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.
The story: On March 14, the world lost one of its greatest thinkers. Although Stephen Hawking often looked beyond the Earth, studying black holes and the theory of cosmology, he called attention to the serious threat posed by climate change and the need to protect the planet, Danielle Paquette reported for The Washington Post. “We have a duty,” Hawking said, “to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day, and to the perils we foresee if governments and societies do not take action now … to prevent further climate change.”
The big picture: Hawking drew attention to climate change as a drastic problem that world leaders need to work together to solve. Last year, Hawking denounced Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. “Trump’s action could push the Earth over the brink, to become like Venus with a temperature of 250 degrees and raining sulfuric acid,” Hawking said.
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The story: Government records revealed a more “widespread toxic impact” than was first reported when Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, Frank Bajak of The Associated Press and Lise Olson of the Houston Chronicle reported in a joint story on Thursday. The Houston area is home to some 500 chemical plants, 10 oil refineries and more than 6,670 miles of intertwined oil, gas and chemical pipelines. The reporters catalogued more than 100 Harvey-related toxic releases in the water, land and air around the city after the storm.
The big picture: According to experts, this level of toxic infiltration could have disastrous impacts on public health. The effects are already being felt by some residents: After one family was forced to swim to safety across a creek containing unsafe levels of a known carcinogen, all four children immediately developed skin infections and strep throat. “People are left in a state of limbo of not knowing if they were exposed or not — or if they were, what the implications are for their health,” said Dr. Nicole Lurie, a federal public health official.
The story: A new committee created to help rewrite federal rules for importing dead African elephants, lions and rhinos, is full of trophy hunters — including some members with direct ties to President Donald Trump and his family, Michael Biesecker, Jake Pearson and Jeff Horwitz reported for The Associated Press on March 15. The AP reviewed the backgrounds and social media posts of the 16 board members appointed by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and found that they would agree with the position that, “the best way to protect critically threatened or endangered species is by encouraging wealthy Americans to shoot some of them.”
The big picture: The Trump administration has gone back and forth on its stance on trophy imports in the last several months. According to the latest decision from the Interior Department on March 1, trophy imports will be allowed on a “case-by-case” basis. The administration has given no indication as to what guidelines they would use to judge each case.
Morgan Lynch is a staff writer for Conservation International.
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