News/Links July 6th

•July 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

 

Arctic sea ice drops significantly

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.

Extinction models overlook critical predator interactions and climate change

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.”

Toxic food abundant in China

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.” 

The end of the myth of perpetual growth: everything you know about economics is dangerously wrong

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.”

“Mega-wombat” mass grave discovered in Australia

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.”

“Rare mushroom” discovered by Chinese villagers turns out to be rubber sex toy

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.”

 

 

China Factory Construction Halted Amid Protests

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.”

 

News/Links May 13

•May 13, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Greek government talks turn ugly

Athens, Greece (CNN) — Greek politicians traded insults and accusations Sunday following an effort by President Karolos Papoulias to broker a coalition government, increasing the possibility of new elections in the debt-stricken country.

 

Spain protests in pictures

Demonstrations have taken place across Spain on the first anniversary of the indignado movement, which has being protesting against political corruption, government austerity measures, the economic crisis as well as high unemployment.

Italy protests austerity measures

Tens of effigies were hung off bridges over Rome’s river Tiber on Friday, symbolising the upsurge in suicides in Italy over the economic crisis.

 

Arrests in UK Occupy Protests

The Occupy movement has targeted the Bank of England in London, leading to the arrest of 11 of their number.

The arrests were made for public order offences linked to the day’s demonstrations, which led to about 10 tents being set up outside the banking institution late on Saturday afternoon, City of London Police said.

The protest by about 300 demonstrators in the City of London was part of a global day of action in which thousands of people staged rallies in cities including Moscow, New York, Athens and Madrid, organisers said.

Anarchists ‘shot nuclear boss Roberto Adinolfi’

Roberto Adinolfi, 53, was shot in the leg by a gunman on a motorbike in the northern Italian city of Genoa.

He has undergone surgery and colleagues have said his condition is not serious.

The “Olga Cell” of the FAI (Informal Anarchist Federation), made the claim by a letter sent to the Italian daily Corriere della Sera.

 

NASA’s James Hansen is correct about catastrophic drought in US

“Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.”

 

Weekend Edition: Are you Going to Complain or Prosper?

I think it’s important to remember that becoming resilient isn’t merely a lifestyle choice or a neat thing to do.  Instead, given what’s ahead of us, it’s an imperative.

It’s the way to protect ourselves and our loved ones against a turbulent future.   A future filled with financial, environmental, resource, health, political, and economic disruptions.  Disruptions that nobody can stop.

 

 

 

April 3 New/Links

•April 3, 2012 • Leave a Comment

No Fat Babies!

Overweight pregnant women given drugs to prevent having fat babies

“The trial has angered many health experts who say overweight mothers should be encouraged to exercise and eat properly rather than just pop a pill to produce a thinner baby.

Doctors behind the trail say that obesity among pregnant women is reaching epidemic proportions and they need to act now to protect the health of tomorrow’s children.”

United States plotting to produce nuclear powered drones

Linda Hamilton and Edward Furlong put on stand-by “just in case”

‘”It’s pretty terrifying prospect,” said Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK, which campaigns against the increasing use of drones for both military and civilian purposes. “Drones are much less safe than other aircraft and tend to crash a lot. There is a major push by this industry to increase the use of drones and both the public and government are struggling to keep up with the implications.”‘

Power-nerds conclude civilization might not make it through climate change

Planet prepares to fart off industrial humans with giant methane release

“Research now demonstrates that the continued functioning of the Earth system as it has supported the well-being of human civilization in recent centuries is at risk. Without urgent action, we could face threats to water, food, biodiversity and other critical resources: these threats risk intensifying economic, ecological and social crises, creating the potential for a humanitarian emergency on a global scale….”

Mainstream environmental news site suggests preparing for collapse

Notice how hard it is – even at this point – for anyone within mainstream society to admit the nature of the problem; instead of preparing for global ecological crises and social upheaval get ready for Zombies and maybe Aliens. 

“Last year the Center for Disease Control used the threat of a Zombie Apocalypse to educate the public on how to prepare for a severe disaster.”

Yemen troops bomb the shit out of supposed ‘Al Qaeda fighters’

Because nothing quells a revolution like bombin’ stuff!

“Meanwhile, armed fighters have claimed responsibility for blowing up an oil pipeline in southern Yemen late on Monday in a second such attack in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed five suspected al-Qaeda members on Friday.

Yemen’s oil and gas pipelines have been repeatedly sabotaged since anti-government protests broke out in January 2011.

Ansar al-Sharia, an armed group affiliated with al-Qaeda, said in a text message on Tuesday that the latest oil pipeline explosion was part of “a chain of attacks” planned in response to the US strike.”

 

News/Links March 12

•March 12, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The True Cost of Powering an Electric Car

Because of the variety of utility rates in the U.S., a 2011 Nissan Leaf that’s a bargain to drive in Washington — $28.29 for 1,000 miles — is pricey in Hawaii, where those 1,000 miles would cost $97.21. A conventional car getting 36 mpg would make that trip for the same money. For consumers primarily interested in driving an EV to save money, it’s critical to know actual electric rates (and the current cost of gasoline, for comparison purposes) instead of relying on national averages.

 

The Myth of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy sounds so much more natural and believable than a perpetual-motion machine, but there’s one big problem: Unless you’re planning to live without electricity and motorized transportation, you need more than just wind, water, sunlight, and plants for energy. You need raw materials, real estate, and other things that will run out one day. You need stuff that has to be mined, drilled, transported, and bulldozed — not simply harvested or farmed. You need non-renewable resources.

Self-interest and the Elite

The answer Piff found after conducting seven different experiments is: no. The pursuit of self-interest is a “fundamental motive among society’s elite, and the increased want associated with greater wealth and status can promote wrongdoing,” Piff and his colleagues wrote yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

US and UN demand end to Syrian bloodshed

“The international community should say with one voice, without hesitation or caveat, that the killing of innocent Syrians must stop and a political transition must begin,” Clinton said.

William Hague, Britain’s foreign secretary whose country organised the debate as president of the Security Council for March, said the “the situation in Syria casts a long shadow over this debate”.

“In the eyes of the overwhelming majority of the world, this council has so far failed in its responsibilities toward the Syrian people.”

Madagascar storms and emergency aid

More than 110 are dead and 330,000 homeless after two tropical storms battered Madagascar over the past month, says the island nation’s disaster management agency.

Most of the deaths occurred last week when Irina struck eastern Madagascar from February 26-March 2, but the bulk of crop damage and housing loss was caused by Cyclone Giovanna which hit February 13 and 14.

January 17 News, Links

•January 17, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Russia warming at alarming rate

“Average warming in Russia in the past 100 years was 1.5 to two times higher than overall global warming,” the forecast read.

“In addition, as compared to the 100-year trend, the rate of warming grew several times, annual precipitation figures are growing… as is the frequency and intensity of flooding.”

Analysts suspect dramatic rise in price of gas by this summer

Right now, if you need to fill up a 15 gallon car at a local gas station with regular unleaded gasoline, you are paying about $50 at the pump.  According to GasBuddy, by the beginning of the summer, it could be almost $70.

For those with SUV’s that hold 28 gallons, right now, it is about $92 to fill your tank.  You could pay up to $130 on Memorial Day weekend with GasBuddy calculations.

So, what is to blame?

GasBuddy points partly to instability in Iran especially after the country threatened to shut down a key oil passageway.

Another potential reason: Keystone XL.  It a proposed new pipeline that would run from Canada to Texas could shake up prices in either direction.

Fitch ratings sees Greece default on debt

The euro area’s most indebted country is unlikely to be able to honor a March 20 bond payment of 14.5 billion euros ($18 billion), Parker said today in an interview in Stockholm. Efforts to arrange a private sector deal on how to handle Greece’s obligations would constitute a default, he said.

Protest in Peru against proposed goldmine

A US-backed billion-dollar gold mine has attracted thousands of protestors in recent weeks. Many have the poor economic legacy of existing mines fresh in their minds, reports Gervase Pouldon in Cajamarca, Peru.

The protesters say the project would threaten local water supplies whilst Conga’s proponents claim this is untrue and that the scheme would bring development to Peru – and the wider region.

The majority shareholders of the Conga project are the Peruvian company Buenaventura and the US firm Newmont, the second largest gold mining company in the world. Both are no strangers to the region of Cajamarca; also owning the main stake in nearby Yanacocha gold mine. Yanacocha has at times suffered a strained relationship with some of the surrounding populace.

Record global food prices in 2011

The Food Price Index’s average for the year was 228 points, 28 points higher than the past record set in 2008.

Climate Change and the ski industry

As both global greenhouse gas emissions and global temperatures continue to rapidly rise, ski areas around the world are confronting similar conditions.  Formerly premier ski destinations such as Whistler, in Canada, may disappear entirely, and the ski seasons are expected to become much shorter in the next two decades and onward.

Russia Planning War Games for Iran/US conflict

Russia will block any further sanctions against Iran in the UN Security Council, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday, because it believes rising tensions could trigger a conflict that would destabilize the wider region. Last week Russian deputy prime minister and former ambassador to NATO Dmitry Rogozin warned that any Western attack on Iran would constitute “a direct threat to [Russian] national security.”

Global Guerrilla Gardens

 

 

 



December 30 News/Links

•December 29, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Rootworms develop resistance to GMO’s

One of the nation’s most widely planted crops — a genetically engineered corn plant that makes its own insecticide — may be losing its effectiveness because a major pest appears to be developing resistance more quickly than scientists expected.

Mass seal deaths in Alaska investigated

Scores of ring seals have washed up on Alaska’s Arctic coastline since July, suffering or killed by a mysterious disease marked by bleeding lesions on the hind flippers, irritated skin around the nose and eyes and patchy hair loss on the animals’ fur coats.

Is technology killing the planet?

In many instances, the impacts of technology have got out of control and it is now obvious that to continue on the same path would be very short-sighted. If technology is going to work for us, we need to change the way we develop it – and certainly the way we apply it. Fortunately there is good news on this front. Many innovators are working on alternative technologies that embrace natural processes, ‘Cradle to Cradle’ (or regenerative) design concepts, reduced resource utilisation and non-toxic products. There is, of course, another possibility to consider: maybe our current behaviour is part of our genetic disposition, and the way Homo sapiens is following its evolutionary path cannot be controlled or modified, no matter how clever we think we are.

The basis of metaphor

How does this make for a theory of consciousness? Jaynes argued that most theories of consciousness are attempted metaphors. As such, they fail because “it should be immediately apparent that there is not and connot be anything in our immediate experience that is like immediate experience itself.” There is no model for consciousness, because no conceivable metaphier could be more immediate to us that consciousness itself. As such, no model is able to illuminate consciousness the way clouds can be illuminated by comparison with mounds of earth. Rather than thinking of consciousness as a particular metaphor, we should understand it as derived from the metaphor-generating ability of the human mind.

Antonio Damasio: understanding consciousness TED talk

Duckweed for bioremediation

Aquatic habitats have, in general, degenerated throughout the world because of pollution by both industry and other activities. Human activities have, in general, resulted in much higher flows of minerals and organic materials through aquatic systems, often leading to eutrophication and a huge drop in the biomass produced in such systems. The lack of dissolved oxygen in water bodies, through its uptake by microbes for decomposition of organic compounds, produces degrees of anaerobiosis that results in major growth of anaerobic bacteria and the evolution of methane gases.

Life without economic growth

That article was a brief summary of the extreme challenges we now face.  These next two articles are an attempt to move beyond this understanding of what has gone wrong, to develop a sense of what we can do now, as individuals and as a society.

We cannot “set things right” in the sense of restoring things to the way they once were, but we must begin now to adapt to the new realities if we are to reduce suffering and continue an advanced culture.  Today’s article, “Out With the Old”, will discuss the end to seven unsustainable practices.  In the next and final article in this series, “In With the New” will discuss new ways of living we can adopt as economic growth fails.

 

 

 

 

December 19 News/Links

•December 20, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Droughts in Somalia may create greater famine

In South Sudan drought and ongoing conflict threaten food supplies for 2.7 million people.”A gathering storm of hunger is approaching South Sudan, caused by crop failure and market disruption,” said WFP director in South Sudan, Chris Nikoi. “Food prices have already doubled or tripled in some areas, leaving hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to malnutrition at a key developmental stage of their young lives.”

 

The researchers found a shift of biomes, or major ecological community types, toward Earth’s poles — most dramatically in temperate grasslands and boreal forests — and toward higher elevations. Ecologically sensitive “hotspots” — areas projected to undergo the greatest degree of species turnover — that were identified by the study include regions in the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau, eastern equatorial Africa, Madagascar, the Mediterranean region, southern South America, and North America’s Great Lakes and Great Plains areas. The largest areas of ecological sensitivity and biome changes predicted for this century are, not surprisingly, found in areas with the most dramatic climate change: in the Northern Hemisphere high latitudes, particularly along the northern and southern boundaries of boreal forests.

Kickstarter Project for the Oblivious

 Find My Car Smart — a Kickstarter project that wants to help dudes find their cars, with the help of Bluetooth 4.0 technology. The system is relatively straightforward, consisting of nothing more than an iOS app (available now on iTunes for $0.99), and a USB-based Bluetooth proximity adapter.

50 Economic Stats from 2011 

20 If you can believe it, the median price of a home in Detroit is now just $6000.

#33 Today, the “too big to fail” banks are larger than ever.  The total assets of the six largest U.S. banks increased by 39 percent between September 30, 2006 and September 30, 2011.

US stocks drop, big banks fall hard

Banks led the way down. Morgan Stanley (MS) dropped 5.5 percent and Bank of America Corp. sank 4 percent, the biggest fall in the Dow Jones Industrial average. The worry looming over banks stocks is that if Europe’s debt crisis spins out of control, European banks would fail and damage U.S. banks. Big banks in Europe and the U.S. are linked through the web of global financial markets.

Typhoon Washi leaves 1,400 dead or missing in Philippines

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and top military officials flew to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan to help oversee search-and-rescue efforts and deal with thousands of displaced villagers. Among the items urgently needed are coffins and body bags, said Benito Ramos, who heads the government’s disaster-response agency.