Friday, December 31, 2010

"50 Doomiest Graphs of 2010"

From Desdemona

For Example:

Go to the link to see more....

"Mount Everest's Sherpas Ring Warning Bell on Global Warming "

(2010 Top Environment Alert From

When sherpas ring the warning bell on climate change the world should listen: Mount Everest is becoming increasingly dangerous to climb because global warming is melting glacier ice along its slopes, according to Apa, a Nepalese Sherpa who grew up in the foothills to Mount Everest, reached the 29,035-foot (8,850-metre) summit on Saturday for the 20th time, breaking his own previous world record for 19 ascents.Rising temperatures have melted much of the ice on the steep trail to the summit and climbers are struggling to get traction on the exposed rock surface.

A recent report by scientists at University College London said the Himalayan glaciers are retreating faster than many others around the world, at rates ranging from 10 to 60 metres per year. Professor Steve Edwards, an earth scientist who coauthored the report, titled "The Waters of the Third Pole," said the effects of glacial melting posed a real risk to climbers.

“The general trend shows that the Himalayan glaciers as a whole are melting faster than many others. It is probably the fastest rate of melting in the world,” he said.

“The result is that in the summer months there is going to be a lot of slush on the ice fields. There is also the risk of glacial outburst floods, where the meltwater tops the bank of sediment left behind by the glacier during a period of intense melting and crashes down the river valley, destroying everything in its path.”

The melting ice has also exposed deep crevasses which climbers could fall into, and experts have warned that people scaling the mountain risk being swept away by “outburst floods” from rising volumes of glacial meltwater.

After returning to Kathmandu on Tuesday, Apa said: "The rising temperature on the mountains has melted much ice and snow on the trail to the summit. It is difficult for climbers to use their crampons on the rocky surfaces." He said there was hardly any exposed rock on the trail to the summit when he first climbed Everest in 1989, but now the slopes are dotted with bare rocks.

Climbing-mount-everest-10 The world’s highest mountain is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination, with a procession of novice climbers scaling the summit with the help of highly expert Sherpas like Apa. But experts have warned that many amateur climbers may not be aware of the risks they face in tackling Everest.

.Casey Kazan via The Telegraph

Sunday, December 26, 2010

"World's biggest snake threatened by backpackers"

From the Telegraph.UK:

By Michael Howie, La Paz

But for the anacondas that live in the swamps surrounding the Yacuma River in northern Bolivia, this invasion of gap year travellers and other hardy tourists is proving disastrous.

Biologists say the entire population of anacondas in one of the jewels of the Amazon basin will be wiped out within three years because of the deadly effect on the snakes of the insect repellant used by most backpackers to help protect against malaria.

The number of tourists going on tours of the pampas that snake there way through jungle and grasslands 250 miles north of La Paz has exploded from a few hundred to nearly 12,000 a year in the past decade.

Travellers are enticed by the promise of getting up close and personal with the world's largest snake - sometimes picking them up and hlding them - as well as swimming with river dolphins, catching pirhanas, and spotting monkeys, sloths and an array of other flora and fauna.

But sightings of the snake are becoming increasingly elusive and as many as 30 of the awe-inspiring creatures, which can measure up to 30ft in length and are known to strangle and devour prey as diverse as caiman crocodiles and cows, are being found dead every year, according to local guides.

Roberto Justiniano, a tour guide and biologist working closely with other scientists to assess the impact of the unrestrained tourism boom, revealed that the growing quantity of toxins being washed into the waterways from travellers is proving too much for the anacondas.

"The high-strength insect repellant that tourists use to protect themselves from mosquitos is absolutely fatal to the anacondas.
"They are amphibians and breath through their skin. The insect repellant, along with some types of sun cream, is extremely toxic. It is getting washed into the pampas and left in the swamps where tourists are hunting for the snakes.

"We are finding between 25 and 30 dead anacondas which have been poisoned. It is terrible."

Amphibians, such as snakes and frogs, are highly susceptible to the chemicals contained in many types of insect repellant, in particular those that contain DEET. This is partly because they breathe and absorb water through their skin, providing an easier way for contaminants to enter the animal's body. Environmentalists recommend using safer insect repellants based on natural oils, but many tourists complains these are less effective.

Zoologists estimate that only around 200 anacondas remain in the Yacuma River swamps, a sharp fall from the population of nearly 1,000 a few years ago.

"A few years years ago you had a 90 per cent chance of seeing anacondas - maybe three or four together. Now you are very lucky if you see one."

He added: "A study has been carried out by other biologists which shows the ecosystem will collapse in three years if things continue as they are."

The fear is that insects, fish and smaller amphibians would be wiped out within the river basin, resulting in the collapse of the entire food chain.

"Bundle Up, It’s Global Warming"

Today - Washington, DC was getting 10-12 inches of snow again (like last year). The snow extended as far south as Savannah Georgia. We got a nice Christmas Eve snow before it headed east.

From the New York Times:

Lexington, Mass.

THE earth continues to get warmer, yet it’s feeling a lot colder outside. Over the past few weeks, subzero temperatures in Poland claimed 66 lives; snow arrived in Seattle well before the winter solstice, and fell heavily enough in Minneapolis to make the roof of the Metrodome collapse; and last week blizzards closed Europe’s busiest airports in London and Frankfurt for days, stranding holiday travelers. The snow and record cold have invaded the Eastern United States, with more bad weather predicted.

All of this cold was met with perfect comic timing by the release of a World Meteorological Organization report showing that 2010 will probably be among the three warmest years on record, and 2001 through 2010 the warmest decade on record.

How can we reconcile this? The not-so-obvious short answer is that the overall warming of the atmosphere is actually creating cold-weather extremes. Last winter, too, was exceptionally snowy and cold across the Eastern United States and Eurasia, as were seven of the previous nine winters.

For a more detailed explanation, we must turn our attention to the snow in Siberia.

Annual cycles like El Niño/Southern Oscillation, solar variability and global ocean currents cannot account for recent winter cooling. And though it is well documented that the earth’s frozen areas are in retreat, evidence of thinning Arctic sea ice does not explain why the world’s major cities are having colder winters.

But one phenomenon that may be significant is the way in which seasonal snow cover has continued to increase even as other frozen areas are shrinking. In the past two decades, snow cover has expanded across the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere, especially in Siberia, just north of a series of exceptionally high mountain ranges, including the Himalayas, the Tien Shan and the Altai.

The high topography of Asia influences the atmosphere in profound ways. The jet stream, a river of fast-flowing air five to seven miles above sea level, bends around Asia’s mountains in a wavelike pattern, much as water in a stream flows around a rock or boulder. The energy from these atmospheric waves, like the energy from a sound wave, propagates both horizontally and vertically.

As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased.

The sun’s energy reflects off the bright white snow and escapes back out to space. As a result, the temperature cools. When snow cover is more abundant in Siberia, it creates an unusually large dome of cold air next to the mountains, and this amplifies the standing waves in the atmosphere, just as a bigger rock in a stream increases the size of the waves of water flowing by.

The increased wave energy in the air spreads both horizontally, around the Northern Hemisphere, and vertically, up into the stratosphere and down toward the earth’s surface. In response, the jet stream, instead of flowing predominantly west to east as usual, meanders more north and south. In winter, this change in flow sends warm air north from the subtropical oceans into Alaska and Greenland, but it also pushes cold air south from the Arctic on the east side of the Rockies. Meanwhile, across Eurasia, cold air from Siberia spills south into East Asia and even southwestward into Europe.

That is why the Eastern United States, Northern Europe and East Asia have experienced extraordinarily snowy and cold winters since the turn of this century. Most forecasts have failed to predict these colder winters, however, because the primary drivers in their models are the oceans, which have been warming even as winters have grown chillier. They have ignored the snow in Siberia.

Last week, the British government asked its chief science adviser for an explanation. My advice to him is to look to the east.

It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Eastern Arctic warming trend alarms scientists

From NunatsiaqOnline:

OTTAWA— You might think of scientists as calm and cool.

But the first three presenters during the opening session of the three-day ArcticNet conference in Ottawa sounded alarmed by the increasingly visible signs of Arctic warming and the limited amount of money that Canada will spend to understand what’s happening.

Ice has cracked up — once in a while taking Nunavut hunters with it. Lakes continue to dry up, while permafrost melts and the tundra is greening, 650 scientists, officials and northerners heard Dec. 15.

Observations from the ground in the Eastern Arctic, from places like Iqaluit — where ice in Frobisher Bay is only now forming — and views taken by satellites at 500 kilometres above the earth’s surface showed ArcticNet participants that ice formation in 2010 is abnormally slow.

So far this winter, it’s been “very, very slow,” and like last year “very late in freezing up,” said Trudy Wohlleben, an ice forecaster with the Canadian Ice Service.

The most “unusual things [are] going on in the winter,” Wohlleben said.

Nothing is progressing as it used to, she said, listing a string of peculiar happenings:

• air temperatures 20 C above normal at the beginning of the year in the Baffin Island communities of Clyde River and Qikiqtarjuaq;

• large ice cracks south of Resolute Bay last January, which caused a hunter to float off on an ice floe;

• and other cracks in land-fast ice spreading throughout the High Arctic islands, endangering research stations, causing problems for polar trekkers and swallowing up a Twin Otter.

This past spring, ice on Hudson Bay broke up three to four weeks earlier, and the Nares Strait between Ellesmere Island and Greenland, which usually freezes fast from February to July, never froze up solid.

This year, looking ahead into 2011, may carry similar surprises, with recent air temperatures 20 C registering above average over the Foxe Basin, Wohlleben said.

Weak ice could also lead to more storms as ice cracks cause water temperatures to warm and then lead to even more ice break-up and more storms in a frightening loop.

What’s needed is more monitoring with more remote sensing devices like the buoys dropped on ice lands earlier this year, she said.

More monitoring of lakes and other fresh waterways also needs to be done, because they’re good indicators of climate change, said Frederick Wrona from the University of Victoria...

Monday, November 29, 2010

"Nations again try to bridge rich-poor climate gap"


World governments begin another attempt Monday to overcome the disconnect between rich and poor nations on fighting global warming, with evidence mounting that the Earth's climate already is changing in ways that will affect both sides of the wealth divide.

During two weeks of talks, the 193-nation U.N. conference hopes to conclude agreements that will clear the way to mobilize billions of dollars for developing countries and give them green technology to help them shift from fossil fuels affecting climate change.

After a disappointing summit last year in Copenhagen, no hope remains of reaching an overarching deal this year setting legal limits on how much major countries would be allowed to pollute. Such an accord was meant to describe a path toward slashing greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century, when scientists say they should be half of today's levels.

Eighty-five countries have made specific pledges to reduce emissions or constrain their growth, but those promises amount to far less than required to keep temperatures from rising to potentially dangerous levels.

The recriminations that followed the Danish summit have raised questions over whether the unwieldy U.N. negotiations, which require at least tacit agreement from every nation, can ever work.

Adopting scaled back ambitions for Cancun, if successful, could restore confidence in the process...

While delegates haggle over the wording, timing and dollar figures involved in any agreement, scientists and political activists at the conference will be offering the latest indications of the planet's warming. Some 250 presentations are planned on the sidelines of the negotiations.

Meteorologists are likely to report that 2010 will end up tied for the hottest year globally since records began 131 years ago.
The U.N. scientific body that won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for its climate change report, which called global warming "unequivocal" and almost certainly caused by human activity, is expected to tell the conference its findings and warnings of potential disasters are hopelessly out of date.

Agronomists are due to report on shifting weather patterns that are destabilizing the world's food supply and access to clean water, and that could lead to mass migrations as farmers flee drought or flood-prone regions.

As often during the three-year process, attention will focus on the United States and China, two often belligerent nations representing the industrialized and developing world.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Norfolk, VA & Sea Level Rise

From the New York Times:

In this section of the Larchmont neighborhood, built in a sharp “u” around a bay off the Lafayette River, residents pay close attention to the lunar calendar, much as other suburbanites might attend to the daily flow of commuter traffic.

If the moon is going to be full the night before Hazel Peck needs her car, for example, she parks it on a parallel block, away from the river. The next morning, she walks through a neighbor’s backyard to avoid the two-to-three-foot-deep puddle that routinely accumulates on her street after high tides.

For Ms. Peck and her neighbors, it is the only way to live with the encroaching sea.

As sea levels rise, tidal flooding is increasingly disrupting life here and all along the East Coast, a development many climate scientists link to global warming.

But Norfolk is worse off. Situated just west of the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, it is bordered on three sides by water, including several rivers, like the Lafayette, that are actually long tidal streams that feed into the bay and eventually the ocean.

Like many other cities, Norfolk was built on filled-in marsh. Now that fill is settling and compacting. In addition, the city is in an area where significant natural sinking of land is occurring. The result is that Norfolk has experienced the highest relative increase in sea level on the East Coast — 14.5 inches since 1930, according to readings by the Sewells Point naval station here.

Climate change is a subject of friction in Virginia. The state’s attorney general, Ken T. Cuccinelli II, is trying to prove that a prominent climate scientist engaged in fraud when he was a researcher at the University of Virginia. But the residents of coastal neighborhoods here are less interested in the debate than in the real-time consequences of a rise in sea level.

When Ms. Peck, now 75 and a caretaker to her husband, moved here 40 years ago, tidal flooding was an occasional hazard.

“Last month,” she said recently, “there were eight or nine days the tide was so doggone high it was difficult to drive.”

Larchmont residents have relentlessly lobbied the city to address the problem, and last summer it broke ground on a project to raise the street around the “u” by 18 inches and to readjust the angle of the storm drains so that when the river rises, the water does not back up into the street. The city will also turn a park at the edge of the river back into wetlands — it is now too saline for lawn grass to grow anyway. The cost for the work on this one short stretch is $1.25 million.

The expensive reclamation project is popular in Larchmont, but it is already drawing critics who argue that cities just cannot handle flooding in such a one-off fashion. To William Stiles, executive director of Wetlands Watch, a local conservation group, the project is well meaning but absurd. Mr. Stiles points out that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has already spent $144,000 in recent years to raise each of six houses on the block.

At this pace of spending, he argues, there is no way taxpayers will recoup their investment.

“If sea level is a constant, your coastal infrastructure is your most valuable real estate, and it makes sense to invest in it,” Mr. Stiles said, “but with sea level rising, it becomes a money pit.”

Many Norfolk residents hope their problems will serve as a warning.

“We are the front lines of climate change,” said Jim Schultz, a science and technology writer who lives on Richmond Crescent near Ms. Peck. “No one who has a house here is a skeptic.”

Saturday, November 27, 2010

"Pittsburgh Bans Natural Gas Drilling"

From YES magazine:

by Mari Margil, Ben Price
posted Nov 16, 2010

"Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, sees this fight as about far more than drilling, saying 'It’s about our authority as a community to decide, not corporations deciding for us.'”

In a historic vote, the City of Pittsburgh today adopted a first-in-the-nation ordinance banning corporations from natural gas drilling in the city.

Faced with the potential for drilling—and the controversial new practice known as “fracking” or hydraulic fracturing—within city limits, the Pittsburgh City Council unanimously said “no.” Fracking means injecting water laced with sand and toxic chemicals underground to create deep ground explosions that release the gas. It’s a technique first tried in Texas, and which is now being used in Pennsylvania, where the Marcellus Shale geological formation, a source of natural gas, is buried over a mile down. The Marcellus Shale stretches from New York, through Pennsylvania, into Ohio and West Virginia.

Fracking has been demonstrated to be a threat to surface and groundwater, and has been blamed for fatal explosions, the contamination of drinking water, rivers, and streams. Because it disturbs rock that’s laced not only with methane, but with carcinogens like benzene and radioactive ores like uranium, forcing the mix to the surface adds to the dangers.

Pittsburgh sits atop the Marcellus Shale and corporations have already purchased leases to drill there, including under area parks and cemeteries.

"With this vote we are asserting the right of the city to make critical decisions to protect our health, safety, and welfare."
-Councilman Doug Shields
The ordinance sponsor, Pittsburgh Councilman Doug Shields, led the charge to ban drilling, and was later joined by five co-sponsors. During the months leading up to today’s vote, Shields passionately advocated for the ordinance, saying that the city is “not a colony of the state and will not sit quietly by as our city gets drilled.” He sees this fight as about far more than drilling, saying “It’s about our authority as a community to decide, not corporations deciding for us.”

Drafted by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF), Pittsburgh’s ordinance elevates the rights of people, the community, and nature over corporate “rights” and challenges the authority of the state to pre-empt community decision-making.

As natural gas drilling expands across Pennsylvania, there’s been a debate among opponents of fracking over the best course to take. Some are arguing for “responsible drilling” and severance taxes; others want to “zone out” drilling from residential areas or around schools.

Advocates and communities are finding, however, that calling on corporations to be more accountable, without changing the powers and authorities corporations have been given by state and federal government, means asking them to take voluntary steps. Even communities that adopt zoning restrictions requiring drilling pads to be located away from homes or schools find that because the drilling is horizontal, its impact still reaches into those places they are trying to protect.

Meanwhile, hopes that the state—either the legislature or the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection—will help, have been similarly dashed. The state was recently found to be paying thousands of dollars to a private contractor to investigate citizens advocating against drilling. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of industry dollars went to candidates in the recent elections. Those monies helped elect candidates who will ensure that drilling proceeds without interference from citizens across the region. Further, the state continues to issue permits to corporations to drill despite growing community opposition.

Corporations, empowered with constitutional privileges conferred upon them by the courts, have long worked hand-in-hand with elected officials and government agencies at the state and federal level to pave the way for drilling. They’ve been successful in exempting natural gas drilling and fracking from federal regulations and they’ve put in place state laws pre-empting municipalities from taking any steps to reign in the industry.

Communities like Pittsburgh are coming to the conclusion that it's up to them to stop practices they disagree with. Their efforts are not just about stopping the drilling, but about who gets to make decisions for the community—corporations empowered by the state, or people and their communities...

Provisions in the ordinance eliminate corporate “personhood” rights within the city for corporations seeking to drill, and remove the ability of corporations to wield the Commerce and Contracts Clauses of the U.S. Constitution to override community decision-making.

In addition, with adoption of the ordinance, Pittsburgh became the first city in the U.S. to recognize legally binding rights of nature....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Study- 200 Years of Fish Population Data

From Wired:

By digging up and poring over old books and records of Mediterranean marine life, scientists have filled a 200-year gap in fish population data.

The data, generated from from naturalists’ accounts and fish-market records published between 1818 and 2000, shows the clear decline of fishes in the Adriatic Sea (east of Italy) and provides a crucial baseline comparison for the ongoing collapse of today’s fisheries.

“The understanding of fish communities’ changes over the past centuries has important implications for conservation policy and marine resource management,” the authors wrote in a study published Nov. 17 in the journal PLoS ONE. Ignoring old records, they added, has led to a “historical myopia” in fishery science that underestimates the loss of natural resources.

It’s no puzzle why. Prior to the mid-20th century, large-scale surveys of marine life didn’t happen and, for that matter, there wasn’t the modern-day level of concern about natural resources or the impetus to conserve them. Back then, there were only fish-catch records and naturalists’ qualitative descriptions of life beneath the waves.

To gather the information, an Italian team of ecologists and marine scientists scoured the libraries, museums and archives of six European cities. In total, the search turned up 36 books by naturalists and dozens of detailed catch records from fish markets spanning almost two centuries.

Using statistical methods to combine and integrate the descriptive naturalist records with fish-catch tallies, the scientists partially reconstructed the rise and fall of 255 fish species in the region.

Sharks in the Adriatic Sea made up about 17 percent of the total fish population in 1800, while bottom-dwellers (such as hake, flounder and anglers) made up 27 percent of all fish. By 1950, the populations had dipped to 11 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Meanwhile, the proportion of smaller and faster-breeding fish rose from about 12 percent of the population to more than 28 percent.

“Chondrichthyes are highly vulnerable to [human] disturbances, and especially to fishery,” the authors wrote, thanks to their large size, slow growth and breeding behavior. As fishermen nabbed such large fish, the smaller and more-nimble species thrived because they weren’t being eaten as readily (by sharks or humans).

Fish population declines due to human activity since the mid-20th century are established and substantial, with encroachment by non-native fish species, habitat alteration and pollution all contributing to shrinking and more-fragile populations of fish. While it’s not entirely clear how large a role fishing pressure played prior to 1950, the authors say their “results indicate that pre-industrial fisheries had already had significant impacts” on fish populations in the Adriatic.

The study can’t offer a worldwide assessment of fishery health in the past. But turning old records of marine life into useful datasets may prove promising for assessing past fish populations in other regions.

“Naturalists’ eyewitness accounts of fish species, which have long been disregarded by fishery biologists as being ‘anecdotal’ and not ‘science,’ proved to be a useful tool for extending the analysis into the past, well before the onset of field-based monitoring programs,” the authors wrote.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Scientists find toxic algae in open ocean"

From the Santa Cruz Sentinel:

SANTA CRUZ - Blooms of toxic algae can occur in the open ocean, a team led by UC Santa Cruz and Moss Landing Marine Lab scientists reported last week.

Once thought to be a problem plaguing only the coast, causing fisheries closures and wildlife deaths, the research shows that open sea algae populations also occasionally bloom into toxic soup.

The scientists found toxin-producing algae almost everywhere they looked within open regions of the Pacific. The scientists also detected domoic acid, the toxin that the algae produces. The toxicity exploded whenever iron was added to the water, producing a population boom.

"They grew like a fury," said UCSC ocean scientist Mary Silver, who designed the research. "They are really responsive to iron."

Algae blooms visible from the moon grew during previous studies fertilizing open ocean waters with iron. Kenneth Coale, director of the Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, led these studies in 1995 and 2002. The toxicity of the blooms could not be confirmed until more sensitive measures were invented.

Even up to 12 years later, algae toxin remained in the iron-enriched seawater samples Coale had in storage.

"It was always a nagging, gut feeling about domoic acid," said Coale. "After teaming up with Mary Silver's group, that nagging suspicion was confirmed."

Since the algae consume the carbon dioxide, Coale's research led to proposals to fertilize the ocean on a mass scale to stave off global warming. The discovery of the algae's toxicity throws a wrench into these plans.

"We should use this as a caution," said Silver. "Using iron fertilization as a remedy for global warming would be dangerous."

Domoic acid attacks the nervous system. During blooms, the algae that produces it become a dominant food for small fish and shellfish. Animals higher up in the food chain amass poisonous amounts of the toxin because the algae lodges in the guts of their prey.

"With high algae levels, fish pick them up," said Silver. "With their stomachs loaded with cells, they can be quite toxic."

Harmful algae blooms occur seasonally along California's coast, leading to a ban on shellfish harvesting between May and November to protect public health. In humans, the toxin attacks the brain, producing confusion, memory loss and hallucinations.

Marine mammals with domoic acid poisoning rarely recover, according to Coale.

"They can't forage; they can't migrate. They get lost and re-strand themselves," he said. "It's pretty much the end of the line for them."

"Sea level rise threatens Alexandria, Nile Delta"

(Reuters) - Twenty years ago, Taher Ibrahim raced his friends across Alexandria's beaches, now rising seas have swept over his favorite childhood playground.

Alexandria, with 4 million people, is Egypt's second-largest city, an industrial center and a port that handles four-fifths of national trade. It is also one of the Middle East's cities most at risk from rising sea levels due to global warming.

"There were beaches I used to go to in my lifetime, now those beaches are gone. Is that not proof enough?" asked Ibrahim, a manager at a supermarket chain who is in his 40s.

Flooding could displace entire communities in Alexandria and the low-lying Nile Delta, the fertile agricultural heartland of Egypt's 79 million people.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the Mediterranean will rise 30 cm to 1 meter this century.

More than half of Egypt's people live within 100 km of the coast. A 2007 World Bank study estimated that a one-meter sea level rise could displace 10 percent of the population.

Officials say salt water could submerge or soak 10 to 12 percent of farmland in the world's largest wheat importer.

"Climate change is happening at a pace that we had not anticipated," Suzan Kholeif of the National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries told Reuters. "Our records are clear and in my line of work, it is already a reality."

But reliable data on local climate patterns is scarce and official responses are slow and uncoordinated, experts say.

Egyptian officials do not deny there may be risks but doubt the scale of Egypt's vulnerability, saying more research is needed...

More than 58 meters of coastline have vanished every year since 1989 in Rasheed, also known as Rosetta, said Omran Frihy of the Coastal Research Institute...

Increased salinity seeping into underground waters will degrade farmland and cut production, experts say, in a country where food price rises have sparked unrest in the past.

Yet Egypt has no clear and unified climate change strategy.

"There are lots of plans but they are not integrated nor are they complete," said Mohamed Borhan, manager of a U.N.-supported project on how the Nile Delta can adapt to climate change.

"The right priorities are not set and the people working on the plans are failing in communicating," he said.

Some experts argue that uncertainty about the scale of the risk Egypt is facing makes it hard to adopt strategies...

Taxi driver Ahmed Fattah said he doubted Alexandria itself would disappear beneath the Mediterranean but that he and his family could only wait and see.

"I worry that the government won't do anything until a crisis hits us. By then, we may be swept away by the waves."

"Whales in México Are Getting Sunburn"


As if the marine ecosystem wasn’t threatened enough by oil spills and excessive noise, the thinning of the ozone layer may be scarring the world’s whales from severe sunburn, experts said Wednesday.

A study of whales in the Mexican coast over the past few years, shows that the biggest mammals have blisters and other typical damage of exposure to the ultraviolet radiation. Simply put, whales are getting sunburned.

Whales seem to be particularly susceptible to sunburns, partly because they must spend extended periods of time on the surface of the ocean in order to breathe, socialize, and feed their calfs. Lacking fur or feathers, whales sunbathe naked.

Laura Martinez-Levasseur, the lead author of the study puts it: “Humans can put on clothes or sunglasses — whales can’t.”

Photographs were taken of the whales to examine any visible damages, and small skin samples were collected to analyze the state of their skin cells.

Her study confirmed suspicions first raised by one of her colleagues: The cetaceans are showing lesions associated with sun damage, and many of their skin samples revealed patterns of dead cells associated with exposure to UV radiation.

As with humans, the lighter-skinned whales seemed to have the most trouble dealing with the sun. Blue whales had more severe skin damage than darker-skinned mammals—like fin whales and sperm whales—even though the latter spend bigger chunks of time at the surface.

Fortunately, the study found no indications of skin cancer among the whales studied, although Martinez-Levasseur, who is also a Ph.D. student at Queen Mary, University of London, noted that only tiny samples were taken of the massive animals.

Monday, October 25, 2010



It’s counterintuitive, but the idea that wind turbines without blades could generate as much energy per square meter as standard wind turbines is based on scientific observation.

The science behind New York design firm Atelier DNA’s “windstalks” is simple kinetic energy; the same energy found in a field of swaying prairie grass. Like many of the Land Art Generator exhibits, Atelier takes it cue directly from Nature to deliver resource-economical and highly effective but visually intriguing forms of energy and energy conservation.

The Land Art Generator initiative is a series of aesthetic yet fully functional energy generating and efficiency measures produced by collaborating artists, architects, scientists, landscape architects, and engineers.

Sponsored by Masdar City, an emerging, clean technology zone located outside Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, or UAE, the competition awarded Atelier’s offering, simply named Windstalk, second prize.

Masdar City, which aims to be the world’s first carbon neutral and self-sufficient city via clean energy technologies like wind and solar, is being built by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a wholly owned subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company.

Inspired by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the city is the UAE’s answer to developing a clean technology hub. Ironic, that the very area which has so far offered us little but polluting fossil-fuel forms of energy is also showing us the way to a sustainable future.

Windstalk has also successfully evaded the more common complaints surrounding traditional wind turbines, namely, that they are noisy, emit annoying vibrations that affect humans, cows and other animals, and kill birds. In addition, designers have managed to incorporate energy storage that mimics hydropower.

Windstalk specifications call for 1,203 highly flexible carbon fiber poles 180 feet high and one foot in diameter at the base tapering to 2 inches at the top. The poles are filled with piezoelectric ceramic discs alternating with electrodes connected by cables along the length of each pole – one cable for positive-pole electrodes, another for negative-polarity electrodes. When the wind blows, the flexing of the poles compresses the discs, generating a charge which flows through the electrodes. Light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, at the top of each pole glow brighter or dimmer depending on the amount of energy being generated, or go entirely dark when the wind isn’t blowing – a clever but ludicrously expensive barometer to calculate desert sandstorms.

"West African floods swamp Benin"

COTONOU (AFP) — Families sleep by the roadside under shelter made of scrap wood and metal, their homes destroyed by the rains in Benin -- the country seen as the hardest-hit by West African floods this rainy season.

"I had two children who died by drowning on October 2 after the rain that hit Cotonou," said Delphine Behanzin, 37, as she sat in the shade. "I'm lost. They were my reason to live."

Floods have hit a wide swathe of West and Central Africa in recent months, destroying entire villages and killing more than 100 people in Nigeria alone. Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger are among the other nations affected.

The United Nations says 377 people have died in the flooding, with nearly 1.5 million people affected since the start of the rainy season in June.

But UN officials say the small nation of Benin, a country of some 8.8 million people, has been dealt the hardest blow.

Some 43 people have died, while about 360,000 have been affected, according to the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Nearly 100,000 people have been left homeless.

Almost two-thirds of the nation has been hit by flooding, according to a statement issued by the UN which said the humanitarian situation was "becoming increasingly worrying."

A recent survey of the city of Cotonou, the economic capital, and of the country's south by helicopter showed "that the crisis has been underestimated", according to the statement.

Aid officials have rushed to provide clean water and emergency shelter, while further outbreaks of cholera are also feared. There have already been some 800 cases, including seven deaths.

Heavy rains have hit Benin this season, and the Oueme river has overflowed its banks at a number of locations.

Cotonou is located at the river's mouth, and makeshift camps have sprouted along the city's edge in recent weeks, though the city centre has not been affected.

Aicha, 26, said the rains destroyed her small fruit-selling business and aid has been slow to arrive.

"Severe drought afflicts Brazilian Amazon"

From the BBC:

The money will fund water pumping and purification, as well as food deliveries to towns cut off by the drop in river levels.

The Brazilian air force has already flown 500 tonnes of supplies to areas that usually depend on water transport.

The River Amazon at Manaus has fallen to its lowest level since 1963.

Scientists say the region is facing its worst drought since that year.

In Amazonas state 27 municipalities have declared a state of emergency because of the dry spell.

Several tributaries of the Amazon have almost completely dried up, paralysing river transport and the fishing industry.

The rainy season in the region usually begins in November.

The Peruvian Amazon, 2,000km (1,240 miles) upstream has also been affected.

Environmental groups say severe droughts are likely to become more frequent in the Amazon as a result of global warming, putting further strain on the rainforest.

The Amazon is the world's second-longest river, after the Nile, but discharges far more water from its mouth and drains more territory.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Tea Party - Promotion of Ignorance

Delaware Republican Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell, in a debate with her opponent Chris Coons at Widener Law school, exposed her ignorance of the constitution. The Right Wing blogs and pundits went on to defend her and call her "right".

The relevant part (From

"Let me just clarify," O'Donnell pressed. "You're telling me that the separation of church and state is found in the First Amendment?"

"The government shall make no establishment of religion," Coons said, summarizing the gist of the specific words in the First Amendment's establishment clause.

"That's in the First Amendment?" O'Donnell asked again, eliciting further laughter from the room.

O'Donnell's defenders (Limbaugh, blogs, etc.) are spinning it such that "She was right" that the constitution does not have the phrase "separation of Church and State" - when she clearly did not know that the constitution says that the government shall make no establishment of religion. She was arguing at the time that public schools should be free to teach creationism or "intelligent design" if that was what people in the local school districts believed. She did not get that teaching religion in public schools violates the constitution.

The Separation of Church and State comes from a letter that Thomas Jefferson wrote clarifying the intention of the first Amendment:
"...I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."

The phrase was quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1947. The phrase itself does not appear in the U.S. Constitution, although the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights states that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Perfect People (Eugenics and Socialism)

Earlier today I watched the 1998 Swedish Documentary about eugenics called Homo Sapiens 1900. It considered the eugenics movement in the US, Sweden, USSR and Germany.

While I have been well aware of the the eugenics movement and the idea of perfecting races and/or groups of people, one thing this brought out was the socialist connection. This documentary presented part of the idea of socialism as being all part of the idea of the perfect society. These ideas grew out of the growing understanding of Darwin's Theory of Evolution.

Some scientists became intent on the idea of deciding what the ultimate human characteristics are, categorizing them and devising ways to most efficiently have them reproduced in the population. Dr. Haiselden, from the US, wanted to liberate America from it's presumably defective heritage and promoted (and carried out) infanticide. Charles Davenport founded the Eugenics Record Office on Long Island with the idea of it going national. People targeted included the poor, those in prisons, mental institutions, blacks and new immigrants. The world's first compulsory sterilization law was passed in 1907. Tens of thousands were sterilized.

Scientists in Sweden wanted to have the perfect Swedish population, with the "stock" protected from outside influence and "inferiors" prevented from procreating by encouraging that they be sterilized. The Institute of Race Biology was estaablished. In 1934, their parliament passed a non-compulsory sterilization law. About 8000 were sterilized in Sweden before the law was eliminated.

Some ideas that some may have been altruistic about - such as providing education and health care for everyone, others may have had grandiose ideas of creating the "perfect" society (for enemy defeating purposes or simply convoluted idealism).

Eugenics was meant to be people-directed evolution. This was when IQ tests were developed and promoted. People were given medical exams, and winning families were expected to compete with their pedigrees - as if they were dogs. The Miss America pageant was evidently also inspired by this mentality - started in 1921, the rule was that "contestants must be of good health and of the white race."

Russia apparently had the idea of creating a more productive labor force for factories and whatnot and at the same time had the idea that everyone would be a genius. Those ideas do not necessarily mesh well. Also - people didn't like the idea of one "Superman" fathering 10,000 children (an idea that some promoted). Stalin decided he didn't like eugenics and had the scientists who worked on it expelled or killed.

In the 30s, Stalin's ideas of nationalism and the perfect society inspired his "Great Purge" where many were killed and millions of ethnic minorities were deported. Stalin relocated those from the following groups to Siberia and the Central Asian republics - Ukrainians, Poles, Romanians, Koreans, Volga Germans, Crimean Tatars, Kalmyks, Chechens, Ingush, Balkars, Karachays, Meskhetian Turks, Finns, Bulgarians, Greeks, Latvians, Lithuanians, Estonians, and Jews. He executed anyone he considered to be an "enemy of the people" - many were just regular folks such as workers, peasants, homemakers, teachers, priests, nuns, musicians, ballerinas, soldiers, pensioners, and beggars.

Meanwhile, of course, Germany was becoming increasingly committed to the idea of racial perfection within it's borders. There were these ideas that many countries wanted to make their countries "pure". There were 750,000 ethnic Germans in the USSR and the Germans wanted to relocate them to Poland after driving the Poles out - making an enlarged Germany with more room for more Germans. Stalin sent many of the Germans to Siberia - which ironically saved possibly 200,000 Jews from Hitler.

In 1937 - the "new German man" was glorified at the German exhibition of the World's Fair in Paris. As Germany went farther over the top, many countries, including the US, cooled it on the eugenics ideas when they heard what was going on - as they could see where the propaganda was leading. Germany's purge included Jews, Romani, people with disabilities, Soviet prisoners of war, Polish and Soviet civilians, homosexuals, Jehovah's Witnesses and other political and religious opponents.

What is odd to me, in this day and age - 2010, is how the right wing, conservatives in the US are against Socialism ( I, as a liberal, would be against Socialistic ideas that mean that society is trying to be engineer evolution and create a super-race), and yet many (especially the leaders like Limbaugh) are very pro-white nationalistic males. They seem to hate the idea that other groups such as women, blacks, Muslims, Hispanics are becoming more equal, more vocal, more powerful. People who are white supremacists are able to feel at home with the right-wing.

The liberals, who are more likely to be for Socialist ideas such as health-care for all, a good public education, equal rights, unemployment, etc. include those ideas for everyone - women, men, equality for races. Conservative & Libertarians (and Tea Party advocates) are less likely to see that there IS a problem of inequality or of discrimination.

Some people could bring up the eugenics and say that it was a Socialist enterprise and that that makes all Socialism bad. But the "badness" came from the ideas of racism (and nationalism) - creating the perfect white race - the more white, the better. Similarly, someone could bring up eugenics to demonize science - because there were scientists who were participating with and promoting these ideas. But again, the "badness" came from the negativity involved in the goals (the manipulating of nature while dominating and devaluing others), not in the fact that science was involved.

(In general, I have difficulty understanding how Republicans or Tea Parties can be so anti-intellectual, anti-science, but this would be one example they could use. I would add such uses as the creation and distribution of many toxic chemicals and products without proper regard to their effects on the environment. But in general - and with better values - science can be a positive thing.)

Somehow - the right-wing has embraced the idea that liberals are like Hitler - but Hitler was all about the Super-man- white-Christian-German and the "normal" German family - and if anything, it's the conservatives who are for the Super-man-white-Christian-American and the "normal" American family. The right-wing isn't sending people off to be killed, but their propaganda and actions against Muslims and Hispanics have a similar "We are the good guys, you are the bad guys" sense about them - and have resulted in deaths by zealots. Their actions against Mexicans in this country, their setting up and jailing Muslims as terrorists (and general negativity which leads some to violence against them), the anti-gay rhetoric which leads to bullying and suicides are more Hitleresque than anything liberals are doing.

The badness has to do with the acceptance and encouragement of domination by the already powerful against the minority and/or weakened group. Whether a group gives themselves that power by saying they speak for God, or the State, or Science, the result can be the same. Hitler used all three - God, State and Science. The right wing says they have God and they don't want the State or Science - but they still want domination (and use the State and Science when it suits them). Many liberals would still use the benefits of Science and the State to achieve a more equitable and peaceful society - but the goals of liberals now have little or nothing to do with the goals of the eugenicists. (Some liberals feel that they are trying to do the will of God, but don't generally try to influence others by claiming that their will and God's will are the same.) Liberals like promoting health and education to make the civilization better - but not to make some Super-society or Perfect People or race. And not that everyone is going to be a genius - or than anyone will be perfect.

But it is nice for people to have a chance - and for society to help those who need help - because we are not given the same abilities or opportunities, or wealth to start off with. Liberals tend to see that society is skewed to benefit those with money, which conservatives tend to not notice or embrace because they identify with being affluent (or both). Since white men have a history of dominance in the last few centuries, and since much money has been made on the backs of unpaid or badly paid women and minorities and other disenfranchised groups- a redistribution of money and assets does not seem like a bad idea. If anything, it flips what the eugenicists had in mind on it's head. Where the eugenicists were all about improving the situation of the dominant white race (already in power - but apparently threats were perceived), the liberals would like to do things to make society more equitable.


"Huge Parts of World Are Drying Up..."

From Science Daily:

The soils in large areas of the Southern Hemisphere, including major portions of Australia, Africa and South America, have been drying up in the past decade, a group of researchers conclude in the first major study to ever examine "evapotranspiration" on a global basis.

Most climate models have suggested that evapotranspiration, which is the movement of water from the land to the atmosphere, would increase with global warming. The new research, published online this week in the journal Nature, found that's exactly what was happening from 1982 to the late 1990s.

But in 1998, this significant increase in evapotranspiration -- which had been seven millimeters per year -- slowed dramatically or stopped. In large portions of the world, soils are now becoming drier than they used to be, releasing less water and offsetting some moisture increases elsewhere.

Due to the limited number of decades for which data are available, scientists say they can't be sure whether this is a natural variability or part of a longer-lasting global change. But one possibility is that on a global level, a limit to the acceleration of the hydrological cycle on land has already been reached.

If that's the case, the consequences could be serious.

They could include reduced terrestrial vegetation growth, less carbon absorption, a loss of the natural cooling mechanism provided by evapotranspiration, more heating of the land surface, more intense heat waves and a "feedback loop" that could intensify global warming.

"This is the first time we've ever been able to compile observations such as this for a global analysis," said Beverly Law, a professor of global change forest science at Oregon State University. Law is co-author of the study and science director of the AmeriFlux network of 100 research sites, which is one major part of the FLUXNET synthesis that incorporates data from around the world.

"We didn't expect to see this shift in evapotranspiration over such a large area of the Southern Hemisphere," Law said. "It is critical to continue such long-term observations, because until we monitor this for a longer period of time, we can't be sure why this is occurring."

Some of the areas with the most severe drying include southeast Africa, much of Australia, central India, large parts of South America, and some of Indonesia. Most of these regions are historically dry, but some are actually tropical rain forests.

Greater evapotranspiration was expected with global warming, because of increased evaporation of water from the ocean and more precipitation overall. And data indeed show that some areas are wetter than they used to be.

However, other huge areas are now drying out, the study showed. This could lead to increased drought stress on vegetation and less overall productivity, Law said, and as a result less carbon absorbed, less cooling through evapotranspiration, and more frequent or extreme heat waves.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Hungary Battles Flood of Toxic Sludge

From the BBC:

Emergency services in Hungary are trying to stop a torrent of toxic red sludge flowing into major waterways, including the River Danube.

A state of emergency has been declared in three western counties after the chemical waste burst from a reservoir at an alumina plant.

Four people are known to have died, with 120 injured. Six more are missing.

At least seven villages and towns are affected including Devecser, where the torrent was 2m (6.5ft) deep.

The flood swept cars from roads and damaged bridges and houses, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents.

The sludge - a mixture of water and mining waste containing heavy metals - is considered hazardous, according to Hungary's National Directorate General for Disaster Management (NDGDM).

While the cause of the deaths has not been established officially, it is believed the victims probably drowned.

Some 600,000-700,000 cubic metres (21m-24m cubic feet) of sludge escaped from the plant, 160km (100 miles) from the capital, Budapest.

With 7,000 people affected directly by the disaster, a state of emergency was declared in the county of Veszprem where the spill occurred, and Gyor-Moson-Sopron and Vas, where the sludge appeared to be heading.

At least 390 residents have been relocated and 110 rescued from flooded areas, the NDGDM said...

"White House to go solar"

From yahoo:

WASHINGTON – Solar power is coming to President Barack Obama's house.

The most famous residence in America, which has already boosted its green credentials by planting a garden, plans to install solar panels atop the White House's living quarters. The solar panels are to be installed by spring 2011, and will heat water for the first family and supply some electricity.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the plans Tuesday in Washington at a conference of local, state, academic and nonprofit leaders aimed at identifying how the federal government can improve its environmental performance.

Former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush both tapped the sun during their days in the White House. Carter in the late 1970s spent $30,000 on a solar water-heating system for West Wing offices. Bush's solar systems powered a maintenance building and some of the mansion, and heated water for the pool.

Obama, who has championed renewable energy, has been under increasing pressure by the solar industry and environmental activists to lead by example by installing solar at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, something White House officials said has been under consideration since he first took office.

The decision perhaps has more import now after legislation to reduce global warming pollution died in the Senate, despite the White House's support. Obama has vowed to try again on a smaller scale.

U.S. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels

While I would like to see the size and scope of the military reduced - this is a step in the right direction as far as renewables are concerned. With the military being such a huge consumer of fuels, this is significant.
Oil tankers that were set on fire in Pakistan. The convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters.

From the New York Times:
With insurgents increasingly attacking the American fuel supply convoys that lumber across the Khyber Pass into Afghanistan, the military is pushing aggressively to develop, test and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.

Last week, a Marine company from California arrived in the rugged outback of Helmand Province bearing novel equipment: portable solar panels that fold up into boxes; energy-conserving lights; solar tent shields that provide shade and electricity; solar chargers for computers and communications equipment.

The 150 Marines of Company I, Third Battalion, Fifth Marines, will be the first to take renewable technology into a battle zone, where the new equipment will replace diesel and kerosene-based fuels that would ordinarily generate power to run their encampment.

Even as Congress has struggled unsuccessfully to pass an energy bill and many states have put renewable energy on hold because of the recession, the military this year has pushed rapidly forward. After a decade of waging wars in remote corners of the globe where fuel is not readily available, senior commanders have come to see overdependence on fossil fuel as a big liability, and renewable technologies — which have become more reliable and less expensive over the past few years — as providing a potential answer. These new types of renewable energy now account for only a small percentage of the power used by the armed forces, but military leaders plan to rapidly expand their use over the next decade.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, the huge truck convoys that haul fuel to bases have been sitting ducks for enemy fighters — in the latest attack, oil tankers carrying fuel for NATO troops in Afghanistan were set on fire in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, early Monday. In Iraq and Afghanistan, one Army study found, for every 24 fuel convoys that set out, one soldier or civilian engaged in fuel transport was killed. In the past three months, six Marines have been wounded guarding fuel runs in Afghanistan.

“There are a lot of profound reasons for doing this, but for us at the core it’s practical,” said Ray Mabus, the Navy secretary and a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who has said he wants 50 percent of the power for the Navy and Marines to come from renewable energy sources by 2020. That figure includes energy for bases as well as fuel for cars and ships.

“Fossil fuel is the No. 1 thing we import to Afghanistan,” Mr. Mabus said, “and guarding that fuel is keeping the troops from doing what they were sent there to do, to fight or engage local people.”

He and other experts also said that greater reliance on renewable energy improved national security, because fossil fuels often came from unstable regions and scarce supplies were a potential source of international conflict.

Fossil fuel accounts for 30 to 80 percent of the load in convoys into Afghanistan, bringing costs as well as risk. While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.

“We had a couple of tenuous supply lines across Pakistan that are costing us a heck of a lot, and they’re very dangerous,” said Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

Col. Robert Charette Jr., director of the Marine Corps Expeditionary Energy Office, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that Company I’s equipment would prove reliable and durable enough for military use, and that other Marine companies would be adopting renewable technology in the coming months, although there would probably always be a need to import fuel for some purposes.

While setting national energy policy requires Congressional debates, military leaders can simply order the adoption of renewable energy. And the military has the buying power to create products and markets. That, in turn, may make renewable energy more practical and affordable for everyday uses, experts say....

Friday, September 24, 2010

"Philippine coral reefs - in hot water"

The Philippine Star:

Imagine taking a dip in a hot spring for 10 to 30 minutes — what a relaxing thought! But imagine being in a hot spring for several hours, or even days — that certainly would not be good for your health. That is the situation our coral reefs find themselves in. Since last May, the water temperature of the western Philippines (from Luzon to the Visayas, Palawan and Mindanao) has been 2 to 3°C above normal. The abnormally high water temperature is killing plenty of coral.

What is coral bleaching?

At first glance, coral simply looks like either a rock (if it is hard coral which has an outer skeleton made of limestone) or a plant (if it is soft coral which does not produce a limestone skeleton). But actually, coral is a colony of tiny animals called coral polyps. Each coral polyp can roughly be described as having a body (that looks like your wrist and hand pointing up) with tentacles (which look like your fingers) and a mouth (imagine a hole in the center of your palm). Living inside the body tissue of each coral polyp are microscopic plants (called “zooxanthellae”). These tiny algae produce nutrients for the polyp. The coral returns the favor by providing the algae with a place to live. Algae come in a rainbow of colors. It is the algae living inside the coral, which give color to the coral.

When corals are severely stressed, these are forced to release the algae living in their tissues. This is a last ditch effort by the corals to save themselves. Without the algae, corals lose their color and turn white, hence the term “coral bleaching.”

For corals, “bleaching” means not just a change in their color, it also means they are already in a life-or-death situation. (Please note that when coral is newly bleached, it is not yet dead. If the source of stress is removed and if not too much time has passed, it may still be possible for the coral to recover.)

Latest findings

In 1998, a significant bleaching killed over 90 percent of the corals in 19 percent of coral reefs worldwide. For the past few months, scientists from the University of the Philippines-Marine Science Institute (UP MSI) and De La Salle University’s Br. Alfred Shields Marine Station have gathered data indicating that a massive bleaching event may be unfolding in our seas. Dr. Perry Aliño of the UP MSI says that up to 75 percent of our corals may be severely affected. This is a worrisome scenario because we have so few healthy reefs left, according to Dr. Al Licuanan of the DLSU. His studies show that if major bleaching events occur every 10 years, then in 50 years, only 11 percent of our corals will remain. If major bleaching was to occur more often (i.e., every five years), only one percent of our corals will remain after 50 years. Recent analyses involving many local scientists show one third of all coral species worldwide now are more likely to go extinct because of climate change and local impacts.

Much to lose

Bleaching has a huge negative impact, not only on coral but also on man. If coral bleaches and is unable to recover, then it dies and becomes covered with long tufts of algae. Residents of the diverse marine community, whose lives revolve around the coral reef, disappear. Small fish which feed either on the coral or on algae disappear, together with the bigger fish which feed on them. Shrimps, crabs, starfish, sea cucumbers, squids, sea snails, etc. have to leave the dead reef. Ultimately, the local community suffers because fish catch is greatly affected, together with income from tourism. According to Mags Quibilan of UP MSI, the bleaching event of 1998 resulted in an income loss of $15 million for the El Nido area in Palawan.

We can help

• Report sightings of bleached coral to the Philippine Coral Bleaching Watch on Facebook.

• To give coral as much chance as possible to recover from the high temperature of the ocean, reduce the other sources of stress for coral, such as:

• Sedimentation – Soil that goes into the ocean as a result of agricultural run-off, coastal development, and mining kills coral.

• Pollution – Corals need clean and clear water.

• Destructive fishing methods – overfishing, blast fishing, cyanide fishing

• Garbage – Please do not throw litter into the sea, no matter how small. You would be surprised how many candy wrappers and sachets of shampoo are found on top of corals. These smother and kill corals.

• Diver damage – To scuba divers: as much as possible, please avoid touching or stepping on corals.

• Support the creation and better management of more Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) — Coral bleaching has affected all reef areas, including MPAs, but better recovery has been observed in MPAs compared to unprotected sites.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Deformed Fish on Athabasca River (Canada)

From the

Given the regularity with which fisherman now catch deformed fish, Schindler suggested that a federally funded fish health study on the Athabasca River "should be a much higher priority [for Ottawa] than funding hockey rinks and new fighter jets." Aboriginal communities and leaders downstream of the oil sands have been calling for such studies for nearly a decade.

Of 27 whitefish, burbot and northern pike recently collected by Robert Grandjambe, a resident of Fort Chip, seven had deformities, lesions, curved spines and bulging eyes. No reliable data exists on the actual percentage of deformed fish being caught downstream from the oil sands. But it may range from two to 20 per cent, says Schindler....

Ladouceur, who has been fishing commercially for 53 years on the lake and has lost eight family members to cancer, said, "I never saw deformed fish in my younger days. We've been trying to get some help to figure this out."

"We are human beings. Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach treats his dogs better. Sorry to say, but we need help."

Toxic brew identified by scientists

Many industrial sources now pollute the Athabasca River, including pulp mills, agricultural run-off, abandoned uranium mines and municipal waste. But two studies published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) have also shown that industrial air pollution and watershed destruction directly caused by the oil/tar sands has contaminated the river with heavy metals and petroleum compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

However, both Ottawa and the Alberta government, which are dependent on oil sand taxes and royalties, claim that all the pollution in the river is naturally occurring based on proprietary data collected by an industry-funded group.

Yet a 2009 study by David Schindler and Erin Kelly found that oil sands air pollution now blackens the snow with thousands of tonnes of bitumen particulates and PAHS during the winter within a 50 kilometre radius of the industry upgraders, resulting in an annual 5,000 barrel oil spill on the river during spring run-off.

Last month another study by Erin Kelly and David Schindler showed that air pollution and watershed destruction by the oil sands industry directly adds a rich brew of heavy metals including arsenic, thallium and mercury into the Athabasca river and at levels up to 30 times greater than permitted by pollution guidelines. Many heavy metals can increase the toxicity of PAHs.

Furthermore several studies have also found high levels of PAHs in six billion barrels of oil sands mining waste (enough to stretch to the moon and back 12 times) now stored in huge dams covering an area larger than the city of Vancouver...

Fish can absorb PAHS from water and sediment via their gills, skin and stomach. Different PAHs can cause totally different diseases and deformities in different fish species, including cataracts, tumors of the skin and liver, weakened immune systems, deformities, bile duct cancers and heart troubles.

PAHs can persist and behave in unexpected ways. A 2003 high profile study in the journal Science found that weathered oil from 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, including PAHs, continued to poison and affect the lifespan of fish and sea otters at sublethal levels more than a decade later. Long term PAH exposure not only stunted the growth of young pink salmon embryos, for example, but decreased their lifespan by 50 per cent.

"Land of dead fish"

_______________These dead fish were found in a Louisiana bayou that was affected by oil from the BP spill but it is not known what killed them in such numbers.

- FISH carcasses from a massive fish kill in the Bayou Chaland area of Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, are shown in this handout photograph taken last Friday and released on Wednesday.

The cause of the deaths has not yet been determined, but the area the carcasses were discovered in was affected by oil from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Among the dead fish were pogie fish, redfish, shrimp, crabs and freshwater eels.

On Wednesday, BP chief Tony Hayward defended the company's safety procedures as British MPs grilled him over the oil spill.

Mr Hayward said the spill - the worst environmental catastrophe in US history - was 'devastating' to him personally but denied that there had been any cost-cutting at the energy giant in the run-up to the accident....

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"Melting sea ice forces walruses ashore in Alaska"

AP-Tens of thousands of walruses have come ashore in northwest Alaska because the sea ice they normally rest on has melted.
Federal scientists say this massive move to shore by walruses is unusual in the United States. But it has happened at least twice before, in 2007 and 2009. In those years Arctic sea ice also was at or near record low levels.

The population of walruses stretches "for one mile or more. This is just packed shoulder-to-shoulder," U.S. Geological Survey biologist Anthony Fischbach said in a telephone interview from Alaska. He estimated their number at tens of thousands.

Scientists with two federal agencies are most concerned about the one-ton female walruses stampeding and crushing each other and their smaller calves near Point Lay, Alaska, on the Chukchi Sea. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to change airplane flight patterns to avoid spooking the animals. Officials have also asked locals to be judicious about hunting, said agency spokesman Bruce Woods.

The federal government is in a year-long process to determine if walruses should be put on the endangered species list.

Fischbach said scientists don't know how long the walrus camp-out will last, but there should be enough food for all of them.
During normal summers, the males go off to play in the Bering Sea, while the females raise their young in the Chukchi. The females rest on sea ice and dive from it to the sea floor for clams and worms.

"When they no longer have a place to rest, they need to go some place and it's a long commute," Fischbach said. "This is directly related to the lack of sea ice."....

Monday, September 13, 2010

Women's Suffrage

Suffragists marching down 5th Avenue in 1917_____________

I recently noticed an article in Science magazine that suggested people's feelings about equality were determined in part by how wealth was distributed. So if you were a male who lived in a place where males inherited and kept family wealth you would essentially grow up figuring that was normal. Like Nietzche and his Master/Slave idea - if you were on the master side - you may likely find a way to justify that (as he did) while those on the powerless side would more than likely find fault with the unequal set-up.

I have a set of 1911 Encyclopedia Britannicas (this volume has also been posted online). I was noticing the section on "Women". It discusses the rights and lack there-of of women. In 1910, mothers were responsible for support of any illegitimate children up to the age of 16, while fathers of legitimate children had custody rights unless the father's were guilty of some sort of misconduct. Women were prevented from inheriting real estate if there were any male heirs. Husbands could get divorced if their wives had sex outside of marriage, but women could not if their husbands did, unless the husband was also cruel or deserted them.

Being written in 1910, women's suffrage was a hot topic. A Quaker by the name of Anne Kent of Chelmsford is credited with starting up the "Sheffield Female Political Association" - getting the movement off the ground in England in the 1850s. Soon after, Lydia Ernestine Baker created the "Englishwoman's Journal". There was agitation to change laws relating to married women's property and earnings. Some also fought for the rights of unmarried working women. (In The USA, the first woman's suffrage convention was held in 1848 in Seneca Fall, NY with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martha C. Wright and Lucretia Mott (Wright and Mott and many others in the group were "radical Quakers"). Here, again, property rights were part of the issue.)

John Stuart Mill was known for making Women's Suffrage an Election issue in England. He is also known for his book, "The Subjection of Women." He was a proponent of individual rights over state rights, including the rights of people who were then slaves, as well as the rights of women (while others were arguing that women and blacks were inferior). Mills idea of utilitarianism has been called the "greatest-happiness principle" - that people should act so as to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, within reason. Early in his career he was a free-market economist - but refined his ideas and became more socialist in outlook. Mills recognized the problem of the tyranny of the majority.

The Britannica article about women suggested as an example of the argument against women's suffrage A.V. Dicey's 1909 article ""Woman's Suffrage" in Quarterly Review (can be found online). Dicey argued that women getting the vote would be bad for Great Britain. He was afraid women would vote against the interests of the empire. He didn't think women had the education or judgement to vote. He was afraid it would lead to women having equal rights. Dicey was also worried that with women getting the vote, that all men would also get the vote. So instead of the vote being cast by male property owners (app. 7,000,000), it would be open to 20,000,000-24,000,000 people. The power of the then current voters would be drastically diminished.

Dicey also did not recognize that men and women might have different interests or concerns.

Dicey, of course, is a prime example of someone with disproportionate power who wanted to maintain the inequality that favored himself. John Stuart Mill would also have benefitted from inequality, but he is an example of someone who can see what is truly the best course of action to take, as opposed to that which is merely the best for himself and those with his education and status. He was also able to see and understand that there is value in the natural world and that unlimited growth of industry, etc. would result in the destruction of the environment and a reduced quality of life.

There were, of course, various anti-suffrage groups such as the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League which submitted a petition to the English Parliament in 1907 with 87,500 names against women's suffrage, but it was discovered to be fraudulent. The Catholic Encyclopedia c. 1912 recommended that Catholics support the anti-suffrage movement. As the 1911 Britannica states, "Though Christianity and a broadening of men's theories of life tended to raise the moral and social status of women, yet Paul definitely assigns subservience as the proper function of women, and many of the fathers looked upon them mainly as inheriting the temptress function of Eve."

It is no coincidence that Quakers who are non-hierarchical in their religious practices have been more likely to push for social changes addressing equal rights for all, as opposed to people of other denominations that maintain a rigid hierarchy and male dominance. Elizabeth Cady Stanton found organized Christianity to be too sexist and she would not participate. She was more radical than even the "radical Quakers."

The isolation of every human soul and the necessity of self-dependence must give each individual the right to choose his own surroundings. The strongest reason for giving woman all the opportunities for higher education, for the full development of her faculties, her forces of mind and body; for giving her the most enlarged freedom of thought and action; a complete emancipation from all forms of bondage, of custom, dependence, superstition; from all the crippling influences of fear — is the solitude and personal responsibility of her own individual life. The strongest reason why we ask for woman a voice in the government under which she lives; in the religion she is asked to believe; equality in social life, where she is the chief factor; a place in the trades and professions, where she may earn her bread, is because of her birthright to self-sovereignty; because, as an individual, she must rely on herself [...].

- Elizabeth Cady Stanton's final appearance before members of the United States Congress in 1892. She died in 1902.

In England, women over the age of 30 got the vote in 1918; providing they were householders, married to a householder or if they held a university degree. Universal suffrage for all adults over 21 years of age was not achieved until 1928. In the USA, women got the right to vote in 1920. This November's election marks a mere 90 years that women have the right to vote in the US.

Some contemporary women leaders include (from an article in Time): Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia; Johanna Sigurdardottir, Prime Minister of Iceland; Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, President of Argentina; Dalia Grybauskaite, President of Lithuania; Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany; Sheik Hasina Wajed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia; Tarja Halonen, President of Finland; Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago; Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Contaminated Shellfish (As you would expect)

From The Epoch Times:

By any normal examination, nothing seemed off. The oil couldn’t be seen or smelled, but lab tests on the oysters and soil showed the contaminant levels were through the roof.

“We didn’t see anything unusual. That was kind of the disturbing part when we got the results back,” said Lower Mississippi River Keeper Paul Orr, from the Water Keeper Alliance.

Orr went to several sites in the Gulf of Mexico with a team of researchers to take samples of the soil, plants, and sea life. The team has results from two locations and is still waiting on the rest. “When the numbers came back, I was quite surprised they were so high,” Orr said.

What they were looking for were polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs)—carcinogenic contaminants from the BP oil spill. Since PAHs carry a kind of fingerprint, BP can be traced as the source of some of the contaminated areas.

“We did find it in large quantities in the soil sediment, as well as in vegetation and organisms—oysters and some in the crabs,” said Wilma Subra, a MacArthur Award-winning chemist who conducted the tests.

Subra said that other contaminants were found along with the PAHs, and “we’re not talking parts-per-million or parts-per-billion.” “It was there in substantial concentrations. If you had to test it to determine whether or not that area would be applicable to being harvested, those concentrations were way over the concentration you would ever even consider.”

The team is waiting for results from fish and shrimp samples. Among the team are members of the Gulf Oil Disaster Recovery, Water Keeper Alliance, and the Louisiana Environmental Action Network.

Many of the locations were investigated following tips from local fishermen who said they could see or smell oil in the areas.

Some Mississippi state waters were reopened to commercial fishing last month. FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg released a statement on Aug. 2, saying, “We are confident all appropriate steps have been taken to ensure that seafood harvested from the waters being opened today is safe and that Gulf seafood lovers everywhere can be confident eating and enjoying the fish and shrimp that will be coming out of this area.”

Subra said she is concerned that, based on her latest findings, there could still be problems. “They are apparently not testing nearly as many organisms as we would like, and apparently they are not testing in all the areas where we are finding the visual residual oil,” she said.

In some areas, plants were still covered in oil, and a sheen could be seen on the soil. She shared her hope that the findings will lead to further studies into whether the seafood in the Gulf is safe. Other sites have been horrific. Among them was a small island where the ground was littered with dead and dying birds.

Monday, September 06, 2010

"A World in Collapse"

Alex Doherty interviewing Robert Jensen @ the New Left Project

Why do you think it is justified to describe the world as collapsing?

Take a look at any measure of the fundamental health of the planetary ecosystem on which we are dependent: topsoil loss, chemical contamination of soil and water, species extinction and reduction in biodiversity, the state of the world’s oceans, unmanageable toxic waste problems, and climate change. Take a look at the data, and the news is bad on every front. And all of this is in the context of the dramatic decline coming in the highly concentrated energy available from oil and natural gas, and the increased climate disruption that will come if we keep burning the still-abundant coal reserves. There are no replacement fuels on the horizon that will allow a smooth transition. These ecological realities will play out in a world structured by a system of nation-states rooted in the grotesque inequality resulting from imperialism and capitalism, all of which is eroding what is left of our collective humanity. “Collapsing” seems like a reasonable description of the world.

That doesn’t mean there’s a cataclysmic end point coming soon, but this is an apocalyptic moment. The word “apocalypse” does not mean “end.” It comes from a Greek word that means “uncovering” or “lifting the veil.” This is an apocalyptic moment because we need to lift the veil and have the courage to look at the world honestly.

Why do you think many leftists shy away from such language when discussing the environment?

I think not only leftists, but people in general, avoid these realities because reality is so grim. It seems overwhelming to most people, for good reason. So, rather than confront it, people find modes of evasion. One is to deny there’s a reason to worry, which is common throughout the culture. The most common evasive strategy I hear from people on the left is “technological fundamentalism”—the idea that because we want high-energy/high-tech solutions that will allow us to live in the style to which so many of us have become accustomed, those solutions will be found. That kind of magical thinking is appealing but unrealistic, for two reasons. First, while the human discoveries of the past few centuries are impressive, they have not been on the scale required to correct the course we’re on; we’ve created problems that have grown beyond our capacity to understand and manage. Second, those discoveries were subsidized by fossil-fuel energy that won’t be around much longer, which dramatically limits what we will be able to accomplish through energy-intensive advanced technology. As many people have pointed out, technology is not energy; you don’t replace energy with technology. Technology can make some processes more energy-efficient, but it can’t create energy out of thin air.

I’ve had many left colleagues tell me that they agree with some or all of my analysis, but that “people aren’t ready to hear that yet.” I translate that to mean, “I’m not ready to hear that yet.” I think a lot of leftists displace their own fear of confronting these difficult realities onto “the masses,” when in fact they can’t face it.

The other factor is that truly crazy end-times talk, which comes primarily from reactionary religious sources, leads many people to reflexively dismiss any talk of collapse. So, it’s important to be clear: I’m not predicting the end of world on a specific date. I’m not predicting anything. I’m simply describing what some of us believe to be the most likely trajectory of the high-energy/high-tech society in which we live. And I’m suggesting that we keep this trajectory in mind as we pursue left/feminist critiques of hierarchy and domination, in the hope that more egalitarian and humane models for human organization can help us deal with collapse.

How realistic are proposals for alternative economic systems such as green bio-regionalism or participatory economics in the context of climate catastrophe?

First, I think every political project—whether it is focused on labour organizing, resistance to white supremacy, women’s rights, anti-war activity—has to include an ecological component. That doesn’t mean everyone has to shift focus, but I think there is no meaningful politics that doesn’t recognize the fragility of our situation and the likelihood that the most vulnerable people (both in the United States and around the world) are going to bear the brunt of the ecological decline. A responsible left/feminist politics should connect the dots whenever and wherever possible. Here’s one obvious example: U.S. imperial wars, born of a patriarchal system, are waged to support corporate interests in the most crucial energy-producing regions of the world, which are predominantly non-white. Resistance to those wars requires a critique of male dominance, white supremacy, capitalism, and the affluent First-World lifestyles that numb people to the reality that they are morally implicated in these wars. Those wars are dramatically escalating the intensity and potential destructiveness of the coming collapse. Concern for justice and ecological sustainability demands an anti-war and anti-empire politics. There is no way to focus on one aspect of an injustice without understanding these intersections.

Second, more than ever, “let a hundred flowers blossom.” When we know so little about what’s coming, it’s best if people pursue a variety of strategies that they feel drawn to. In Austin, I’m working primarily with one group that advocates for immigrant workers (Workers Defense Project) and another that helps people start worker-owned cooperative businesses (Third Coast Workers for Cooperation). Neither group is focused specifically on the ecological crises, but there’s incredible energy and ideas in these groups, and they create spaces for advancing a coordinated critique of capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy, all with an understanding of the ecological stakes. Maybe it’s natural for people to want to believe that they have hit on the solution to a problem, but I believe that the problems are complex beyond our understanding, and it’s not only unlikely that there’s a single solution but there may be no solutions at all—if by “solution” we mean a way to continue human existence on the planet at its current level. We need experiments on every front that help us imagine new ways of being...

Monday, August 30, 2010

"Corexit’s 2-butoxyethanol in swimming pool" - Homosassa, Florida

EXCLUSIVE: Tests find sickened family has 50.3 ppm of Corexit’s 2-butoxyethanol in swimming pool — JUST ONE HOUR NORTH OF TAMPA (lab report included) -

“Our heads are still swimming,” stated Barbara Schebler of Homosassa, Florida, who received word last Friday that test results on the water from her family’s swimming pool showed 50.3 ppm of 2-butoxyethanol, a marker for the dispersant Corexit 9527A used to break up and sink BP’s oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

The problems began for the Scheblers a few weeks after the April 20 blow-out. “Our first clue were rashes we both got early in May. Both my husband and I couldn’t get rid of the rashes and had to get cream from our doctor,” Schebler noted, “I never had a rash in my life.”

Then, on “July [23], my husband Warren mowed the lawn. It was hot so he got in the pool to cool off afterward. That afternoon he had severe diarrhea and very dark urine. This lasted about 2 days,” she revealed.

Initially, they reasoned this was caused by the heat. The following week Mr. Schebler again mowed the lawn and went in the pool, and again he was sickened with the same severe symptoms.

Suspicious that the pool may be a problem, the family set out to get the water tested. “We have a 15 year old and felt we owed it to him to live in a clean, healthy environment,” said Mrs. Schebler.

The Scheblers found Robert Naman, a Mobile, Alabama chemist who’s performed multiple tests (1, 2, 3) for WKRG Channel 5, also out of Mobile.

“Warren collected a water sample from the pool filter on August 17th… packed the sample according to Mr. Naman’s instructions, and overnighted it to his Mobile, Ala. lab that same day,” she noted.

The results were delivered by Naman over the phone on August 27 at 11:00 a.m. EDT. A copy of the findings were then e-mailed to the Scheblers.

“Naman [said] our pool water sample we sent him contained 50.3 ppm [parts per million] 2-butoxyethanol marker for Corexit,” according to Mrs. Schebler. Tests for arsenic came back at less than .02 ppm.

A July letter from four top scientists noted, “Corexit 9527A contains 2-BTE (2-butoxyethanol), a toxic solvent that ruptures red blood cells, causing hemolysis (bleeding) and liver and kidney damage (Johanson and Bowman, 1991, Nalco, 2010).”

The safety data sheet provided by Nalco, the manufacturer of Corexit 9527A, warns, “Harmful if absorbed through skin. May be harmful if swallowed. May cause liver and kidney effects and/or damage. There may be irritation to the gastro-intestinal tract.”