Sustainable Seafood: Which Retailers Topped The List? (INFOGRAPHIC)

 

Finding sustainable seafood has long been a challenge for environmentalists and foodies alike. Recently, however, supermarkets and food stores have stepped up their efforts to reconcile that dilemma.

Greenpeace has released the results of its annual Carting Away the Oceans report, which evaluates retailers on the sustainability of their seafood.

Greenpeace has conducted the study in each of the last five years, and no retailer had ever achieved a “green” rating. Until now.

This year, Whole Foods and Safeway topped the list, with a “green” score of 7.1 and 7.0 out of 10, respectively, followed by Wegmans, Harris Teeter, and Target.

The stores were graded on a number of factors, including the sale of overfished species such as Chilean sea bass, hoki, orange roughy, and shark. The retailers were also scored based on the degree to which their fishing methods were destructive to habitat and the environment, as well as on their conservation initiatives, transparency and internal policies.

Although some supermarkets received the incriminating “fail” rating, the good news is that the overall performance of the industry has improved significantly, the report shows.

Despite this progress, problems persist. For instance, it is becoming increasingly difficult to trace fish back to their origin, making it hard to say for sure whether or not it is sustainable. According to the report, fraud and other illegal activity are also prevalent in the global seafood market – even in the U.S. According to Greenpeace, pirate vessels capture as much as 20% of the seafood caught globally.

To make matters worse, a dismal 2% of imported seafood is inspected for safety at international borders, posing concerns not only for sustainability, but also human health.

Is your seafood sustainable? Check out this infographic for a snapshot of retailers’ seafood practices:

Image credit: Greenpeace

Big Oil’s Dirty Little Secret: Why Your Gasoline Isn’t Going As Far As It Should

It’s no secret that consumers continue to get ripped off by the major oil companies. But a new investigative report from NBC news reveals another way the richest corporations on Earth have exploited consumers for their own profitable gain.

The big oil companies – and the industry groups that represent them – have worked tirelessly to conceal what, until now, has been a virtually unknown truth: The hotter gasoline is when it is pumped, the lower the vehicle’s mileage per gallon will be.

According to the NBC report, Big Oil collected an extra $1.5 billion from U.S. consumers as a result of failing to address the issue. Not to mention, gasoline prices tend to increase in the hotter summer months, intensifying the cost burden on consumers.

The technology to prevent the problem already exists: “smart” pumps that adjust the price of gasoline according to the temperature. In fact, these smart pumps are already deployed in 90% of gas stations in Canada.

If Canada – which has one of the coldest climates of any nation – recognizes the need to install the new pumps, then why hasn’t it been done in the U.S., where summers in Southern states are downright sweltering? 

Because oil-industry lobbyists have fought long and hard to make sure it doesn’t happen. Several lawsuits against the oil companies are ongoing in some of the warmer states, but the cases are still pending.

Although the NBC report highlights the issue from a consumer-protection standpoint, it fails to mention the wider environmental impact of their negligence. Fewer miles per gallon, of course, mean not only more money, but more harmful emissions.

Installing smart pumps might be a higher-cost option over the short term, but it would pay dividends over the long term not only to consumers, but to the environment.

But, of course, Big Oil isn’t too concerned about that. 

The good news is that there is something you can do. Fill up your tank in the morning, at night, or on colder days to avoid handing out extra dollars to fund dirty oil. Or, better yet, forget the gas altogether, and bike, walk, or – if you have the cash to spend – buy an electric vehicle.

 

The Butterfly Effect: Early Spring Could Lead To Wildlife Population Declines

Photo credit: Carol Boggs

A chain of events caused by climate change has led to a decline in butterfly populations in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, researchers at Stanford University recently found.

The study, published in the scientific journal Ecology Letters, could be prescient in determining the long-lasting effects of climate change on many of the world’s species.

As climate change leads to an early spring, the snowmelt caused by the warmer temperatures on the Rocky Mountains decreases the number of summer wildflowers. Fewer flowers, of course, mean less nectar available to butterflies.

In the researchers’ tests, the more nectar female butterflies ate, the more eggs they laid. Therefore, less available nectar led to fewer butterflies being born and, consequently, population declines, they concluded.

If climate change could have such a dramatic impact on butterfly populations, could similar cascading effects be seen in other wildlife species?

It’s quite likely, scientists say, because of the close interconnection among species within an ecosystem.

For instance, earlier snowmelt’s effect on flowers also impacts bees , which pollinate many of the plants that other species rely on for nutrition.

All of these studies serve to remind us of the wide-reaching impacts of climate change.

“Long-term studies such as ours are important to understanding the ‘ecology of place,’ and the effects of weather and possible climate change on population numbers,” says David Inouye, co-author of the paper. “This research is critical to assessing the broader effects of weather on an ever-changing Earth.”

 

Climate Change Occurring Too Quickly For Wildlife To Adapt

Species have been adapting to climate change – manmade or otherwise – since the beginning of their existence. However, a new study suggests that changes to Earth’s climate and the resulting effects on wildlife habitat are occurring too quickly for species to respond.

Although climate change is not a new phenomenon, its magnitude and rate are occurring much faster than over the past 300 millennia – a period that includes three ice ages. In fact, between now and 2100, climate change will be dramatic enough to require species to evolve at a rate 100 times faster than has been proven possible.

The study, conducted by Indiana University researchers and published in the scientific journal PLoS Onefocused on North American rattlesnakes.

The researchers determined that the rattlesnakes migrated an average of just 2.3 meters annually over the past 320,000 years and that their tolerance to climate has evolved about 100 to 1,000 times more slowly. These findings, the researchers said, show that migration has been the only way rattlesnakes have adapted to climate changes, at least in the recent past.

“We find that, over the next 90 years, at best these species’  ranges will change more than 100 times faster than they have during the past 320,000 years,” said Michelle Lawing, lead author of the paper. “This rate of change is unlike anything these species have experienced, probably since their formation.”

Using climate-prediction models for the next 90 years, the researchers found that the rattlesnakes’ ranges would be displaced by 430 meters to 2,400 meters per year, thus indicating that the snakes would be unable to move fast enough to keep up with the changes to its habitat.

Although this particular study focused on only one species, the researchers say that because rattlesnakes depend on the environment to regulate their body temperatures, the species is representative of how climate change affects many forms of life on the planet. A warming – or drastically altered – climate, therefore, has the potential to be disastrous to not only rattlesnakes, but other species as well.

Bhutan: Culture and Conservation in the ‘Land of Happiness’

The nation of Bhutan – the self-proclaimed “Land of Happiness” – is arguably one of the few remaining places in the world uncorrupted by modern commercialization. But now, the small country in Southeast Asia could be in danger of losing parts of its authenticity and culture that made it so “happy” in the first place.

In 2005, Bhutan’s government instituted what it calls a “Gross National Happiness” policy, which is intended to “ensure that progress does not affect conservation and social harmony.”

The utter absurdity of a law mandating happiness does not warrant further explanation. But the irony is that it’s starting to look like the entire “happiness” effort was actually driven by commercialism itself. The country has launched a new tourism campaign, and new websites – such as TravelBhutan.com – are starting to dot the Internet landscape.

In another ironic twist, part of Bhutan’s tourism push involves what the government calls a “Noah’s Ark of wildlife” thriving in the country’s newest national park – including the endangered snow leopard, whose population in the wild falls in the range of 4,500 to 7,500 individuals, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

WWF says a recent study showed the leopards are “thriving” in the area, which is positive news for conservation. But what happens when Bhutan succumbs to the tourism trap? What will happen to the country’s culture, its people and conservation efforts?

The answer may lie in yet another irony: Bhutan’s definition of “happiness” is the assurance that “progress does not affect conservation and social harmony.” But aren’t conservation and social harmony considered “progress”?

It may be time for Bhutan to assess what really makes its people happy.