Monday, April 30, 2007

"Arctic sea ice melts faster than thought"

Arctic sea ice is melting three times faster than many scientists project, U.S. researchers reported Monday, just days ahead of the next major international report on climate change.

Scientists at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and the University of Colorado in Boulder concluded that Arctic sea ice has declined at an average rate of about 7.8 percent per decade between 1953 and 2006.

By contrast, 18 computer models used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a U.N.-sponsored climate research group, estimated an average rate of decline of 2.5 percent per decade over the same period, the researchers said.

International delegates are meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, this week to hammer out the final wording of the third IPCC report.

Both the observations cited in the new study and projections from the IPCC computer models are for September, when Arctic sea ice is typically at its low point for the year.

For March, when the ice is typically at its most extensive, the new study found the rate of decline was 1.8 percent per decade, about three times larger than the mean from the computer models.

The researchers said their observations indicate the retreat of summertime Arctic sea ice is about 30 years ahead of the pace projected by climate models...

They said the discrepancy between their observations and computer projections indicate computer models may have failed to portray the entire impact of increasing levels of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The computer models indicated that increased greenhouse gases and natural climate variations were about equally responsible for ice loss between 1979 and 2006, the researchers said.

They said their own study indicates greenhouse gases may have a "significantly greater" role than the models suggested.

For more info - see: Geophysical Research Letters

"Filler in Animal Feed Is Open Secret in China"

As American food safety regulators head to China to investigate how a chemical made from coal found its way into pet food that killed dogs and cats in the United States, workers in this heavily polluted northern city openly admit that the substance is routinely added to animal feed as a fake protein.

For years, producers of animal feed all over China have secretly supplemented their feed with the substance, called melamine, a cheap additive that looks like protein in tests, even though it does not provide any nutritional benefits, according to melamine scrap traders and agricultural workers here.

“Many companies buy melamine scrap to make animal feed, such as fish feed,” said Ji Denghui, general manager of the Fujian Sanming Dinghui Chemical Company, which sells melamine. “I don’t know if there’s a regulation on it. Probably not. No law or regulation says ‘don’t do it,’ so everyone’s doing it. The laws in China are like that, aren’t they? If there’s no accident, there won’t be any regulation.”

Melamine is at the center of a recall of 60 million packages of pet food, after the chemical was found in wheat gluten linked this month to the deaths of at least 16 pets in the United States...

By using the melamine additive, the feed seller makes a heftier profit because melamine scrap is much cheaper than soy, wheat or corn protein.

“It’s true you can make a lot more profit by putting melamine in,” said another animal feed seller here in Zhangqiu. “Melamine will cost you about $1.20 for each protein count per ton whereas real protein costs you about $6, so you can see the difference.”

Feed producers who use melamine here say the tainted feed is often shipped to feed mills in the Yangtze River Delta, near Shanghai, or down to Guangdong Province, near Hong Kong. They also said they knew that some melamine-laced feed had been exported to other parts of Asia, including South Korea, North Korea, Indonesia and Thailand.

Evidence is mounting that Chinese protein exports have been tainted with melamine and that its use in agricultural regions like this one is widespread. But the government has issued no recall of any food or feed product here in China.

Indeed, few people outside the agriculture business know about the use of melamine scrap. The Chinese news media — which is strictly censored — has not reported much about the country’s ties to the pet food recall in the United States. And few in agriculture here do not see any harm in using melamine in small doses; they simply see it as cheating a little on protein, not harming animals or pets.

As for the sale of melamine scrap, it is increasingly popular as a fake ingredient in feed, traders and workers here say.

At the Hebei Haixing Insect Net Factory in nearby Hebei Province, which makes animal feed, a manager named Guo Qingyin said: “In the past melamine scrap was free, but the price has been going up in the past few years. Consumption of melamine scrap is probably bigger than that of urea in the animal feed industry now.”

And so melamine producers like the ones here in Zhangqiu are busy.

A man named Jing, who works in the sales department at the Shandong Mingshui Great Chemical Group factory here, said on Friday that prices have been rising, but he said that he had no idea how the company’s melamine scrap is used.

“We have an auction for melamine scrap every three months,” he said. “I haven’t heard of it being added to animal feed. It’s not for animal feed.”


The FDA is investigating at least 4000 pet deaths.

Update: It's "common knowledge" that cyanuric acid is also added. Cyanuric acid along with melamine (and who knows what else) is thought to be esp. bad.

In China, chemical producers say it is common knowledge in the chemical and agriculture industry that for years feed producers in China have quietly and secretly used cyanuric acid to cheat buyers of animal feed.

“Cyanuric acid scrap can be added to animal feed,” said Yu Luwei, general manager of the Juancheng Ouya Chemical Company in Shandong Province. “I sell it to fish meal manufacturers and fish farmers. It can also be added to feed for other animals.”

Yang Fei, who works in the sales department of the Shouguang Weidong Chemical Company in Shandong Province, echoed that view: “I’ve heard that people add cyanuric acid and melamine to animal feed to boost the protein level.”...

On May 1, scientists at the University of Guelph in Canada said they had made a chemical discovery that may explain the pet deaths.

In a laboratory, they found that melamine and cyanuric acid may react with one another to form crystals that could impair kidney function. The crystals they formed in the lab were similar to those discovered in afflicted pets, they said.

In the United States, some contaminated pet food and protein meal recently found its way into hog and chicken feed, which led the government to ask farms to quarantine and slaughter some animals as precaution.

...China also said that a nationwide survey did not uncover other companies using melamine in feed products. Chemical producers of cyanuric acid, however, say the practice for them may be different.

“The substance is nontoxic — it’s legal to add it to animal feed,” Mr. Yu at Juancheng Ouya Chemical said of cyanuric acid. “The practice has been around for many years. I often sell it to animal feed makers.”

Sunday, April 29, 2007

"In mosquito, a small tale of climate change"

From the Boston Globe

UNORGANIZED TERRITORIES, Maine -In a woodsy bog on the road between Millinocket and Baxter State Park, a mosquito that can barely fly is emerging as one of climate change's early winners.

The insect, which lives in the carnivorous purple pitcher plant, is genetically adapting to a warming world. By entering hibernation more than a week later than it did 30 years ago, the Wyeomyia smithii mosquito is evolving to keep pace with the later arrival of New England winters.

Along with Canadian red squirrels and European blackcap birds, the mosquito -- a non biting variety found from Florida to Canada -- is one of only five known species that scientists say have already evolved because of global warming.

The unobtrusive mosquito's story illustrates a sobering consequence of climate change: The species best suited to adapting may not be the ones people want to survive. Scientists say species with short life cycles -- Wyeomyia smithii lives about eight weeks -- can evolve quickly and keep up with changing environmental conditions as a result. Rodents, insects, and birds, some carrying diseases deadly to humans, are genetically programmed to win. Polar bears and whales, which take years to reproduce, are not.

"Rapid climate change is actually now driving the evolution of animals -- that is a dramatic event," said Christina M. Holzapfel, who, with her husband, William E. Bradshaw, has documented genetic changes in hundreds of thousands of mosquitoes at their University of Oregon lab in Eugene. The couple, both evolutionary geneticists, began collecting the mosquitoes at the bog here and in other New England locations more than 30 years ago while at Harvard University.

Until now, the effects of climate warming had been most noticeable in the Arctic, as glaciers melt. But dramatic changes are also being seen in northern temperate zones such as New England, where the average winter temperature has risen 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit over the last 30 years. Growing seasons have lengthened, winter is arriving later, and the weather has become more erratic...

Timing of hibernation is a life or death decision for the mosquito: If it begins hibernating too early, it will use up limited nutritional reserves when it doesn't need to and reduce its chance of surviving the winter. If it starts too late, it will freeze to death.

The experiment favors individual mosquitoes in each generation that, because of genetic variation, start hibernating later than the rest of the population. More of these late-hibernating mosquitoes survive the winter and then pass on that later-hibernation genetic trait to the next generation. The process continues until most of the population is hibernating at the best time to ensure they survive the winter...

Nearly every species reacts to changes in the weather. Lilacs bloom earlier if a spring is particularly warm. Mice populations boom in years when winter temperatures are warm enough for them to reproduce.

Yet these responses aren't necessarily genetic: Most species, including humans, have a built-in flexibility -- scientists call it phenotypic plasticity -- that allows them to adjust to temporary environmental conditions. It is partly why we can withstand Boston's frigid winters and steamy summers.

But when the changes are all in the same direction and continue for a long time -- such as the warming taking place in New England -- Charles Darwin's natural selection can take over: Individuals with certain characteristics better suited to the changed environment survive in greater numbers than others in the population. Those individuals then pass on those favorable genetic characteristics to their offspring, eventually leading to evolutionary change in the entire population...

"The moral of the story is that things are going to be different," said Kevin Emerson, a graduate student in the Bradshaw-Holzapfel lab. "Whether we know exactly what is going to be different . . . I don't think we can say. But people have to accept that things are changing."

Saturday, April 28, 2007

"UN: we have the money and know-how to stop global warming"

Global climate change experts will this week lay out a detailed plan to save the planet from the catastrophic effects of rising temperatures. Climate change could be stopped in its tracks using existing technology, but only if politicians do more to force businesses and individuals to take action.

The UN study will conclude that mankind has the knowhow to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 26bn tonnes by 2030 - more than enough to limit the expected temperature rise across the planet to 2-3C.

Such a move would cost the world economy billions of pounds over the next two decades, but this could be recouped by savings due to the health benefits of lower levels of air pollution.
Cheaper solutions could bring down emissions to 1990 levels, but that would still see average temperatures rise by as much as 4C this century, with devastating consequences for wildlife, agriculture and the availability of water.

The report, from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), will say a range of measures can be introduced across the energy supply, transport, buildings, agriculture and forestry, industry and waste sectors. The best way to limit future emissions is to focus on clean development in developing countries....

The summary of the new report, a draft of which has been obtained by the Guardian, says: "It is technically and economically feasible to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere ... provided that incentives are in place to further develop and implement a range of mitigation technologies."

It says global emissions need to peak "within the next two decades" and that the problem is now more serious and requires "more stringent mitigation" than when the IPCC last reported in 2001.

Rachel Warren, of the Cambridge University's Centre for Climate Change Mitigation Research who helped to write the report, said: "We have to reduce our emissions, and the technology to do that already exists or can be commercialised in the coming decades. We need governments, businesses and individuals to be pulling together in the same direction."

...The US has lobbied for research into futuristic technology such as giant sunlight-blocking mirrors in space as "insurance", an idea which the draft summary dismisses as "largely speculative, uncosted and with potential for unknown side effects".

Sector by sector

Despite breakthroughs in cleaner options, such as hybrid cars, the sector is the fastest growing source of emissions, the report says. It highlights emerging technologies such as cars powered by hydrogen fuel cells and biofuels. Some campaigners warn that increasing use of biofuels could worsen problems such as food shortages, as farmers scramble to meet demand. The IPCC suggests this could be eased by a switch to biofuels made from waste cellulose. The report says government policies such as mandatory carbon dioxide emission standards are crucial, but that hikes in car tax, fuel duty and moves such as road pricing will be less effective as incomes rise. Better public transport can make a significant contribution.

Potential saving by 2030 (million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent): 3,200

Industry offers the largest potential savings, although the report acknowledges: "Their implementation requires a stable policy environment that is respecting international competitiveness and includes measures for stimulating technology uptake." The IPCC suggests new controls on industrial pollutants such as methane, nitrous oxide and the chemicals HFCs and PFCs, all potent greenhouse gases. It also says there are big savings for firms who invest in more efficient use of fuels, materials and electricity, combined heat and power systems, and recycling. Heavily polluting industries could benefit from new process technologies that avoid carbon and are expected to come on-stream beyond 2015, it says.

Potential savings: 6,500

Energy supply
More efficient supply, renewable sources, shifts from coal to less polluting gas and nuclear power will play a role in the short to medium term, the IPCC report says. Managing such a transition requires "active policy involvement" such as reducing subsidies for fossil fuels while helping cleaner technology with renewable quotas for power companies and subsidies. The EU has pledged to generate 20% of all energy from renewable sources by 2020. The report says concern over energy security, combined with the development of power infrastructure in the developing world, creates an opportunity to reduce emissions cheaply.

Potential savings: 5,100

Agriculture and forestry
Soils, trees and vegetation provide an important carbon store, and the report says improved land and forestry management offer some of the easiest and cheapest emission savings. "Many options are immediately deployable, do not reduce productivity and have co-benefits," it says. More efficient fertiliser use and better care of crop and grazing land are good too. On forestry, some 65% of the potential carbon savings are in the tropics, and the report says a "combination of afforestation, avoided deforestation and agro-forestry" is the best approach. One major sticking point is whether developing nations such as Brazil and Costa Rica should be paid not to chop down their virgin rainforest.

Potential savings: 6,000

Low-cost measures to improve the energy efficiency of buildings could save greenhouse gas emissions and money, the report says. It recommends countries should follow the examples of Germany and Switzerland and force through policies to cut emissions from housing. Appliance standards, building codes, better labelling and procurement procedures for the private sector have worked to cut pollution. Geoffrey Levermore, buildings expert at Manchester University who helped write the report, said: "There's no blue sky technology to revolutionise this industry by giving us a little matchbox that will provide all the energy for your house, but if the right policies are implemented, there are some real savings to be made."

Potential savings: 4,400

The IPCC says post-consumer waste, such as plastic bags, generates less than 5% of global emissions, but that the rubbish sector can still help to tackle global warming. Recovering methane from landfill sites in the developing world generates more than 15% of carbon credits traded under the Kyoto protocol. Waste management is a key component of wider moves toward sustainable development, it says. Unlike some sectors, the technologies available to reduce emissions from waste are "mature and readily deployable". It adds: "Recycling and waste minimisation provide indirect greenhouse gas mitigation benefits via the conservation of raw materials, and energy from waste offsets fossil fuel consumption."

Potential saving: 1,250

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kenyans Plant Trees to Coax Back Flamingos

by Jeremy Clarke, Rueters

The once world-renowned heartland of the majestic birds -- with their long necks and striking pink, scarlet and black plumage -- was yet another depressing symbol of deforestation, pollution and global warming in Africa.

But now, after two years fighting to reverse their role in the damage, Nakuru's local community has set itself the task of replanting a whole forest they had razed as a measure of desperation in times of poverty.

They hope that as the flamingos return, so will the tourists.

"It was wrong to cut the trees but we had to. We burnt them all when we started farming," said Jane Macharia, who like so many others slashed the forest to make farmland when she came to Nakuru 10 years ago with no work or means to produce food.

"I needed land to survive," she explained, kneeling in the wet mud with a group committed to turning back the clock by planting saplings in the hills above the lake.

As the forests receded, the rains left too.

Erosion from farming and the effects of global warming combined in the late 1990s to leave Lake Nakuru virtually uninhabitable for its famous birds.

The flock of millions -- drawing thousands of tourists to Nakuru each year -- was reduced to 10,000 by 1996.

"After all the destruction of the forests, the rivers had no water and all the flamingos were dying," the senior warden at Lake Nakuru National Park, Charles Muthui, told Reuters, adding that some 800 hectares (2,000 acres) of forest had been degraded.

Conservationists feared the birds would be wiped out completely.

"Now is the time to make it right," Macharia said.

Her community knows full well the cost of their deforestation. Along with their lakes and flamingos, the numbers of American and European tourists who came each year dropped. The local economy took a battering.

"The business of this region depends on visitors," the warden said. "Destroy the forests and you destroy Lake Nakuru. Then no flamingos, then no tourism -- we know about that."

Nakuru community groups have already planted some 3,000 trees since January alone, but they say it will take decades to fully reverse the harm already done by cutting the forests.

Still, below the hills where locals toil between thick forest and open plains dotted with tree stumps, planting sapling after sapling, flamingos have begun returning in droves.

U.S. Architects Announce 10 Best Green Buildings

by Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters

The best environmentally friendly buildings in the United States include a visitor center in Texas, a water treatment plant in Connecticut and a house in California, U.S. architects announced Monday.

In presenting the Top 10 Green Awards, the American Institute of Architects celebrated the best examples of sustainable architecture and environmental design.

"What few people realize is that buildings have the greatest impact on climate change -- more than transportation and industry -- because they consume so much electricity and natural gas, and they're all powered by power plants that themselves produce carbon emissions," Scott Frank, the group's spokesman, said by telephone.

Frank said the winners in this competition show that a lot of energy-efficient design innovations do not add a lot to the cost of a building, especially when spread over the expected lifetime of the building.

He noted that there were 95 entries in this year's competition, compared with 54 entries last year. Started 11 years ago, the competition has drawn between 40 to 50 submissions in the past.

The winners are:
-- EpiCenter, Artists for Humanity, Boston, Massachusetts, by Arrowstreet Inc., which features a grassy courtyard irrigated by rainwater collected on the roof;

-- Global Ecology Research Center, Stanford, California, by EHDD Architects, a low-energy laboratory and office building that cut carbon emissions associated with building operation by 72 percent;

-- Government Canyon Visitor Center, Helotes, Texas, by Lake/Flato Architects, where big overhanging roofs, flaps and deep porches shield interior spaces from the sun and the building itself oriented toward the prevailing summer breeze;

-- Hawaii Gateway Energy Center, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, by Ferraro Choi and Associates, which has a cooling system that uses deep seawater;

-- Heifer International, Little Rock, Arkansas, by Polk Stanley Rowland Curzon Porter Architects, Ltd., where waste water from sinks and drinking fountains, along with rainwater, is reused in toilets and a cooling tower'

-- Sidwell Friends Middle School, Washington DC, by Kieran Timberlake Associates, which uses solar chimneys and windows to provide ventilation by drawing cool air into the building;

-- Wayne L. Morse U.S. Courthouse, Eugene, Oregon, by Morphosis & DLR Group, featuring raised courtrooms and an air distribution system under the floor;

-- Whitney Water Purification Facility, New Haven, Connecticut, by Steven Holl Architects, which provides water and includes a public park and sanctuary for migrating birds;

-- Willingboro Master Plan & Public Library, Willingboro, New Jersey, by Croxton Collaborative Architects, PC, where a former shopping mall was transformed with skylights to capture maximum daylight;

-- Z6 House, Santa Monica, California, by LivingHomes, Ray Kappe, a single-family residence that uses natural ventilation and optimizes passive solar heating.

Monday, April 23, 2007

"You Are What You Grow"

By MICHAEL POLLAN / online at The New York Times

...the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation, which comes around roughly every five years and is about to do so again, sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system. Among other things, it determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat — three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.

That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow...

To speak of the farm bill’s influence on the American food system does not begin to describe its full impact — on the environment, on global poverty, even on immigration. By making it possible for American farmers to sell their crops abroad for considerably less than it costs to grow them, the farm bill helps determine the price of corn in Mexico and the price of cotton in Nigeria and therefore whether farmers in those places will survive or be forced off the land, to migrate to the cities — or to the United States. The flow of immigrants north from Mexico since Nafta is inextricably linked to the flow of American corn in the opposite direction, a flood of subsidized grain that the Mexican government estimates has thrown two million Mexican farmers and other agricultural workers off the land since the mid-90s. (More recently, the ethanol boom has led to a spike in corn prices that has left that country reeling from soaring tortilla prices; linking its corn economy to ours has been an unalloyed disaster for Mexico’s eaters as well as its farmers.) You can’t fully comprehend the pressures driving immigration without comprehending what U.S. agricultural policy is doing to rural agriculture in Mexico.

And though we don’t ordinarily think of the farm bill in these terms, few pieces of legislation have as profound an impact on the American landscape and environment. Americans may tell themselves they don’t have a national land-use policy, that the market by and large decides what happens on private property in America, but that’s not exactly true. The smorgasbord of incentives and disincentives built into the farm bill helps decide what happens on nearly half of the private land in America: whether it will be farmed or left wild, whether it will be managed to maximize productivity (and therefore doused with chemicals) or to promote environmental stewardship. The health of the American soil, the purity of its water, the biodiversity and the very look of its landscape owe in no small part to impenetrable titles, programs and formulae buried deep in the farm bill.

The development community has woken up to the fact that global poverty can’t be fought without confronting the ways the farm bill depresses world crop prices. They got a boost from a 2004 ruling by the World Trade Organization that U.S. cotton subsidies are illegal; most observers think that challenges to similar subsidies for corn, soy, wheat or rice would also prevail.

In great and growing numbers, people are voting with their forks for a different sort of food system. But as powerful as the food consumer is — it was that consumer, after all, who built a $15 billion organic-food industry and more than doubled the number of farmer’s markets in the last few years — voting with our forks can advance reform only so far. It can’t, for example, change the fact that the system is rigged to make the most unhealthful calories in the marketplace the only ones the poor can afford. To change that, people will have to vote with their votes as well — which is to say, they will have to wade into the muddy political waters of agricultural policy.

Doing so starts with the recognition that the “farm bill” is a misnomer; in truth, it is a food bill and so needs to be rewritten with the interests of eaters placed first. Yes, there are eaters who think it in their interest that food just be as cheap as possible, no matter how poor the quality. But there are many more who recognize the real cost of artificially cheap food — to their health, to the land, to the animals, to the public purse. At a minimum, these eaters want a bill that aligns agricultural policy with our public-health and environmental values, one with incentives to produce food cleanly, sustainably and humanely. Eaters want a bill that makes the most healthful calories in the supermarket competitive with the least healthful ones....

But the guiding principle behind an eater’s farm bill could not be more straightforward: it’s one that changes the rules of the game so as to promote the quality of our food (and farming) over and above its quantity...

Germany Proposes Energy Efficiency Labels for Homes

BERLIN - Germany on Friday proposed mandatory energy efficiency labelling for buildings and apartments as part of a Europe-wide effort to cut back on energy waste and promote greener alternatives.

The label, similar to those on the front of appliances like fridges sold in the European Union, would give prospective property buyers or tenants information about the energy costs associated with specific buildings.

German ministers won backing from European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs for the plans at a conference in Berlin on Friday. The proposals will be discussed at a meeting next week of Chancellor Angela Merkel's coalition cabinet.

"In future, property ads might say not just 'balcony, two rooms, quiet area' but also mention its energy efficiency," Transport, Building and Urban Affairs Minister Wolfgang Tiefensee, a Social Democrat (SPD) told reporters.

Energy certificates, giving a clear idea of how much heating and hot water costs will be, should be introduced at the end of this year, Tiefensee said, adding rules for energy efficiency in new or restored buildings would be toughened up in 2008.

The proposals form part of Germany's contribution to a non-binding proposal from the European Union to cut energy use in homes and transport by 20 percent by 2020...

Saving the planet: Battle for the land of Khan

By Clifford Coonan / posted in The Independent

A self-taught yak herdsman from Mongolia who forced the closure of polluting mines on the Onggi river is today awarded the world's biggest environmental prize.

The Mongolian yak herder Tsetsegee Munkhbayar loves the Onggi river, which provides his people with water and fish. It broke his heart to watch mining companies transform the waterway of his homeland in the steppes into a poisoned mess as they poured toxic slurry from the mines straight into the river.

Mr Munkhbayar, 40, decided that if he did not act to save his beloved Onggi river nobody would and so he decided to do something about it. Almost singlehandedly, and at considerable personal risk, he took on the mining companies, and it worked. This was the very first time that anyone had stood up for environmental rights in Mongolia, a country which is still opening up after decades of communist rule by the Soviet Union.

Four out of 10 Mongolians are nomadic herdsman and the big debate in the country these days is whether mining is the way of the future or if livestock-rearing, the traditional way the Mongols sustained themselves, is the way forward.

Nearly half of the population of Mongolia depends on livestock to survive and large sections of the population still live in a ger, a traditional felt circular tent that has been the dwelling of choice in Mongolia for more than 1,000 years.

This is a country where traditional shoes point upwards - the story goes that this is so that they do not harm the land. Mongolia is the land of Genghis Khan, the great 13th-century leader whose marauding forces came close to Vienna and who is still a source of great pride in Mongolia to this day.

Tradition is all very well, but the influx of foreign cash for mines around the country is increasingly important to Mongolia's economic well-being.

In 2001 he began to organise a group of volunteers to do something about it, eventually ending up with a group of 2,000 activists. The Onggi River Movement organised multi-province, roundtable discussions and launched high-profile radio and television campaigns to build public awareness about the river's plight.

"If we have a river, we have life. Without the river, there is no life there," he said in a recent interview.

Mr Munkhbayar comes from Uyanga Som in the central province of Uvurkhangai, 250 miles from the capital, Ulan Bator, where he now lives and runs his environmental group.

More than 100,000 people rely on the Onggi river for fresh, clean water, while at least one million cattle also need the waterway. In 1995, the "Red" lake that the Onggi river supplies went dry, and scientists believe that was because gold miners were diverting water away from the sourcs of the Onggi river.

Mr Munkhbayar successfully pressured 35 of 37 mining operations working in the Onggi river basin to stop, permanently, ruining the river with their mining and exploration activities.

His group took the companies to court, and three gold mines harming the river and Red Lake were involved. The case also did a lot to increase environmental awareness in Mongolia, and had a trickle-down effect on other environmental stories.

Relying on mining for future growth is a potential disaster, Mr Munkhbayar says.

Last year he inspired the creation of the Mongolia Nature Protection Coalition - a collective of 11 separate river movements in Mongolia actively fighting destructive mining, forestry, tourism and agriculture activities.

This is a serious achievement in Mongolia as the mining industry is an enormously powerful lobby and there is precious little by way of a democratic tradition in Ulan Bator, or anywhere else in Mongolia....

The other Goldman prize winners

Willie Corduff (Ireland, oil and mining)

Mr Corduff, a lifetime resident of Rossport, western Ireland, has led a fight since 1996 to protect the picturesque area from an approved Shell oil pipeline.

Sophia Rabliauskas (Canada, forests)

Sophia Rabliauskas, a leader of the Poplar River First Nation - 1,200 members of the Ojibway indigenous people - in Manitoba, has worked to secure protection of their two million acres of undisturbed forest (three times the size of Rhode Island). The land has been under threat from massive clear-cut logging.

Hammerskjoeld Simwinga (Zambia, sustainable development)

Mr Simwinga restored wildlife and transformed a poverty-stricken area in the North Luangwa Valley, where poaching in the 1980s destroyed the elephant population and left villagers living in extreme poverty.

Julio Cusurichi Palacios (Peru, forests)

The Shipibo indigenous leader, from the Peruvian Amazon, led an effort in 2002 that resulted in the creation of a territorial reserve for his isolated people spanning 3,000 square miles.

Orri Vigfússon (Iceland, endangered species)

Mr Vigfússon founded the Iceland-based North Atlantic Salmon Fund, which has dramatically improved salmon fish stocks in numerous countries.

Australia's epic drought: The situation is grim

By Kathy Marks in Sydney / posted at The Independent

Australia has warned that it will have to switch off the water supply to the continent's food bowl unless heavy rains break an epic drought - heralding what could be the first climate change-driven disaster to strike a developed nation.

The Murray-Darling basin in south-eastern Australia yields 40 per cent of the country's agricultural produce. But the two rivers that feed the region are so pitifully low that there will soon be only enough water for drinking supplies. Australia is in the grip of its worst drought on record, the victim of changing weather patterns attributed to global warming and a government that is only just starting to wake up to the severity of the position.

The Prime Minister, John Howard, a hardened climate-change sceptic, delivered dire tidings to the nation's farmers yesterday. Unless there is significant rainfall in the next six to eight weeks, irrigation will be banned in the principal agricultural area. Crops such as rice, cotton and wine grapes will fail, citrus, olive and almond trees will die, along with livestock.

A ban on irrigation, which would remain in place until May next year, spells possible ruin for thousands of farmers, already debt-laden and in despair after six straight years of drought.

Lovers of the Australian landscape often cite the poet Dorothea Mackellar who in 1904 penned the classic lines: "I love a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains." But the land that was Mackellar's muse is now cracked and parched, and its mighty rivers have shrivelled to sluggish brown streams. With paddocks reduced to dust bowls, graziers have been forced to sell off sheep and cows at rock-bottom prices or buy in feed at great expense. Some have already given up, abandoning pastoral properties that have been in their families for generations. The rural suicide rate has soared.

Mr Howard acknowledged that the measures are drastic. He said the prolonged dry spell was "unprecedentedly dangerous" for farmers, and for the economy as a whole. Releasing a new report on the state of the Murray and Darling, Mr Howard said: "It is a grim situation, and there is no point in pretending to Australia otherwise. We must all hope and pray there is rain."

But prayer may not suffice, and many people are asking why crippling water shortages in the world's driest inhabited continent are only now being addressed with any sense of urgency.

The causes of the current drought, which began in 2002 but has been felt most acutely over the past six months, are complex. But few scientists dispute the part played by climate change, which is making Australia hotter and drier...

From a related articel:

The driest continent on earth

Australia has one of the world's highest living standards with 85 per cent living in urban areas, and a GDP of A$26,900 (£11,200) per capita

* About 80 per cent of the population live on the eastern seaboard or the coastal fringes of the continent

* 402,000 people are employed in agriculture or agriculture-related services

* Drought halved wheat production in 2002-03

* The hole in the ozone layer over the southern hemisphere covers Australia, and measures nearly 17.5 million sq km

* It is the driest continent on earth, with about one third considered desert

* Australians are the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emitters in the world, as most electricity comes from coal

* Coal combustion is responsible for about 50 per cent of Australia's carbon emissions

* Average temperatures have risen by 0.7C over 100 years, mostly in the past 50 years

* 60 per cent of the Great Barrier Reef was bleached in 2002, the result of warmer ocean temperatures
China's Hebei Province is also having problems with drought:

BEIJING - Some 500,000 people in China's northern province of Hebei are suffering from a shortage of drinking water following a drought that began late last year, the official Xinhua news agency said on Saturday.

Quoting local water conservation authorities, the agency said more than 200 small reservoirs had dried up in Hebei.
Sources at the provincial bureau of agriculture said the water shortage was affecting farmland in Hebei, one of China's major wheat and corn growing provinces.

It was also affecting hydro-power generation, the news agency said.

Last month it was reported that a drought in southwestern China could continue well into April, affecting nearly 10 million people and 9 million livestock.

Jesus ‘Love Bombs’ You

By Chris Hedges / posted on Truthdig

There is a false, but effective, fiction that one has to be born again to be a Christian. The Christian right refuses to acknowledge the worth of anyone’s religious experience unless, in the words of its tired and opaque cliché, one has accepted “Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior.”

The emotional meltdown that leads to the conversion experience—one often induced in crowds skillfully manipulated and broken down by demagogues—is one of the most pernicious tools of the movement. Through conversion one surrenders to a higher authority. And the higher authority, rather than God, is the preacher who steps in to take over one’s life. Being born again, and the process it entails, has far more in common with recruitment into a cult than it does with genuine belief.

I attended a five-day seminar in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where I was taught the techniques of conversion, often by D. James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Ministries. The callousness of these techniques—targeting the vulnerable, building false friendships with the lonely or troubled, promising to relieve people of the most fundamental dreads of human existence, from the fear of mortality to the numbing pain of grief—gave to the process an awful cruelty and dishonesty. The seminar, which I attended as part of the work I did on my book “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America,” gave me a window into the subtle and pernicious techniques this movement uses to manipulate and control its followers. Kennedy openly called converts “recruits” and spoke about them joining a new political force sweeping across the country to reshape and reform America into a Christian state...

The conversion, at first blush, is simply euphoric. It is about new friends, loving and accepting friends, about the final conquering of human anxieties, fears and addictions, about attainment through God of wealth, power, success and happiness. For those who have known personal and economic despair it feels like a new life, a new beginning....

Intense interest by a group of three or four evangelists in a potential convert, an essential part of the conversion process, the flattery and feigned affection, the rapt attention to those being recruited and the flurry of “sincere” compliments are a form of “love bombing.” It is the same technique employed by most cults, such as the Unification Church, or “Moonies,” to attract prospects. It was a well-developed tactic of the Russian and Chinese communist parties, which share many of the communal and repressive characteristics of the Christian right.

“Love bombing is a coordinated effort, usually under the direction of leadership, that involves long-term members flooding recruits and newer members with flattery, verbal seduction, affectionate but usually nonsexual touching, and lots of attention to their every remark,” the psychiatrist Margaret Thaler Singer wrote. “Love bombing—or the offer of instant companionship—is a deceptive ploy accounting for many successful recruitment drives.”

Rules are incorporated slowly and deliberately into the convert’s belief system. These include blind obedience to church leaders, the teaching of an exclusive, spiritual elitism that demonizes all other ways of being and believing, and a persecution complex that keeps followers mobilized and distrustful of outsiders. The rules create a system of total submission to church doctrine. They discourage independent thought and action. And the result is the destruction of old communities and old friendships. Believers are soon enclosed in the church community. They are taught to place an emphasis on personal experience rather than reasoning, and to reject the rational, reality-based world. For those who defy the system, who walk away, there is a collective banishment.

There is a gradual establishment of new standards for every aspect of life. Those who choose spouses must choose Christian spouses. Families and friends are divided into groups of “saved” and “unsaved.” The movement, while it purports to be about families, is in practice the great divider of families, friends and communities. It competes with the family for loyalty. It seeks to place itself above the family, either drawing all family members into its embrace or pushing aside those who resist conversion...

The new ideology gives the believers a cause, a sense of purpose, meaning, feelings of superiority and a way to justify and sanctify their hatreds. For many, the rewards of cleaning up their lives, of repairing their damaged self-esteem, of joining an elite and blessed group are worth the cost of submission. They now know how to define and identify themselves. They do not have to make moral choice. It is made for them. They submerge their individual personas into the single persona of the Christian crowd. Their hope lies not in the real world, but in this new world of magic and miracles. For most, the conformity, the flight away from themselves, the dismissal of facts and logic, the destruction of personal autonomy, even with its latent totalitarianism, cause a welcome and joyous relief. The flight into the arms of the religious right, into blind acceptance of a holy cause, compensates for the convert’s despair and lack of faith in himself or herself. And the more corrupted and soiled the converts feel—the more profound the despair—the more militant they become, shouting, organizing and agitating to create a pure and sanctified Christian nation, a purity they believe will offset their own feelings of shame and guilt. Many want to be deceived and directed. It makes life easier to bear.

Freedom from fear, especially the fear of death, is what is being sold...

The Plot Against the First Amendment

By Scott Horton / posted in Harper's

In June, a case is slated to go to trial in Northern Virginia that will mark a first step in a plan to silence press coverage of essential national security issues. The plan was hatched by Alberto Gonzales and his deputy, Paul J. McNulty—the two figures at the center of a growing scandal over the politicization of the prosecutorial process. This may in fact be the most audacious act of political prosecution yet. But so far, it has gained little attention and is poorly understood.

In the summer of 2005, Alberto Gonzales paid a visit to British Attorney General Peter Goldsmith. A British civil servant who attended told me “it was quite amazing really. Gonzales was obsessed with the Official Secrets Act. In particular, he wanted to know exactly how it was used to block newspapers and broadcasters from running news stories derived from official secrets and how it could be used to criminalise persons who had no formal duty to maintain secrets. He saw it as a panacea for his problems: silence the press. Then you can torture and abuse prisoners and what you will—without fear of political repercussions. It was the easy route to dealing with the Guantánamo dilemma. Don't close down Guantánamo. Close down the press. We were appalled by it.” Appalled, he added, “but not surprised.”

Britain has of course never had a media with the freedom of the American press. John Milton railed against the abusive requirements of licensing without making headway. Britain had the tradition of Royal Prerogative, a tradition of branding political rabble rousers with the mark “SL” for “seditious libeler.” Of course, many of those seditious libelers emigrated to America, which helps explain why this was an issue contributing to a revolution that broke out in 1776. The erstwhile colonists heard Milton's appeal and followed it, producing a decisive parting of the ways in the English-speaking world. But that's all very inconvenient history, which is certain soon to be expunged from the history books. After all, those who control the present, control the past. And Gonzales had come down with a very bad case of Official Secrets envy.

By May 2006, Gonzales was on ABC's “This Week” program, convinced he had found the link. Could the United States gag the media to prevent its publication of classified information? “It depends on the circumstances.” Gonzales explained, “There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility. That's a policy judgment by the Congress in passing that kind of legislation. We have an obligation to enforce those laws.” This, to be sure, is the same Alberto Gonzales who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee and insisted in the face of an incredulous Senator Arlen Specter that the Constitution incorporated no guarantee of habeas corpus. He is an attorney general possessed of a copy of the Constitution which is strangely different from that ratified by the states in 1789 and amended to include the Bill of Rights in 1791. And he is the attorney general who felt that the limitations of FISA with respect to surveillance without warrants didn't matter, though he couldn't coherently articulate a reason why. (That, after all, is why you have John Yoo.) When he says “we have an obligation to enforce those laws,” he means of course to enforce the laws the way he and the president secretly understand them.

'Ideological exclusion provision'

BC psychotherapist denied entry after border guard googled his work.

By Linda Solomon

Andrew Feldmar, a well-known Vancouver psychotherapist, rolled up to the Blaine border crossing last summer as he had hundreds of times in his career. At 66, his gray hair, neat beard, and rimless glasses give him the look of a seasoned intellectual. He handed his passport to the U.S. border guard and relaxed, thinking he would soon be with an old friend in Seattle. The border guard turned to his computer and googled "Andrew Feldmar."

The psychotherapist's world was about to turn upside down...

He was told to sit down on a folding chair and for hours he wondered where this was going. He checked his watch and thought hopelessly of his friend who was about to land at the Seattle airport. Three hours later, the official motioned him into a small, barren room with an American flag. He was sitting on one side and Feldmar was on the other. The official said that under the Homeland Security Act, Feldmar was being denied entry due to "narcotics" use. LSD is not a narcotic substance, Feldmar tried to explain, but an entheogen. The guard wasn't interested in technicalities. He asked for a statement from Feldmar admitting to having used LSD and he fingerprinted Feldmar for an FBI file.

Then Feldmar disbelievingly listened as he learned that he was being barred from ever entering the United States again. The officer told him he could apply to the Department of Homeland Security for a waiver, if he wished, and gave him a package, with the forms.

The border guard then escorted him to his car and made sure he did a U-turn and went back to Canada...

"This is about the marriage of the war on drugs and the war on terror, and the blind, bureaucratic mindset it encourages. Government surveillance in the name of the war on drugs and the war on terror is in danger of making us all open books to zealous governments. As someone mentioned at a privacy conference I attended in London, U.K., several months ago, all the tools for an authoritarian state are now in place; it's just that we haven't yet adopted authoritarian methods. But in the area of drugs, maybe we have."

Feldmar was in the process of considering whether to apply for a waiver when he sought help from Ethan Nadlemann, director of the Drug Policy Alliance in New York, whose financial backer is another Hungarian, George Soros.

Nadlemann was outraged. "Nobel Peace prize winners, some of the great scientists and writers in the world have experimented with LSD in their time. We know people are being pulled out of lines and racially profiled as part of the war against terrorism. But this is a different kind of travesty, banning someone because they used a substance in another country thirty years ago," he said.

In February he wrote Feldmar, "Not that it helps much, but I just want you to know that I have not forgotten you or your situation. I feel frustrated vis a vis the media, and on other avenues, but I am not forgetting. I really think this situation is absurd, and an ominous omen of things to come."

When Feldmar was barred from entering the U.S., he joined the ranks of other intellectuals and artists. Pop singer Cat Stevens was turned back from the U.S. in 2004, after being detained. Bolivian human rights leader and lawyer, Leonida Zurita Vargas was prevented from entering in February of 2006. She was planning to be in the U.S. as part of a three week speaking tour on Bolivian social movements and human rights. The tour would have taken her to Vermont, Harvard, Stanford and Washington D.C., but she never got beyond the airport check-in at Santa Cruz, Bolivia where she was informed her ten-year visa had been revoked because of alleged links to terrorist activity.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security denied Professor John Milios entry into the country upon his arrival at John F. Kennedy International Airport last June. Milios, a faculty member at the National Technical University of Athens, had planned to present a paper at a conference titled "How Class Works" at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. Milios told Academe Online that U.S. officials questioned him at the airport about his political ideas and affiliations and that the American consul in Athens later queried him about the same subjects. Milios, a member of a left-wing political party, is active in Greek national politics and has twice been a candidate for the Greek parliament. Milios's visa, issued in 1996, was set to expire in November. The professor had previously been allowed entry into the United States on five separate occasions to participate in academic meetings.

The American Civil Liberties Union, on behalf of the American Academy of Religion, the American Association of University Professors and PEN American Center, filed a lawsuit this year challenging a provision of the Patriot Act that is being used to deny visas to foreign scholars. They did this after Professor Tariq Ramadan, a Swiss intellectual, had his visa revoked under "the ideological exclusion provision" of the Patriot Act, preventing him from assuming a tenured teaching position at the University of Notre Dame. It's a suit that attempts to prevent the practice of ideological exclusion more generally, a practice that led to the recent exclusions of Dora Maria Tellez, a Nicaraguan scholar who had been offered a position at Harvard University, as well as numerous scholars from Cuba.

In March 2005, the ACLU filed a Freedom of Information Act request to learn more about the government's use of the Patriot Act ideological exclusion provision. Cuban Grammy nominee Ibrahim Ferrer, 77, who came to fame in the 1999 film Buena Vista Social Club, was blocked by the U.S. government from attending the Grammy Awards, where he was nominated for the Best Latin album award in 2004. So were his fellow musicians Guillermo Rubalcaba, Amadito Valdes, Barbarito Torres and the group Septeto Nacional with Ignacio Pineiro. The list goes on....


Meanwhile Bush more than likely committed Election Fraud - among other crimes - and he is free to "rule" the country.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Spring Weather - 2007

In Bloomington, Indiana - from March 9 - March 15 and from March 20 - March 31 - the high temperature was above 60 - with 13 days that were 70 degrees or above and 3 of those days that were 80 or above. The warm weather continued on until April 3 - when freezing lows returned. Except for the 11th (when it got up to 63) - we didn't have a day that was 60 or above until April 16th.

Officially - it got down to 24 during the cold spell - but it seemed to me that it got colder than that. I know that one day, at least, the forecast was for it to get down to 17.

What that meant for plants was that some bloomed far earlier than usual. On a lot of plants - the leaves came out and then died. Fruit trees were in bloom in March - and then it froze. Red buds have been blooming for 3 - 4 weeks - far longer then usual. Usually they bloom with the dogwood - but dogwoods just started coming into bloom last week.

What often happens in Spring is that the leaves on the trees start coming out and to look out across the landscape - the hills are a light green. This normally lasts only a few days and then the leaves come out more and the color becomes a deeper green. This year the the light green has stayed like that for a month. It seems very odd.

We don't know what will happen to the fruit trees.

I'm betting that it won't freeze again this season. I guess we'll see. (It used to be that the last freeze/frost date for around here was the 2nd week of May).

Earth Day

I spent most of today creating my herb garden. It's in the front yard - near the front door.

I had tilled the area a couple weeks ago - today I broke up the soil - got rid of most of the dirt clods - refined the shape (it ended up a nice crescent shape) - added peat moss and such - and planted the herbs I bought yesterday at the farmer's market (and a few from the Owen County garden club) along with some lettuce seeds, various herb seeds, and a couple of tomato plants. Plus I moved 3 lavendar plants from the nearby garden across the sidewalk. I have 3 varieties of thyme and 3 of sage, and two kinds of basil, among other things.

I had taken a mini-class from an herbalist recently - so that inspired me to buy a calendula plant.

I had been reluctant to dig into the front yard - but since I was returning a large part of the front yard to woods - it seemed like less of an issue. And the less grass the better. It's a good sunny spot for herbs.

Plus when it comes to getting ones food locally - it doesn't get any more local than your own yard.

I still need to look into getting a sod cutter to cut away the sod from around the orchard trees.

After working - I sat down and read some of the New York Times headlines. One article - How the Worm Turns - seemed esp. appropriate. I met a lot of worms today. I tried to save them for the garden as I was breaking up the sod. There would often be 2 or three in a small clump. The usual variety was pinkish - but there were some brown ones and one little black one. Maybe the black on is rare?

I'll have to remember to look for bats in the shagbark hickory trees - I heard there was a federally endangered variety that likes to live in them.

Other nature news revolves around our ponds. My husband and I installed a couple of small ponds last summer (I did the planning and moved the rocks into place). Since I had discovered what toad eggs are like at the pond of a friend last month - when I saw the curly strips of black dots - I knew what they were. (We may have some frog eggs, as well. I'm not sure about that.) And yesterday we saw the very young toads swimming around. At least that's what I I think they are. They look like giant sperm.

In other Earth Day news, Sheryl Crow and Laurie David went on a "Stop Global Warming College Tour" that ended up today at George Washington University where they were joined by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Carole King, Bobby Kennedy Jr. and David's husband, Larry David.

Last night Sheryl Crow and Laurie David were at the White House Correspondents Dinner. They reported on Huffingtonpost:

"The "highlight" of the evening had to be when we were introduced to Karl Rove.... We asked Mr. Rove if he would consider taking a fresh look at the science of global warming. Much to our dismay, he immediately got combative. And it went downhill from there.

We reminded the senior White House advisor that the US leads the world in global warming pollution and we are doing the least about it. Anger flaring, Mr. Rove immediately regurgitated the official Administration position on global warming which is that the US spends more on researching the causes than any other country.

We felt compelled to remind him that the research is done and the results are in ( Mr. Rove exploded with even more venom. Like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum, Mr. Rove launched into a series of illogical arguments regarding China not doing enough thus neither should we. (Since when do we follow China's lead?)"

Astronauts Recall View of Earth

The rarest view in humanity -- Earth from afar -- moves many of the lucky few observers to tears and gives them a new appreciation of that blue marble we all call home.

When astronauts return from space, what they talk about isn't the brute force of the rocket launch or the exhilaration of zero gravity. It's the view.

"It was the only color we could see in the universe. ... "We're living on a tiny little dust mote in left field on a rather insignificant galaxy. And basically this it for humans. It strikes me that it's a shame that we're squabbling over oil and borders."
--Bill Anders, Apollo 8, whose photos of Earth became famous.
"It's hard to appreciate the Earth when you're down right upon it because it's so huge.
"It gives you in an instant, just at a position 240,000 miles away from it, (an idea of) how insignificant we are, how fragile we are, and how fortunate we are to have a body that will allow us to enjoy the sky and the trees and the water ... It's something that many people take for granted when they're born and they grow up within the environment. But they don't realize what they have. And I didn't till I left it."
--Jim Lovell, Apollo 8 and 13.
"The sheer beauty of it just brought tears to my eyes.
"If people can see Earth from up here, see it without those borders, see it without any differences in race or religion, they would have a completely different perspective. Because when you see it from that angle, you cannot think of your home or your country. All you can see is one Earth...."
--Anousheh Ansari, Iranian-American space tourist who flew last year to the international space station.
"Up in space when you see a sunset or sunrise, the light is coming to you from the sun through that little shell of the Earth's atmosphere and back out to the spacecraft you're in. The atmosphere acts like a prism. So for a short period of time you see not only the reds, oranges and yellows, the luminous quality like you see on Earth, but you see the whole spectrum red-orange-yellow-blue-green-indigo-violet.
"You come back impressed, once you've been up there, with how thin our little atmosphere is that supports all life here on Earth. So if we foul it up, there's no coming back from something like that."
--John Glenn, first American to orbit the Earth (1962) and former U.S. senator.
"I think you can't go to space and not be changed, in many ways ....
"All of the teachings of the Bible that talk about the creator and his creation take on new meaning when you can view the details of the Earth from that perspective. So it didn't change my faith per se, the content of it, but it just enhanced it, it made it even more real."
--Jeff Williams, spent 6 months on the space station and set a record for most Earth photos taken.
"Earth has gone through great transitions and volcanic impacts and all sorts of traumatic things. But it has survived ... I'm not referring to human conflicts. I'm referring to the physical appearance of the Earth at a great distance. That it generally is mostly very peaceful (when) looked at from a distance."
--Buzz Aldrin, second man to walk on the moon.
"I see the deep black of space and this just brilliantly gorgeous blue and white arc of the earth and totally unconsciously, not at all able to help myself, I said, 'Wow, look at that.'"
--Kathy Sullivan, first American woman to spacewalk, recalling what she said when she saw Earth in 1984.
"...From up there, it looks finite and it looks fragile and it really looks like just a tiny little place on which we live in a vast expanse of space. It gave me the feeling of really wanting us all to take care of the Earth. I got more of a sense of Earth as home, a place where we live. And of course you want to take care of your home. You want it clean. You want it safe."
--Winston Scott, two-time shuttle astronaut who wrote a book, "Reflections From Earth Orbit."
"You change because you see your life differently than when you live on the surface everyday. ... We are so involved in our own little lives and our own little concerns and problems. I don't think the average person realizes the global environment that we really live in. I certainly am more aware of how fragile our Earth is, and, frankly, I think that I care more about our Earth because of the experiences I've had traveling in space."
--Eileen Collins, first female space shuttle commander.
"You can see what a small little atmosphere is protecting us.
"You realize there's not much protecting this planet particularly when you see the view from the side. That's something I'd like to share with everybody so people would realize we need to protect it."
--Sunita Williams, who has been living on the international space station since Dec. 11, 2006.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Seal Killers Stopped at Sea"

By LINDSAY HAMILTON / posted at ABCnews

Mother Nature has put a cold stop on one of Canada's most controversial hunts.

Two weeks after the start of Newfoundland and Labrador's annual seal hunt, more than 100 vessels became stuck in heavy ice and at least 60 remained immobilized.

Crews face food, water and fuel shortages as they wait for the ice to break up.

The Canadian coast guard has been resupplying stranded boats, and the crews in the greatest danger have been airlifted to safety.

"In some cases, there are vessels at risk of sinking once the ice frees up because of the hull damage sustained," said Capt. Windross Banton, from aboard his coast guard icebreaker vessel.

The boats became trapped when winds pushed ice inland toward the coast. Banton said this is the worst he's ever seen the ice.

For the seal hunters, who fish during other times of the year, it means lost profits and costly repairs. Banton estimates some will lose up to $250,000.

There have been reforms of the seal hunt since the first pictures of white seal pups being clubbed to death horrified the public. Juvenile seals are no longer taken and there are rules ensuring the seals are dead when they are skinned. Canada's government says the hunt is now humane.

But opposition has not ended, and critics say the stranded fishermen represent a new reason to shut down the hunt...

This year, the Canadian government reduced the seal quota to 270,000, a decrease of about 20 percent, because melting ice has caused an increasing number of sea pups to drown.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador says the industry is worth over $55 million a year, and the income from sealing can account for 25 to 35 percent of a fisherman's annual income.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Climate change at top of world agenda, Annan says

Source: Reuters

The environment and climate change top the list of challenges for the international community and failing to face them could ruin development, former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on Friday.

"If we do not get the climate under control, if we do not confront the challenges of the environment, every other effort we are making can be washed aside," Annan told journalists after addressing the Norwegian Labour Party.

Scientists widely say human activity, especially emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, is warming the Earth's climate.

They say it poses risks of rising sea levels, more floods, droughts and expanding deserts that could displace millions of people and eventually cause economic, political and humanitarian crises.

Annan, who stepped down at the end of 2006 after 10 years at the helm of the United Nations, said the environment would be "the major constraint" on growth and development globally.

"We cannot continuing consuming the resources of the world as if there were no tomorrow, as if there were no future generations coming after us," he said.

He also stressed the need for multilateral cooperation.

"All the major challenges that we face today cannot be handled by one country, however powerful that country is," he said. "It does require international cooperation."

He said that also applied to such areas as the fight against infectious diseases, environmental degradation, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and organised international crime.

Last year, while still U.N. chief, Annan said there was a "frightening lack of leadership" in combating global warming and urged 189 nations at climate talks in Nairobi to cut greenhouse gas emissions and join the Kyoto Protocol.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The age of consumer-driven capitalism...

by Dave Lindorff / posted on Common Dreams

It wasn’t too long ago that the death of socialism, the triumph of capitalism and the end of history were being widely hailed.

What a difference a few years and a few fractions of a degree in world temperature change makes!

We may still be contemplating the end of history, but of a different sort. It is suddenly becoming painfully obvious that the pursuit of profit and the philosophy of growth for growth’s sake and of dog eat dog is about to kill us all off.

Now that it has been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the earth is headed for a global heat wave the likes of which hasn’t been seen in hundreds of thousands and perhaps tens of millions of years–the kind of killing heat that in the past has led to mass extinctions–it is ludicrous to talk about things like carbon trading and raising vehicle mileage standards.

We need a revolution in the way we human beings live and the way we treat each other.

There is no way that the world’s 6.5 billion people–and especially the 2 billion of them who live in wealthier societies–can continue to consume energy at even close to the level that we have been consuming it. There is no way we in the developed world can continue to live the way we have been living, in oversized houses, heated in winter and cooled in summer. There is no way in the northern hemisphere we can continue to have teakwood or mahogany-floored living rooms and eat strawberries in December.

There is no way that we can continue to squander trillions of dollars on war and military spending every year.

No way, that is, if we plan on leaving a livable world for our children and grandchildren.

The so-called “green” politicians who talk about instituting carbon-trading schemes, about driving hybrid automobiles, about buying fluorescent light bulbs, and about turning down the thermostat and wearing sweaters, are deceiving us or themselves.

None of this is going to save us.

What will save us is recognizing that the age of consumer-driven capitalism is over.

We either come up with a new way to organize society, in which production is based upon real needs, not upon manufactured needs, and in which scarce resources are made available to those who need them, not just to those who can afford them, or we will all be doomed–or at least our progeny...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Lower Great Lake Water Levels Affect Shipping

By Emily Fredrix - the Associated Press

When Fred Shusterich looks around the harbor on Lake Superior, he sees things he hasn't seen in years -- little islands poking out of the water.

Like many others connected to the shipping industry, Shusterich -- president of the coal supplier Midwest Energy Resources -- is concerned about the significance of those islands off the city of Superior in far northern Wisconsin.

"I think it may be another very poor year if this drought continues, as far as water levels," he said.

Now's the time when harbors along the Great Lakes -- Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario and Erie -- have thawed and shipping begins, carrying 10 percent of the country's waterborne cargo.

But excitement over the shipping season is being displaced by frustration over low water levels, which is forcing shippers to lighten their loads so they can move safely into harbors.

The lighter loads -- sometimes hundreds of tons per ship -- turn into headaches for suppliers that send their goods on vessels, shippers, and companies whose orders come up short.

Midwest Energy Resources, Shusterich's company, just sent out its first vessel of the season with a load just under 60,000 tons; a typical load is 62,000 tons, he said. He said the company will use more ships to carry cargo, and use rail and trucks when it can.

"When we're running at the levels we're running, it means you need more vessels to carry the same amount of cargo," he said. "But at some point you run out of vessels."

Shippers don't expect the situation to improve soon. A lack of ice cover on the lakes during the winter led to more evaporation. And they say the federal government can't keep up with the dredging of sand, silt and other debris from the harbors' bottoms -- a process that doesn't solve the problem of low water levels but does give ships room to carry more weight.

For every inch the lakes recede, ships must reduce their loads between 50 and 270 tons, said Glen Nekvasil, spokesman for the Lake Carriers' Association, a trade group for Great Lakes shippers.

At the end of last season, with waters particularly low on Lake Superior, ships lost about 8,000 tons per trip -- about 11 percent of their carrying capacity, he said.

"Every ton has an impact. These companies, they earn their living carrying cargo, so every lost ton of cargo is lost revenue," Nekvasil said.

Shipping is big business. Last year, a little more than 1 billion tons of goods such as iron ore, coal and limestone were waterborne in the U.S., he said. Shippers on the Great Lakes hauled 110 million tons of cargo, more than half of that iron ore.

In the late 1990s, shippers hauled as much as 125 million tons of cargo a year on the Great Lakes. Last year's numbers are at least partially due to the low water levels, but the steel industry -- which uses iron ore -- has been slow, too, Nekvasil said. The coal trade has been steady and the roughly 70 ships in the U.S. fleet sail regularly, he said.

Water levels have dropped for years, and the forecast isn't getting any better....

Grain exporter Chicago and Illinois River Marketing isn't waiting for the government to dredge its harbor in Milwaukee. Richard Blaylock, manager at the company's site, said the company spent $200,000 in two years to dredge its own spot off the Milwaukee Harbor...

The dwindling water levels mean a typical vessel carrying between 25,000 and 30,000 tons will have to reduce its load by 1,000 tons per trip, he said.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

As ocean levels swell, an English coast crumbles

From the International Herald Tribune:

BECCLES, England: This winter a 50-foot-wide strip of Roger Middleditch's sugar beet field fell into the North Sea, his rich East Anglian lands reduced by a large fraction of their acreage. The adjacent potato field, once 23 acres, is now less than 3 - too small to plant at all, he said.

Each spring Middleditch, a tenant farmer on the vast Benacre Estate here, meets with its managers to recalculate his rent, depending on how much land has been eaten up by encroaching water. As he stood in a muddy field by the roaring sea one recent morning, he tried to estimate how close he dares to plant this season.

"We've lost so much these last few years," he said. "You plant, and by harvest it's fallen into the water."

Coastal erosion has been a fact of life here for a century, because the land under East Anglia is slowly sinking. But the erosion has never been as quick and cataclysmic as it has been in recent years - an effect of climate change and global warming, according to many scientists. To make matters worse for coastal farmers, the British government has stopped maintaining large parts of the network of seawalls that once protected the area.

Under a new policy that scientists have labelled "managed retreat," governments around the globe are concluding that it is not worth taxpayer money to fight every inevitable effect of climate change.

Land loss at Benacre "has accelerated dramatically," said Mark Venmore-Roland, the estate's manager. "At first it was like a chap losing his hair - bit by bit, so you'd get used to it. But last few years it's been really frightening."

With higher seas level and more vicious storms created by warming, he and Middleditch say, the coastal fields are rapidly disappearing, as the low cliffs on which the fields sit slip into the water in huge chunks.

A report this year from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that rising seas will force 60 million people away from their coastal homes and jobs by the year 2080.

Another study, the Stern Report, released last December by the British government, projected hundreds of millions of "environmental refugees" by 2050. That category includes both people whose land is flooded off and those whose pastures are parched by drought...

"Farmers are on the front lines of climate change. They're out there. It's affecting their business," said Tanya Olmeda-Hodge of the Country Landowners Association...

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Author Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

In books such as "Slaughterhouse-Five," "Cat's Cradle," and "Hocus Pocus," Kurt Vonnegut mixed the bitter and funny with a touch of the profound..."He was sort of like nobody else," said fellow author Gore Vidal. "Kurt was never dull."

A self-described religious skeptic and freethinking humanist, Vonnegut used protagonists such as Billy Pilgrim and Eliot Rosewater as transparent vehicles for his points of view.

He lectured regularly, exhorting audiences to think for themselves and delighting in barbed commentary against the institutions he felt were dehumanizing people.

"He was a man who combined a wicked sense of humor and sort of steady moral compass, who was always sort of looking at the big picture of the things that were most important," said Joel Bleifuss, editor of In These Times, a liberal magazine based in Chicago that featured Vonnegut articles.

Some of Vonnegut's books were banned and burned for suspected obscenity. He took on censorship as an active member of the PEN writers' aid group and the American Civil Liberties Union.

The American Humanist Association, which promotes individual freedom, rational thought and scientific skepticism, made him its honorary president.

Vonnegut said the villains in his books were never individuals, but culture, society and history, which he said were making a mess of the planet.

"I like to say that the 51st state is the state of denial," he told The Associated Press in 2005. "It's as though a huge comet were heading for us and nobody wants to talk about it. We're just about to run out of petroleum and there's nothing to replace it."...


Kurt Vonnegut’s novels
• “Player Piano,” 1952
• “The Sirens of Titan,” 1959
• “Mother Night,” 1962
• “Cat's Cradle,” 1963
• “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater,” 1965
• “Slaughterhouse-Five,” 1969
• “Breakfast of Champions,” 1973.
• “Slapstick,” 1976
• “Jailbird,” 1979 .
• “Deadeye Dick,” 1983
• “Galápagos,” 1985
• “Bluebeard,” 1988
• “Hocus Pocus,” 1990
• “Three Complete Novels,” 1995
• “Timequake,” 1997

Source: “Contemporary Novel-

-- Compiled by (Indianapolis) Star library

Mr. Vonnegut was one spark of light that originated in Indianapolis (my hometown). As painful as life may have been for him, at times, he was one who did make the most of it. And his writings will continue to provoke and inspire.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Galapagos Islands 'facing crisis'

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has declared the Galapagos Islands, home to dozens of endangered species, at risk and a national priority for action.

...The islands, located some 1,000km (620 miles) off Ecuador's mainland, are home to an array of species, including giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies and marine iguanas.

About 20,000 people, working mainly in fishing and tourism, also live there.

The Galapagos Islands inspired naturalist Charles Darwin and helped him develop his theory of evolution.

Last month, several rangers of the ecological reserve in the islands clashed with members of the Ecuadorean Armed Forces over what the rangers say was illegal fishing in protected waters.

The incident provoked an outcry in Ecuador as it illustrated for many the practices which are damaging the site.

Mr Correa announced that a number of military officials had been suspended pending an investigation.

However, ecologists say the problems in the Galapagos run much deeper than the government has acknowledged.

They fear that a rapid increase in the human population and the gradual introduction of external species of flora and fauna are threatening the entire ecosystem on the islands.

Representatives of the UN's scientific, educational and cultural body, Unesco, have travelled to its research station on the Galapagos to inspect the state of conservation there.

Last month, a senior Unesco official warned of threats to the "fragile and delicate" ecology of the Galapagos.

"Stop shopping ... or the planet will go pop"

...Porritt, chairman of the government's Sustainable Development Commission, has concluded that consumerism is central to the threat facing the planet, cannibalising its natural resources and producing the carbon dioxide emissions which result in climate change.

In a film for Channel Five, he points out that Britons throw away their own body weight in rubbish every seven weeks, with 100 million tonnes of waste pouring into the country's 12,000 landfill sites every year. If all six billion people in the world were to consume at the same level, we would need two new Earths to supply all the energy, soil, water and raw materials required.

'I think capitalism is patently unable to go on growing the size of the consumer economy for any more people in the world today because levels of consumption are already undermining life support systems on which we depend - so if we do it for any more people, the planet will go pop,' Porritt told The Observer. 'So in a way we don't have a choice about this: we've got to rethink the basic premise behind capitalism to make it deliver the goods. In the long run, when you really look at what happens on a planet with nine billion people and really serious constraints on the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that we can emit, it's almost inevitable we will learn to have more elegant, satisfying lives, consuming less. I can't see any way out of that in the long run.'

Porritt, co-founder of Forum For The Future, Britain's leading sustainable development charity, believes that consumerism has taken over our lives almost unnoticed. 'Shopping has become a recreational activity,' he continued. 'There's a lot of evidence that people really do see shopping now as an amenity pastime. We're well beyond the time where shopping was just a way of transacting what you needed in life. It's now all about identity and status and recreation and companionship, even about meaning in people's lives. There's always been a "keeping up with the Joneses" type thing, but it's now almost universalised and there is a sense of buying to be more like something or to get the image of somebody, particularly with clothes or branded goods, where there's very much that sense of, "If I buy something with this name on it, maybe a little bit of the magic of that name will rub off on me and I'll be a better person", whereas we all know you're exactly the same person just waiting to go out and make your next branded purchase.'...

"Sea’s Rise in India Buries Islands & a Way of Life"

Shyamal Mandal lives at the edge of ruin.

In front of his small mud house lies the wreckage of what was once his village on this fragile delta island near the Bay of Bengal. Half of it has sunk into the river.

Only a handful of families still hang on so close to the water, and those that do are surrounded by reminders of inexorable destruction: an abandoned half-broken canoe, a coconut palm teetering on a cliff, the gouged-out remnants of a family’s fish pond.

All that stands between Mr. Mandal’s home and the water is a rudimentary mud embankment, and there is no telling, he confessed, when it, too, may fall away. “What will happen next, we don’t know,” he said, summing up his only certainty.

The sinking of Ghoramara can be attributed to a confluence of disasters, natural and human, not least the rising sea. The rivers that pour down from the Himalayas and empty into the bay have swelled and shifted in recent decades, placing this and the rest of the delicate islands known as the Sundarbans in the mouth of daily danger.

Certainly nature would have forced these islands to shift size and shape, drowning some, giving rise to others. But there is little doubt, scientists say, that human-induced climate change has made them particularly vulnerable.

A recent study by Sugata Hazra, an oceanographer at Jadavpur University in nearby Calcutta, found that in the last 30 years, nearly 31 square miles of the Sundarbans have vanished entirely.

More than 600 families have been displaced, according to local government authorities. Fields and ponds have been submerged. Ghoramara alone has shrunk to less than two square miles, about half of its size in 1969, Mr. Hazra’s study concluded. Two other islands have vanished entirely.

The Sundarbans are among the world’s largest collection of river delta islands. In geological terms they are young and still under formation, cut by an intricate network of streams and tributaries that straddle the border between India and Bangladesh. Ever since the British settled them 150 years ago in pursuit of timber, the mangroves have been steadily depleted — half of the islands have lost their forest cover — and the population has grown....

"The Psychology Behind George W. Bush's Decision-Making"

By John P. Briggs, M.D. and JP Briggs II, Ph.D. / posted on Scoop

When we feel inadequate about some aspect of our lives, we work to submerge those feelings with compensations and defenses. Evidence is that in the case of George W. Bush, deep feelings of inadequacy and powerful defensive behaviors employed to submerge them and cover them up cripple the decision-making process he needs for his duties as president.

The dynamics of the president's cover-up involve a vicious psychological paradox: because he secretly anticipates the humiliating failure he has experienced all his life, he behaves in ways that ensure that he will fail. He makes hasty, risky, ill-informed decisions in which he relies on his defenses rather than judgment. When the decisions go bad, they reconfirm his inner feelings of incompetence and heighten his fear of being "found out." The feedback loop forces him into an ever deeper "state of denial" about the decisions and an ever-renewed tendency to make more flawed decisions.

If this dynamic is close to correct, then keeping the secret of his feelings of inadequacy has become a matter of life and death for the president. The stakes for him are higher than we can imagine because, by becoming president, he raised his expectations for the success he has sought for so long (the final escape from this secret fear), and he has inflated his worst fear to its grandest scale. He is a man working with all his resources to keep his sense of himself afloat--and he is in danger of drowning... (big snip)

Here, however, we offer no diagnosis, and these are the reasons. Persons sometimes feel reassured by a diagnosis because it lets them feel they have a condition that can be dealt with. When mental health professionals try to diagnose celebrities, however, the effort can seem like name calling. In practice, diagnoses help the professional formulate a treatment plan. In this case, of course, no treatment is plausible. We believe that to a large extent, a president's psychology and his inner secrets are his or her own business, except in one important area. That is area covered by the question, "Does the psychology of this individual interfere with his or her ability to make sound decisions in the best interest of the nation?" Recent history has certainly been witness to presidents with psychologies that have damaged their historical legacies. Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon come to mind. But in neither case was the very ability to make sound decisions compromised to the extent we believe it is with this president.

From many accounts one can conclude that Bush's decision-making process is a failed process; in an important sense, it is no process at all...

How does his incompetence arise? It arises out of decisions made with sketchy information. It arises out of decisions made in angry rebellion because he is trying to show decisiveness to mask his ambivalence. His incompetence comes from feeling so much anxiety about his ability to grasp the alternatives on which a decision must be based that he doesn't even consider alternatives. His incompetence comes from polarized behavior. (Though he worried that the country might face another terrorist attack, he first resisted the creation of Homeland Security and then under funded it and staffed it with political hacks; so when Katrina and Rita hit, the nation was unprepared.) His incompetence comes from the intellectual laziness and slackness that developed because he always had a safety net that protected him from the consequences of any seriously inadequate behavior and decisions. His incompetence comes from the willingness of his "gut" to favor the drama of the most reckless and grandiose options in order to beat back feelings of failure...

Monday, April 09, 2007

"Was Rationality Banned From American Politics?"

From Prof. Randy Salzman at Global Politician

Before American lawmakers took to finding cash in their freezers and homosexual dreams in their pages, a 1990 survey found that only 12 percent of governmental votes used rational analysis as a key factor. Not “the” key factor, but “a” key factor. Yet since then, political irrationality has reached for new heights.

Consider that over the past year California sued all Big Six Automakers for selling “public nuisances,” Louisiana decided that raising houses three feet is enough to solve hurricane issues in houses 10 feet below sea level and Virginia excluded higher gasoline taxes – the only proven remedy -- as any potential tool for fighting congestion.

And, now, Florida tops (or bottoms?) us all.

To assure growth continues in hurricane alley, Florida’s legislature voted to lower insurance premiums on coastal properties and promised $32 billion IF a hurricane hits South Florida.

Since the state has less than $1 billion set aside for the next catastrophe and the state insurance agency has twice before run out of money, the plan is, obviously, to bounce the issue to Uncle Sam when the next hurricane arrives.

That fits, of course. Uncle Sam, remember, provided $110 billion to rebuild the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina without demanding that houses are at least built above sea level.

Where is it written that all American policies must be stupid?

... Every single member of all legislative bodies KNOWS that a city or state can’t build its way out of congestion -- it’s been documented for over a decade that building more roads soon worsens all problems. And every single legislator KNOWS that cars produce, not just congestion, but America’s highest-percentage of greenhouse gas and burn the most of the ever-dwindling international supplies of oil.

Yet the debate in Washington (in Tallahassee, in Sacramento, in Richmond) goes on as if there’s no connection between what they do there and the future. It goes on as if there’s some kind of magic pill that some great worldwide dictator can force down somebody else’s throats to solve Peak Oil and Global Warming at the last minute...

It's a wild, wild state of warming

From the Detroit Free Press:

Phil Myers still remembers the night in 1985 when he saw a possum crossing the path of his headlights near the tip of Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

"I was absolutely thrilled," said Myers, who saw the animal while driving in Wilderness State Park.

Not many people get so excited about a lowly possum.

But Myers is a biologist who studies the critters and had never seen one that far north. Scientific collections dating to 1857 showed that possums were rare in northern Michigan. The creatures, common in the southeastern United States, evolved in the tropics and don't do well in brutal winters.

Those that survive lose the tips of their ears and tails to frostbite. But research shows that starting around 1980 -- as winters got warmer -- possums began a steady trek north.

The possum is among many Michigan species, from flying squirrels to ticks to birds, that have changed their behavior in response to warmer temperatures, especially on winter and spring nights, over the past 25 years.

Forget predictions about melting polar caps and rising sea levels, say Michigan and Great Lakes region scientists: If you want evidence of global warming, it's right here, right now.

In some cases, new species are moving into Michigan, bringing diseases with them. In others, the shift is altering the ecosystem's delicate balance. In some areas, creatures have disappeared.

Usually cautious scientists are using words like "dramatic" and "startling" to describe the changes...

"Hundreds of species have already changed their ranges and ecosystems have been disrupted," said Rosina Bierbaum, dean of U-M's School of Natural Resources and Environment and former head of the U.S. delegation of the global Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

On Friday, the IPCC released a report on warming-linked change in species around the globe. For example:

• In Vermont, sap from sugar maple trees is rising as much as a month earlier than it did 40 years ago, apparently triggered by warmer winters. The season for collecting sap is shorter, causing losses for the state's maple sugar and syrup industry. In Michigan, some maple syrup farmers report similar complaints, although no systematic studies of the subject have been done in the state.

• Some species of Central American frogs have disappeared because warmer nighttime temperatures pushed them to higher, cooler places, where they encountered a killer fungus.

• Disease-carrying ticks have moved into once-chilly Sweden, pestering humans and animals.

• Some bird species are migrating earlier and moving farther north. Because of warming, scientists theorize that in the next century, the Baltimore oriole may end up well north of Maryland, where it is the state bird.

The ranges of some Michigan trees, frogs, birds, insects and mammals are expected to change, too. Some already have...

It's not the ravages of memory that make people 40 and older think winters were harsher when they were kids. They were harsher then.

Today, Michigan has shorter, milder winters than it used to, said Jeff Andresen, the state climatologist and a professor at Michigan State University. Since 1980, average statewide temperatures have increased 2 degrees.

Most of the change is in winter and spring night temperatures, which have risen 3 to 5 degrees. Although the numbers are still within the range of natural variation, what has happened in Michigan matches changes globally. Researchers say they believe carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have led to the temperature change.

Andresen has other startling facts. From the 1850s to the 1970s, Grand Traverse Bay's surface froze an average of eight years each decade. Since the 1970s, the number has dropped sharply to three times per decade. Satellites show ice cover on the Great Lakes also dropped precipitously from 1973 to 2003, Andresen said.

Plant, animal and winged species sensitive to temperature have reacted. The life cycle of the tart cherry, one of Michigan's most popular products, follows temperatures. In Berrien County, cherries began ripening as many as 10 days earlier starting around 1980, Andresen said.

Among some creatures, startling changes have occurred in the past decade. The Lone Star tick, a southern pest that can carry the bacterial disease tularemia, used to be found in Tennessee, Texas and Florida. But now the ticks have established themselves along Lake Michigan.

"This has happened in the past 10 years or so," said Ned Walker, a professor of entomology at MSU. In the same time frame, a type of mosquito common in the southeastern United States, the psorophora ferox, has arrived in Michigan, Walker said.
The aggressive mosquito can carry the West Nile virus.

"Now, it has really quite dramatically shown up all over lower Michigan, as far north as Grand Rapids and east to Saginaw Bay," Walker said of the mosquito. He said he believes milder weather has allowed it to survive winters.

"It heralds the possibility of invasive species occurring in areas where winters are usually too harsh," he said.

Another tick, Ixodes dentatus, which is thought to carry the bacteria that cause Lyme disease, has arrived.

"We first found it in Kalamazoo, way out of its range," Walker said. "Now it's spread all over. It's very common on birds and rabbits."

Scientific literature from just a decade ago said the tick lived in Georgia, South Carolina and Alabama. "I speculate it is because of milder weather allowing it to overwinter," Walker said...

Biologist Myers has watched big changes among the small mammals -- mice, chipmunks and flying squirrels -- that he studies at U-M's biological station on Douglas Lake, near Pellston. Warming temperatures have allowed the southern, cold-sensitive version of each species to push north, displacing their cold-adapted cousins. The cold weather species' numbers have dropped sharply and in some places, they have become extinct, Myers found.

"The very fabric of the small mammal community has changed," he said.

In the Upper Peninsula, tiny woodland deer mice used to prevail over their warmer-weather relations, white-footed mice. In the 1930s, the white-footed mouse was found only in Menominee County, near Wisconsin. Since about 1980, white-footed mice have hotfooted it all across the UP, and the number of woodland mice has shrunk.

Myers has looked at many causes, including their habitat and food, and said he believes warmer temperatures are the cause...

Root is a lead author of the report that was issued Friday. She said bird-watchers have kept good records in Michigan. In Germfask in the east-central UP, records show that in 1970, the sandhill crane first arrived April 29. By 1995, it was a month earlier. Mourning doves arrived there on May 30 in 1965 and on March 1 by 1995.

An analysis of more than 100 studies on different species shows widespread changes across the globe already...

Root's analysis shows that above the 45th parallel, a line that crosses Michigan from Suttons Bay in the west to Alpena in the east, spring events like blooming and migration are coming two weeks earlier than they had. Below that line, the change is a week earlier.

Not all species react to temperature. Some mate or bloom based on the length of the day, which hasn't changed. That means two species that depend on each other -- like predators and their prey or flowers and their pollinators -- could fall out of sync. In the Midwest, many bird species will disappear this century. Expect fewer warblers and more outbreaks of forest pests they eat, such as spruce budworms...