Weekly Environmental News: May 19-25, 2013

“The Dirtiest Residue from the Dirtiest Oil on Earth”

Petroleum coke, a by-product of the oil sand refining process, is piling up in Detroit to the dismay of residents and Michigan’s environmental regulatory body. The small granules and high sulfur and carbon content of petcoke make it an undesirable waste that produces even more greenhouse gases when burned. Alberta, where the Detroit pile originates, will only use it to fuel the coking plants which produce it, and sells off the rest of the waste; and the U.S. EPA no longer issues new permits for burning petroleum coke at all. However, countries such as Mexico and China have no qualms with using it as a fuel source and it is sold overseas regularly by companies like Koch Carbon which owns the growing mountain of waste in Detroit.

March Against Monsanto

After Senator Jeff Merkley failed to repeal the so-called ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ last week, momentum for the March Against Monsanto swelled worldwide. Approximately two million people marched in 436 cities around the world  (including Washington, D.C.) on Saturday May 24th to protest against Monsanto, a mega-corporation that produces pesticides, herbicides, and genetically modified seeds which are resistant to these chemicals. Farmers using these products enter into a contract which prohibits them from saving the patented seeds. As a result, they become dependent on buying more seeds from Monsanto, the only ones that will flourish despite the Monsanto pesticides that are applied heavily in order to secure crop yields.  Although the U.S. FDA does not require labeling of GMO’s such as those produced from Monsanto seed, Whole Foods Market recently introduced a requirement for its suppliers to label all products containing GMO’s by 2018 which could spur a change within the industry.

China to Introduce Experimental Carbon Trading Program

China, the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide, has just announced plans for the first of several pilot programs for carbon trading to begin next month. A national carbon control system could be in place as early as 2020. Growing concern over China’s air pollution and resulting health problems has put the spotlight on carbon emissions, making it a focal point of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.

Creative Commons image “Pollution Chic” courtesy of  Nomad Within (Pete DeMarco) on Flickr.

Creative Commons image “Pollution Chic” courtesy of Nomad Within (Pete DeMarco) on Flickr.

Urban gardening in Baltimore

The Duncan Street Miracle Garden of east Baltimore made the headlines on Grist.org this week. A former vacant lot turned fruit and vegetable garden 25 years ago demonstrates how communities can drive social change by providing food for themselves, pay it forward by donating to soup kitchens, and put abandoned land back to valuable use. Baltimore Green Space helped put the space into a land trust, buying it from the City for $1 per lot and ensuring the future of the garden is protected.



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