Lord Rea: It is not yet Silent Spring in the UK but there is a strong case for tighter regulation of pesticides

"There is a recent report from the policy department of the European Parliament, published last month. It is entitled: Existing Scientific Evidence of the Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticides on Bees and it gives a very up-to-date picture of current research. It has 48 references to scientific papers, mostly published between 2009 and 2012. These describe the evidence on which the descriptions of the effects on bees, including bumblebees, of low doses of what I am going to call "NNs" are based. The case seems to be clear that the use of these chemicals should be reduced and/or further controlled. Those that are shown to be most damaging should be banned. There is enough evidence, I feel."

Decline of the viperine snake in a Mediterranean wetland

The Ebro Delta is a wetland area in which natural ecosystems have been partially replaced by rice fields. This mixed and productive landscape has allowed the establishment of a rich community of organisms. The viperine snake Natrix maura has traditionally been a common and abundant predator because the habitat is favorable and prey availability is high. In June 1995, we conducted a demographic study to evaluate relative densities of snakes in the rice fields. Thirteen years later, we repeated the same study in the same area and season. The field work consisted of 29 censuses of one hectare each, and snakes and their potential prey (green frogs and fish) were counted. In 1995, we found 27 snakes (0.93 animals/ha), these occupying 48% of the sites. Frogs and fish were observed in 23 of the 29 censuses (79%). In 2008, no snakes were found and frogs and fish appeared in only 11 of the samples (38%).

Decline of a Protected Population of Eastern Kingsnakes in South Carolina

Recently, several sources have suggested that Eastern Kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula) have declined over a substantial portion of their range in the southeastern United States, particularly in Florida. However, published evidence for L. getula declines or their potential causes are limited. We monitored the status of a population of L. getula on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site (SRS) in Aiken, South Carolina, USA, from 1975 to 2006. Herpetofaunal populations on the Savannah River Site have been protected from the pressures of collecting and development since 1951 due to site access restrictions. Here, we document a decline in both abundance and body condition of L. getula
inhabiting the vicinity of a large isolated wetland over the past three decades. Because this L. getula population was protected from anthropogenic habitat degradation, collection, and road mortality, we are able to exclude these factors as possible causes of the documented decline.

Pesticides are instrumental in declines of amphibians

Several species of anuran amphibians have undergone drastic population declines in the western United States over the last 10 to 15 years. In California, the most severe declines are in the Sierra Mountains east of the Central Valley and downwind of the intensely agricultural San Joaquin Valley. In contrast, coastal and more northern populations across from the less agrarian Sacramento Valley are stable or declining less precipitously. In this article, we provide evidence that pesticides are instrumental in declines of these species.

Humankind finds itself engaged in what The Prince of Wales described as ‘an act of suicide on a grand scale’

Virtually every past civilization has eventually undergone collapse, a loss of socio-political-economic complexity usually accompanied by a dramatic decline in population size. Some, such as those of Egypt and China, have recovered from collapses at various stages; others, such as that of Easter Island or the Classic Maya, were apparently permanent. All those previous collapses were local or regional; elsewhere, other societies and civilizations persisted unaffected. Sometimes, as in the Tigris and Euphrates valleys, new civilizations rose in succession. In many, if not most, cases, overexploitation of the environment was one proximate or an ultimate cause. But today, for the first time, humanity's global civilization — the worldwide, increasingly interconnected, highly technological society in which we all are to one degree or another, embedded — is threatened with collapse by an array of environmental problems. Humankind finds itself engaged in what Prince Charles described as ‘an act of suicide on a grand scale’, facing what the UK's Chief Scientific Advisor John Beddington called a ‘perfect storm’ of environmental problems.

Are snake populations in widespread decline?

Long-term studies have revealed population declines in fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. In birds, and particularly amphibians, these declines are a global phenomenon. Among reptiles, snakes are top predators and therefore a decline in their numbers may have serious consequences for the functioning of many ecosystems. Our results show that, of 17 snake populations (eight species) from the UK, France, Italy, Nigeria and Australia, 11 have declined sharply over the same relatively short period of time. "All the declines occurred during the same relatively short period of time and over a wide geographical area that included temperate, Mediterranean and tropical climates," write the authors. "We suggest that, for these reasons alone, there is likely to be a common cause at the root of the declines and that this indicates a more widespread phenomenon." Although the paper stresses there is no proof of the cause of the losses, the researchers say they "suspect" loss or deterioration of habitats and declining prey are among the main problems faced by snake populations.

'Pollution in rivers may lead to cancer'

India is going to be hit by cancer of the urinary bladder and kidney in an epidemic form due to constant rise in pollution of rivers and groundwater due to presence of insecticides and chemicals, said eminent surgeon and FRCR, Dr Ashok Tahiliani after returning from attending a treatment workshop at Causeway hospital, United Kingdom. During his stay there he was involved in the treatment of bladder cancer, prostate cancer and patients with difficult urinary stone diseases. In India cases of urinary bladder cancer and prostrate cancer have increased. In the west, cancer of prostrate is the most common cancer and has surpassed lung cancer. He suggested that it is therefore very necessary that the various rivers and environment should be cleaned.

Liberating science and the imagination is top priority for the survival of people and planet

It has become increasingly difficult for people to get reliable and critical scientific information for deciding not only which technologies to adopt, but more importantly, which scientific research to support on the basis of social, ethical, environmental and aesthetic merit. There is a widespread and mistaken assumption that science is neutral or ‘value-free’ and hence beyond reproach, so it is only the technology arising from the science that can be good or bad. Science, as opposed to religious dogma, is not about certainties; it is changing all the time. But, as in any other field of human endeavour, the status quo tends to hang on for far too long, because of vested interests in huge profits, top jobs, big research grants, and personal prestige and reputation. It is incredibly hard for new findings and new ideas to get a hearing in the wider scientific community, or for old, discredited theories to die. And all the more so when the old guard are backed by big corporations that have taken over every sector of society including our most sacred and revered academic institutions. Corporate interests have so thoroughly infiltrated our academic institutions that scientists are no longer free to work for the public good or tell the truth, or do anything new and exciting. Honest scientists who insist on doing so are persecuted and victimised, and by their own academic institutions that should be protecting and defending them.

South Florida’s wading and diving birds had another bad nesting season in 2012

According to the South Florida Wading Bird report, released this week, wading and diving birds built about 26,395 nests in the region, a 39 percent decline in the 10-year average. This was the third consecutive year nesting numbers have been down after a spike in 2009, which produced 77,505 nests, the highest total since the 1940s.

The Philippine cobra and 12 other reptiles have joined the official list of threatened species

Former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri on Sunday said the Philippine cobra (Naja philippinensis) and 12 other reptiles have joined the official list of threatened species. In a statement, he said the snake was earlier identified near threatened but its declining population required its change in category. A highly venomous burly snake averaging a meter in length, Naja philippinensis thrives in low-lying plains, from thick jungles and forested areas to open fields and grasslands. It preys mostly on small rodents and frogs and occasionally, other snakes, lizards and birds. Predators of the Philippine cobra include humans, birds of prey, the king cobra, and the mongoose.
Zuniry, former chairman of the Senate environment and natural resources committee, said the other threatened species are the Loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta), Southeast Asian box turtle (Cuora amboinensis), Spiny terrapin (Heosemys spinosa), South-east Philippine spitting cobra (Naja samarensis), Equatorial spitting cobra (Naja sumatrana), King cobra(Ophiophagus hannah), Southeast Asian softshell turtle (Pelochelys bibroni), Batanes pit viper (Trimeresurus flavomaculatus), Panay monitor lizard (Varanus mabitang) and three subspecies of the Malay monitor lizard. Of the 13 newly threatened reptiles, Zubiri, Pilipinas EcoWarriors convenor, said the Panay monitor lizard was labeled critically endangered. The rest were tagged either vulnerable or endangered.