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Trump Eyes Arctic Wildlife Refuge for Oil Drilling, Alarming Gwich’in

Trump Eyes Arctic Wildlife Refuge for Oil Drilling, Alarming Gwich’in

ANWR oil and gas caribou trump

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain has been described as America’s Serengeti, and is the year-round or migratory home to numerous species that are uniquely adapted to the conditions found within this rare expanse of undeveloped wilderness along the Arctic Ocean.

Over tens of thousands of years, both the Porcupine Caribou herd and the Gwich’in people have come to depend on the integrity of that coastal plain for their survival.

The Gwich’in call this area ‘Iizhik Gwats’an Gwandaii Goodlit,’ the Sacred Place Where Life Begins,” explained Vuntut Gwich’in Councillor Dana Tizya-Tramm via email.

It is a keystone in the ecosystems of the Arctic, and the heart that beats outside of the Gwich’in chest.”

Oil and gas lobbyists have had the Refuge in their sights from the outset. For decades now, for every push to open up the wildlife refuge to oil and gas development, multiple generations of Gwich’in have stood up to protect the land and the herd that has sustained their way of life.

Disturbance to the landscape can upset a delicate balance between the wildlife that makes its home on the coastal plain.

Brooks Range mountains tower behind lush arctic tundra in Yukon’s north slope region. Photo: Matt Jacques | DeSmog Canada

In a miracle of phenology [the interaction of climate, habitat and plant/animal cycles], Porcupine caribou cows arrive at the coastal plain just as the first flush of spring growth provides a burst of nutrients to them, just as they all deliver their calves at once,” said Yukon Conservation Society energy analyst Sebastian Jones in an emailed response to questions from DeSmog Canada.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

When the Next Pandemic Hits, Will We Be Prepared?

When the Next Pandemic Hits, Will We Be Prepared?

The question isn’t whether a pandemic will strike—it’s how it will play out.

Next Pandemic symposium.jpg
Thought leaders gathered at the National Museum of Natural History to discuss the past, present and future of the flu.(Daniel Schwartz)

What would it look like if the devastating Spanish flu crisis of 1918 hit today? That was the question that public health experts and thought leaders came together to address at this week’s “The Next Pandemic” symposium, organized in collaboration with Smithsonian Media, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History.

On the one hand, today’s public health landscape looks nothing like 1918—thanks in part to the continued reverberations of that fateful year. The waves of influenza that claimed the lives of anywhere between 50 and 100 million people ushered in a new era of public health and epidemiology. Today we have a seasonal flu vaccine, as well as the capacity to develop new vaccines within six months of identifying novel strains. We have international disease reporting and surveillance networks to ensure that a disaster on that scale never happens again.

On the other hand, all these tools could prove useless depending on what we find ourselves facing. Even a familiar culprit like influenza—which morphs every year and still largely manages to outsmart our vaccines—could easily overwhelm the world’s current healthcare systems and resources. Nor is the pandemic threat limited to immediate dangers to public health. A crisis of that magnitude would test our infrastructure and community response, and threaten countries’ economic and political security.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Too right it’s Black Friday: our relentless consumption is trashing the planet

Illustration by Sébastien Thibault.
Illustration: Sebastien Thibault

But growth must go on: this is everywhere the political imperative. And we must adjust our tastes accordingly. In the name of autonomy and choice, marketing uses the latest findings in neuroscience to break down our defences. Those who seek to resist must, like the Simple Lifers in Brave New World, be silenced – in this case by the media.

With every generation, the baseline of normalised consumption shifts. Thirty years ago, it was ridiculous to buy bottled water, where tap water is clean and abundant. Today, worldwide, we use a million plastic bottles a minute.

Every Friday is a Black Friday, every Christmas a more garish festival of destruction. Among the snow saunas, portable watermelon coolers and smartphones for dogs with which we are urged to fill our lives, my #extremecivilisation prize now goes to the PancakeBot: a 3D batter printer that allows you to eat the Mona Lisa, the Taj Mahal, or your dog’s bottom every morning. In practice, it will clog up your kitchen for a week until you decide you don’t have room for it. For junk like this, we’re trashing the living planet, and our own prospects of survival. Everything must go.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Climate Change and the Challenge to All Forms of Agriculture

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE CHALLENGE TO ALL FORMS OF AGRICULTURE

We´ve all heard of climate change and probably understand the basics of how excess greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide produced by our society´s burning of fossil fuels is causing the earth´s temperature to rise. We´ve most likely seen maps of what the world will look like when the glaciers and icebergs melt causing the ocean to rise and most of us probably accept that it is a danger to our civilization.

For most people, however, we suffer from a cognitive dissonance that doesn´t allow us to make meaningful changes to our way of life-based on the knowledge that we have. Though the reports and predictions by climate scientists are certainly frightening, they seem like far away and distant possibilities. The 1-2 degrees of temperature change sure don´t feel that extreme, especially as we relax in our air-conditioned homes or drive to work in our air-conditioned cars.

In case you haven´t heard enough of the doomsday facts and figures, here are a few more figures from NASA to put into perspective how far climate change has advanced:

– The loss of ice in Greenland has doubled between 1996 and 2005.
– The ice cover in the Arctic decreases by 13.4% every decade.
– 9 of the 10 warmest years have occurred since the year 2000.
– Carbon dioxide levels in the air are at their highest level in 650,000 years.
– The sea will rise between 7 and 23 inches by the end of this century.

Over 100 million people who live in coastal areas will purportedly be affected by the rising sea levels caused by global warming leading to a serious demographic crisis of climate refugees.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Averting the apocalypse: lessons from Costa Rica

Averting the apocalypse: lessons from Costa Rica

Costa Rican centenarian. Photo by Monique QuesadaEarlier this summer, a paper published in the journal Nature captured headlines with a rather bleak forecast. Our chances of keeping global warming below the 2C danger threshold are very, very small: only about 5%. The reason, according to the paper’s authors, is that the cuts we’re making to greenhouse gas emissions are being cancelled out by economic growth.

In the coming decades, we’ll be able to reduce the carbon intensity of the global economy by about 1.9% per year, if we make heavy investments in clean energy and efficient technology. That’s a lot. But as long as the economy keeps growing by more than that, total emissions are still going to rise. Right now we’re ratcheting up global GDP by 3% per year, which means we’re headed for trouble.

If we want to have any hope of averting catastrophe, we’re going to have to do something about our addiction to growth. This is tricky, because GDP growth is the main policy objective of virtually every government on the planet. It lies at the heart of everything we’ve been told to believe about how the economy should work: that GDP growth is good, that it’s essential to progress, and that if we want to improve human wellbeing and eradicate poverty around the world, we need more of it. It’s a powerful narrative. But is it true?

Maybe not. Take Costa Rica. A beautiful Central American country known for its lush rainforests and stunning beaches, Costa Rica proves that achieving high levels of human wellbeing has very little to do with GDP and almost everything to do with something very different.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fukushima Darkness

Fukushima Darkness

Photo by thierry ehrmann | CC BY 2.0

The radiation effects of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant triple meltdowns are felt worldwide, whether lodged in sea life or in humans, it cumulates over time. The impact is now slowly grinding away only to show its true colors at some unpredictable date in the future. That’s how radiation works, slow but assuredly destructive, which serves to identify its risks, meaning, one nuke meltdown has the impact, over decades, of 1,000 regular industrial accidents, maybe more.

It’s been six years since the triple 100% nuke meltdowns occurred at Fukushima Daiichi d/d March 11th, 2011, nowadays referred to as “311”. Over time, it’s easy for the world at large to lose track of the serious implications of the world’s largest-ever industrial disaster; out of sight out of mind works that way.

According to Japanese government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) estimates, decommissioning is a decade-by-decade work-in-progress, most likely four decades at a cost of up to ¥21 trillion ($189B). However, that’s the simple part to understanding the Fukushima nuclear disaster story. The difficult painful part is largely hidden from pubic view via a highly restrictive harsh national secrecy law (Act on the Protection of Specially Designated Secrets, Act No. 108/2013), political pressure galore, and fear of exposing the truth about the inherent dangers of nuclear reactor meltdowns. Powerful vested interests want it concealed.

Following passage of the 2013 government secrecy act, which says that civil servants or others who “leak secrets” will face up to 10 years in prison, and those who “instigate leaks,” especially journalists, will be subject to a prison term of up to 5 years, Japan fell below Serbia and Botswana in the Reporters Without Borders 2014 World Press Freedom Index. The secrecy act, sharply criticized by the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations, is a shameless act of buttoned-up totalitarianism at the very moment when citizens need and in fact require transparency.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Approaching Famine

The most serious forecast that we see from our computer models has been a rise in agricultural prices caused by Global Cooling – not Global Warming. Crops cannot grow without the sun and water. Historically, when the weather turns cold, the crops fail.

There is no question that food prices will rise during periods of war when crops cannot be planted and armies require food on a priority allotment.

However, Mother Nature sticks her finger into the pot to stir things up. The famine cycle is also an 8.6-year frequency, but the volatility aspect comes in units of 12 rather than 6.

   

Our database on wheat from 1259 forward (excluding our data on the Roman Empire grain prices), reveals that there is a serious risk of famine from 2020 onward. It appears that we may very well enter a 12-year rally into the year 2032. Our Bifurcation Models are reflecting also a gap in time between 2020 and 2031 suggesting a trend appears to last for that period of time.

The downside of taxation, and particularly inheritance taxes, has driven farmers to sell their land to conglomerates just to pay the inheritance taxes. This has resulted in genetically altering crops to increase yield. While genetically altered crops do not really appear to present a major health concern as many seem to argue, the real danger is the fact that during the past 100 years, 94% of the world’s edible seed varieties have vanished.

The downside of socialism which has attacked the rich, we have sacrificed the historical model in our food supply for corporate decision making that bribes politicians handing them their needed money to remain in office with each election.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

What, Me Worry? Humans Are Blind to Imminent Environmental Collapse

What, Me Worry? Humans Are Blind to Imminent Environmental Collapse

Accelerating biodiversity loss may turn out to be the sleeper issue of the century.

A curious thing about H. sapiens is that we are clever enough to document — in exquisite detail — various trends that portend the collapse of modern civilization, yet not nearly smart enough to extricate ourselves from our self-induced predicament.

This was underscored once again in October when scientists reported that flying insect populations in Germany have declined by an alarming 75 per cent in the past three decades accompanied, in the past dozen years, by a 15 per cent drop in bird populations. Trends are similar in other parts of Europe where data are available. Even in Canada, everything from casual windshield “surveys” to formal scientific assessments show a drop in insect numbers. Meanwhile, domestic populations of many insect-eating birds are in freefall. Ontario has lost half its whip-poor-wills in the past 20 years; across the nation, such species as nighthawks, swallows, martins and fly-catchers are down by up to 75 per cent; Greater Vancouver’s barn and bank swallows have plummeted by 98 per cent since 1970. Heard much about these things in the mainstream news?

Too bad. Biodiversity loss may turn out to be the sleeper issue of the century. It is caused by many individual but interacting factors — habitat loss, climate change, intensive pesticide use and various forms of industrial pollution, for example, suppress both insect and bird populations. But the overall driver is what an ecologist might call the “competitive displacement” of non-human life by the inexorable growth of the human enterprise.

On a finite planet where millions of species share the same space and depend on the same finite products of photosynthesis, the continuous expansion of one species necessarily drives the contraction and extinction of others.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Agriculture and climate change: Is farming really a moveable feast?

Agriculture and climate change: Is farming really a moveable feast?

There is a notion afoot that our agricultural production can simply migrate toward the poles in the face of climate change as areas in lower latitudes overheat and dry up. Few people contemplate what such a move would entail and whether it would actually be feasible.

One assumption behind this falsely reassuring idea is that soil quality is somehow roughly uniform across the planet. But, of course, this is completely false. Soil quality and composition vary widely, often within walking distance on the same farm. Farmers simply moving north (or south in the Southern Hemisphere) in response to climate change will not automatically encounter soil suitable for farming.

We must also consider that lands not previously farmed may very well be forested. Knocking down the trees and clearing the stumps might make such lands arable. But the loss of carbon storage that trees represent would only make climate change worse.

Quite often we think of rural areas as being undeveloped. But nothing could be further from the truth. Agricultural regions have complex networks involving roads, communications and electricity grids, irrigation systems, grain elevators, farm supply and machinery merchants, rail depots, agricultural research stations and field projects, government-sponsored agricultural assistance centers and the specialists attached to them, and entire towns which act as gathering places and service centers for those working in rural communities. All of this would have to be duplicated in newly opened agricultural lands for which pioneering settlers would have to be recruited. These pioneers would have to want to live in previously unsettled or sparsely settled areas with few amenities.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Should we try to fix global warming with fake volcanic eruptions? TBD.

The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in 1991 sent planet-cooling aerosols into the atmosphere. Photo by Arlan Naeg/AFP/Getty Images.

By Mary Beth Griggs

With heat-trapping carbon emissions on the rise again, researchers are looking for ways to turn down the thermostat while humanity gets itself under control. One potential solution? Try to copy volcanic eruptions. But in addition to adjusting the temperature, such practices could change the frequency of hurricanes, or the location of droughts.

When explosive volcanic eruptions occur — like the one at Mount Pinatubo in 1991 — they send small particles of ash and gas high into the atmosphere. These so-called aerosols block and reflect sunlight, providing a temporary cold compress to the Earth’s rising temperatures.

After years of watching volcanos go through the motions, some researchers are looking into whether they can use that same method to help cool down the planet — an idea known as solar geoengineering. But a set of studies published this month show just how complicated a proposition that might be.

“Sulfur dioxide is emitted by volcanic eruptions. It’s also relatively cheap and relatively common, so it’s the natural candidate for solar geoengineering,” says Anthony Jones, author of a recent Nature Communications study on the subject. “It’s basically copying a volcanic eruption, and then extending the injection of the aerosols into the atmosphere.”

Sulfur dioxide is a common occupant of the dramatic cloud that follows an Earthly eruption, and when it gets into the atmosphere it expands and reacts with other chemicals — including water — to form aerosol particles, which can reflect sunlight back into space and cool the Earth below.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

With U.S. Backing, Ukraine Pushes to Privatize Paris Climate Agreement

BERHEIM, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 13: Steam rises from the Niederaussem coal-fired power plant operated by German utility RWE, which stands near open-pit coal mines that feed it with coal, on November 13, 2017 near Bergheim, Germany. The COP 23 United Nations Climate Change Conference is taking place in Bonn, about 60km from the Niederaussem plant. The nearby Rhineland coal fields are the biggest source of coal in western Germany and the power plants in the region that they supply emit massive amounts of CO2. (Photo by Lukas Schulze/Getty Images)
Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

LIKE MOST DOCUMENTS that travel through U.N. channels, a recent proposal from Ukrainian diplomats is blanketed in jargon and buzzwords, promising to render things “integrated, holistic and balanced” and to promote “ambition.” But this proposal — brought by the Ukrainian negotiating team to this year’s U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties, COP23 — carries more substance than its language might suggest: giving the world’s biggest polluters an official say in how the Paris Agreement gets implemented.

“We have to stop forcing our corporations to do something, but making — I don’t like to say profitable — but, I like to say, make them think about environmental actives as serious business,” Taras Bebeshko, an adviser to Ukraine’s energy minister who presented the proposal on behalf of his delegation this month, told The Intercept.

Bebeshko acknowledged the role fossil fuel companies play in driving up global emissions, but he cautioned against painting them as “enemies of humankind” and was eager to have them on board in a governing role. “This concept is not aiming to replace the UNFCCC process,” he said of the Committee for Future plan. “It’s aiming to assist and make the ground … for a global agreement.”

He said he had spoken to representatives of the United States, who reacted positively to the proposal. Another Ukrainian official close to the issue told Climate Home that his country’s negotiating team has been in “permanent contact” with the United States.

The role of subnational and private actors has been debated in other contexts at COP23 as well. Business — including those who have lobbied actively against climate action — play a major role in the talks through trade associations, like the World Coal Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and they have for years attempted to shape international climate policymaking.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

In the Water-Scarce Southwest, an Ancient Irrigation System Disrupts Big Agriculture

In the Water-Scarce Southwest, an Ancient Irrigation System Disrupts Big Agriculture

In New Mexico and Colorado, the “acequia” is more than just democratic water distribution—it is at the center of Southwest culture.
ancient-water-system-southwest.jpg

Water in the American Southwest has never been abundant. Its availability fluctuates depending on conditions like drought and mountain snowpack that feeds streams and rivers. But experts predict a future of greater extremes: longer and hotter heat waves in the summer, less precipitation, decreased snowpack, and more severe and frequent droughts that will place greater stress on water users.

Experts predict a future of greater extremes.

In New Mexico and Colorado, legal statutes enable an area’s original water users to transfer their portions of the resource, via pipelines, to the highest bidder virtually anywhere in the state. When scarcity hits, industrial mining and agricultural operations can afford to purchase additional water while small-scale farmers and ranchers remain vulnerable; in both states, water use already exceeds availability.

But for over a century, acequias—an ancient form of community water management originating at least 1,000 years ago and now used by small-scale and backyard farmers and ranchers—have resisted the flow of water toward corporations in New Mexico and Colorado. After receiving wider legal protections for self-governance in the 2000s, acequias are disrupting modern agricultural practices by assuring the equitable distribution of water to rural communities.

An ancient system of water management

Acequias appeared in the United States centuries before New Mexico and Colorado were incorporated into the nation: more than a century, in fact, before the United States even existed. Brought by Spanish settlers to Mexican territory in the 16th century (including what is today the American Southwest), acequias were a system perfectly suited to the arid, high-elevation landscape where drought was common and the availability of water varied drastically from season to season and year to year.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Madagascar Outbreak: It Is ‘Inevitable’ The Plague Becomes Resistant To Drugs

Madagascar Outbreak: It Is ‘Inevitable’ The Plague Becomes Resistant To Drugs

madagascarplague

The newest warning about the outbreak of the airborne pneumonic plague, or black death, in Madagascar has been released. Officials warn that it’s inevitable that this bacterial infection that’s infected over 2000 people will become resistant to antibiotics.

The only way to treat a person who has contracted the plague is with antibiotics. But experts now warn that because they are being used so much to treat the infection, antibiotics resistance is inevitable and making this disease much more terrifying. Once the bacteria is resistant, the Madagascar healthcare system will be overwhelmed, and the disease will have control of the nation.

According to the Daily Mail, Madagascar’s healthcare system will be unable to cope if the deadly plague outbreak continues to escalate, a scientist has warned. Scores of doctors and nurses have been struck down with the disease, which is predicted to gather momentum in the coming weeks and there are growing fears hospitals will be unable to meet the illness’ burden. Official figures reveal at least 2,034 people have been infected with the “medieval disease” so far in what has been described as the “worst outbreak in 50 years.” The black death outbreak has so far claimed at least 165 lives.

Although the plague is responding well to antibiotics right now, drug resistance is also an increasing concern amongst experts who predict it will vastly accelerate the disease’s death toll. Professor John Joe McFadden from the University of Surrey told MailOnline: “Fortunately in [the] plague, it has not developed much antibiotic resistance. If that kicks in, the plague will be far, far scarier. If you throw more and more antibiotics at patients, antibiotic resistance is more or less inevitable.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

William Rees: What’s Driving The Planet’s Accelerating Species Collapse?

Spoiler alert: It’s us

The data regarding planetary species loss just gets more alarming.

Today’s podcast guest is bioecologist and ecological economist Dr. William Rees, professor emeritus of the University of British Columbia’s School of Community and Regional Planning. Rees is best known for his development of the “ecological footprint” concept as a way to measure the demand a particular population places on the environmental resources it needs to survive.

Since the beginning of modern agriculture (around 1800), human activity has increased demand on planetary resources at an exponential rate. More energy has been expended — and more resources consumed — in the past 40 years than in all of human existence beforehand. That is placing a greater and greater strain on ecosystems that are now dangerously depleted:

At the dawn of agriculture, just ten thousand years ago, human beings accounted for less than 1% of the total mammalian biomass on the planet. Today, there’s been a sevenfold increase, roughly speaking, in the biomass of vertebra species on the planet — but most of that is human-induced. Today, human beings account for about 32 – 35%of the total biomass of mammals, a much greater biomass than at the dawn of agriculture. But when we throw in our domesticated animals and our pets, humans and their domesticated animals amount to 98.5% of the total weight of mammals on planet Earth.

So we’re engaged here, through sheer growth, in the scale of the human enterprise in what ecologists refer to as “competitive displacement”. This is a finite planet. There’s a finite flow, a limited flow, of photosynthetic energy through the planet which we share with millions of other species. Now, on a finite planet with limited energy flow, the more any one species takes the less is available for everything else.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Keystone XL Pipeline Shut Down After 5,000-Barrel Spill In South Dakota

Keystone XL Pipeline Shut Down After 5,000-Barrel Spill In South Dakota

Well this is awkward.  After months/years of protests targeting the Keystone XL pipeline from environmentalists worried about oil spills, TransCanada has now been forced to shut down the pipeline following…drum roll please…a 5,000 barrel oil spill in South Dakota.  According to The Hill, the pipeline was taken offline at 6am this morning following a leak that was discovered about 35 miles south of a pumping station in Marshall County, South Dakota.

Workers took the Keystone oil pipeline offline on Thursday after it spilled 5,000 barrels of oil in rural South Dakota,officials said.

A TransCanada crew shut down the pipeline at 6 a.m. Thursday morning after detecting an oil leak along the line, the company said. The leak was detected along a stretch of the pipeline about 35 miles south of a pumping station in Marshall County, South Dakota.

TransCanada estimates the pipeline leaked 5,000 barrels of oil, or about 210,000 gallons, before going offline. The company said it’s working with state regulators and the Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to assess the situation.

The South Dakota Department of Environment and Natural Resources heard about the leak at about 10:30 a.m. Thursday, ABC affiliate KSFY reported.

For those who aren’t familiar with the project, the 1,179 mile Keystone XL pipeline links Canada’s Alberta oil sands to U.S. refineries.  While a portion of the pipeline has been operating, part of it has still not been approved by state regulators.

Here is the statement on the incident posted by TransCanada earlier this morning:

At approximately 6 a.m. CST (5 a.m. MST) today, we safely shut down the Keystone pipeline after we detected a pressure drop in our operating system resulting from an oil leak that is under investigation.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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Olduvai III: Cataclysm
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