Monday, July 28, 2008

"Bill O'Reilly, Michael Savage, Sean Hannity on accused shooter's reading list"

He probably listened to Rush Limbaugh, as well. Hate speech has it's effects....
From Knoxnews

Police found right-wing political books, brass knuckles, empty shotgun shell boxes and a handgun in the Powell home of a man who said he attacked a church in order to kill liberals "who are ruining the country," court records show.

Knoxville police Sunday evening searched the Levy Drive home of Jim David Adkisson after he allegedly entered the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church and killed two people and wounded six others during the presentation of a children's musical.

Knoxville Police Department Officer Steve Still requested the search warrant after interviewing Adkisson. who was subdued by several church members after firing three rounds from a 12-gauge shotgun into the congregation.

Adkisson targeted the church, Still wrote in the document obtained by WBIR-TV, Channel 10, "because of its liberal teachings and his belief that all liberals should be killed because they were ruining the country, and that he felt that the Democrats had tied his country's hands in the war on terror and they had ruined every institution in America with the aid of media outlets."

Adkisson told Still that "he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement that he would then target those that had voted them in to office."

...Inside the house, officers found "Liberalism is a Mental Health Disorder" by radio talk show host Michael Savage, "Let Freedom Ring" by talk show host Sean Hannity, and "The O'Reilly Factor," by television talk show host Bill O'Reilly.

The shotgun-wielding suspect in Sunday's mass shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was motivated by a hatred of "the liberal movement," and he planned to shoot until police shot him, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling P. Owen IV said this morning.

Adkisson, 58, of Powell wrote a four-page letter in which he stated his "hatred of the liberal movement," Owen said. "Liberals in general, as well as gays."

Adkisson said he also was frustrated about not being able to obtain a job, Owen said....

"EPA tells staff don't talk to investigators, press"

This Republican administration can't be gone soon enough.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Environmental Protection Agency is telling its pollution enforcement officials not to talk with congressional investigators, reporters and even the agency's own inspector general, according to an internal e-mail provided to The Associated Press.

The June 16 message instructs 11 managers in the EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance, the branch of the agency charged with making sure environmental laws are followed, to remind their staff members to keep quiet.

"If you are contacted directly by the IG's office or GAO requesting information of any kind ... please do not respond to questions or make any statements," reads the e-mail sent by Robbi Farrell, the division's chief of staff. Instead, staff members should forward inquiries to a designated EPA representative, the memo says.

Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility obtained the e-mail and provided it to the AP. The group is a nonprofit alliance of local, state and federal professionals. Its Web site carries the slogan, "Protecting Employees Who Protect Our Environment."

Jeff Ruch, its executive director, said Monday the e-mail reinforces a "bunker mentality" within EPA under the Bush administration.

"The clear intention behind this move is to chill the cubicles by suppressing any uncontrolled information," said Ruch...

The e-mail, according to EPA, was a response to a May 2007 audit by the Inspector General's Office that found the agency had not responded to earlier IG reports on problems with water enforcement and other matters. However, the audit did not make any specific recommendations about communications between staff and the inspector general's office.

In a statement issued Monday, the Office of Inspector General said it did not approve of the language in the e-mail and was engaged in discussions with enforcement officials to ensure the electronic dispatch would not hinder its access to information.
"All EPA officials and employees are required to cooperate with OIG," the statement said. "This cooperation includes providing the OIG full and unrestricted access to EPA documents, records, and personnel."

...The EPA is currently under pressure from several congressional committees to disclose documents relating to its position on global warming and its denial of a petition by California to control greenhouse gases from motor vehicles. Just last week, EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson denied a request to appear before two Senate committees to discuss whether the agency's decisions comply with its staff's technical and legal recommendations.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, the California Democrat who heads the Senate environment committee, said Monday the administrator had turned "the EPA into a secretive, dangerous ally of polluters, instead of a leader in the effort to protect the health and safety of the American people."...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Rock Port, MO - 100% of Energy from Wind

Vehicles in this northwest Missouri farm community are likely to be pickup trucks, and "green" is the color of a John Deere tractor.
But when it comes to alternative energy, little Rock Port - population about 1,400 - is a pioneer: it's the site of a wind farm that's projected to generate more electricity than the town uses in a year.

Four 250-foot wind turbines on the town's western bluffs are the source of Rock Port's alt-energy designation. The massive turbines linked to the city-owned utility were installed early this year by St. Louis-based Wind Capital Group, with financing from Deere & Co., the world's biggest manufacturer of farm equipment.

"We are always going to be agriculture-based. We are always going to be rural," said Eric Chamberlain, project manager for the Loess Hills Wind Farm. "But there are things we can do certainly, and we're doing it.

"I mean, when you remove your carbon footprint for the entire town for electricity production, that's a pretty big deal."

The wind turbines in Rock Port are estimated to generate about 16 million kilowatt hours of energy a year, or about 3 million more than what Rock Port typically uses. That's thanks to northwest Missouri gusts that put the region, where Wind Capital has three other, larger wind farms, among the windiest parts of Missouri, which ranks 20th in the nation in terms of wind potential.

Wind energy has been gaining momentum in the U.S., growing by 45 percent last year and now providing about 1 percent of the nation's energy, according to AWEA. A study from the Energy Department and the industry found that wind could generate 20 percent of the nation's electricity by 2030.

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens has been promoting his plan for erecting turbines in the Midwest and asked Congress this week to "clear the path" for his plan to boost use of wind and natural gas...

But that doesn't mean Rock Port is off the electrical grid and getting all its electricity from wind.

In May, for example, on days the turbines didn't spin, the town pulled its energy from the rural electric cooperative. But for the overall month, the turbines provided 107 percent of the town's needs, Chamberlain said.

When the turbines churn out more than Rock Port needs, the remaining energy is sold by Deere, which owns the turbines, back to the Missouri Public Energy Pool. The pool then distributes it to its other 31 co-op members...

Other cities like Hull, Mass., and Aspen, Colo., were earlier on the wind curve, but Rock Port's projected estimate of its turbines generating more wind than the town needs in a year appears to be a first for the U.S. Hull has been producing about 12 percent of its energy needs with two city-owned wind turbines since 2006.

And Aspen gets 75 percent of its energy from renewables, said Sally Spaulding, Aspen's director of community relations. Aspen also won the Department of Energy's Wind Power Pioneer Award for 2008 because it buys three times more wind power than any other public utility in the country on a per capita basis...

"State panel recommends strict measures to reduce plastic marine debris in California"


In a report to be release next week, the Ocean Protection Council advocates banning plastic foam cups and plastic bags, items that often end up in coastal waters and on beaches.

California's leaders should ban smoking on beaches, forbid fast-food joints from distributing polystyrene cups and containers and require markets to recycle plastic bags or ban them outright as part of an aggressive campaign to reduce plastic marine debris.

These and dozens of other recommendations are included in a report to be released next week by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Ocean Protection Council, a policy body designed to coordinate the patchwork of local efforts to protect California's waters and beaches.

Some of the recommendations would compel the state to catch up with coastal cities that are outlawing single-use plastic containers and plastic supermarket bags.

"We need to charge forward and have an overarching policy that is no less vigorous than these cities'," said Lt. Gov. John Garamendi, who was instrumental in ordering the report when he was a member of the council.

Some recommendations in the 23-page report could push California to the forefront of the anti-plastic litter campaign, by regulating toxic chemicals used in plastics and going after litterbugs more aggressively.

Besides the traditional public education campaigns, the report recommends attaching redemption fees or punitive charges to items that commonly wind up in coastal waters and on beaches.

Notably, the report says, bottles with monetary redemptions are rarely found amid the debris.

"The debris that is found on our beaches has no value," the report said. "There are costs associated with cleaning up litter, and there is no financial incentive to the individual who caused it to do otherwise."

Meanwhile, plastic bags, which are often free and can't be redeemed, make up 25% of the tonnage of debris scooped each year from storm drains in Los Angeles.

The council's report suggests toughening enforcement of anti-litter laws and increasing fines to $2,000 for a first violation and $5,000 for subsequent infractions....

An estimated 19 billion plastic bags are distributed in California each year. Fewer than 5% are recycled...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

"Gulf of Mexico "dead zone" to hit record size: NOAA"


The Gulf of Mexico's "dead zone" -- a swath of algae-laden water with oxygen levels low enough to choke out marine life -- will likely reach record size this year, and the main culprits are rising ethanol use and massive Midwest flooding, scientists said on Tuesday.

The dead zone, which recurs each year off the Texas and Louisiana coasts, could stretch to more than 8,800 square miles

this year -- about the size of New Jersey -- compared with 6,662 square miles in 2006 and nearly double the annual average since 1990 of 4,800 square miles.

Scientists from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium and Louisiana State University said the algae that lowers oxygen levels in the dead zone is being fed by farm use of fertilizers like nitrogen and phosphorus.

For fishermen who look to the Gulf of Mexico for crabs, shrimp, crawfish and other seafood, the growing dead zone means they must venture farther out into the gulf's waters to find their catch.

The record dead zone is due to soaring use of ethanol in U.S. motor gasoline supplies and by massive flooding in the Midwest earlier this year, scientists said.

"We're planting an awful lot of corn and soybeans," said Eugene Turner, a scientist at Louisiana State University. "It rinses off easily when there is a rain."

One-third of this year's U.S. corn crop, or 4 billion bushels, will go to make the alternate fuel ethanol, the U.S. government has projected, compared to 3 billion bushels of the 2007 crop.

The dead zone starts in Midwestern corn country when farmers fertilize their fields with nitrogen. The fertilizer run-off flows down the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, making algae bloom on the surface and cutting oxygen to creatures that live on the bottom.

Substances in this runoff include the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, which can stimulate the growth of algae. These algae settle and decay in the bottom waters of the Gulf, and the bacteria that decompose them gobble up oxygen faster than it can be replenished from the surface, which means lower levels of dissolved oxygen in the water.

U.S. scientists estimate that a record 83,000 tons of phosphorus seeped into the Gulf of Mexico from April through June, up to 85 percent above normal seasonal levels.

"Excess nutrients from the Mississippi River watershed during the spring are the primary human-influenced factor behind the expansion of the dead zone," said Rob Magnien, director of the NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research.

To reverse the pattern, U.S. farmers must plant more perennial crops that trap rainwater and keep it from running into the Gulf of Mexico, Turner said.

And eventually, scientists need to invent new breeds of perennial corn plants that can remain in the soil from one planting season to the next, avoiding the need to strip fields bare and leave them susceptible to flooding, he said.

"Hundreds of baby penguins found dead in Brazil"

(AP) Hundreds of baby penguins swept from the icy shores of Antarctica and Patagonia are washing up dead on Rio de Janeiro's tropical beaches, rescuers and penguin experts said Friday.

More than 400 penguins, most of them young, have been found dead on the beaches of Rio de Janeiro state over the past two months, according to Eduardo Pimenta, superintendent for the state coastal protection and environment agency in the resort city of Cabo Frio.

While it is common here to find some penguins — both dead and alive — swept by strong ocean currents from the Strait of Magellan, Pimenta said there have been more this year than at any time in recent memory.

Rescuers and those who treat penguins are divided over the possible causes.

Thiago Muniz, a veterinarian at the Niteroi Zoo, said he believed overfishing has forced the penguins to swim further from shore to find fish to eat "and that leaves them more vulnerable to getting caught up in the strong ocean currents."

Niteroi, the state's biggest zoo, already has already received about 100 penguins for treatment this year and many are drenched in petroleum, Muniz said. The Campos oil field that supplies most of Brazil's oil lies offshore.

Muniz said he hadn't seen penguins suffering from the effects of other pollutants, but he pointed out that already dead penguins aren't brought in for treatment.

Pimenta suggested pollution is to blame.

"Aside from the oil in the Campos basin, the pollution is lowering the animals' immunity, leaving them vulnerable to funguses and bacteria that attack their lungs," Pimenta said, quoting biologists who work with him.

But biologist Erli Costa of Rio de Janeiro's Federal University suggested weather patterns could be involved.

"I don't think the levels of pollution are high enough to affect the birds so quickly. I think instead we're seeing more young and sick penguins because of global warming, which affects ocean currents and creates more cyclones, making the seas rougher," Costa said.

Costa said the vast majority of penguins turning up are baby birds that have just left the nest and are unable to out-swim the strong ocean currents they encounter while searching for food.

Every year, Brazil airlifts dozens of penguins back to Antarctica or Patagonia.

"First tidal power turbine gets plugged in"

From the Guardian

An underwater turbine that generates electricity from tidal streams was plugged into the UK's national grid today. It marks the first time a commercial-scale underwater turbine has fed power into the network and the start of a new source of renewable energy for the UK.

Tidal streams are seen by many as a plentiful and predictable supply of clean energy. The most conservative estimates suggest there is at least five gigawatts of power in tidal flows around the country, but there could be as much as 15GW.

The trial at Strangford Lough, in Northern Ireland, uses a device called SeaGen and generates power at 150kW. However, engineers have plans to increase power to 300kW by the end of the summer. When it is eventually running at full power SeaGen will have an output of 1,200 kW, enough for about 1,000 homes.

SeaGen was designed and built by the Bristol-based tidal energy company Marine Current Turbines (MCT), which also installed the test device at Strangford in May.

"The best way to think of it is an underwater windmill," said Martin Wright, managing director of MCT. "There are big masses of water moving on the Earth's surface as a result of the gravitational attraction of the moon. Therefore you have streams occurring where you have accelerated flow."

Tidal generators harvest the energy of these moving streams with the added advantage that the resource is, unlike wind, predictable.

The secretary of state for business, John Hutton, said: "This kind of world-first technology and innovation is key to helping the UK reduce its dependency on fossil fuels and secure its future energy supplies.

"Marine power has the potential to play an important role in helping us meet our challenging targets for a massive increase in the amount of energy generated from renewables."

The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform supported Seagen with a £5.2m grant, helping take its plans from the drawing board to the first demonstrator.

The cost of installing the marine turbines is £3m for every megawatt they eventually generate, which compares to £2.3m per megawatt for offshore wind. The costs will drop if the technology is more widely adopted.

Robin Oakley, head of Greenpeace UK's climate and energy campaign, welcomed the SeaGen trial: "Britain should be at the forefront of marine renewable energy development. Our windswept island has huge renewable resources and we should seize the opportunities to secure energy from around our coasts...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Kay Ryan - Poet Laureate

I really like the idea of Poet Laureates and such. I think our country could use more of this sort of thing. People recognized in that way. Brought to our attention.

A clip from the New York Times

Known for her sly, compact poems that revel in wordplay and internal rhymes, Ms. Ryan has won a carriage full of poetry prizes for her funny and philosophical work, including awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 1994, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, worth $100,000.

Still, she has remained something of an outsider.

“I so didn’t want to be a poet,” Ms. Ryan, 62, said in a phone interview from her home in Fairfax, Calif. “I came from sort of a self-contained people who didn’t believe in public exposure, and public investigation of the heart was rather repugnant to me.”

But in the end “I couldn’t resist,” she said. “It was in a strange way taking over my mind. My mind was on its own finding things and rhyming things. I was getting diseased.”

Dana Gioia, a poet and the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, was an early supporter of Ms. Ryan’s work, describing her as the “thoughtful, bemused, affectionate, deeply skeptical outsider.”

“She would certainly be part of the world if she could manage it,” he said. “She has certain reservations. That is what makes her like Dickinson in some ways.”


Death by Fruit

Only the crudest
of the vanitas set
ever thought you had to get
a skull into the picture
whether you needed
its tallowy color
near the grapes or not.
Others, stopping to consider
shapes and textures,
often discovered that
eggs or aubergines
went better, or leeks,
or a plate of string beans.
A skull is so dominant.
It takes so much
bunched up drapery,
such a ponderous
display of ornate cutlery,
just to make it less prominent.
The greatest masters
preferred the subtlest vanitas,
modestly trusting to fruit baskets
to whisper ashes to ashes,
relying on the poignant exactness
of oranges to release
like a citrus mist
the always fresh fact
of how hard we resist
how briefly we’re pleased.

Nothing Ventured

Nothing exists as a block
and cannot be parceled up.
So if nothing's ventured
it's not just talk;
it's the big wager.
Don't you wonder
how people think
the banks of space
and time don't matter?
How they'll drain
the big tanks down to
slime and salamanders
and want thanks?

Repulsive Theory

Little has been made
of the soft, skirting action
of magnets reversed,
while much has been
made of attraction.
But is it not this pillowy
principle of repulsion
that produces the
doily edges of oceans
or the arabesques of thought?
And do these cutout coasts
and incurved rhetorical beaches
not baffle the onslaught
of the sea or objectionable people
and give private life
what small protection it's got?
Praise then the oiled motions
of avoidance, the pearly
convolutions of all that
slides off or takes a
wide berth; praise every
eddying vacancy of Earth,
all the dimpled depths
of pooling space, the whole
swirl set up by fending-off—
extending far beyond the personal,
I'm convinced—
immense and good
in a cosmological sense:
unpressing us against
each other, lending
the necessary never
to never-ending.


In harmony with the rule of irony—
which requires that we harbor the enemy
on this side of the barricade—the shell
of the unborn eagle or pelican, which is made
to give protection till the great beaks can harden,
is the first thing to take up poison.
The mineral case is soft and gibbous
as the moon in a lake—an elastic,
rubbery, nightmare water that won't break.
Elsewhere, also, I see the mockeries of struggle,
a softness over people.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

"Forests to fall for food and fuel"

From the BBC

Demand for land to grow food, fuel crops and wood is set to outstrip supply, leading to the probable destruction of forests, a report warns.

The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) says only half of the extra land needed by 2030 is available without eating into tropical forested areas.

A companion report documents poor progress in reforming land ownership and governance in developing countries.
Both reports will be launched on Monday in UK government offices in London.

Supporters of RRI include the UK's Department of International Development (DfID) and its equivalents in Sweden and Switzerland.

"Arguably, we are on the verge of a last great global land grab," said RRI's Andy White, co-author of the major report, Seeing People through the Trees.

"It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for everyone."

Rising demand for food, biofuels and wood for paper, building and industry means that 515 million hectares of extra land will be needed for growing crops and trees by 2030, RRI calculates.

But only 200 million hectares will be available without dipping into tropical forests.

The report foresees demand increasing further into the century.

It cites studies suggesting that "...if the current plateau in productivity continues, the amount of additional agricultural land required just to meet the world's projected food demand in 2050 would be about three billion hectares, nearly all of which would be required in developing countries."

According to UN figures, the world currently has about 1.4 billion hectares of arable land and about 3.4 billion hectares of pasture...

"A Warning From the Sea"

From the LA Times

For decades, the unwritten motto at shellfish hatcheries in the Pacific Northwest was “Better oysters through science.”

Scientists mated the heartiest, fastest-growing stock to produce plumper, sweeter oysters for slurping raw on the half-shell or frying up to dip in tangy sauces.

They probed the genetic code to select for the most desirable traits of the Pacific oyster, an import from Japan that now weighs in, pound for pound, as the No. 1 aquacultured crop in the world: 4.5 million tons a year (shells included) valued at $3 billion.

They even bred out sexual organs that at certain times of the year can take up more than a third of an oyster’s body weight and give it a soft, mushy texture.

With selective breeding and genetic fingerprinting, they were on their way to developing a super oyster resistant to summer mortality, keeping one step ahead of a warmer, more polluted planet. Or so they thought.

Suddenly, oyster research bogged down as a riotous bloom of bacteria went on a West Coast killing spree, wiping out billions of oyster larvae.

The outbreak first shut down an oyster brood stock program run by Oregon State University in Newport, Ore., in 2005. “All we saw was our larvae were dying,” said fisheries professor Chris Langdon, “and we couldn’t put our finger on why.”

Then the microscopic culprit overran commercial hatcheries in Washington and Oregon, crippling production over the last couple of years and causing a shortage of oyster “seed” needed to replant tideland farms from Southern California to Canada.

“It’s pretty scary,” said Sue Cudd, owner of Whiskey Creek Shellfish Hatchery in Netarts, Ore. The hatchery, she said, has been drowning in costs and failing to produce sufficient oyster larvae for West Coast shellfish farmers. “We almost decided to close, and people panicked. I realized if I go out of business, I take a lot of people with me.”

Science has identified the culprit, a strain of bacteria called Vibrio tubiashii, which is harmless to humans but fatal to baby oysters. It attacks them in their vulnerable, free-swimming larval stage before they settle to the seafloor, latch onto rocks or other oysters and grow thick shells.

The Vibrio blooms appear to be linked to warmer waters in estuaries and the oxygen-starved “dead zones” that have showed up this decade off the coast of Oregon and Washington, researchers said.

These low-oxygen waters correlate with stronger winds coming from a warming planet.

Scientists note that Vibrio tubiashii has an advantage over other microscopic life in the sea. This bacterium thrives in oxygen-starved dead zones, feasting on decaying plant and animal matter littering the seafloor. And when brought to the surface with water welling up from the deep, it can switch survival strategies to flourish in warm, well-oxygenated waters.

Researchers were not surprised to find this type of bacteria in seawater but were stunned that it had become so dominant over other microbes: It was nearly a pure concentration of this one bacteria, one that happens to be deadly to oyster larvae.

“It seems to be logical that the dead zone is playing a role,” said Ralph Elston, who runs a veterinary medical practice in Sequim, Wash., that offers advice to shellfish farmers. “It’s the perfect bacterial setup, and we get these explosive blooms along the coast.”

...The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which funds the Molluscan Broodstock Program at Oregon State’s hatchery, is exploring microbial warfare.

Gary Richards, a USDA researcher at the University of Delaware, has been screening seawater samples to find a virus, or bacteriophage, that would seek out and destroy Vibrio tubiashii. Marine bacteria often have such natural enemies. An intervention, such as releasing the right “phage,” as they are called, could avoid “an ecological disaster of monumental proportions,” Richards wrote in an e-mail to scientists and hatchery managers.

As filter feeders, shellfish clean seawater of excess algae and nutrients, maintaining healthy coastal waters. When oysters disappear, as they did in the Chesapeake Bay, an estuary’s water can turn murky and foul.

“With the loss of oysters, the water in the Chesapeake became more turbid, restricting light penetration to plants and sea life, and the higher nutrient levels made algal blooms more common,” Richards wrote. “The West Coast needs to avoid this at all cost.”

So scientists like Donal T. Manahan and Dennis Hedgecock at USC, among others, have spent decades hovering over bubbling tanks of oysters to improve on nature. They’ve been selecting stocks with more productive pedigrees that offer the double benefit of cleaning coastal waters and multiplying the bounty of this gastronomic treat.

“Our hybrids do better than wild oysters,” producing two to three times more oyster meat per acre of shellfish beds, Hedgecock said. Yet as the bacterial outbreak reminded them, the first step of any successful breeding program is to make sure oysters don’t die....

"Chesapeake watermen fear blue crab not coming back"

(AP) Chesapeake Bay crabber Paul Kellam has advice for the teenage boys who help tend his traps every summer: You better have a backup plan.

It's an anxious summer for watermen harvesting the Chesapeake's best-loved seafood, the blue crab. The way some see it, the crabbing business here isn't just dying. It's already dead.

Crabs have thrived in the bottom muck of the Chesapeake and its tributaries even as centuries of overfishing harmed oysters, fish and other species in the nation's largest estuary. Now blue crabs are in trouble, too, and when they go, a way of life is sure to go with them.

"There was a time when crabbers were only out here from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Now, it's about all we have left," says Kellam, 53, steering his 30-year-old rig "Christy" out of the Potomac River and onto the bay for a day of crabbing. The contradictory decor in the cabin sums up the outlook of today's waterman: a red wooden good-luck horseshoe dangles over a mud-splattered copy of "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook."

The bay's blue crab stock is down about 65 percent since 1990 due to overfishing and water pollution, according to Virginia and Maryland fisheries managers. The states have imposed steep cuts on this year's female crab harvest, aiming to reduce the number of crabs taken by more than a third.

For Kellam and his neighbors in southern Maryland, where the working rigs and crab picking houses that sustained these communities for generations have been replaced by yachts and vacation homes, hopes are dim that the blue crabs will ever come back.

"It's looking worse every year," says Bob McKay, who at 74 is the oldest working waterman in St. Mary's County. He still sells crabs out of a shed in his yard but doubts the industry will live much longer than he does. "I don't know what the solution could be."

Watermen have turned to real estate and automobile repair. They've opened seafood restaurants and bakeries.

The best way to make money on the Chesapeake these days is taking businessmen from Washington and Philadelphia on charter fishing trips. Those who still rely on crabbing are further hurt by a double punch of higher fuel costs and an economic downturn that's meant fewer consumers dropping up to $200 on a bushel of crabs.

"People don't have the disposable income. They're just not buying," says Kellam, who spends up to $150 a day on diesel, which costs about $5 a gallon at a nearby marina.

There was a time when Chesapeake watermen made their living off the winter oyster harvest, using hand tongs and later power dredges to supply most of the world's oysters. But disease and over-harvesting nearly wiped out Chesapeake oysters in the 1980s, and despite millions invested in restoration, they've never recovered. Scientists estimate the Chesapeake now contains about 1 percent of the oysters it once did.

After the oyster industry collapsed, watermen looked to hardy blue crabs to make up the slack. But the next generation may not have another option.

"I want to make a living on the water," says Randy Plummer, a chain-smoking 19-year-old who works on Kellam's crab rig. "But there ain't no future in it. Everybody knows that."

Plummer has wanted to crab since he was a boy, but is instead headed to community college this fall, at the urging of Kellam and his parents.

Even scientists who called for the harvest reductions say overfishing isn't entirely to blame.

The main culprit is water pollution and soil runoff from development throughout a watershed that is home to 10 million people. Excess nutrients wash into the Chesapeake, causing algae blooms and choking the native plant life that crabs rely on for food and habitat. In the summer, large swaths of the Chesapeake contain so little oxygen that scientists call them "dead zones," because few critters can live there.

Watermen call it "bad water," and they track it all summer, following crabs as they skitter to shallower water that contains more oxygen. Even when watermen luck out and pull up a pot full of crabs, long-timers say the crabs are nothing like they used to be.

"Sometimes in the summer, you pull the pots up, they've got algae and mud all over them. The bad water comes in and coats everything and the crabs can't stand it," Kellam explains.

He now spends hours hauling up the same number of crabs he could catch in a few pots a decade ago. And what he catches isn't as healthy-looking as the crabs he caught as a boy. Wholesalers are buying them anyway.

"They're buying a lot of stuff that 10 years ago they would've turned away," Kellam says.

Maryland and Virginia officials have responded to the watermen's plight by asking the federal government for a disaster declaration that would free up about $20 million to subsidize crabbers and seafood processors until blue crabs rebound.

Maryland is also working on sweeping revisions to state planning laws with an eye toward protecting its 3,000 or so miles of shoreline. Already this year, the state toughened zoning laws dealing with development closest to the water, a law that aims to reduce sediment and pollution running into the Chesapeake and its tributaries.

"It's certainly getting more difficult to make a living on the water," conceded Lynn Fegley, a biologist in charge of crabs for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. But Fegley says the cynicism along the Chesapeake is unfounded. There will always be Chesapeake blue crabs, she says — as long as watermen lay off them when the stock dips.

"As the watershed gets more crowded, the face of the fishery may change. But people are always going to want seafood, right? It's healthy and it's delicious. What we have to do is find a way to harvest seafood that's sustainable for the future," Fegley says.

But Thomas Courtney, who sells Kellam the alewife fish he uses for bait, laughs when asked whether state efforts to revive blue crabs will bring them back.

"It ain't what we're pulling out of the water. It's what we're putting in the water," says Courtney, 62. "You've got a cornfield, 20 acres, you put 80 or 90 houses on it, hook 'em up to sewer pipes, put roads and ditches down. That's what's destroyed the bay. It ain't us. They let development take over and then, that's it, we're done."

Monday, July 14, 2008

"Invasion Of The Jellyfish" (CT)


Waterford beach lifeguards Anders Drew and Silvia Stockman spend most of their mornings now scooping up swarms of jellyfish from the shoreline before beachgoers arrive. But all their scooping still can't stop people from getting stung.

”This is probably the worst year we have had,” said Stockman, who's been at the beach four years.

Drew, the head lifeguard, agreed.

”They beat us here this year,” he said.

While jellyfish are common at the region's beaches each summer, they've arrived earlier than normal.

”They've been stung today already,” said Barbara Stack of Waterford Saturday afternoon, motioning towards her two daughters and a friend who were playing at the water's edge.

Barbara and her husband, Ted, grew up in Waterford. Both said they did not remember a jellyfish problem in their childhood.

Dave Simpson, the acting director of marine fisheries for the Department of Environmental Protection, said the jellyfish invading Long Island Sound this year are “typical” lion's mane jellyfish, which, apart from a minor sting, do not present much of a threat to beachgoers unlike the Portuguese man-of-war that washed up on Westerly and Stonington beaches last summer.

The fruitful jellyfish population, however, is not as alarming as their ahead-of-schedule debut to southeastern Connecticut shores, according to jellyfish expert Megan Pried.

Pried, who has worked for the last year and a half at the Mystic Aquarium and Institute for Exploration, said it is normal for jellyfish to be this abundant. What is out of the ordinary is their advanced arrival.

Pried said that locals reported jellyfish sightings as early as April. The normal jellyfish season begins at the end of May or the beginning of June, she said.

She credited the jellies' early arrival to warmer water temperatures.

”I do believe that global warming has some play in the temperatures warming up,” she said. “A lot of animals just go by temperature. They don't really know what else is going on.”

Pried explained that if jellyfish sense the water has reached a certain temperature, they will start reproducing and grow larger regardless of the season. She also said when the water is warmer, there is more food, helping the jellies grow faster, and prompting them to migrate to an ample food source.

The jellyfish follow their food - algae blooms - or come this direction with the Gulf Stream.

At the aquarium, Pried said the water is purposefully warmed, causing baby jellyfish, called ephrya, to come off of their polyps and begin feeding and moving about.

This is currently taking place in Long Island Sound. Due to balmy seas, the ephrya are now starting this process prematurely. But jellies are not the only confused marine life. ”Lionfish and other tropical fish that follow the Gulf Stream pop up in our waters and are not normally here,” Pried added.

She warns that lionfish are a venomous species that can cause a great deal of pain to bathers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

"Fuel rationing may have to be formalised" (India)

From Expressindia

Petrol supplies already down 25%, diesel 50% as oil firms have cut purchases in response to rising global crude prices
Rationing of petrol and diesel, already a de facto reality in many of the city’s petrol pumps, may well become a way of life if the authorities get emboldened to come clean on the prevailing fuel situation, which has been plaguing the city for a month now. Pune Petrol Dealers’ Association president Babasaheb Dhumal said that such a situation may come to pass soon as there is already a 25 per cent shortfall of petrol supplies while diesel supplies are down 50 per cent. “We have been told that oil companies have cut down on purchases with the rising crude oil prices and rationing of fuel is, therefore, bound to come into effect,” he explained.

Ali Daruwalla, who owns a petrol pump in the Camp area agreed, saying that the fuel shortage was a reality and oil companies are helpless in sorting out the issue as there is a directive from the Central government to cut down sales by 10-20 per cent compared to last year. “Last year, our pump sold 500 kilolitres. This year our sales are up 20 per cent but the oil company has requested us not to uplift more than what we sold last year. To overcome this shortage, we have started closing at 10 pm as against at midnight, when we used to close shop till only a week ago,” Daruwalla said. He added that this situation will continue for a couple of months.

The fuel shortage is all too real for Sagar Khare, a student who had a harrowing time today as he saw that two petrol pumps in Pimpri had put up “no stock” boards. “I had to push my vehicle for almost 4 km to get petrol,” he said.

The situation was no different in the Camp area as Seema Yadav, a government officer, has been only too aware. “I’ve been filling petrol worth Rs 200 a go for the last one month as pumps keep putting up “no stock” boards regularly these days. Till a month back, I used to fill petrol worth only Rs 100,” she said.

Normally, the district needs 300 tankers of diesel and 150 tankers of petrol a day; currently there is shortage of both. “We are getting only 150 tankers of diesel and around 125 tankers of petrol. What’s worrying is that even this supply is decreasing. Yesterday, there was a 15 per cent shortage and today it has dipped to 25 per cent,” he said.

"Fall in tiny animals a 'disaster'"

Global warming is considered to be a factor.

From the BBC

Experts on invertebrates have expressed "profound shock" over a government report showing a decline in zooplankton of more than 70% since the 1960s.

The tiny animals are an important food for fish, mammals and crustaceans.

Figures contained in the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) document, Marine Programme Plan, suggested a fall in abundance.

Charity Buglife said it could be a "biodiversity disaster of enormous proportions".

They said it could have implications for creatures all the way up the food chain, from sand eels to the seabirds, such as puffin, which feed on the fish.

"Zooplankton is the basis of many food chains in the marine environment"
Craig Macadam

Defra described the Marine Programme Plan as one of the department's high impact programmes, reporting directly to the Defra board and used to guide policy.

Buglife director Matt Shardlow has written to Rodney Anderson, director of marine and fisheries at Defra, praising the level of information in the document but also expressing the organisation's serious concerns.

In his letter, seen by the BBC Scotland news website, Mr Shardlow said: "The disappearance of butterflies, moth, bees, riverflies and other small animals is an environmental tragedy.

"But, despite this experience, we were profoundly shocked to read that zooplankton abundance has declined by about 73% since 1960 and about 50% since 1990.

"This is a biodiversity disaster of enormous proportions."

A graph shown in the report charts a steady decline in zooplankton from 1990 to 2006.

Buglife Scottish officer, Craig Macadam, said climate change could be a factor.

He said: "Zooplankton is the basis of many food chains in the marine environment.

"Without them it is going to cause problems further up the chain."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gardens and Moths

I was outside by the wildflower garden this evening around 9:30 - it was almost dark - but light enough to see pretty well without lights. The moon, the half that was visible, was out.

So I hear all of this buzzing and it looked sort of like hummingbirds at the daylilies nearby - but it wasn't. It was some kind of hawk moth with a striped body. There seemed to be several. Later there was another kind of smaller darker moth at the same kind of lily.

I looked it up online and it sounds like they like to lay their eggs on cherry trees. There are several of those trees nearby. I'll have to look when it's light out.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Overfishing worse than thought"

I think the conclusions here are suspect. The idea that whatever fishing is going unreported is attributable to people fishing for their families. I don't buy that subsistence and recreational fishing is equal to commercial fishing - which is how I am interpreting the articles....

From Nature:

Global fisheries statistics generally paint a grim picture of ocean health, revealing rampant overfishing and declining fish catches in various regions. But a new study suggests that, in the tropics at least, the statistics have been telling only half the depressing story — if that.

Subsistence fishing in the tropics has a much greater impact than previously thought.Punchstock
The work, presented Tuesday at the 11th International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, suggests that for fifteen of twenty tropical island nations and territories examined, subsistence and recreational fishing has gone almost completely unreported over the past half-century. Such fishing actually collects a volume of reef fish at least as great as official statistics show, and in most cases much more.

"The whole picture of fisheries that we have is basically wrong," says lead author Daniel Pauly, of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. "The underreporting is of such magnitude that it boggles the mind." The results, say Pauly and his colleagues, have major implications not only for how fisheries are managed in these areas, but also for how long local subsistence fishers can continue to support their families.

Another article: Hawaiian Islands' reef fish declining, study finds

Sharks, jacks, parrot fish and other colorful reef fish are quickly disappearing from coral reefs encircling the Hawaiian Islands, federal scientists reported Tuesday.

The scientists blamed overfishing for the steep decline, which affects three-quarters of the species once commonly found on coral reefs, delighting snorkeling tourists and feeding subsistence fishermen in Hawaii's coastal communities.

Many of these fish, ecologists say, are key to maintaining healthy coral reefs because they keep reefs clean by grazing on algae that can quickly overgrow the stony corals and cause them to collapse.

Alan Friedlander, a federal fisheries ecologist, said that Hawaii still had relatively healthy reefs. "So everything hasn't collapsed yet," he said. "But we need to protect healthy reefs, because it's so much easier and safer to conserve now than it is to try to rebuild later."

The results of the study were released at the International Coral Reef Symposium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Nearly 3,000 scientists, managers and conservationists have congregated there to pore over the latest science and wrestle with ways to protect the world's coral reefs, which are in a state of steep decline.

Many prominent scientists think that overfishing represents one of the greatest challenges to maintaining and restoring healthy coral reefs.

Daniel Pauly, director of the University of British Columbia's Fisheries Centre, pointed out Tuesday that international authorities and local governments on Pacific island nations had little understanding of how many fish were being removed from coral reefs by small-scale subsistence fishermen.

For the most part, catch data compiled by American Samoa and other such island nations do not include all the small-boat fishermen who paddle or motor out to catch fish for themselves and their families. Comparing census data of per-person fish consumption and other sources, Pauly and his team of researchers discovered that in some cases the unreported catches were 17 times higher than reported catches. On average, they were at least twice as high.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Small-scale ethanol production plant

Floyd Butterfield, in his research facility in Paso Robles, won an award in 1981 for a small plant that made ethanol from alcohol. Now he’s working to build trash-to-fuel plants in the Midwest and ethanol makers for personal use.


• What it is: Ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks.

• Uses: As a biofuel alternative to gasoline.

• How it’s made: Mass-produced by fermentation of sugar from corn or sugar cane.

• Can I run my car on it? Not yet. Today’s auto engines can handle gas mixed with up to 10 percent ethanol. Autos running on 100 percent ethanol fuel are found in Brazil.

Floyd Butterfield was ahead of today’s need for alternative energy sources when he built a small Paso Robles plant that would produce fuel from alcohol — in 1981.

But not until recently, as gas prices started creeping up, has Butterfield’s contest-winning design for a small-scale ethanol production plant garnered worldwide attention.

The North County man is now designing and consulting for two innovative ethanol-based businesses. One includes production of four small-scale gas-from-trash plants in the Midwest, and another could bring ethanol production into your own backyard.

“To me, the writing on the wall for the oil business has been there for 20 years. It’s going to slowly get more and more expensive because the resource is disappearing. It makes sense to me that we cannot run the world’s economies on a resource that’s finite,” said Butterfield...

As a young geophysicist, Butterfield worked in water exploration for several years after earning a graduate degree from Colorado’s School of Mines. When he tired of the constant travel, he came home to Paso Robles and tried to think of a business idea.

The 1980 gas crisis fueled his thoughts. Prices at the pump had skyrocketed, not unlike today, and rationing had been instituted. He decided to build a small plant that would make fuel from alcohol.

With backing from Santa Ynez investor Stuart Gildred, Butterfield designed an ethanol plant and built it on property on North River Road between Paso Robles and San Miguel. The design won a statewide competition, but production at the plant lasted only three years.

“We couldn’t make any money,” he recalled, because once prices at the pump stabilized, people were no longer interested in ethanol.

The gas crisis faded and prices went back down. People stopped talking about needing oil alternatives. Butterfield went into farming and grew lima beans and carrots. The plant eventually was abandoned.

How it works

Making fuel from foodstuff is similar to wine production, Butterfield explained. The key ingredient is starchy waste foods. The fuel plants on which Butterfield is working in the Midwest will start with outdated soda pop, old bread, tortillas, cereals, or waste grains or sugar from food manufacturing companies.

A process of fermentation and distillation follows. Chemical processes along the way create a vapor gas that becomes liquid ethanol.

Major U. S. ethanol producers make 100 million gallons a year. The plants Butterfield is working on will be much smaller, between half a million to 5 million gallons annually.

Some gas stations sell fuel that is up to 10 percent ethanol now, usually for a slightly lower price than regular gasoline. Some cities in the U. S. have mandated that all gas stations use ethanol-blended gas.

Butterfield’s other job takes the ethanol production process straight to the consumer. He has developed a $10,000 home-based machine for producing gas. The E-Fuel 100 Microfueler machine, about the size of a standard refrigerator with a washing machine attached, produces up to 35 gallons of ethanol a week. In theory, Butterfield says, consumers would be able to make enough fuel at home to power their cars and other gas-powered things and could stockpile extra for use when needed. Of course, car engines would need to have the ability to run on 100 percent ethanol fuel.

“Our vision is it will be a lot like doing a load of laundry. Instead of putting clothes in, you’ll put in feed stock, close the lid, press a button, a few days later you have gallons of ethanol,” he explained.

The machine has a pump system so that the fuel it produces can be put directly into cars...

“Henry Ford started the automobile revolution using ethanol, predicting that this renewable and accessible fuel would become the ‘fuel of the future,’ ” he said during the May launch of the Microfueler. “If not for the Prohibition laws in the 1920s and the subsequent rise of the oil industry, ethanol may never have lost its public appeal. E-Fuel will deliver on Ford’s prediction and enable consumers to bypass the costly oil infrastructure and their reliance on fossil fuels.”...

“I thought in 1980 the world was running out of oil. All the signs were there,” he said. “That was true back then, it’s just we were able to stave it off for 25 years. Now we can’t.”

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

"Cheney wanted cuts in climate testimony"

Vice President Dick Cheney's office pushed for major deletions in congressional testimony on the public health consequences of climate change, fearing the presentation by a leading health official might make it harder to avoid regulating greenhouse gases, a former EPA officials maintains.

When six pages were cut from testimony on climate change and public health by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last October, the White House insisted the changes were made because of reservations raised by White House advisers about the accuracy of the science.

But Jason K. Burnett, until last month the senior adviser on climate change to Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Stephen Johnson, says that Cheney's office was deeply involved in getting nearly half of the CDC's original draft testimony removed.

"The Council on Environmental Quality and the office of the vice president were seeking deletions to the CDC testimony (concerning) ... any discussions of the human health consequences of climate change," Burnett has told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee...

Cheney's office also objected last January over congressional testimony by Administrator Johnson that "greenhouse gas emissions harm the environment."

An official in Cheney's office "called to tell me that his office wanted the language changed" with references to climate change harming the environment deleted, Burnett said. Nevertheless, the phrase was left in Johnson's testimony.

Cheney's office and the White House Council on Environmental Quality worried that if key health officials provided detailed testimony about global warming's consequences on public health or the environment, it could make it more difficult to avoid regulating carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, Burnett believes.

The EPA currently is examining whether carbon dioxide, a leading greenhouse gas, poses a danger to public health and welfare. The Supreme Court has said if it does, it must be regulated under the Clean Air Act...

Monday, July 07, 2008

"THE ISLAND IN THE WIND" (Samsø in Denmark)

A Danish community’s victory over carbon emissions.
by Elizabeth Kolbert

From the New Yorker

Samsø, which is roughly the size of Nantucket, sits in what’s known as the Kattegat, an arm of the North Sea. The island is bulgy in the south and narrows to a bladelike point in the north, so that on a map it looks a bit like a woman’s torso and a bit like a meat cleaver. It has twenty-two villages that hug the narrow streets; out back are fields where farmers grow potatoes and wheat and strawberries. Thanks to Denmark’s peculiar geography, Samsø is smack in the center of the country and, at the same time, in the middle of nowhere.

For the past decade or so, Samsø has been the site of an unlikely social movement. When it began, in the late nineteen-nineties, the island’s forty-three hundred inhabitants had what might be described as a conventional attitude toward energy: as long as it continued to arrive, they weren’t much interested in it. Most Samsingers heated their houses with oil, which was brought in on tankers. They used electricity imported from the mainland via cable, much of which was generated by burning coal. As a result, each Samsinger put into the atmosphere, on average, nearly eleven tons of carbon dioxide annually.

Then, quite deliberately, the residents of the island set about changing this. They formed energy coöperatives and organized seminars on wind power. They removed their furnaces and replaced them with heat pumps. By 2001, fossil-fuel use on Samsø had been cut in half. By 2003, instead of importing electricity, the island was exporting it, and by 2005 it was producing from renewable sources more energy than it was using.

The residents of Samsø that I spoke to were clearly proud of their accomplishment. All the same, they insisted on their ordinariness. They were, they noted, not wealthy, nor were they especially well educated or idealistic. They weren’t even terribly adventuresome. “We are a conservative farming community” is how one Samsinger put it. “We are only normal people,” Tranberg told me. “We are not some special people.”

his year, the world is expected to burn through some thirty-one billion barrels of oil, six billion tons of coal, and a hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas. The combustion of these fossil fuels will produce, in aggregate, some four hundred quadrillion B.T.U.s of energy. It will also yield around thirty billion tons of carbon dioxide. Next year, global consumption of fossil fuels is expected to grow by about two per cent, meaning that emissions will rise by more than half a billion tons, and the following year consumption is expected to grow by yet another two per cent.

When carbon dioxide is released into the air, about a third ends up, in relatively short order, in the oceans. (CO2 dissolves in water to form a weak acid; this is the cause of the phenomenon known as “ocean acidification.”) A quarter is absorbed by terrestrial ecosystems—no one is quite sure exactly how or where—and the rest remains in the atmosphere. If current trends in emissions continue, then sometime within the next four or five decades the chemistry of the oceans will have been altered to such a degree that many marine organisms—including reef-building corals—will be pushed toward extinction. Meanwhile, atmospheric CO2 levels are projected to reach five hundred and fifty parts per million—twice pre-industrial levels—virtually guaranteeing an eventual global temperature increase of three or more degrees. The consequences of this warming are difficult to predict in detail, but even broad, conservative estimates are terrifying: at least fifteen and possibly as many as thirty per cent of the planet’s plant and animal species will be threatened; sea levels will rise by several feet; yields of crops like wheat and corn will decline significantly in a number of areas where they are now grown as staples; regions that depend on glacial runoff or seasonal snowmelt—currently home to more than a billion people—will face severe water shortages; and what now counts as a hundred-year drought will occur in some parts of the world as frequently as once a decade.

Today, with CO2 levels at three hundred and eighty-five parts per million, the disruptive impacts of climate change are already apparent. The Arctic ice cap, which has shrunk by half since the nineteen-fifties, is melting at an annual rate of twenty-four thousand square miles, meaning that an expanse of ice the size of West Virginia is disappearing each year. Over the past ten years, forests covering a hundred and fifty million acres in the United States and Canada have died from warming-related beetle infestations. It is believed that rising temperatures are contributing to the growing number of international refugees—“Climate change is today one of the main drivers of forced displacement,” the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, António Guterres, said recently—and to armed conflict: some experts see a link between the fighting in Darfur, which has claimed as many as three hundred thousand lives, and changes in rainfall patterns in equatorial Africa.

“If we keep going down this path, the Darfur crisis will be only one crisis among dozens of others,” President Nicolas Sarkozy, of France, told a meeting of world leaders in April. The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, has called climate change “the defining challenge of our age.”

In the context of this challenge, Samsø’s accomplishments could be seen as trivial. Certainly, in numerical terms they don’t amount to much: all the island’s avoided emissions of the past ten years are overwhelmed by the CO2 that a single coal-fired power plant will emit in the next three weeks, and China is building new coal-fired plants at the rate of roughly four a month. But it is also in this context that the island’s efforts are most significant. Samsø transformed its energy systems in a single decade. Its experience suggests how the carbon problem, as huge as it is, could be dealt with, if we were willing to try.
amsø set out to reinvent itself thanks to a series of decisions that it had relatively little to do with. The first was made by the Danish Ministry of Environment and Energy in 1997. The ministry, looking for ways to promote innovation, decided to sponsor a renewable-energy contest. In order to enter, a community had to submit a plan showing how it could wean itself off fossil fuels. An engineer who didn’t actually live on Samsø thought the island would make a good candidate. In consultation with Samsø’s mayor, he drew up a plan and submitted it. When it was announced that Samsø had won, the general reaction among residents was puzzlement. “I had to listen twice before I believed it,” one farmer told me.

The brief surge of interest that followed the announcement soon dissipated. Besides its designation as Denmark’s “renewable-energy island,” Samsø received basically nothing—no prize money or special tax breaks, or even government assistance. One of the few people on the island to think the project was worth pursuing was Søren Hermansen....

The 2000-Watt Society ->

Most of the people in the world today consume far less than this. The average Bangladeshi, for example, uses only about twenty-six hundred kilowatt-hours a year—this figure includes all forms of energy, from electricity to transportation fuel—which is the equivalent of using roughly three hundred watts continuously. The average Indian uses about eighty-seven hundred kilowatt-hours a year, making India a one-thousand-watt society, while the average Chinese uses about thirteen thousand kilowatt-hours a year, making China a fifteen-hundred-watt society.

Those of us who live in the industrialized world, by contrast, consume far more than two thousand watts. Switzerland, for instance, is a five-thousand-watt society. Most other Western European countries are six-thousand-watt societies; the United States and Canada run at twelve thousand watts. One of the founding principles of the 2,000-Watt Society is that this disparity is in itself unsustainable. “It’s a basic matter of fairness” is how Stulz put it to me. But increasing energy use in developing countries to match that of industrialized nations would be unacceptable on ecological grounds. Were per-capita demand in the developing world to reach current European levels, global energy consumption would more than double, and were it to rise to the American level, global energy consumption would more than triple. The 2,000-Watt Society gives industrialized countries a target for cutting energy use at the same time that it sets a limit for growth in developing nations.

The last time Switzerland was a two-thousand-watt society was in the early nineteen-sixties. By the end of that decade, energy use had reached three thousand watts, and by the mid-seventies it was up to four thousand watts. This rapid rise could be said to follow from technological advances—the spread of automobiles, the advent of jet travel, the proliferation of appliances and electronic devices—or it could be seen as just the reverse: a failure to apply technology where it is needed...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

"Utah is going to a 4-day workweek to save energy"

Starting next month, it will be "TGIT" for Utah state employees. As in: "Thank God It's Thursday."

In a yearlong experiment aimed at reducing the state's energy costs and commuters' gasoline expenses, Utah is about to become the first state to switch to a four-day workweek for thousands of government employees.

They will put in 10-hour days, Monday through Thursday, and have Fridays off, freeing them to golf, shop, spend time with the kids or do anything else that strikes their fancy. They will get paid the same as before....

"Pirate fishing boats target Africa"

From the BBC

There is a kind of theft that happens every day in a majority of the world's poor countries - and in many of the richer ones too.
It usually happens out of sight, and most perpetrators get away with it.

The monetary value of this theft is about $15bn per year; the ecological cost can only be guessed at.

Yet many people would turn their noses up if they chanced upon a trove of this treasure.
Because these jewels are fish.

"Those that are fishing illegally, they are paying nothing, so we are losing something from our country", says Mamadou Diallo, programme manager for the environmental group WWF's West Africa office, and a former fisheries officer.

The amount that Africa is losing, if new figures from David Agnew of Imperial College London are right, is about $1bn per year - the cost of licences that illegal fishers should have paid to catch what they are catching.

The ecological cost may, in the long run, be much higher.

"The immediate ecological impact is damage to habitat, because they are using trawls, and trawls are not always good for the ecosystems - they damage habitat for fish," says Dr Diallo.

"The second thing is pollution, because they are discharging at sea, and they can do anything they want."

Precisely how much fish is removed illegally from West African waters is not known - apart from anything else, there is little good data on the state of stocks before the plunder began.

Elsewhere, where ecosystems and commercial fish numbers have been studied for longer, it is clear that illegal fishing can help wreak major damage.

In the Mediterranean Sea, where scientists estimate that illegal catches of bluefin tuna in recent years have almost matched legal catches in weight, changes are afoot...

"Solar Water Heaters Now Mandatory In Hawaii"

Hawaii has become the first state to require solar water heaters in new homes. The bill was signed into law by Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican. It requires the energy-saving systems in homes starting in 2010. It prohibits issuing building permits for single-family homes that do not have solar water heaters. Hawaii relies on imported fossil fuels more than any other state, with about 90 percent of its energy sources coming from foreign countries, according to state data.

The new law prohibits issuing building permits for single-family homes that do not have solar water heaters. Some exceptions will be allowed, such as forested areas where there are low amounts of sunshine.

State Sen. Gary Hooser, vice chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee, first introduced the measure five years ago when he said a barrel of oil cost just $40. Since then, the cost of oil has more than tripled.

“It’s abundantly clear that we need to take some serious action to protect Hawaii because we’re so dependent on oil,” Hooser said. “I’m very pleased the governor is recognizing the importance of this bill and the huge public benefits that come out of it.”

Can't save everything :(

"Long-held views on saving the planet's ecosystems considered anew"

The Defenders of Wildlife, like many environmental groups, is dedicated to the philosophy of biologist Aldo Leopold - that "saving all the parts" of the world's ecosystems is the foundation of conservation.

"To keep every cog and wheel is the first precaution of intelligent tinkering," Leopold wrote in his classic 1940s essay "Round River." Those words became part of the foundation of the modern environmental movement.

So when Defenders climate scientist Jean Brennan and others suggest that it may be time to change the Endangered Species Act to allow some species to go extinct, it underscores the crisis they say the West and the world face from climate change.

The nation's top scientists say climate warming is "unequivocal," and much of it is "very likely due" to human causes - and that has forced corporations, investors and government officials to reconsider long-held views.

Now the emerging and fast-moving realities of climate change are forcing wildlife advocates and environmentalist to rethink their philosophies as well.

Do the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the risks? Will drawn-out court battles on governmental decisions cause more environmental harm than they do good? And the question that tears at the center of Leopold's doctrine: Can all species be saved? "If you think too much about it, it sends you into despair," said Pat Parenteau, an environmental law professor at the University of Vermont.

But federal and state scientists and managers say they have no choice but to start, and they gathered in Boise last week at the first meeting of federal officials to look ahead at what policies and strategies need to be changed.

Twenty to 40 percent of all known species could go extinct, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist and endangered species recovery expert Jeff Burgett said. And scientists say that even if greenhouse gases are dramatically reduced, it will take more than 100 years to dissipate the high levels of carbon dioxide already in the atmosphere.

The dire news was a wake-up call for agency biologists, regional managers and others who hardly were allowed even to discuss climate change over the last eight years of the Bush administration.

Brennan, Parenteau and most wildlife advocates aren't ready to give up on most species. But they no longer are looking to return ecosystems to a former pristine state. Climate change will eliminate many ecosystems around the world and create new ones that no longer can sustain the creatures and plants there now, Brennan said.

Many ecosystems that will exist in 2100 exist nowhere on Earth today, she said.

"Our grandchildren are going to grow up in a world that's unrecognizable today," said Dale Goble, a University of Idaho law professor and co-author of the book "The Endangered Species Act at Thirty." The idea that we can address the threats that species face and bring them back to recovery is the core concept that underlies the Endangered Species Act, Goble said. But "recovery" - as the law requires - is not likely to be an option.

At least 80 percent of endangered species and even many game species that survive will need special, individual management into perpetuity, Goble said.

Species like pikas, a small mammal, and even mountain goats that live in high mountains will lose their habitat and are likely to go extinct.

The warmer weather already may be affecting diseases, which could be moving north into new habitat now warm enough for them to thrive in. A parasitic brain worm is killing moose in Minnesota. West Nile virus, carried by mosquitoes, has moved west and north to threaten sage grouse and even kill people.

"We have to get a whole lot lighter on our feet," Goble said. "We have to be able to act more quickly. Taking risks means you have to try something, and if it doesn't work, you have to try something else." Parenteau has been training environmental lawyers for years to slow things down so more deliberative decisions are made about development. But now, he advocates changes in the National Environmental Policy Act that would allow the nation to move faster on alternative energy development like wind plants, solar and other non-carbon sources.

He points to held-up wind projects and a recent moratorium on solar development in western desert areas.

"I am an environmentalist who has used NEPA to slow things down," Parenteau said. "I'm now saying NEPA should be used to speed things up."

In the latest lawsuit against the dams on the Snake and Columbia rivers, salmon advocates pointed out the lack of a definitive discussion on the effects of climate change on salmon.

Tim Personius, deputy regional director of the Bureau of Reclamation, which manages some of those dams, wonders whether the salmon advocates are looking at the big picture.

The salmon groups say the only way to recover Snake River salmon is to breach four dams on the river in Washington - but the electrical generation lost would have to be replaced with sources more damaging to the climate.

"That effectively would increase carbon emissions an average of 4 million tons per year," Personius said.

Parenteau believes the trade-off of removing the relatively low-power dams to restore salmon is worth the carbon impacts. But he acknowledged that considerations like the larger impacts on thousands of species - including the salmon - from climate change should be taken in to account in Endangered Species Act decisions...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

"Electric car system planned in Denmark..."

From "The International Herald Tribune"

"Electric car system planned in Denmark by 2011 using surplus wind power"

COPENHAGEN, Denmark: Denmark's DONG Energy A/S and a Silicon Valley-based startup firm on Thursday said they would install an electric car network in the Scandinavian nation with some 20,000 recharging stations.

The grid, which is set to be in place by 2011, will be operated by Project Better Place, an initiative by Israeli-American entrepreneur Shai Agassi, using excess power from DONG Energy's wind turbines.

A similar network is being built in Israel.

A fleet of battery-driven electrical vehicles will be introduced in Denmark after the recharging stations are built at parking lots and outside homes, Agassi said.

French car maker Renault will provide the vehicles and Japan's Nissan will make the lithium-ion batteries under a partnership with Project Better Place announced earlier this year. Agassi said other car makers and battery producers would join the project later.

The battery would allow a car to drive a maximum of 150 kilometers (90 miles) before recharging, he said, adding that he expects the network to expand to other European countries soon.

"We're in discussion with 30 countries — Europe, America and Asian nations," he told The Associated Press after a news conference in Copenhagen.

When Israel's network was endorsed by the government there in January, supporters hailed it as a bold step in the battle against global warming and energy dependency, but skeptics warned that much could still go wrong along the way.

DONG Energy chief executive Anders Eldrup told reporters that the grid would run on excess energy that its wind turbines generate on windy days. Windmills make up around 20 percent of Denmark's electricity production.

"The extra energy we have, we can use in an intelligent way by putting it in batteries," Eldrup told reporters.

However, on days with no wind the grid would need to use energy from DONG's coal-fired plants, he said, adding that it would still be more environmentally friendly than having cars running on gasoline.

"The cars' CO2 emission would still be half of what it is today with fossil fuels," Eldrup said.

DONG Energy operates some of the thousands of windmills that dot Denmark, a country of 5.4 million. The small Scandinavian nation began a national windmill program in 1979 under pressure from grass roots organizations demanding new sources of electricity that have less impact on the environment than conventional plants.

NOAA Report Connects Extreme Weather to Global Warming

The "U.S. Climate Change Science Program" and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research today released a scientific assessment that provides the first comprehensive analysis of observed and projected changes in weather and climate extremes in North America and U.S. territories. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change previously evaluated extreme weather and climate events on a global basis in this same context. However, there has not been a specific assessment across North America prior to this report.

Among the major findings reported in this assessment are that droughts, heavy downpours, excessive heat, and intense hurricanes are likely to become more commonplace as humans continue to increase the atmospheric concentrations of heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

The report is based on scientific evidence that a warming world will be accompanied by changes in the intensity, duration, frequency, and geographic extent of weather and climate extremes.

"This report addresses one of the most frequently asked questions about global warming: what will happen to weather and climate extremes? This synthesis and assessment product examines this question across North America and concludes that we are now witnessing and will increasingly experience more extreme weather and climate events," said report co-chair Tom Karl, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C.

"We will continue to see some of the biggest impacts of global warming coming from changes in weather and climate extremes,” said report co-chair Gerry Meehl, Ph.D., of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo. "This report focuses for the first time on changes of extremes specifically over North America."

The full CCSP 3.3 report, Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate, and a summary FAQ brochure are available online.

Global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily to human-induced increases in heat-trapping gases, according to the report. Many types of extreme weather and climate event changes have been observed during this time period and continued changes are projected for this century. Specific future projections include:

•Abnormally hot days and nights, along with heat waves, are very likely to become more common. Cold nights are very likely to become less common.
•Sea ice extent is expected to continue to decrease and may even disappear in the Arctic Ocean in summer in coming decades.
•Precipitation, on average, is likely to be less frequent but more intense.
•Droughts are likely to become more frequent and severe in some regions.
•Hurricanes will likely have increased precipitation and wind.
•The strongest cold-season storms in the Atlantic and Pacific are likely to produce stronger winds and higher extreme wave heights.
•The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources.

NOAA plays a key role in the Climate Change Science Program, which is responsible for coordinating and integrating climate research, observations, decision support, and communications of 13 federal departments and agencies.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

"North Pole ice 'may disappear by September'"

Ice at the North Pole may disappear completely within the next few months for the first time in 20,000 years.

Arctic sea ice is now retreating so quickly that scientists say there is now a 50-50 chance that it will have gone completely by September.

The Polar regions have been the first to show the critical changes brought by global warming and it will be a hugely symbolic moment if the North Pole is left surrounded by water.

The sight of ships able sailing to the Pole for the first time would be seized on by environmental groups as an example of the consequences of a failure to take action on a global scale to combat global warming.

The Arctic is seen as an important indicator of the potentially catastrophic changes that scientists say will come as the planet warms.

Scientists who monitor the Arctic say the volume of Arctic ice peaked in March and has been in dramatic decline since.

"There is supposed to be ice at the North Pole - not water," said Mark Serreze of the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) in Colorado.

The Centre has been predicting that the Arctic Ocean could be virtually ice-free by 2012 but that point may be reached within months rather than years.

The extent of the ice stood at 5.59m square miles in April - 0.24m square miles more than it was in 2007 - but still less than the 1979-2000 average for April.

Although there is more ice than this time last year, the average decline rate through the month of April was 2,300 square miles per day faster than last April.

"Taken together, an assessment of the available evidence points to another extreme September sea ice minimum. Could the North Pole be ice free this melt season? Given that this region is currently covered with first-year ice, that seems quite possible," the Centre says in its latest bulletin.

First-year ice - which has replaced much of the thicker ice formed over millennia - is thinner and more vulnerable to melting,

The rapid decline has been due to the warm conditions over the Arctic and peripheral seas in April which in some areas was 5ºC higher than expected. Scientists say the warmer conditions were probably due to shifts in atmospheric circulation that brought warm air into the region....

Prof Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, Professor of Ocean Physics and Head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group, who was the first scientist to study what was happening beneath the Arctic in a Royal Navy submarine, agreed that there was an even chance that the ice would disappear this year.

"It is certainly the case that ice has been disappearing and last year it disappeared almost completely. Small areas of the Pack Ice have opened up before but now we have open water at the very edge of the ice below the North Pole," he said.

"As far as we can tell this has not happened for at least 20,000 years. The real shock is that it has happened so quickly with ice formed in the winter melting by the summer.

"These are the big changes that have been predicted happening before our eyes. This is perhaps the first sign of what we are in for."

"U.S. Advised Iraqi Ministry on Oil Deals"

From the New York Times

A group of American advisers led by a small State Department team played an integral part in drawing up contracts between the Iraqi government and five major Western oil companies to develop some of the largest fields in Iraq, American officials say.

The disclosure, coming on the eve of the contracts’ announcement, is the first confirmation of direct involvement by the Bush administration in deals to open Iraq’s oil to commercial development and is likely to stoke criticism.

In their role as advisers to the Iraqi Oil Ministry, American government lawyers and private-sector consultants provided template contracts and detailed suggestions on drafting the contracts, advisers and a senior State Department official said.

It is unclear how much influence their work had on the ministry’s decisions.

The advisers — who, along with the diplomatic official, spoke on condition of anonymity — say that their involvement was only to help an understaffed Iraqi ministry with technical and legal details of the contracts and that they in no way helped choose which companies got the deals.

Repeated calls to the Oil Ministry’s press office for comment were not returned.

At a time of spiraling oil prices, the no-bid contracts, in a country with some of the world’s largest untapped fields and potential for vast profits, are a rare prize to the industry. The contracts are expected to be awarded Monday to Exxon Mobil, Shell, BP, Total and Chevron, as well as to several smaller oil companies.

The deals have been criticized by opponents of the Iraq war, who accuse the Bush administration of working behind the scenes to ensure Western access to Iraqi oil fields even as most other oil-exporting countries have been sharply limiting the roles of international oil companies in development.

For its part, the administration has repeatedly denied steering the Iraqis toward decisions. “Iraq is a sovereign country, and it can make decisions based on how it feels that it wants to move forward in its development of its oil resources,” said Dana Perino, the White House spokeswoman.

Though enriched by high prices, the companies are starved for new oil fields. The United States government, too, has eagerly encouraged investment anywhere in the world that could provide new oil to alleviate the exceptionally tight global supply, which is a cause of high prices.

Iraq is particularly attractive in that light, because in addition to its vast reserves, it has the potential to bring new sources of oil onto the market relatively cheaply.

As sabotage on oil export pipelines has declined with improved security, this potential is closer to being realized. American military officials say the pipelines now have excess capacity, waiting for output to increase at the fields.

But any perception of American meddling in Iraq’s oil policies threatens to inflame opinion against the United States, particularly in Arab nations that are skeptical of American intentions in Iraq, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world.

“We pretend it is not a centerpiece of our motivation, yet we keep confirming that it is,” Frederick D. Barton, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said in a telephone interview. “And we undermine our own veracity by citing issues like sovereignty, when we have our hands right in the middle of it.”

...Consultants said the advice was necessary because the Oil Ministry, like other sectors of the Iraqi government, has experienced an exodus of qualified employees and lacks lawyers schooled in drawing up contracts....

"Iran-Contra’s ‘Lost Chapter"

by Robert Parry

As historians ponder George W. Bush’s disastrous presidency, they may wonder how Republicans perfected a propaganda system that could fool tens of millions of Americans, intimidate Democrats, and transform the vaunted Washington press corps from watchdogs to lapdogs.

To understand this extraordinary development, historians might want to look back at the 1980s and examine the Iran-Contra scandal’s “lost chapter,” a narrative describing how Ronald Reagan’s administration brought CIA tactics to bear domestically to reshape the way Americans perceived the world.

That chapter — which we are publishing here for the first time — was “lost” because Republicans on the congressional Iran-Contra investigation waged a rear-guard fight that traded elimination of the chapter’s key findings for the votes of three moderate GOP senators, giving the final report a patina of bipartisanship.

Under that compromise, a few segments of the draft chapter were inserted in the final report’s Executive Summary and in another section on White House private fundraising, but the chapter’s conclusions and its detailed account of how the “perception management” operation worked ended up on the editing room floor.

The American people thus were spared the chapter’s troubling finding: that the Reagan administration had built a domestic covert propaganda apparatus managed by a CIA propaganda and disinformation specialist working out of the National Security Council.

“One of the CIA’s most senior covert action operators was sent to the NSC in 1983 by CIA Director [William] Casey where he participated in the creation of an inter-agency public diplomacy mechanism that included the use of seasoned intelligence specialists,” the chapter’s conclusion stated.

“This public/private network set out to accomplish what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might attempt - to sway the media, the Congress, and American public opinion in the direction of the Reagan administration’s policies.”
However, with the chapter’s key findings deleted, the right-wing domestic propaganda operation not only survived the Iran-Contra fallout but thrived.

So did some of the administration’s collaborators, such as South Korean theocrat Sun Myung Moon and Australian press mogul Rupert Murdoch, two far-right media barons who poured billions of dollars into pro-Republican news outlets that continue to influence Washington’s political debates to this day.

Before every presidential election, Moon’s Washington Times plants derogatory — and often false — stories about Democratic contenders, discrediting them and damaging their chances of winning the White House.

For instance, in 1988, the Times published a bogus account suggesting that the Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis had undergone psychiatric treatment. In 2000, Moon’s newspaper pushed the theme that Al Gore suffered from clinical delusions. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]

As for Murdoch, his giant News Corp. expanded into American cable TV with the founding of Fox News in 1996. Since then, the right-wing network has proved highly effective in promoting attack lines against Democrats or anyone else who challenges the Republican power structure.

As President George W. Bush herded the nation toward war with Iraq in 2002-03, Fox News acted like his sheep dogs making sure public opinion didn’t stray too far off. The “Fox effect” was so powerful that it convinced other networks to load up with pro-war military analysts and to silence voices that questioned the invasion...

However, the failure of the Iran-Contra report to fully explain the danger of CIA-style propaganda intruding into the U.S. political process would have profound future consequences. Indeed, the evidence suggests that today’s powerful right-wing media gained momentum as part of the Casey-Raymond operations of the early 1980s.

According to one Raymond-authored memo dated Aug. 9, 1983, then-U.S. Information Agency director Charles Wick “via Murdock [sic] may be able to draw down added funds” to support pro-Reagan initiatives.

Raymond’s reference to Rupert Murdoch possibly drawing down “added funds” suggests that the right-wing media mogul was already part of the covert propaganda operation.

In line with its clandestine nature, Raymond also suggested routing the “funding via Freedom House or some other structure that has credibility in the political center.”

Unification Church founder Sun Myung Moon, publisher of the Washington Times, also showed up in the Iran-Contra operations, using his newspaper to raise contra funds and assigning his CAUSA political group to organize support for the contras.

In the two decades since the Iran-Contra scandal, both Murdoch and Moon have continued to pour billions of dollars into media outlets that have influenced the course of U.S. history, often through the planting of propaganda and disinformation much like a CIA covert action might do in a hostile foreign country.

Further, to soften up the Washington press corps, Reich’s S/LPD targeted U.S. journalists who reported information that undermined the pro-contra propaganda. Reich sent his teams out to lobby news executives to remove or punish out-of-step reporters — with a disturbing degree of success. [For more, see Parry’s Lost History.]

Some U.S. officials implicated in the Iran-Contra propaganda operations are still around, bringing the lessons of the 1980s into the new century.

For instance, Elliott Abrams. Though convicted of misleading Congress in the Iran-Contra Affair and later pardoned by President George H.W. Bush — Abrams is now deputy adviser to George W. Bush’s NSC, where he directs U.S.-Middle East policy.

Bob Kagan remains another prominent neocon theorist in Washington, writing op-eds for the Washington Post. Oliver North was given a news show on Fox.

Otto Reich now is advising Republican presidential candidate John McCain on Latin American affairs. Lee Hamilton is a senior national security adviser to Democratic candidate Barack Obama...

Bush’s former White House press secretary Scott McClellan described similar use of propaganda tactics to justify the Iraq War in his book, What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception.

From his insider vantage point, McClellan cited the White House’s “carefully orchestrated campaign to shape and manipulate sources of public approval” — and he called the Washington press corps “complicit enablers.”

"China’s Turtles, Emblems of a Crisis"

The turtle used to be a goddess in China...

From the New York Times . Part of a Series on China's pollution crisis.

Unnoticed and unappreciated for five decades, a large female turtle with a stained, leathery shell is now a precious commodity in this city’s decaying zoo. She is fed a special diet of raw meat. Her small pool has been encased with bulletproof glass. A surveillance camera monitors her movements. A guard is posted at night.

The agenda is simple: The turtle must not die.

Earlier this year, scientists concluded that she was the planet’s last known female Yangtze giant soft-shell turtle. She is about 80 years old and weighs almost 90 pounds.

As it happens, the planet also has only one undisputed, known male. He lives at a zoo in the city of Suzhou. He is 100 years old and weighs about 200 pounds. They are the last hope of saving a species believed to be the largest freshwater turtles in the world.

“It’s a very dire situation,” said Peter Pritchard, a prominent turtle expert in the United States who has helped in trying to save the species. “This one is so big and it has such an aura of mystery.”

For many Chinese, turtles symbolize health and longevity, but the saga of the last two Yangtze giant soft-shells is more symbolic of the threatened state of wildlife and biodiversity in China. Pollution, hunting and rampant development are destroying natural habitats, and also endangering plant and animal populations.

China contains some of the world’s richest troves of biodiversity, yet the latest major survey of plants and animals reveals a bleak picture that has grown bleaker during the past decade. Nearly 40 percent of all mammal species in China are now endangered, scientists say. For plants, the situation is worse; 70 percent of all nonflowering plant species and 86 percent of flowering species are considered threatened.

An overriding problem is the fierce competition for land and water. China’s goal of quadrupling its economy by 2020 means that industry, growing cities and farmers are jostling for a limited supply of usable land.

Cities or factories often claim farmland for expansion; farmers, in turn, reclaim marginal land that could be habitat. Already, China has lost half of its wetlands, according to one survey.

For the Chinese scientists and conservationists trying to reverse these trends, the challenge begins with trying to convince the government that protecting wildlife is an important priority. For centuries, Chinese leaders emphasized dominance over nature rather than coexistence with it. Animals and plants are still often regarded as commodities valued for use as medicine or food, rather than as essential pieces of a natural order.

“The whole idea of ecology and ecosystems is a new thing in the culture,” said Lu Zhi, a professor of conservation biology at Peking University...

“China is one of a small handful of countries, maybe a dozen, that has remarkably high numbers of species, and a remarkably high number of species that are not found anywhere else,” said Jeffrey A. McNeely, chief scientist for the World Conservation Union...

China has a large system of nature reserves, mostly in the country’s more remote western regions, though financing levels are far below those even in other developing countries. No Chinese protection program is considered more successful than the robust effort to save the panda. Roughly 2,000 pandas now live in panda reserves. Other captive breeding programs have helped pull the Chinese alligator and the Tibetan antelope away from the brink of extinction.

But these successes, which involve animals of symbolic national importance, are modest compared with the number of species that are neglected and edging closer to extinction. Last year, the Yangtze River dolphin, a freshwater mammal known as the baiji, was declared extinct.

“So many species are neglected,” said Dr. Lu, who also heads the China affiliate of Conservation International. “Look at the baiji. The extinction was announced and what has been done? Nothing. People felt pity.”

Then, alluding to the Yangtze giant soft-shell, also known as the Rafetus swinhoei, she added:

“This turtle will be next.”...