Sea turtle and fish at a coral reef in the Maldives | Photo: Tchami, some rights reserved

Neonics: Toxic Until Fully Tested

Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of The Xerces Society, talks about the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on the environment.

"We believe because they're so toxic, they're so long-lived, they're found inside plants, but readily move into water, that we could really see big ecosystem changes because of these chemicals," he says.

Neonicotinoids, which are now found in stream and well samples across the United States, are not only affecting pollinators like bees and butterflies, but killing insects -- the underpinning of the food chain. That in turn affects birds, fish, and other wildlife.

"The chemical companies are really running the show here," Black says. He questions whether a chemical closely related to nicotine — a known carcinogen — should be so widely used on food crops before further safety studies are conducted. "It's not just about the environment. It's that we are not taking care of humans."

 

 

 

 

Upcoming Airdates

Vanishing Coral

“Vanishing Coral” presents the personal story of scientists and naturalists who are working with local communities to protect coral reefs that are being destroyed by warming seas, pollution, and destructive fishing practices. Featured in the documentary is the President of the Biosphere 2 Foundation Abigail Alling, marine biologist and coral expert Phil Dustan, captain of the Mir research sailing vessel Mark Van Thillo, and Nono Suparno, a leading conservationist in Bali.

Tackling Ocean Challenges

(Earth Focus: Episode 66) Oceans support life, yet they are overfished, polluted, and, with global climate change, are becoming increasingly acidic.

Neonicotinoids: The New DDT?

Neonicotinoids are the most widely used insecticides in the world. But they've been linked to the decline of honeybees, which pollinate many food crops. And scientists now say neonicotinoids also harm many terrestrial, aquatic, and marine invertebrates. These pervasive insecticides damage sea urchin DNA, suppress the immune systems of crabs, and affect the tunneling and reproductive behavior of earthworms. They kill off insects that many birds, amphibians, and reptiles rely on for food.

Shades of Gray: Living with Wolves

(Earth Focus: Episode 51) Gray wolves once ranged across North America. But by the 1930s, they were nearly extinct—trapped, poisoned and hunted by ranchers, farmers, and government agents. With protection under the 1973 Endangered Species Act, the wolf population rebounded. But wolves lost federal protection in 2011. Now, with hunting permitted in many Western states, the future of this once endangered species may again be in question. Can we live with wolves? "Earth Focus" travels to Montana and Wyoming to find out.

Restoring The Earth

(Earth Focus: Episode 53) It is possible to rehabilitate large-scale damaged ecosystems, to improve the lives of people trapped in poverty and to sequester carbon naturally. John Liu presents "Hope in a Changing Climate," which showcases approaches that have worked on the Loess Plateau in China, Ethiopia and Rwanda. Produced in collaboration with the Environmental Education Media Project (EEMP).

Young Voices for the Planet

This episode features author and illustrator Lynne Cherry's film series "Young Voices for the Planet" about young adults making positive environmental change.

 

Image: Courtesy of Young Voices on Climate Change.