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Exposing Africa’s Manmade Water Crisis

The imminent shutdown of Cape Town’s piped water network should serve as a wake-up call for all of Africa to overhaul urban water-management systems. Unfortunately, like Africa’s water resources themselves, Cape Town’s crisis seems likely to be wasted.

About a decade ago, at a meeting of South African mayors convened by Lindiwe Hendricks, South Africa’s then-minister of water and environmental affairs, we predicted that an unprecedented water crisis would hit one of the country’s main cities within 15 years, unless water-management practices were improved significantly.

That prediction has now come true, with Cape Town facing a shutdown of its piped water network. The question now is whether African leaders will allow our other projection – that, within the next 25-30 years, many more of the continent’s cities will be facing similar crises – to materialize.

Africa has long struggled with urban water and wastewater management. As the continent’s population has swelled, from about 285 million in 1960 to nearly 1.3 billion today, and urbanization has progressed, the challenge has become increasingly acute. And these trends are set to intensify: by 2050, the continent’s total population is expected to exceed 2.5 billion, with 55% living in urban environments.

The challenge African countries face may not be unique, but it is, in some ways, unprecedented. After all, in Western countries, urbanization took place over a much longer period, and against a background of steadily improving economic conditions. In building effective systems for water and wastewater management, cities had adequate investment funds and the relevant expertise.

In Africa, cities’ financial and management capacities are already overwhelmed. As a result, water and wastewater management has often fallen by the wayside, with policymakers focusing on water-related issues only when droughts and floods occur. The Third World Centre for Water Management estimates that only about 10-12% of Africa’s population has access to adequate domestic and industrial wastewater collection, treatment, and disposal.

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

New Map Reveals Which Countries are Most Likely to Survive Climate Change

New Map Reveals Which Countries are Most Likely to Survive Climate Change

Climate change is real, and it’s happening. But will you survive it?

Melting ice caps, record high temperatures and rising sea levels are just some of the telltale signs.

Climate change is one of the most pressing crises facing humanity. Caused by an immense and continual buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere as a result of human activity, climate change is already causing a series of alarming environmental events.

Once snowy landscapes are slowly melting away to leave an uninhabitable and baron wilderness, rising sea temperatures are killing thousands of miles of coral reef and marine life, while freak weather events are becoming more common and costing affected nations billions of pounds. For example, early estimates suggest that 2017’s hurricane Harvey caused between £48 billion and £134 billion worth of damage.

These serve as a worrying indication of the catastrophic effect that climate change could have on our planet in the future if nothing is done to tackle the phenomenon.

Whilst it’s clear that no single corner of the globe is safe from the changes that are happening to our climate, we wanted to find out which countries are the most (and least) at risk of the effects of climate change.

To answer this question, we looked at data from the University of Notre-Dame’s ND-Gain Index. This report analysed 181 countries on their vulnerability to climate change and how ready they are to adapt to a warming planet, based on factors such as healthcare, food supply and government stability.

We also scrutinized how much carbon dioxide all 181 countries emit every year to give an indication of each nation’s contribution towards climate change. This allowed us to compare a country’s likeliness to survive changes to the global climate against their responsibility for the phenomenon.

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

Why Waterloo Region Needs Greenbelt Protection

Kevin Thomason is an eco-warrior who has battled for years to successfully protect thousands of acres of rural countryside in Waterloo Region. Today, Kevin’s vision is to build on local protections and further protect essential resources through Greenbelt expansion. He believes this is crucial to balance future urban growth, and relieve groundwater supplies from increasing pressures.

Kevin Thomason smiles for the camera as he hikes.

Q: How did you get involved in Greenbelt action?

A: In 2001, I noticed too many forests and wetlands were being clear-cut and bulldozed to sustain the booming local economy in Waterloo Region. My neighbours and I set out to explore what to do to protect our natural heritage and achieve a better balance. It turned out that protecting land was far more complex than we anticipated.

Waterloo Region was excluded from the Greenbelt Plan in 2005, but still targeted in the Places to Grow Act for significant future growth, so we needed to invent our own local environmental protections. After years of effort, we developed a number of ground-breaking local protections and planning initiatives to better guide growth and protect more than 15,000 hectares of our most environmentally sensitive lands. This meant that wetlands, rivers and creeks, groundwater recharge areas, and the habitat of endangered species were protected from urban development. Our Environmentally Sensitive Landscape concept was the first of its kind in Ontario, looking at an entire ecosystem and its functions, as opposed to protecting individual environmental features or patches of forests or wetlands. We also developed other complimentary initiatives such as our Countryside Line to provide firm urban boundaries.

Now we have an opportunity to integrate and reinforce our local protections by expanding the provincial Greenbelt to permanently protect the Waterloo Moraine, the Paris Galt Moraine, and the entire Grand River Watershed.

Q: Why does water need protection in your region?

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

Ozone loss may have caused mass extinction

Ozone loss may have caused mass extinction

Pinus mugo in the French Pyrenees. Image: By  Sébastien D’ARCO, via Wikimedia Commons

The loss of ozone may have caused the extinction many millions of years ago of most life on Earth, scientists believe.

LONDON, 21 February, 2018 – Californian scientists have found a new way to account for extinction and to explain mass murder on a planetary scale.

Seven out of 10 land animals perished at the end of the Permian, 252 million years ago. So did 95% of marine species. And the deadly factor at work may have been the destruction of atmospheric ozone, the protective screen in the stratosphere that eliminates harmful ultraviolet light.

Jeffrey Benca of the University of California Berkeley and colleagues report in the journal Science Advances that they irradiated a series of dwarf pines with doses of ultraviolet-B radiation up to 13 times stronger than any on Earth today.

They used 60 pines of the species Pinus mugo, irradiated them for 56 days, and then spent three years examining 57,000 pollen grains produced over that period.

UV-B wavelengths are associated with mutations in DNA, the inheritance mechanism of all life on Earth. The dose chosen was the one to which creatures might have been exposed at the close of the Permian period, an episode characterised by immense volcanic eruptions that would have damaged the upper atmosphere.

Exposed to sterility

And, the researchers found, after two months exposure, the trees survived, but at a cost: they had become sterile. Their cones shrivelled within days of emerging. Once restored to present day, open air conditions, the pines all recovered.

Plants underwrite all animal life: repeated bouts of forest sterility could, researchers think, have played a role in the collapse of the planet’s biosphere.

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

Acidification could leave oceans ‘uninhabitable’ for cold-water corals

The world’s oceans could become “uninhabitable” for cold-water corals by the end of the century as a result of ocean acidification, research suggests.

Ocean acidification, which occurs as seawater takes up CO2 from the atmosphere, could threaten around 70% of cold-water coral living below 1,500 metres in the North Atlantic Ocean by 2050, the research finds.

Acidified waters that accumulate in the North Atlantic could then be circulated to the global seas via a system of ocean currents, the lead author tells Carbon Brief, which could have consequences for reefs across the world.

The findings reiterate how many coral reefs could “dissolve” and “crumble” as the world continues to warm, another scientist tells Carbon Brief.

Cool corals

Cold-water corals are found in deep, dark parts of the world’s oceans in both the northern and southern hemisphere. They can thrive at depths of up to 2,000 metres and in water temperatures as low as 4C.

Unlike tropical corals, cold-water corals do not rely on colourful algae for their food. Instead, cold-water coral feed on floating plankton.

This means they are unaffected by coral bleaching, a process which is heightened by climate change and poses a great threat to the survival of tropical reefs, such as the Great Barrier Reef.

However, both tropical and cold-water coral species are threatened by a process known as “ocean acidification”, which occurs as seawater absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere.

The oceans have absorbed around 30% (pdf) of the CO2 released by human activity since the industrial revolution. This has caused oceans, which are alkaline, to become more acidic over time. The overall pH of seawater has fallen from around 8.2 to 8.1from pre-industrial times to the present day.

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

10 Reasons Bicycling Will Continue to Soar in Popularity


For too long biking has been viewed skeptically as a white-people thing, a big city thing, an ultra-fit athlete thing, a twenty-something thing, a warm weather thing or an upper-middle class thing. And above all else, it’s seen as a guy thing.

But guess what? The times they are a changing. More than 100 million Americans rode a bike in 2014, and bicycles have out-sold cars most years in the US since 2003. A couple other facts that may surprise you:

  • Latinos bike more than any other racial group, followed by Asians and Native Americans. African-Americans and Caucasians bike at about the same rate.
  • Most bicyclists are low-income according to census figures — as many as 49 percent of bike commuters make less than $25,000 a year.

As for other misperceptions, keep in mind that Minneapolis (in chilly Minnesota) and Arlington, VA (in suburban DC) rank among America’s top towns for biking. And the one place where bikes account for more than 20 percent of traffic on local streets is Davis, CA (pop: 65,000).

Slowly but surely, more U.S. communities are realizing that the future of mobility is bigger than cars. Biking is seen as an attractive, cost effective, healthy and convenient way to get around. Bike commuting tripled in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Portland and Denver from 1990 to 2012, and doubled in many other cities.

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

Half-Earth or Half Solution? E.O. Wilson’s Solution to Species Loss

Half-Earth or Half Solution? E.O. Wilson’s Solution to Species Loss

Credit: David Barnas
Credit: E.O Wilson Biodiversity Foundation
Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life. Published by Liveright / W.W. Norton in March 2016 (ISBN 978-1-63149-082-8)

Despite my somewhat snarky title, which is based on my assessment that Half-Earth is missing a key strategic component, E. O. Wilson’s book is engaging and even inspiring. Wilson makes a compelling case that our planet is facing serious and accelerating species loss, that human beings are the primary cause of this phenomenon, and that, most importantly, we are capable of doing something about it.

The first three-quarters of the book describe the problem we are confronting. Wilson provides the reader with a comprehensive and vivid description of the loss of species in general on the planet and moving, vivid descriptions of the loss of particular species such as the rhino. Readers who have not previously been steeped in the fields of ecology or biology will find the writing here not only accessible, but deeply engaging.

Rather than just take on this or that environmental problem, Wilson looks at the whole planet and sees it through the ecosystems that comprise the natural world.  He explains basic but critically important things, such as how complex ecosystems depend upon the interrelationship of a wide variety of plant and animal species. This work is deeply rooted in the scientific literature, and Wilson draws the reader in with vivid descriptions of the natural world.

I was particularly impressed with the way in which he explains his assessment of the extent and pace of species loss, the impact of recent and current conservation efforts, and the basis for optimism in the struggle against species loss. His quantitative reasoning will be accessible to even the math-phobic and his conclusions reinforced by his vivid narrative descriptions of various natural processes.

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

Breathing Highways and Sponge Cities

Breathing Highways and Sponge Cities

We could do worse than to go back to the way nature manages rainfall.

During the 20th Century, the rate of global warming was twice as fast in Taiwan (1.7°C) as for the world as a whole (0.74°C). Partly as a result, the number of days with rainfall decreased dramatically and typhoons gained strength. In 2009, Typhoon Morakot dropped over 1,000 mm (39.4 inches) in a single day and caused the loss of 699 lives. A massive mudslide wiped out Xiaolin Village and 474 people were buried alive. In 2015, Typhoon Soudelor left similar damage. It took months to repair the roads.

Then Taiwan and East China were struck by Dujuan, known in the Philippines as Typhoon Jenny, a killer storm and the thirteenth typhoon of the 2015 Pacific typhoon season. Eight months later, Nepartak became the third most intense tropical cyclone on record with 114 deaths and more than $1.5 billion damage in Taiwan and East China. September brought Meranti, a super typhoon and the strongest ever to make landfall in China in more than 1000 years of records. Meranti’s peak sustained winds tied the record set by Haiyan in 2013, 195 mph (315 km/h), comparable to a tornado, or a Category 5 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale. In Taiwan, nearly 1 million households lost power and 720,000 lost water supplies. Flooding in Zhejiang took 902 homes and affected 1.5 million people.

Between those punctuations, the erratic weather brought long droughts. New Taipei City had to enforce water restrictions when the Shihmen reservoir went dry in April. All cities along coasts or rivers have engineered means to remove excess water and to prevent flooding. Few have the means to sustain themselves in severe droughts.

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

New study questions impact of ending fossil fuel subsidies

Ending the world’s fossil fuel subsidies would reduce global CO2 emissions by 0.5 to 2.2 gigatonnes (Gt) per year by 2030, a new study says.

The research, published by Nature, concludes that the removal of subsidies would lead to bigger emissions reductions in oil and gas exporting regions, such as Russia, Latin America and the Middle East, than promised by their Paris Agreement pledges.

In all other regions, removing fossil fuel subsidies would not have as large an impact as the  Paris pledges, the lead author tells Carbon Brief.

However, a researcher not linked to the report tells Carbon Brief that comparing the effects of subsidy removal to the Paris pledges is “unnecessary and inappropriate”, since these economy-wide pledges are generally composed of many other policies and actions than just subsidy removal.

Global removal

Ending financial support for fossil fuels has long been cited as an important way to reduce the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Both the G7 and the G20 have pledged to end “inefficient” fossil fuel subsidies – the G7 by 2025, and the G20 with no fixed end-date.

The new research analyses the implications for mitigation efforts in different regions of the world of removing all fossil fuel subsidies.

The researchers built a global dataset of subsidies under both high and low oil prices, and worked with five different modelling teams to look at the impact of removing these subsidies on emissions.

The study found the removal of subsidies would reduce the globe’s CO2 emissions by 0.5-2.2Gt per year compared to a business-as-usual scenario by 2030, equivalent to a 1-5% reduction.(Note though, that under a business-as-usual case overall emissions would increase substantially even with this reduction).

The graph below shows the impact of subsidy removal on emissions in each of the five models used in the study, compared to each model’s baseline, for low (left) and high (right) oil prices.

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

The progress of this storm: Nature and society in a warming world

The progress of this storm: Nature and society in a warming world

Andreas Malm’s powerful critique of current environmental philosophies puts historical materialism and cutting-edge science at the center of a call for militant action


Andreas Malm
THE PROGRESS OF THIS STORM
Nature and society in a warming world

Verso Books, 2018

reviewed by Ian Angus

Anyone who reads contemporary green literature has seen books with titles like The End of Nature, and statements such as these:

  • “There is no such thing as nature.”[1]
  • “Nature is nothing if it is not social.”[2]
  • “Many of us no longer believe in a Nature that is independent of the Anthropos.”[3]
  • “There is nothing in our environment that we have not, in some sense or other, had a hand in producing.”[4]
  • “In every respect the world we inhabit will henceforth be the world we have made.”[5]
  • “The contrast between what is nature and what is not no longer makes any sense.”[6]

In contrast to environmentalists who want to protect nature, in some circles it has become common, even fashionable, to assert that nature no longer exists, that humans have taken over and it is impossible to distinguish between what is natural and what is social. The proponents of such views aren’t just saying that humans are part of the natural world; rather they claim that nature and society literally cannot be separated, in theory or in practice. “For better or worse,” writes Bruno Latour, “we have entered into a postnatural world.”[7]

Proponents of this viewpoint fall into three camps. Ecomodernists see the end of nature as cause for celebration. We should expand and deepen the process, to free humanity from dependence on nature and use whatever of it remains for our benefit. Others mourn the loss of nature but see no way out.

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

Islands Not sinking: Climate Change Demonstrated to Be a Hoax

Islands Not sinking: Climate Change Demonstrated to Be a Hoax

Have you ever wondered how it is possible that coral islands lie flat just a little above the sea level? It is not a coincidence, the coral reef that forms the islands is alive and it can adapt to variations of the sea level. According to some people, that demonstrates that climate change is a hoax (??).

Do you remember when there was a “debate” about climate change? Yes, there was such a thing. Someone would set up a panel where there would be a scientist arguing for the current interpretation of anthropogenic global warming and someone who at least pretended to be a scientist who would argue for the opposite interpretation. It was supposed to be a civil debate, all based on science.

I don’t have to tell you that such debates have disappeared, you don’t see them anymore just as you don’t see quiet and civilized debates between Trump supporters and members of the Antifa movement. In recent times, the closest thing to a public debate on climate was the proposal by Scott Pruitt, EPA’s chief, of a “Red Team” and a “Blue Team” of scientists who should discuss climate matters. The fact that Pruitt chose terms commonly used in military exercises says a lot about what kind of “debate” this was supposed to be. Perhaps it is a good thing that the idea seems to have died out.

Today, we have no debate anymore. We only have two sides shooting slogans against each other. Each side is ready to exploit every perceived weakness in the other to discharge a volley of posts and tweets aimed at gaining a few political points. A snowstorm demonstrates that AGW doesn’t exist while a hurricane that we are all going to die soon. The latest example of this attitude is the news arriving from the Tuvalu Islands.
…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Evolution of Growing Food

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong; You previously mentioned that we can grow crops inside warehouses without the sun or soil. How did mankind survive the last mini Ice Age with dropping temperatures as we have seen in recent winters here in Europe?

LW

ANSWER: With each cycle, we tend to improve upon technology. Being able to grow food inside will be an important advance for us during this cycle. We will be able to colonize other planets with this technology. You can set one up in your basement.

Previously, there was the invention of the fruit wall which appeared around the beginning of the Little Ice Age that ran the course of about 200 years from 1550 to 1850.

The invention of the fruit wall saved society. They built walls which reflected sunlight during the day essentially using solar energy to improve growing conditions. These walls also absorbed solar heat, which in turn was slowly released during the night, preventing frost damage. They created a warmer microclimate 24 hours per day.

Fruit walls also protected crops from cold blasts of winds from the north as we are experiencing today. They eventually began to construct wooden canopies to shield the fruit trees from rain and hail. They would also use mats suspending then from the walls in case of bad weather. I remember my grandfather loved figs and he had fig trees he would wrap during the winter to protect them in New Jersey. In Europe, these fruit walls were used as far north as England and the Netherlands.

Conrad Gessner (1516 – 1565) was a true Renaissance man. He was a Swiss physician, naturalist, bibliographer, philologist, zoologist, and a botanist. He wrote of the effect of the Fruit Walls which then popularized them in Europe.

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

We ignore urgent global warnings at our peril

Earth from outerspace.

City lights in this nighttime view of Earth from space provides “an intuitively graspable view of our planet”. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center via Flickr)

It called for a new ethic that encompasses our responsibility to ourselves and nature and that recognizes our dependence on Earth and its natural systems. It also called for stabilizing human population through “improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.” Now, 25 years later, we’ve added two billion people, a 35 per cent increase.

Despite progress in stabilizing the stratospheric ozone layer, all the other problems scientists looked at in 1992 have worsened.

On the declaration’s 25th anniversary in November, more than 15,000 scientists from around the world signed a new warning — “the most scientists to ever co-sign and formally support a published journal article.” The BioScience article states, “By failing to adequately limit population growth, reassess the role of an economy rooted in growth, reduce greenhouse gases, incentivize renewable energy, protect habitat, restore ecosystems, curb pollution, halt defaunation, and constrain invasive alien species, humanity is not taking the urgent steps needed to safeguard our imperilled biosphere.”

It raises concerns about climate change, driven by greenhouse gas emissions from “burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production — particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption.” And it points out, “we have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”

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

Australia’s ‘deadliest natural hazard’: what’s your heatwave plan?

Australia’s ‘deadliest natural hazard’: what’s your heatwave plan?

Heatwaves are Australia’s deadliest natural hazard, but a recent survey has found that many vulnerable people do not have plans to cope with extreme heat.

Working with the Bushfire and Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre and the Bureau of Meteorology, my colleagues and I surveyed 250 residents and 60 business managers in Western Sydney and the NSW North Coast.

We found that 45% of those at risk – including the elderly, ill and very young – did not proactively respond to heatwave warnings as they did not think it necessary or did not know what to do.

Few at-risk people reported moving to cooler locations, and more than 20% of people in Western Sydney were concerned about the impacts of energy prices on their ability to use air-conditioning. For most people, extreme heat left them feeling hot and uncomfortable or unable to sleep, though around 15% felt unwell. Few people reported checking on vulnerable family members, friends or family during heatwaves.

Businesses also suffered disruption, and most companies with employees working on machinery or outdoors reported lower than normal productivity.

Many people said that they didn’t need to take any further actions to adjust to future extreme temperatures. However, for some extreme heat is already impacting their living preferences, with around 10% of people indicating that they are considering moving to a cooler town or suburb.

A HISTORY OF DEADLY HEATWAVES

Australia has a long history of deadly heatwaves. The table below shows numbers of deaths and death rates per 100,000 population from episodes of extreme heat in Australia by decade, reaching back to 1844. The information comes from PerilAUS, a database that records the impact of natural hazards reaching back to the early days of Australia’s European settlement.

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

The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector

The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector

The Royal Society in the UK is a self-governing fellowship of distinguished scientists. Its purpose is reflected in its founding charters of the 1660s: to recognise, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. Its motto, nullius in verba, is taken to mean ‘take nobody’s word for it’. It is an expression of the determination to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts based on experiment.

In 2015, Steven Druker challenged the Royal Society to justify its outspoken and partisan support of genetically modified (GM) crops and to correct any errors of fact in his book ‘Altered Genes,Twisted Truth’. Not long after the book’s release, he wrote an open letter to the Society calling on it to acknowledge and correct the misleading and exaggerated statements that is has used to actively promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and in effect convey false impressions.

Druker cited specific instances where members of the Royal Society have at various times made false statements and the Society’s actions were not objective or based on scientific reasoning but biased and stridently pro-GMO. He argued that the Royal Society has misrepresented the case for GMOs and has effectively engaged in a campaign of disinformation.

Almost three years later, from what we can gather, the Royal Society has not responded to Druker.

In August 2017, Druker wrote:

“For more than 20 years, many eminent scientists and scientific institutions have routinely claimed that genetically modified foods are safe. And because of the perceived authority of their pronouncements, most government officials and members of the media have believed them. But when the arguments these scientists employ to support their claims are subjected to scrutiny, it becomes clear that important facts have invariably been misrepresented — either deliberately or through substantial negligence. And when these facts are fairly considered, the arguments collapse.”

…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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