temperatures, scientists are divided over whether these anomalies signal a worrying acceleration of the climate crisis or remain within expected projections.

Jonathan Watts and Tural Ahmedzade report for The Guardian.

In short:

  • Record temperatures in 2024 have sparked a debate among scientists about whether these are expected outcomes or signs of an accelerating climate crisis.
  • The World Meteorological Organization highlighted the role of El Niño in 2023's record warmth, but noted that the unprecedented sea surface temperatures cannot be solely attributed to it.
  • Experts are concerned about the rapid warming of the oceans, which play a crucial role in regulating the Earth's climate by absorbing most of the heat generated by human activities.

Key quote:

“All recent temperature records will likely be broken sooner rather than later.”

— Raúl Cordero, climate professor at the University of Groningen and the University of Santiago

Why this matters:

As global temperatures rise, the likelihood of experiencing hotter days increases. This is not just about discomfort; heat waves can lead to serious health risks, including heat exhaustion, heatstroke, and exacerbation of pre-existing health conditions. Vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, and those with certain health conditions, are particularly at risk.

Worsening heat waves are hammering the disabled community.

Biden's battle against enduring fossil fuel tax breaks

President Biden aims to cut federal tax breaks for the fossil fuel industry, a move met with resistance.

Lisa Friedman reports for The New York Times.

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Clairton, Pennsylvania, air quality crisis reveals deeper issues

In Clairton, Pennsylvania, residents face a stark reality of air pollution, revealing deep-seated racial and economic disparities in environmental policy outcomes.

Kiley Bense and Victoria St. Martin report for Inside Climate News.

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From our Newsroom
petrochemicals Texas

Toxic air lingers in Texas Latino community, revealing failures in state’s air monitoring system

Public data from a network of state air monitors around the Houston Ship Channel is hard to interpret and is often inadequate, leaving Latino-majority neighborhoods like Cloverleaf unaware of whether the air they breathe is safe.

petrochemicals Texas

El aire tóxico en una comunidad latina de Texas revela los fallos del sistema estatal de control de calidad del aire

Los datos públicos de una red de monitores estatales del aire alrededor del Canal de Navegación de Houston son difíciles de interpretar y a menudo son insuficientes, dejando a vecindarios de mayoría latina, como Cloverleaf, sin saber si el aire que respiran es seguro.

Global Plastic Treaty

This will be a big year in shaping the future of chemical recycling

The controversial practice looms large in state environmental laws, federal regulation and global plastic treaty negotiations.

plastic chemical recycling

What is chemical recycling?

While industry claims it could be part of a circular plastics economy, experts say that chemical recycling is extremely damaging to the environment and provides no real benefits.

algoma steel sault pollution

Cleaner steelmaking can’t come fast enough for this Northern Ontario city

Algoma Steel continues to exceed Canada’s standard air pollution limits for cancer-causing compounds and struggles with spills as it pushes toward a “green” makeover.

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