What Keeps the Home Fires Burning? Causes and Implications of Wildfire Intensification in the American West

What Keeps the Home Fires Burning? Causes and Implications of Wildfire Intensification in the American West

In recent years, wildfires have wrought havoc across the American West.  Each year, flames tear through hundreds of thousands of acres and destroy thousands of structures; some years, scores of individuals lose their lives.  In California, the 2017 Tubbs Fire and 2018 Camp Fire set back-to-back, ignominious records for the most destructive fires in state history.  And this duet of record-setting blazes was no one-off occurrence – wildfires out West have become increasingly larger and more intense over the past four decades.

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A Nationwide Plastic Bag Tax and the US Economy

A Nationwide Plastic Bag Tax and the US Economy

The New York Times recently reported on the strict ban on plastic bags Kenya recently adopted—four years in jail or a hefty fine of $19,000 for importing or manufacturing plastic bags. Countries all over Europe and Asia are adopting similar policies to reduce the use of plastic bags. England implemented a 5 pence tax per bag bought, giving customers incentive to use reusable bags. The EPA reports that the United States alone uses 380 billion plastic bags every year, requiring 12 million barrels of oil to create, and only 5 percent of these plastic bags are recycled. Most plastic bags find their way into the environment, hurting or killing animals, largely in our waterways. While many cities in the United States have adopted plastic bag taxes or bans, are there economic benefits to a nationwide plastic bag tax policy implementation?

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How Virginia Can Step Up To Combat Climate Change

How Virginia Can Step Up To Combat Climate Change

Much is in flux on the federal level.  Few policy shifts have been as pronounced as those on energy and the environment.  Recent protests marking Trump’s first 100 days in office were in response to the administration’s tone and stance on climate change.  Scott Pruitt, head of the EPA, recently stated his belief that carbon emissions were not a primary driver of global warming.  The EPA also removed most references to climate change on its website.  On policy, Trump has nixed the Clean Climate Plan and the new Congress has rolled back regulations on polluters.  While this trend on the federal level cannot continue if we hope to avert the more dire scenarios for our climatological future, we can and should look to other levels of government to compensate and take the lead.  

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Watermen vs. Scientists: Overfishing in Maryland

Watermen vs. Scientists: Overfishing in Maryland

In May 2016, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland quietly allowed a controversial new bill into law. The bill, the Sustainable Oyster Population and Fisheries Act of 2016, requires the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) to study a sustainable harvest rate for the public oyster fishery. The quietness by which this bill came into law does not reflect the vitriolic debate and hard-fought passage through the Maryland General Assembly. Loud and frequent public meetings with dissent coming from watermen, oyster farmers and some of Hogan’s most devoted supporters peppered the highly-contested legislative process.

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Pass H.R. 3546 – “Big Cats and Public Safety Act”

Pass H.R. 3546 – “Big Cats and Public Safety Act”

With the beginning of the 119th Congress, the House should act to pass the “Big Cats and Public Safety Act” The Act would amend the Lacy Act, one of the federal government’s leading pieces of animal and environmental protection and enforcement legislation. The Big Cats and Public Safety Act expands protections for wild animals, such as tigers and lions, currently held in captivity in the United States, protects human health, and limits the interstate and international trade in exotic animal parts. This bipartisan bill deserves due consideration this session. 

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Could Iceland Become the UK’s Big Green Power Plant?

Could Iceland Become the UK’s Big Green Power Plant?

In October 2015, British Prime Minister David Cameron announced plans to explore building a 750-mile underwater cable to import renewable electricity from Iceland. Although this plan has been around for some time (Iceland and the U.K. signed a memorandum of understanding for an undersea cable project in 2012, but the concept of connecting Iceland to the rest of Europe has been kicked around for 60 years), progress has been slow due to concerns about technical feasibility, and fears in the UK and Iceland that the project will cause electricity prices to rise, and fail to create Icelandic jobs. However, research by Landsvirkjun, Iceland’s largest hydropower electricity utility and the organization largely responsible for bringing the idea from pie-in-the-sky to possible, suggests that the project (called IceLink) may be economically beneficial in the long run, as electricity prices in Europe have risen in recent years and there is higher demand for renewable electricity.

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Hook, Line, Sinker, and No Fish

Hook, Line, Sinker, and No Fish

Put bluntly, over-fishing is a massive problem. One of the central tenants of this issue is the way that the misused resource itself, the fish stocks, are treated as common pool resources with open access for all to exploit. In either the high seas or in national waters, fish are allowed to be caught by a wide array and number of people, and are considered “non-excludable.” But every fish caught decreases the total available catch, meaning the good is also “rival.” Therefore, a unique situation is created where every individual in the fishery has the motive to take as many fish as they can (before their competitors take it) even though over-fishing hurts everyone.

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“It Takes a Village” (and a Government) to Raise a Mangrove: Protecting the Trees and Local Subsistence Farming

“It Takes a Village” (and a Government) to Raise a Mangrove: Protecting the Trees and Local Subsistence Farming

From the tiger laden Sundarbans of India to the dark reservas extrevistas of Ecuador, from the shining coasts of Eritrea to tropical Brazilian shores, mangroves represent more than just a distinctive, unique, salt loving tree. Mangroves are a way of life for many individuals across the globe—a precarious way of life. At near constant threat of the overuse and destruction so readily seen in many environmental settings, mangroves and their often subsistent communities require policies and oversight as unique as they are in order to foster the type of long term sustainability the communities that live off of them hope to see.

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Pirates, Policy, and Pollock: A Primer on the Problems and Policy Surrounding IUU Fishing

Pirates, Policy, and Pollock: A Primer on the Problems and Policy Surrounding IUU Fishing

When the average American sits down to enjoy seafood—be it sushi, fish n’ chips, or the catch of the day at the local restaurant—they probably aren’t too concerned about where their meal came from, let alone who caught it and how. This consumer disconnect and lack of public investment in seafood sustainability makes business all the easier for IUU fishermen, better known as “pirate” or “black market” fishermen. IUU fishing—short for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing—is commonly described as any fishing activity that either takes place where regulations do not exist or violates existing domestic and international fisheries regulations. This illicit fishing is both economically and environmentally destructive, as the critical overharvest of wild fisheries threatens to collapse fish stocks, taking legitimate fishermen’s jobs as well. While it is hard to accurately define the size of the global IUU fish market, we do know that it’s big business.  Within the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that about 20-32 percent of imported, wild-caught seafood comes from IUU catches. This illicit catch is valued between $1.3-2.1 billion, and represents a large chuck of the $16.5 billion total U.S. seafood market.

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TJPPP hosts “Pay as You Throw” Talk

TJPPP hosts “Pay as You Throw” Talk

Last Wednesday, the Thomas Jefferson Program in Public Policy hosted a panel to discuss their proposal to a more environmentally conscious method of waste management. Board Chairman John Campbell and WasteZero President Mark Dancy presented compelling evidence in favor of a “pay as you throw” system of garbage removal. WasteZero executive adviser and former Mayor of Portland, Maine, George Campbell also spoke on behalf of the company, testifying that WasteZero saved residents in communities like Portland 44 percent on their waste-removal costs on average, through reducing the amount of garbage people dispose of. Portland itself, a city of 60,000 residents, saves forty million dollars in tax revenue each year due to increased efficiency in its waste management services. So what exactly is “pay as you throw?

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