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Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

Spiked. BC Profs Protest after Publisher Drops Book on Canadian Mining

UNBC researchers’ book alleging wrongdoing in Guatemala was accepted, reviewed, then cancelled.

Two British Columbia university professors are accusing a major academic publisher of blocking scrutiny of Canadian mining companies by cancelling publication of their book.

“We have a responsibility to publicize what happened,” wrote University of Northern British Columbia geography professor and department chair Catherine Nolin and UNBC adjunct professor Grahame Russell in an open letter to Springer Nature. Russell lives in Toronto and runs UNBC field courses in Guatemala with Nolin.

Nolin and Russell co-edited Canadian Mining in the Aftermath of Genocides in Guatemala: The Violence, Corruption, and Impunity of Contemporary Predatory Mineral Exploitation. Russell is also a founder and director of the advocacy group Rights Action.

The book had passed peer review and was ready last February for publication, but after several months delay Springer Nature notified them that after a legal review it had decided to cancel their contract and return the rights to the manuscript to them. It cited libel concerns.

“They didn’t engage in any sort of tweaks,” Russell said in a Zoom call. “We didn’t think it would be five months of silence and then shut the door.”

Headquartered in Europe, Springer Nature publishes thousands of titles a year according to its website, as well as journals including Nature.

“A major theme addressed in the articles, testimonies and analysis that comprise our book is the endemic corruption and impunity with which the mining companies addressed in the book have, variously, been able to operate in Guatemala, with their Guatemalan economic and political partners,” Nolin and Russell wrote in their letter.

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

New Harvard Study Finds “Elevated Radiation” Levels Near Fracking Sites

Fracking has been one of the keys to helping the U.S. achieve its energy independence and become the world’s largest oil and gas producer over the last ten years. But now, it looks like it may be coming with some unintended consequences, according to Reuters.

Researchers have found elevated radiation levels near U.S. hydraulic fracking drilling sites, according to a newly released study by Harvard researchers this week. The study looked at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s radiation monitor readings nationwide from 2011 to 2017.

The study was published in Nature and found that areas within 12 miles downwind of 100 fracking wells had radiation levels that were about 7% above normal background levels. Readings can go “much higher” as you move closer to drill sites, the study reported. Radioactive particles can be inhaled and “increase the risk of lung cancer,” Reuters noted.

Petros Koutrakis, who led the study, said: “The increases are not extremely dangerous, but could raise certain health risks to people living nearby.”

He also said that further study is needed: “Our hope is that once we understand the source more clearly, there will be engineering methods to control this.”

He attributes the radiation to “naturally-occurring radioactive material” rising to the surface as a result of the drilling.

The study also found that the largest increases occurred in places like Pennsylvania and Ohio, where naturally occurring radioactive material is found in higher concentrations than other states.

It’s unclear whether or not this could become an election talking point with less than 3 weeks until the Presidential race. We already know where President Trump stands on fracking. If only Joe Biden and Kamala Harris could remember what, exactly their position is…

Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto

Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto

Pandemic politics highlight how predictions need to be transparent and humble to invite insight, not blame.
Cartoon of scientists and policymakers inspecting the inside of a black box that is outputting a policy document

Illustration by David Parkins

The COVID-19 pandemic illustrates perfectly how the operation of science changes when questions of urgency, stakes, values and uncertainty collide — in the ‘post-normal’ regime.

Well before the coronavirus pandemic, statisticians were debating how to prevent malpractice such as p-hacking, particularly when it could influence policy1. Now, computer modelling is in the limelight, with politicians presenting their policies as dictated by ‘science’2. Yet there is no substantial aspect of this pandemic for which any researcher can currently provide precise, reliable numbers. Known unknowns include the prevalence and fatality and reproduction rates of the virus in populations. There are few estimates of the number of asymptomatic infections, and they are highly variable. We know even less about the seasonality of infections and how immunity works, not to mention the impact of social-distancing interventions in diverse, complex societies.

Mathematical models produce highly uncertain numbers that predict future infections, hospitalizations and deaths under various scenarios. Rather than using models to inform their understanding, political rivals often brandish them to support predetermined agendas. To make sure predictions do not become adjuncts to a political cause, modellers, decision makers and citizens need to establish new social norms. Modellers must not be permitted to project more certainty than their models deserve; and politicians must not be allowed to offload accountability to models of their choosing2,3.

This is important because, when used appropriately, models serve society extremely well: perhaps the best known are those used in weather forecasting. These models have been honed by testing millions of forecasts against reality.

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

Why am I feeling so anxious? The end of modernism arrives

Why am I feeling so anxious? The end of modernism arrives

A friend of mine quipped that it is one thing to talk about the end of modernism—as the two of us have been doing for over 25 years—and quite another to live through it. It might seem that such notions are far too abstract to account for the anxiety of our fraught times. But underneath all the disorder we see in our pandemic-plagued economic, social and political lives is the crumbling of key assumptions about what we call modernity, a period of “enlightenment” that has supposedly freed us from the past.

First, let me recount what I regard as four key assumptions of modernism—I’ve written about them before—which are being demolished every day right before our eyes with the help of an invisible virus.

  1. Humans are in one category and nature is in another.
  2. Scale doesn’t matter.
  3. History can be safely ignored since modern society has seen through the delusions of the past.
  4. Science is a unified, coherent field that explains the rational principles by which we can manage the physical world.

The next thing I need to remind you is that modernism is as much a religion as any other. In the not-too-distant past, whenever anyone raised questions about its basic tenets—directly or indirectly in one form or another—that person was quickly shushed. If the person persisted, he or she was then shamed. If shaming didn’t work, then that person was shunned or even unceremoniously ejected from the party.

Enter COVID-19.

The very first thing COVID-19 reminded us is that humans and nature are both in the same category, whatever you want to call it. (My favorite living French thinker Bruno Latour proposed the compound term “nature-culture” in his seminal book We Have Never Been Modern.)

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

Scientists’ warning on affluence

Scientists’ warning on affluence

Abstract

For over half a century, worldwide growth in affluence has continuously increased resource use and pollutant emissions far more rapidly than these have been reduced through better technology. The affluent citizens of the world are responsible for most environmental impacts and are central to any future prospect of retreating to safer environmental conditions. We summarise the evidence and present possible solution approaches. Any transition towards sustainability can only be effective if far-reaching lifestyle changes complement technological advancements. However, existing societies, economies and cultures incite consumption expansion and the structural imperative for growth in competitive market economies inhibits necessary societal change.

Introduction

Recent scientists’ warnings confirm alarming trends of environmental degradation from human activity, leading to profound changes in essential life-sustaining functions of planet Earth1,2,3. The warnings surmise that humanity has failed to find lasting solutions to these changes that pose existential threats to natural systems, economies and societies and call for action by governments and individuals.

The warnings aptly describe the problems, identify population, economic growth and affluence as drivers of unsustainable trends and acknowledge that humanity needs to reassess the role of growth-oriented economies and the pursuit of affluence1,2. However, they fall short of clearly identifying the underlying forces of overconsumption and of spelling out the measures that are needed to tackle the overwhelming power of consumption and the economic growth paradigm4.

This perspective synthesises existing knowledge and recommendations from the scientific community. We provide evidence from the literature that consumption of affluent households worldwide is by far the strongest determinant and the strongest accelerator of increases of global environmental and social impacts. We describe the systemic drivers of affluent overconsumption and synthesise the literature that provides possible solutions by reforming or changing economic systems. These solution approaches range from reformist to radical ideas, including degrowth, eco-socialism and eco-anarchism. Based on these insights, we distil recommendations for further research in the final section.

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

New Study Finds Far Greater Methane Threat from Fossil Fuel Industry

New Study Finds Far Greater Methane Threat from Fossil Fuel Industry

The gas plays a powerful role in driving up global temperatures.

COVER.Methane-Fossil-Fuel-Industry.jpg
A new study found that methane emissions from human activities — mainly fossil fuels — are probably 25 to 40 per cent higher than previously estimated. Photo via Shutterstock.

A new study published in Nature may have ended a long scientific debate about the key source of rising methane levels in the atmosphere.

It found that methane emissions from human activities — mainly fossil fuels — are probably 25 to 40 per cent higher than previously estimated, while natural sources of methane emissions are up to 90 per cent lower than previously estimated.

In plain English, that means the fossil fuel industry is having a much greater impact on climate destabilization than previously thought.

Methane, the main chemical constituent of natural gas, is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide in the short term. Although methane dissipates faster than carbon dioxide, it has 80 times the climate warming impact over a 20-year timespan.

Every day, the oil and gas industry burns or releases methane by design, often as an unwanted byproduct of oil production, or leaks it accidently through faulty or aging equipment — a form of chronic spillage known as “fugitive emissions.” The Tyee is supported by readers like you Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Methane also escapes while industry strips a number of impurities and contaminants from natural gas gathered in gas fields, including hydrogen sulfide and carbon dioxide.

For years the fossil fuel industry has claimed that natural gas is a clean fuel that will serve as bridge to a renewable future, but recent studiesshow leakage rates are highly underestimated, thereby challenging that claim.

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

The Uninhabitable Earth.

The Uninhabitable Earth.

This is a book review that I wrote, which will be published in the journal, Science Progress, of which I am an editor.
“The Uninhabitable Earth.” DAVID WALLACE-WELLS. Allen Lane 2019 ISBN 9780241355213; xx + 310 pp; £20.00

As set in motion by human hands, the forces of the Anthropocene – a word coined to mark the scale of our intervention in Nature as numbering among those of previous geological epochs – are predicted to drive the Earth system in expressing climate change to a degree that for many of the almost 8 billion, let alone 11-12 billion predicted to be here by 2100, the Earth would have become barely tolerable, and for some, actually uninhabitable, depending on the degree of warming that prevails by then, and the attendant consequences to the natural commons of air, land and water, which would be manifest unevenly around the globe. Even if we could halt our carbon emissions, instantly and today, the intrinsic inertia of the Earth system would nonetheless unfold the rising of sea levels, the degradation of land, and other changes (some, as yet, unknown) for centuries, perhaps millennia, to come. The book, “Uninhabitable Earth”, begins with “Cascades”, and takes a look at some of the likely consequences of climate change, the magnitude of which will be tuned according to the degree of warming that is unleashed, including mass migration of climate refugees, water scarcity, famine, a more extreme climate,  wildfires, outbreaks of disease, and extreme “once every 500 years” events that become more the norm (“rain bombs”, mighty hurricanes), since the effects are not binary – “yes”, “no”; “on”, “off” – but exponential, and worsen over time, so long as we continue to produce, and release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

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

State of Apocalyptic Nature: A Contract with Gaia

State of Apocalyptic Nature: A Contract with Gaia

As for the individual, every one is a son of his time; so philosophy also is its time apprehended in thoughts. It is just as foolish to fancy that any philosophy can transcend its present world, as that an individual could leap out of his time or jump over Rhodes.

The very fact that something is determined as a limitation implies that the limitation is already transcended. – Hegel

Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and most recently Rawls have all been exemplary practitioners of contract theory.

As is well known, all four of these political theorists began with a particular conception of the state of nature or put into other words man’s original existential situation prior to all forms of government or social contract.

In each case, the state of nature is pre-historical because pre-political.

How each thinker viewed man’s primary condition dictated the course of their further arguments concerning humanity’s fundamental political decisions and actions.

This profound intellectual tradition led most famously to the political beliefs and institutions that founded the United States (at least in theory if not in future practice) and later supplied the world, in part through the consequences of the French Revolution, with today’s democratic principles and ideals especially as they relate to Universal Human Rights.

Although, practically speaking, the fruits of contract theory have by no means been fully applied they nonetheless have provided and arguably still provide the intellectual and spiritual resources for critical projects of reform and even revolution.

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

Bold New Campaign Highlights How ‘Nature Can Save Us’ From Climate and Ecological Breakdown

Bold New Campaign Highlights How ‘Nature Can Save Us’ From Climate and Ecological Breakdown

“The protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help to minimize a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people’s resilience against climate disaster.”

Erie National Wildlife Refuge

A new campaign launched Wednesday calls for “drawing carbon dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems.” (Photo: Nicholas Tonelli/Flickr/cc)

A group of activists, experts, and writers on Wednesday launched a bold new campaign calling for the “thrilling but neglected approach” of embracing nature’s awesome restorative powers to battle the existential crises of climate and ecological breakdown.

Averting catastrophic global warming and devastating declines in biodiversity, scientists warn, requires not only overhauling human activities that generate planet-heating emissions—like phasing out fossil fuels—but also cutting down on the carbon that is already in the atmosphere.

In a letter to governments, NGOs, the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity, and the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Natural Climate Solutionscampaign calls for tackling these crises by not only rapidly decarbonizing economies, but also by “drawing carbon dioxide out of the air by protecting and restoring ecosystems.”

Along with stopping fossil fuel emissions, we badly need to restore natural systems. Important new effort spearheaded by @GeorgeMonbiot https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/03/let-nature-heal-climate-and-biodiversity-crises-say-campaigners …4708:58 AM – Apr 3, 2019Twitter Ads info and privacyLet nature heal climate and biodiversity crises, say campaignersRestoration of forests and coasts can tackle ‘existential crises’ but is being overlookedtheguardian.com

“By defending, restoring and re-establishing forests, peatlands, mangroves, salt marshes, natural seabeds, and other crucial ecosystems, very large amounts of carbon can be removed from the air and stored,” the letter says. “At the same time, the protection and restoration of these ecosystems can help to minimize a sixth great extinction, while enhancing local people’s resilience against climate disaster.”

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

The End of Growth

The End of Growth

Either it ends, or we do.
More and more, I hear that folks are feeling frustrated and betrayed, combined with a sense of loss and despair. I feel this way, too.

As I’ve written recently, I observe this is due more than anything else to a widespread demoralization society is suffering from.

Certainly the statistics reflect this. Suicides in the US are up 30% since the turn of the millennium, obesity is at epidemic proportions, mortality rates are rising especially among white working-class Americans, and our national opioid addiction is now the “epidemic of epidemics.”

To these we can also add falling birthrates and the truly startling shift towards a younger age for the onset of depression; declining from age 30 now to age…14(!)

When an organism gives up on self-care, breeding, or its will to live, it’s suffering from a tremendous amount of strain that is cutting it off from its own life force.  A dispirited lion wasting away in a cage has a lot in common with the average American today.

At a deep level, what ails us is not a host of unrelated, intractable problems, but the fact that our model of pursuing eternal economic growth simply isn’t working anymore. It doesn’t work for the planet’s increasingly strained ecosystems, nor does it work for the bottom 99% of folks in society (i.e., the non-elites).

The various health epidemics noted above are merely symptoms of a larger acute spiritual crisis.

But viewed at a certain angle, this may be a good sign.

Why? Because in order to shift from one model to another, the old one first has to become unbearable.

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

The Plight of Birds and the Hand of Man in the Sixth Great Extinction

The Plight of Birds and the Hand of Man in the Sixth Great Extinction

Photo by Mark Gillow | CC BY 2.0

As birds become fewer, wildflowers vanish, butterflies disappear, and animals in the wild are threatened, extinction and a grim future haunts.  How often did Rumi write about birdsong … there is a reason.  Nature revives the spirit.

June 5th was World Environment Day.  A UN outreach program hosted by a different country each year, it is designed to draw attention to its environmental challenges and to offer it support.  This year the host country is India and the theme is beating plastic pollution.  But plastics are not just a blight on the landscape, they are in the seas destroying coral and the species it shelters, painfully killing whales and other creatures … including birds.  Yet, it is far from the only cause of bird distress and their sharply declining numbers.  One example comes from the Arctic, where receding ice has taken with it the nutritious cod, which favor cold waters, and has  endangered the black guillemot now forced to feed their chicks on the bony and difficult-to-digest fourhorn sculpin.

When the EU commissioned a State of Nature report, they expected bad news but not quite as dire a result.  Prepared by the European Environment Agency and sourced from EU-wide data, it found one in three bird species threatened and only a little over half secure.  It also drew a bleak picture of European habitats finding over half of those studied to be unfavorable.  Habitat loss, pesticides particularly neonicotinoids, even excessive hunting, notably in southern Europe, are all to blame.

Earlier, a comprehensive study conducted by University of Exeter (UK) professor Richard Inger and colleagues had analyzed avian biomass across 25 countries over 30 years.  Using data from Birdlife International and the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, they discovered a surprisingly large and troubling decline:  from 1980 to 2009 the estimated total avian population had been reduced by 421 million birds.

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

Nature’s Breaking Point 

Nature’s Breaking Point 

Photo by Karl-Ludwig Poggemann | CC BY 2.0

Ever wonder how the classical philosophers/economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo would view today’s credo of infinite economic growth, forever more, above and beyond yesteryear. Well, in a word, they would be horrified. Ricardo, similar to the father of capitalism Adam Smith, believed in the concept of a “stationary state” when the land gets fully exploited and material progress comes to an end.

These classical economists did not advocate limitless growth, which today is how neoliberal advocates see their destiny. In fact, Ricardo added the “law of diminishing returns” to Smith’s original thesis, which included bold mention of the “stationary state.”

Well, surprise, surprise, or maybe no surprise! Today, Adam Smith and Ricardo would be labeled heretics as capitalism has morphed into a universal conviction that humankind is destined for enrichment via unparalleled unlimited economic growth. As such, GDP is revered; it’s maddeningly godly, a quarter-by-quarterly séance whilst prostrate on hands and knees in solemn prayer for profits, and more profits, and even more after that!

But, are there limits, and if so, what if limits are exceeded?

Then, what happens?

As a matter of fact, the limits have been exceeded, by a country mile. That fact is beautifully expounded in graphic detail in Donald Worster’s Shrinking The Earth, subtitle: The Rise & Decline of Natural Abundance (Oxford University Press, 2018).

“Always, humans run up against nature’s limits.” (Worster, pg. 49) It happened at Nantucket Island. The island literally dried up in 1864 when the last lone whaler came back nearly empty-handed. Over the preceding decades, the whalers, like wild bloodthirsty hounds chasing game, exceeded nature’s breaking point. At its peak the whaling fleet numbered 700 vessels, massacring whales and returning home filled to the brim with whale oil bounty, the massive carcasses left to scavengers.

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

Agriculture & Global Cooling

QUESTION: Mr. Armstrong; Are you familiar with Professor Easterbrook of Western Washington University who agrees with you and is projecting a decline in temperatures for the next three decades? It seems that those who simply claim that it has been getting warmer live in a bubble of biased news. One even said to me that it has been getting warmer for the past 10,000 years because of civilization. I asked what was the solution? Should we just commit suicide to save the planet? Just can’t understand these people who deny there are cycles within every trend.

LR

ANSWER: I know. We are closer to the lows than the historic highs in temperature. Our model does agree with Professor Easterbrook that the immediate decline in temperatures should extend out for about 43 years from 2007. It was unseasonably cold in Florida and snowed in the northern regions also for the first time since the Blizzard of 1899 and even that was about 120 years before. It was excessive snow and gold in Britain, Japan, and China, as well as Russia. They ignore these reports as one-time flukes.

The Global Warming crowd tries to deny that there are also cycles set in motion by the Sun and they attribute everything to human activity. Nobody wants air we cannot breathe. I lived in London back in the 1980s when the busses were blowing out diesel. It was horrible. But to stop pollution by distorting history or claiming the trend is really warmer for 10,000 years is the danger. That is like saying the Dow Jones Industrials is only in a bull market since 1932 pretending there are no corrections.  We must understand that nature is bigger than we are and the Sun just maybe the majority of climate change.

800,000-year Ice-Core Records of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

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Nations Won’t Reach Paris Climate Goal Without Protecting Wildlife and Nature, Warns Report

Nations Won’t Reach Paris Climate Goal Without Protecting Wildlife and Nature, Warns Report

Sierpe river mangrove forest in Costa Rica

The Paris Climate Agreement and several other United Nations (UN) pacts “all depend on the health and vitality of our natural environment in all its diversity and complexity,” said Dr. Anne Larigauderie, executive secretary of the UN-backed organization behind the report. “Acting to protect and promote biodiversity is at least as important to achieving these commitments and to human well-being as is the fight against global climate change.”

The report comes from the efforts of more than 550 scientists in over 100 nations, corralled by an organization often dubbed “the IPCC for biodiversity.”

Much like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) assesses the state of research on global warming and its impacts, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reviews the best-available science on biodiversity and nature’s contributions to human well-being.

Climate Change not so Great for Wildlife

Three years in the making, the study concluded humans are causing the planet to lose species at such a rapid clip that the resulting risks are on par with those presented by climate change. On top of being unfortunate for those species that no longer exist, these losses also endanger people’s access to food, clean water, and energy, according to the report.

We must act to halt and reverse the unsustainable use of nature or risk not only the future we want but even the lives we currently lead,” Robert Watson, current IPBES chair and former IPCC chair, told The Guardian.

In addition, by 2050, the report found that under a “business as usual” scenario for greenhouse gas emissions, climate change could jump ahead of other threats, such as habitat loss and change in land use, as the primary cause of extinctions in North and South America.

…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…

Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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