BP Spill Sickens People; What Thoreau Tells About Global Warming

The Nation on the health toll of the oil spill, USA Today on the EPA's failure with smelting, Mother Jones on seabirds, and The New York Times on greening Europe and reading Thoreau

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The Nation on the health toll of BP oil spill The Nation weighs in on the BP oil spill on its two-year anniversary, offering a doozy of a report in its latest issue. It's not the fishes whose health is hurting from the spill. People are getting sick too, and Antonia Juhasz runs down the terrible health consequences the spill that are already cropping out, along with ones that will become more prevalent in coming years. A short-term memory loss is called a "BP moment"; a particular skin ailment associated with oil exposure is called the "BP rash." And that's just getting started. As The Nation tells it, Gulf victims won't be getting the help they're owed from the oil company. "As information about the settlement negotiations comes to light, several critical issues are not being adequately addressed—including the human health crisis brought on by the disaster ... Although it would cover 'certain respiratory, gastrointestinal, eye, skin and neurophysiological' conditions, it excludes mental health and a host of physical ailments, including cancers, birth defects, developmental disorders and neurological disorders including dementia."

USA Today on the EPA's failure with cleaning up smelting sites Oil spills certainly aren't the only way to create a health crisis. USA Today offers an investigation into the government turning a blind eye toward old smelting sites, which can (and do) give folks living nearby lead poisoning. Until the 1970s and 1980s, factories processing lead spewed out plumes of smokes laden with the toxic metal that accumulated in nearby soils. The problem today, according to the investigation, is that the Environmental Protection Agency has failed to identify old smelting plants and failed in cleaning up the ones it knew of. "People who live nearby — sometimes directly on top of — old smelters were not warned, left unaware in many cases of the factories' existence and the dangers that remain. Instead, they bought and sold homes and let their children play in contaminated yards."

Mother Jones on a Jane Goodall for seabirds Staying Island of the Blue Dolphins-like on Rasa Island in the Gulf of California, preservationist Enriqueta Velarde has been putting decades of work to protect the Mexican island's seabird populations from both animal and human foes. A former student of hers, Julia Whitty, puts Velarde in a litany of ethologists starting with Jane Goodall in a profile for the most recent issue of Mother Jones. How did she save the island's Heerman's gulls and elegant terns? First, she drove away maurading humans robbing bird eggs to sell as aphrodisiacs. Then, her team turned to successfully eradicating Rasa's non-native rats and mice, also swiping eggs. "She estimates there are some 200,000 now," reports Whitty, of the island's terns. "Seven times the 1980 number." Makes us feel guilty for not saving a species lately.

The New York Times on renewable energy in Europe As far as continents go, Europe is perhaps the greenest, with the European Union's focus on incubating renewable energy. That policy was largely guided by Germany's Günther Oettinger, the EU's current commissioner of energy, with whom The New York Times' James Kanter sat down for a talk. Square in Oettinger's crosshairs is reducing member nations' carbon emissions, and he's finding novel ways of doing that: requiring energy companies to reinvest a portion of revenue in energy-efficient home insulation, for example, or proposing to couple wind turbines in the north with solar panels with the south. One thorny debate he's now managing is angst over nuclear power, with nations like Britain and France, open to the power source, up against the Italys and Austrias of Europe that have banned it.

The New York Times on reading Thoreau for global warming Here's a kernel of evidence for climate change, for the literary set. As explained in a Times op-ed by Richard B. Primack, Abraham J. Miller-Rushing, and Becca Stadtlander, writer Henry David Thoreau's journals reveal that flowers in the Concord, Mass. region where he spent most of his days are blooming earlier than they were 160 years ago. "Since the 1850s, the first blueberry flowering has shifted three weeks earlier — the blossoms now generally open during the last two weeks of April," they write, accompanied with illustrations (right). "But this year, after a record warm winter, blueberry bushes began to flower on April 1, six weeks earlier than in Thoreau’s time." Other species have had extreme shifts forward, too, but most troubling are the flowers that the three couldn't find at all. "Of the species that Thoreau noted in the mid-19th century, a quarter seem to be missing."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.