Climate strikes, sage grouse, polluting floods: 3 big stories you might have missed

Sage grouse

Greater Sage Grouse in Douglas, Washington. (© knuts-photos)

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.

  1. Students worldwide walk out of school to push for action on climate change

Students in more than 100 countries protested inaction against climate change on March 15.

The story: Hundreds of thousands of students walked out of their classrooms last Friday as part of a global protest against lack of government action against climate change, The Washington Post reported last week. The protest was primarily organized and inspired by Greta Thunberg, a youth climate activist from Sweden who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for her activism.

The big picture: Many of the young people that protested last week will be in their 30s or 40s when the harshest impacts of climate change will be felt — but they’re too young to vote on the policies that could halt the worst effects. The youth climate marches and strikes aim to bring attention to climate change and how it will harm the current generation if governments don’t take immediate action.

Read the story here.

  1. Trump administration loosens sage grouse protections, benefiting oil companies

The plan removes protections for the sage grouse, a bird that inhabits large stretches of flat, generally treeless land, from 9 million acres in the western U.S.

The story: The current administration wants to strip protections for the sage grouse in 10 oil-rich states, Coral Davenport reported for The New York Times last week. The main reason behind removing protection: drilling for oil. David Bernhardt, acting head of the Interior Department and a former oil lobbyist, advocated for and engineered this plan.

The big picture: Sage grouse aren’t currently considered endangered, but oil drilling within their habitat could result in a dramatic decrease in populations. “By punching oil-rig-sized loopholes through these plans, the administration will drive the sage grouse closer to an endangered species listing,” said Jesse Prentice-Dunn, policy director for the Center for Western Priorities. Removing protections for the sage grouse — to the benefit of the oil industry — is a step toward Bernhardt’s broader goal of amending the Endangered Species Act to weigh economic impacts against species vulnerability.

Read the story here.

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  1. As high-tide flooding worsens, more pollution is washing to the sea

Sea-level rise is causing floods to intensify and occur more often, washing garbage and pollution into the ocean.

The story: High-tide flooding on the southeastern coast of the U.S. has increased 160 percent from 2000 to 2017, Jim Morrison reported for Yale Environment 360 last week. Many high-tide floods don’t recede for several days, earning the nickname “blue-sky flooding” — floods that occur when the weather is otherwise clear. Pollution from blue-sky flooding, including garbage and pet waste, isn’t measured by any governmental or environmental agency, meaning its negative impact on ocean health isn’t being assessed.

The big picture: Sea levels are expected to rise three to six feet by the end of the century because of climate change, causing floods that damage not only ocean health and marine life, but also human health. One researcher testing water for enterococcus, an indicator of unsafe fecal material, found only three out of 40 samples had low enough levels to be considered safe for human activity.

Read the story here.

Olivia DeSmit is a staff writer for Conservation International. 

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