Posts Tagged ‘Environment’

Creatures that live in slow motion

April 11, 2014

Corals, sponges and other marine life are mobile creatures.  They build coral reefs and are important to the earth’s biosphere.  But they live at a different time scale than human beings, so we can see their movement only with the help of time lapse photography.

Click on the link below for more.

http://notes-from-dreamworlds.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/slow-life.html

Simon & Finn on environmental restoration

March 25, 2014

sf-oilsands1small

Whether it is hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, surface mining for coal or processing tar sands for oil bitumen, it is never going to be possible to put the petals back on the flower (figuratively speaking).

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-cohen/the-political-power-of-en_b_859287.html?view=print&comm_ref=false

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/20/1286250/-Guess-who-s-the-major-stakeholder-in-Canada-s-oil-sands-Of-course-it-s-the-nbsp-Kochs

Click on simonandfinn for more cartoons.

Digging up our coal, oil and gas for export

March 22, 2014

Kos-Fracked

I don’t think many Americans are aware of how much of our coal, oil and natural gas production is for export.  In particular, I don’t think Americans are as aware as we should be that the pipeline to carry bitumen from tar sands fields in Alberta to oil refineries in Texas is for the benefit of Canadian exporters, not (except very indirectly) American consumers.  The tar sands production is being piped south to Texas because other Canadian provinces are unwilling to take the environmental risk of having it piped east or west.

In and of itself, anything that reduces the U.S. trade deficit is a good thing, not a bad thing.  We need to import things from abroad, and we need to pay for them with exports.  Now we pay a price for this, which we did not have to pay for oil exports from Texas in the 1950s.

The easy-to-get coal, oil and natural gas has been pretty much used up, and so we need hydraulic fracturing for natural gas, mountaintop removal to dig for coal, deep water drilling for oil and the Alberta tar sands to get at what fossil fuels are left.

All these methods involve risks to human health and the natural environment, but that’s a price that can’t be avoided until alternatives are found and energy consumption is reduced.

An advanced nation should not depend on exports of raw materials, and imports of high-tech manufacturing goods, but that is the U.S. situation today.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/13/business/energy-environment/an-oil-industry-awash-in-crude-argues-over-exporting.html?_r=0

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/1/24/coal-s-new-exporteconomyleavesacloudofdustoverlouisiana.html

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/03/140320-north-american-natural-gas-seeks-markets-overseas/

http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/print/2009/03/canadian-oil-sands/kunzig-text

As the old saying goes, you can’t have your cake, and eat it too.

A nation can’t have reserves of fossil fuels, and burn them up or sell them all for export, too.

Hat tip to Bill Elwell for the cartoon.

Wolves restored Yellowstone’s natural balance

March 2, 2014

Hat tip for this to Mike Connelly

Syria has one million drought refugees

February 3, 2014

syria.drought

If peace ever comes to Syria, and the government of Bashar al-Assad is replaced, that unfortunate country’s troubles will be far from over.  Any future Syrian government will have to cope with 1 million refugees from Iraq, and 1 million of its own citizens displaced from the land by years of drought.

Thomas L.  Friedman of the New York Times recently quoted from an appeal by Abdullah bin Yehia, Syria’s food and agriculture representative to the United Nations, for $20 million in aid for Syria’s drought victims.

Yehia was prophetic. By 2010, roughly one million Syrian farmers, herders and their families were forced off the land into already overpopulated and under-served cities. These climate refugees were crowded together with one million Iraqi war refugees. The Assad regime failed to effectively help any of them, so when the Arab awakenings erupted in Tunisia and Egypt, Syrian democrats followed suit and quickly found many willing recruits from all those dislocated by the drought.

Friedman reported that the population of the Middle East has increased four-fold in the past 60 years, more than any other part of the world.  At the same time, according to the International Journal on Climatology, the region has steadily grown warmer, with many more warm nights and fewer cool days.   He went on to say -

And then consider this: Syria’s government couldn’t respond to a prolonged drought when there was a Syrian government. So imagine what could happen if Syria is faced by another drought after much of its infrastructure has been ravaged by civil war.

And, finally, consider this: “In the future, who will help a country like Syria when it gets devastated by its next drought if we are in a world where everyone is dealing with something like a Superstorm Sandy,” which alone cost the U.S. $60 billion to clean up? asks Joe Romm, founder of ClimateProgress.org.

So to Iran and Saudi Arabia, who are funding the proxy war in Syria between Sunnis and Shiites/Alawites, all I can say is that you’re fighting for control of a potential human/ecological disaster zone.  You need to be working together to rebuild Syria’s resiliency, and its commons, not destroying it. I know that in saying this I am shouting into a dust storm.  But there is nothing else worth saying.

Responsibility doesn’t just lie with the governments of Iran and Saudi Arabia.  It lies with Vladimir Putin’s Russia to an even greater degree.  Syria is Russia’s main remaining ally in the Middle East, and Putin is committed to propping up the Syrian regime.  For Russia to provide effective aid to Syria’s drought victims would do as much to stabilize Syria as sending its government more weapons to put down rebellion.

LINKS

Click on Wikileaks, Drought and Syria for the full article by Thomas L. Friedman in the New York Times.  Hat tip to Joshua Chacon for the link.

World fears Fukushima-contaminated food

December 4, 2013
fukushimafoodimportban

Double click to enlarge.

The world’s governments are worried about contamination of fish and farm produce from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.   The graphic above, taken from the Korea JoonAng Daily, shows the world’s reaction.  The graphic below shows the specific bans on food imports by South Korea.

koreafoodimportsban

Click to enlarge.

Is the danger exaggerated?  Maybe it is.  There’s no way to be sure except to let people eat contaminated fish and farm produce and see what happens.  I wouldn’t want to try the experiment.

Is this an argument for getting rid of nuclear power?  Maybe it is.  South Korea gets more than a third of its electricity from nuclear generating plants.  Are they in a position to give that up?

If (1) we don’t want to burn oil from deep water drilling or tar sands processing, natural gas from hydraulic fracturing (fracking) or coal produced by mountaintop removal, (2) we’re worried about global warming from burning fossil fuels and (3) we’re not ready to give up the blessings of industrial civilization, we’d better be sure we have something in reserve.

At the very least, the world’s people need to make sure that nuclear power plants are operated by managers who don’t have financial incentives to cut corners on safety.  We need to be sure they are located on geologically stable sites, run by top-notch experts according to stringent standards and decommissioned on their due dates.

Click on Korea and world fear Fukushima’s radiation for the full article in the Korea JoonAng Daily.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

Earth heating up from more methane in the air

December 2, 2013

Methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and its concentrations in the atmosphere are increasing faster than scientists predicted.

The main likely culprits: (1) Oil and gas drilling, including hydraulic fracturing, (2) cow flatulence, manure and other effects of livestock farming and (3) the melting Arctic permafrost.  The Arctic is heating up at twice the rate the rest of the world is warming.

Global warming is not milder winters and warmer summers.  It is a potentially catastrophic change in climate, weather patterns and sea levels, and it already is beginning.

The priority of the governments of the United States and other industrial nations should be negotiating international treaties to limit greenhouse gasses and mitigate climate change—not agreements such as the TPP which give corporate wish lists the force of international law.

LINKS

Typhoon Haidan: climate change is increasing the intensity of extreme weather events by Paddy Ashdown, former leader of Britain’s Liberal Democratic Party, for The Guardian.

U.S. Methane Study Says Emissions 50 Percent Higher Than EPA Estimates by Seth Borenstein for the Associated Press.

Arctic permafrost leaking methane at record levels, figures show by David Adam in, The Guardian.   The Arctic is heating up at twice the rate the rest of the world is warming.

Everything you need to know about climate change, an interactive FAQ from The Guardian.

Hat tips for these links to Mike Connelly.

The passing scene: Links & notes 12/1/13

December 1, 2013

The latest health issue for the elderly: ‘observation purgatory’ in hospitals by June McCoy for The Guardian.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

Medicare’s payment structure gives hospitals an incentive to designate elderly patients as “observations” rather than “admissions.”  This means less care for the patient and higher bills for their families.

23andMe is Terrifying But Not for the Reason the FDA Thinks by Charles Seife for Scientific American.  Hat tip to naked capitalism.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered a genetics testing company to stop selling its products until it can prove its tests are accurate.  But the writer says the real danger is creating a genetics database on millions of Americans that could be tapped by Big Brother.

Activist Malpractice by Michael Donnelly for Counterpunch.  Hat tip to Mike Connelly.

The writer slams Democrats, liberals and fake environmentalists who facilitate the Alberta tar sands mining, mining by mountaintop removal in Appalachia and clear-cutting of forests in Oregon.

Canada to file Arctic seafloor claim this week by the Canadian Press.

As the Arctic icecap melts, Canada, Russia and Denmark (which owns Greenland) are mapping their northern continental shelves and staking claims to the floor of the sea.  Canada’s claim will be the size of the provinces of Saskatchewan, Alberta and Manitoba combined.

Nicaragua canal boosts China power by Arnie Seiki for Asia Times.

China and Nicaragua have signed an agreement that would give China the right to build a canal across Nicaragua rivaling the Panama Canal.  While it’s long way from signing an agreement to actually building a canal, it is a sign of China’s emergence as a global power, and not merely an east Asian power.

Wal-Mart arrests could fuel “a new political movement of the disenfranchised,” Grayson tells Salon.

All the fish in the ocean are in peril

November 11, 2013

worldfishstocks

Independent marine biologists—those not working for fishing companies—say the world’s fishing stocks are in peril, mainly from overfishing.  The chart above, from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, shows their best information on what is happening to the world’s stocks of ocean fish.   It’s not good.

We Americans could get along without eating fish, but many people in the world could not.  And the oceans, which cover three-quarters of the world’s surface, are a vital part of the world’s ecology.  We don’t know how it would be affected by a large die-off of marine life.

The idea that humanity could lose virtually all of the world’s ocean fish is so staggering I can’t get my mind around it, let alone make a constructive suggestion.

What’s needed is some sort of global authority with the power to set rules for catching and fish enforce them.  Unfortunately the world is going in the opposite direction.  National governments are giving up their sovereignty, all right, but to global organizations set up to protect corporations against undue environmental restrictions.

(more…)

The world scene: Notes & links 10/30/13

October 30, 2013

The World’s Billionaires List in Forbes

Billionaires: Decline of the West, Rise of the Rest by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh for Triple Crisis.

Forbes magazine’s annual list of the world’s billionaires indicates there are still more billionaires in the United States than in any other country, but the rest of the world is catching up.  China has the second largest number of billionaires and Russia has the third, followed by Germany, India, Brazil and Turkey.

The new list reflects the growth of the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China)  relative to the United States, western Europe and Japan.   Broad and Cavanagh wrote that it also reflects growing inequality throughout the world.  The world’s richest man, Carlos Slim of Mexico, has a net worth of $73 billion, equal to 6.2 percent of Mexico’s GDP.  The third richest is Amacio Ortega, the Spanish retail king, who accumulated a fortune of $57 billion in a country where a fourth of the work force are unemployed.  If you’re wondering, the world’s second richest billionaire is Bill Gates and the fourth richest is Warren Buffett.

The Most Important Labor Strike in the World Is Happening Right Now by David Callahan for Common Dreams.

Millions of workers across Indonesia are on strike, demanding a higher minimum wage (it is now about $200 a month) and a universal health plan.  This is important for U.S. workers because Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world after China, India and the United States, is a giant sweatshop which helps depress wages worldwide.

The sooner Indonesia follows the path of Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore, and develops a sizable middle class, the better not only for Indonesia, but for the United States, because Indonesia will become more of a potential market for U.S.-made goods and less of a magnet for how-wage employers.   Labor unions historically have helped bring wage-earners into the middle class.

Will the House of Saud pivot to China? by Pepe Escobar for Asia Times

Turkey’s Choice: Chinese Missile Defense or NATO? by Semih Idiz for Al-Monitor Turkey Pulse.

The Turkish government is negotiating to obtain a missile defense system from the Chinese Precision Machinery Import and Export Company, which also supplies military technology to Syria, Iran and North Korea.  The Turks said the Chinese bid is lower and offers technology transfer withheld by Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and other western bidders.  This is another example of the fact that China is now a global power, and not a regional east Asian power.

(more…)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 493 other followers