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More Wildfires Are Burning In Angola & Congo Than Brazil

More Wildfires Are Burning In Angola & Congo Than Brazil 

Thanks to a concerted effort by American social media ‘influencers’, everybody and their grandmother is now aware of the fact that wildfires – many of which were allegedly started illegally by farmers seeking to clear out more land for farming or pasture – are tearing through the Amazon.

What many don’t realize is that the wildfires in the ‘lungs of the Earth’ – as French President Emmanuel Macron described the Amazon – actually aren’t that uncommon. In fact, they’re a natural part of the rainforest’s process of self-restoration. In total, this year, fires are up by 83% compared with last year.

And while the rest of the world uses the fires as an excuse to slam Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and his environmental policies (some have accused him of tacitly condoning the farmers who set the fires), Bloomberg reports that Brazil is actually third in the world in wildfires over the last 48 hours, citing data from the MODIS satellite analyzed by Weather Source.

Weather Source recorded 6,902 fires in Angola over the past 48 hours, 3,395 in the Democratic Republic of Congo and 2,127 in Brazil.

Like in the Amazon and in California, wildfires aren’t all that uncommon in Central Africa.

As for the total number of active wildfires, they’re also nowhere near some of the highs recorded in recent years. According to NASA, more than 67,000 fires were reported in a one-week period in June last year, most of which were started by farmers.

Over the past two days, roughly 16,500 wildfires were recorded in the top 10 countries.

Actually, as far as wildfires go, 2019 isn’t out of the ordinary in any meaningful sense.

But we’re sure the Instagram influencer set will soon clarify all of this in a series of sponsored posts putting the Amazon wildfires in context…right?

The Green New Deal Battles Business as Usual. Both Will Doom Us

The Green New Deal Battles Business as Usual. Both Will Doom Us

We’re clinging to fantasies while the world crumbles. And we like it that way.

IndustrialFutureVignette.jpg
‘The real unfolding drama — the collapse of a global civilization founded on a highly material culture created by cheap energy — is not a narrative we want to tell ourselves or our children.’ Image via Pixabay.

The stories we tell ourselves become the reality of our experience.

Global elites are now offering ordinary people two salvation stories for our digital entertainment.

Both delusional stories are being served on the Internet with bags of virtual popcorn.

One is the so-called Green New Deal, and the other is Business As Usual, which comes in both liberal and autocratic formats.

Both are actively competing for our attention.

Let’s begin with BAU, which now boasts a variety of populist variations.

At one level or another, we can all understand BAU’s alluring and simple call to restore greatness and order.

Think of it as Vladimir Putin, Doug Ford, Jair Bolsonaro, Andrew Scheer and Donald Trump doing a rain dance to bring back lost worlds and spent energies.

Or China’s Hong Kong establishment wondering what’s wrong with those young people in the streets.

Or Emmanuel Macron asking what the hell got into those yellow vest people marginalized by globalization and carbon taxes. 

The BAU refrain is simple: trust the status quo and its armies of technocrats, because they’ll make things great again.

The BAU crowd maintains that nothing is really wrong with our failing global economic Ponzi schemes or the broken air conditioning unit that controls the climate.

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

What Is Earth For?

What Is Earth For?

“The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and foster its renewal is our only hope.” – Wendell Berry

Author Wallace Stegner once said every book should try to answer an anguished question, an instruction that I took to heart at a tender age. For over thirty years, I’ve tried to answer a number of anguished questions in my writing, photography, and activism, ranging over the fields of archaeology, history, conservation, the radical center, regenerative agriculture, resilience, and climate change. Although the questions were often daunting and suffused with urgency, in my answers I tried to be creative, hopeful and, above all, a good storyteller. It’s my nature to see the glass as half-full, even if the glass is large and intimidating! 

Slowly, a general anguished question began to reveal itself over the years, linking my various concerns and creative efforts: what is land for? Why do we do what we do to land, including its plants and animals? Why do we treat it so poorly at times and yet magnificently at others? Why are we so obsessed with its beauty and bounty and yet so harmful and destructive to its health? We are possessive of land and possessed by it, but we are also deeply conflicted about what land is for – Food? Wilderness? Mining? Inspiration? Recreation? This anguished question lies at the heart of The Sun. In my story, a young doctor inherits a large, beautiful property and must decide: what is the ranch for? Oil-and-gas? Houses? Cattle? Fish? Wolves? A casino? A spiritual retreat? Complicating things, there’s a dead body and a mystery to solve as well!

Hurricane Katrina

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

America’s Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Set To Finally Close Its Doors

America’s Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Set To Finally Close Its Doors

Few people know that sitting across from the reactor that suffered a partial meltdown on Three Mile Island in 1979 – is another unit that still remains one of the region’s largest power sources. In fact, the second unit has provided power for 45 years without incident. Now, according to Bloomberg, that unit is finally slated to shut down. 

Plant owner Exelon says that it will shutter the entire Three Mile Island facility 15 years before its license expires. While the first reactor was brought down by human error, the second is being brought down by the economics of the utility industry.

The original meltdown that occurred in 1979 was a result of steam generators that were unable to draw heat out of a reactor and a stuck valve that let coolant escape from the reactor core. 

The unit that melted down originally has stood dormant and quiet since the incident. 

Compared to Chernobyl, which resulted in 4,000 deaths, Three Mile Island is considered minor. It was determined that about 2 million people in the surrounding area “were exposed to less radiation than they would have received from a chest X-ray.”

But naturally, the immediate reaction to the event was fear and confusion. Schools closed, people stayed indoors and officials told children and pregnant women to evacuate the area. Public support for nuclear power predictably waned after the incident. 

The U.S. is now the world’s largest producer of natural gas, thanks to the “shale revolution”. This has caused a glut of the fossil fuel, dragging down its price and making it the largest source of the country’s electricity. Wind and solar have also been contributing to the nation’s energy glut. As a result, seven U.S. nuclear plants have shut down since 2013, with additional plants slated to close, despite states like New York and Pennsylvania offering subsidies for nuclear power. 

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

Small farms don’t produce most the of the worlds food – but they could produce all

Small farms don’t produce most the of the worlds food – but they could produce all

Recently, I wrote an article about how difficult it is to survive as a commercial smallholder and floated some ideas of why that is and what can be done about it. I want to follow up with two articles. This one is about the production capacity of small farms and the next one will be on labor productivity and its implications for the space of consumption for small holder farmers and its capacity to generate surplus labor for other societal purposes. 
I often see the claim that peasants/small farms/small holders/family farms produce seventy percent of all the food in the world. The 70 figure originates from a report by the ETC Groups in 2009, Who Will Feed Us? Questions for the Food and Climate Crises. The original has been revised and the current version from 2017 states that the ”ETC Group estimates about 70% of the population – 4.5–5.5 billion of the world’s 7.5 billion people – depend on the Peasant Food Web for most or all of their food”. 

While I am a small farmer myself and very sympathetic to the future of small farms in a similar way as the ETC group, I think it is important to have the facts straight. To begin with, the poorest 70% consume a lot less than 70% of the food in the world, as people in the richer countries, who mainly depend on the industrial food chain consume a lot more food per capita.  Notably, the ETC report says that 70% of the population depend on the peasant food web for most or all of their food. This is not at all the same as  that peasants produce 70% of the food as ”to depend on” doesn’t mean that all their foods come from this food web.

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

Power Grid Chaos Jolts Texas On Friday, Energy Costs Triple Amid Heat Wave

Power Grid Chaos Jolts Texas On Friday, Energy Costs Triple Amid Heat Wave

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) has been asking customers to conserve energy this week as spot power prices in Texas triple to a record on Friday.

The state’s power grid operator that serves most of Texas declared an energy conservation emergency for the second time this week, the first on Tuesday when temperatures exceeded 100 degrees, and customers cranked up their air conditioners to escape the heat.

ERCOT asked customers this week to reduce energy use between 3 and 7 p.m. Here is what they asked Texans to do:

  • Increase thermostats 2 to 3 degrees
  • Program thermostats at a higher temp when not at home
  • Use a fan, it can lower temperatures by 4 to 6 degrees
  • Use appliances less (dishwashers, washers, and dryers) or only in the morning hours.
  • Run pool pumps in the early morning or overnight hours and shut them off between 4 to 6 p.m.
  • Keep blinds and drapes closed during the hottest part of the day.

ERCOT reported no rotating power outages.

“High temperatures have resulted in record electricity demand over the last few days and may result in a new record today,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “Consumers can help lower energy consumption by taking some simple actions between the hours of 3 and 7 p.m.”

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

Fracking and Shale Drilling Caused Spike in Climate-Warming Methane Pollution, Says New Study

Fracking and Shale Drilling Caused Spike in Climate-Warming Methane Pollution, Says New Study

Flaring in Permian Basin Shale with sunflowers

Climate-changing pollution reached unprecedented levels in 2018. That’s both judged against the last 60 years of modern measurements and against 800,000 years of data culled from ice cores, according to the U.S. government’s State of the Climate report, which was published this week with the American Meteorological Society.

That pollution creates a greenhouse effect that is over 42 percent stronger than it was in 1990, the report added.

And while carbon dioxide hit a new level last year, it isn’t the only climate-changing gas that’s on the rise globally. Pollution of the powerful but short-lived greenhouse gas methane also climbed in 2018, showing an increase “higher than the average growth rate over the past decade,” the report adds.

A new Cornell University study published today in the scientific journal Biogeosciences helps to explain what sparked the surge in those methane concentrations, both here in the U.S. and around the world.

One big culprit: shale drilling and fracking.

“This recent increase in methane is massive,” said Cornell professor Robert Howarth, who authored that study. “It’s globally significant. It’s contributed to some of the increase in global warming we’ve seen and shale gas is a major player.”

The new Cornell paper relies on “chemical fingerprints” of the methane pollution in the Earth’s atmosphere. It describes how methane molecules from shale gas and oil production carry different kinds of carbon than methane from either conventional natural gas drilling or coal beds. The methane molecules from shale drilling contain less of the carbon-13 isotope versus carbon-12, the study suggests, using this ratio as one way to hone in on the source of the natural gas.

That chemical fingerprint led the Cornell researchers to point to the shale industry as the major source of the leaks.

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

Climate change risks could cause an American “Fukushima”

Climate change risks could cause an American “Fukushima”

Preface. Nuclear power plants need a constant supply of electric power to pump cool water into a reactor’s core.

Ninety percent of them, 54 plants, have at least one flood risk exceeding their design.

If flooding stops the power supply long enough, as happened in Fukushima, the core can overheat, melting through its container, as well as the nearby spent nuclear fuel pools which unlike the core, are in the open air, releasing deadly levels of radiation.

*** Some excerpts from:

Flavelle, C., et al. 2019. U.S. Nuclear Power Plants Weren’t Built for Climate Change. Bloomberg.

The NRC directed the operators of the 60 or so working U.S. nuclear power plants to evaluate their current flood risk, using the latest weather modeling technology and accounting for the effects of climate change. Companies were told to compare those risks with what their plants, many almost 50 years old, were built to withstand, and, where there was a gap, to explain how they would close it.

That process has revealed a lot of gaps. But Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and others say that the commission’s new leadership, appointed by President Donald Trump, hasn’t done enough to require owners of nuclear power plants to take preventative measures—and that the risks are increasing as climate change worsens.

Ninety percent of plants, 54 of them, have at least one flood risk exceeding their design. Fifty-three weren’t built to withstand their current risk from intense precipitation; 25 didn’t account for current flood projections from streams and rivers; 19 weren’t designed for their expected maximum storm surge; 19 face three or more threats that they weren’t designed to handle.

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

The War on Nature

The War on Nature

Mexican wolf. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.

Ancient Greeks, Persians, Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Chinese and Indians respected or worshipped several gods. Those gods were usually forces of nature, which opened the mind, eyes and hearts of human beings to the mysteries, beauty and truth of the natural world.

The vast human majorities of the ancient world were peasant farmers and shepherds who cultivated the land and raised food and tended animals.

The winds, rains and the snow, the trees, the different plants and grasses growing for their sheep and goats and cattle, were not abstractions but real manifestations of nature affecting them daily and giving them clues about life and their own fortunes. They noticed the different birds living near them and flying to the water of the creeks, lakes and rivers, according to the seasons. And soon they figured the appropriate time of the year, season, for growing wheat and caring for the olive trees for the life-saving olive oil and grape vines for their sweet wine.

Ancient people tried to make sense of the gigantic forces of the natural world. They looked at the sky and saw countless stars lighting the evening heavens. They were dazzled and sometimes frightened by these flickering bodies in the sky so far away from them. They usually associated these slowly moving stars with gods who influenced their lives.

People saw the gigantic Sun “rising” in the East and “setting” in the West. They noticed the Moon was close to the Earth and, in fact, moved around the Earth, linking it to their monthly calendar.

The priests of the gods were students of nature. They often gave meaning to phenomena difficult to comprehend like rain, snow, lightning and thunder. The priests explained and familiarized nature to those celebrating the gods. They made them confident that humans and other animals and the natural world were related and lived in the same world.

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

Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity

Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

Current conditions represent a political emergency of sorts, meaning that ways of solving environmental and social problems will either be worked out or circumstances, led by the environment, will assume a life of their own. Given that these conditions are the result of historical processes that were decades and centuries in the making, understanding how we got here is crucial to resolving them.

The relevant ‘we’ here is being redefined through the relation of late-stage capitalism to the world. Climate change and species loss are shifting boundaries, shrinking the universe of arable land, breathable air and drinkable water. Fortress America, previously a conflation of place with one’s status in the imperial order, is largely the source of this vengeful gravity. Political geography is about to get interesting.

In this regard, the IPCC just won’t quit issuing proclamations. Joining climate change and mass extinction is dead and dying land. It seems that you can’t just denude a few hundred million acres of arable land, destroying the ecosystems to which it belongs, without consequences. What mystical clairvoyance could have imagined such an outcome? And more to the point, what can be done about it?

With updates on the breadth and depth of environmental calamity coming fast and furious, still missing is the political path to salvation. The only certainty— as offered by the authors of said calamity, is that we, the little people who add up to 90% or thereabouts of the demos, want— nay demand, calamity. The proof: we still eat, live indoors, wear clothing and find our way to and from work.

However, this is but mere paraphrase. The direct proof is that we consume. And we do so through the social mechanisms— stores, the internet, etc., that have been provided. From this slim foundation the certainty is built that we ‘demanded’ state corporatism, a/k/a neoliberalism, a/k/a rule from above. Markets are the transfer mechanism through which the purchase of a bag of rice becomes support for industrial agriculture.

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

Why I went underground and how I am enjoying my subterranean life

Why I went underground and how I am enjoying my subterranean life

Here is one of the windows of my new home. No, not the big one. Look at where my wife, Grazia, is pointing. Yes, that one!

This summer in Florence we already had two vicious heat waves. As I am writing, we are in the middle of the third one, even more vicious. It has been, actually, a continuous period of very high temperatures punctuated by a few storms that brought the usual floods and disasters.

Global warming is no joke. If you don’t plan for these heat waves you seriously risk your life, especially if you are not so young and you are not in perfect health. And people do die: we don’t have statistical data for this year, yet, but the reports from countries like Italy, Europe, India, and Japan tell of tens, maybe hundreds, of victims and thousands hospitalized.

As usual, people here and everywhere in the world suffer from the syndrome that Daniel Pauly calls “shifting baselines.” They seem to think that it is all normal because that’s what they have been seeing during the past decade or so. And they don’t seem to realize that they are living in houses that were designed and built in a world where heat waves were occasional and lasted just a few days, not the rule for more than one month per year.

Most homes in Florence have no air conditioning or have the kind of makeshift units that make a lot of noise but don’t do much to lower temperatures. Some people insist on saying that air-conditioning is “not ecological” because it consumes energy. In other cases, the city regulations forbid people to install the external unit of a truly efficient air conditioning system. And, worst of all, very few people realize how bad it is going to be in a few years from now.

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

Plastic Apocalypse: Dangerous Microplastics Invade Alps To Artic, Found In Fresh Snow

Plastic Apocalypse: Dangerous Microplastics Invade Alps To Artic, Found In Fresh Snow

A new study has revealed that high levels of microplastics have been detected in some of the most remote regions of the world.

The discovery, published in the journal Science Advances, is the first international study on microplastics in snow, conducted by the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany.

Melanie Bergmann, the lead scientist, and her team of researchers found microplastics from the Alps to the Arctic contained high levels of the plastic fragment, raises questions about the environmental and health implications of potential exposure to airborne plastics.

Watch: Farmers create natural straw intend to break plastic’s back

“I was really astonished concerning the high concentrations,” said co-author Gunnar Gerdts, a marine microbiologist at the Alfred Wegener Institute.

Bergmann explains that microplastics come from industrial economies where rubber and paints are used. The tiny fragments end up in the sea, where they’re broken down by waves and ultraviolet radiation, before absorbing into the atmosphere. From there, the plastic particles are captured from the air during cloud development, can drift across the Earth via jet streams. At some point, the particles act as a nucleus around supercooled droplets can condense, and travel to Earth as snow.

“Although there is a huge surge of research into the environmental impact of plastics, there is still so much that we do not know,” said Bergmann.

Bergmann noted how the scientific community was only in its infancy of examining the process of how microplastics get sucked up into the atmosphere then scattered around the world in some form of precipitation. She said, there’s an “urgent need for research on human and animal health effects focusing on airborne microplastics.”

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

Norway Detects Radiation Near Russian Border Days After Nuclear-Powered Missile Explodes

Norway Detects Radiation Near Russian Border Days After Nuclear-Powered Missile Explodes

Days after the Kremlin’s nuclear-powered missile exploded, killing seven and leading to evacuations, Norway detected tiny amounts of radioactive iodine in the air near the northern part of the country bordering Russia. 

According to Norway’s nuclear safety authority (DSA), the radioactive iodine was detected between Aug. 9-12 at its air filter station in the border town of Svanhovd, just under 450 miles from the Arkhangelesk region of northern Russia where the deadly blast occurred on August 8. 

At present it is not possible to determine if the last iodine detection is linked to the accident in Arkhangelsk last week. DSA continues more frequent sampling and analysis,” said DSA. 

Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear agency, said on Saturday that the deadly blast involved “isotope power sources,” with no further details given. 

According to Reuters, detecting radiation is not unusual in Norway, as it’s monitoring stations routinely pick up radioactive iodine around half-a-dozen times per year from unknown sources. 

On Tuesday, however, Russia’s state weather service reported a 16x spike in radiation levels in the city of Severodvinsk. Meanwhile, first responders who treated victims of the accident were rushed to Moscow for medical examination according to Russian state-owned news outlet TASS.

Playing Role of Pesticide ‘Cheerleader,’ EPA Rebukes Calif. With Ban on Warning Labels for Roundup

Playing Role of Pesticide ‘Cheerleader,’ EPA Rebukes Calif. With Ban on Warning Labels for Roundup

“It’s the Environmental Protection Agency, not the pesticide protection agency.”

Roundup

 “It’s a little bit sad,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director for the Center for Biological Diversity, “the EPA is the biggest cheerleader and defender of glyphosate.” (Photo: AFP/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency was accused of being a pesticide “cheerleader” last week after the agency said it would not approval labels that say that glyphosate—the active ingredient in Roundup and other weedkillers—is known to cause cancer.

In a statement released Thursday announcing the move, the EPA dug in on its assertion that glyphosate does not cause cancer, though critics have said that is “an industry-friendly conclusion that’s simply not based on the best available science.”

The new guidance takes aim at California’s 2017 move, in adherence with its Proposition 65, to add glyphosate to its list of chemicals known to cause cancer and require warning labels. The state cited the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer 2015 assessment that glyphosate is “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

The EPA, however, said those labels provided consumers with false information.

“We will not allow California’s flawed program to dictate federal policy,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler in the statement.

The EPA also sent a letter to manufactures on Aug. 7 saying that “pesticide products bearing the Proposition 65 warning statement due to the presence of glyphosate are misbranded” under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA).

The letter, signed by Michael Goodis, head of EPA’s registration division in its Office of Pesticide Programs, said EPA would not approve labeling with that warning, and that “EPA requests the submission of draft amended labeling that removes such language within ninety days of the date of this letter.”

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

“This Is Blowing Up:” Texas Energy Costs Hit Record High Monday As Heatwave Strikes

“This Is Blowing Up:” Texas Energy Costs Hit Record High Monday As Heatwave Strikes

Power demand in Texas hit a record high on Monday as consumers turned up their air conditioners to escape a heatwave that is boiling much of the southern Plains over the next 7-10 days.

“A large ridge of high pressure has anchored itself across the southern Plains over the last 7-10 days, promoting significant heat across Texas. As of Tuesday morning, Dallas has reached 100°F each of the last 4 days, while Houston’s Intercontinental Airport has hit 101°F each of the past 5 days. Generally speaking, warmer than normal temperatures will continue for the foreseeable future across Texas,” said Meteorologist and owner of Empire Weather LLC., Ed Vallee.

According to the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), who operates the electric grid and supplies energy to more than 25 million customers, representing 90% of the state’s electrical load, reported that demand surged to 74,531 megawatts (MW) at 5 p.m. CDT on Monday and could reach 75,000 MW on Tuesday. Reuters notes that the all-time high was 73,473 MW on July 19, 2018.

How the Drop in Oil Prices Impacts the Junk Bond Market

ERCOT has 78,000 MW of generating capacity. As demand continues to reach critical levels, the grid operator could issue warnings to customers advising them to reduce energy.

ERCOT Houston MW-hour jumped from $25 to $603 on August 12, a +2,237% move in 1,440 minutes.

“This is blowing up, David Hoy, a trader at Dynasty Power, told Bloomberg, “That should be the highest price of the year so far.”

Meteorologist Vallee said air temperature and humidity across the region could make temperatures feel closer to 110 through the week.

In comparison to other grid operators across the country, ERCOT Houston is experiencing the most significant spikes in energy costs this week. 

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

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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