Short Bits of Interest and Positivity

Yurok Tribe and Parks Service Sign Historic Pact

On June 1, 2020, the Yurok Tribe officially took over operation of the Stone Lagoon Visitor’s Center after signing the first ever Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) between a Tribal Government and the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The JPA extends for five years and gives the tribe the opportunity to enhance the way that visitors experience this culturally significant area, for example, by hiring interpreters who will highlight the rich Yurok history in the area. The tribe has plans to host culture-sharing events such as basket-making classes, canoe building workshops and storytelling events. Access to the lagoon will remain the same.

Stone Lagoon, called Chah-pekw O’ Ket’oh in the Yurok language, plays a critical role in the Tribe’s traditional culture. In 2012, a group of Yurok ceremonial leaders restored a Jump Dance at Cha-pekw, which begins with a Boat Dance on Stone Lagoon and concludes on national park land within the Tribe’s ancestral territory. The world renewal ceremony had not occurred at these sites since the 1800s when the United States outlawed the religious practice as part of a coordinated campaign to colonize tribal lands and people. During this tumultuous time period, the California government was equally involved in the forced assimilation effort and committed acts of genocide against indigenous people in the state.


Record Level GHG in May Despite Reduced Emissions Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Despite our desperate hopes that the upside of the coronavirus would be reduced greenhouse gas emissions, measurements of CO2, the chief greenhouse gas, averaged 417.1 parts per million at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, for the month of May, when carbon levels in the air peak, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA ). That’s 2.4 parts per million higher than a year ago. Emissions of CO2 dropped by as much as 17% in April due to shelter in place orders around the world, but it was only a brief decline. This highlights the enormity of the problem and shows that large-scale mobilization will be needed to permanently reduce the carbon in our atmosphere.


The End of Plastic?

Globally, around 300 million tons of plastic are manufactured from fossil fuels every year, contributing significantly to the climate crisis and the scourge of microplastics. But, a Dutch company is developing a 100% plant-based bottle that will break down within a year, as compared to a plastic bottle which takes 450 years to degrade. The “bottle” would consist of a cardboard container lined with a plant-based plastic sourced from corn, wheat or beets. Carlsberg Beer has announced intentions to “bottle” its Pilsner in the new, plant-based container. 


Racial Equity in the Environmental Movement

The largest conservation network in the country, the National Wildlife Federation, has named its first Vice President for Racial Equity and Justice. Chante Coleman was previously the group’s first director of equity and justice, and she worked on its 2020 Equity and Justice Strategic Plan. The plan contains a commitment to a more diverse staff, a new hiring process, and a recognition of “the social, economic, and political contexts that shaped the early environmental and conservation movements and resulted in cultural biases that permeate our institutions today.”


California Clean Truck Rule Could Avoid 17.6M Tons of CO2

An independent analysis of California’s landmark proposal to require manufacturers to sell certain percentages of zero-emissions trucks starting in 2024 found that it could prevent 17.3 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and 58,000 tons of nitrogen oxides from entering the atmosphere through 2040.

Chris Busch, research director at Energy Innovation and an additional author of the analysis, said the rule would likely benefit low-income communities and communities of color in California that have historically suffered from air pollution. However, he cautioned that the analysis didn’t specifically examine this impact.

The trucking industry is worried about its ability to comply with the mandate by 2024, saying that just because manufacturers are mandated to sell them, doesn’t mean that people will buy them. The California Air Resources Board is set to vote on the proposed rule on June 25.


Rare Blue Bee, Thought to Be Extinct, Makes An Appearance in Florida

First discovered in 2011, the blue calamintha bee (Osmia calaminthae), hasn’t been seen since 2016. But this spring, just as Americans began sheltering in place due to COVID-19, the rare blue bees made an appearance in central Florida, foraging on Ashe’s calamint, a dainty violet flower that blooms in certain scrub habitats.

Researchers don’t know what causes the bee’s indigo coloring. The solitary bees (a hive has never been found for them) have only ever been documented in the wild from March 9 to April 30.

Chase Kimmel of the Florida Museum of Natural History was one of the researchers who confirmed the bees’ survival in March. At first, he couldn’t believe his own eyes. “It was a great feeling; those first few nights were hard to sleep due to the anxiousness and excitement,” he said.