Home » Environment

Category Archives: Environment

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Catacylsm
Click on image to purchase

Post categories

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Cataclysm
Click on image to purchase

Living With Integrity

Living With Integrity

It’s time to choose a new direction.

Every so often, our work in the premium side of PeakProsperity.com is deemed so important that our paying subscribers request we share it with the general public. Last week’s ‘Off The Cuff’ podcast received so many of these requests that we are releasing it to all here.

In last week’s Off The Cuff podcast, Chris delivered a very personal message about how we each decide to live our lives.

A growing number of people are watching the “prosperity” around them — record high asset prices, record-low unemployment, new technologies, etc — and yet feeling that we’re making the wrong trade-offs as a society. All that wealth is flowing into fewer and fewer pockets, ecosystems are faltering and an alarming number of species are dying off, depression rates (especially among the youth) are skyrocketing.

In short: there’s more money flowing around than ever, and yet we and the planet are becoming sicker and unhappier.

Why?

From Chris’ point of view, it comes down integrity. The modern human way of life lacks integrity as a guiding principle. For those of us who desire a better future, brining our actions into better alignment with our integrity is the path to true prosperity.

My ultimate diagnosis of what’s going on in the United States culture and a lot of Europe culture — probably in other cultures, but I can’t speak to them as well – it’s that they lack integrity. Now, integrity isn’t simply “Oh, I don’t lie”. Integrity means that your actions are for the greater good. Sometimes there are acts of integrity which actually are not optimal for you; they’re optimal for the larger society around you.

Integrity is thinking out seven generations. Integrity is saying that beauty matters in our life, and that when we take out a species, we’re taking away something extraordinarily beautiful.

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

The US Chamber of Commerce’s “New” Take on Climate Change

The US Chamber of Commerce’s “New” Take on Climate Change

Picture

The climate is changing, and humans are contributing to these changes. We believe that there is much common ground on which all sides of this discussion could come together to address climate change with policies that are practical, flexible, predictable, and durable.
                                                                                      — The US Chamber of Commerce

The US Chamber of Commerce, through its Global Energy Institute (GEI), recently announced the launch of a major new climate initiative called the American Energy: Cleaner, Strongercampaign. It’s admitted purpose is to “counter the Green New Deal (GND) with an energy innovation agenda…to persuade the public and Congressthat technology is better than regulation in addressing climate change.” (emphasis added).

In taking a swipe at the GND, the Chamber has handed its progressive Democratic authors and supporters a key victory—certainly something it had not intended to do.

Whatever the Green New Deal is or isn’t, the idea of it has accomplished what was thought Impossible just months ago–the admission by traditionally conservative deniers that climate change is real and needs to be acted upon now. The Chamber’s announcement boldly states inaction is not an option. The actions to be taken, however, remain matters of dogmatic ideological debate.

On its face, the Chamber’s call to action is a far cry from its 2017 policy priorities. Today climate change is on the minds of voters because it is on the lips of every Democrat in Congress, as well as those vying for the party’s presidential nomination. The Chamber’s newly announced campaign is an effort to remain relevant.


Not every Democrat has embraced the GND. All, however, have acknowledged that climate policy is one of the Party’s top three priorities going into the 2020 elections.

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

Mark Carney Says Climate Change Will Bring Economic Disaster. Will the Powerful Listen?

Mark Carney Says Climate Change Will Bring Economic Disaster. Will the Powerful Listen?

Global bank heads say urgent action needed to prevent a ‘Minsky moment’ collapse in asset prices.

extinction-rebellion.jpg
Politicians and corporate heads might not listen to warnings from Extinction Rebellion protesters. Will they heed Mark Carney and other central bankers? Photo by Takver, Creative Commons licensed.

They may find themselves feeling just a little shaky, however, after a recent open letter written by Canadian Mark Carney, governor of the Bank of England, with Banque de France governor François Velleroy de Falhau and Frank Elderson, chair of the Network for Greening the Financial Services (NGFS)

These guys are not shaggy Extinction Rebellion protesters being busted in London. And teenage activist Greta Thunberg would likely ask why they took so long to admit what’s been obvious since long before she was born in 2003.

But Carney and his colleagues advise the masters of the universe; they are the consiglieri of the world’s corporate capos, and when they murmur a warning in the capos’ collective ear, wise capos heed them. 

Their open letter announced the first report of the Network for Greening the Financial Services, a group that includes central bankers from around the world. That report tells the capos that “climate-related risks are a source of financial risk.” (Greta Thunberg and billions of other girls would roll their eyes.)

The report continues with equally obvious warnings: climate change will affect the economy on all levels from households to government; it’s highly certain; it’s irreversible; and it depends on short-term actions (right now, this minute) by “governments, central banks and supervisors, financial market participants, firms and households.”

Back to 1960

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

Growing a Revolution: Review

Growing a Revolution: Review

Growing a Revolution cover

Growing a Revolution: bringing our soil back to life

by David R. Montgomery

W. Norton & Company 321 pages

$19.58 hardcover, $11.52 paperback, $9.88 Kindle, $26.29 audio CD

Resilience.org asked me to review this book, probably because I did a multibook review five years ago in which I compared four books on sustainable gardening and farming.

Growing a Revolution, unlike the four books I reviewed then, is not really a how-to book. While it might well be useful to farmers, its primary purpose is to show the many benefits of changed agricultural practices, and it includes talk about policy changes that would be helpful.

Montgomery is a geologist. He has written four previous books, mostly with an ecological theme. Here he looks at what he calls “conservation agriculture,” which really boils down to three principles:

  1. Do not till the soil.
  2. Use cover crops or mulch; keep the soil covered.
  3. Rotate crops.

He takes a global journey, visiting practitioners of this type of farming in North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Ghana, Costa Rica, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Their circumstances differed considerably as did their land; what they had in common is that they used all three of these practices. It was several times emphasized that one of these (for example, no-till) would not likely reap the benefits of using all three.

In the first paragraph of the preface, he says, “Since the dawn of agriculture, society after society faded from memory after degrading their soil. But we need not repeat this history on a global scale. For while the problem of soil degradation remains the least recognized of the pressing crises humanity faces, it is also one of the most solvable. Are you ready for an optimistic book about the environment?”

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

To stop global catastrophe, we must believe in humans again

To stop global catastrophe, we must believe in humans again

We have the technology to prevent climate crisis. But now we need to unleash mass resistance too – because collective action does work @billmckibben

Solar panels in La Colle des Mees, Alpes de Haute Provence, south-eastern France.
 ‘We have two relatively new inventions that could prove decisive to solving global warming before it destroys the planet. One is the solar panel.’ Photograph: Gérard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Because I am concerned about inequality and about the environment, I am usually classed as a progressive, a liberal. But it seems to me that what I care most about is preserving a world that bears some resemblance to the past: a world with some ice at the top and bottom and the odd coral reef in between; a world where people are connected to the past and future (and to one another) instead of turned into obsolete software.

And those seem to me profoundly conservative positions. Meanwhile, oil companies and tech barons strike me as deeply radical, willing to alter the chemical composition of the atmosphere, eager to confer immortality.

There is a native conservatism in human beings that resists such efforts, a visceral sense of what’s right or dangerous, rash or proper. You needn’t understand every nuance of germline engineering or the carbon cycle to understand why monkeying around on this scale might be a bad idea. And indeed, polling suggests that most people instinctively oppose, say, living forever or designing babies, just as they want government action to stabilise the climate.

Luckily, we have two relatively new inventions that could prove decisive to solving global warming before it destroys the planet. One is the solar panel, and the other is the nonviolent movement.

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

Five dollars is not enough for five a day

Five dollars is not enough for five a day

In discussions about food, environment and health, a resource perspective is often lacking. For more than half of the global population what ends up on their plate is mostly a function of their economic and energetic circumstances. If one want to change what people eat it is necessary to understand the realities of the global food system. Without that, all well-intended advice for a diet better for health or for the environment are falling on barren rock instead of in fertile ground. 

The WHO says that 3.9 million deaths could be avoided if people ate more fruit and vegetables. The recent report of the EAT Lancet Commission recommends that people should eat at least 500 gram fruit and vegetables per day. Many countries have similar recommendations of a certain quantity in weight or in number of servings or portions. But in almost no country are people doing what they are told.  In Sweden only 1 percent of the men in rural Arjeplog eat their half a kilo per day while 19 percent of the women in wealthy, urban Täby does it. Are people stupid or what? 

In order to understand fruit and vegetables consumption it is essential to realize some pertinent facts. Fruits and vegetables are mostly luxury plants in comparison with grains, pulses, root crops. Very few traditional farming systems have had a high share of fruits and vegetables unless you include starchy crops like plantains, potatoes, cassava or yams in your definition. The reason for it is that they are fairly demanding to grow and their content of the most essential food components, energy and protein, is low. Even today, fruits and vegetables are expensive to buy. 

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

Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too

Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too

The case for adaptive management by land management agencies has been in the making for a long time, and takes on a new urgency with the changes being forced by the emissions from consumer and industrial combustion of fossil fuels. The case for adaptive conservationby non-governmental organizations takes on its own urgency for the same reason. 

As conceived so far, adaptive management implies adaptation by land management agencies such as the USDA Forest Service. By now, it’s clear as clear can be that, among others, the Forest Service simply must adapt to the new conditions of heat and drought driven by emissions from consumer and industrial combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas. Taken down to cases, the agency must adapt by recognizing which species are unlikely to persist under increasing emissions, and by shifting its management emphasis to species that might hang in there.

At least some in the Forest Service “get it.” For example, consider this November 1, 2016 assessment by Randy Johnson, U.S. Forest Service Research and Development Program: “Forests are changing in ways they’ve never experienced before because today’s growing conditions are different from anything in the past. The climate is changing at an unprecedented rate.” Johnson thus asks, “When replanting a forest after disturbances, does it make sense to try to reestablish what was there before? Or, should we find re-plant material that might be more appropriate to current and future conditions of a changing environment?”

Ya can’t always get what ya want

By forcing change on the set of conditions — temperature, rainfall, snowfall, wind, etc. — that we summarize as climate, we’ve been forcing change on the forests.

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

Gas Driller at Center of 2019 Pulitzer-Winning Book on Fracking Still Faces Legal Battles

Gas Driller at Center of 2019 Pulitzer-Winning Book on Fracking Still Faces Legal Battles

Girl playing hopscotch at a playground near a fracking well pad in Pennsylvania

Eliza Griswold’s book Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America examines the impacts of fracking in western Pennsylvania, and on Monday it was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction.

Griswold’s book carefully refuses the birds-eye view of fracking’s impacts — readers will find few state or national statistics — and instead presents the detailed results of seven years of on-the-ground reporting. It traces the story of one extended family in western Pennsylvania, a small handful of neighbors, and eventually the two-person legal team that took on their case, now covered by a sealed settlement with natural gas driller, Range Resources, which still faces additional related legal battles today.

The New York Times Book Review called Amity and Prosperity a “valuable, discomforting book.” The 336-page narrative presents the Haney family’s experiences as a story of failed systems, both legal and political, and the pummeling of small town residents in the Marcellus Shale, not only by the arrival of fracking, but also by the region’s long history with extractive industries like timber, coal, and steel; by the national painkiller addiction epidemic; and by the extraordinary difficulties created by the decline of family farming.

The book begins at — and frequently returns to — the county fair’s 4H competition, where Stacey Haney’s son and daughter are entering “two goats, two pigs and four rabbits.” Griswold recounts how Stacey, a nurse, and her neighbors suffer as family pets, prize goats, and treasured horses become ill and die — and at the same time, Stacey’s son Harley is suffering from a mysterious ailment that neither Stacey nor the doctors are initially able to diagnose.

Book Spoiler Alert

Note: the next two paragraphs contain spoilers that readers may wish to avoid.

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

Using manure for fertilizer in the future – it won’t be easy

Using manure for fertilizer in the future – it won’t be easy

Animals produce 44 times more manure than humans in the U.S.

Preface. At John Jeavons Biointensive workshop back in 2003, I learned that phosphorous is limited and mostly being lost to oceans and other waterways after exiting sewage treatment plants.  He said it can be dangerous to use human manure without proper handling, and wasn’t going to cover this at the workshop, but to keep it in mind for the future.

Modern fertilizers made with the Nobel-prizing winning method of using natural gas as feedstock and energy source can increase crop production up to 5 times, but at a tremendous cost of poor soil health and pollution (see Peak soil).  Fossil fuels will inevitably decline some day, and force us back to organic agriculture and using crop wastes, animal and human manure again.

Below are excerpts from three sources.

The first is about North Korea. Despite tremendous efforts to use all manure, this country is a barren, destroyed landscape that can grow little food, which McKenna describes here: Inside North Korea’s Environmental Collapse.

The second section describes what it was like to live over a century ago when human and animal manure was routinely collected.

The third Below is a NewScientist book review of The Wastewater Gardener: Preserving the planet, one flush at a time by Mark Nelson.

Park, Y. 2015. In order to live: A North Korean girl’s journey to freedom. Penguin.

“One of the big problems in North Korea was a fertilizer shortage. When the economy collapsed in the 1990s, the Soviet Union stopped sending fertilizer to us and our own factories stopped producing it. Whatever was donated from other countries couldn’t get to the farms because the transportation system had also broken down. this led to crop failures that made the famine even worse.

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

Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary

Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary

April 26 marks the 33rd anniversary of the 1986 radiation disaster at Chernobyl reactor Number 4 in Ukraine, just north of Kiev the capital. It is still nearly impossible to get scientific consensus on the vast extent of the impacts. The explosions and two-week long fire at Chernobyl spewed around the world something between one billion and nine billion curies of radiation — depending on whose estimates you choose to believe. The accident is classified by the UN as the worst environmental catastrophe in human history.

Chernobyl’s radioactive fallout has been blamed for hundreds of thousands of deaths, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) acknowledges only 56 deaths among firefighters who suffered and died agonizing deaths in the disaster’s immediate aftermath. However, the IAEA’s officially chartered mission is “to accelerate and enlarge the contributions of nuclear power worldwide.” Because of its institutional bias, one can dispute nearly everything the IAEA says about radiation risk.

Also on the low-end of fatality estimates is the World Health Organization which has to have its radiation studies approved by the IAEA! In 2006, the WHO’s “Expert Group concluded that there may be up to 4,000 additional cancer deaths among the three highest exposed groups over their lifetime (240,000 liquidators; 116,000 evacuees, and the 270,000 residents of the Strictly Controlled Zones).” The WHO added to this 4,000 the estimate that “among the five million residents of areas with high levels of radioactive cesium deposition” in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine” predictions suggest “up to 5,000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure…”

Alternately, Ukraine’s Minister of Health Andrei Serkyuk estimated in 1995 that 125,000 people had already died from the direct effects of Chernobyl’s radiation. Serkyuk said a disproportionate share of casualties were among children, pregnant women and rescue workers or “liquidators.”

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

Electric Car-Owners Shocked: New Study Confirms EVs Considerably Worse For Climate Than Diesel Cars

Electric Car-Owners Shocked: New Study Confirms EVs Considerably Worse For Climate Than Diesel Cars

The Brussel Times reports that a new German study exposes how electric vehicles will hardly decrease CO2 emissions in Europe over the coming years, as the introduction of electric vehicles won’t lead to a reduction in CO2 emissions from highway traffic.

According to the study directed by Christoph Buchal of the University of Cologne, published by the Ifo Institute in Munich last week, electric vehicles have “significantly higher CO2 emissions than diesel cars.” That is due to the significant amount of energy used in the mining and processing of lithium, cobalt, and manganese, which are critical raw materials for the production of electric car batteries.

A battery pack for a Tesla Model 3 pollutes the climate with 11 to 15 tonnes of CO2. Each battery pack has a lifespan of approximately ten years and total mileage of 94,000, would mean 73 to 98 grams of CO2 per kilometer (116 to 156 grams of CO2 per mile), Buchal said. Add to this the CO2 emissions of the electricity from powerplants that power such vehicles, and the actual Tesla emissions could be between 156 to 180 grams of CO2 per kilometer (249 and 289 grams of CO2 per mile).

German researchers criticized the fact that EU legislation classifies electric cars as zero-emission cars; they call it a deception because electric cars, like the Model 3, with all the factors, included, produce more emissions than diesel vehicles by Mercedes.

They further wrote that the EU target of 59 grams of CO2 per kilometer by 2030 is “technically unrealistic.”

The reality is, in addition to the CO2 emissions generated in mining the raw materials for the production of electric vehicles, all EU countries generate significant CO2 emissions from charging the vehicles’ batteries using dirty power plants.

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

Toxic Arsenic Found In Major Bottled Water Brands

Toxic Arsenic Found In Major Bottled Water Brands

Consumer Reports (CR) is now warning the public about a serious issue, where 11 brands of bottled water, out of 130 had detectable levels of highly toxic, arsenic, and six of those brands had levels above 3 parts per billion (ppb) — the maximum level allowed by CR.

“Of those, six had levels of 3 ppb or higher,” according to CR officials. “These brands are Starkey owned by Whole Foods, Peñafiel owned by Keurig Dr. Pepper, Crystal Geyser Alpine Spring Water, Volvic owned by Danone, and two regional brands, Crystal Creamery, and EartH₂O.”

Research from the World Health Organization (WHO) has shown long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been linked to cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In children, arsenic can cause negative impacts on cognitive development and increased deaths.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) limits arsenic in bottled water to 10 ppb. But CR is now demanding the federal government revise the level to 3ppb.

“It makes no sense that consumers can purchase bottled water that is less safe than tap water,” says James Dickerson, Ph.D., chief scientific officer at CR. “If anything, bottled water—a product for which people pay a premium, often because they assume it’s safer—should be regulated at least as strictly as tap water.”

Keurig Dr Pepper spoke with CR last week and said its Peñafiel production facility in Mexico had been taken offline for several weeks while it would improve its filtration system to lower arsenic level. The company said it conducted new testing after questions from CR found levels above the federal limit, at an average of 17 ppb.

Whole Foods took over the brand Starkey Water in 2013, from late 2016 through early 2017, the company recalled more than 2,000 cases of water after tests by regulators showed high levels of arsenic beyond the federally mandated threshold.

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

What’s Your Carbon Budget? You Probably Don’t Want to Know

What’s Your Carbon Budget? You Probably Don’t Want to Know

But if politicians ran governments on them, the planet might have a fighting chance.

CrawfordCarbonBudget.jpg
Live within your carbon means. Photo via Shutterstock.

Conservative politicians are happily fighting carbon taxes and generally ignoring the issue of global warming. At the same time, an uneasy feeling is rippling through the climate-science community these days. 

After decades of cautiously understating the consequences of global warming, their models are now showing temperature increases far higher than anyone expected. And other projections show that Canada, including British Columbia, is going to get a lot hotter than, say, San Francisco.

A news story in Science magazine recently reported that computer models of future climate are “running hotter” than they used to. 

Older models projected temperature increases of 2 C to 4.5 C with a doubling of preindustrial carbon dioxide levels. Now at least eight models, generated in the U.S., Britain, France, and Canada, predict “equilibrium climate sensitivity” at 5 C or even higher. That is, temperatures won’t level off at 1.5 C or 2 C, as the Paris Accord requires. Instead they will keep climbing until our collective goose is well and truly cooked.

The story quotes John Fyfe of the University of Victoria’s Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, as saying, “It’s a bit too early to get wound up… But maybe we have to face a reality in the future that’s more pessimistic than it was in the past.”

The centre’s model, like the others, is being developed for the 2021 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Unless these forecasts are drastically revised, the IPCC report will bring very unwelcome news — especially to our federal and provincial governments.

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

Wild Bee Population Collapses By 90% In New England, Study Warns

Wild Bee Population Collapses By 90% In New England, Study Warns 

Researchers from the University of New Hampshire conducted a study to document declines in about 100 wild bee species critical to pollinating crops throughout New England. What they discovered, according to the study, was a collapse in the wild bee population across the state, reported AP.

Researchers analyzed 119 species in the state from a museum collection at the college dating back more than a century. Sandra Rehan and Minna Mathiasson published the study in the peer-reviewed journal called Insect and Conservation Diversity this month. They concluded 14 species found across New England were on the decline by as much as 90%. Several of the species include leafcutter and mining bees.

“We know that wild bees are greatly at risk and not doing well worldwide,” Rehan, assistant professor of biological sciences and the senior author on the study, said in a prepared statement. “This status assessment of wild bees shines a light on the exact species in decline, besides the well-documented bumblebees. Because these species are major players in crop pollination, it raises concerns about compromising the production of key crops and the food supply in general.”

The AP noted that wild bee populations across the world are in decline, and scientists have blamed a wide range of factors including industrialization, insecticides, herbicides, parasites, disease, and climate change. Bees are crucial for pollination, and about one-third of the human diet derives from plants that are directly pollinated by bees.

Greg Burtt, founder of Burtt’s Apple Orchard in Cabot, Vermont, told the AP that his farm relies heavily on wild bees for crop production. 

“Making sure that pollinators in the area are healthy and doing well is definitely something we’re concerned about,” Burtt said.

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

‘Finally!’: Court Orders EPA to Stop Stalling Potential Ban on Pesticide Tied to Brain Damage in Kids

‘Finally!’: Court Orders EPA to Stop Stalling Potential Ban on Pesticide Tied to Brain Damage in Kids

“We hope Trump’s EPA finally decides to protect the future of countless children and the health of millions of farmworkers.”

child eats strawberry

American farmers use chlorpyrifos, a pesticide tied to brain and nervous system issues, on crops such as apples, broccoli, corn, and strawberries. (Photo: Stephanie Chapman/Flickr/cc)

In a ruling welcomed by public health advocates, a federal court on Friday ordered the Trump administration to stop stalling a potential ban on a pesticide linked to brain damage in children, giving regulators until mid-July to make a final decision.

“While we are moving forward, the tragedy is that children are being exposed to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide science has long shown is unsafe.”
—Patti Goldman, Earthjustice

Citing unacceptable health risks for children, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) endedhousehold use of chlorpyrifos in 2000. However, farmers can still use the pesticide—which is also tied to nervous system problems in people and animals—on crops such as apples, broccoli, corn, and strawberries.

The unanimous ruling (pdf) Friday from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is the latest development in a drawn out court battle between the EPA—which blocked a planned agricultural ban on chlorpyrifos in 2017—and the anti-pesticide, environmental, and farmworkers organizations who disagreed with that decision.

Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman, who represents the groups fighting to ban the pesticide from foods, commended the court for its ruling in a statement Friday.

“While we are moving forward, the tragedy is that children are being exposed to chlorpyrifos, a pesticide science has long shown is unsafe,” she said. “We hope Trump’s EPA finally decides to protect the future of countless children and the health of millions of farmworkers.”

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai II: Exodus
Click on image to purchase

Olduvai III: Cataclysm
Click on image to purchase