Plastic in the Great Lakes, Pesticides in India, and New Mexico Bears in Trouble

New Nooze from a handful of great IJNR alumni this morning. john flesherFirst, from John Flesher with the AP, a look at a new threat to the Great Lakes:

Masses of Plastic Particles Found in the Great Lakes

In this 2012 photo provided by 5gyres.org is a sample collected in eastern Lake Erie showing tiny bits of plastic on a penny. Scientists discovered masses of floating plastic particles in Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they’re widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario. They are trying to determine whether fish are eating the particles, which may come from city wastewater, and passing them up the food chain to humans. (AP Photo/Courtesy 5gyres.org, Carolyn Box)

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Already ravaged by toxic algae, invasive mussels and industrial pollution, the Great Lakes now confront another potential threat that few had even imagined until recently: untold millions of plastic litter bits, some visible only through a microscope.

Scientists who have studied gigantic masses of floating plastic in the world's oceans are now reporting similar discoveries in the lakes that make up nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh water. They retrieved the particles from Lakes Superior, Huron and Erie last year. This summer, they're widening the search to Lakes Michigan and Ontario, skimming the surface with finely meshed netting dragged behind sailing vessels.... Read more.

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From Meera Subramanian writing for the New York Timesmeera subramanian, a story about India's ongoing - and sometimes tragic - struggle with biocides:

Bihar School Deaths Highlight India's Struggle with Pesticides

India is still reeling from the deaths of 23 schoolchildren in the village of Dharmasati Gandawa in Bihar on July 17 after they ate a free school lunch that was made with cooking oil tainted with the pesticide monocrotophos. The police say that the cooking oil might have been kept in a container that once held the pesticide.

The devastating event in Bihar reveals a larger problem in India that stems from the wide use of biocides in myriad forms, in cities and villages, in homes and fields. The organophosphate monocrotophos is widely used in India even as other countries, like the United States, have banned the chemical because it has “high acute toxicity,” according to the World Health Organization. In fact, the W.H.O. pressured India to bar the use of the pesticide in 2009. 

In 2011, India’s Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar acknowledged that 67 pesticides prohibited in other parts of the world were widely being used in India. If they are cheap and effective, these chemicals often remain legal, though their specific instructions and proper use are often flagrantly disregarded or simply unknown to the users. There is evidence that even pesticides banned in India continue to be used... Read more.

A farmer sprinkling pesticide in his paddy field in Visalpur village on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on July 30, 2012. (Photo by Amit Dave/Reuters)

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sarah gilmanIs a "fed bear a dead bear," as the adage goes? Not necessarily. Sarah Gilman with High Country News explores the idea that it all depends on where you feed the bear:

Can feeding bears in the backcountry reduce bear-human conflict?

It’s been a hairy summer in New Mexico. In late June, a black bear attracted by birdfeeders tore into a tent at a campsite near Raton. The two women inside managed to escape and scare the bear off with their car alarm. Earlier that month, north of Cimarron, a 400-lb bear clawed its way into the room of a bedridden 82-year-old woman, who sustained minor scratches on her face. New Mexico Department of Game and Fish officials killed both bruins.

Meanwhile, bear sightings have become de rigueur in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains and within Albuquerque. An extraordinary drought has gripped the state, and a late frost hammered bears’ natural food sources. The combo has left them with little choice but to roam for calories, which are often easily available in and around human homes in the form of unsecured garbage, pet food and birdseed... Read more.

New Mexico Department of Game and Fish Conservation Officer Kyle Jackson inspects a bear suspected of attacking an elderly Cimarron woman Tuesday night. (Photo courtesy New Mexico Game & Fish)