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Topic Summary

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: December 15, 2017, 05:05:03 pm »


Men work on a natural gas valve at a fracking site in South Montrose, Pa. An analysis of more than 1.1 million Pennsylvania births finds that that babies born to mothers living within 1 kilometer of active “fracking” wells are 25% more likely to exhibit low birthweight.

Babies born to moms who lived near fracking wells faced host of health risks, study suggests

December 13, 2017

After combing through a decade's worth of Pennsylvania birth records, researchers have found that pregnant women living within two-thirds of a mile of a hydraulic fracturing well were 25% more likely to give birth to a worryingly small infant than were women who lived at least 10 miles outside that zone during pregnancy.

Over these babies' lifetimes, their low birth weights raise the likelihood they will suffer poorer health and lower achievement, including reduced earnings and educational attainment.

The authors of the new research estimated that, in 2012, about 29,000 of the close to 4 million annual births in the United States — roughly 0.7% of babies born each year — were to women who lived within about two-thirds of a mile of a hydraulic fracturing operation during their pregnancies.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

Nationally, the advent and expansion of hydraulic fracturing operations have reduced gasoline prices, decreased some air pollution emissions and driven down U.S. dependence on foreign oil. But in areas surrounding the nation's roughly 1.2 million fracking wells, the extraction technique has increased pollution of air, soil, groundwater and surface water.

Many of the toxic chemicals used in the hydraulic fracturing process are known carcinogens. Toxic gases, including benzene, are released from the rock by fracking. And the high-pressure pumping of a slurry of chemicals into the ground is widely thought to release toxins and irritants into nearby air and water. The noise and pollution emitted by trucks and heavy machinery also may affect the health of people living nearby.

Research by some of the new study's authors — all economists — has detailed the powerful impact of fracking on local communities, where it boosted employment, household incomes and housing values. It also has made the extraction technique's local effects on human health a subject of heated debate and growing research.

Based on an analysis of more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania between 2004 and 2013, the new research found that babies born to mothers who lived within 1 kilometer (0.64 miles) of a fracking well weighed, on average, 1.38 ounces less than babies whose gestation occurred 3 kilometers or more from a fracking site.

The researchers compared the birth weights of babies born to mothers living within 1, 2 or 3 kilometers of fracking wells, both before and after the wells were active. In a bid to capture health influences specifically related to well proximity, the authors compared the birth weights of siblings born at different distances to wells — both close enough to be exposed to fracking in utero, and too far away.

The largest health impacts were found in infants born to mothers living the closest to active wells. Compared to those whose pregnant mothers lived about 10 miles or more away, these infants were 25% more likely to weigh less than 5 1/2 pounds and be classified as low birth weight, the authors found.

For babies whose mothers lived between 1 and 3 kilometers from a well, researchers found birth-weight effects, but they were greatly diminished — less than half those found among babies born to women living within 1 kilometer of a well.

The findings suggest that fracking's impacts on newborns' health "are highly local," the authors wrote.

"This study provides the strongest large-scale evidence of a link between the pollution that stems from hydraulic fracturing activities and our health, specifically the health of babies," said coauthor Michael Greenstone, an economist and director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago.

A representative of the oil and gas industry criticized the study for failing to take account of a wide range of factors that can contribute to low birth weight, as well as for measuring women's proximity to fracking wells instead of their exposure to actual pollutants.

"It's just one of many examples of research that has similar limitations," said Nicole Jacobs, Pennsylvania director for Energy in Depth, a research, education and lobbying arm of the Independent Petroleum Assn. of America.

Jacobs also cited Pennsylvania Health Department statistics showing that in the most heavily drilled counties in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale region, infant mortality rates not only have declined, but actually have improved more than overall state levels. To the extent that low birth weight drives infant mortality, such data would appear to contradict the findings reported Wednesday, Jacobs said.

Notwithstanding such limitations, the results add to a growing body of evidence suggesting that fracking exacts a toll on the health of populations living in close proximity to wells.

A study of Pennsylvania published in August 2016 found higher rates of migraine headaches, fatigue, and nasal and sinus symptoms in people who were at greater proximity to fracking operations. Another study, conducted in southwest Pennsylvania, where fracking wells are heavily concentrated, found an increase in cases of bladder cancer, but not of thyroid cancer or leukemia, that was steeper in counties where well density was highest.

In research that examined a Colorado registry of cancer cases, another study found that people aged 5 to 24 who were diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia were more likely to live in areas with a high concentration of oil and gas activity.

Other studies have focused on pregnancy outcomes and infant health. In one conducted in North Texas — where fracking wells abut diverse populations of urbanites — researchers found an increased risk of preterm birth, and a slight increase in fetal death, among pregnant women living close to greater concentrations of fracking wells. But it failed to find an association between a pregnant woman's proximity to fracking wells and her likelihood of giving birth to a child who was either small for its gestational age or who was born at term at less than 5½ pounds.

Many of these studies have been faulted for methodological weaknesses, and their findings have been assailed by oil and gas industry groups.

Weill Cornell public health researcher Madelon L. Finkel, who has conducted some of the early research, acknowledges that the findings are preliminary. Cancer and many other outcomes can take decades to become evident, while the widespread practice of hydraulic fracturing is not quite a decade old, Finkel said.

Firming up conclusions on fracking's health effects, she added, will take years of further research. "But we're beginning to see a pattern: that living near these sites does elevate risk compared to living further away," said Finkel, who was not involved in the Science Advances study.

University of Pennsylvania neonatologist Dr. Rebecca Simmons praised the new study's design and the researchers' focus on low birth weight as a factor potentially affected by proximity to fracking wells.

"Birth weight is a proxy: it gives us an insight into what's going on in gestation, and we worry a lot when we see changes like this," said Simmons, who is deputy director of the Penn's Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology. "We know that babies born at low birth weight have a much, much higher risk of diseases such as coronary artery disease, hypertension, diabetes and obesity."

Simmons, who was not involved in the Science Advances study, acknowledged that many factors contribute to low birth weight, including poverty and poor nutrition. Increasingly, however, environmental factors are gaining their share of attention and research.

Coauthor Katherine Meckel, an assistant professor at UCLA, acknowledged that the study could not pinpoint the source of the environmental hazards that affect human health and birth weight.

"Until we can determine the source of this pollution and contain it, local lawmakers will be forced to continue to make the difficult decision of whether to allow fracking in order to boost their local economies — despite the health implications — or ban it altogether, missing out on the jobs and revenue it would bring," she said.


http://beta.latimes.com/s...ealth-20171213-story.html
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: December 14, 2017, 01:46:40 pm »

‘A different dimension of loss’: inside the great insect die-off


Scientists have identified 2 million species of living things. No one knows how many more are out there, and tens of thousands may be vanishing before we have even had a chance to encounter them.

The Earth is ridiculously, burstingly full of life. Four billion years after the appearance of the first microbes, 400m years after the emergence of the first life on land, 200,000 years after humans arrived on this planet, 5,000 years (give or take) after God bid Noah to gather to himself two of every creeping thing, and 200 years after we started to systematically categorise all the world’s living things, still, new species are being discovered by the hundreds and thousands.

In the world of the systematic taxonomists – those scientists charged with documenting this ever-growing onrush of biological profligacy – the first week of November 2017 looked like any other. Which is to say, it was extraordinary. It began with 95 new types of beetle from Madagascar. But this was only the beginning. As the week progressed, it brought forth seven new varieties of micromoth from across South America, 10 minuscule spiders from Ecuador, and seven South African recluse spiders, all of them poisonous. A cave-loving crustacean from Brazil. Seven types of subterranean earwig. Four Chinese cockroaches. A nocturnal jellyfish from Japan. A blue-eyed damselfly from Cambodia. Thirteen bristle worms from the bottom of the ocean – some bulbous, some hairy, all hideous. Eight North American mites pulled from the feathers of Georgia roadkill. Three black corals from Bermuda. One Andean frog, whose bright orange eyes reminded its discoverers of the Incan sun god Inti.

About 2m species of plants, animals and fungi are known to science thus far. No one knows how many are left to discover. Some put it at around 2m, others at more than 100m. The true scope of the world’s biodiversity is one of the biggest and most intractable problems in the sciences. There’s no quick fix or calculation that can solve it, just a steady drip of new observations of new beetles and new flies, accumulating towards a fathomless goal.


But even as thousands of new species are being discovered every year, thousands more seem to be disappearing, swept away in an ecological catastrophe that has come to be known as the sixth extinction. There have been five such disasters in the past. The most famous (and recent) is the end-Cretaceous extinction, the one that killed off the dinosaurs 66m years ago. The most destructive was the Permian, the one that cleared the way for the dinosaurs 190m years before that.

To know if we are really in the midst of a sixth extinction, scientists need to establish both the rate at which species are currently vanishing, and the rate at which they would go extinct without human activity (known as the “background rate”). In 2015, using a census of all known vertebrates, a team of American and Mexican scientists argued that animal species are going extinct “up to 100 times” faster than they would without us – a pace of disappearance on a par with the extinction that took out the dinosaurs.

But as Terry Erwin, the legendary tropical entomologist, pointed out to me, these sixth-extinction estimates are “biased towards a very small portion of biodiversity”. When it comes to invertebrates – the slugs, crabs, worms, snails, spiders, octopuses and, above all, insects that make up the bulk of the world’s animal species – we are guessing. “Conservationists are doing what they can, without data on insects,” he said.

To really know what’s going on with the state of the world’s biodiversity, ecologists need to start paying more attention to the invertebrates and spend less time on the “cute and cuddlies” – Erwin’s term for the vertebrates. (Years of hearing about the wonders of gorillas and humpback whales can make a staunch bug man resentful.) After all, there are far, far more of them than there are of us.

We live in an invertebrate world. Of all known animal species, less than 5% have backbones. About 70% are insects. Fewer than one in every 200 are mammals, and a huge proportion of those are rodents. Looked at from the point of view of species diversity, we mammals are just a handful of mice on a globe full of beetles. The great majority of those beetles are herbivores native to the tropics. So if you really want to understand the total diversity of life on Earth – and the true rate at which it is disappearing – you need to figure out how many types of beetle munch on every variety of tropical tree.

But before you can count species, you have to name them. That’s where the taxonomists come in. The idea of species has been notoriously hard for biologists to define, especially since organisms so often exist on a continuum, becoming harder and harder to distinguish the closer they are to each other. The most widely accepted definition comes from the evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr, who defined species as groups of animals that breed with one another, but not with others – at least not in the regular course of events. (If you force a zebra and a donkey together to make a zonkey, you’ve created one hybrid, not disproved the fact that they are two different species, since such a mating would not normally occur in nature.)

Taxonomists do not just name individual species; they also have to figure out how species are related to each other. Over the centuries, many scientists have tried to fit the world’s creatures into a coherent system, with mixed results. Aristotle tried to classify all life forms based on their essential traits, and in particular, the way they moved. Sedentary animals gave him the most trouble. He seems to have spent a lot of time on the island of Lesbos, puzzling over whether sea anemones and sponges were animals, plants, or plant-like animals.

The real revolution in taxonomy came in the 18th century, during the age of Enlightenment. It was largely the work of one man, Carl Linnaeus, who was hailed as the Isaac Newton of biology. Linnaeus was an odd figure to rise to such heights: a brilliant, headstrong, egotistical showoff with a prodigious knack for remembering the sexual characteristics of plants. He made one major expedition – to Lapland, in Sweden’s north – but mostly relied on the discoveries of others. He inspired 17 “apostles” to venture into the world in search of specimens to complete his system. Seven never came home. Based on their collective work, he named 7,700 species of plants and 4,400 species of animals.

Later biologists found much to quibble with in Linnaeus’s system. For instance, he grouped hedgehogs and bats together as “ferocious beasts”, and shrews and hippos together as “beasts of burden”. Linnaeus’s lasting achievement was not in creating the groups themselves, but the system by which all subsequent species would be named. He decreed that all species should have a two-part name. The first part indicates the genus to which a species belongs, and the second part is the species name.


This is a brilliantly efficient system for both naming and sorting. With it, we can tell in an instant that we, Homo sapiens, are both related to, and distinct from, our evolutionary relatives Homo erectus and Homo habilis. It is also a source of considerable fun for taxonomists. Presidential names – the bushi, obamai and donaldtrumpi (a remarkably coiffed moth) – reliably grab headlines. Less frequently, species names invoke politics or recent events. A Brazilian mayfly received the species name tragediae, to commemorate the catastrophic collapse of a dam in 2015. Taxonomists are also not above the occasional pun or rhyme. Terry Gosliner, an expert on nudibranchs, or marine sea slugs, once giving the name Kahuna to a species belonging to genus Thurunna from Hawaii, to make Thurunna kahuna.

Gosliner found his first nudibranch while still at high school. Since then he has travelled the world in search of them, and has named more than 300 in his 40-year career. As denizens of coral reefs, sea slugs are particularly sensitive to rising sea temperatures. Some scientists think climate change and ocean acidification might cause reefs to vanish entirely in the next 50 to 100 years. Gosliner tends to be a bit more optimistic, emphasising the reefs’ ability to bounce back from stress. But while corals reefs face peril in the seas, an even greater crisis could be developing for insects on land – the true dimensions of which entomologists are only beginning to grapple with.

Before entomologists could ponder the terrifying possibility of an insect mass extinction, they first had to come to grips with the true scale of insect diversity. They are still struggling to do that now. But for many, the breakthrough moment came in 1982, with a brief paper published by a young beetle specialist named Terry Erwin.

Erwin wanted to figure out how many species of insect lived on an average acre of rainforest in Panama, where he was working. To do this, he covered a single tree in sheeting and “fogged” it, by blasting it with insecticide from a device resembling a leafblower. He waited several hours while dead bugs cascaded on to the plastic sheeting he had spread on the ground. He then spent months counting and sorting them all. What Erwin found was startling: 1,200 species lived on this one tree. More than 100 lived on this particular tree and nowhere else. Scaling this result up, Erwin estimated that there are 41,000 different species in every hectare of rainforest, and 30m species worldwide.

This estimate quickly became famous, and controversial. Erwin is widely respected in the field. He has been commemorated in the names of 47 species, two genera, one subfamily and one subspecies – a good gauge of respect in the entomological community, where, according to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, naming a species after yourself is forbidden by custom, but not law. Still, many entomologists are sceptical about Erwin’s wilder estimates, and more recent studies have tended to revise the 30m number down somewhat. But Erwin remains intransigent. “It’s like Wyatt Earp and Billy the Kid, these kids out here taking potshots at me. None of them have any data,” he told me recently. “They’re just sitting in that office throwing numbers around.” He thinks the real number might be as high as 80m, or even 200m – and that a large number of these species are in the process of vanishing without anyone being around to even notice.


Everywhere, invertebrates are threatened by climate change, competition from invasive species and habitat loss. Insect abundance seems to be declining precipitously, even in places where their habitats have not suffered notable new losses. A troubling new report from Germany has shown a 75% plunge in insect populations since 1989, suggesting that they may be even more imperilled than any previous studies suggested.

Entomologists across the world have watched this decline with growing concern. When Brian Fisher, an entomologist at the California Academy of Sciences with a particular expertise in ants, arrived in Madagascar in 1993, he expected he would be able to describe some new species, but he had no idea of the extent of the riches he would find there. “Everything was new. It was like it was in the 1930s,” Fisher said. In that time, he has identified more than 1,000 new species of ant, including some whose adults feed exclusively on the blood of their own young, a group he has nicknamed the “Dracula ants”.

A thousand ants is quite a lot, but scientists have identified 16,000 species – so far. To a layperson like me, they all seem basically alike. Some are brown, some are black, some are cinnamon-coloured, but other than that, they look pretty much like the (invasive, Argentine) ants that swarm my kitchen in California every time it rains. To an expert like Fisher though, they are as different from one another as warblers are to a birder. Under a microscope, each ant positively bristles with identifying features in their flagellate hairs, their segmented antennae, and most of all, in their mandibles, which under magnification look like diabolical garden shears.

In the decades since Fisher started making expeditions to Madagascar, deforestation has accelerated, and today only 10% of its virgin forests remain intact. Fisher says that “in 50 years I can’t imagine any forest left in Madagascar”. According to Wendy Moore, a professor of entomology at the University of Arizona, who specialises in ant nest beetles, “There is a sense of running out of time. Everyone in the field who is paying attention feels that.” Because many insects depend on a single plant species for their survival, the devastation caused by deforestation is almost unimaginably huge. “Once a certain type of forest vanishes, thousands, or tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands of species will vanish,” Erwin told me. “Deforestation is taking out untold millions of species.”

While we still don’t have a clear idea of what’s happening to insects at the species level, we are in the midst of a crisis at the population level. Put simply, even if many kinds of insects are holding on, their overall numbers are falling drastically. The alarming new data from Germany, which was based on tracking the number of flying insects captured at a number of sites over 35 years, is one warning sign among many. According to estimates made by Claire Régnier of the French Natural History Museum in Paris, in the past four centuries, as many of 130,000 species of known invertebrates may have already disappeared.

Various kinds of anecdotal evidence appear to support these observations. The environmental journalist Michael McCarthy has noted the seeming disappearance of the windscreen phenomenon. Once, he writes, “any long automobile journey,” especially one undertaken in summer, “would result in a car windscreen that was insect-spattered”. In recent years this phenomenon seems to have vanished.

Although insecticides have been blamed for the declines in Europe, Erwin thinks the ultimate culprit is climate change. The location he has been observing in Ecuador is pristine, virgin rainforest. “There’s no insecticides, nothing at all,” he said. But gradually, almost imperceptibly, in the time he has been there, something has changed in the balance of the forest. Studying the data, Erwin and his collaborators have found that over the past 35 years, the Amazon rainforest has been slowly dying out. And if the forest goes, Erwin tells me, “everything that lives in it will be affected”.

If this trend were to continue indefinitely, the consequences would be devastating. Insects have been on Earth 1,000 times longer than humans have. In many ways, they created the world we live in. They helped call the universe of flowering plants into being. They are to terrestrial food chains what plankton is to oceanic ones. Without insects and other land-based arthropods, EO Wilson, the renowned Harvard entomologist, and inventor of sociobiology, estimates that humanity would last all of a few months. After that, most of the amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals would go, along with the flowering plants. The planet would become an immense compost heap, covered in shoals of carcasses and dead trees that refused to rot. Briefly, fungi would bloom in untold numbers. Then, they too would die off. The Earth would revert to what it was like in the Silurian period, 440m years ago, when life was just beginning to colonise the soil – a spongy, silent place, filled with mosses and liverworts, waiting for the first shrimp brave enough to try its luck on land.

Conserving individual insect species piecemeal, as is done with most endangered mammals, is extremely difficult. Not only are the numbers mind-boggling, but insects and other invertebrates don’t tend to have the same cachet. Polar bears and humpback whales are one thing; soft-bodied plant beetles from the Gaoligong mountains of Yunnan are quite another.

Not long ago, I took a trip to the first wildlife refuge established with the express purpose of protecting an endangered insect, the Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge, about an hour’s drive north-east of Berkeley, California. The reserve is small – only 55 acres, hemmed in on three sides by a chain-link fence, and by the San Joaquin river on the fourth – and, in truth, the Dunes do not dazzle the eye. The terrain resembles an unlovely, overgrown plot of land intended for development at some unspecified point in the future. The day I went, three vultures huddled around the body of a cat while the turbines of a wind farm spun lazily on the opposite bank of the river.

Once, however, these dunes were a miniature Sahara, home to a number of animals and plants that existed nowhere else. It took decades before that fact became apparent to biologists, and by then, it was very nearly too late. When white settlers arrived in California, the dunes were seen simply as a source of raw materials. The dune sand was unusually well-suited for brickmaking, and between the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the postwar housing boom, most of the sand was mined out and turned into buildings. Once the dunes were gone, most of the land they formerly stood on was built up.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that biologists began to realise how special the Antioch Dunes were. By that point, only three native species remained. There were two plants – the Contra Costa wallflower and the Antioch Dunes evening primrose – and one insect, the Lange’s metalmark butterfly. The metalmark butterfly is tiny, with a wingspan about the size of thumbnail. A pretty brown-and-orange with white spotting, they are weak flyers, capable of travelling a maximum 400 metres (1,300ft) after they emerge from their chrysalises for seven to nine days every August.


After the Dunes Reserve was established in 1980, the butterfly enjoyed a brief resurgence. Today, it is struggling. At last count, there were only 67 individuals in the park. The Lange’s lay their eggs on one plant and one plant only: the naked-stemmed buckwheat, which is currently being choked out by weeds. The only other population of Lange’s is kept in a captive-breeding programme at Moorpark College in Simi Valley, California. If something should happen to these, it would be the end of the species.

In a bid to save the butterfly, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has recently begun a bold experiment in habitat restoration, covering much of the refuge in sand. Spread a metre deep, the sand suffocates invasive plants, allowing the species that originally evolved on the dunes to reclaim their lost ground. “If we can bring back the environment, we can bring back the butterfly,” wildlife refuge manager Don Brubaker told me. The day I visited, his co-worker, refuge specialist Louis Terrazas, spotted a hopeful sign. The season’s first shoots of native primrose had just started peeking out above the sand. Given time, this remnant of a remnant might spring back to life.

When I asked Brubaker if his painstaking efforts on behalf of the Lange’s was worth all the trouble, he replied: “Why protect the species? Why not? Because it’s what we do – we’re enabling the planet to keep functioning.”

In some ways, the tiny ranges of invertebrates like the Lange’s Metalmark Butterfly make them perfect targets for protection. Sarina Jepsen is the director of endangered species and aquatic conservation at the Xerces Society, a Portland, Oregon-based non-profit focusing on invertebrates. She told me that for insects, “often small patches of land can make a huge difference,” unlike what is needed for, say, wolf or tiger conservation. “We don’t necessarily need hundreds of thousands of acres to make a difference with these species,” she said. Even so, the amount of work that goes into saving even a single species can sometimes feel overwhelming. It isn’t enough to save one in a lab. You have to rescue whole environments – the products of complex interactions between plants, animals, soil and climate that have built up over millennia.

At a certain point, it becomes clear that to even think about extinction in terms of individual species is to commit an error of scale. If entomologists’ most dire predictions come true, the number of species that will go extinct in the coming century will be in the millions, if not the tens of millions. Saving them one at a time is like trying to stop a tsunami with a couple of sandbags.

Like many of the species they study, taxonomists are presently at risk of becoming a dying breed. Faculty hires, museum posts and government grants are all declining. Fewer students are drawn to the field as well. All too often, taxonomy gets dismissed as old-fashioned and intellectually undemanding, the scientific equivalent of stamp collecting. Molecular biology, with its concern for DNA, proteins and chemical processes within individual cells, dominates curriculums and hoovers up grant money. “All the university courses are oriented towards it, and so is the funding,” says Terry Erwin.

Meanwhile, the new species keep piling up. Already today, as I’m writing, ZooKeys and Zootaxa, two of the largest and most prolific taxonomic journals, have announced the discovery of a potter wasp from South America, a water scavenger beetle from the Tibetan plateau, an erebid moth, an Andean scarab beetle, two Korean crustaceans and a whole genus of parasitoid wasps (don’t worry, we’re safe – the bastards prey on aphids), and it isn’t even noon yet.

What to do with this onrush? Many taxonomists I spoke to admit that it simply isn’t manageable. Brian Fisher confessed that many taxonomists find themselves awed at some point by “the immensity of what we don’t know”. Kipling Will, of the University of California, Berkeley, who has spent two decades studying one subfamily of ground beetles, told me, while gesturing at boxes of samples that had just flown in from Australia: “We do what we can. I have so much undescribed material. It takes decades just to get where we are.” With any species, it takes time to do a proper dissection, test their DNA, compare them to their nearest relatives, and compile all the information necessary to publish something as new. With so many invertebrates being found each year, it’s common for them to spend years, or even decades, in a queue waiting for their coming-out party.


So what to do? And why bother? There are plenty of practical reasons to worry about the fate of invertebrates. They are a vital part of the ecosystems that function as the heart, lungs and digestive system of our planet. Some might carry, inside their exotic biochemistries, cures for any number of diseases. Recently, chemicals harvested from sea slugs have been tested in clinical trials in the US for use as cancer-fighting drugs. Others could be used as natural alternatives to pesticides. But ultimately, it’s not certain that any of these will be enough on its own. The answer could have more to do with aesthetics, or enthusiasm for the living world – the quality EO Wilson named “biophilia”.

When you ask people who work in invertebrate taxonomy why they have devoted their lives to a particular type of insect, snail or clam, the word you hear most often is “beautiful”. Their eyes light up in front of their chosen genus or subclass. The occupants of a case full of slightly iridescent, mostly black beetles will be described as “rather huge and incredibly beautiful”. (Huge is relative, too – they are the size of the final joint of a little finger.) Surrounded by jars full of tiny sea slugs, they will gush about their beauty and the glorious variety of their colour, shape and behaviour. Amy Berkov, a professor of tropical ecology at the City College of New York who works on wood-boring beetles, came to entomology from a background in art and chose her new field, in part, because “there’s nothing more amazing than looking at insects”. Even the ant specialists – generally a pretty hard-nosed-bunch – will trade Latin names of rare ants with the affection you usually hear reserved for old friends.

It’s easy to care about the cute and cuddlies. Soon we’ll be living on a planet that has lost its last mountain gorilla, its last leatherback turtle. A world without tigers or polar bears; what a sad place that will be.

But to think about the coming invertebrate extinctions is to confront a different dimension of loss. So much will vanish before we even knew it was there, before we had even begun to understand it. Species aren’t just names, or points on an evolutionary tree, or abstract sequences of DNA. They encode countless millennia of complex interactions between plant and animal, soil and air. Each species carries with it behaviours we have only begun to witness, chemical tricks honed over a million generations, whole worlds of mimicry and violence, maternal care and carnal exuberance. To know that all this will disappear is like watching a library burn without being able to pick up a single book. Our role in this destruction is a kind of vandalism, against their history, and ours as well.

Take Strumigenys reliquia, one of the ants I heard discussed with such warmth at the California Academy of Sciences. Strumigenys is a predator, a native of the undergrowth, and very rare. It was first discovered in 1986 by Phil Ward of the University of California, Davis. He spotted this incredibly rare species on a two-hectare patch of woods a few miles from his office. It has never been seen anywhere else. Ward thinks there is a reason for this. California rivers were once flanked by giant forests of hardy, flood-resistant, evergreen oaks. Geologists think these riverine forests were a feature of the landscape for at least 20m years. Accounts from early settlers and explorers give an idea of what they might have been like. They write of flocks of geese “blackening the sky”, salmon choking the streams and grizzly bears gathering under the oaks to feed on acorns in troupes of a hundred or more.

Today, except for a few scattered acres like the one Ward found in Yolo County, those forests are gone. They were chopped down long ago for firewood and ploughed under to make way for tomato farms and almond orchards. The salmon, the geese and the grizzlies have all gone too. Only the ant remains. Only it remembers.

https://www.theguardian.c...-die-off-sixth-extinction

Agelbert WARNING: Already many vertebrates are going extinct. The mass die-off of insects is accelerating vertebrate extinctions. That means YOU AND ME!



 
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: December 11, 2017, 03:09:09 pm »

California's Thomas Fire scorches area larger than New York City

The most destructive wildfire raging in southern California has expanded significantly, scorching an area larger than New York City.

The Thomas fire in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties has consumed 230,000 acres (930 sq km) in the past week.

Fanned by strong winds, it has become the fifth largest wildfire in recorded state history after it grew by more than 50,000 acres in a day.

Residents in coastal beach communities have been ordered to leave.


Satellite imagery shows the vast Thomas Fire, north of Los Angeles, which has spread as far as the Pacific coast

On Sunday, firefighters reported that 15% of the blaze had been contained but were forced to downgrade that to 10% as it continued to spread.

"This is a menacing fire, certainly, but we have a lot of people working very diligently to bring it under control," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said.

The containment operation is not only being hampered by dry winds. It is proving challenging for firefighters because of the location and mountainous terrain.

An analyst with the California fire protection department, Tim Chavez, said the emergency services were struggling because "a hot interior" was in parts practically meeting the ocean, making access difficult.

"It's just a very difficult place to fight fire," Mr Chavez said, adding: "It's very dangerous and has a historical record of multiple fatalities occurring over the years."

The other fires hitting California are largely controlled, but 200,000 people have evacuated their homes and some 800 buildings have been destroyed since 4 December.

Evacuation orders were issued overnight on Sunday for parts of Carpinteria close to Los Padres National Forest, about 100 miles (160km) northwest of Los Angeles.

Forecasters said wind speeds were expected to increase throughout the day, before dying down again overnight.

The local fire department tweeted pictures of a wall of flames advancing on homes on the outskirts of Carpinteria early on Sunday morning.



Meanwhile, actor Rob Lowe, who lives in Santa Barbara, a city of close to 100,000 people, tweeted that he was praying for his town as fires closed in.

"Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now," Lowe added.

 Rob Lowe

@RobLowe

Praying for my town. Fires closing in. Firefighters making brave stands. Could go either way. Packing to evacuate now.
10:37 AM - Dec 10, 2017

    596 596 Replies
    328 328 Retweets
    4,343

California has spent the past seven days battling wildfires. Six large blazes, and other smaller ones, erupted on Monday night in southern California.

The Thomas Fire - named according to where it started, near the Thomas Aquinas College - is by far the largest of the fires.

They swept through tens of thousands of acres in a matter of hours, driven by extreme weather, including low humidity, high winds and parched ground.

The authorities issued a purple alert - the highest level warning - amid what it called "extremely critical fire weather", while US President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency.

On Saturday, California Governor Jerry Brown described the situation as "the new normal" and predicted vast fires, fuelled by climate change, "could happen every year or every few years".

Several firefighters have been injured, but only one person has died - a 70-year-old woman who was found dead in her car on an evacuation route.

There are also fears the blaze will seriously hit California's multi-million dollar agricultural industry.

Are you in the area? If it is safe to do so, share your experience with us by emailing haveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

Please include a contact number if you are willing to speak to a BBC journalist. You can also contact us in the following ways:

    WhatsApp: +447555 173285
    Tweet: @BBC_HaveYourSay
    Upload your pictures / video here
    Send an SMS or MMS to 61124 or +44 7624 800 100

hytp://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42303203]http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42303203
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: December 10, 2017, 02:50:06 pm »

I have removed the disinformation posted here by K-Dog questioning the serious scientific studies (there are MANY studies confirming CO2 will continue to grievously heat the atmosphere for centuries even if we stopped burning fossl fuels today) predicting increased atmospheric heating for centuries after we stop burning fossil fuels.

This is just one of them:
Quote
Even if carbon dioxide emissions came to a sudden halt, the carbon dioxide already in Earth’s atmosphere could continue to warm our planet for hundreds of years, according to Princeton University-led research published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

If he has no interest in objective scientific inquiry, he has no business posting here on that issue. K-Dog is in denial of the grievous harm fossil fuels do to our planet. He will not even acknowledge the empirical data from the following web site (available 24/7) that shows how much pollutants are in our atmosphere.

For example, because of the fires in the Los Angelos Area, parts of the atmosphere there have over 469 PPM of CO2.  :(  :P
https://earth.nullschool....,3000/loc=-119.558,33.721

While you are there, don't miss the CO levels. They are OFF THE CHARTS!
https://earth.nullschool....,3000/loc=-119.558,33.721


If K-Dog wants to wallow in la la land, that's his business. I am done trying to get him to think logically and objectively in regard to Catastrophic Climate Change causes.

All that said, K-Dog can be quite objective and logical when it comes to Cannabis. He and I are on the same page in that area. ;D

Big Pharma Tries to Monopolize CBD Oil Market

December 11, 2017 • 129,805 views

Story at-a-glance

֍ The cannabinoids in cannabis — cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — work by way of naturally-occurring cannabinoid receptors embedded in cell membranes throughout your body

֍ The fact that your body is replete with cannabinoid receptors, key to so many biological functions, is why there's such enormous medical potential for cannabis

֍ South Dakota has rescheduled CBD from a Schedule I to a Schedule IV substance by excluding it from the definition of marijuana

֍ GW Pharmaceuticals failed in its efforts to restrict Schedule IV classification to FDA approved CBD products only, which prevented the company from creating a monopoly in South Dakota

֍ The legal status of CBD oil as a nutritional supplement is now threatened by drug companies seeking FDA approval for CBD-containing drugs

Full article:

https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/12/11/big-pharma-tries-to-monopolize-cbd.aspx
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: December 05, 2017, 02:47:43 pm »



 

Excellent collection of references!

They all add up to indisputable evidence of our devastating Mammon worshipping, multi-species extinction trajectory. :(  Bertrand Russell was right.


Quote
Organic life, we are told, has developed gradually from the protozoon to the philosopher, and this development, we are assured, is indubitably an advance. Unfortunately it is the philosopher, not the protozoon, who gives us this assurance.  Bertrand Russell



The Annihilation of Nature : Human Extinction of Birds and Mammals

By (author)  Gerardo Ceballos , By (author)  Anne H. Ehrlich , By (author)  Paul R. Ehrlich
 
Gerardo Ceballos, Anne H. Ehrlich, and Paul R. Ehrlich serve as witnesses in this trial of human neglect, where the charge is the massive and escalating assault on living things. Nature is being annihilated, not only because of the human population explosion, but also as a result of massive commercial endeavors and public apathy.

Despite the well-intentioned work of conservation organizations and governments, the authors warn us that not enough is being done and time is short for the most vulnerable of the world's wild birds and mammals. Thousands of populations have already disappeared, other populations are dwindling daily, and soon our descendants may live in a world containing but a minuscule fraction of the birds and mammals we know today.

The Annihilation of Nature is a clarion call for engagement and action. These outspoken scientists urge everyone who cares about nature to become personally connected to the victims of our inadequate conservation efforts and demand that restoration replace destruction. Only then will we have any hope of preventing the worst-case scenario of the sixth mass extinction.

https://www.bookdepositor...do-Ceballos/9781421417189


Posted by: AGelbert
« on: December 03, 2017, 04:08:45 pm »

 

December 2, 2017
Real Media: Doctors Against Diesel

Co-founder of Doctors Against Diesel Chris Griffiths on why he has expanded his work from research to lobbying and protesting about what he sees as a medical emergency in our cities



http://therealnews.com/t2...emid=74&jumival=20588
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 22, 2017, 07:07:56 pm »

How Pipelines Put You In Danger For Profit! (w/Guest Greg Palast)


Greg Palast joins Thom to share his investigation into the alteration of pipeline safety equipment to avoid the cost of repairing old pipelines, the results are explosive.

Thom Hartmann Nov. 21, 2017 5:00 pm


Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 22, 2017, 02:00:39 pm »

Now That Keystone XL Could Go Forward, Let's Talk About That Oil Spill a Bit More
Yessenia Funes

November 20, 2017 2:39pm Filed to: KEYSTONE XL

SNIPPET:

Meshkati has traveled around the world to visit sites that have seen true devastation at the hand of humans: Fukushima, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill and explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, and the Chernobyl Power Plant.

“I have seen what a manmade disaster can do,” he said. “[TransCanada was] very lucky.”

Full article (with map and pictures):

https://earther.com/now-t...ets-talk-about-1820613026
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 17, 2017, 11:51:50 am »

TransCanada Keystone pipeline leaks 795,000 litres of crude oil in South Dakota

CALGARY — TransCanada Corp. said its Keystone pipeline has leaked an estimated 795,000 litres of oil in Marshall County, S.D. just days before Nebraska is set to decide the fate of its Keystone XL pipeline

The company (TSX:TRP) said its crews shut down the Keystone pipeline system early this morning between Hardisty, Alta. to Cushing, Okla, and a line to Patoka, Ill. and that the line is expected to remain shut while it responds to the spill.

The leak, which it said happened about 35 kilometres south of its Ludden pump station on a right-of-way, comes as Nebraska Public Service Commission is set to vote on the Keystone XL project on Nov. 20 to clear the last major regulatory hurdle for the $8 billion project.

Opponents of Keystone XL say the pipeline would pass through the Sandhills, an ecologically fragile region of grass-covered sand dunes, and would cross the land of farmers and ranchers who don’t want it.

“Just days before the Nebraska Public Service Commissions decides on whether to approve Keystone XL we get a painful reminder of why no one wants a pipeline over their water supply,” said Greenpeace campaigner Mike Hudema.

The Sierra Club was also quick to condemn the spill, urging the commission not to vote for the project.

“We’ve always said it’s not a question of whether a pipeline will spill, but when, and today TransCanada is making our case for us,” said campaign director Kelly Martin.

The pipeline would transport oilsands oil from Alberta through Montana and South Dakota to Nebraska, where it would connect with existing pipelines that feed Texas Gulf Coast refineries.

http://business.financial...crude-oil-in-south-dakota
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 15, 2017, 04:51:03 pm »

Agelbert NOTE: The polluters AGAIN find a way to KEEP POLLUTING while they CONTINUE to shaft mostly the poor and people of color with greenwashing baloney cap and trade.



November 15, 2017

Is Carbon Trading Just a License to Pollute?

Market-based pollution credit schemes undermine environmental laws and disproportionately affect lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color, says Food & Water Watch's Scott Edwards

http://therealnews.com/t2...27%20style=%27color:#000;
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 13, 2017, 07:22:00 pm »

Is Trump's EPA The Environmental Pollution Agency ??? :P(w/John O'Grady)

Donald Trump's EPA is not protecting the environment instead it protects the interest of corporations, polluters and bad guys who like to loot and plunder.

Thom Hartmann Nov. 12, 2017 2:00 pm

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 09, 2017, 10:37:04 pm »

Agelbert Snark: Shell just lost the whole enchilada ...LOL!

File photo shows Shell’s fixed-leg Enchilada platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico

Shell’s Enchilada Platform Evacuated Due to Fire

November 8, 2017 by gCaptain

SNIPPET:

 Shell platform in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico had to be evacuated early Wednesday morning after a fire broke out on board. Coast Guard Sector New Orleans watchstanders received a report at 1:20 a.m. that Shell’s Enchilada platform was on fire approximately 112 nautical miles south of Vermilion Bay, Louisiana. The 46 crew members reported […]

Full article:

http://gcaptain.com/shell-platform-enchilada-in-gulf-of-mexico-evacuated-due-to-fire/

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 08, 2017, 02:17:08 pm »

November 2017

India: Delhi closes schools as air pollution hits hazardous levels
SNIPPET:

The Indian capital is covered in a blanket of thick smog as the concentration of harmful particulate matter in the air reached hazardous levels. Local officials have asked schools to remain shut until Sunday. 

Read more:

http://www.dw.com/en/indi...zardous-levels/a-41272486

Gas flaring in the Niger Delta ruins lives, business

SNIPPET:

Oil companies in the oil-rich Niger Delta in Nigeria's south destroy gas that could be used as a source of energy. The illegal practice hurts both the environment and business. Meet the people who are fighting back.

Full article:

http://www.dw.com/en/gas-...lives-business/a-41221653
Posted by: GWarnock
« on: November 07, 2017, 02:47:49 pm »

I don't know how, but we have Got to get this crap STOPPED!!

 >:(
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 07, 2017, 02:34:35 pm »


EcoWatch


Marine Sanctuaries: The Secret Report the White House Doesn’t Want You to Read

Nov. 02, 2017 12:28PM EST

By Pete Stauffer

SNIPPET:

It's a simple choice, really. Do we want our National Marine Sanctuaries to be used for recreation, education, fishing and ecological protection? Or do we want to hand these ocean gems over the oil and gas industry so they can expand offshore drilling off our coasts?

Full article:

https://www.ecowatch.com/...et-report-2505498028.html
 
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 06, 2017, 03:12:01 pm »

Today on cleantecnia.. crying...  :'(

https://cleantechnica.com...ottle-deposit-plans-help/

Yes, it is absolutely heartbreaking.


Posted by: GWarnock
« on: November 06, 2017, 02:57:25 pm »

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 03, 2017, 02:41:00 pm »


World’s Largest Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) Departs Samsung Heavy Industries

November 2, 2017 by Mike Schuler


Photo: Samsung Heavy Industries

egina oil field Credit: Total

The world’s largest Floating, Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel left the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard in Geoje, South Korea under tow on Tuesday for its voyage to Nigeria.

The Egina    FPSO was ordered by Total in 2013 for a total investment $3 billion covering the entire engineering, procurement, construction, transport, and commissioning phases of the project.

The 60,000 ton vessel will be moored at the Egina oil field some 200 km off the coast of Nigeria and has a storage capacity of 2.3 million barrels. The massive facility measures in at 330 meters long by 61 meters in breadth and 34 meters tall.

The offshore oil field is one of the flagship ultra-deepwater projects in Total’s portfolio. The field consists of a total of 44 subsea wells that will be connected to the FPSO using umbilicals and risers.

Once on stream, the field will have a production capacity of 200,000 barrels per day, with the Egina boasting     2.3 million barrels of storage capacity.

Tuesday’s departure of the gigantic floater marks the latest of three offshore mega-projects completed by SHI this year. In April, SHI delivered the Ichthy’s CPF, the world’s largest floating gas processing facility. The delivery was followed by the sail-away of the Prelude FLNG, touted as the largest offshore structure ever constructed, this past June.

SHI says Egina’s voyage to Nigeria will take about 3 months. From there, the installation of the remaining topside modules and commissioning will be carried out by a local partner of SHI, with delivery scheduled for for the second half of 2018.

http://gcaptain.com/world...samsung-heavy-industries/

Agelbert expletive deleted: ******* INSANE Fosssil Fuel Industry IMBECILES!
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 02, 2017, 02:55:37 pm »

Over 2,100 cities exceed recommended pollution levels

Submitted by SueN on 2 November 2017 - 12:41pm

Climate change is a looming public health emergency, say experts in a new report, due to high pollution levels, warming temperatures and increased opportunities for disease.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/1...ngue-heat-wave/index.html
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: November 01, 2017, 01:58:05 pm »


UN Predicts Greenhouse Gas Emissions Set to Bust Paris Agreement by 30 Percent

October 31, 2017 by Reuters

SNIPPET:

By 2030, annual emissions are likely to be 53.0-55.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, far above the 42 billion tonne threshold for averting a temperature rise of more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) this century, the U.N. environment agency said.

full article:

http://gcaptain.com/un-pr...ris-agreement-30-percent/

 

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 28, 2017, 12:49:48 pm »

China Declares War On Polluters — Shutters 40% Of Factories

October 28th, 2017 by Steve Hanley

China is getting serious about curbing pollution. According to sources, up to 40% of its factories have been closed at least temporarily recently as the country has struggled to meet its year-end pollution reduction goals. Officials from more than 80,000 factories have been charged with criminal offences for breaching emissions limits over the past year.


Pollution in Beijing Air Pollution in Beijing. Credit. J Aaron Farr/Flickr


“{B}asically, you’re seeing these inspectors go into factories for surprise inspections,” supply chain consultant Gary Huang from 80/20 Sourcing tells NPR (h/t Futurism). “They’re instituting daily fines, and sometimes — in the real severe cases — criminal enforcement. People are getting put in jail.”

How is the crackdown affecting China’s sprawling manufacturing sector? The government says total output will not be affected, but it is hard to see how the stepped up enforcement could fail to have a negative economic effect.

In prior years, factory shutdowns only lasted a few weeks at most, but environmental protection minister Li Ganjie says the number and length of closures this year is “unprecedented.”

“For those areas that have suffered ecological damage, their leaders and cadres will be held responsible for life,” Yang Weimin told the New York Times recently. He is the deputy director of the Communist Party’s Office of Financial and Economic Affairs. “Our people will be able to see stars at night and hear birds chirp,” he promises.

At the Communist Party annual congress this week, China announced that it plans to reduce the amount of fine particulate matter (that’s the stuff in the air that is less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which is small enough to cross over into the bloodstream from the lungs) from 47 micrograms per cubic meter in 2016 to 35 micrograms per cubic meter by 2035.

“It will be very difficult to reach the goal, and we need to make greater efforts to achieve it,” Li says. “These special campaigns are not a one-off, instead it is an exploration of long-term mechanisms. They have proven effective so we will continue with these measures.”

The tougher enforcement of pollution laws is putting pressure on China’s industrial sector, which will need to adapt by instituting better, smarter, and safer ways of doing business.

“It’s a huge event. It’s a serious event. I think many of us here believe it will become the new normal,” exporter Michael Crotty from China-based MKT & Associates told NPR. “The consumers of China don’t want red and blue rivers. They don’t want to see grey skies every day.”

Unlike the United States, where polluters are rewarded with generous government subsidies at taxpayer expense, China is determined to do what is necessary to protect its citizens from environmental harm. Some would call that leadership.

Source: Futurism

https://cleantechnica.com...rs-shutters-40-factories/

Agelbert NOTE: China (FINALLY!) gets it. Trump's wrecking crew NEVER will.   


Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 25, 2017, 01:58:58 pm »



Oil Cleanup Continues in Texas After Barge Explosion, Fire

October 24, 2017 by gCaptain

SNIPPET:

A Unified Command made up of representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Texas General Land Office, and Bouchard Transportation continue to respond to an oil discharge after a crude oil barge exploded and caught fire three miles off the jetties of Port Aransas, Texas.

As of Monday evening, beach cleanup operations had removed approximately 48 cubic yards of oily solids from the impacted shoreline on Mustang Island and North Padre Island. Six cleanup teams, totaling over 120 people, are actively engaged in beach cleanup.

Two wildlife response teams and one wildlife response vessel continue to assess any impacted wildlife between the Padre Island National Seashore and Port Aransas. Any recovered wildlife will be taken to the Amos Rehabilitation Keep at University of Texas at Austin Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas.

fulll article with more pictures:

http://gcaptain.com/oil-c...fter-barge-explosion-fire

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 23, 2017, 07:32:24 pm »

China Shuts Down Tens Of Thousands Of Factories In Unprecedented Pollution Crackdown 

Listen· 3:51

October 23, 20174:52 AM ET

Heard on Morning Edition  Rob Schmitz 2016 square

http://www.npr.org/sectio...ecedented-pollution-crack
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 22, 2017, 06:23:21 pm »




TRUMP’S BRAZEN ATTEMPT TO OPEN THE ARCTIC UP TO DRILLING

By Rebecca Bowe | Wednesday, October 11, 2017


The way of life of the Gwich’in people, who have depended on the caribou of the Arctic Refuge for millennia, is threatened by plans for oil drilling. PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE 

UPDATE, October 11, 2017: The House has approved a budget resolution that paves the way for drilling in the Arctic Refuge, and soon the Senate is expected to vote. This represents one of the greatest legislative threats facing the Arctic Refuge in years. Please take a moment to TAKE ACTION by contacting your Congressional representatives and urging them to protect the Arctic Refuge.

September 25, 2017: Summer in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t last for long, but in that brief burst, millions of migratory birds flock to this vast wilderness expanse from every direction. Taking wing from Asia, South America, Africa, Antarctica and all 50 U.S. states, they congregate to nest in the refuge, a national treasure that’s one of the last wild, intact landscapes on the planet. Caribou, polar bears, Arctic foxes and wolverines roam the vast expanse, which spans 19.6 million acres in Northeast Alaska.

The 1.5-million acre coastal plain within the refuge is a biologically rich swath that borders the Beaufort Sea. It’s considered sacred by the indigenous Gwich’in people, whose way of life has for millennia depended on the caribou that calve there each summer.



An Alaskan tundra wolf leaps through the blowing snow in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. TROUTNUT/GETTY IMAGES



For years, Earthjustice has partnered with a diverse coalition of groups to protect the refuge from oil and gas development. PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

These baby tree sparrows are some of the millions of birds that call the Arctic Refuge home. PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE


Legal policy has prohibited new oil exploration for the last 35 years in this pristine wilderness area. PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE


Herds of caribou roam the vast expanse of the Arctic Refuge, which spans 19.6 million acres in northeast Alaska. PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE

For decades, the Arctic Refuge and its coastal plain have been at the center of a political tug-of-war over fossil fuel extraction. Earthjustice has long partnered with a diverse coalition of groups on the side of protecting the refuge from oil and gas development. That battle reignited last week with news that the Trump administration is planning an attack on laws protecting the refuge, in order to accelerate oil drilling on the plain.

As the Washington Post revealed, the acting director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service instructed the agency’s Alaska regional director in an August memo to change a rule on “exploratory activity.” This precursor to oil drilling includes ear-piercing seismic blasting and underground shock waves to identify where oil deposits may lie.

The regional director was told to erase the part of the rule spelling out that these harmful exploratory tests were only allowed from Oct. 1, 1984 until May 31, 1986. This one shady little edit flies in the face of 35 years of established legal policy barring new oil exploration in the pristine wilderness area, throwing the biological heart of the refuge into immediate peril.

Quote
“We cannot and should not play politics with our national heritage, just to line the pockets of the oil and gas industry.”

Trump’s political appointees appear to be orchestrating this assault on the Arctic Refuge. Former commissioner of Alaska’s Department of Natural Resources, Joe Balash , who was nominated to a high-ranking Interior post, has submitted multiple proposals to conduct harmful seismic exploration on the Coastal Plain. And David Bernhardt, who Trump appointed to the second-highest position at Interior, represented the state of Alaska in a lawsuit in 2014 against the Interior Department to allow for seismic testing in the coastal plain, but lost. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency that is suddenly pressuring for this rule change, answers to Interior.

Under federal law, only Congress can allow drilling in the refuge, and a 1980 law protects the coastal plain from oil and gas leasing and development. Yet other efforts that could jeopardize the refuge are moving forward simultaneously in Congress.

The House budget resolution for FY 2018 includes provisions that will be used to advance drilling in the refuge, signaling an attempt by congressional allies of the oil industry to insert a highly controversial policy issue into must-pass budget legislation. Meanwhile, the refuge isn’t the only Arctic landscape in the oil and gas industry’s sights. Earthjustice is currently opposing Arctic drilling proposals on multiple fronts, including offshore territories and public lands in the western Arctic.


Oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge threatens the habitats of a wide range of wildlife, including polar bears, Arctic foxes and wolverines. SARKOPHOTO/GETTY IMAGES


Secretary Zinke swears in David Bernhardt as the Deputy Secretary of the Department of the Interior. PHOTO COURTESY OF U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR



Trump’s political appointees have submitted multiple proposals to conduct harmful seismic exploration on the Coastal Plain of the refuge.PHOTO COURTESY OF US FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE



This beautiful, expansive Arctic landscape is too precious not to protect from the oil industry’s destructive plans to drill. ERIC RORER/ISTOCK

Even as cries of “drill, baby, drill” seem to be echoing off the walls of smoky backrooms from Alaska to D.C.    , one might be surprised to learn that there isn’t actually any shortage of oil. Supplies have reached historic highs, and gas prices have dipped – which means the industry has little to gain financially by opening up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

“The Arctic Refuge is just too special to drill for oil and gas that we don’t need and should be kept in the ground,” says Earthjustice Associate Legislative Counsel Marissa Knodel. “For 30 years, Congress has respected the will of the vast majority of American people, who want to protect the Arctic Refuge. Drilling there should be excluded from any budget proposal. We cannot and should not play politics with our national heritage, just to line the pockets of the oil and gas industry.”

https://earthjustice.org/...fuge-at-risk-for-drilling
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 21, 2017, 01:50:25 pm »

New Estimate Doubles the Size of Last Week’s Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

October 20, 2017 by gCaptain

Authorities have doubled the size estimate of last week’s offshore oil spill from a damaged pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico approximately 40 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.

On Wednesday, LLOG Exploration, which operates the pipeline, issued a revised estimated volume of unaccounted-for oil to the Coast Guard and BSEE. The new calculations indicate that the total volume of oil discharged may be as much as 16,000 barrels (672,000 gallons), nearly double the maximum 9,350 barrels (392,700 gallons) initially reported.

The pipeline was secured upon discovery of the leak.

The oil was discharged last week from a small crack in a subsea pipeline located approximately 5,000 feet under water, which was pressurized to more than 3,000 psi. “This high-pressure discharge through a small opening likely caused the oil to be broken down into small particles and disperse into deep-water currents prior to reaching the surface,” the Coast Guard said in a statement late Wednesday.

The Coast Guard and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement continue their response the oil spill, coordinating with the responsible party and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to locate and respond to any oil that reaches the surface.

Multiple daily over flights and remotely operated underwater vehicle inspections have been conducted with no recoverable oil detected, according to the Coast Guard.

Skimming vessels from Clean Gulf Associates and the Marine Spill Response Corporation remain on standby.

Surface and subsea trajectory models indicate that any discharged oil will drift in a southwesterly direction and is not expected to impact the shoreline. The calculations indicate that the discovery of any recoverable oil is unlikely due to the depth and pressure at which the oil was released, the Coast Guard said.

Water samples taken along the trajectory path at various depths have not detected the presence of oil.


“While the reported discharge amount is very significant, we are confident in the calculations completed by the LLOG and NOAA scientists,” said Cmdr. Heather Mattern from U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Morgan City, Louisiana. “Additionally, the lack of any recoverable oil identified by over flights and subsea inspections conducted throughout the past week supports this explanation.”

The Coast Guard and BSEE will continue to coordinate with the responsible party    throughout the investigation into the cause of this incident.


The BSEE initiated a Panel Investigation into the incident. The five-member panel is made up of inspectors, engineers and accident investigators, who will issue a report containing findings, recommendations and any potential violations for consideration. 

The oil spill is believed to be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon, killing 11 people and resulting in the largest offshore oil spill in U.S. history.

http://gcaptain.com/new-e...ll-in-the-gulf-of-mexico/

It REALLY WAS a good ride, not for you and me, but for TPTB. So, expect them to do WHATEVER to prolong their RIDE, against all scientific evidence that EXPLOITATION WITHOUT REFLECTION OF FELLOW EARTHLINGS OF ALL SPECIES (not just humans) AND THE BIOSPHERE FOR PROFIT OVER PLANET is deleterious (i.e. SUICIDAL/abysmally STUPID) to the Homo SAP species.

International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) ‘Deeply Concerned’ by Canada’s Proposed Tanker Ban in Northern British Columbia Waters October 20, 2017 by gCaptain




Senate Okays the Destruction of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge  October 20, 2017


http://therealnews.com/t2...emid=74&jumival=20279

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 21, 2017, 01:26:11 pm »

One Killed, One Still Missing After Explosion on Crude Oil Barge Off Port Aransas, Texas

October 20, 2017 by Mike Schuler


A barge on fire approximately three miles from Port Aransas, Texas, jetties Oct. 20, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard Photo

Update: The U.S. Coast Guard has confirmed that one person has died and another person was still missing after a fire on barge operated by Bouchard Transportation.

The company issued the following statement about the accident.

Bouchard Transportation reports that a fire occurred today aboard one of their barges at approximately 4:30 am local time near Aransas Pass, Texas.

For privacy purposes, we are not releasing any information about our crew and trust you respect this decision.

We have no information regarding pollution or the cause of the fire at this time.

Our tug which, was pushing the barge, had 6 crew members on board and we are working closely with the Coast Guard to ensure their safety.

All proper emergency notifications have been made and response resources have responded.

The incident is under investigation and Bouchard Transportation, as operator of the tug and barge, is working closely with the appropriate authorities.

The Company will provide further information on this incident as it becomes available.

The tug involved is the Buster Bouchard.

Earlier: The U.S. Coast Guard is searching for two missing crew members following an explosion and fire onboard a barge loaded with crude oil off Port Aransas, Texas on Friday.

A vessel with the Corpus Christi Fire Department was fighting to extinguish the fire.

The barge is located approximately three miles from the Port Aransas, Texas, jetties, according to the Coast Guard.


A Corpus Christi Fire Department vessel attempts to extinguish a fire onboard a barge approximately three miles from the Port Aransas, Texas, jetties Oct. 20, 2017. A Coast Guard Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin and HC-144 Ocean Sentry are searching for two missing crewmembers. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

A Coast Guard Corpus Christi MH-65 Dolphin and HC-144 Ocean Sentry are searching for two missing crewmembers.

There were a total of eight crew members on board, according to reports.

The barge was carrying 140,000 barrels of crude oil to a refinery when the incident occurred, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

The fire is believed to have started about 4:30 a.m. local time.

gCaptain has learned that the barge in question is the 158,000 barrel capacity B255, which was connected to the tug Buster Bouchard.

The articulated tug-barge (ATB) unit belongs to Bouchard Transportation, the United States’ largest independently-owned ocean-going petroleum barge company.

A safety zone has been established surrounding the vessel. There are reports of minor pollution in the water.

Bouchard has not yet responded to gCaptain’s request for comment.


http://gcaptain.com/two-m...e-off-port-aransas-texas/

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 20, 2017, 06:12:17 pm »



 
Global pollution linked to one in six premature death, It’s worse than wars, AIDS and road accidents combined


LAST UPDATED ON OCTOBER 20TH, 2017 AT 2:57 PM BY TIBI PUIU

An extensive study carried out by environmental experts found an alarmingly high percentage of all global premature deaths are linked to pollution, specifically airborne pollution. In 2015, nine million premature deaths or roughly 16 percent of all deaths can be attributed to pollution, according to the findings published in The Lancet. That’s one-and-a-half times more than the number of people killed by smoking, three times the number killed by AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined, more than six times the number killed in road accidents, and 15 times the number killed in war or other forms of violence.

“There’s been a lot of study of pollution, but it’s never received the resources or level of attention as, say, AIDS or climate change,” said epidemiologist Philip Landrigan, dean of global health at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, and the lead author on the report.

The elephant in the room no one’s talking about

The international collaboration that included over 40 scientists from leading research instituted around the world examined data on premature mortality from Global Burden of Disease dataset, which estimates mortality from major diseases and their causes across populations. Researchers gauged the effects of air pollution (particle matter, toxic compounds), water pollution (contamination, unhygienic sanitation), and workplace pollution (toxins and carcinogens).

The investigation revealed a harrowing landscape where pollution is causing a massive death toll, especially in the developing world which is burning fossil fuels at an alarming rate.

Air pollution was linked to 6.5 million premature deaths;

Water pollution was linked to 1.8 million premature deaths;

Workplace pollution was linked to 1 million premature deaths;

Premature deaths resulting from pollution-related diseases like heart disease and cancer outnumbered AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined 3 to 1;

About 92% of all premature deaths linked to pollution occur in low and middle-income countries.

Up to one in four deaths can be attributed to pollution in countries like China, India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.

In absolute numbers, China (1.8 million) and India (2.5 million) had the most pollution-related deaths for the year 2015.

The United States, home to the world’s biggest economy, saw 155,000 premature deaths linked to pollution in 2015.


In reality, the scope of pollution may be even worse
since the researchers used conservative data which likely underestimates the burden of pollution on people’s livelihoods. For instance, the study didn’t take into account the effects of endocrine disruptors, pesticides, or flame retardants, all of which are widely used and known to contribute to premature death.

Most of these premature deaths occur in developing countries and disproportionately affect the poor. Nations like India or China have grown their economies at full throttle using cheap fossil fuels as gas but in doing so they’ve sacrificed the health of their population. Yet this isn’t an indispensable trade-off. The United States or the European Union have shown that pollution can be curbed without sacrificing economic output through legislation that protects the environment and regulates water use.

The findings serve as a wakeup call to policymakers but also to the public which is often unaware of the full scope of pollution and how it affects livelihoods for generations to come.

https://www.zmescience.co...remature-deaths-s0534543/

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 18, 2017, 01:00:18 pm »

Video of Oil Rig Fire in St. Charles Parish

One Missing, Six Injured in Platform Explosion on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana

October 15, 2017 by gCaptain

Full article with a photo:

http://gcaptain.com/multi...-pontchartrain-louisiana/
Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 15, 2017, 06:16:09 pm »

Almost 400,000 gallons of oil spilled into Gulf of Mexico 

BY JEFF CLARK jclark@sunherald.com

OCTOBER 14, 2017 12:45 PM

SNIPPET:

The Coast Guard is responding to the report of a crude oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Coast Guard Sector New Orleans said it received a report from the National Response Center at 1:30 p.m. Friday of a discharge from a damaged pipeline associated with a subsea well about 40 miles southeast of Venice, Louisiana.

Full article:

http://www.sunherald.com/...cal/article178904441.html

San Francisco Is Suing Major Oil Companies to Protect its Citizens from Climate Change
Sea level rise could lead to catastrophic flooding, and the city blames ExxonMobile and BP.

AMY THOMSONOCT. 14, 2017 6:00 AM

Full article:

http://www.motherjones.co...iel-herrera-port-seawall/

With No Clean Water, Some Puerto Ricans Tap Toxic Waste Sites

OCT 12, 2017


SNIPPET:

As Donald Trump waffles between cruelly threatening to pull aid from Puerto Rico and pathetically whining about criticism of his terrible relief efforts there, the island continues to deal with ongoing devastation. According to a FEMA report, nearly 40 percent of Puerto Ricans have no access to clean drinking water. The situation is so dire that some residents are attempting to get water from polluted, contaminated and toxic sources.

“There are reports of residents obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste ‘Superfund’ sites in Puerto Rico,” the Environmental Protection Agency notes in a press release cited by Reuters. CBS News Correspondent David Begnaud tweeted an image of the report.

The EPA cites reports of Puerto Ricans “obtaining, or trying to obtain, drinking water from wells at hazardous waste “Superfund” sites” pic.twitter.com/UW4ZW7RBUG

— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) October 11, 2017

On the ground, groups of volunteer veterans have taken to social media to get out the message about how poorly this administration is handling aid efforts. In a widely shared video posted Monday, a group of four veterans, including a man identified as former Staff Sergeant and Cavalry Scout Jason Maddy, describe the lack of supplies coming in.

“We have an urgent message to get out about what’s really going on here in Western Puerto Rico,” Maddy says into the camera. “Right now, we’re only giving out, to people in the mountains, one small meal and six bottles of water per family. That is all they’re getting.”

“And the meals are really just kind of a snack pack,” another veteran, Chris Davis, says. “We can’t figure out why supplies aren’t coming in from San Juan. The local government here is doing all that they can.”

“In this area, we’re really the only ones here—we’re 12 volunteer veterans,” Maddy adds. “And people are hurting really bad right now.”

Full article:       

https://www.truthdig.com/...er-hazardous-waste-sites/

Posted by: AGelbert
« on: October 12, 2017, 10:36:46 pm »


California Wildfires: Death Toll Rises to 23, 'Worst Air Quality Ever Recorded' in Bay Area

October 11, 2017 By Lorraine Chow


Firefighters continue to battle the unprecedented wildfires ravaging Northern California.

As of Wednesday, the fast-moving blazes—aided by high winds and low humidity—have burned nearly 170,000 acres and destroyed at least 3,500 homes and commercial structures since the outbreak started Sunday.

The confirmed death toll has risen to 23, with 285 reported missing. Thousands have been forced to flee due to mandatory evacuations.

A forecast of of high winds on Thursday could deteriorate conditions.

"We're not going to be out of the woods for a great many days to come," Cal Fire director Ken Pimlott said at a news conference yesterday.

California's drought-busting rains from last winter led to "explosive vegetation," as Pimlott said, and a hot and dry summer left the brush and other vegetation tinder-dry, stoking the flames.

While the cause of the infernos has yet to be determined, some scientists have said that climate change may play a role.

"It's very clear that the increasingly hot summers are the product of climate change," Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles, told NBC News.

Alex Hall, a climate researcher at the University of California, Los Angeles, also told the New York Times that global warming may at least be making the winds drier.

"That is a pretty key parameter for fire risk," he said.

The region's main utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, has acknowledged that gale-force winds downed some of their power lines.

"These destructive winds, along with millions of trees weakened by years of drought and recent renewed vegetation growth from winter storms, all contributed to some trees, branches and debris impacting our electric lines across the North Bay," company spokesman Matt Nauman told the Mercury News.

"In some cases, we have found instances of wires down, broken poles and impacted infrastructure. Where those have occurred, we have reported them to the CPUC and CalFire. Our thoughts are with all those individuals who were impacted by these devastating wildfires."

The wine country fires have released devastating air pollution.

"We are reporting the worst air quality ever recorded for smoke in many parts of the Bay Area," Tom Flannigan, a spokesman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, told the East Bay Times. "This is similar to what you see in Beijing, China in bad air days there."

The air pollution could even equal a year's worth of traffic, Sean Raffuse, an air-quality analyst at the Crocker Nuclear Laboratory at University of California in Davis, said. Raffuse estimates the fires have produced about 10,000 tons of fine particulate matter, about the same amount generated by the state's 35 million vehicles.

California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency for the affected areas as well as for Orange County in the southern part of the state.

The National Weather Service has also issued Red Flag Warnings, the highest alert, for much of Northern California.

https://www.ecowatch.com/...fires-air-2495879541.html


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