- How the anti-plastic straw movement fits into a larger plan to save the ocean
- Hog-tied: Why bounty hasn’t solved the feral hog problem in Guadalupe County
- ‘Dang, that’s a lot of meat,’ A&M professor says as U.S. surplus grows
How the anti-plastic straw movement fits into a larger plan to save the ocean
- (Commentary) Dallas Morning News, July 21, 2018, and 14 others
- (Overview) Business Insider, July 25, 2018
(Dallas Morning News Article) By Tramel S. Crow
Environmentalists have declared war on the plastic straw, and it is easy to see why. Americans use millions of straws every day, for about 20 minutes each on average, and then toss them out. For hundreds of years, those straws break down gradually into tiny microparticles and become an unappetizing contaminant in every food chain.
This is especially true on our beaches and in our oceans, where plastic waste is accumulating so quickly that by 2050 it may, according to a study by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, exceed the weight of all the fish in the seas. Studies show that up to 70 percent of seabirds have ingested plastics and the likelihood of a turtle ingesting plastic has increased significantly over the past couple of decades.
The anti-straw movement exploded in 2015 with a disturbing video made by a Texas A&M scientist of a marine biologist extracting a crusty plastic straw from the nostril of a live sea turtle. More than 30 million YouTube views later, the video has helped drive a global movement to limit or ban straws through campaigns like the Last Plastic Straw, Strawfree.org, Strawwars.org, Be Straw Free, and television actor Adrian Grenier’s campaign For a Strawless Ocean.
Now cities and companies are jumping on the bandwagon. The city of Seattle banned plastic straws and utensils. Starbucks will stop offering plastic straws by 2020. American Airlines and Alaska Airlines have eliminated them from its flights. SeaWorld will remove straws and bags from its parks, and Marriott Hotels and Royal Caribbean will eliminate them from hotels and cruise ships. Even quarterback Tom Brady announced in his Instagram page, “I’m out on single-use plastic straws.”
I’m all for avoiding plastic straws. They’re one of thousands of products we overuse or just don’t need. But can we really save the planet by banning one product at a time like this? Straws are just the tiny tip of an enormous, melting iceberg, after all.
We can do more, not just by relying on government bans, but by harnessing the free market. Last April here in Dallas, at the world’s largest Earth Day exhibition, more than 100 corporate executives, environmental activists and politicians from the right and the left gathered to find ways to save the world’s oceans, forests and climate.
Together with environmental sustainability nonprofits EarthX and Future 500, these leaders developed a six-point plan to protect the world’s oceans. Cutting plastic pollution was high on that list, but we didn’t stop there. We detailed six ways consumers and corporations could combine their buying power in order to get to the root causes of ocean destruction.
Government can help, but consumers have the real power, if we learn to use it. We can save the oceans by only supporting brands and companies that:
1. Shift to clean-burning fuels on cargo and cruise ships.
2. Offer only sustainable seafood, never from illegal or untraceable sources.
3. Avoid minerals, oil and gas mined in ways that threaten fisheries, reefs and complex marine ecosystems.
4. Buy plastic products only from providers who join a comprehensive global system to reduce, reuse and recycle plastics, and prevent marine debris from entering the ocean, especially in nations that don’t have recycling infrastructures.
5. Buy meat and produce only from farms and ranches that strictly reduce chemical runoff — the chief cause of ocean dead zones that kill fisheries and hurt people whose livelihoods depend on them.
6. Commit to corporate and public policies that will drive down ocean acidification and coral reef death, which threatens our food supply and ultimately survival. (By the way, the actions that reduce acidification and coral destruction, which are not under debate, are the same that protect the climate, a problem that some still deny.)
Those six steps are all within reach. Responsible business executives, consumers and political leaders I know from both parties agree they are necessary. But they won’t happen until citizens organize across party lines and aim for systemic solutions that are bigger than just a ban on straws.
That requires we step past our polarized political system. Polls show that 70 percent of Americans, on the right and left, can find solutions on almost any issue, if we just talk with one another.
Saying no to straws is a first step; it is tangible, easy and helps start a conversation. Let’s keep talking and find collaborative solutions that can stem the tide of ocean destruction.
Trammell S. Crow is a business leader and philanthropist in Dallas and founder of EarthX, the former Earth Day Texas. He wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News.
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Hog-tied: Why bounty hasn’t solved the feral hog problem in Guadalupe County
By Michael Marks
What has four legs, ruins most anything it touches, and is worth five bucks? Any guesses?
For the next six weeks or so in Guadalupe County, the answer is feral hogs. The county’s offering a bounty on hogs to decrease the local population. But when it comes to getting rid of the pigs, just how effective is a bounty?
This makes sense, right? If you’ve got a feral hog problem, offer people cash to kill them. And make no mistake, Guadalupe County does have a feral hog problem. They can get into a field of watermelons or corn or milo, start rooting around.
Bubba Ortiz’s family owns a hog abatement company that operates in Guadalupe County.
“And they can do hundreds if not thousands of dollars of damage in one night,” Ortiz says.
That’s Business is “uh, consistent,” he says.
Because while it’s unknown exactly how many feral hogs are in Texas, most experts agree the population is two million or more – and growing. Landowners across the state are desperate for relief. So to them, a bounty sounds like a great idea. Back in June, Guadalupe County Commissioner Jack Shanafelt addressed the problem at the Commissioners Court meeting when they approved the bounty program.
“The residents of the county keep asking ‘When is the county going to do a bounty program?’ So I think this is a proactive way that we can look at our county and say we’re doing something to help our farmers and ranchers abate the hog problem,” he said.
The bounty opened on Monday, and it’s available until August 28. Every tail brought to the county as proof of a dead hog is worth $5. Cheating is possible, but hunters have to submit contact information for whoever owns the land where they killed a hog. The State of Texas and Guadalupe County each put up $5,000 for the program, so there’s enough cash to claim two thousand bounties. Sounds straightforward.
Stephen Ditchkoff is a professor of wildlife ecology and management at Auburn University. Last year he published a study on the effectiveness of a hog bounty program at Fort Benning in Georgia.
“The problem is, and specifically with pigs, we believe that bounties – it’s impossible for them to work from an eradication perspective,” he says. “And surprisingly [we] found that the populations actually increased while the bounty was in place.”
You read that right. He said increased, not decreased.
Ditchkoff thinks there are a couple reasons for this. One, the area was just coming out of a drought, so that helped the population And two:
“There was also the use of a lot of bait for trapping,” he says. “So we were making a lot of resources available to this pig population and as a result it was a perfect storm to ramp up reproduction. They were just reproducing faster than they could be removed.”
The bounty created a better breeding ground. And it made some of the hogs smarter by introducing them to traps they hadn’t seen before. That’s not what you want if you’re trying to eradicate hogs, which other Texas counties have tried to do with bounties with mixed results.
But according to Travis Franke, complete eradication is not the goal in Guadalupe County. Franke is one of the local Texas A&M Agrilife Extension agents.
“An eradication program is going to be very, very, very difficult to do,” Franke says. “We’re not looking at eradication, we’re looking at controlling the numbers to where we can keep the damage to a minimum.”
Franke says the other goal is to educate landowners and to offset some expenses like ammunition and bait. A bounty could help achieve those – if not full-on feral hog annihilation.
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‘Dang, that’s a lot of meat,’ A&M professor says as U.S. surplus grows
By Paul J. Gately
WACO, Texas (KWTX) The United States Department of Agriculture in June reported the second largest surplus of meat in history after foreign markets crumbled because of tariffs, which in the long run could mean lower meat prices for U.S. consumers.
But what promises to be good for consumers could also spell disaster for local poultry, pork and beef producers as market prices plummet.
“Dang, that’s a lot of meat,” says Dr. David Anderson, professor of agricultural economics in Department of Agricultural Economics at Texas A&M University said Tuesday.
At least, it sounds like a lot of meat, but not so fast, there, cowboy, Anderson says.
“We store hundreds of tons of meat in the U.S. all the time because once it’s butchered, meat has to be kept cold. That’s nothing new,” he said.
Perhaps current stores of beef don’t show an alarming trend, but U.S. freezers show significant upticks in stores of pork and poultry, he said.
Soon that could mean lower prices at the meat counter, but the fly in the ointment is that if consumer prices decline, producer prices will decline right along with them, so the positive effect at the supermarket will equal a negative effect at the auction barn.
U.S. consumers’ appetite for meat is growing, but not fast enough to keep up with record production of hogs and chickens.
The USDA reported Monday that 2.5 billion pounds of meat is stored in commercial freezers in the United States, the second largest surplus in history.
“We are packed full,” Joe Rumsey, president of Zero Mountain Inc. said.
The company, based in Arkansas, currently operates five cold storage locations that provide a total of more than 330,000-square-feet of freezer and storage space for turkeys and chicken strips between processors and retailers and on any given day holds 250 million pounds of product awaiting shipment.
Zero Mountain is building a sixth warehouse in Waco.
“It’s an example of how important exports are to U.S. agriculture.” Gene Hall, communications director for the Waco-based Texas Farm Bureau, said Tuesday.
“Also of how tariffs can affect markets,” and “If additional markets are not found, (consumer) prices will decline,” Hall said.
“That will be of short term benefit for consumers. However, if it’s serious enough and (livestock) producers go out of the business entirely, that could have serious long term effects,” Hall said.
Federal data released Monday showed a record level of beef, pork, poultry and turkey being stockpiled in U.S. facilities, rising above 2.5 billion pounds, USDA and other agricultural analysts said.
“U.S. consumers’ appetite for meat is growing, but not fast enough to keep up with record production of hogs and chickens,” a Sunday report published in the Wall Street Journal said.
The WSJ article continued: “That leaves the U.S. meat industry increasingly reliant on exports, but Mexico and China—among the largest foreign buyers of U.S. meat—have both set tariffs on U.S. pork products in response to U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum and other goods.
“U.S. hams, chops and livers have become sharply more expensive in those markets, which is starting to slow sales, industry officials said,” according to the WSJ story.
China first implemented a 25 percent tariff on U.S. pork in April and in July boosted the duty to 62 percent, and that resulted in an 18 percent decline in meat exports to China in the first five months of the year.
In recent weeks USDA has reported no sales of pork to China.
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