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Daily News Blog

13
Mar

United Nations and White House Calls for Action to Protect the Oceans

(Beyond Pesticides, March 13, 2023) The United Nations has just announced on March 4, 2023, an agreement on a new high seas treaty. The treaty, which must be adopted by member states and then ratified by at least 60 countries to take effect could be a critical development for meeting the UN’s COP15 “30 by 30” goal of protecting 30% of the world’s land and sea by 2030 to slow and arrest global biodiversity losses.

The treaty represents a step toward implementation of President Biden’s “America the Beautiful Initiative” set in 2021, proclaiming “the first-ever national conservation goal” established by a President –a goal of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.” However, he U.S. has a poor track record on approval of UN environmental treaties; approval requires a two-thirds majority affirmative vote in the Senate, and failure on that would block a Presidential signature and ratification.

Meanwhile, a report just reissued by an international coalition of scientists led by Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and Global Observatory on Planetary Health and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco documents the widespread and growing pollution of the ocean. The full report, “Human Health and Ocean Pollution,” is published in the Annals of Global Health (DOI: 10.5334/aogh.2831).

Tell President Biden to sign the UN high seas treaty. Tell EPA and Congress to protect the ocean from toxic pollution.    

Professor Philip Landrigan, M.D., the director of Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and the Global Observatory on Planetary Health summarize the importance of actions to protect the oceans, “Simply put: Ocean pollution is a major global problem, it is growing, and it directly affects human health.” The UN treaty recognizes the need to address “biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean, due to, in particular, climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, such as warming and ocean deoxygenation, as well as ocean acidification, pollution, including plastic pollution, and unsustainable use.”

The UN treaty will promote the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, adopted in 1982, by establishing protected areas on the high seas—that is, the vast portion of the ocean that is outside of national boundaries—and providing for an overhaul of environmental impact assessments for actions affecting the ocean.

But signing and ratifying the treaty are only first steps. In order to comply with the treaty, nations must take concrete steps to promote the objectives of the treaty when making decisions under other laws, ensuring “that the activity can be conducted in a manner consistent with the prevention of significant adverse impacts on the marine environment.” As shown by the Global Observatory’s report, whose findings are drawn from 584 scientific reports, these impacts include:

  • Pollution of the oceans by plastics, toxic metals, manufactured chemicals, pesticides, sewage, and agricultural runoff that is killing and contaminating the fish that feed 3 billion people. 

  • Coastal pollution spreading life-threatening infections. 

  • Oil spills and chemical wastes that threaten the microorganisms in the seas that provide much of the world’s oxygen supply. 


Action is needed now to stop the ongoing collapse of marine ecosystems. Researchers blame chemical pollution from pesticides, farm fertilizers, and oil spills in the water. The same chemicals that contribute to the insect apocalypse on land are contributing to the loss of keystone aquatic and marine organisms. For example, neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been detected in rivers, streams, and lakes in 29 states, present detrimental impacts on keystone aquatic organisms and result in a complex cascading impact on ecosystems. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2017 risk assessment for the most widely used neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, found, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” These surface waters eventually drain into the ocean.

EPA has responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to protect human health and the environment from these threats. Despite its acknowledgement that current benchmarks are not adequately protective, EPA describes its review process as requiring studies of the most sensitive organisms and a range of publicly available environmental laboratory and field studies.

Industrial agriculture, supported by EPA’s registration of toxic pesticides, results in emissions of climate-changing nitrogen oxides and loss of soil health. It is also a major contributing factor to nitrate run-off and the need for petroleum-based chemicals whose production results in oil spills. It is within the power and authority of EPA to reverse the threats to biodiversity and human existence.

Letter to EPA:

The United Nations has just announced an agreement on a new high seas treaty. The treaty represents a step toward implementation of President Biden’s “America the Beautiful Initiative,” the “first-ever national conservation goal” established by a President –of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030”—endorsing the United Nation’s 30 x 30 plan to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030.

Meanwhile, a report just reissued by an international coalition of scientists led by Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and Global Observatory on Planetary Health and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco documents the widespread and growing pollution of the ocean. The report, “Human Health and Ocean Pollution,” is published in the Annals of Global Health (DOI: 10.5334/aogh.2831).

Professor Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the observatory and of Boston College’s Global Public Health Program, summarizes the need to protect the oceans, “Simply put: Ocean pollution is a major global problem, it is growing, and it directly affects human health.” The UN treaty, recognizing the need to address “biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean, due to, in particular, climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, such as warming and ocean deoxygenation, as well as ocean acidification, pollution, including plastic pollution, and unsustainable use,” will promote the implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

But signing and ratifying the treaty are only first steps. Compliance with the treaty requires concrete steps to promote the objectives of the treaty when making decisions under other laws, ensuring “that the activity can be conducted in a manner consistent with the prevention of significant adverse impacts on the marine environment.” As shown by the Global Observatory’s report, whose findings are drawn from 584 scientific reports, these impacts include: pollution of the oceans by plastics, toxic metals, manufactured chemicals, pesticides, sewage, and agricultural runoff that is killing and contaminating the fish that feed 3 billion people; coastal pollution spreading life-threatening infections; oil spills and chemical wastes that threaten the microorganisms in the seas that provide much of the world’s oxygen supply. 


Action is needed now to stop the ongoing collapse of marine ecosystems. Researchers blame chemical pollution from pesticides, farm fertilizers, and oil spills. The same chemicals that contribute to the insect apocalypse on land are contributing to the loss of keystone aquatic and marine organisms. For example, neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been detected in rivers, streams, and lakes in 29 states, present detrimental impacts on keystone aquatic organisms, with a complex cascading impact on ecosystems. EPA’s 2017 risk assessment for the most widely used neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, found, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” These surface waters eventually drain into the ocean.

EPA has responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to protect human health and the environment from these threats.

The same industrial agriculture that is supported by EPA’s registration of toxic pesticides and results in emissions of climate-changing nitrogen oxides and loss of soil health is also a major contributing factor to nitrate run-off and the need for petroleum-based chemicals whose production results in oil spills. It is within the power and authority of EPA to reverse the threats to biodiversity and human existence.

EPA must reevaluate its risk-benefit analysis to recognize the existential threats posed by toxic pesticides and the industrial agriculture they support. EPA must, instead, promote organic agriculture that does not create such threats.

Thank you.

Letter to U.S. Senators and Representative:

The United Nations has just announced an agreement on a new high seas treaty. The treaty can be a step toward realization of President Biden’s “America the Beautiful Initiative,” the “first-ever national conservation goal” established by a President –of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030”—endorsing the United Nation’s 30 x 30 plan to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030.

A report by an international coalition of scientists led by Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and Global Observatory on Planetary Health and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco documents the widespread and growing pollution of the ocean. The report, “Human Health and Ocean Pollution,” is published in the Annals of Global Health (DOI: 10.5334/aogh.2831).

Professor Philip Landrigan, M.D., director of the observatory and of Boston College’s Global Public Health Program, summarizes the need to protect the oceans, “Simply put: Ocean pollution is a major global problem, it is growing, and it directly affects human health.” The UN treaty, recognizing the need to address “biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean, due to, in particular, climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, such as warming and ocean deoxygenation, as well as ocean acidification, pollution, including plastic pollution, and unsustainable use,” will promote the implementation of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

But signing and ratifying the treaty are only first steps. The treaty requires concrete steps to promote its objectives when making decisions under other laws, ensuring “that the activity can be conducted in a manner consistent with the prevention of significant adverse impacts on the marine environment.” As shown by the report, whose findings are drawn from 584 scientific reports, these impacts include: pollution of the oceans by plastics, toxic metals, manufactured chemicals, pesticides, sewage, and agricultural runoff that is killing and contaminating the fish that feed 3 billion people; coastal pollution spreading life-threatening infections; oil spills and chemical wastes that threaten the microorganisms in the seas that provide much of the world’s oxygen supply. 


Action is needed now to stop the ongoing collapse of marine ecosystems. Researchers blame chemical pollution from pesticides, farm fertilizers, and oil spills. The same chemicals that contribute to the insect apocalypse on land are contributing to the loss of keystone aquatic and marine organisms. For example, neonicotinoid insecticides, which have been detected in rivers, streams, and lakes in 29 states, harm keystone aquatic organisms, with a complex cascading impact on ecosystems. EPA’s 2017 risk assessment for the most widely used neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, found, “[C]oncentrations of imidacloprid detected in streams, rivers, lakes and drainage canals routinely exceed acute and chronic toxicity endpoints derived for freshwater invertebrates.” These surface waters eventually drain into the ocean.

EPA has responsibilities under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Clean Water Act to protect human health and the environment from these threats.

The same industrial agriculture that is supported by EPA’s registration of toxic pesticides and results in emissions of climate-changing nitrogen oxides and loss of soil health is also a major contributing factor to nitrate run-off and the need for petroleum-based chemicals whose production results in oil spills. It is within the power and authority of EPA to reverse the threats to biodiversity and human existence.

Please ensure that EPA re-evaluates its risk-benefit analysis to recognize the existential threats posed by toxic pesticides and the industrial agriculture they support and promotes organic agriculture that does not create such threats.

Please encourage President Biden to sign the High Seas Treaty and the Senate to approve its ratification.

Thank you.

Letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.N. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield:

The United Nations has just announced an agreement on a new high seas treaty. The treaty represents a step toward implementation of President Biden’s “America the Beautiful Initiative,” the “first-ever national conservation goal” established by a President –of conserving at least 30 percent of U.S. lands and waters by 2030”—endorsing the United Nation’s 30 x 30 plan to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030.

Meanwhile, a report just reissued by an international coalition of scientists led by Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and Global Observatory on Planetary Health and the Centre Scientifique de Monaco documents the widespread and growing pollution of the ocean. The report, “Human Health and Ocean Pollution,” is published in the Annals of Global Health (DOI: 10.5334/aogh.2831).

Professor Philip Landrigan, M.D., the director of the observatory and of Boston College’s Global Public Health Program and the Global Observatory on Planetary Health summarizes the importance of actions to protect the oceans, “Simply put: Ocean pollution is a major global problem, it is growing, and it directly affects human health.” The UN treaty, recognizing the need to address “biodiversity loss and degradation of ecosystems of the ocean, due to, in particular, climate change impacts on marine ecosystems, such as warming and ocean deoxygenation, as well as ocean acidification, pollution, including plastic pollution, and unsustainable use,” will promote the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 10 December.

But signing and ratifying the treaty are only first steps. In order to comply with the treaty, nations must take concrete steps to promote the objectives of the treaty when making decisions under other laws, ensuring “that the activity can be conducted in a manner consistent with the prevention of significant adverse impacts on the marine environment.” As shown by the Global Observatory’s report, whose findings are drawn from 584 scientific reports, these impacts include: pollution of the oceans by plastics, toxic metals, manufactured chemicals, pesticides, sewage, and agricultural runoff that is killing and contaminating the fish that feed 3 billion people; coastal pollution spreading life-threatening infections; oil spills and chemical wastes that threaten the microorganisms in the seas that provide much of the world’s oxygen supply. 


Action is needed now to stop the ongoing collapse of marine ecosystems. Please encourage President Biden to sign the High Seas Treaty.

Thank you.

 

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