The spotted lanternfly, an invasive pest from Asia that is wreaking havoc on valuable trees and vines, is costing the Pennsylvania economy about $50 million and eliminating nearly 500 jobs each year, according to a Penn State study released Thursday.
The study represents researchers’ first attempt to quantify the destruction caused by the large, colorful planthopper. First detected in the U.S. in 2014, in Pennsylvania’s Berks County, it has since overrun the state’s southeastern corner and spread into nearby states including New Jersey, Delaware and Virginia.
Economists in Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences estimated the financial impact on industries most susceptible to spotted lanternfly, including nurseries, vineyards, Christmas tree growers and hardwood producers.
In the state’s hard-hit southeast, spotted lanternfly imposes $29 million in direct costs on growers and forest landowners, according to the study. Secondary costs, including reduced business and household spending, represent another $21 million each year.
If the insect were to expand statewide, it could cause $325 million in damage and wipe out 2,800 jobs, the researchers estimate. The state’s $19 billion forest products industry would be especially vulnerable. Pennsylvania, with its vast unbroken stretches of forest, is the nation’s No. 1 producer of hardwoods.
“The part that we’re really concerned about is what’s going on out in the forest. This thing is feeding on trees and those trees are worth a lot of money,” said Jay Harper, a study co-author and director of Penn State’s Fruit Research and Extension Center.
“This is a call to arms,” he said.
Spotted lanternfly is believed to weaken, though not necessarily kill, trees like maple, oak and black walnut. A greater economic threat than tree mortality is the prospect that states and nations could limit imports from Pennsylvania in an effort to prevent the bugs’ spread, according to Wayne Bender, who leads the Pennsylvania Hardwoods Development Council, part of the state agriculture department.
“The industry is taking it very seriously and has taken proactive … measures to minimize the threat and movement of spotted lanternfly,” he said.
Elsewhere, scientists have been testing chemical and biological methods of lanternfly control. Government contractors are removing tree of heaven — an invasive tree that is the lanternflies’ preferred host — from public property. Pennsylvania has also established a quarantine meant to limit the bugs’ spread.
The Penn State study was funded by the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, a legislative agency.
The remains of burnt out buildings are seen along Main Street in the New South Wales town of Cobargo on Dec. 31, 2019, after bushfires ravaged the town. Thousands of holidaymakers and locals were forced to flee to beaches in fire-ravaged southeast Australia. SEAN DAVEY / AFP via Getty Images
An out-of-control wildfire in the Australian state of Victoria forced thousands of people to flee towards the coast Tuesday.
Residents of the town of Mallacoota hunkered down in their homes or headed for the relative safety of the beach when a siren sounded around 8 a.m., BBC News reported. Victoria’s state emergency commissioner Andrew Crisp said 4,000 sheltered by the water.
“It’s mayhem out there, it’s armageddon,” evacuee Charles Livingstone told The Guardian Australia. He said he had evacuated to the town’s jetty Monday night with his wife and 18-month-old baby, but moved to the community center to escape the smoke.
The fire that prompted the flight to the coast sparked Sunday in Wingan, according to The Guardian, but CNN reported that there were more than 10 fires burning Monday in the East Gippsland area where Mallacoota is located. Three of those fires have been burning for more than a month, and several new blazes were started Sunday by dry lightning and then spread because of hot, dry, windy weather.
Mallacoota was not evacuated along with the rest of East Gippsland Sunday, and by Monday it was too dangerous for anyone to move, The Guardian explained.
Instead, residents fled to the water’s edge, and the fire followed them around 1:30 p.m.
“It should have been daylight but it was black like midnight and we could hear the fire roaring,” local business owner David Jeffrey told BBC News. “We were all terrified for our lives.”
He said residents planned to jump off a sea wall into the water if the flames came too close.
Luckily, a change in the wind redirected the fire away from the town.
“I understand there was a public cheer down at the jetty when that was announced,” chief fire service officer Steve Warrington told BBC News.
However, residents will now have to deal with fire damage. Warrington told CNN that “a number of houses” were destroyed or damaged. Mallacoota residents estimated on social media that around 20 homes, the school, golf club and bowling club had been burned, according to The Guardian.
“I just don’t know how we’re going to pull through this, really,” Maisy Roberts, who works at the town’s Croajingolong Cafe and thought her home was destroyed, told 3AW’s Nick McCallum. “It’s just absolute devastation.”
Mallacoota is not the only place in Australia feeling the heat from a devastating fire season. Four people are missing in East Gippsland as a whole, 3AW reported. Initial aerial investigations show that 19 structures have been destroyed in Sarsfield and 24 in Buchanan, but authorities think the final tally for the region will be higher.
There are fires burning in every Australian state, CNN reported, though Victoria and New South Wales (NSW) have been the hardest hit. More than 900 homes have been destroyed in NSW alone.
Twelve people have died in the blazes so far, BBC News reported. On Tuesday, bodies believed to belong to a father and son were discovered in Corbargo, NSW.
Three of the dead were firefighters. Two, both fathers to young children, died in NSW a little less than two weeks ago. A third, 28-year-old Samuel McPaul, died Sunday when fire-created winds lifted his truck and flipped it over. He was newly married and expecting a child.
The fires have been linked to the climate crisis.
“Climate change is influencing the frequency and severity of dangerous bushfire conditions in Australia and other regions of the world,” Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said, according to Time.
Despite crisis, Trump threatens to pull federal aid for California
A melted basketball hoop is seen in a clearing after the Loma fire tore along a ridge top on Sept. 27, 2016 near Morgan Hill, Calif. Photo by Noah Berger/AP
Nearly a year ago, Donald Trump published a tweet that appeared to include a policy pronouncement. After complaining about California’s approach to forest management – an issue he only pretends to understand – the president wrote that he’d ordered FEMA to send the Golden State “no more money.”
We later learned that the Republican’s rhetoric had no relationship with reality. There was no such order – to FEMA or any other agency – and as we discussed at the time, the president’s bluster was hollow.
All of this came to mind over the weekend, when Trump’s rhetoric took on a familiar tone.
President Donald Trump offered a vague threat to pull California’s federal aid for combating dangerous wildfires on Sunday, sparking a response from Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as the pair traded barbs through the day.
“The Governor of California, @GavinNewsom, has done a terrible job of forest management,” Trump tweeted early Sunday. “I told him from the first day we met that he must ‘clean’ his forest floors regardless of what his bosses, the environmentalists, DEMAND of him. Must also do burns and cut fire stoppers. Every year, as the fire’s rage & California burns, it is the same thing-and then he comes to the Federal Government for $$$ help. No more. Get your act together Governor. You don’t see close to the level of burn in other states.”
During a brief Q&A yesterday afternoon, Trump kept the offensive going, telling reporters, in reference to California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), “The governor doesn’t know – he’s like a child. He doesn’t know what he’s doing.”
I realize projection is a go-to move for the president, but I didn’t really expect him to bring his “no puppet” tactics to wildfire responses.
To the extent that reality has any meaning, Trump’s rhetoric didn’t make any sense. California’s latest wildfires, for example, haven’t burnt down forests. The president’s claims about water distribution were similarly wrong. Even the assertion about the Golden State getting “no more” federal aid is probably not to be taken seriously.
What I find important, however, is the bigger picture: Trump’s hostility toward the nation’s largest state has reached a ridiculous level.
In February, Politico ran a feature on “Trump’s War on California,” and it’s safe to say the problem has intensified in the nine months that followed. The White House has, after all, taken steps to revoke California’s right to set its own emissions standards, which came shortly before the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal highway funds from the state. Trump has also gone after California over homelessness in dubious ways.
The New York Times published this striking tidbit in September:
In recent months, the administration’s broader weakening of nationwide auto-emissions standards has become plagued with delays as staff members struggled to prepare legal, technical or scientific justifications for it. As a result, the White House decided to proceed with just one piece of its plan – the move to strip California of its authority to set tougher standards – while delaying its wider strategy, according to these people. […]
Mr. Trump … according to two people familiar with the matter, wanted to press forward with a policy that would punish California.
I’m just going to repeat that sentence for emphasis: “Trump … wanted to press forward with a policy that would punish California.”
It was 44 years ago this week that the New York Daily Newsran its infamous “Ford to City: Drop Dead” headline. Don’t be surprised if California headlines soon reflect a related sentiment from a different Republican president.
The number of family farms seeking bankruptcy protection grew 24% over the last year, according to an Ameican Farm Bureau Federation analysis of recent court data.
The analysis found family farm bankruptcies are rising fastest in the Northwest.
“We’ve seen low crop prices, low livestock prices for a number of years now,” said chief economist John Newton. “On the back, now, of that we have the trade war where agriculture’s been unfairly retaliated against.”
Newton monitors Chapter 12 bankruptcy filings as one measure of health for the farm economy. Chapter 12 is a kind of bankruptcy protection meant to help family farmers reorganize and keep farming.
Courtesy of the American Farm Bureau Federation
Nationwide, 580 family farms filed for bankruptcy in the 12-month period ending in September 2019. Newton considers that a sign of poor health.
“While it’s nowhere near the historical highs we saw in the ‘80s, it’s an alarming trend that continues to get worse,” he said.
Newton said farmers are also assuming record debt and taking longer to pay it back.
“I’m getting calls from farmers across the country that may not be at Chapter 12 bankruptcy point, but they’re very close to it,” he said.
Thirty-three farms in the Northwest filed for Chapter 12 protection over the time period measured. Most of them were in Idaho and Montana, but the figure includes Oregon apple farmers struck by tariffs in their major export markets.
Richard and Sydney Blaine, for example, filed for Chapter 12 protection just days after President Donald Trump signed a law this summer making it easier to access. The Family Farmer Relief Act increased the amount of debt a farmer can have —$10 million — and still qualify for Chapter 12 protection.
The 33 Northwest bankruptcies represent a 74% increase over the previous year, according to the American Farm Bureau’s analysis. The size of the increase appears large in part because the Northwest previously had fewer bankruptcy filings than some other regions, such as the Midwest.
Still, economist John Newton said each Chapter 12 bankruptcy matters.
“These are family farms,” he said. “And these are family farms that are having to restructure their debt due to tough financial conditions in agriculture.”
Because of the new bankruptcy rules, more farms could seek protection in the months ahead.
When the winners were announced at this year’s Broadcom MASTERS Competition, America’s premiere science and engineering competition for middle school students, the stage looked a little different than previous years — for the first time ever, all of the top prize winners were girls! 14-year-old Alaina Gassler won the top award, the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, while 14-year-olds Rachel Bergey, Sidor Clare, Alexis MacAvoy, and Lauren Ejiaga each took home $10,000 prizes. “With so many challenges in our world, Alaina and her fellow Broadcom MASTERS finalists make me optimistic,” says Maya Ajmera, President and CEO of the Society for Science & the Public, which runs the competition, and Publisher of Science News. “I am proud to lead an organization that is inspiring so many young people, especially girls, to continue to innovate.”
The Broadcom MASTERS — which stands for Math, Applied Science, Technology, and Engineering for Rising Stars — was founded in 2011 and aims to encourage middle school students to see how their personal passions can lead to career pathways in STEM. The competition is open to students in 6th, 7th, and 8th grades; science fairs affiliated with the Society for Science & the Public nominate the top 10% of their participants, who then apply for the chance to join the national competition. This year, there was a pool of 2,348 applicants; 30 finalists were chosen, including 18 girls and 12 boys — the first time the finalists have been majority female as well.
In this blog post, we introduce you to these clever and creative Mighty Girls and their incredible projects. Their initiatives include reducing the size of blind spots in cars, creating new methods for protecting trees from an invasive insect species, studying how to build bricks on Mars, inventing a water filter that can remove heavy metals, and researching how increased ultraviolet light from ozone depletion affects plant growth. Their innovation and curiosity is sure to inspire science-loving kids everywhere!
Alaina Gassler: Making Vehicles Safer By Removing Blind Spots
Alaina Gassler’s mother hates driving their Jeep Grand Cherokee: the large A-pillar design around the windshield, which provides protection in a rollover crash, also impedes her view with blind spots. The problem piqued the curiosity of the 14-year-old from West Grove, Pennsylvania: “I started to think about how blind spots are a huge problem in all cars,” she says. Alaina knew that her solution had to be inexpensive, easily accessible, and work in different lighting conditions. She created a mount for a webcam that could be installed on the passenger side A-pillar, and 3D printed a part that allowed a projector to display the image at close range inside the car. Her invention won the $25,000 Samueli Foundation Prize, but she’s not done yet: she’s already got plans to create a new prototype with an LCD screen, which is easier to see in bright light. “There’s so many car accidents and injuries and deaths that could have been prevented,” she says. “Since we can’t take [the pillar] out of cars, I decided to get rid of it without getting rid of it.”
Rachel Bergey: Trapping Invasive Insects to Protect Trees and Agriculture
In Rachel Bergey’s home in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, spotted lanternflies are a huge problem: “thousands of them have invaded my family’s maple trees,” she says. The invasive species, which is originally from Asia, damages trees and threatens over $18 billion worth of agricultural crops in Pennsylvania alone. One trap currently in use is sticky tape, but tape needs frequent replacement, doesn’t always catch the spotted lanternflies, and it can hurt helpful insects and even birds. As an alternative, Rachel came up with a trap made of a tinfoil dome with a tunnel that leads to insect netting: once the spotted lanternflies are inside, they can’t get out. When she tested it, “the tinfoil and netting trap… caught 103 percent more spotted lanternflies and 94 percent less other insects” than tape. Rachel won the $10,000 Lemelson Award for an invention that shows a promising solution to a real-world problem with her trap. She tells other young scientists to remember that most of science is hard work: “You don’t have to be super smart to be a scientist,” she says. “You just have to be observant… Hard work pays off.”
Sidor Clare: Making Bricks on Mars
Like many kids today, Sidor Clare is imagining a future Mars mission but one of her questions was how to build structures when the astronauts arrived. “Astronauts need sturdy building materials,” the Sandy, Utah native points out, “and it takes 9 months and a ton of money to ship materials to Mars.” She and her partner Kassie Holt decided to find a binding agent that would allow people to make bricks with regolith, Martian soil. The girls used Mars Global Simulant MGS-1, a soil mix that imitates the chemical and mechanical properties of regolith, and tried different binders, including polyester resin, polystyrene, and recycled high density polyethylene, or HDPE. The resin brick was the strongest — so strong that they had to use construction equipment to test it: “Our Mars resin brick can withstand more pressure than concrete.” Sidor won the $10,000 Marconi/Samueli Award for Innovation, which recognizes a young inventor with vision and promise. “A lot of people want to go to Mars,” she says, “and I wanted to help further that exploration.”
Lauren Ejiaga: Studying The Effects of Ozone Depletion
“I was always fascinated by nature,” Lauren Ejiaga says, so when she learned about how the thinning of the ozone layer let more ultraviolet rays through the atmosphere, she wondered how that change was affecting plant growth. The aspiring doctor from New Orleans, Louisiana decided to analyze the effects of increased UV radiation on plants, particularly UVB rays. She grew pansies in hollow growing cases that she built from plastic pipes and connectors. Each case had a filter that filtered UVA ray, UVB rays, or neither. She found that plants that got UVA radiation only lost 14% of their chlorophyll, the pigment that allows plants to photosynthesize, compared to her control group, while plants that got UVB radiation only lost 61% of their chlorophyll. “[Ozone depletion] affects us in more ways than what we know,” she concludes. Lauren won the $10,000 STEM Talent Award, sponsored by DoD STEM, which celebrates leadership and technical ability in STEM. She hopes to show other students that you can do science with minimal resources. “[You] don’t really need a bunch of fancy gadgets or whatever to prove that something’s happening,” she says. “They can do it in their home, their backyard. If they want to do a topic, they can go for it.”
Alexis MacAvoy: Designing Low-Cost, Eco-Friendly Water Filters
Alexis MacAvoy’s home in Hillsborough, California is near San Francisco Bay, where efforts to clean up heavy metals in the water have cost millions of dollars — a cost that could have been avoided if people had filtered their wastewater. But even today, she says, “80% of the industrial wastewater isn’t filtered whatsoever.” Activated carbon filters can effectively remove these heavy metals, and Alexis wondered if it was possible to make these filters using biowaste like coconut shells or sawdust. After testing several materials, she created filters using sawdust and walnut shells, ground to a specific mesh size and treated with sodium bicarbonate and fluoride; these filters absorbed up to 30 times more copper than a commercial filter! Alexis won the $10,000 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Award for Health Advancement for her work to make it easier to keep our water clean. She hopes her win will raise public awareness of the multiple benefits of water filtration: “preserving ecosystems so that no further damage is conducted can actually benefit our health as well.”
Wild Goat in hot water for posting a photo on Twitter of himself after killing an American trophy hunter on a remote Scottish Island.
When reached for comment, the goat explained: ‘Human population growth is causing alarming levels of planetary destruction. These kind of culls are necessary for population control and environmental harm reduction’. 😂
Keystone oil pipeline leaks 383,000 gallons in North Dakota
James MacPherson, Associated Press October 31, 2019
A pumping station along the Keystone pipeline outside Cogswell, N.D. Built in 2011, this week’s major oil spill in North Dakota isn’t the pipeline’s first. UCAS OLENIUK/TORONTO STAR/GETTY IMAGES
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — TC Energy’s Keystone pipeline leaked an estimated 383,000 gallons (1.4 million liters) of oil in northeastern North Dakota, state regulators said Thursday.
Crews on Tuesday shut down the pipeline that carries tar sands oil from Canada through seven states after the leak was discovered, said Karl Rockeman, North Dakota’s water quality division director. It remained closed Thursday.
The Calgary, Alberta-based company formerly known as TransCanada said in a statement the leak affected about 22,500 square feet (2090.3 sq. meters) of land near Edinburg, in Walsh County.
The company and regulators said the cause was being investigated.
“Our emergency response team contained the impacted area and oil has not migrated beyond the immediately affected area,” the company said in a statement.
North Dakota regulators were notified late Tuesday night of the leak. Rockeman said some wetlands were affected, but not any sources of drinking water.
TC Energy reported an oil spill in the rural Edinburg area, about 30 miles northwest of Grafton, N.D. on Wednesday, Oct. 30. Submitted photo
Regulators have been at the site since Wednesday afternoon monitoring the spill and cleanup, he said.
Crude began flowing through the $5.2 billion pipeline in 2011. It’s designed to carry crude oil across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and through North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Missouri on the way to refineries in Patoka, Illinois and Cushing, Oklahoma.
It can handle about 23 million gallons daily.
The pipeline spill and shutdown comes as the company seeks to build the $8 billion Keystone XL pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, to refineries in Texas. The proposed Keystone XL pipeline has drawn opposition from people who fear it will harm the environment.
President Donald Trump issued a federal permit for the expansion project in 2017, after it had been rejected by the Obama administration.
Together, the massive Keystone and Keystone XL network would be about five times the length of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.
The original Keystone has experienced problems with spills in the past, including one in 2011 of more than 14,000 gallons (53,000 liters) of oil in southeastern North Dakota, near the South Dakota border. That leak was blamed on valve failure at a pumping station.
Another leak in 2016 prompted a week-long shutdown of the pipeline. The company estimated that just under 17,000 gallons (64,350 liters) of oil spilled onto private land during that leak. Federal regulators said an “anomaly” on a weld on the pipeline was to blame. No waterways or aquifers were affected.
In 2017, the pipeline leaked an estimated 407,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of oil onto farmland in northeastern South Dakota, in a rural area near the North Dakota border. The company had originally put the spill at about 210,000 gallons (795,000 liters).
Federal regulators said at the time the Keystone leak was the seventh-largest onshore oil or petroleum product spill since 2010. Federal investigators said the pipeline was likely damaged during installation during 2008 and may have occurred when a vehicle drove over the pipe, causing it to weaken over time.
North Dakota’s biggest spill , and one of the largest onshore spills in U.S. history, came in 2013, when 840,000 gallons (3.1 million liters) spilled from a Tesoro pipeline in the northwestern part of the state. The company spent five years and nearly $100 million cleaning it up.
The Sierra Club said the latest spill was an example of why the Keystone XL should not be built.
“We don’t yet know the extent of the damage from this latest tar sands spill, but what we do know is that this is not the first time this pipeline has spilled toxic tar sands, and it won’t be the last.”
Someday, They’ll Be Amazed We Didn’t Impeach Trump Over the Climate Crisis
Jack Holmes October 25, 2019
Right now, out in sunny California, 50,o00 people have been forced to evacuate their homes. That’s just in Los Angeles, where at least four wildfires are currently ravaging the nation’s second-largest city. The largest is the Tick fire, which is burning through the canyons north of town and scything towards heavily residential areas at pace, The New York Timestells us. All schools in the San Fernando Valley have been closed due to “air-quality and safety concerns.” An entirely separate blaze, known as the Kincade fire, has burned 16,000 acres of Sonoma County. 13,000 firefighters are battling it, but it’s so far only 5 percent contained.
The 2019 fire season has actually been a let-off from previous years, particularly the one just past. Only 300 structures have been destroyed so far, compared to 23,000 in 2018. 163,000 acres have burned, compared to 1.6 million (!) last year, though the 2019 season is far from over.
In fact, as David Wallace-Wells detailed this year for New Yorkmagazine, the fire season never really ends anymore. Both scientists and firefighters have suggested dropping the “season” term. It is always fire season, and fire season is always getting worse, because it is always getting hotter and drier. About half of the 88 cities in Los Angeles county are classified as “Very High Fire-Hazard Severity Zones,” raising the prospect that in the future, the gleaming jewel of the West—our great American dream factory—will come to resemble a very particular kind of hell. After all, as Wallace-Wells tells us, some of these fires grow an acre a second. Some grow three times faster still. You cannot outrun fire traveling 60 miles per hour on the Santa Ana winds.
All this, of course, is just one spasm of our almighty planet’s sprawling reaction to the great disturbance we have caused in it. Someday, we will appreciate that if you put the 4 billion-year history of Earth on a 24-hour clock, human history is the equivalent of one second. We are ants crawling about on a particularly fancy rock in a galactic backwater, one that is determined to maintain an equilibrium we have disrupted. If need be, it will sweep us off like the ants we are, with increasingly powerful storms and incredible rain events and oppressive heatwaves and rising seas and epidemic diseases and failing crops and yes, raging wildfires. In the meantime, we will likely tear each other apart to escape the near-term consequences. But like those fires traveling on the Santa Ana winds, there will be no outrunning them in the end.
And all the while, we squabble over taxes and The National Debt and whether the president should be impeached for selling out the national interest in favor of his own when dealing with foreign countries like Ukraine. He should be, of course: he violated his oath of office and abused his power. But someday, assuming we make it that far, future generations will surely wonder why we did not remove him from the world’s most powerful office simply because he denied the existence of a fundamental threat to human civilization as we know it. The president has not just said the climate crisis is a Chinese hoax, or suggested he has some different opinion on whether it’s a problem compared to the scientists—you know, people who have devoted their lives to studying this phenomenon. He has actively rolled back our efforts in pretty much every department, to combat a crisis that will upend not just our children’s lives, but our own.
Donald Trump, for his part, likely figures he’ll be dead and it won’t matter. This is also his view on The National Debt, but at least that’s an overblown problem. His radical solipsism permits him to dismiss small concerns like the future of the human species, not to mention all the other species, which are currently dying off at a prodigious pace in what scientists are calling the sixth mass extinction event. Meanwhile, his rich cronies probably believe they can make enough money to outrun whatever the consequences may be if they’re still around when the time comes. That will require covering an acre a second. Better get your track spikes on.