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Blog Posts: Public health

September 21st, 2014

Don’t Frack Montana’s National Treasure

Eleanor Guerin with hiking buddies in 1987 taking a break with Grinnell Glacier in the background.

Eleanor Guerin with hiking buddies in 1987 taking a break with Grinnell Glacier in the background.

By Eleanor Guerin

I first worked in Glacier National Park during the summer of 1985, while still in college and studying biology. I knew I wanted to work in the wild. Coming from the flat land of Louisiana, I had only traveled east of the Mississippi and the only mountains I knew were the Ouchitas and the Appalachians. So Montana was at first overwhelming. I had never seen mountains loom so large; they felt oppressive. But I soon grew to love the park and the West in general – so much so that after one more stint working in environmental education in New Hampshire, I never went East again. I returned to Glacier as a ranger and naturalist the next year.

Visitors from all over the world come to Glacier. As a National Park Service park ranger/naturalist, I was fortunate to meet and talk with countless people from across Europe and Asia, the Middle East, Australia — really every continent. Many Europeans visit Glacier to see what is known as the “American Alps.” Folks come either for a quick drive on the not-to-be-missed road through the park or to spend days hiking the backcountry. And Glacier truly is a backcountry park. Roads take one only so far; while there is much to behold along the hairpin turns and thousand-foot drops of the main road, it’s the trails that lead to unimagined wildness. In the backcountry of this park, I sensed both my smallness in, and oneness with, the land. I yielded to the wind, sun and snow, to lightning and thunderstorms. I felt redeemed by the waters and life and purity of it all.

Eleanor Guerin (second from right) poses with Glacier National Park hikers in 1987. The group had just finished a loop that brought them "23 feet, 2 inches away from a 'griz' near Old Man Lake," according to a note on the back of the photo.

Eleanor Guerin (second from right) poses with Glacier National Park hikers in 1987. The group had just finished a loop that brought them “23 feet, 2 inches away from a ‘griz’ near Old Man Lake,” according to a note on the back of the photo.

Two intertwined features of Glacier will always stay with me: wildlife and water. And they both are threatened by what’s happening near the park on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land in the state of Montana: fracking. I have tracked fracking issues around the country from Pennsylvania to my home state of Louisiana, to the west in Wyoming, Montana and in California where I’ve made my home for 27 years. For some living in poverty, as on the Blackfeet Reservation bordering the eastern edge of Glacier, allowing drilling and fracking may provide temporary economic relief. But it has the terrible potential to be a double-edged sword. Some argue there’s no harm. Others fight with all their heart to protect the land. With secret chemical concoctions injected deep into the earth, I gladly err on the side of protection.

Montana may not be a highly populated state, but it contains an unrivaled natural treasure worthy of government oversight and protection. BLM lands are federal lands, intended to benefit ALL the people. The potential for fracking to contaminate both ground and surface water that sustains the people of Montana through agriculture and drinking supplies, as well its wildlife, cannot be ignored. Once damaged, there’s no turning back.

I return to Montana and Glacier every couple of years. The park is an old friend; the land has held my heart ever since my first foray there. But I have watched the glaciers, for which the park is named, recede during a few short decades. I know species like the pika become more threatened by warming temperatures. And now, the very water that sustains both humans and animals could become the next casualty of economic development. We must be vigilant.

eleanorguerin.headshotEleanor Guerin is a guest blogger to Food & Water Watch. Since leaving Glacier in 1987, Eleanor has made her home in Sonoma County, California, where she makes her living as a massage therapist, health advocate and Certified Senior Advisor. She gathers data for the California Phenology Project at Pepperwood Preserve and volunteers in the Sonoma County Regional Parks system.”

July 31st, 2014

EPW Subcommittee Jumps the Shark with New Report

By Lane Brooks

Lane Brooks is Chief Operating Office of Food & Water Watch

Lane Brooks, COO, Food & Water Watch

 

We are used to groundless attacks from Big Ag and Big Energy, such as the silly effort that industry shill “Dr. Evil” mounted against us.

We are also used to elected officials pushing policy that helps their richest donors become even richer at the expense of the public.

Now it looks like the industry PR machine really is taking over our institutions of democracy to combine these two trends. The minority staff of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works has issued a report that might as well be a post from the Koch Brothers.

The name of the report gives you a good picture of the tone: “The Chain of Environmental Command: How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.” Really? The 92-page report doesn’t get around to mentioning that many of the organizations they cite are actually supporting pretty weak efforts that are giving industry a pass. Only in the land of the loony is the Walton Family Foundation (of Wal-Mart fame) a vanguard of progressive action in the public interest.

Congress is on track to become the worst performing congress in the history of the nation, yet they have time to spend your tax dollars attacking the environmental movement. It’s no surprise that the Committee includes water carriers for industry and climate change deniers, David Vitter of Louisiana and James Inhofe of Oklahoma.  

It would be laughable except that the report has a chilling point. They are attacking the idea that tax-deductible organizations can work on public policy. They are trying to silence any organization that has the courage to stand up for the public interest. We will not be silenced and you will be hearing more about this effort in the future.

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May 19th, 2014

Factory Farms are Bad for Your Health

By Katy Kiefer

TAKE THE SURVEY

Every single day, factory farms feed their animals low doses of antibiotics to make them grow faster and prevent disease in filthy, crowded living conditions. In fact, the factory farming industry uses 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. And now, the medical community is warning that the medicines we’ve been relying on since the 1940s may no longer work when we need them.

I started working on our grassroots efforts to protect the effectiveness of antibiotics last fall. At first, I was excited about the opportunity to fight the corporate abuse of our food system. But the more I read, and the more people I talked to, I was struck by how deeply personal and serious this issue really is. It’s not just about fixing our food system — it’s about saving lives.

Hearing stories from people like Marian really put this issue into perspective for me. 

Marian is a mother in Seattle who always eats good food, yet after a simple burn on her foot, found herself with a crippling antibiotic-resistant infection that’s made it hard for her to care for her family. The unfortunate reality is that antibiotic-resistant infections can affect anyone, no matter what you eat, where you work or how old you are. Read the full article…

May 12th, 2014

Oil and Gas Spills and BLM Ills: It’s Time for the People’s Lobby Week!

By Katherine Cirullo

On Monday, Mike Soraghan of E&E EnergyWire revealed that in 2013, the number of oil and gas related spills increased by 18 percent, despite the fact that the rate of drilling actually began to level off. In a similar vein, the Associated Press recently reported findings from the new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report: the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has failed to inspect a large number of high-risk oil and gas wells on pubic lands. Think regulations are enough to prevent fracking from affecting the environment and the health of American communities? Just in time for the People’s Lobby Week against fracking, it is imperative that you consider the facts and think again.

On one hand, data shows a major increase in oil and gas spills in the top 15 on-shore drilling states. In 2013 there were at least 7,662 spills, averaging slightly over 20 spills per day. The combined volume of spilled oil, fracking fluid, fracking wastewater and other substances surpassed 26 million gallons — that’s 26 million gallons of toxic substances more than our waterways and our communities should be forced to tolerate.

On the other hand, there is data showing grossly inadequate government oversight of oil and gas drilling. In a review of 14 states, the GAO reports findings that for wells drilled from 2009 to 2012, the BLM failed to conduct inspections on more than 2,100 of the 3,702 wells that it had specified as “high-priority” for preventing water contamination and other environmental damage. The BLM, the very agency that is supposed to preserve and protect our public lands (and act as a dependable source of federal oversight), just isn’t pulling through. Read the full article…

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May 1st, 2014

How Industry Steers the Conversation on Pollinator Health

By Genna Reed

Earlier this week, I attended a hearing hosted by the House of Representatives Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture, Research, Biotechnology and Foreign Agriculture intended “to review current research and application of management strategies to control pests and diseases of pollinators.” Between the end of 2012 and the end of 2013, U.S. beekeepers lost an average of 45 percent of their colonies, which has threatened not only their livelihoods, but the very existence of one of the world’s most vital pollinators. The decline of bee populations across the country at levels higher than ever before seen is good reason for Congress to take notice, not only for the struggling bees, but also for the health of the broader environment, since bees are considered an indicator species of ecosystem health.

Colony Collapse Disorder is the term given to the disappearing-bee situation for which a single cause has not yet been defined. Members of the subcommittee saw the disorder as a problem caused by a wide variety of things, including varroa mites, disease, diet and nutrition, genetics, loss of habitat, beekeeping management practices and last but not least, “improper use of pesticides,” which “may also play a role.” The varroa mite is indeed a serious pest that should absolutely get some credit for bee losses, but it is also serving as the perfect scapegoat for Congress and agrichemical industry forces to take attention away from the harmful pesticide cocktails widely used in agriculture. As Jeff Pettis, Research Leader of the USDA’s Bee Research Lab in Beltsville, MD, testified, “…even if the varroa mite problem were solved today, this would not by itself solve all of the problems facing honey bees and beekeepers.” The weak language regarding pesticides’ impacts on bee health and the trivialization of the scientific evidence related to the adverse effects of pesticides on bees that was repeated throughout the hearing is a glaring example of how pesticide companies have been instrumental in framing the conversation surrounding bee health. Read the full article…

February 13th, 2014

ALEC Goes After Your Food

stack of one hundred dollar billsBy Anna Meyer

The anti-regulation, pay-to-play group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) is infamous for pushing “Stand Your Ground” gun laws, anti-worker and anti-voter legislation, and trying to repeal renewable energy laws. But lately ALEC’s been busy trying to help the Foodopoly maintain its stranglehold on the American food system, despite the fact that it’s making us sick.

ALEC is pushing hard to thwart attempts to rein in antibiotic abuse on factory farms with its Resolution on Animal Antibiotic Use. Their resolution supports the continued overuse of antibiotics for nontherapeutic reasons in livestock feed, a practice that is commonly used to make up for filthy and inhumane living conditions on factory farms and has been linked to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.   

Continued overuse of antibiotics has resulted in the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, which decrease antibiotics’ effectiveness in fighting infections (read about our campaign to end the misuse of antibiotics on factory farms here). Despite a 2013 Centers for Disease Control report linking superbugs with antibiotic misuse on factory farms and nearly 40 years of medical research including DNA analysis, the ALEC resolution tries to blame the 2 million people who become infected with resistant bacteria and the 23,000 people who die as a result of these infections every year solely on the use of antibiotics in human medicine. Doctors disagree.

The resolution to pad the meat industry’s pocketbooks by perpetuating antibiotic abuse on factory farms is not the only ridiculous resolution to come out of ALEC’s Energy, Environment and Agriculture Task Force. The group also promotes widespread use of chemicals with minimal regulation with the Resolution on Chemical Policy Principles and promotes a model bill to take away the right of local governments to regulate genetically engineered crops. ALEC also tried to attack Country of Origin Labels (COOL), which gives consumers more information about where their meat comes from.

Then there’s ALEC’s notorious model bill, the Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act, which has served as inspiration for the many ag-gag bills that have been circulating through state legislatures over the past few years. Ag-gag bills are extremely hazardous for multiple reasons. They shield factory farms from public scrutiny, even though they put animal welfare at risk, and increase risks to food safety and environmental damage.

ALEC’s positions on food would put everyone’s health at risk and allow big food and ag corporations to hide what they are doing. Policy makers at every level of government should be drafting legislation that protects the health and well-being of all citizens, not just the bank accounts of a few rich executives.

Help us hold big food and ag corporations accountable by supporting commonsense legislation that puts people first. Join our list to take action

 

Anna Meyer is a communications intern for Food & Water Watch.

November 13th, 2013

It’s Pay-to-Play Science as Usual

Money and BooksBy Tim Schwab

Last week, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) was once again exposed as an industry front group – taking industry money and advocating pro-industry positions while claiming to be an independent, science-based organization. The magazine Mother Jones published a leaked document showing the enormous extent to which the organization is bankrolled by corporations and industry groups, confirming what many environmental and health advocates had always believed about the four-decades-old organization.   

The Council, which claims to be a scientific organization, takes tens of thousands of dollars from big oil and gas interests like Chevron and the American Petroleum Institute and publicly advocates for fracking. It also stridently speaks in favor of genetically engineered (GE) crops, which may have something to do with the money Syngenta and Bayer gives it. Read the full article…

September 20th, 2013

CDC Report Affirms Urgency to Combat Antibiotic Resistance

drug take-back day

Photo by Tom Varco used with permission.

By Sarah Borron

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a wake-up call about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. For the first time, the CDC provided overall data on antibiotic-resistant infections and deaths from those infections in the U.S. The results are disturbing. Over two million Americans experience an antibiotic-resistant infection each year, and at least 23,000 people die from them. The CDC states these estimates are minimum estimates based on the data available. Over 20 percent of the infections are caused by pathogens spread through contaminated foods.

Over time, bacteria evolve to survive exposure to antibiotics that used to kill them. Antibiotic-resistant infections in humans occur in a range of forms: food-borne illness, skin infections, urinary tract infections, pneumonia, and sexually transmitted diseases. Antibiotic resistance means that the disease is harder to treat, more likely to require stronger drugs with side effects, and more likely to result in hospitalization and death.

There are ways to use antibiotics to delay the development of resistance. Unfortunately, livestock agriculture uses 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S., mostly in ways that hasten the development of resistance. Whole herds and flocks are given small doses of antibiotics in feed for extended periods of time to counteract the effects of being raised in crowded, unsanitary conditions. 

 The CDC reports “much of antibiotic use in animals is unnecessary and inappropriate and makes everyone less safe.” The CDC goes on to recommend, “Because of the link between antibiotic use in food-producing animals and the occurrence of antibiotic-resistant infections in humans, antibiotics should be used in food-producing animals only under veterinary oversight and only to manage and treat infectious diseases, not to promote growth.” We continue to wait for FDA to release final regulations, known as the Veterinary Feed Directive, requiring veterinary oversight on the use of antibiotics in livestock feed. 

 That’s why Congress should pass legislation (the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act in the House and the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act in the Senate) banning the use of medically important antibiotics in livestock feed. Take a moment today to tell your members of Congress to sponsor this legislation and slow the spread of antibiotic resistance.

September 17th, 2012

Video: Global Frackdown, September 22, 2012

By Mark Schlosberg

The Global Frackdown will unite people on five continents in over 100 events on September 22 to call for a ban on fracking in their communities, and to advocate for the development of clean, sustainable energy solutions. Initiated by Food & Water Watch, over 150 consumer, environmental and public health organizations including CREDO Action, Environment America, Democracy for America, Friends of the Earth and 350.org are taking part in the Global Frackdown.

To find an event in your area, click here.

To endorse the Global Frackdown, click here.

Don’t forget to check out the frackdown on Facebook and Twitter.

September 5th, 2012

Memo to Governor Cuomo: We’ll Remember in 2016

By Wenonah Hauter

This ad will appear in the news section of tomorrow’s print edition of the Charlotte Observer. For the full-sized ad, click on the image above.

Dear Governor Cuomo,

True leaders help us forge solutions to difficult problems. And nowhere are new solutions needed more than in our energy sector, because we are currently using dirty fossil fuels at an unsustainable pace. Oil and gas extraction uses and abuses our precious freshwater resources, which are becoming scarcer and more polluted, thanks in large part to our reliance on fossil fuels. It’s a vicious cycle, and we need true solutions.  

But instead, Governor Cuomo, you seem poised to issue regulations that would pave the way for even more dirty energy development—the development of shale gas reserves in New York State through hydraulic fracturing (or fracking). Opening up New York to fracking won’t happen without a fight—one that might cost you the White House in 2016.

When you arrive in Charlotte tomorrow for the Democratic National Convention, you’ll see we took out a full-page ad in the Charlotte Observer to remind you that your decision on fracking will have repercussions way beyond New York, way beyond tomorrow. And we aren’t the only ones that think so. Over 100 grassroots, environmental and community groups nationwide endorsed our ad, all of them telling you that there is no safe fracking, and that the road to the White House is not lined with drilling rigs.

Governor Cuomo, Democrats in your own state have said that drilling could harm your presidential ambitions. Now, at the convention, you’re hearing from progressives around the country that this is an election issue. What will it take for you to listen to your base instead of the oil and gas industry?

People are angry that your administration shared the draft regulations with the oil and gas industry weeks before they were made public. This will remind voters of the time Dick Cheney met with energy officials in 2005, where they developed the so-called Halliburton Loophole, which exempts the oil and gas industry from key federal environmental legislation like the Safe Drinking Water Act and provisions of the Clean Air Act. Backroom deals with the oil and gas industry will not serve you in your pursuit of higher office.

Now, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has given his tacit endorsement of your rumored plan to sacrifice the Southern Tier of New York to the oil and gas industry, so long as New York City isn’t affected. His foundation also gave the Environmental Defense Fund $6 million dollars to pave the way for the development of so-called “safe” fracking, even though we know there is no such thing.

Why is Bloomberg supporting fracking? He says we need to move away from coal, and that wind and solar aren’t viable. This is a classic industry talking point, and it’s a cop-out. As Bill Maher recently said on his show, stating that wind and solar aren’t viable is like saying 100 years ago that cars aren’t going to replace horses.

It might be tempting to take cover behind prominent individuals and groups who have given in to the oil and gas industry’s tired refrain that shale gas development is inevitable. But true leaders look past the naysayers and those who have long since compromised their ideals to work within the game as defined by entrenched political interests. True leaders find real solutions.

So, Governor Cuomo, should you go forward with fracking, Wall Street billionaires and industry-funded non-profits will not provide you the political cover you’ll need to withstand the ire of committed grassroots groups who are fighting the oil and gas industry profiteers. We need leaders who can make the tough decisions that would forge the cleaner energy alternatives we need. Groups across the country are looking at New York to see whether you will provide that leadership or whether you will open New York to fracking. .

Fracking is an issue that is not only widely felt; it is deeply felt. Governor Cuomo, if you frack New York, we will remember in 2016.

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