YOUR WEEKLY BRIEFING FROM PARLEY
It’s been another week of shocking discoveries about the extent of microplastic pollution. First, a geological researcher collecting rainwater samples across Colorado analyzed them under a microscope and found the water contained a rainbow of plastic fibers, as well as beads and shards.
Two days later, researchers studying snow across Europe and the Arctic discovered widespread plastic contamination, even in the remote Arctic. In their highest concentrations in Bavarian Alps, microplastic particles numbered 150,000 per liter. In Arctic snow, the highest sampling was less at 14,000 per liter, but perhaps even more horrifying in its context, given the northern remoteness of the location.
The big question is, where are these microplastic particles coming from? Though scientists have been studying plastic pollution in the ocean for more than a decade, they can only account for 1% of it. Researchers know even less about the amount of plastic in freshwater and in the air.
Even with such discoveries being made every month, plastic production is actually set to increase in the US. President Donald Trump is “all about plastics” reports CNN, arguing his support for it sets him apart from Democrats, trolling them for their environmental concerns and pushing any blame for too much of the stuff onto China. But Trump's plastics boosterism comes at a time when corporate America – from Google to Coca-Cola and beyond – is trying to appear more in line with environmentalists, at least attempting to associate their names with less plastic and more recycling.
Meanwhile, Huffpost has a good deep dive into the retail and grocery sector’s response. By and large, they report, major retailers haven’t done much with their considerable influence to crack down on plastic. Though most of these large retailers have made some kind of public commitment to reduce packaging waste, their pledges fall far short of what’s needed to stem the tide of plastics that end up in landfills or incinerators, escape into the environment and contribute to climate change. Americans used 14.7 million tons of single use plastic in 2015, according to the EPA, of which only 14.6% was recycled.
The Endangered Species Act is the key piece of US legislation protecting wildlife. Since its passage in 1973, it’s been credited with helping the rebound of the bald eagle, the grizzly bear, the humpback whale, and many other species living throughout the US and in its waterways. Now, the Trump administration has announced it is pushing through changes to the act that will, in effect, weaken protections for species, and possibly give industry more leeway to develop areas where threatened animals live.
MYSTERIES OF THE DEEP
A long-held belief in Japan that sightings of deep-sea fish foretell major earthquakes is simply a superstition, according to research from two Japanese universities. The scientists reached the conclusion after comparing earthquake records with cases in which deep-sea fish were found beached or caught in fishing nets over around 90 years. According to lore, the fish rise to the surface and beach themselves ahead of an impending earthquake.