In case you missed it: 3 big stories from our world

Plastic found near a coral reef in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of the Philippines, pictured above. If left unchecked, plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050. (© Keith A. Ellenbogen)

Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.

Trump budget seeks 23 percent cut at EPA, eliminating dozens of programs

The story: The White House proposed a cut worth more than $2.5 billion from the annual budget of the Environmental Protection Agency, Brady Dennis reported for The Washington Post. The programs that would be eliminated due to the decrease in funding include: state radon-detection initiatives; assistance to fund water system improvements along the U.S.-Mexico border; and partnerships to monitor and restore water quality in the Gulf of Mexico, Puget Sound and other large bodies of water. The funding allocated to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay would fall from $72 million to $7 million, but the program wouldn’t be eliminated completely.

The big picture: This is the latest attempt by the Trump administration to shrink the EPA. The agency has already lost hundreds of employees over the past year, and its staffing is now at its lowest levels since the 1980s. The administration said Monday that its proposal will help “return the EPA to its core mission,” reduce “unnecessary reporting burdens on the regulated community,” and eliminate programs that “create unnecessary redundancies or those that have served their purpose and accomplished their mission.”

Read more here.

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In just one year, Israel halves plastic bags found in the sea

The story: One year after Israel introduced a law that required supermarkets to charge 0.10 Israeli new shekels (about $US 0.03) for plastic bags, use has dropped by 80 percent, reported UN Environment. In addition, bag waste found in the seas surrounding the country has halved, according to the Israeli government. As part of the law, supermarkets must report to the government the number of bags distributed to customers, and proceeds of the sale of plastic bags go to the government to fund projects to cut air pollution throughout the country.

The big picture: Plastic waste is a growing concern: If left unchecked, the amount of plastic in the ocean will outweigh fish by 2050. Plastic bags are easily mistaken for jelly fish by hungry sea turtles, a deadly error that threatens all seven species of sea turtles. While governments in other countries have considered or implemented similar laws to charge consumers for plastic bags, the statistics coming out of Israel provide hard evidence that such laws are an effective tool for reducing the plastic bag waste crowding oceans and landfills.

Read more here.

13 universities band together to fight climate change

The story: The University Climate Change Coalition (UC3) is creating a plan for university-level action on climate change, including developing clean energy technology and advocating for policies that enable communities to meet their climate and energy goals. The participating institutions from the United States, Canada and Mexico have agreed to reduce their carbon footprints and foster climate change action in their local communities, Zoya Teirstein reported for Grist.

The big picture: The universities “hope to fill the void” that’s left as the United States federal government rolls back environmental protections. “The UC3 coalition believes that addressing climate change is an area where some of the world’s greatest research institutions can, and must, lead,” said Janet Napolitano, president of the University of California and former Homeland Security secretary. These universities are the latest to join together to commit to actions that would combat climate change after the Trump administration announced that it would leave the Paris Agreement. Across the country, states have developed climate action plans and companies have committed to eliminating greenhouses gases from their supply chains.

See the full list of universities here.

Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.

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