“That’s a cute little bug, evolution!”
“Yes, thank you! It’s a beaded lacewing. I’m just finishing up the larval form’s feeding mechanism now.”
“Oh yeah? What do the larvae eat?”
“Hm. Those can be hard to catch, can’t they? Don’t you want to give the lacewing some stronger legs or giant trap-jaws or something?”
“Nah, it’s fine. It’s going to paralyze the termites first.”
“Paralyze them? How will it do that?”
“With toxic gas.”
“Come on, where does it get toxic gas?”
“From its anus.”
“… I’m sorry, what?”
“It can release toxic gas from its anus.”
“It sneaks up and farts on the termites’ heads until they pass out, and then it eats them. I don’t know what you’re not getting about this.”
“I just… I don’t… um…”
“It’s doing the termites a favor, really. That way they don’t have to feel it when the lacewing punctures their abdomen with its mouthparts and starts digesting them from the inside. Anyway, break for lunch?”
“No thanks, I think I’m good.”
Source: Flickr / cotinis / licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Read more: Silent and Deadly: Fatal Farts Immobilize Prey by Gwen Pearson at WIRED
SATURDAY, JUN 27, 2015
In the span of a few words, Limbaugh smears atheists, ignores science and appears to struggle with simple metaphors
STEVE NEUMANNShortly before beginning to write this, I read a transcript of a recent Rush Limbaugh show titled “The Pope’s ‘Science Advisor’ Is an Atheist Who Worships the Earth,” which begins:
“My friends, not one to let things go, I have dug deep, and I have found out practically everything there is to know about the science advisor to Pope Francis on this encyclical. And the main thing you need to know, the guy’s an atheist.”
Why is that the main thing we need to know? Because atheists are evil, of course, and therefore their judgment can’t be trusted. But then Limbaugh says “the word for it in the story that I found, one of the most credible stories, is a pantheist, which is a variation of atheist.” Really? An a-theist is someone who doesn’t believe in God, but apan-theist is someone who believes that God is the universe, or that the universe is a manifestation of God. (You know, “pan” means “all” and “theos” means “God,” and all that.) But Limbaugh says that a “pantheist is somebody that believes the earth is a living organism that has the equivalent of a brain and reacts to horrible things done to it by humans,” and that in this view “the earth becomes the deity and there is no God.”
Limbaugh’s deep digging raises more questions than it answers. Does the Pope’s science advisor, Hans Schellnhuber, really believe that the Earth is a living organism like you or me — or God? And if he does, does it matter? Do only atheists believe in anthropogenic global warming? If so, how do you explain someone like Katharine Hayhoe, an Evangelical Christian who “believes her religious faith obligates her to spread the word about climate change”? Can we trust her judgment? Limbaugh should really worry more about her because, as member of their tribe, she has the power to change Christian minds. Christians certainly aren’t going to be swayed by an evil atheist pantheist.
A search for Katharine Hayhoe on Limbaugh’s site turned up only one mention of her name. In a 2011 show where he interviews Marc Morano, who runs the climate denier blog Climate Depot, Limbaugh brings up the fact that Hayhoe was slotted to have a chapter in an upcoming book by Newt Gingrich:
“This woman is writing Newt’s chapter on climate change in the new book. She says, ‘It is primarily laypeople like talk show hosts who are perpetuating the idea that there is no scientific consensus.’ Marc Morano, our man in Washington, claims that Newt’s new book has a chapter written by a babe named Hayhoe — no offense, Reverend Jackson — that man-made global warming is happening, caused by man.”
Limbaugh doesn’t try to understand how an Evangelical Christian could believe that “among climate scientists, people who spend their lives researching our world, there’s no debate regarding the reality of climate change and the fact that humans are the primary cause.” He doesn’t even mention the fact that she’s a Christian. It turns out that just mentioning her on his show was enough to discredit her, though; Gingrich subsequently cut her chapter out of his book completely.
But back to Schellnhuber. Does he really believe in her holiness, Mother Gaia? I’m not 100 percent sure, but I doubt that he believes the Earth is literally a god to be worshipped. In a Nature article from 1999, titled “‘Earth system’ analysis and the second Copernican Revolution,” Schellnhuber argues that “sophisticated information-compression techniques including simulation modelling are now ushering in a second ‘Copernican’ revolution” that strives to understand the Earth holistically, hoping to develop concepts for global environmental management from that. A holistic approach is common in medicine, for example: the treatment of the wholeperson, taking into account mental and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of a disease. A holistic approach to understanding the Earth seeks to take into account every relevant factor, too. Doesn’t seem too controversial.
Where people like Limbaugh really blow a gasket is when Schellnhuber writes that “ecosphere science is therefore coming of age, lending respectability to its romantic companion, Gaia theory.” To Limbaugh, this is an admission of allegiance to a pagan religion. But the “ecosphere” is just the biosphere of the earth, with emphasis on the interaction between its living and nonliving components. Gaia theory is a hypothesis formulated by the chemist James Lovelock and co-developed by the microbiologist Lynn Margulis in the 1970s, that proposed that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet.
The philosopher Michael Ruse notes in 2013 that “as science, Gaia never really made it, but it has provoked important scientific work nonetheless. The world as a whole, its homeostasis or lack of it, is interesting, important, and worthy of investigation,” and that even if Gaia theory hasn’t been accepted by most scientists, he says that “‘Earth Systems Science’ flourishes.” A charitable reading of Schellnhuber would lead us to conclude that he’s not shilling for a new religion. Consider his use of the adjective “romantic” to describe Gaia theory. He’s not taking Gaia theory literally, he’s saying that it’s “suggestive of an idealized view of reality,” as my Oxford dictionary defines “romantic.”
In other words, he’s using it as a metaphor to help him understand the issue. Schellnhuber also says that this “hotly debated ‘geophysiological’ approach to Earth-system analysis argues that the biosphere contributes in an almost cognizant way to self-regulating feedback mechanisms that have kept the Earth’s surface environment stable and habitable for life.” Notice that he uses scare quotes to describe Lovelock’s idea of studying the Earth’s “body.” Schellnhuber also utilizes metaphorical language again when he says that the Earth acts in an almost cognizant manner. That is, almost but not really.
Science thrives on the use of metaphor and analogy, especially when trying to communicate complex ideas and processes. Think of Richard Dawkins’s concept of the “selfish gene,” or pretty much anything written on physics by Brian Greene. In anepisode of “The Big Bang Theory,” Greene has a cameo appearance where he uses a metaphor to introduce a wacky quantum effect:
“You can think of Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle much like the special order menu that you find in certain Chinese restaurants, where you have some dishes in column A and other dishes in column B, and if you order the first dish in column A you can’t order the corresponding dish in column B — that’s sort like the Uncertainty Principle.”
Does Greene really believe that quantum physics is like a Chinese menu? Do I really need to answer that question?
I don’t think these subtleties are lost on people like Limbaugh; I think they believe they’re used as subterfuge by what they consider to be evil, liberal secular fascists to control the world. But that still doesn’t explain people like Katharine Hayhoe, who recently commented on the Pope’s “Laudato Si” encyclical at fellow Evangelical and scientist Francis Collins’s BioLogos website. The title of her post is “Why All Christians Should Heed Pope Francis’ Call to ‘Care for Our Common Home,’” where she writes:
“This is why the Pope’s unprecedented encyclical on climate change matters so much. It makes a moral call for action based on the fundamental premises of the Christian faith – premises so fundamental that we can all, and must all, agree…In this world, there is only really one thing we Christians are called to do: to fearlessly express Christ’s love to others. In the case of climate change, how do we express this love? Through acknowledging the reality of the issue; supporting action to help others who are being harmed now, today, and in the future; and taking our responsibility to care for God’s creation seriously.”
I think it’s clear that the Earth system science that people like Schellnhuber and others engage in makes generous use of metaphors to both understand the issue of global climate change and to communicate that understanding to the rest of us. Whether it’s called “Gaia” or “God’s creation,” it’s a poetic metaphor that has the power to motivate us to make the necessary changes because it shows how much we’re actually invested in it.
Speaking of poetic metaphors, the late poet Denise levertov, a former agnostic who converted to Catholicism in her sixties, combines Schellnhuber’s Gaia and Hayhoe’s Creation in her poem “Tragic Error” from her 1992 book Evening Train:
Surely we were to have been
earth’s mind, mirror, reflective source.
Surely our task
was to have been
to love the earth,
to dress and keep it like Eden’s garden.
That would have been our dominion:
to be those cells of the earth’s body that could
perceive and imagine, could bring the planet
into the haven it is to be known.
But as is usual for Limbaugh and others like FoxNews hosts and pundits, the invocation of an atheist who believes in Gaia is meant to instill fear in the GOP base, motivating them to vote against the Democratic Devil.
JUNE 25, 2015
In 1922, seven Western states — Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Wyoming and California — drew up an agreement on how to divide the waters of the Colorado River. But there was one big problem with the plan: They overestimated how much water the river could provide.
As a result, each state was promised more water than actually exists. This miscalculation — and the subsequent mismanagement of water resources in those states — has created a water crisis that now affects nearly 40 million Americans.
Environmental reporter Abrahm Lustgarten began investigating the water crisis a year and a half ago for the ProPublica series Killing the Colorado. He tells Fresh Air’s Dave Davies that he initially thought the water crisis was the result of climate change or drought. Instead, Lustgarten says, “It’s the policy and the management that seem to be having a greater effect than the climate.”
Lustgarten says conservation and increased efficiency in farming could reintroduce enormous quantities of water back into the Colorado River system. By Lustgarten’s estimate, if Arizona farmers switched from growing cotton to growing wheat, it would save enough water to supply about 1.4 million people with water each year.
But, Lustgarten adds, “There’s nothing really more politically touchy in the West than water and the prospect of taking away people’s water rights. So what you have when you talk about increasing efficiency or reapportioning water is essentially an argument between those who have it, which are the farmers and the people who have been on that land for generations, and those who don’t, which are the cities who are relative newcomers to the area.”
On how, in the 1920s, seven Western states decided how they would divide up the waters of the Colorado River
The states came together and negotiated, actually, at the behest of Herbert Hoover, for how they would divide up that river. To do that, they calculated what they thought was the total flow of the river, thought they’d leave a little bit in the river for the health of the ecosystem, and divided up what they thought remained. It has turned out over the years that far less than that flows in the river. … What that means is from the very start the Colorado River has been over-allocated — not all of those states yet take the maximum amount they’re allowed to, but if they did, each of those states have been promised collectively more water than actually exists, and that’s the very premise of water use in the West. Before drought, before climate change, before expansion and population, they began with the premise of thinking they had more water than they actually had.
On why farmers grow such a “thirsty” crop as cotton in arid Arizona
Cotton is one of the most water-intensive crops that farmers can grow. It’s not the most — grasses, like alfalfa, which are also grown in abundance, use far more water. But [among] the long list of options, cotton uses about six times as much water as growing a crop of lettuce and about 60 percent more than growing wheat. Cotton has been a staple of Arizona’s agriculture economy for many years. It’s in decline. There’s much less of it today than there used to be, but there’s still more than 100,000 acres of cotton grown in Arizona.
Arizona is probably the worst off when it comes to water of the seven states in the Colorado River Basin, so that decision to continue to use its water to grow one of the thirstiest crops is something that caught our attention very early in our reporting. … When you look at cotton, it’s not actually a really good business. There’s a glut of cotton on the market, there’s not a lot of demand for it, and in recent years the price has been really low, so it wouldn’t appear to be a very good business decision for farmers. What we found is that under the U.S. farm bill, the federal government heavily subsidizes cotton, it subsidizes other crops but no crop in Arizona received more money than cotton through a variety of forms. The farmers that I spoke with basically said that this money helps them bridge the gap between good years and bad years and keeps them in the black. If they didn’t grow cotton, they wouldn’t be eligible for as much money. Their entire farming operations would likely suffer.
On how much water it takes to grow alfalfa, which is grown to feed cows
If you were to pick any one crop that uses the most water in the Colorado River Basin, it’s alfalfa. There’s a lot of surprising aspects to alfalfa usage, not just that it supports our meat and dairy industries but a lot of it is actually exported to support other countries’ meat and dairy industries. There’s large alfalfa farms in Southern California and southern Arizona for example that are owned by the United Arab Emirates, or other Middle Eastern countries. I calculated, based on the very high water intensity of say a steak, you can calculate that if Americans theoretically ate one less meal of meat each week it would save an amount of water that could be the equivalent of the entire annual flow of the Colorado River.
On one of the massive geo-engineering projects that were built to carry water from the river to the arid lands in the West
The Navajo Generating Station is a three-generator, coal-fired plant. It’s one of the largest in the country, and it sits in the northern edge of Arizona along the Colorado River, outside the town of Page as a phenomenally massive monument to industry. It sits in an otherwise plain and open wilderness landscape, red sandstone spires and desert buttes, and then all of a sudden is this enormous, thrumming, loud facility with three smokestacks that reach almost 800 feet into the air. It consumes about 22,000 tons of coal each year and powers a number of Southwestern cities, but mainly [it] provides the power to move water through the Central Arizona Project canal into the middle of Arizona. …
About 300 miles south of Page along the Colorado River, the river sits in a small reservoir called Lake Havasu, and from Lake Havasu there’s a couple of intake pipes that move the water out of the river, about 10 percent of the flow of the river, carry it up a total elevation gain of about 3,000 feet and across 336 miles through the cities of Phoenix and Tucson into the central part of the state of Arizona. Moving that much water up that much elevation gain requires an enormous amount of energy, and to acquire that energy the federal government basically built the Navajo Generating Station in the early 1970s.
On the pollution created to move the water from the river to farms and cities
The Navajo Generating Station is the nation’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide, climate warming gases, of any power facility in the country. In addition to the carbon dioxide, it has historically emitted enormous amounts of nitrogen oxide, mercury, going back some years, sulfur dioxide and a slew of other pollutants that have essentially blanketed that part of the country in a fog of haze and smog. …
It was anticipated. The earliest environmental impact statements that I was able to find, dating back to 1972, warned that the Navajo plant and another that was being built at the time would cause an exponential rise in air pollution in the region. The Union of Concerned Scientists called that part of the country a “national sacrifice area” if the country proceeded with its plan to mine coal and burn it for power and those concerns have essentially manifested today.
On how government policies are contributing to the water shortage
What I hear repeatedly from some of the smartest thinkers in the West … is that there is plenty of water in the West, so the question is really about how do you use it better. … The changes that we talked about in terms of farming, prioritizing which crops are grown and increasing efficiency about how water is used in the cities, they believe would make the region self-sustaining for many, many, many decades into the future.
WEEKEND EDITION JUNE 12-14, 2015
Control the Food, Control the State
by COLIN TODHUNTER
After a study of GMOs over a four-year plus period, India’s multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture recommended a ban on GM food crops stating they had no role in a country of small farmers. The Supreme Court appointed a technical expert committee (TEC), which recommended an indefinite moratorium on the field trials of GM crops until the government devised a proper regulatory and safety mechanism. As yet, no such mechanism exists, but open field trials are being given the go ahead. GMO crops approved for field trials include rice, maize, chickpea, sugarcane, and brinjal.
The only commercially grown genetically modified (GM) crop gown in India at this time is Bt cotton. It is hardly the resounding success story the pro-GMO lobby would like us to believe.
Pushpa M Bhargava is founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad, India. Writing in the Hindustan Times, he states that
* Bt cotton is far from having been an unqualified success in India. It has worked only in irrigated areas and not in rain-fed regions that represent two-thirds of the area under cotton cultivation in the country.
* Out of over 270,000 farmers’ suicides, Bt cotton farmers constitute a substantial number.
* In Andhra Pradesh, there have been deaths of thousands of cattle that grazed on the remnants of Bt cotton plants after harvesting of cotton.
* Resistance to pests in Bt cotton has developed over the years. There has also been a marked increase in the number of secondary pests such as mealy bug.
* The soil where Bt cotton has been grown over a prolonged period has become incapable of sustaining any other crop.
* Some 90 percent of the member countries of the United Nations, including almost all countries of Europe, haven’t permitted GM crops or unlabelled GM food.
* There are over 500 research publications by scientists of indisputable integrity, who have no conflict of interest, that establish the harmful effects of GM crops on human, animal and plant health, and on the environment and biodiversity.
* On the other hand, virtually every paper supporting GM crops is by scientists who have a declared conflict of interest or whose credibility and integrity can be doubted.
* The argument that we need GM technology to feed the increasing population of India is fallacious. Even with low productivity, which can be increased, India even now produces sufficient grain in the country to take care of its requirements.
* India can double its food production by using non-GM technologies, such as molecular breeding.
* Few chronic toxicity tests have been done anywhere on GM food crops. Whenever these tests have been done, GM food has been shown to lead to cancer.
Back in 2003, after examining all aspects of GM crops, eminent scientists from various countries who formed the Independent Science Panel concluded:
“GM crops have failed to deliver the promised benefits and are posing escalating problems on the farm. Transgenic contamination is now widely acknowledged to be unavoidable, and hence there can be no co-existence of GM and non-GM agriculture. Most important of all, GM crops have not been proven safe. On the contrary, sufficient evidence has emerged to raise serious safety concerns that if ignored could result in irreversible damage to health and the environment. GM crops should be firmly rejected now.”
On a similar note, writing in The Statesman Bharat Dogra quotes Professor Susan Bardocz as saying:
“GM is the first irreversible technology in human history. When a GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) is released it is out of our control; we have no means to call it back….”
Dogra also notes that 17 distinguished scientists from Europe, USA, Canada and New Zealand wrote to the former Indian Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh warning against “the unique risks (of GM crops) to food security, farming systems and bio-safety impacts which are ultimately irreversible.” This letter adds:
“The GM transformation process is highly mutagenic leading to disruptions to host plant genetic structure and function, which in turn leads to disturbances in the biochemistry of the plant. This can lead to novel toxin and allergen production as well as reduced/altered nutrition quality.”
Writing in The Hindu, Aruna Rodrigues states that the consensus on the negative impacts of GMOs in various official reports in India is remarkable.
Yet India seems to be pressing ahead with a pro-GMO agenda regardless. Little surprise then that Bhargava argues that the Central Government departments in India act as peddlers of GM technology, probably in collusion with the transnational corporations which market GM seeds.
There is no ‘probably’ about it and the collusion goes beyond GMOs.
The World Bank/IMF/WTO’s goals on behalf of Big Agritech and the opening up of India to it are well documented. With the help of compliant politicians, transnational companies want farmers’ lands and unmitigated access to Indian markets. This would entail the wholesale ‘restructuring’ of Indian society under the bogus banner of ‘free trade’, which will lead (is leading) to the destruction of the livelihoods of hundreds of millions [see this, this and this].
Moreover, Monsanto, Walmart and other giant US corporations had a seat at the top table when the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture was agreed with the US. Monsanto also dominates the cotton industryin India and is increasingly shaping agri-policy and the knowledge paradigm by funding agricultural research in public universities and institutes: it is the “contemporary East India Company.”
If further evidence were needed in terms of just who is setting the agenda, Vandana Shiva highlights the arm twisting that has gone on in an attempt to force through GMOs into India, with various politicians having been pushed aside until the dotted line for GMO open field testing approval was signed on.
And those like Shiva and Rodrigues who legitimately protest, resist or offer constructive alternatives are demonized by an Intelligence Bureau report whose authors might appear to some as having been sponsored by the very transnational corporations that are seeking to recast India in their own images.
Bhargava states that 64 percent of India’s population derives its sustenance from agriculture-related activities. Therefore, whosoever controls Indian agriculture would control the country. And here lies the crux of the matter. To control Indian agriculture, the bedrock of the country, one needs to control only seeds and agro-chemicals. Monsanto and its backers in the US State Department are well aware of this fact. And to control Indian politicians is to control India.
US foreign policy has almost always rested on the control of agriculture:
“American foreign policy has almost always been based on agricultural exports, not on industrial exports as people might think. It’s by agriculture and control of the food supply that American diplomacy has been able to control most of the Third World. The World Bank’s geopolitical lending strategy has been to turn countries into food deficit areas by convincing them to grow cash crops – plantation export crops – not to feed themselves with their own food crops.” Professor Michael Hudson
US foreign policy is about power and control: the power to control food, states and entire populations.
Politicians in India and elsewhere continue to ignore the evidence pertaining to the dangers of GMOs. They are handmaidens of US corporate-geopolitical interests. The US relies on compliant politicians in foreign countries. These figures are just as important for furthering US goals in India as much as they are elsewhere.
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.
Rose Marcario, Patagonia | May 22, 2015
When Yvon Chouinard, founder of Patagonia, began writing about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the early 2000s, he started by asking a reasonable question: “What does a clothing company know about genetic engineering?”
The answer, he said: “Not enough.” And neither does anyone else. In the proliferation of GMOs, Yvon saw a serious threat to wildness and biodiversity.
More than 10 years later, the prevalence of GMOs in everyday food products has risen sharply—but basic consumer awareness remains low.
An alarming bill before Congress aims to keep it that way. The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 (H.R. 4432) will remove any requirements for manufacturers to label foods containing GMOs. Even the misleading name of the bill suggests an intention to leave us in the dark.We all have a right to know what’s in our food. The manufacturers of GMO seeds maintain that GMO corn and soy, found in many everyday food products, are safe. But if they are safe, why not label them?Currently, 64 countries around the world require labeling of foods containing GMOs. Most other developed countries—including 28 nations in the European Union, as well as Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China—require labeling.
Yet, in the U.S., various food companies joined together to sue the state of Vermont, the first state to pass legislation requiring labeling of GMO food. (Last month, a district judge ruled in favor of labeling GMO food).
Sometimes a new technology puts us up against an edge that’s hard to see, feel or even define. New technologies, like genetically engineered food, should be labeled, so you can decide whether you want to risk ingesting them.
That seems like common sense to us—so it’s not clear why there is so much resistance to labeling GMOs. Among other arguments, large corporations pushing against labeling say the cost of new labels will be great and passed along to the consumer. But an independent study has shown this is unlikely as manufacturers routinely update labels for marketing reasons.
Further, we have a good, time-tested alternative to GMOs on a global scale: organic farming. Modern organic farming can be highly productive—as good as conventional systems but safer and more sustainable. It can produce high yields from small acreage through the use of locally adapted plants, intercropping, improved nutrient recycling and new techniques to minimize leaching, soil erosion and water consumption.
Claims that genetically engineered seeds will provide significant increases in agricultural production worldwide are probably true—but only in the very short term. In a comparison of organic and conventional yields, Rodale Institute discovered that after an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system.
Organic farming puts food on the table (and clothing on our backs) without poisoning the Earth.
Patagonia switched to organic cotton in 1996 because we found out how many pesticides are used in growing conventional cotton. In our new food line, Patagonia Provisions, we only useorganic ingredients.
Business is responding with positive steps forward: In the last six months, several food and restaurant businesses have announced plans to reformulate products to eliminate artificial ingredients, including GMOs.
But even if people don’t buy organic, a majority say they want to know what’s in the food they eat. We should be informed and make our own choices about what we feed our families and ourselves.
So, as a clothing company that recently got into the food business, we believe it would be irresponsible not to push hard for transparency and other imperatives that will shape our ability to keep the planet and all its inhabitants alive and healthy in the future.
I’m was proud to join with other business leaders on May 20 in Washington, DC, to talk to lawmakers about the critical need for transparency in food labeling. I encourage you to visit JustLabelIt.org to learn more about how to protect your right to know.
Originally published on Patagonia‘s blog, The Cleanest Line.
Justin Mikulka, DeSmogBlog | May 26, 2015
In what came as a welcome surprise to activists in Albany, New York, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) reversed an earlier decision and now will require a full environmental review for a proposed tar sands oil heating facility at the Port of Albany.
“It is good for New York State that the DEC came to a proper decision in one of the most important environmental matters facing the state,” said Riverkeeper president Paul Gallay. “We look forward to participating with the state on a full public safety and environmental review that is robust and protective of our communities and our waterways.”
Riverkeeper is one of many groups fighting the plan by Global Partners to add tar sands oil to the Bakken oil it is already moving down and along the Hudson River in large amounts, efforts highlighted in this recent New York Times Op-Doc.
Riverkeeper also recently filed a lawsuit challenging the Department of Transportation’s recent new oil-by-rail regulations.
Albany has become the largest distribution hub for crude oil on the East Coast due to its rail access and its port on the Hudson River and this transformation happened with so little fanfare that the local community was initially unaware of what the DEC had permitted.
There were no ribbon cutting ceremonies or big public announcements made by local government officials who were aware of what was happening. The mayor of Albany could be found cutting ribbons for the opening of Subway shops or bars, but not a word about the 2.8 billion gallons a year of oil that were permitted to arrive in Albany by train by the DEC.
And then the first oil tanker that was filled with 12 million gallons of Bakken oil loaded from rail cars and sent off down the Hudson promptly ran around. Luckily no oil was spilled and, as a result, local people began to ask questions just as Bakken trains began to derail and explode with alarming frequency, as noted in this short documentary about the risks posed by oil trains to Albany and the Hudson.
In addition to Riverkeeper, efforts to require a full environmental review for Global’s application were supported by Earthjustice, Sierra Club, Scenic Hudson, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Advocates and the local group People of Albany United for Safe Energy (PAUSE).
Earthjustice filed a lawsuit last year challenging the DEC decision to not require a full environmental review on behalf of several of the groups involved as well as the local tenant association for a community located directly along the rail tracks. Chris Amato of Earthjustice led the efforts and welcomed this decision.
“This is wonderful and welcome news for the people of Albany,” said Chris Amato, Earthjustice attorney. “We are gratified that DEC has listened to the community’s concerns and agrees with us that Global’s proposal will have significant environmental impacts. We look forward to working with the Department to identify the multitude of threats to the health and safety of communities that make this project a disaster-in-waiting.”
However, in the past week the expected outcome was not that the DEC would arrive at the conclusion they did. Capital New York reported that the DEC had been making the rounds of local politicians and informing them that it would be “legally difficult” for them to not allow Global to go forward with their plans for building a facility for heating tar sands crude.
So what changed the expected outcome? One significant development was a letter from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to theDEC commissioner Joe Martens making two points.
The first was reminding Martens that he had not responded to a letter sent by the EPA a year ago asking for more information about the proposed project and pointing out flaws in the DEC’s air pollution analysis.
The second was to let Martens know that the EPA wanted to see any proposed permit to allow Global’s heating facility prior to the official review period so that the EPA could work “corroboratively with DEC to ensure that outstanding permitting issues concerning Global are addressed.”
While oil will still be transported to Albany by rail and then down the Hudson by barge and tanker, for now it is likely to remain the Bakken oil and not Canadian tar sands — which avoids the disaster that tar sands spills create in water.
This is welcome news in Albany and in communities all along the Hudson due to the risks involved.
NorthJersey.com recently reported on the risks posed by moving oil on the Hudson and spoke about these risks to retired Texas A&M University oceanography professor and expert on oil spills, Chuck Kennicutt.
“I have no side in this issue, but I do know one thing: You will have a spill,” said Chuck Kennicutt. “It’s almost inevitable. The question is how big.”
At least for now, thanks to the efforts of a large coalition of groups in New York, if that spill does occur, it won’t be Canadian tar sands oil.
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“The San Andreas is 45 miles from the two 1,100-megawatt-plus reactors at Diablo Canyon. That’s just half the distance Fukushima was from the quake that wrecked at least Unit 1 and sent in that tsunami to finish off Units 2, 3 and 4.
In all likelihood a 9-plus shaking from the San Andreas could reduce the two reactors at Diablo to radioactive rubble. As at Fukushima, we’d expect hydrogen explosions, maybe some fission, the loss of the cores, the cracking of the spent fuel pools, fires, mayhem, apocalyptic emissions.
Things would be made far worse, of course, because we now know at least a dozen fault lines surround those reactors, and they were not made to withstand them. One, the Shoreline, passes within 700 yards of the two cores. The NRC’s own resident inspector, Dr. Michael Peck, has warned that Diablo simply cannot reliably survive those faults going off … and should be shut.
We also know that all those fault lines are interconnected. There’s a hint of that as our scientific expert (Paul Giamatti) shows us how a previously unknown fault line in Nevada could touch off the Big One in California.
In fact, there’s simply no way that a shock and tsunami anywhere near as big as depicted in this 3-D IMAX monster would not result in the state being saturated with massive radiation releases from those melted, exploded, rubble-ized reactors. Diablo’s radioactive cloud would quickly blanket North America, destroying our food sources and our economy and ultimately killing millions.
None of this, of course, makes it into the film.” ~ Harvey Wasserman
This culture is deliberately engineered to be ignorant and oblivious to the most fundamental facts of human health-physical and mental-and longevity, which require thriving biodiversity and healthy ecosystems. Stopping the geno-eco-suicidal nuclear industry is a challenge we must step up to and face down, now! Before it’s too late…
Ecological Collapse: http://ift.tt/1zifL42
Scientists race to identify the cause of the mystery die-off, as half of the species’ population perishes within a matter of weeks.
By: Bryan Nelson – Tue, Jun 02, 2015
- The saiga antelope, an ice age relic, once roamed alongside woolly mammoths and saber-toothed tigers. Today, the population of this ancient species is in collapse. In just a 15-year period, their numbers have dropped by 95 percent, which represents the sharpest collapse for a mammal species ever recorded. Poaching and habitat loss are historically the main culprits, but over the last several years a new scourge has arrived: a mysterious disease that has wiped out more than 120,000 saiga in a matter of weeks, nearly half of the remaining worldwide population, reports Nature.It’s difficult to comprehend the loss that this species has suffered in such a short time. “Apocalyptic” is not too strong a word.“I’m flustered looking for words here,” Joel Berger, a senior scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, told the New York Times. “To lose 120,000 animals in two or three weeks is a phenomenal thing.”So what could cause such a mass die-off? Scientists still aren’t entirely sure, but there are some clues. Here’s what they do know: Autopsies of dead saigas have revealed that they were infected with two species of bacteria, Pasteurella and Clostridium, and that these infections contributed to their deaths. But this knowledge hardly solves the mystery because these bacteria are present in most healthy antelope too. In other words, it’s likely that some other unknown ailment is crippling their immune systems, allowing the bacterial infections to take hold.Scientists are also considering whether the cause is from something other than viral or bacterial pathogens. For instance, Central Asia has experienced heavy chemical pollution over the decades from factories and farms. Climate change could also be at fault. Heavier than normal rainfall has led to lush plant growth in the region, and saigas are known to overeat, become bloated and get sick. But so far these are mere speculations.Whatever this disease is, it strikes with alarming quickness. Animals typically die within hours of developing symptoms, which include depression, diarrhea and frothing at the mouth. The only good news is that the mass die-off appears to be over, as few new deaths have occurred since the initial collapse. But unless scientists can identify exactly what is killing the antelope, there could be no stopping another catastrophe.One reason for optimism is that the saiga is a resilient animal, and the species has survived population collapses in the past. Though not as severe as the recent die-off, similar events also occurred in 1984, 2010 and 2012, and the species was able to recover. Part of the reason the saiga is so well-adapted to such population collapses is that the animals have a high reproductive rate. They regularly produce triplets and have the highest fetal biomass of any mammal.Still, it’s a long uphill climb for a species that has been so utterly decimated in such a short period of time, and there are heavy hearts for the conservationists who have worked so diligently to protect this beautiful antelope.The fossil record reveals that the prehistoric range of the saiga stretched from the United Kingdom to Alaska, though today their range is limited to pockets in Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Russia, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The species is most recognizable for unusual noses, which look roughly like rudimentary elephant trunks. Though the noses look goofy, they represent remarkable adaptations. They act as filters, protecting the animals from breathing in rising dust from the dry ground in summer, and warming the air during the cold of winter.“It’s a remarkable structure, really,” said Dr. Kühl-Stenzel, a saiga expert, to the New York Times. “In the rutting season, the male’s nose swells even more, and then they shake their heads and it makes a squishy sound.”