News/Links July 6th
The NSIDC reports the current rate of arctic sea ice loss is between 100,000 and 150,000 square kilometers per day, more than twice the rate of climatological change. As of June 19th, sea ice was less than the previous record low extents for the same time period.
Researchers from Yale University and the University of Connecticut suggest that extinction models have overlooked important “species interaction networks.” The scientists claim that the complexity of these interactions typically limits their predictive abilities of the effects of climate change in extinction rates.
Top consumers such as keystone predators and herbivores tend to have a much more profound influence on survivability of very many other organisms within larger, inter-related networks. Alterations to these “biotic multiplier” species often leads to large fluxes throughout entire food webs. In some cases, climate change may lead to relatively gradual ecosystem flux, in other instances it may alter keystone species, leading to rapid, systemic change.
The report’s primary author, Phoebe Zarnetske, explains, “Species interactions are necessary for life on Earth. We rely on fisheries, timber, agriculture, medicine and a variety of other ecosystem services that result from intact species interactions… Humans have already altered these important species interactions, and climate change is predicted to alter them further. Incorporating these interactions into models is crucial to informed management decisions that protect biodiversity and the services it provides.”
Official Chinese news agency Xinhua admitted that food safety authorities have exposed some 15,000 instances of unsafe food this year. Investigative reporters from the Chinese periodical Caixin have discovered that the actual amount of toxic food cases is much, much greater, claiming, “these publicized food safety scandals represent only a fraction of unsafe food production practices. Hundreds of chemical food additives are pumped into products that Chinese people consume every day.”
Milk and dairy product contamination has been a particular problem. In the year 2008, contamination of infant formula and dairy products was linked to 300,000 cases of sickness and the deaths of six children. Issues concerning widespread contamination of dairy products have been “reportedly blocked by government censors,” and resulted in the execution of several milk distributors.
“Resilience” for the rich and impoverishment for global biodiversity?
During the Global Earth Summit in Rio, dozens of catadores – Brazilians who subside by sifting through waste heaps for scraps and recyclables – tolerated miserable, muddy conditions in makeshift encampments to have their voices heard.
The National Movement of Collectors of Recyclable Materials or “Movimento” organizer João Paolo explained, “Members of the Movimento are staying in unsanitary conditions. The bathrooms are incredibly filthy… The food is terrible. Many companheiros have food poisoning.”
Greg Hanscom describes the situation during the Rio Earth Summit, writing, “The scene is a stark contrast to the heavily guarded compound on the city’s far fringe where the official Earth Summit proceedings are taking place. There, besuited dignitaries and delegates bustle between air-conditioned tents and prefabricated buildings, wielding cell phones and laptops, sipping espresso and bier served by Brazilian waitresses dressed as German bar wenches. Special buses shuttle officials between the summit and hotel rooms that soared to nearly $500 a night as the summit approached.”
Meanwhile, in Colorado, the recent annual Aspen Environmental Forum – despite funding from the Coca-Cola Company, International mining giant Vale, and Duke Energy – charged 600 USD per day to attendees for sessions by elite environmentalists, scientists and resilience professionals. A 3,000 USD “Patron Pass” could be purchased for admission to the 4 day seminar and “intimate special events featuring our speakers and other distinguished guests.”
The Forum’s theme for 2012 was “Living in the New Normal,” and was focused on “addressing solutions for adapting to the greatest challenge of our time.” As massive wildfires erupted throughout neighboring regions of Colorado, attendees discussed topics including the application of consistently failed genetic engineering techniques for the recovery of individual extinct species to greenwashing natural gas exploration and fracking. With drought, high heat, more intense storms, and increased wildfires expected for Colorado and much of the US, the Forum might be do well to consider next year’s theme as “putting out those enormous fires everywhere around us.”
An insightful Wall Street Marketwatch commentary claims the theories, business models, and sum of economic logic is a destructive, threatening fiction. Author, analyst and former investment banker Paul Farrel explains, “…driving the economists’ growth myth is population growth. It’s the independent variable in their equation. Population growth drives all other derivative projections, forecasts and predictions. All GDP growth, income growth, wealth growth, production growth, everything. These unscientific growth assumptions fit into the overall left-brain, logical, mind-set of western leaders, all the corporate CEOs, Wall Street bankers and government leaders who run America and the world. But just because a large group collectively believes in something doesn’t make it true. Perpetual growth is still a myth no matter how many economists, CEOs, bankers and politicians believe it. It’s still an illusion trapped in the brains of all these irrational, biased and uncritical folks.”
Paleontologist’s recently unearthed the largest grave site of fossil “mega-wombat” remains in Queensland, Australia. The skeletons of about 50 diprotodons – enormous, vegetarian marsupials – are thought to have been picked dry by giant prehistoric crocodiles and lizards. Both the giant relatives of the modern wombat as well as the mega-crocodiles and mega-lizards inhabited the region over 100,000 years ago. Early human hunters and altered climate are suspected to have led to the extinction of the massive mammals.
Queensland Museum in Brisbane lead scientist Scott Hocknull explained, “We’re almost certain that most of these carcasses of diprotodon have been torn apart by both the crocodiles and the lizards, because we’ve found shed teeth within their skeletons from both animals.”
An investigative report aired June 17th on China’s Xi’an TV details the supposed unearthing of what is initially claimed to be a rare plant/mushroom. After closer inspection, however, it became clear the item was actually a human-made sex toy. Producers of the news show have apologized for the report, stating, “As our reporter was still very young and unwise to the ways of the world, this report has brought great inconvenience to everyone… We’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts for your criticism and correction. Please forgive our oversight!”
Beneath the rubble: urban agricultural growth from between the cracks
As global economic downturn expands through the Americas, the Eurozone and the world at large, adaptive responses in development of do-it-yourself food production have blossomed.
Grist’s Heather Smith explains, “In the aftermath of the housing bubble, interesting signs have begun to suggest that the economics of dirt may be shifting. In fact it might one day be more valuable to grow food on a plot of land than to plop a house down on top of it. A few farmers recently made a killing buying back the farms they’d cashed out on. Meanwhile, the value of farmland in Iowa has increased by 33 percent, setting off speculation that farmland could be the next bubble. (It’s a bubble fueled by corn for ethanol and therefore food for cars instead of people, but still, it holds promise.) And then there is the matter of the failed shopping mall in Cleveland that began doing double-duty as a greenhouse.”
Officials in China stopped the building of a copper factory in the Sichuan province after intense protests. Large crowds of concerned citizens voiced their disapproval of the plant on environmental and health concerns.
Chinese government officials released a statement regarding the issue, claiming they would postpone the construction of the factory “until the majority of the people support it.”