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Should Georgia Pay People to Keep Their Yards Wild?

Weekly Links: brief commentary on local, state, and national stories from (roughly) the past week

Environment/Urban Planning

Should Georgia Pay People to Keep Their Yards Wild?

From Smithsonian Magazine. Minnesota recently passed a bill to pay residents for the cost of making their yards bee-friendly. At one time the rusty patched bumblebee could be found throughout the American and Canadian midwest. Today, not so much. The populations have been reduced by about 90% thanks to habitat loss, mainly from monoculture farms, pesticides, and urban and suburban development.

Bumblebees are important to humans for a number of reasons with perhaps the most important reason being their vital role in food production. Wild bumblebees pollinate not only wildflowers, but crops like blueberries, apples, and tomatoes. In order to survive, though, they need wild landscapes full of native plants.

The details of Minnesota’s plans remain unclear, but the state could provide up to 70% of the cost of converting lawns to bee-friendly habitats. In areas of the southwestern U.S., it’s routine to find yards that are also much more native. This is predominately due to the lack of rain and laws prohibiting unnecessary water use, but it is also comes from a desire to embrace the environment. In furthering Atlanta’s nickname of the “City in the Forest,” residents should surround themselves not with carefully manicured grass, but with wild native plants that are conducive to promoting a diverse and thriving natural ecosystem.


Supreme Court to Decide if Georgians Can Have Access to Their Laws

From The AJC. Last year the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found that copyright laws did not apply to the annotated version of the Georgia Code. Meaning, people are free to copy, reprint, and generally use the text of the laws as they see fit.

The US Supreme Court may have other ideas, though. Prior to ending their October sitting (which spans from Oct. 2018 to June 2019), the Court agreed to hear the case during their next term. Generally the Supreme Court only agrees to hear cases when the justices either disagree with the decision of the lower court or when various lower courts have reached different conclusions on the same question. It only takes four justices to hear a case, so it’s possible the Court has enough members who want to hear the case, but not enough who want to overturn the ruling.

The 11th Circuit rules that the annotated version of the Georgia Code is created by the people of Georgia and therefore the state can’t assert federal copyright laws to prevent people from freely accessing the Code. What makes this a difficult case is that the annotated version, prepared by Lexis Nexis, includes more than the just the text of the Code. Lexis organizes the laws and includes additional content such as Attorney General opinions and summaries of relevant court cases. So a private company is doing more than just re-printing the actual laws and generally copyright protection applies when people (or companies) produce original content. We’ll likely have to wait until next year to see how the Supreme Court decides this one.


The Southeastern Hurricane Shield May Be Deteriorating

From Wunderground. Georgia has 100 miles of coastline, though rarely gets hit directly by a hurricane. In fact, when category 3 Hurricane Michael hit Georgia from the southwest last year, it was the first time since the late 1800’s a category 3 storm had hit the state. The Atlantic portion of the southeastern US largely avoids repeated hurricane strikes due to high wind shear that acts as a shield, pushing storms out to sea or severely weakening them as they near the coast.

However, this protective shield could be coming to end. Research from Columbia University suggests that as the oceans warm, the mid-latitude jet stream that is responsible for the high wind shear in the southeast will push north. This will make the Atlantic coastline much more vulnerable to direct impacts. Storms that do hit could be more severe since there will be less wind-shear to interfere with them and because the oceans will be warmer, which will provide more fuel. There may be good news, though, for those farther south: the same study found that as wind shear decreases along the Atlantic coast, it will increase in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea.

Cover photo by California Native Plant Society via Flickr

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