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Pipe Dream: Taxpayer-Owned TMX Is a Bust, Concludes Analyst

Pipe Dream: Taxpayer-Owned TMX Is a Bust, Concludes Analyst

Expect no Asian windfall for oilsands crude, says a new report by expert David Hughes.

Remember that 67-year-old pipeline and its controversial bitumen expansion project that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau bought from Kinder Morgan for $4.5 billion in 2018?

Well, a lot has happened since then.

For starters, the bitumen export project has climbed from a price tag of $7.8 billion to $12.6 billion and counting.

Meanwhile, a global pandemic has slowed the economy to a crawl and destabilized oil prices by bluntly curbing demand, probably for years.

The troubled oil industry, already reeling from global overproduction and crushing debt, is now actively contracting.

Cenovus and Husky, two of the five largest oilsands producers, just merged to save money by killing more than 2,000 jobs. Suncor axed another 2,000 employees. The so-called “economic engine of Canada” is shedding jobs, not making them.

As the world’s oil industry shrinks, prospects for global economic recovery seem remote if not problematic, because the world runs on oil.

China, the presumed market for Alberta’s heavy sour crude, has arrested two of our citizens, bullied our leaders and become a global exporter of technological tyranny.

And climate change, the topic everyone likes to endlessly talk about, continues to erode shorelines, burn forests, create refugees and undermine global security.

So does the world still need the Trans Mountain expansion project?

That’s the timely question David Hughes, one of the country’s foremost energy experts, deftly answers in his latest report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

And the answer is a big fat no.

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

LNG in BC Is a ‘Losing’ Bet, Report Finds

LNG in BC Is a ‘Losing’ Bet, Report Finds

New analysis calls out rosy job projections for industry ‘misleading’ and unrealistic.

A respected U.S. energy group has criticized a rosy Conference Board of Canada report championing more liquefied natural gas development in British Columbia as “a lobbying effort for government subsidies, support and flexibility.”

The scathing critique by the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis characterized the Conference Board report as “misleading,” short on facts and unrealistic.

“The Conference Board, a non-profit economic research organization based in Ottawa, believes Asian, or more specifically, Chinese demand growth can sustain a further leap in British Columbian LNG capacity growth, despite corporate investors already folding their hands,” said the institute in its highly-critical paper.

The Ohio-based institute is funded by a variety of philanthropic organizations and examines issues related to energy markets, trends and policies. Its mission is “to accelerate the transition to a diverse, sustainable and profitable energy economy.”

The Conference Board’s July report, titled “Rising Tide,” estimated that if the government boosted LNG development to export 56 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas a year the industry would create 100,000 jobs based on an imaginary growth scenario.

“B.C. is becoming the focal point for a new Canadian industry — liquefied natural gas,” claimed the report, which failed to mention that 13 LNG projects have already been cancelled or suspended in B.C. and other parts of Canada due to bad economics, global oversupply and high extraction costs based on hydraulic fracturing.

At the moment, Shell’s LNG Canada is the only active project in B.C.

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

BC Hydro Bets on Interest Rates — and Loses $1 Billion

BC Hydro Bets on Interest Rates — and Loses $1 Billion

A hedging program was supposed to protect the corporation from rising rates. Instead, it’s creating major liabilities.

Critics are calling it another BC Hydro scandal. The Crown corporation, already beset by burgeoning costs and geotechnical difficulties at the controversial Site C dam, has racked up $1 billion of liabilities betting on interest rates.

BC Hydro revealed the losses in its first-quarter report, released in June.

Marc Eliesen, former CEO of BC Hydro and Ontario Hydro, said the corporation’s gamble that it could predict future interest rates has backfired. “BC Hydro took a trip to the casino and played roulette and lost big time,” he said.

The interest rate hedging program began in 2016 with the goal of protecting ratepayers from higher future borrowing costs if rates rose.

Under the program, BC Hydro bought investment vehicles that would increase in value if interest rates rose. The corporation’s managers believed the profits could be used to offset higher borrowing costs if, as they predicted, interest rates went up.

“They thought they would make money on interest rate hedges and put it in a default account which would help offset borrowing costs in the future,” explained Richard McCandless, a former civil servant who wrote about the loss on his blog.

Instead, interest rates fell, and BC Hydro has lost money on the hedging program.

“It is a scandal,” said McCandless. “They took a gamble and lost.”

BC Hydro, which carries $23.3 billion in debt, anticipates the need to borrow another $10 billion between 2017 and 2024, partly to pay for the over-budget Site C dam and about $2 billion a year in other capital projects.

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Thousands of Quakes, Tied to Fracking, Keep Shaking the Site C Dam Region

Thousands of Quakes, Tied to Fracking, Keep Shaking the Site C Dam Region

Several recent reports on the tremors add to concerns about the mega-project’s stability.

Building the Site C dam in northeastern British Columbia is proving more difficult than officials predicted due to unstable ground on the northern bank. Adding to concerns: myriad earthquakes.

For nearly a decade, The Tyee has reported on a rising number of earthquakes caused by the hydraulic fracturing of shale formations in the region. Now, new studies put the number of such tremors in recent years in the many thousands, raising more worries about the future of the mega-project.

Researchers warn the shaking could become strong enough to crumble critical infrastructure such as roads, high-rise buildings — and dams.

B.C.’s regulatory practices try to limit fracking after small earthquakes have been triggered. But that’s “not sufficient to protect critical or vulnerable infrastructure that have unacceptable failure consequences,” noted seismic hazard expert Gail Atkinson in the May 7 issue of Nature Reviews.

No one can yet predict frack-triggered quakes before they happen, and “hazard forecasting” remains a “critical area of research.”

Another study, released this week by researcher Ben Parfitt at the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, took data from federal earthquake catalogues to show how many tremors the fracking industry is producing near the Site C dam.

The numbers are staggering. Between 2017 and 2018 alone, the industry triggered 6,551 earthquakes greater than 0.8 magnitude in the region near the troubled mega-project with a price estimate of $12 billion and rising.

Drilling by Canadian Natural Resources Ltd., for example, triggered a magnitude 4.6 earthquake in November 2018 that forced the evacuation of the Site C Dam site. It was followed by magnitude 3.5 and 4 events after the fracking ceased.

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

Alberta’s Environment Minister Cheered on Coal Mining in New Areas before Restrictions Were Dropped

Alberta’s Environment Minister Cheered on Coal Mining in New Areas before Restrictions Were Dropped

Months before ending the Coal Policy, the Kenney government issued letters of support for open-pit projects.

Half a year before the Alberta government abruptly rescinded a 44-year-old policy protecting its Rocky Mountain flanks from coal open-pit mining, its ministers were already sending “letters of support” to a new Australian coal mining corporation trying to raise capital on the open market.

Valory Resources Inc. is just one of several Australian firms planning to excavate open-pit coal mines along the Rockies’ eastern slopes, a key source of fresh water previously off limits to surface mining until last June.

That’s when the Kenney government cancelled the protective Coal Policy established in 1976. Under the cover of the pandemic, it did so with no public consultation.

The letters of support — one from Alberta’s minister of tourism and the other from the minister of environment — indicate Valory’s plans were already understood and favoured by the Kenney government well before it changed regulations to make them possible.

Valory, a private company now trying to raise capital for the project, displays the letters in its promotional materials (see page 24 in this pdf).

In a presentation to the town of Rocky Mountain House in central Alberta last month, Valory Resources boasted that it had “recently met with key members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta and received strong statements of support… which indicates that the Alberta provincial government are ‘pro-development and open for business.’”

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

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

What Kenney Had to Kill to Embrace Coal

Alberta’s 1976 Coal Policy protected vital drinking water supplies for much of the province. That’s gone now.

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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney. His government, after being heavily lobbied by coal interests, opted to open a huge swath of sensitive Rocky Mountains land to open pit mining, rendering longstanding protections ‘obsolete.’ Photo by Jason Franson, the Canadian Press.

Under the cover of a pandemic, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney quietly wiped away a near half-century of safeguards against open pit coal mining in most of the province’s Rocky Mountains and foothills.

The result could be the stripping away of mountain tops across more than a million and half hectares of terrain — about half the size of Vancouver Island.

Gone, as of last May, is the province’s 1976 Coal Policy, which protected the headwaters of rivers that secure drinking water for Canadians across the prairies.

The Coal Policy was established by the Progressive Conservative government then led by Peter Lougheed, based on nearly six years of active public consultations. It was quietly axed this spring without input by First Nations or the wider public.

In fact, Kenney’s government only talked to one group, the Coal Association of Canada. (See this related story published today on The Tyee.)The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

That lobbying group is directed by Robin Campbell, a former Tory provincial environmental minister.

Now a handful of largely Australian-owned corporations intent on serving metallurgical coal markets in India and China are poised to begin transforming Alberta’s eastern slopes into an industrial mining zone.

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

We’re Dumb about Exponential Growth. That’s Proving Lethal

We’re Dumb about Exponential Growth. That’s Proving Lethal

And not just for COVID-19. The same ignorance accelerates the climate crisis.

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Exponential growth looks like a jet taking off. It is rapid and explosive and follows a geometric progression. It is often about doubling times. Image via Shutterstock.

Gradually, and then suddenly. That’s how exponential growth can ruin your day, undo your family, evaporate your economy, destroy your climate, crush an empire and destabilize a planet.

Consider the performance of COVID-19.

Last month a 30-year-old male attended a “COVID party” in San Antonio, Texas.

At a COVID party, the host has tested positive. He or she then does not sit down with a math primer to understand how many human dominoes they might cause to fall. Nor does the host watch this handy video which, in three short minutes, explains the deadly implications of exponential growth of infection.

WATCH: A mathematician explains the power of exponential growth to spread the coronavirus at increasing speed throughout a population if unchecked by social distancing and other measures.

No, at a COVID party the host invites others to come over and mingle, have a few drinks, test fate, laugh in the face of reality.

The 30-year-old male who came to the COVID party died several weeks later, but not before he made a brief confession to the nurse attending him. “I think I made a mistake, I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”

That’s how exponential growth can ruin your day.

The percentage of people testing positive for COVID-19 in Texas has risen steeply in recent weeks. Up to 22 per cent of tests showed positive in the San Antonio area last week.

The exponential function is all about growth, and growth follows a logical curve. It can be linear or exponential. Linear is what children do as they grow in weight. Or what stalagmites do as they grow with dripping water.

But exponential growth looks like a jet taking off. It is rapid and explosive and follows a geometric progression. It is often about doubling times.

After China reported its first case of COVID-19 last January, it took 67 days to reach the first 100,000 global cases.

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

By Many Calculations, LNG Is a Fail for BC: Report

By Many Calculations, LNG Is a Fail for BC: Report

The math for liquefied natural gas is bad on emissions, revenues, jobs, even offsetting coal in China, finds a new study.

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Go figure. BC NDP Premier John Horgan announcing in 2018 a $40-billion investment by the consortium LNG Canada in its Kitimat terminal for processing and export. Photo: BC Government.

David Hughes, one of the nation’s foremost energy analysts, has a simple message for the governments of British Columbia and Canada when it comes to advocating for LNG projects.

“Do the math.”

Hughes has parsed the numbers and they don’t add up on methane emissions, climate change targets, resource royalties, job benefits or even basic economics.

“The math is clear,” says Hughes, whose latest 57-page report on LNG exports highlights a long pipeline of damning figures.

Emissions targets: Won’t LNG help hit them? The numbers say noThe Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

The province’s CleanBC plan, for example, demands an 80-per-cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 from 2007 levels.

But Hughes, who was a scientific researcher for 32 years at the Geological Survey of Canada, checked the math on emissions based on energy production forecasts made by the Canada Energy Regulator.

His math is conservative. It excluded any LNG exports. It assumes current major reductions in methane leaks from gas extraction might be plugged. And it further assumes the electrification of some upstream projects. Still, Hughes found that “emissions from oil and gas production would exceed B.C.’s 2050 target by 54 per cent.”

(A group of scientists writing in Nature found the same thing on a global scale last year: just using existing fossil fuel infrastructure takes the world into climate change hell.)

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

‘Normal Is the Problem’

‘Normal Is the Problem’

So is normal’s idiot child, ‘the new normal.’ What we’ve made normal never was natural.

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Let’s review what ‘normal’ human behaviour has done to our one and only home over the past few centuries. Image of Earth taken from Apollo 17 via Wikimedia.

Sharon Wilson is a fifth-generation Texan who drives around rural communities and takes pictures of oil and gas facilities with an infrared camera. The pictures make visible all the methane pollution that industry and governments pretend is not happening in rural communities.

Wilson recently tweeted these two sentences: “We can and must do better than going back to normal. Normal is the problem.”

And she is right as rain about that. Normal has become a pathological state.

After the random normlessness of this pandemic, I don’t want to go back to normal either. Or its idiotic child, “the new normal.”

Let’s face facts: our hi-tech, globalized-trade-anything-for-peanuts world run mostly by tyrants isn’t natural.

Since 1970, an outpouring of normality has just about destroyed the Earth: It has created an abnormal economic machine, blind to energy spending, that doubled the global population and boosted per capita consumption by 45 per cent.

At the same time the so-called value of global economic activity grew by 300 per cent. Meanwhile global trade has exploded like a coronavirus by 900 per cent. To support all this consumption and trade, the extraction of “living materials” from nature has jumped by 200 per cent.

Now here’s just a partial list of the cost of all this exponential normality: Humans have appropriated or altered 70 per cent of the world’s lands with mines, roads, industrial farms, cities and airports. We have engineered more than 75 per cent of the world’s longest rivers. We have filled the ocean with plastics and slaughtered coral reefs. Anyone who calls that kind of behaviour normal is crackers. It’s ecological imperialism, and nothing more than a full-scale assault on the dignity of local life.

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

Don’t Bet on a Vaccine

Don’t Bet on a Vaccine

If we get one, great. But here’s why we can’t count on it and what that means.

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Biologist Paul Ewald notes earlier virus vaccine successes came easier. ‘We are now left with the more wily ones which will probably evade our vaccination efforts.’ Photo of the virus causing COVID-19: Shutterstock.

Every day politicians promise eventual relief from the threat of COVID-19 with a vaccine. An unprecedented scientific race to develop more than 100 of them is now underway. But don’t roll up your sleeve yet. Any promise of a technical solution for a global pandemic remains a great gamble for a variety of reasons.

So we had better develop a robust Plan B: Get very good at living with the coronavirus in our midst, keeping large outbreaks to a minimum. The key to this, lacking a super effective vaccine, is: test, trace and isolate. Repeat. Repeat. And repeat again. We have the means to do this now, and it should become our way of life for many months, and likely years, to come.

Why should we be wary of the promise a vaccine will deliver us any time soon from the coronavirus?

Some viruses are more ‘wily’ than others. Vaccines are artificial tools to confer immunity to diseases. Instead of waiting for natural immunity and disease cycles to do the often deadly and random job, our civilization now depends on the efficiency of vaccines. Immunization is as much a part of modern civilization as the highway.

Vaccines, however, have their limits and can also suffer from diminishing returns. The evolutionary biologist Paul Ewald has noted that humans have used vaccines for the last 200 years to conquer the easiest adversaries: measles, diptheria, rabies, polio and smallpox. “We are now left with the more wily ones which will probably evade our vaccination efforts by changing their coats.” Malaria and viruses like HIV are masters at evading the immune system.

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

Global Boom, Pandemic, Crash: Is History Just Repeating Itself?

Global Boom, Pandemic, Crash: Is History Just Repeating Itself?

If Peter Turchin is right, we face the end of a 300-year cycle, as did previous far-flung empires.

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The intensification of globalized networks creates more instability, insecurity and unpredictability. Epidemics can hasten the ends of ‘secular cycles’ for highly-interconnected civilizations. Image: Shutterstock.

The coronavirus pandemic is, among other things, a tribute to human ingenuity and our relentless pursuit of globalization, an impulse thousands of years old. Previous civilizations, from the Romans to the Mongols, traded aggressively and invaded new ecosystems. They, too, connected far-flung geographies in innovative ways. None of it, however, ended particularly well.

By trading in all manner of peoples, plants, germs and animals, these empires diligently tested the limits of globalization and its growing complexity by seeding their own disintegration.

The corona pandemic, a pretty mild affair in the scheme of things, is telling us that we are now in the middle of a historic cycle where hyper-connectivity combined with hyper-complexity could rapidly lead to decline, if not collapse.

In fact, pandemics are not black swans, but predictable and natural events that often appear like clockwork in the evolution of human empires. They trigger other crises or partner up with them.

These mass reversals often appear after periods of intense population growth and changes in population density just as an imperial adventure unknowingly begins its descent.

In the process of pruning human numbers, pandemics invariably play a significant role in the disintegration of civilizations. They reveal wealth inequalities and technical fragilities. In this regard pandemics announce both the ending and beginning of things. They can have both negative and positive effects.

Peter Turchin, a Russian historian, has long argued that civilizations expand and contract in distinct waves or what he calls “secular cycles” that last about 300 years.

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

Alberta’s Meat Plant Workers Share Their Fears and Anger

Alberta’s Meat Plant Workers Share Their Fears and Anger

As Cargill prepares to reopen, voices from the frontlines of Canada’s largest COVID-19 outbreak.

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Processing beef at the Cargill plant in High River, Alberta. Photo source: Cargill.

They fear the virus. They are concerned about the futures. They worry for their communities.

And they say neither the government nor two foreign-owned companies, which account for 70 per cent of the nation’s beef slaughtering capacity, are doing enough to ensure their safety.

They say the companies didn’t provide adequate protective gear for the people who butcher Canada’s beef until it was too late.

The Tyee interviewed five Alberta employees of two meat plants, parts of different international conglomerates. The people interviewed are members of a largely immigrant work force that speaks dozens of languages and now finds itself at the centre of the largest COVID-19 outbreak in Canada.

Those who work at the JBS meat-processing plant in Brooks wondered why it has never shut down in order to do a thorough disinfection and increase its safety measures.

Those who work at the Cargill meat-packing plant in High River said the company has lied about the protections provided, as well as compensation paid.

As one shared, “Why did this virus spread? It came from the fabrication floor where there is no airflow, and we are working elbow to elbow and there is no distancing. Where are the safety precautions? They said they did the safety precautions. No they didn’t.”

Now that worker and others fear returning to work when the Cargill plant reopens Monday. Among that plant’s employees, 921 out of 2,000 are now infected. At least seven workers are in hospital and five are in intensive care. One Cargill worker and a close contact have died.

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

Ignoring US Alarms, Alberta Meat Packers Spawned Canada’s Biggest Outbreak

Ignoring US Alarms, Alberta Meat Packers Spawned Canada’s Biggest Outbreak

As the virus gripped US plants, the union pleaded for a shutdown. They were rebuffed.

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Cargill’s High River, Alta. meat-packing plant, shut down due to a deadly outbreak weeks after its union pleaded for a temporary closure and safer working conditions.

Canada’s largest outbreak of COVID-19 swept through two meat-packing plants in southern Alberta two weeks after the provincial government ignored union requests to temporarily close both of the plants.

And it mirrored a series of recent, well-documented hot-zone eruptions in meat plants in the United States.

More than 600 immigrant workers and community members have been infected while the disease has killed at least three people at Cargill’s High River plant and the JBS food plant in Brooks, Alta.

“The real issue here is a moral issue,” charged Thomas Hesse, president of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401, which represents workers at the plants. “How do we as a society want to bring food to our tables?”

Rachel Notley, the former premier of Alberta, has called for a full public inquiry.The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

“It is unconscionable that we now have a situation where hundreds of people have contracted a deadly virus,” said Notley, who leads the NDP Official Opposition. “What kind of concerns put the lives of workers so low?” she asked on CBC Radio yesterday.

Alberta’s growing outbreaks follow in the wake of deadly events in the U.S. where meat-packing plants have become COVID-19 incubators.

The U.S. recorded its largest single cluster of cases at a pork-processing facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota in early April. By the time the Chinese-owned facility closed for two weeks there were nearly 900 cases.

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For Oil and Its Dependents, It’s Code Blue

For Oil and Its Dependents, It’s Code Blue

The great price collapse of 2020 will topple companies and transform states.

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Failing vital signs: Economists predict a depression after the pandemic. That will mean less energy spending, which translates into ongoing low energy prices that already no longer cover the cost of extraction in many places. Illustration for The Tyee by Christopher Cheung. Oil rig image: Creative Commons.

If oil has been laid low by the coronavirus, then the nations whose economies most depend on it might soon be on ventilators. By any prognosis the great oil price collapse of 2020 has pushed the world’s most volatile commodity into Code Blue.

No one expects oil, its peddlers or consumers to emerge wealthier or wiser from this crisis. Oil company bankruptcies, already happening before the pandemic, will escalate. And more petro states will begin to stumble, like Venezuela, down the rabbit hole of collapse. 

The pandemic, combined with suicidal overproduction and a brief price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, has reduced oil consumption and revenues on a scale that is mindboggling. 

Prior to the pandemic, the world gulped about 100 million barrels a day, filling the atmosphere with destabilizing carbon. Today it sips somewhere between 65 million and 80 million barrels.

At least 20 to 30 per cent of global demand has vanished and nearly two dozen petro-producing countries including Canada have agreed to withhold nearly 10 million barrels from the market. Few expect this agreement will stop the price bleeding.

In fact, the price of Western Canadian Select or diluted bitumen remains below five dollars a barrel — cheaper than hand sanitizer. That’s a drop of more than 80 per cent compared to the month before.

Because the spending of oil fertilizes economic growth and expands national GDPs, most of the world’s economists now predict a long depression after the pandemic.

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

COVID-19, Brought to You by Globalization

COVID-19, Brought to You by Globalization

How the virus exploits traits of our economy extolled as modern triumphs.

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A Viking cruise ship docked in France in 2017. Viking and Princess Lines have halted operations. Cruise ships combine urban-like crowding with world-wide mobility. Photo: Wikimedia

This pandemic, with an estimated mortality rate of one to two per cent, is not a world ender or something to be truly feared.

But it deserves our respect and it certainly has our attention.

Pandemics, which go off like improvised bombs, don’t have to be formidable killers to be bad. Even modest biological detonations can upend your day and alter your world. 

As SARS-CoV-2 — the respiratory virus that causes the disease COVID-19 — begins its explosive global journey, it has proven its ability to clog hospitals and freeze economies. 

It is worth remembering that SARS-CoV-2, unlike influenza, is a novel cold-like virus that Homo sapiens have never experienced before. We have no immunity and must acquire it either through exposure to the virus or a vaccine that most likely won’t be ready till the pandemic is over.  

SARS-CoV-2 will play with different populations differently, making use of the demographic material at hand along with human follies such as the criminal dearth of testing in the United States for the last month. 

And it won’t be the last. This particular biological invader springs from an ancient, large and diverse family of viruses hosted by a variety of wild animals including bats and birds. 

These species are particularly hard pressed by global economic forces now ruinously reducing biological diversity everywhere. As biological biodiversity declines, viruses will seek reliable hosts and jump from animals into people at any given opportunity. Peter Daszak, a pioneering disease ecologist, says we now live in Age of Pandemics. 

…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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