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A third of global farmland at ‘high’ pesticide pollution risk

A third of global farmland at ‘high’ pesticide pollution risk

Nearly two-thirds  of global agricultural land is at risk of pesticide pollution, a study says
Nearly two-thirds of global agricultural land is at risk of pesticide pollution, a study says

A third of the planet’s agricultural land is at “high risk” of pesticide pollution from the lingering residue of chemical ingredients that can leach into water supplies and threaten biodiversity, according to research published Monday.

The  has soared globally as  has expanded, prompting growing fears over  and calls to cut hazardous chemical use.

Researchers in Australia modelled pollution risk across 168 countries with data on the usage of 92 active pesticide ingredients and found “widespread global  risk”.

They highlighted several acutely vulnerable ecosystems in South Africa, China, India, Australia and Argentina, at the nexus of high pollution risk, high water scarcity and high biodiversity.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience, found that overall 64 percent of global  —approximately 24.5 million square kilometres (9.4 million sq miles)—was at risk of pesticide pollution from more than one active ingredient, and 31 percent is at high risk.

“It is significant because the potential pollution is widespread and some regions at risk also bear high biodiversity and suffer from water scarcity,” said lead author Fiona Tang, of the University of Sydney’s School of Civil Engineering.

Tang said there were a number of factors that would contribute to a region becoming a potential contamination hotspot, including using excessive amounts of pesticides or those containing highly toxic substances.

Some environmental factors may also slow the breakdown of the pesticides into non-toxic substances, like cold temperatures or low soil carbon, while heavy rainfall might also cause high levels of run-off.

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

Kelly MacNamara, phys.org, pesticides, agriculture, industrial agriculture, modern agriculture, food production, food, pollution

Methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells underestimated

Methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells underestimated

Methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas wells underestimated
Bubbles of methane gas in water around an unplugged oil/gas well in Pennsylvania. Credit: Mary Kang

A recent McGill study published in Environmental Science and Technology finds that annual methane emissions from abandoned oil and gas (AOG) wells in Canada and the US have been greatly underestimated—by as much as 150% in Canada, and by 20% in the US. Indeed, the research suggests that methane gas emissions from AOG wells are currently the 10th and 11th largest sources of anthropogenic methane emission in the US and Canada, respectively. Since methane gas is a more important contributor to global warming than carbon dioxide, especially over the short term, the researchers believe that it is essential to gain a clearer understanding of methane emissions from AOG wells to understand their broader environmental impacts and move towards mitigating the problem.

Multiple sources of uncertainty

The researchers show that the difficulties in estimating overall  emissions from AOG  in both countries are due to a lack of information about both the quantities of methane gas being emitted annually from AOG wells (depending on whether and how well they have been capped), and about the number of AOG wells themselves.

“Oil and gas development started in the late 1850s both in Canada and the US,” explains Mary Kang, the senior author on the paper and an assistant professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at McGill. “Many companies that dug wells have come and gone since then, so it can be hard to find records of the wells that once existed.”

Thousands of undocumented AOG wells

To determine the number of AOG wells, the researchers analyzed information from 47 state, provincial or territorial databases as well as from research articles and national repositories of drilled and active wells in the US and Canada.

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

It’s time environmentalists talked about the population problem

It’s time environmentalists talked about the population problem

Bob Brown is right – it's time environmentalists talked about the population problem
Credit: Shutterstock

In all the talk of tackling environmental problems such as climate change, the problem of population growth often escapes attention. Politicians don’t like talking about it. By and large, neither do environmentalists—but former Greens leader Bob Brown has bucked that trend.

Brown recently declared the world’s  must start to decline before 2100, telling The Australian newspaper: “We are already using more than what the planet can supply and we use more than the living fabric of the planet in supply. That’s why we wake up every day to fewer fisheries, less forests, more extinctions and so on. The human herd at eight billion is the greatest herd of mammals ever on this planet and it is unsustainable to have that growing.”

Research suggests our species has far exceeded its fair share of the planetary bounty, and Brown is right to call for the  to peak. It is high time others joined the chorus—not only other environmentalists, but those concerned with international development and human rights.

Population growth, by the numbers

COVID-19 has killed more than one million people. While undeniably tragic, the figure is minor compared to world’s annual growth in population, estimated by the United Nations at about 83 million.

In 1900, the world’s population was about 1.6 billion people. By 2023 it’s expected to hit 8 billion. According to the UN, it will reach 9.7 billion by 2050 and 11.2 billion by 2100.

(The US-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation recently forecast a lower peak of about 9.7 billion by 2064, falling to about 8.8 billion by 2100.)

Why is the population growing so fast? Much of it is due to advanced fertilizers and intensive farming practices, leading to higher crop yields that can sustain more people. Health care has improved, and people are living much longer. And many parts of the world have historically had high fertility rates.

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

History shows that societies collapse when leaders undermine social contracts

History shows that societies collapse when leaders undermine social contracts

When good governments go bad
The ruins of the Roman Forum, once a site of a representational government. Credit: Linda Nicholas, Field Museum

All good things must come to an end. Whether societies are ruled by ruthless dictators or more well-meaning representatives, they fall apart in time, with different degrees of severity. In a new paper, anthropologists examined a broad, global sample of 30 pre-modern societies. They found that when “good” governments—ones that provided goods and services for their people and did not starkly concentrate wealth and power—fell apart, they broke down more intensely than collapsing despotic regimes. And the researchers found a common thread in the collapse of good governments: leaders who undermined and broke from upholding core societal principles, morals, and ideals.

“Pre-modern states were not that different from modern ones. Some pre-modern states had good governance and weren’t that different from what we see in some democratic countries today,” says Gary Feinman, the MacArthur curator of anthropology at Chicago’s Field Museum and one of the authors of a new study in Frontiers in Political Science. “The states that had good governance, although they may have been able to sustain themselves slightly longer than autocratic-run ones, tended to collapse more thoroughly, more severely.”

“We noted the potential for failure caused by an internal factor that might have been manageable if properly anticipated,” says Richard Blanton, a professor emeritus of anthropology at Purdue University and the study’s lead author. “We refer to an inexplicable failure of the principal leadership to uphold values and norms that had long guided the actions of previous leaders, followed by a subsequent loss of citizen confidence in the leadership and government and collapse.”

…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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