Tribal Climate Resilience in the Pacific Northwest

Krystal Abrams, Social Media and Pollinator Projects Manager

Native American Tribes and First Nations are most at-risk of suffering the devastating effects of climate change. Climate change is no longer a distant threat, but a dangerous force that places our native communities and resources at immediate risk. As with so many threats, indigenous peoples have been at the front lines of the devastation caused by climate change, forced to fight to protect their land, homes, and culture. Across the nation, tribes are rallying together to fight against climate change. Although this issue impacts everyone in the world, it has an even greater impact on indigenous people and their lands.

What makes a community more vulnerable to climate change? Some factors include proximity to rivers and coastal floodplains, residing in areas prone to extreme weather conditions, and economies that are heavily dependent on climate (like agriculture, fishing, and winter sports). Many Native communities in the Pacific Northwest fit into at least one of these categories and many are already implementing climate action plans.

The ATNI Climate Change Summit
This summer I visited Kalispel land in Spokane, Washington to attend the Climate Change Summit with the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and allies. This summit brought together leaders from Tribes and First Nations throughout the Pacific Northwest and North America to discuss tribal efforts to address climate change. The summit focused on tribal climate resilience, protecting and applying Traditional Knowledge in climate change initiatives, and implementing a unified tribal climate change policy agenda.

What are tribes doing to prepare?
Overall, tribes were focused on immediate action, as many nations are already feeling the harsh impacts of climate change, right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Inundation map shows where the Village of Taholah is under threat from tsunamis, storm surges and riverine flooding. A vast majority of the village is at risk of being under 20-30 feet of water with little to no notice.

A woman from the Quinault tribe on the Washington Coast mentioned that her tribe was considering a relocation plan. If adopted, this would involve moving nearly the entire village further inland. That’s because of sea level rises, brought on by climate change, that have swallowed a chunk of the coast. The Quinault, whose ancestors lived in their fishing village since time immemorial, are now faced with the prospect of uprooting their families and moving to higher ground.

The tribes in attendance also identified another crucial way to prepare for climate change: respecting and protecting traditional knowledge and incorporating it into future conversations to help shape future adaptations. Attendees all felt it was a priority to protect traditional knowledge within climate change initiatives, and rightfully so. After all, without the knowledge of our past, how can we hope to create a vibrant and equitable future?

The concept of Decolonizing Science was a hot topic addressed during presentations and discussions. This subject can be difficult to understand, after all, what does it actually mean to “decolonize” science? In other words, how has science been used as an instrument of colonization? As a science major and an indigenous woman myself, I can say with certainty that the current system that excludes indigenous knowledge in the scientific process is a problem. However, I see the concept of indigenizing the scientific method as a way to empower people to think about the natural world in a different way.

To decolonize does not displace objective data collection or methodology and has the benefit of improving science by incorporating ways that indigenous people think about and understand the physical world. It’s important to remember that our ancestors have cultivated and managed biological diversity for thousands of years. The extractive, euro-introduced economy is still very new in this place and is becoming a more toxic problem every year.

Perhaps the problems the world faces today would be better addressed if we considered those other solutions or ways of thinking instead of belittling them. One panelist, Clarita Lefthand-Begay, even took it a step further and described her research geared toward Indigenizing the Scientific Method, which essentially proposed ways to make the scientific method more native-friendly. She shared her expertise in both indigenous research methods and western scientific research methods, as well as her perspective about how to draw those two ways of knowing about the world closer together. There are many different ways to think about science and they can’t all be learned from a textbook.

Next steps
We can, in turn, learn how to build more resilient communities by taking the lead from our tribes who are refusing to turn a blind eye to these issues, and instead are rising up to make a difference. Our tribes are tackling climate change through many different avenues, such as taking a leadership role in other climate-smart trends, like renewable energy and sustainable housing development. Our tribes are stepping up to take action. Climate change is harming our tribal communities and threatening our culture. Not only is it unfair to discount the hardships our tribes endure–through no fault of their own–but it’s also unwise to ignore all the great work these communities have done to strengthen climate resiliency on tribal lands.

Since the arrival of European immigrants over 500 years ago, mainstream society has excluded the voices of indigenous peoples. This is especially true for conversations around climate change because everyone will be impacted, regardless of race, class, and privilege. If we want all of our communities to thrive in a rapidly changing and unpredictable climate, we must end this euro-introduced mentality of exclusion and denigration. Our society must invite tribal members to share their knowledge and perspectives in every task force and at every level of decision-making.

Krystal Abrams,
Social Media and Pollinator Projects Manager

The Retreat from Roundup: Evidence Backing Cancer Claims

Yes – Herbicides May Cause Cancer
Glyphosate is a weed-killing chemical that is found in a variety of commonplace herbicides, including Monsanto and Bayer AG’s Roundup. Over the past few years, the health and safety risks associated with spraying Roundup and other glyphosate-based herbicides have been called into question.

At the center of the discussion is the potential for Glyphosate to cause cancer in humans. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that glyphosate exposure can lead to the development of cancer. This classification, combined with the experience of Roundup users, triggered a wave of consumer lawsuits alleging that their cancer diagnoses were brought on by years of Roundup use.

Eugene Just Took Precautionary Action on Roundup
A retreat from Roundup is also taking place in cities and counties in the U.S. through policies and best practices guides. In June 2019, the City of Eugene decided to place a moratorium on the use of Roundup in order to protect public health (no end date). Their action was in response to the evidence of harm and the absence of federal regulations. This precautionary action is an increasingly common response from local governments who prioritize children’s health over misleading marketing campaigns from Monsanto and Bayer Chemical.

A recent study found residues of Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, was found in several family foods. Photo by Ephraim Payne

 

Roundup’s Active Ingredient, Glyphosate, is Everywhere
In Oregon, Roundup is sprayed in ways and in places that likely pose a health risk to people who may never have purchased or used the herbicide. Beyond Toxics recently participated in a study that measured residues of Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, in family foods such as cereals, beans, apples and broccoli purchased at popular Oregon grocery stores. The report found that tested products–oat cereals, apples, applesauce, spinach and pinto beans–contained detectable amounts of glyphosate. The average level of glyphosate found in cereal samples gathered in Oregon (500 parts per billion) was more than 3 times the level set by scientists at Environmental Working Group for lifetime cancer risk for children. The average level of glyphosate found in pinto beans (507 ppb) was more than 4.5 times the benchmark. We’ve also reported that the Oregon Department of Forestry use helicopters to aerially spray a mixture of chemicals, including glyphosate mixed with other herbicides, on thousands of acres of clear cuts in state-designated protected drinking watersheds.

Most concerning of all, more than a dozen products containing glyphosate can be sprayed on school grounds! In fact, herbicides containing glyphosate are on the permitted “Low-Impact” pesticides list approved for use at Oregon schools (compiled by Oregon State University).

How can Oregonians grasp the potential harm to human health from the ubiquitous use of glyphosate products, such as Roundup, on the foods we eat, the water we drink and the playgrounds where our children play? As controversies continue to swirl around the safety of glyphosate, three significant courtroom cases presented enough evidence to convince their respective juries that Monsanto’s herbicide was the root cause of the plaintiffs’ cancers. Perhaps there are lessons we can learn from these cases that resulted in courtroom wins for the cancer victims.

Justice for Roundup’s Victims

Case 1: Dewayne Johnson

Dewayne Johnson was diagnosed with terminal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma after working at a school for years tending to the grounds, and attributes his illness to long-term exposure to Roundup. In 2018, he became the first person to take Monsanto to trial for its weed killer, attempting to prove to a jury that the agrochemical corporation was to blame for his cancer diagnosis.

During the trial, documents presented in court revealed evidence that the corporation had ghostwritten reports discussing the safety of Roundup and glyphosate and colluded with officials at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suppress research. Johnson was eventually awarded $78.5 million, and in April 2019 Bayer filed an appeal to throw out the final verdict.

Case 2: Edwin Hardeman

In the first federal Roundup case against Monsanto, Edwin Hardeman claimed that his cancer diagnosis was caused by years of exposure to the herbicide. Hardeman’s trial brought forward several studies that analyzed the chemical makeup of Roundup and its potential link to cancer. After five days of deliberation, the U.S. jury awarded Hardeman $80 million in damages in March 2019.

Case 3: Alva and Alberta Pilliod

Alva and Alberta Pilliod, a married couple in their 70s, were both diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and linked their cancer developments to decades of Roundup use. The Pilliods claimed that Monsanto failed to warn its customers of the health risks associated with spraying Roundup by not properly labeling the product to wear protective gear, like goggles, gloves, or long pants, while handling the herbicide. In May 2019, they were awarded $2 billion by a California jury who found their cancer diagnoses were, in fact, caused by their many years of Roundup use.

Trials in Monsanto’s Midst
New evidence appears to surface reinforcing the probable link between glyphosate and cancer. This past April, Washington State University (WSU) researchers discovered second-and third-generation offspring of rats that were exposed to glyphosate developed a variety of health problems, including prostate, kidney, and ovarian diseases, obesity, and birth abnormalities. This phenomenon, known as “generational toxicity,” suggests that one generation of humans that actively uses Roundup and other glyphosate-based weed killers can impact the health of their descendants.

As corporations often do, Monsanto and Bayer AG continue to assert that Roundup does not cause cancer or pose a threat to human health. With three court cases down, Roundup’s original manufacturer, Monsanto, still faces thousands of consumer lawsuits ahead. As long as Roundup continues to be used and sold in the United States and worldwide, Monsanto will continue to face those who have been affected by its toxic herbicide.

Families should feel confident their children are safe when they play in neighborhood parks.

 

There are positive actions we can take outside the courtroom! Beyond Toxics is growing our grassroots project, Non Toxic Oregon, a program that supports cities and schools in their effort to adopt organic land care practices. Four Oregon cities: Springfield, Eugene and Talent are transitioning park land to organic land management systems.

In the interest of all of us—the health of working people told to spray pesticides as part of their job and the child rolling on the grass, we must choose a different path. The Monsanto/Bayer trials give us ample proof that the potential risk to cancer and a growing list of serious health abnormalities is too real to ignore.

We encourage you to get involved in these campaigns! If you are inspired by a vision of a future free of toxic risks, please invite us to your city or organization to learn how to bring a Non Toxic approach to land care!

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director

We need a revolution of forest resiliency (not logjam lunacy)

When the last tree is cut down, the last fish eaten and the last stream poisoned,
you will realize that you cannot eat money
.”
– Cree prophecy

On June 27th, a logjam of logging trucks circled our state Capitol, spreading lies and fear and spewing diesel soot. Big Timber wants you to believe that taking action on climate will deprive Oregonians of forestry jobs. Rather than investing in a future that would place even greater value on our forests, opponents to the Climate Action Policy (HB 2020) are shackled to the illusory past “glory” of unrestrained logging. It’s the same set of devastating practices that brought us to our current seat on the precipice of disaster.

Let’s be clear: no amount of cash for cut logs can compare to the value of clean and abundant water! Beyond Toxics and our allies have spent countless hours speaking out and presenting good science to expose the false choices Big Timber presents via their public relations executives. The very latest scientific research makes clear that Pacific Northwest forests and the soils hold the greatest promise for taking carbon from the atmosphere while also adding new natural resource jobs. Better yet, with selective cutting and longer tree rotations, Oregon could revive the mills that are now shuttered because corporate timber companies make more money by sending big whole logs overseas. Yes, that’s right – big trees are exported to markets overseas while smaller trees are cut, chipped or made into paper and press board here.

Clear cut logging operation at Oxbow Creek in Oregon. Photo by David Tvedt.

 

We can change the extractive and destructive timber corporate investment model with the emerging revolution in forestry management of what we’re calling “resilient forestry.”

A tour of Shady Creek Forest, an example of a forest managed with resilient forestry practices in Lane County. Photo by Lisa Arkin.

By embracing the principles and practices of resilient natural resource management, Oregon can improve both our forests’ capability to resist the challenges of climate change and serve the economic interests of everyday people. We already know that forests are pivotal to solving the climate crisis–now we need to act on that fact! The United States Forest Service (USFS) ranks Pacific Northwest forests (Oregon and Washington) as the most productive for carbon storage (citation). It’s not only our living trees, it’s also the organic carbon stored in our forest soils and inter-connected root structures.

We need to manage forests to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and assign economic benefits to resilient forestry practices. Managing forests for more than the narrow, short-term benefit of tree harvesting, Oregon further gains by protecting air and water quality and ensuring a plentiful water supply for our future needs.

Photo by Kali Lamont.

What’s more, resilient carbon-based forestry allows foresters to stop using aerial herbicide sprays and synthetic fertilizers, destructive practices that broadcast poisons made from fossil fuels into Oregon’s streams and waterways –the same streams that provide Oregonians with 70% of their drinking water.

We need a state climate action plan that has a robust forest carbon storage and ecosystem stewardship component. Nothing could be more dangerous to our economy than over-cutting our private and public forests. We face a dire tipping point where the ability of Oregon’s forests to store carbon is diminished, drinking water is contaminated with bio-persistent pesticides and soils are depleted of the micro-organisms that hold ecosystems intact. Join with us to demand climate and forestry policies that save the exquisitely balanced water and carbon cycles within healthy forest ecosystems.

To learn more about the hope of resilient forestry, check out the videos listed below and be sure to sign up for our next Resilient Forestry Tour in Western Lane County on July 20th! (Registration required)

VIDEOS on the subject by Beyond Toxics

Resilient Forestry: Shady Creek

 

Resilient Forestry: Willow Witt Ranch

 

also:
Aerial Spraying in Oregon Forests

We won! And Bayer Chemical lost!

According to the USFS report, “Trees of all sizes are dead and dying along the highway.” | Photo by Lisa Arkin

On May 9th, Oregon became the first state in the country to restrict the use of Aminocyclopyrachlor (ACP), an herbicide marketed to kill weeds that ends up killing trees. In Oregon, ACP killed 2,000 majestic old-growth trees. This deadly chemical reportedly travels underground along tree root systems, passing the poison from tree to tree, and continuing to kill trees long after and far away from the original pesticide application.

Beyond Toxics led the grassroots campaign that resulted in this landmark victory to protect trees and wildlife areas from a potent herbicide. We challenged the blatant collusion between powerful chemical companies and our weak federal environmental protection agency. In the end, our perseverance paid off and we won!

Last spring, Beyond Toxics filed a public records request with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) about a devastating tree die-off in the national forest along scenic Hwy 20 in Central Oregon. We learned that ODA and the US Forest Service had known about the death of thousands of old growth Ponderosa pines for years and suspected the trees had died of an exposure to the notorious herbicide ACP. As part of the Oregon Department of Transportation’s roadside maintenance activities, ACP was sprayed on the state highway shoulders within the national forest.

Our public records request revealed that state agencies neglected to do a proper investigation or test for the chemical in the affected trees, soils and ground water. Beyond Toxics immediately called for a thorough investigation and environmental testing for the presence of ACP in the dying Ponderosa pines. ODA agreed and the new investigation concluded that the herbicide, sprayed along the roadside, had poisoned nearly 2,000 old-growth Ponderosa pines. The herbicide was detected in needles far up the dying trees and also caused giant trees to die 70 ft. from where the herbicide was sprayed. Pesticide drift was ruled out.

Consider: an herbicide sprayed along a narrow 6 ft. wide gravel swath killed giant trees that had been part of a fragile ecosystem long before white settlers arrived – and killed them 70 ft. from the road. Oregon regulators looked into the history of ACP and discovered that its manufacturer, DuPont Chemical, knew it could kill trees, even from a tiny exposure. After finding out that ACP can kill trees by traveling in the ground water or among tree root pathways (or both), Beyond Toxics demanded regulatory action to end the use of ACP in Oregon. We worked to alert Oregonians and our allies around the country to the dangers of ACP and taught supporters how to submit public comment during ODA’s rulemaking period. After thousands of comments were received by ODA, an 11th hour intervention by Bayer Chemical delayed the Agency’s decision. But the substantial evidence of ACP’s extreme toxicity and the public outcry kept ODA on course!

Oregon’s new law prohibits the application of the herbicide on rights of way, in and around Sage Grouse habitat, natural and restoration areas and anywhere near a water source. In response to the concerns of roadside vegetation managers in Eastern Oregon, the rule allows ACP in areas that “do not exceed more than 5% of an acre,” but only once a year, in order to control state or county-listed noxious weeds.

In 2014, DuPont chemical company settled a nearly $2 million lawsuit with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) after the herbicide (under the brand name Imprelis) was found to kill trees at golf courses, homeowners associations, businesses, and private residences. Despite this danger, chemical corporations convinced the EPA to allow sales of ACP to continue. The EPA looked the other way when DuPont sold Imprelis to Bayer Chemical who then changed the name and the registration, but kept manufacturing the active ingredient ACP.

With a wink and a nod, chemical corporations and the EPA play a “shuffle game” with pesticides such as ACP. The game helps avoid regulatory action by switching names and ownership and keeping the dangers hidden from public scrutiny. Oregon addressed this switcheroo by restricting the active ingredient, ACP, rather than just the product name.

This victory merits a moment of celebration! Because of the new law we won in Oregon, other states may step forward to protect trees and ecosystems from poisoning. May trees everywhere rejoice!

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
June 6, 2019

Photo on front page by Lisa Arkin
Caption: US Forest Service Plant Pathologist points out characteristics of dying Ponderosa pines affected by ACP

A New Farming Economy Shouldn’t Depend on Old WWII Warfare Chemicals

Clatsop County Commissioner Kathleen Sullivan delivered a message from her rural county to the Oregon Legislature during legislative hearings on two bills addressing two controversial pesticides.

I remember when I was a kid in 7th grade being told the American Bald Eagle was on the brink of extinction,” she said. “Today I can look up over the Columbia River and see the eagles flying. That is the result of policy makers banning DDT.”

Commissioner Sullivan testified in support of SB 853 and HB 3058, two nearly identical bills that would ban the organophosphate insecticide chlorpyrifos. A broad coalition of Oregon businesses and farmers support these bills, including the Oregon Grange, biodynamic vineyards, vegetable farmers and beekeepers, as well as health professionals, environmental advocates, organic grocery stores and labor representatives.

Chlorpyrifos is used on common foods we feed our families, such as strawberries, apples, broccoli, beans, oats and more.

Commissioner Sullivan recounted her experience as an elected official. Going around Clatsop County, she’s been hearing from young family farmers who have settled there to grow food and raise their families. A number of these farmers lost all their bees last year. She recounted the story about the comeback of Bald Eagles to support her message about bees. Sullivan said, “I trust science … and I trust exhaustive worldwide research that says our pollinators are in trouble. And I understand how this puts our food system in danger.”

She urged Oregon legislators to rely on modern science. That science says, without a doubt, there is no safe level of chlorpyrifos for children, neither for a fetus in the womb, nor during a child’s developmental years. The science is clear, but resistance arises when farmers are asked to change decades-old practices and products. Many use older organophosphate pesticides that were originally developed as nerve gases for warfare. Some of these farmers came to testify about how effective chlorpyrifos is. Sure, something powerful enough to kill soldiers can also kill a lot of bugs! The problem is that chlorpyrifos also kills bees, birds, butterflies and disrupts a child’s brain for life.

We should consider that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was set to ban chlorpyrifos in 2016. However, in 2017, former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt rejected the Agency’s plan–even though the EPA’s own scientists determined that there are no safe levels of use for chlorpyrifos on food. Chlorpyrifos also causes serious health problems in those who have been exposed to it, particularly farm workers or families eating fruits and vegetables sprayed, or drinking the water where pesticide runoff occurs. Chlorpyrifos is used in Oregon on everything from apples to grass seed production, and is found at unsafe levels in food and in our streams.

Dr. Megan Horton, a researcher at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, has looked at children’s brains and documented an alarming impact when infants or pregnant women are exposed to chlorpyrifos. Horton told legislators that she uses magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of children as they develop from birth to adolescence. She and her research team see “structural changes in brains” of kids exposed to low levels of chlorpyrifos even at levels below what is considered safe by the EPA. These changes can lead to permanent brain impairment. As chlorpyrifos levels in a pregnant woman increases, her child’s intellectual capability can suffer. The child can experience a childhood of behavioral problems and developmental delays. Researchers warned legislators of the immense impact these children will have on both the financial and staffing resources of local school systems throughout the state.

It should be noted that farmers who testified at the hearing could not refute the evidence that chlorpyrifos is unsafe at any level. What they want is assurance that they can keep on doing what they love to do – growing radishes, wheat, hazel nuts and all manner of agricultural crops. We all share that goal! Yet, there were marked differences in farmer testimony. Fear-based farmers spoke of losing their crops if a ban on this single outdated and dangerous pesticide changed their practices, while hope-based farmers talked about using innovation and safer chemistries to work in balance with the land and harvest nutritious crops – without poisoning pollinators and drinking water.

One farmer, a mom with kids, testified that when she sprays chlorpyrifos around the farm, she protects her children from exposure by washing her clothes in a separate wash cycle. Of course, no mother wants to poison her family, but does she wonder about the chemical residues in the washing machine, or where the pesticide ends up when it goes down the drain, or how chlorpyrifos could contaminate her neighbors’ drinking water? Does she think about the exposures to the workers on her farm? Will she notice if their children experience difficulties in school and in society?

Exposure to chlorpyrifos can radically alter a child’s life direction. Hawaii has already banned chlorpyrifos to protect their people and their pollinators.

Clay Wesson, a representative of Willamette Valley Vineyards, a biodynamic wine maker, was hopeful that Oregon can lead the agricultural industry away from devastatingly harmful pesticides. “I have confidence that the farmers in Oregon are brilliant and can find an option,” he said. “And there are other options.” He was thinking of biodynamic solutions that create healthy soils and sustain beneficial insect populations. Wesson is part of the new generation of farmers who help make Oregon fourth in the nation for sustainable agriculture, with $269 million in organic sales in 2016 — a $32 million jump from the preceding two years, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.

We support a healthy vision for Oregon’s future. This approach is possible when our leaders in the state capitol turn away from fear and embrace the wisdom of science and hope. Oregon needs to ban chlorpyrifos so that future generations will have the joy of watching a soaring bald eagle and a fluttering Monarch butterfly, eating honey from Oregon bees, and seeing Oregon kids reach their full creative potential. This vision can be shared by all Oregonians when state legislators vote to ban chlorpyrifos and make Oregon one of the world’s most innovative and sustainable farming economies.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

Trashy and Tricky

Have you noticed the red and white emissions stack to the east of I-5, just north of Salem? That is the Covanta Marion Municipal Solid Waste Incinerator. Covanta is a large corporation owning Oregon’s single trash incinerator.

If you care about climate and resiliency, then you’ll want to know about the poison pill Covanta has inserted into this year’s legislative deliberations on the Clean Energy Jobs bill and renewable energy programs.

A number of organizations are working together with Beyond Toxics to warn the public and legislators that Covanta is up to trashy tricks to undermine the goals of the Oregon Climate Action Policy, commonly known as the Clean Energy Jobs bill.

Covanta is asking state lawmakers to certify that their company is eligible for tax credits reserved for renewable energy projects, retroactively back to 2011 and into the endless future. That sneaky maneuver has made it into the form of a bill: SB 451, sponsored by Senator Lee Beyer “at the request of Covanta.” Senator Beyer claims he’s promoting SB 451 because of a “promise” made 10 years ago by former Senator Chris Edwards, who now works as an industry lobbyist. Why should Senator Beyer be bound by a decades-old “promise” from someone else who, at the time, was not aware of today’s climate science and the urgency of reducing CO2? It is nonsense to give away tax credits that should be reserved for truly renewable energy companies, such as those creating energy via solar, wind and thermal.

Covanta is also “fired up” to get an exemption from the carbon reduction requirements of the Clean Energy Jobs bill. HB 2020 Section 10 (2) gives Covanta a free pass from having to pay into the cap-and-trade program and reduce their carbon emissions.

The problem for Covanta is that it is one of the largest emitters of carbon dioxide in the state of Oregon! According to the Oregon DEQ, Covanta is the 20th largest source of CO2 emissions among industrial sources with air quality permits in the state. The trash Covanta burns, and the pollution released from all that burning, generated 160,843 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents in 2017. Burning trash is neither clean nor renewable, especially because Covanta burns a lot of plastic. Plastic is made from fossil fuels.

In other words, by burning plastics, Covanta’s “renewable energy” plant is just more of the daily grind of extracting fossil fuels to create throw-away items that then pollute our bodies, wildlife, oceans, air and lands.

Worse yet, a lot of the plastic Covanta burns is hazardous medical waste imported from other states into Oregon. Covanta has contracts now and is seeking more contracts to haul some other state’s trash to burn in Oregon, releasing pollution into our skies!

The trashy, ashy fall-out is dispersing toxic chemicals into the backyards of vulnerable communities in Woodburn and Northeast Salem. According to the US EPA, the area within a 7-mile radius of where Covanta sends air pollutants into neighborhoods ranked in the 88th percentile for cancer and respiratory risks (using National Air Toxics Assessment data) and 83rd percentile for minority, low-income and linguistically-isolated compared to other areas in Oregon. This doesn’t mean the Covanta incinerator is entirely to blame for the excessive burdens of cancer and respiratory disease, but it is making a sizable contribution to poor air quality that harms local and vulnerable communities. This makes Covanta an environmental justice problem.

To make the same amount of energy as a coal power plant, trash incinerators release more DIOXIN, more CO2, and more CARBON MONOXIDE, NITROGEN OXIDES, and SULFUR DIOXIDES. According to their Oregon air pollution permit, Covanta also emits approximately 15 tons of HYDROGEN CHLORIDE annually across the last decade. HYDROGEN CHLORIDE is a corrosive air pollutant that results in acid rain and is a respiratory irritant. Incineration of plastics, such as the PVC in hospital waste, results in releases of hydrogen chloride.

As sad as the picture I’ve painted is, there is something you can do about this situation today! You can help keep municipal solid waste incineration OUT of Oregon’s renewable energy portfolio and IN the Carbon Cap-and-Trade Program.

HB 2020, the Clean Energy Jobs bill, is being amended this week and your involvement is time-sensitive! Please send an email to the Joint Carbon Reduction Committee at jccr.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov TODAY! Urge them to delete Section 10 (2)(b) of the bill exempting municipal waste incineration and let them know that Oregon’s only solid waste incinerator–the 20th largest emitter of CO2–must be included in the carbon cap. Covanta must be held accountable for reducing its greenhouse gas emissions like other big polluters. Then tackle SB 451, the bill that would let Covanta cash in on a decade’s old “promise” to qualify them as renewable energy. Send your next email to the Senate Environmental and Natural Resources Committee before March 11 at senr.exhibits@oregonlegislature.gov. This email address will send your message to all the members of that committee! Tell these legislators that burning other people’s plastics and trash is neither clean nor renewable. Let them know that Oregonians prefer to uphold our obligations for a healthy planet for future generations rather than keep baseless, old promises from a former legislator-turned-lobbyist.

Want more details? Read to the coalition letter sent to top legislators about Covanta.

Thank you for taking action to keep a promise to the next generation. We must NOT remain silent. I’m counting on you to share with me the responsibility of solving a climate crisis capable of destabilizing entire eco-systems and devastating our communities. Each action you take brings us closer to sane and sensible solutions we can be proud to pass on to future generations of Oregonians.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

How old growth Ponderosa pine trees became hazardous waste

It may be easier to be concerned about wolves, salmon and eagles perishing than it is to feel remorse over dying Ponderosa pine trees. Yet, the presence of giant, old growth Ponderosas in central Oregon is as emblematic of a place as any furry, swimming or flying creature.

Photo by Lisa Arkin

What would it say about our stewardship of Oregon’s natural resources if we allow the continued use of an herbicide that easily killed off nearly 1500 majestic Ponderosas? This poison, Aminocyclopyrachlor, dubbed ACP because of its tongue-twisting name, was banned from residential, business and golf course use by the U.S. EPA 5 years ago when it was manufactured by DuPont. Then Bayer Chemical bought the “rights” to make and market ACP. Bayer rebranded the poison to put it back into use.

As far back as 2015, when the US Forest Service realized that ACP was being used on highways that ran through public forests, the agency asked the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to stop using ACP. Forest Service scientists realized the high risk of killing trees could not justify ACP roadside sprays. Yet ODOT and county road departments ignored the warning and continued spraying toxic ACP along many of Oregon’s roadways. I’ve started to wonder … perhaps those ailing fir and pine trees I’ve noticed along various highways are not symptoms of a warming climate, but are struggling to survive from absorbing ACP? Will we ever know?

ACP is undoubtedly a potent poison. Road vegetation managers spray it along the sides of roads to kill unwanted weeds that may interfere with visibility or be considered a fire hazard. ACP is good at killing noxious weeds, and yes, noxious weeds are a problem in central Oregon.

But when do the ends justify the means?

Roadside weed managers say they need ACP because the weeds have become resistant to other herbicides such as glyphosate. Like going from guns to chemical weapons to nuclear weapons in warfare, are we going to repeat the same mistakes in our environment? Will we as a civil society accept ever-increasing devastation from dangerous products in a downward spiral of environmental destruction? Just because the old ones don’t do the trick anymore? What we need are safer alternatives and a paradigm shift toward protecting environmental and public health in roadside management!

Here are the frightening facts. ACP was sprayed on a 6 ft. swath along the very edge of Highway 20, yet giant Ponderosa pines are now dying, including trees as far as 75 ft. from the sprayed road. This pesticide moves easily in the environment; the pattern suggests that ACP gets into ground water and is taken up by the roots of thirsty trees. Root zones of pine and fir trees can stretch long distances in all directions from tree trunks. From its investigation into what killed the Ponderosa pine trees, the Oregon Department of Agriculture found that ACP was detectible in the pine needles high up in trees three years after the chemical was used. The trees themselves have become so poisonous they now must be removed from the forest floor where decomposition can continue to spread the chemical’s harm. Sawdust and bark chips from these trees are hazardous waste and can never be used for soil amendments.

ACP is currently being used in seven counties across our state. I’m proud that Lane County’s Public Works Department does not allow the use of ACP because it developed a strong integrated vegetation management program based on science and environmental health benchmarks.

The Oregon Department of Agriculture is proposing to severely restrict its use by adopting new regulations. The Agency’s staff is doing their due diligence and their recommendations are commendable. Importantly, ACP will not be allowed near “desirable” tree roots, in wetlands and other surface water sites, wildlife management and habitat areas. But according to the ODA’s own calculations, the new rule will allow as many as 242 spray areas of 9 sq. ft. per acre every year!

It is time to stop, not restrict. ACP is a danger to entire ecosystems of living old growth trees. It is unpredictable in the environment and poses a threat to ground water everywhere it is sprayed.

Does Oregon want to apologize to future generations for the loss of Oregon’s iconic Ponderosa forests? I’d rather we thought ahead and acted decisively in their interest – today!

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

An Apple a Day Brings Pesticides Your Way

Krystal Abrams, Social Media and Pollinator Projects Manager for Beyond Toxics collects food samples for the FOE study.

Today we’re partnering with Friends of The Earth to help them release a national study revealing unsafe levels of pesticides in commonly purchased grocery store foods, including data from Oregon. During late 2018, Beyond Toxics representatives participated in this research project by shopping at common grocery stores in Oregon, including Costco and Fred Meyer. We purchased some of the most commonly purchased foods in the U.S., including conventionally-grown apples, fresh spinach, oat cereal, dried pinto beans, and applesauce. We sent them to a lab for pesticide residue testing. The results came back showing that out of 15 states measured in the study, Oregon had the 2nd highest concentrations of organophosphates in apples! It’s important to know that there is no “safe” level of organophosphate exposure–even “low-level” exposure can have serious health consequences, especially for infants and young children.

Think about it, if a child eats just 1 organophosphate-treated apple at lunch every day, that child is regularly increasing their chance for brain-damage and health problems later on as their bodies grow and develop. This small amount of pesticide is just too much — and this doesn’t even take into account other chemical exposures children may experience throughout the year…via lawns, parks, school grounds, and indoor settings.

It’s time for an aggressive policy reducing the use of pesticides. In response to the growing threat to Oregon’s food security and community health, Beyond Toxics is working with statewide allies to develop a suite of legislative efforts with the purpose of modernizing Oregon’s outdated pesticide policies. If passed, the proposed legislation directs Oregon’s regulatory agencies to ban deadly chlorpyrifos statewide, add bee-killing neonicotinoids to the list of Restricted Use Pesticides (i.e. remove them from consumer store shelves), and ensure that pesticide use is reported to a statewide system to understand and track their environmental impact. These actions will undoubtedly protect the quality and integrity of the food we eat, and lead to healthier children, family and ecosystems throughout Oregon.

 

This kind of policy update comes at a time when federal regulations and values are under attack. Scientific integrity and the protection of public health are being compromised by industry collusion with the current Administration and its oversight of the U.S. EPA. The most vulnerable Oregonians are our children, farm workers and families in rural communities. They need protection from pesticide residues in their food, and pesticide drift poisoning homes, schools, and workplaces. Oregon families should not have health problems and shorter lifespans forced on them because of corporate disregard for human and environmental health. If the EPA refuses to protect the health of our communities, then Oregon decision-makers must do their job to protect their constituents. The health of our communities depends on it.

~ Krystal Abrams, Social Media and Pollinator Projects Manager
Beyond Toxics

Central Oregon’s high desert beauty at risk from herbicide abuse

As a powerful law passed 3 years ago is ignored, Central Oregon’s high desert grandeur suffers

Discolored and sickly Ponderosa pine trees are dying after Perspective herbicide poisoning. Photo taken Sept. 24, 2018.

Oregon state and county agencies have breached the law and the majestic Ponderosa pines of Eastern Oregon are dying as a result. The already-parched and receding aquifers are at risk as well. In 2013 an innovative law requiring state agencies to study the consequences of pesticide use and use less toxic methods of killing weeds and pests successfully won bi-partisan passage in the Oregon legislature. Led by Beyond Toxics and sponsored by Rep. Alissa Keny Guyer, Oregon State Integrated Pest Management (HB 3364) offered hope for people and wildlife awash in a dizzying variety of chemical trespasses.

Beyond Toxics discovered that the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) made a grievous error in seeking cheaper products instead of safe products! In so doing, they approved the use of the active ingredient Aminocyclopyrachlor. From the beginning of its introduction to the market the EPA identified this herbicide as highly toxic and sought strong restrictions. They ultimately backed off after the chemical industry objected. Poisoning incidents have since begun to stack up.

Oregon is now a victim of one of those poisoning incidents. In the fall of 2014, residents of Deschutes County and US Forest Service employees noticed that many Ponderosa pines located along Highway 20 were discolored and sickly. Sampling by the US Forest Service and Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) confirmed that over one thousand trees were suffering and dying from exposure to the herbicide Perspective, which contains Aminocyclopyrachlor (ACPC). This potent herbicide was sprayed along the Highway 20 roadside to kill cheat grass. More poisoned and dying pines were also discovered along Highway 97 near Sunriver Resort.

More Ponderosa pine trees dying along Highway 20 east of Sisters, Oregon. Photo taken Sept. 24, 2018.

The beauty, water and recreational appeal of Central Oregon is threatened
If you’ve ever traveled west of the town of Sisters, Oregon you may have encountered a scenic stretch of highway near the Metolius River watershed and Black Butte Ranch lined with giant Ponderosa pines. The land here sits atop some of the state’s most porous soil. All of this–and the integrity of Eastern Oregon’s water table–is at risk from the continuing abuse of a highly toxic herbicide. The death of over 1400 majestic Ponderosa pines is an affront to Oregonians and all those who love the high desert beauty of Central Oregon. Why would ODOT approve the use of highly toxic and persistent pesticides and fail to monitor their impact in the environment? Now that we can see the invisible underground creep of herbicides made visible by acres of brown, crumpling trees, we must immediately determine if the groundwater of the Metolius watershed is at risk.

Beyond Toxics Leaps into Action
I went on a tour of the affected forest this past summer. The Forest Service revealed they’re discovering the area of dead and dying trees is continuing to expand out from the areas originally contaminated in 2014, 2015 and 2016. That is likely because the notorious hallmark of ACPC is its ability to move through soils, enter groundwater and poison tree root systems.

ODOT staff told me that they spray herbicides out 6 feet from the edge of the highway. Yet, during the tour I learned poisoned trees are showing up 10 times farther out than the original spray area! I raised the issue that ACPC is likely poisoning an entire groundwater area and demanded further environmental testing. I found myself wondering if the poison was spreading from tree to tree through the groundwater or is herbicide spreading through the mycelium that connects the trees’ root systems?

What’s Happening Now?
Representing your interests and protecting the health of people, trees and water, Beyond Toxics filed formal complaints with the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and demanded a thorough investigation. We let the agencies responsible know we’re prepared to take legal action to protect public lands and recoup the public’s loss of public property.

Following Beyond Toxics’ complaint, our questions and insistence that ODA re-open and conduct a thorough investigation, the agency instituted a temporary moratorium banning ACPC on all Oregon roadsides. Thanks to our diligence and intervention we achieved an administrative victory for common sense! Starting this December, Beyond Toxics is invited to attend a stakeholder group to determine if ACPC should be further and permanently restricted.

The problem is much more pervasive than merely this incident affecting thousands of Ponderosa pines. Oregon state and local government agencies are on a pesticide treadmill and refuse to consider changing their chemical-dependent ways.

The Oregon Department of Transportation’s false argument: We can’t afford to be careful!
I asked the ODOT crew if they could mow instead of spray herbicides along the  stretch of highway where we stood. Mowing seems appropriate because the land they are tasked with covering is completely flat and the sight lines are excellent. They responded that they only mow once in a 4-year cycle because the agency doesn’t set aside enough money for mowing. “It’s what we have to work with … trying to get the biggest bang for my buck,” was the response from the ODOT staffer.

What is the bottom line for residents of Deschutes County? Sadly, the US Forest Service recently determined that nearly 900 Ponderosa pines must be cut down soon. Many more trees will be cut in 2019. And no one knows the potential threat of future damage as the herbicide spreads through the area’s aquifer.

Oregonians! Demand a legislative hearing in 2019!
Beyond Toxics has asked state legislators to hold a hearing on how state agencies are–or are not–complying with HB 3364, the statutory mandate to be proactive to reduce pesticide use and protect people and the environment from pesticide exposure. So far, legislators are not scheduling a hearing. This lack of action denies the public their right to know how taxpayer and lottery dollars are being spent to buy and spray pesticides on public land. Write to your legislator and let them know you would appreciate their support for a legislative hearing on the (first-ever) 2018 State IPM Report.

Neither legislators, nor the public know how poorly state agencies are complying with the law as established in HB 3364. The killing of thousands of Ponderosa pines is Exhibit #1 in a system that may very well be ignoring the will of the people!

You may wish to ask your legislator this question: Has any state agency complied with ORS 634.657 (Section 7e)? The law states:

[Develop] Performance metric results for the implementation of integrated pest management, including but not limited to state agency and public university progress toward the goal of protecting the economy, ecosystems and water quality of this state and protecting the health and welfare of children, the elderly and other members of the public.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog. We hope you will pitch in and get involved. Your input is crucial to the success of the work we do.

Lisa Arkin, Executive Director
Beyond Toxics

Bees and hunger: a link we can’t ignore

We must protect bees because they feed people

Photos by Ephraim Payne

No child should feel hunger pangs and no family should have to face the prospect of not having enough food to make it through the week. Because so much of the food we eat depends on bees and other pollinators, pesticide-related bee die-offs can directly lead to food scarcity and rising food prices.

Imagine you are a hard working parent struggling to put enough food on the table for your family. Despite your best efforts, sometimes your young children go to bed hungry. Now imagine that healthy fruits and vegetables start to become scarce on the shelves of your local grocery store and food prices creep steadily up.

Last year, 238,000 Oregonians didn’t have to imagine food insecurity – the lack of reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. One in seven Oregonians, including a staggering one in five kids,  really didn’t always get enough to eat.

If bee populations plummet, the problem will get even worse. Bees alone pollinate a third of the food on our plates. And it’s not news that bees, and other pollinators, are under attack from pesticide poisoning and other environmental issues. It’s time to deal with neonicotinoids, also known as neonics, the biggest chemical threat to our pollinator pals.

There is no excuse for children going hungry in a state that prides itself on its agricultural traditions and progressiveness. We must protect the bees and other pollinators Oregon’s ecosystem, farms and families depend on for most of our food.

We need your help to accomplish this.

Hunger has been a real issue in our state for some time. While Oregon no longer ranks as the hungriest state in the country as it did in 2000, we’re still near the top of the list at number 14. And the burden of hunger is not shared equally.

Hunger is an environmental justice issue. Poverty is a key indicator of food insecurity and communities of color face a disproportionate share of hunger.  The Latinx or Hispanic community makes up about twelve percent of Oregon’s population and has a hunger rate over 30 percent, more than twice the rate of white Oregonians. Similar statistics are true for Native American and Black families too.

While we all know about the plight of honey bees, threats to wild pollinators are even more dangerous for our environment and our food supply. As the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization points out, “the vast majority of pollinators are wild, including over 20,000 species of bees.” And wild pollinators may be twice as effective at pollinating crops.

Franklin’s bumble bee (Bombus franklini) is in imminent danger of extinction, according to the Xerces Society.

Like wild pollinators everywhere, Oregon’s wild bees are under grave threat. “Experts believe around 500 species might live in the state, but no one knows for sure,” Northwest Public Broadcasting reports. “Which is a problem, because we could be losing bee species at an alarming rate.”

That’s why we need your help to get neonic pesticides off of store shelves in Oregon. Neonics are the world’s most commonly used insecticides. They are systemic pesticides; neonics travel through roots and leaves and invade every part of a plant, virtually assuring harm to every pollinator that comes into contact with them.

Neonics are devastating to pollinators. In 2013, for example, a neonic pesticide applied to trees in an Oregon shopping mall killed up to 25,000 Bumblebees. Neonics kill bees, butterflies, birds and beneficial creatures at very low doses and they can poison the good microbes in our soil for years. They pollute our rivers and streams – poisoning dragonflies, mayflies and harming the fish that depend on them.

Overwhelming scientific evidence shows neonics and other systemic pesticides harm key species and send rippling impacts throughout entire ecosystems. We must take action now to save Oregon’s vulnerable native bees and the beneficial insects at the core of the food chain, and everyone who depends on them.

That’s why Beyond Toxics is introducing strong new policy initiatives to solve this problem with support from our friends in the Oregon Pollinator Protection Alliance. Taking neonic pesticides off of store shelves is a top priority for our work in the 2019 legislative session in Salem.

Currently, anyone in Oregon can buy neonics, often unwittingly. Pesticide products commonly used in home gardens often have no warnings – so home gardeners can apply neonicotinoid ingredients at much greater rates than is considered safe in commercial agriculture practices.  Shockingly, some of these products recommend drenching the soil every six weeks, causing repeated exposures for all nearby creatures.

With your help, we keep the highly toxic, systemic chemicals out of our rivers, streams and gardening soils to protect Oregon’s native bees and other pollinators. Please donate today to support our work. Together, we can ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community don’t have to feel increasing hunger pains brought on by food insecurity from collapsing bee populations.

Ephraim Payne, Development Director
Beyond Toxics