Weekend Environment Reader

How big water projects helped trigger Africa’s migrant crisis.

Major dam and irrigation projects are drying up the wetlands that sustain life in the arid Sahel region of Africa. The result has been a wave of environmental refugees. more…

What Changed the World This Week

It's surprisingly hard to ban toxic sex toys, but here's how to protect yourself.

With the short-term effects of chlorine and the long-term effects of phthalates, PVC is, “definitely one of the worst sex toy materials we’ve seen.” more…

Editor comments: Imagine this Congress making a bold, sex-positive statement like mandating sex toy safety. -DF

How the 1% are preparing for the apocalypse.

The threat of global annihilation may feel as present as it did during the Cold War, but today's high-security shelters could not be more different from their 20th-century counterparts. more…

Editor comments: This is a less nuanced version of a similar story that appeared in the New Yorker in January 2017. -JPM

California fires leave 31 dead, a vast landscape charred, and a sky full of soot.

The reach of the blazes is spreading dramatically further by the day, as thick plumes of smoke blow through population centers across the Bay Area. more…

Climate change did not cause Syrian war.

Drought brought on by climate change is not responsible for the Syrian war, scientists say, but it has helped to make conflict likelier. more…

Editor comments: Many factors contributed, including drought.  Read these. 

Record Amazon fires stun scientists; sign of sick, degraded forests.

Scientists warn of a dangerous synergy: forest degradation has turned the Amazon from carbon sink to carbon source; while globally, humanity’s carbon emissions are worsening drought and fires. more…

Africa tops global hunger index, driven by war and climate shocks.

Global hunger has fallen more than a quarter since 2000, but conflict and climate shocks are beginning to reverse these gains, an annual global hunger index said on Thursday. more…

Fall armyworm arrives in Africa on the heels of climate change.

A rapidly spreading invasive pest now threatens crops across the continent. more…

Hurricane Maria: Three weeks after landfall, Puerto Rico is still dark, dry, frustrated.

While the metropolis of San Juan inches toward normalcy, much of the rest of the island still awaits basic services. more…

Desperate Puerto Ricans are drinking water from a hazardous-waste site.

In Puerto Rico, water is being pumped to people by water authorities from a federally designated hazardous-waste site. more…

Editor comments: Climate-related weather disasters are driving health concerns in Puerto Rico (Superfund water), Texas (petrochemical spills) and California (toxic air). -JPM

Commentary: Sperm counts, testicular cancers, and the environment.

Should we be worried about our future ability to reproduce ourselves, as some media coverage has claimed? We have already waited too long. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote: “Our human future will only be as healthy as our sperm.” more…

Editor comments: Link to Kristof column. Link to more coverage. -JPM

The grandfather of alt-science.

Art Robinson has seeded scientific skepticism within the GOP for decades. Now he wants to use urine to save lives. more…

Puerto Rican families draw water from Superfund site.

Past water tests at the site have shown the presence of potentially harmful industrial solvents. more…

Editor comments: Climate-related weather disasters are driving health concerns in Puerto Rico (Superfund water), Texas (petrochemical spills) and California (toxic air). -JPM

Fish blood in their veins — but few salmon in their river.

This fall, the number of chinook salmon making their way from the ocean up the Klamath River in the far northwest corner of California is the lowest on record. That’s devastating news for the Yurok tribe. more…

Judge deals blow to tribes in Dakota Access pipeline ruling.

The judge refused to shut down the oil pipeline during an environmental review. Lawyers pointed to a ‘historic pattern of putting all the risk and harm on tribes.’ more…

Exposure to air pollution before birth may shorten our lives.

Pollution affects us even in the womb: Women who are exposed to air pollution during pregnancy have babies with shorter telomeres (a genetic biomarker), a study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics found. more…

China's pollution crackdown is gaining momentum.

In pockets of China’s industrial heartland, a government push to clean up the environment and cut excess output is starting to bite: Furnaces have gone cold, the lights have been switched off, migrant workers are drifting back home. more…

Amid fear and guns, polio finds a refuge.

Wild poliovirus clings to a tenuous existence in areas like those haunted by Nigeria’s Boko Haram, where eradication is costly, dangerous, and urgent. more…

'Katrina brain': The invisible long-term toll of megastorms.

Long after a big hurricane blows through, its effects hammer the mental-health system. more…

The end of coal will haunt the Navajo.

The fossil fuel has been an environmental threat and economic necessity for Native American tribes in Arizona. What happens when it's gone? more…

Everyone knew Houston’s reservoirs would flood — except for the people who bought homes inside them.

Despite concerns about flooding in and around the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, government officials prioritized development. more…

Top Weekend News

Trump’s mine-safety nominee ran coal firm cited for illegal employment practices.

Records show the coal mining company formerly run by David Zatezalo retaliated against a foreman who complained of harassment and unsafe conditions. ProPublica

The hunt for the brain-eating amoebas of Yellowstone.

It was a lovely September day in Yellowstone’s Boiling River and although no one here has ever fallen victim to Naegleria fowleri, signs posted onshore warn swimmers: This thing can ruin your day, and most likely your life. Wired

Bristol Bay's Pebble Mine is back in play.

One of the most contentious environmental fights of the past 30 years is suddenly back in the news, now that EPA head Scott Pruitt is poised to withdraw measures protecting the bay's storied salmon runs. Outside

Johnson & Johnson wins reversal of $72 million verdict over talc cancer risks.

Johnson & Johnson on Tuesday won the reversal of a $72 million verdict in favor of the family of a woman whose death from ovarian cancer they claimed stemmed from her use of the company’s talc-based products like Johnson’s Baby Powder. Reuters

This Week in Trump

Interior looks at behind-the-scenes land swap to allow road through wildlife refuge.

The deal with Alaska, to benefit a remote town, would ignore a decades-old ban on development in protected wilderness. Washington Post

EPA head seeks to avoid settlements with green groups.

The head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a directive to his agency on Monday seeking to end the practice of settling lawsuits with environmental groups behind closed doors, saying the groups have had too much influence on regulation. Reuters

Scott Pruitt suggests he will restrict scientists who get EPA grants from advising the agency.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt hinted Tuesday at plans to rid the agency’s scientific advisory boards of researchers who get EPA grants, arguing that the current structure raises questions about their independence. Washington Post

Another Obama decision reversed? Now it’s about food safety.

USDA

Citing President Donald Trump's calls for deregulation, Republican lawmakers and the chicken industry are aggressively lobbying to speed up poultry inspection lines. NBC News

Trump has taken longer to name a science adviser than any modern president.

The administration is moving forward on decisions that depend on science despite leaving the top White House scientific position open. Washington Post

The state of Trump’s USDA: What you need to know.

Can the USDA continue to do its work amid major reorganizations and minimal appointments and new hires? Civil Eats

Trump pick for top environment post: Carbon dioxide is 'the gas of life.'

President Donald Trump has picked Kathleen Hartnett White, a former Texas regulator and unapologetic advocate of expanding U.S. fossil fuel production regardless of carbon dioxide emissions, for the top White House environment post. InsideClimate News

Trump’s pro-coal agenda is a blow for clean air efforts at Texas' Big Bend park.

For decades Big Bend's stunning vistas have been compromised by poor air quality that Texas, working with the federal Environmental Protection Agency, is supposed to address. The Guardian

Proposed New Mexico science standards omit global warming.

A proposed overhaul of New Mexico’s state science standards for public schools came under intense criticism Monday at a packed public hearing in the state capital for omitting or deleting references to global warming, evolution and the age of the Earth. Associated Press

Republicans may use budget to open Arctic, Atlantic to oil rigs.

Congressional Republicans have found a way to use the federal budget to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling— and they don’t plan on stopping there. Bloomberg News

Opinions

How a healthy economy can shorten life spans.

In general, prosperity brings better health. But economic booms are also associated with air pollution, stress and car accidents. more…

Transition sacred.

As Pope Francis has put it, we need an "ecological conversion." more…

The diplomat behind the Paris climate agreement says the world is moving forward without Donald Trump.

Christiana Figueres remains optimistic about tackling global warming. more…

Don’t consign poor countries to wild storms and flooding.

Wealthy nations caused the problem but are not doing enough to solve it. more…

China is winning the future. Here’s how.

When it comes to clean energy, the United States is falling behind a country that the president loves to hate. more…

These food and beverage companies are leading on conservation.

There is a growing awareness about water risk for businesses in the food and beverage industry. more…

Filters: A cigarette engineering hoax that harms both smokers and the environment.

Without filters, the number of lethal lung cancers may be reduced, more smokers would quit because of the harsh taste, and fewer young people would start smoking. more…

Editorials

Mr. Trump outdoes himself in picking a conflicted regulator.

The nominee to lead the E.P.A. chemicals office is a threat to public health. more…

Eye in the sky offers clearest vision of Earth.

The world’s latest carbon-monitoring satellite has advanced our understanding of how the planet functions. US politicians should take note. more…

Health study in Sarnia’s ‘Chemical Valley’ is long overdue.

Sarnia and its environs are home to 57 polluters. Yet the government has never done a baseline study to see how residents are affected and its reporting system on chemical leaks appears lax. more…

Fire-fighting chemicals and drinking water.

The PFAS saga is not just an issue for those who live near the Williamtown RAAF base and other hot spots around the nation. more…

See it, say it: Climate change.

Denial by the White House will sadly increase the intensity of storms and wildfires. more…

The EPA rips up the Clean Power Plan.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the agency must regulate carbon dioxide. Now it may try to do the minimum the courts will allow. more…

Undoing the Clean Power Plan.

EPA Director Scott Pruitt achieved a long-sought personal victory last week when he signed a measure to begin the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan, a 2015 measure aimed at reducing carbon dioxide emissions. more…