Highlight of the Week– Making a Difference
1-ECOLOGY, BIODIVERSITY, RELATED
2–CLIMATE CHANGE AND EXTREME EVENTS
5- RENEWABLES, ENERGY AND RELATED
6–OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
7–IMAGES OF THE WEEK
Highlight of the Week– Making a difference…
Jane Goodall left secretarial school, moved in with the chimps and revolutionised the conservation movement. At 78, her field work is different — and more urgent.
By Kit GilletNovember 9, 2012
Hair pulled in a tight ponytail that highlights every line on her face, 78-year-old environmental campaigner Jane Goodall looks thoroughly worn out. Shawl draped loosely around her delicate shoulders, a small tumbler of whiskey in her hand, she admits, “At the end of most days I feel totally exhausted.” She is in a hotel lounge in Shanghai, just off a plane from Hong Kong; she spends some 300 days a year on the road, and has done for the past quarter of a century. “Since 1986 I haven’t been anywhere for more than three weeks at a stretch, except when I hurt my ankles,” she says. Goodall spends most of her time in hotels in big cities around the world, giving lectures, talking to school groups and meeting with fundraisers — sharing with as many people as possible her stories of living in the forests with the chimpanzees, and passing on her concerns about the state of the planet. The message is always the same: that we need to correct the damage humankind has done to this world, before it is too late.
Jane Goodall on “Hope”
“Our brains are the things that differentiate us from chimps. Yet our amazing intellect has done so much damage,” she tells me, between sips of whiskey.
When Goodall starts talking, the passion in her eyes and the welcoming smile instantly recall many of the hundreds of photographs taken of her over the past 50 years.
In person, her body seems much more fragile than in those images, as if it is gradually acknowledging that it can’t go on defying time indefinitely. But Goodall is determined to use all her remaining strength to push on with her environmental mission.
“Roots & Shoots is what I dedicate my life to. It is changing lives all over the world,” she says, referring to the youth-focused environmental organisation she formed back in 1991.
Now with a presence in 131 countries, Roots & Shoots has tens of thousands of volunteers, and every year corporate sponsors around the world contribute resources to help make Goodall’s vision a reality. Yet at the centre of it is this one small woman…..
Rich Stallcup (1944-2012)
Champion for Conservation and All Things Wild
Rich’s family will be planning a memorial service in the future and we will share plans for that with the community. PRBO will also hold a public tribute to Rich’s remarkable life at our Bird-A-Thon annual awards event on Saturday, January 26, 2013. RSVPs required—email to Eve Williams (firstname.lastname@example.org).
>> Share Your Memories (guestbook)
>> Press Release
>> Selected Observer Columns by Rich
And more at www.prbo.org ……
Ups and downs of biodiversity after mass extinction
(December 21, 2012) — The climate after the largest mass extinction so far 252 million years ago was cool, later very warm and then cool again. Thanks to the cooler temperatures, the diversity of marine fauna ballooned, as paleontologists have reconstructed. The warmer climate, coupled with a high carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere, initially gave rise to new, short-lived species. In the longer term, however, this climate change had an adverse effect on biodiversity and caused species to become extinct. … > full story
California wraps up undersea park network
Los Angeles Times Published 4:33 pm, Monday, December 24, 2012
Los Angeles — Surviving budget cuts, mobs of angry fishermen, and death threats, California officials have completed the largest network of undersea parks in the continental United States – 848 square miles of protected waters that reach from the Oregon line to the Mexican border. The final segment of marine reserves, along the state’s North Coast, reflect an unusual consensus reached between American Indian tribes, conservation groups, and fishermen to preserve tribal traditions while protecting marine life from exploitation. All told, the dozen-year effort has set aside 16 percent of state waters as marine reserves, including 9 percent that are off limits to fishing or gathering of any kind. State officials got to work shortly after the Legislature passed the Marine Life Protection Act in 1999. It directed them to consider a statewide network of protected waters, modeled after a familiar strategy on land – setting up parks and refuges to conserve wildlife, said Michael Sutton, a California Fish and Game commissioner. “It’s not rocket science,” Sutton said. “If you protect wildlife habitat and you don’t kill too many, wildlife tends to do well. We’ve done that on land with the waterfowl population. Now, we’ve done it in the ocean for fish.” Marine reserves have proliferated in the past decade, particularly in remote areas such as the northwest Hawaiian Islands, the Phoenix Islands and the Northern Marianas Islands. Yet California’s network of reserves is the only one established near a heavily populated coastline. The state issues 2 million fishing licenses a year.
The American Sportfishing Association, the Virginia-based trade association of the tackle and sportfishing industry, hired Sacramento lobbyists, public relations companies and organized anglers by the busload to derail the process. The organization was delighted when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced in 2004 that budget shortfalls required an indefinite postponement, said the association’s vice president, Gordon Robertson. What happened next, he said, outflanked the sportfishing industry. Michael Mantell, a Sacramento lawyer who coordinates philanthropy and conservation, organized the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Marisla Foundation and two others to pick up the state’s costs, including paying for panels of local leaders to take testimony and make recommendations. So far, the foundations have spent more than $23 million. “The environmental community poured far more resources than the recreational fishing did,” Robertson said. He vowed to not let this happen in other states.
Richard B. Rogers, a lifelong recreational fisherman and scuba diver, said the science won him over on the issue. After Schwarzenegger appointed him to the Fish and Game Commission, his work to help establish the reserves was, as he put it, “the single most important thing I’ve done in life, other than marrying my wife and raising my five kids.”…..
Amazon deforestation brings loss of microbial communities
(December 26, 2012) — An international team of microbiologists has found that a troubling net loss in diversity among the microbial organisms responsible for a functioning ecosystem is accompanying deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. This is important because the combination of lost forest species and the homogenization of pasture communities together signal that this ecosystem is now a lot less capable of dealing with additional outside stress. … > full story
Bumblebees do best where there is less pavement and more floral diversity
(December 26, 2012) — Landscapes with large amounts of paved roads and impervious construction have lower numbers of ground-nesting bumblebees, which are important native pollinators, a new study shows. … > full story
Recall of the Wild
December 24 2012 The New Yorker by Elizabeth Kolbert (subscription required)
For most of the past several millennia, Flevoland, a province which sits more or less at the center of the Netherlands, lay at the bottom of an inlet of the North Sea. A massive drainage project in the nineteen-fifties allowed Flevoland to emerge out of the muck of the former seafloor. Now, Flevoland is home to the Oostvaardersplassen, a wilderness that was also constructed, Genesis-like, from the mud. The reserve occupies fifteen thousand almost perfectly flat acres, and biologists have stocked it with the sorts of animals that would have inhabited the region in prehistoric times, had it not at that point been underwater. In many cases, the animals had been exterminated, so they had to settle for the next best thing; for example, in place of the aurochs, a large and now extinct bovine, they brought in Heck cattle, a variety specially bred by Nazi scientists. The cattle grazed and multiplied, along with red deer, horses, foxes, geese, egrets, and other animals. With a certain amount of squinting, the herds of large mammals could be said to resemble the great migratory herds of Africa. Visitors now pay up to forty-five dollars each to take safari-like tours of the park. Such is the success of the Dutch experiment that it has inspired a new movement. Dubbed Rewilding Europe, the movement takes the old notion of wilderness and turns it inside out. Perhaps it’s true that genuine wilderness can only be destroyed, but new “wilderness,” what the Dutch call “new nature,” can be created. Every year, tens of thousands of acres of economically marginal farmland in Europe are taken out of production. Why not use this land to produce “new nature” to replace what’s been lost? Writer visits the Oostvaardersplassen to learn more about rewilding, and tours the preserve with Frans Vera, one of the biologists who argued for its creation. Mentions some of the surprising ways in which the animals have behaved since settling there, and discusses the concerns raised by animal-welfare activists, who have objected to the widespread starvation that has occurs in the preserve, and which provides gruesome images for Dutch TV. (Often the dying animals are shown huddled up against the fences of the Oostvaardersplassen, a scene that inevitably leads to comparisons with the Holocaust.) Describes the efforts to “back-breed” today’s cows, creating a new animal that approximates, in its physical characteristics, the now-extinct aurochs. Describes the origins of the idea of rewilding in a paper written by Michael Soulé and Reed Noss, two American professors, and the ways in which Europeans have adopted and changed the meaning of the term. (Among other things, the idea of rewilding has become more gastronomically appealing: it is expected that visitors to the continent’s rewilded regions will be able to enjoy not just the safari-like tours but also the local cuisine.) Writer visits a rewilded preserve in Spain, the Campanarios de Azaba, where she encounters vultures….
Pot farm boom slams Northern Calif. environment
|San Francisco Chronicle||– December 23, 2012||
EUREKA, Calif. (AP) – From water-siphoning to pesticide-spraying to just plain littering, a flowering of pot farms driven by the rise of medical marijuana is battering Northern California’s wilderness areas, natural resources and endangered species …
How do flocking birds move in unison?
|EarthSky (blog)||– Dec 27, 2012 ||
We’ve all seen flocks of birds wheeling and swooping in unison, as if choreographed. How do they do this? Zoologists say they aren’t simply following a leader, or their neighbors.
Researchers in Australia found that when they removed mistletoe from large sections of forests, vast numbers of birds left. BSIP/UIG via Getty Images
Birds Hang Around Mistletoe For More Than A Kiss
by Sabri Ben-Achour December 27, 2012 1:40 PM fromWAMU Audio for this story from All Things Considered will be available at approximately 7:00 p.m. ET.
For the druids, mistletoe was sacred. For us, it’s a cute ornament and maybe an excuse to steal a kiss. And of course it’s a Christmas tradition.
But for a forest, mistletoe might be much more important. It’s a parasite, shows up on tree branches and looks like an out of place evergreen bush hanging in the air.
Its seeds drill through bark with a thread-like probe and then grow by sapping the energy of its host. And certain types can be nasty pests, especially dwarf mistletoe in the American West.
But it may actually be useful, and more than just as an excuse to make out with someone.
David Watson, an ecologist at Charles Sturt University in Australia, had long suspected this. But nobody had really proven it experimentally. So he did an experiment in an Australian forest.
He just took the mistletoe out. “Me and a team of 12 volunteers in cherry pickers — ” he recalls, ” — we removed just over 41 tons of mistletoe.” It took 5 months and then another visit the next season to get it all out.
Three Years Later… “The simple act of removing mistletoe led to losses of over a third of the woodland dependent species [of bird],” Watson says. All these birds just left. And weirdly, the birds that took the biggest hit were insect-eating birds.
Birdsong study pecks theory that music is uniquely human
(December 27, 2012) — A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows. The new study found that the same neural reward system is activated in female birds in the breeding state that are listening to male birdsong, and in people listening to music that they like. … > full story
Endangered butterfly making a comeback
The restoration of prairie habitat in the Fern Ridge Lake area (Western Oregon) is improving the colorful insect’s chances
By Christian Wihtol The Register-Guard: December 28, 2012
The effects of climate change may be ravaging the earth.The Amazon jungle and the African rain forest may be succumbing to the chainsaw.
But if you want a sign of hope, look no further than the lands alongside Fern Ridge Lake west of Eugene.
There, the lowly but rare and endangered Fender’s blue butterfly — that’s icaricia icarioides fenderi, to the initiated — is staging a comeback, new surveys show. On small tracts of protected upland prairie to the north and east of the lake, the butterfly’s numbers are rising, apparently largely due to human intervention. Controlled burns of prairie lands curb vegetation that would otherwise choke out the plants the butterfly needs in order to survive — including the threatened Kincaid’s lupine and Nelson’s checker-mallow, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist Wes Messinger said. Plus, in protected areas, the Corps is planting those needed species, along with, for example, onions that the butterfly enjoys, he said….
Russian River (California) Watershed To Get Special Attention
|Patch.com||– Dec 27, 2012||
The Russian River watershed was selected as California’s Habitat Focus Area within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Habitat Blueprint. NOAA’s habitat conservation experts felt that the Russian River offered the greatest opportunities for NOAA-wide collaboration on habitat conservation among the 17 candidate areas identified by the staff this fall. “I have been impressed with the work being conducted in the Russian River watershed to protect, conserve, and maintain our salmon and steelhead populations,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson, who made the announcement last week. “For years, I have promoted, supported, and advocated for this incredible collaborative effort to restore our native fisheries populations and I am pleased that NOAA has recognized the work of this community,” Thompson said. “I am proud that over the next several years, the Russian River Watershed will be a focal point in salmon restoration, habitat science, and conservation within the United States” said Thompson.
“This designation recognizes the Russian River watershed as one of the most promising regions in the nation for real improvements in fish habitat. Stakeholders should be proud of the efforts they’ve made, whether it’s volunteering at river clean-up days, adopting fish-friendly farming practices or creating habitat on their property,” said Sonoma County Water Agency and Sonoma County Chairwoman Shirlee Zane. “The community-wide focus on the watershed is one of the aspects that made this region attractive to the National Marine Fisheries Service.” The Russian River drains 1,485 square miles, including much of Sonoma and Mendocino counties and is home to three fish on the endangered and threatened species lists: coho salmon, Chinook salmon, and steelhead trout. For years, the Sonoma County Water Agency and other stakeholders have worked tirelessly to enhance the fish and wildlife resources of the Russian River, and have developed sound science technology to protect, preserve and restore the threatened and endangered fish species….
Official: Endangered Whale Beached in NYC Is Dead
An emaciated 60-foot finback whale beached itself in the Breezy Point neighborhood of the Rockaways in New York, Dec. 26, 2012. Biologist Mendy Garron says it’s unclear what caused the whale to beach itself, but its chances of survival appear slim. (Kathy Willens/AP Photo)
By TOM HAYS Associated Press NEW YORK December 27, 2012 (AP)
A 60-foot whale was found dead on Thursday after getting stranded on a beach in a coastal enclave of New York City that was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy.
The animal — part of an endangered species known as finback or fin whales — was severely emaciated but clinging to life when it was discovered Wednesday stranded on the bay side of Breezy Point. Volunteer firefighters sprayed water on the whale as it sat halfway out of the water.
At high tide, the whale drifted away and out of sight before washing ashore again on Thursday morning, this time having stopped breathing, said Mendy Garron of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
Marine experts later confirmed the animal was dead. They planned to perform a necropsy to determine a cause of death before burying the giant carcass, said Kimberly Durham of the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research….
Hungry salmon a problem for restoration efforts
By Sandra Hines November 28, 2012
Food webs needed by young salmon in the Columbia River basin are likely compromised in places, something that should be considered when prioritizing expensive restoration activities aimed at rebuilding endangered runs. Right now there are probably too many young fish and not enough food in places. Taking hatchery fish and wild fish together, there are twice as many young salmon in the system today as there were before major hatchery and dam construction, say scientists in an article that went online (Nov. 28) in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences early edition.
Aquatic nonnative species – those found in the water but not including those on land alongside rivers and streams – are just one example of invasive species that can effect young salmon and foodwebs in the Columbia River Basin. The food web also is under assault from chemical contaminants as well as invasive species – and even a few native ones – that gang up on young salmon because of the way the river is managed…..
Landscape Restoration Movement Reaches 50 Million Ha With El Salvador & Costa Rica Commitments
The global movement to restore 150 million hectares of degraded and deforested land by 2020 – the “Bonn Challenge” – gained further momentum at the UN Climate Talks in Doha, as Costa Rica and El Salvador each commit up to 1 million hectares. The 50 million hectare mark – or one third of the target – is now within reach, amid broad acknowledgement that the largest restoration initiative in history is truly underway….
Restoration calms troubled waters Oregon
|Johnson Creek work holds back floods, opens land for park
Portland Tribune Dec 27, 2012
Ever since the 1920s, the major creek flowing through Portland’s east side was known mostly for flooding.
Johnson Creek spilled over its banks about once every other year, deluging nearby homes and businesses in the Lents neighborhood and rendering Southeast Foster Road impassable.
By year end, the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services expects to wrap up a $20 million floodplain restoration that should ease flooding, restore wildlife habitat and boost Lents’ chances of luring jobs.
The bureau is restoring 70 acres to its natural role accommodating flood waters — after clearing 60 homes in the path of those waters.
Bureau Director Dean Marriott, who led a tour of the complex project last week, hopes to hand the site to the parks bureau around Earth Day 2013, delivering a new natural area to parks-deficient East Portland that’s more than twice the size of Laurelhurst Park. Decades in the making, the East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project passed its first big test last January, when Johnson Creek crested at two feet above flood stage. “We sat there waiting for Foster Road to flood,” recalls Lents Neighborhood Association Chairman Nick Christensen, “and it didn’t top the berms.”
Coho salmon have already been spotted returning to Johnson Creek, and Christensen expects to see eagle’s nests eventually…..
Tigers roar back: Great news for big cats in key areas
(December 26, 2012) — Biologists have reported significant progress for tigers in three key landscapes across the big cat’s range due to better law enforcement, protection of habitat, and strong government partnerships. … > full story
Evidence contradicts idea that starvation caused saber-tooth cat extinction
(December 26, 2012) — The latest study of the microscopic wear patterns on the teeth of the American lions and saber-toothed cats that roamed North America in the late Pleistocene found that they were living well off the fat of the land in the period just before they went extinct. That is the conclusion of the latest study of the microscopic wear patterns on the teeth of these great cats recovered from the La Brea tar pits in southern California. Contrary to previous studies, the analysis did not find any indications that the giant carnivores were having increased trouble finding prey in the period before they went extinct 12,000 years ago. The results, published on Dec. 26 in the scientific journal PLOS ONE, contradicts previous dental studies and presents a problem for the most popular explanations for the Megafaunal (or Quaternary) extinction when the great cats, mammoths and a number of the largest mammals that existed around the world disappeared. “The popular theory for the Megafaunal extinction is that either the changing climate at the end of the last Ice Age or human activity — or some combination of the two — killed off most of the large mammals,” said Larisa DeSantis, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences at Vanderbilt, who headed the study. “In the case of the great cats, we expect that it would have been increasingly difficult for them to find prey, especially if had to compete with humans. We know that when food becomes scarce, carnivores like the great cats tend to consume more of the carcasses they kill. If they spent more time chomping on bones, it should cause detectable changes in the wear patterns on their teeth.”…. “The net result of our study is to raise questions about the reigning hypothesis that “tough times” during the late Pleistocene contributed to the gradual extinction of large carnivores,” DeSantis summarized. “While we can not determine the exact cause of their demise, it is unlikely that the extinction of these cats was a result of gradually declining prey (due either to changing climates or human competition) because their teeth tell us that these cats were not desperately consuming entire carcasses, as we had expected, and instead seemed to be living the ‘good life’ during the late Pleistocene, at least up until the very end.”> full story
West Antarctica Warming Faster Than Thought
By JUSTIN GILLIS NY TIMES December 24, 2012
New research suggests that West Antarctica has warmed much more than scientists have thought over the last half century, an ominous finding given that the huge ice sheet there may be vulnerable to long-term collapse, with potentially drastic effects on sea level.
A paper released Sunday by the journal Nature Geoscience found that the temperature at a research station in the middle of West Antarctica has warmed by 4.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1958. That is roughly twice as much as scientists previously thought and three times the overall rate of global warming, making central West Antarctica one of the fastest-warming regions on earth.
“The surprises keep coming,” said Andrew J. Monaghan, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., who took part in the study. “When you see this type of warming, I think it’s alarming.”
Of course, warming in Antarctica is a relative concept. West Antarctica remains an exceedingly cold place, with average annual temperatures in the center of the ice sheet that are nearly 50 degrees Fahrenheit below freezing.
But the temperature there does sometimes rise above freezing in the summer, and the new research raises the possibility that it might begin to happen more often, potentially weakening the ice sheet through surface melting. The ice sheet is already under attack at the edges by warmer ocean water, and scientists are on alert for any fresh threat. A potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is one of the long-term hazards that have led experts to worry about global warming. The base of the ice sheet sits below sea level, in a configuration that makes it especially vulnerable. Scientists say a breakup of the ice sheet, over a period that would presumably last at least several hundred years, could raise global sea levels by 10 feet, possibly more. The new research is an attempt to resolve a scientific controversy that erupted several years ago about exactly how fast West Antarctica is warming. With few automated weather stations and even fewer human observers in the region, scientists have had to use statistical techniques to infer long-term climate trends from sparse data. A nearby area called the Antarctic Peninsula, which juts north from West Antarctica and for which decent records are available, was already known to be warming rapidly. A 2009 paper found extensive warming in the main part of West Antarctica, but those results were challenged by a group that included climate change contrarians…..
West Antarctica warming more than expected
December 23, 2012 NCAR
BOULDER—In a finding that raises further concerns about the future contribution of Antarctica to sea level rise, a new study finds that the western part of the continent’s ice sheet is experiencing nearly twice as much warming as previously thought.
Researchers have determined that the central region of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) is experiencing twice as much warming as previously thought. Their analysis focuses on the temperature record from Byrd Station (indicated by a star), which provides the only long-term temperature observations in the region. Other permanent research stations with long-term temperature records (indicated by black circles) are scattered around the continent. On this map, the color intensity indicates the extent of warming around Antarctica. (Image by Julien Nicolas, courtesy of Ohio State University.)
David H. Bromwich, Julien P. Nicolas, Andrew J. Monaghan, Matthew A. Lazzara, Linda M. Keller, George A. Weidner, Aaron B. Wilson. Central West Antarctica among the most rapidly warming regions on Earth. Nature Geoscience, 2012; DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1671
Update of Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Loss. Pdf— James Hansen Dec. 26, 2012: Discussion of how the loss rate is changing.
…. Greenland has been losing mass at a faster and faster rate over the past decade, with the recent rate corresponding to ~1 mm sea level per year (1 mm sea level = 360 Gt ice). The linear fit to the Shepherd et al. data in Fig. 1 yields a Greenland contribution to global sea level of about 30 cm by 2100.
…the increasing Greenland mass loss in Fig. 1 can be fit just as well by exponentially increasing annual mass loss, a behavior that Hansen (2005, 2007) argues could occur because of multiple amplifying feedbacks as an ice sheet begins to disintegrate. A 10-year doubling time would lead to 1 meter sea level rise by 2067 and 5 meters by 2090. The dates are 2045 and 2057 for 5-year doubling time and 2055 and 2071 for a 7-year doubling time. However, exponential ice loss, if it occurs, would encounter negative (diminishing) feedbacks. Our simulations (Hansen and Sato, 2012) suggest that a strong negative feedback kicks in when sea level rise reaches meter-scale, as the ice-melt has a large cooling and freshening effect on the regional ocean. Such a slowdown in the rate of sea level rise would be little consolation to humanity, however, as the high latitude cooling would increase latitudinal temperature gradients, thus driving powerful cyclonic storms (Hansen, 2009), and coastlines would be continually moving landward for centuries.
West Antarctic ice is probably more vulnerable to rapid disintegration than Greenland ice, because the West Antarctic ice sheet rests mainly on bedrock below sea level (Hughes, 1972). The principal mechanism for mass loss from West Antarctica is warming of the ocean…. The several analysis methods compared by Shepherd et al. (2012) concur that the West Antarctic ice sheet mass imbalance has grown since 2005 from an annual mass loss of 0-100 Gt ice to a recent annual mass loss of 100-200 Gt ice (Fig. 4 of Shepherd et al.). So, what are the shapes of the ice sheet mass loss curves for Greenland and West Antarctica? Is there evidence that they may be exponential? It’s too early to tell, as shown by Fig. 1 above. The picture may begin to be clearer within the next several years. The problem is, by the time the data record is long enough to be convincing, it may be exceedingly difficult or impossible to prevent sea level rise of many meters.
Obviously we need to continue to monitor the ice sheets as well as practical, especially with the gravity and input-output methods, which appear to be the most promising. Also, given the fact that we could reduce the dangers of climate change greatly by putting an honesthttp://www.columbia.edu/~jeh1/mailings/2012/20121213_StormsOfOpa.pdf), it would make good sense to slow down the climate change experiment by placing such a fee on carbon. 3 gradually rising price on carbon emissions, and there would be many other merits of doing that (
How shrubs are reducing the positive contribution of peatlands to climate
(December 23, 2012) –– Peatlands (bogs, turf moors) are among the most important ecosystems worldwide for the storage of atmospheric carbon and thus for containing the climate warming process. In the last 30 to 50 years the peat (Sphagnum) mosses, whose decay produces the peat (turf), have come under pressure by vascular plants, mostly small shrubs. … Although peatlands are estimated to cover only 3% of the world land surface, they store about 30% of all soil organic matter, an amount equivalent to about 50% of the atmospheric CO2. On global scale, peatlands stock an amount of carbon which is twice the carbon stock of all forest biomass. In this sense, peatlands can be considered as “hot spots” of carbon accumulation and they have contributed, over millennia, to cool the climate by retrieving greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. > full story
Top Ten U.S. Weather Events of 2012
|Posted by: Dr. Jeff Masters, 5:04 AM GMT on December 21, 2012||+64|
It was another year of incredible weather extremes unparalleled in American history during 2012. Eleven billion-dollar weather disasters hit the U.S., a figure exceeded only by the fourteen such disasters during the equally insane weather year of 2011. I present for you now the top ten weather stories of 2012, chosen for their meteorological significance and human and economic impact.
VIDEO 1. Hour-by-hour animation of infrared satellite images for 2012. The loop goes in slow-motion to feature such events as Hurricane Sandy, the June Derecho, Summer in March, and other top weather events of 2012. The date stamp is at lower left; you will want to make the animation full screen to see the date. Special thanks to wunderground’s Deb Mitchell for putting this together!
1) Superstorm Sandy
Hurricane Sandy was truly astounding in its size and power. At its peak size, twenty hours before landfall, Sandy had tropical storm-force winds that covered an area nearly one-fifth the area of the contiguous United States. Sandy’s area of ocean with twelve-foot seas peaked at 1.4 million square miles–nearly one-half the area of the contiguous United States, or 1% of Earth’s total ocean area. Most incredibly, ten hours before landfall (9:30 am EDT October 29), the total energy of Sandy’s winds of tropical storm-force and higher peaked at 329 terajoules–the highest value for any Atlantic hurricane since at least 1969, and equivalent to five Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. At landfall, Sandy’s tropical storm-force winds spanned 943 miles of the the U.S. coast. No hurricane on record has been larger…..
Smaller Colorado River projected for coming decades, study says
(December 23, 2012) — Some 40 million people depend on the Colorado River Basin for water but warmer weather from rising greenhouse gas levels and a growing population may signal water shortages ahead. In a new study in Nature Climate Change, climate modelers at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory predict a 10 percent drop in the Colorado River’s flow in the next few decades, enough to disrupt longtime water-sharing agreements between farms and cities across the American Southwest, from Denver to Los Angeles to Tucson, and through California’s Imperial Valley. … > full story
Climate change could cut Western water runoff by 10%
|Lake Powell’s “bathtub ring” of mineral salts shows the drop in water level caused by an ongoing drought in the Colorado River Basin. In the foreground is Glen Canyon Dam. (Bettina Boxall / Los Angeles Times )|
By Bettina Boxall December 26, 2012, LAT TIMES Another climate change study is projecting declines in runoff in many parts of the West, a scenario that would put more pressure on the region’s water supplies. Using new model simulations, scientists at Columbia University‘s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory expanded on 2007 research that predicted a drier future for the Southwest. The reasons involve more than a drop in precipitation — which is actually expected to increase in some areas that are critical to Western water supplies. Rather, rising temperatures will cause greater evaporation from plants and the ground, reducing soil moisture and water runoff into rivers and streams. Researchers concluded that average annual runoff will fall by about 10% in the three regions examined in the study: California-Nevada, the Colorado River headwaters and Texas. The 10% drop in Colorado River flows would be on a par with the worst droughts recorded on the river in the last century, though it is less severe than the 12th century megadrought revealed by tree-ring studies. “It may not sound like a phenomenally large amount, except the water and the river is already over-allocated,” said climate scientist Richard Seager, the paper’s lead author. The Colorado’s flows have proven to be less than thought when the river’s supplies were divvied up among California and the other six basin states in 1922…..
Cities hold half the world’s population and produce more than 70 percent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. While they have heightened risks from floods, storms and sea level rise, they are often left out of national and global warming talks. This series shows how some are beginning their own plans to deal with a more hostile climate.
ADAPTATION: Rising San Francisco Bay threatens the Silicon Valley high-tech mecca
Anne C. Mulkern, E&E reporter ClimateWire: Thursday, December 20, 2012 MENLO PARK, Calif. — The headquarters of Facebook sits on a sprawling campus beside San Francisco Bay, a scenic location with water bordering three sides.
The 57-acre site features two- and three-story office buildings in shades of red and orange, outdoor basketball hoops, and sofa-sized benches on large lawns. Just outside the property, however, is a reminder that this location has a major drawback.
A roughly 8-foot levee curves next to Facebook’s land. Built when Sun Microsystems owned the spot in the 1970s, the grass-covered buttress holds back water from the east. Another barricade on the north blocks the daily high tide.
As seas rise because of climate change, however, those barriers won’t be enough, said those studying options to protect California’s Silicon Valley.
Facebook’s site at 1 Hacker Way “is pretty much surrounded by tidal waters,” said Eric Mruz, manager of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which abuts the social media giant’s campus.
“Facebook is going to have to deal with sea level rise,” Mruz said. “It’s going to be a huge threat, with sea level rise projections skyrocketing now. They will definitely have to do something with their levees to protect their property.”
Facebook is just one of the well-known companies in Silicon Valley’s technology mecca that will face the effects of climate change in years ahead. Others located near the water here include Google, Yahoo, Dell, LinkedIn, Intuit, Intel, Cisco, Citrix and Oracle. Scientists predict seas will climb as much as 16 inches by midcentury and 65 inches by 2100. Storms are expected to intensify and occur more often. Both pose dangers for businesses and homes near the bay.
Yet Silicon Valley, a place that in many ways creates the future through technological advances, largely has yet to tackle the repercussions that climate change will bring in years ahead, several people said.
‘They don’t think long-term’ The life cycle of products made in Silicon Valley is “so short they don’t think long-term,” said Will Travis, senior adviser to the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee, which coordinates regional planning. It’s a conflict some are working to change. The region will have to start addressing the coming threats, Mruz said. “It’s imminent,” Mruz said. “There’s no question in my mind; everybody around the bay, we’re going to have to do something, at every spot around the bay.”…..
Polar Express by Keith Gessen
The New Yorker December 21, 2012
A voyage across a melting Arctic. A REPORTER AT LARGE about the writer’s journey through the Arctic seas aboard a cargo ship. The ice-class bulk carrier Nordic Odyssey docked at the port of Murmansk, Russia, on July 5, 2012. It had come to pick up sixty-five thousand tons of iron ore and take it to China via the Northern Sea Route—through the ice of the Arctic seas and then down through the Bering Strait. The Odyssey is owned by a Danish shipping company called Nordic Bulk. In 2010, the company was asked to get a load of ore from Norway to China. The company’s co-chairman, Mads Petersen, decided that the Northeast Passage was the shortest route. He made a deal to send his cargo through the Arctic with an icebreaker escort. Mentions the Odyssey’s captain, Igor Shkrebko, and its chief mate, Vadim Zakharchenko. At its maximum extent, ice covers the entire Arctic Ocean and most of its marginal seas for about fifteen million square kilometers. In recent years, it has been shrinking by more than half. The thickness of the ice is also rapidly decreasing. The primary cause of this decline is warmer air temperatures in the Arctic, an area that has been more affected by global warming than any other place on earth. Already the resource grabs have begun. The Odyssey’s trip was a test case for the proposition that the Northern Sea Route could be reliably traversed. Describes the Odyssey’s voyage. On the morning of July 13th, the ship crossed the seventy-fifth parallel. Over the next eight days, they saw an incredible variety of ice, some of it floating in isolated islands along the water. Chief Mate Zakharchenko seemed the most ambivalent about his job, and the most philosophical. In the East Siberian Sea, they encountered a different kind of ice—thicker and older, stretching north as far as the eye could see. The Odyssey went slowly. It was now clear that they would make it through the ice, but, at some point, the writer began to hope they would lose. Each ship which made this voyage would beget three more ships. Here was a landscape that they were simply causing to disappear. On July 22nd, the Odyssey finally emerged from the ice and rendezvoused with its sister ship, the Nordic Orion. Describes their arrival at the Huanghua port, in northern China, on August 9th.
The Ghost Of Climate Yet To Come
Posted: 25 Dec 2012 09:49 AM PST Joe Romm www.climateprogress.org
Irreversible does not mean unstoppable: “Why show me this, if I am past all hope?”…. Unlike Scrooge, we don’t get a spirit to show us what the future holds if we don’t change our ways. In the past two years, though, we have gotten the tiniest glimpse of climate gone wild (see “Masters: “The stunning extremes we witnessed [in 2010] gives me concern that our climate is showing the early signs of instability” and A New Record: 14 U.S. Billion-Dollar Weather Disasters in 2011 and Experts Warn ‘Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer’ In A Decade If Volume Trends Continue). And we did get dozens of scientific papers warning us of what is to come (see “An Illustrated Guide to the Science of Global Warming Impacts: How We Know Inaction Is the Gravest Threat Humanity Faces“).
M.I.T. laid out the choice in its 2009 analysis:
Humanity’s Choice (via M.I.T.): Inaction (“No Policy”) eliminates most of the uncertainty about whether or not future warming will be catastrophic. Aggressive emissions reductions dramatically improves humanity’s chances.
Yes, it is increasingly unlikely that we will adopt the aggressive but low-net-cost policies needed to stabilize at 450 ppm atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, and then quickly come back to 350 — thanks in large part to the deniers, along with their political pals and media enablers. But when reporters ask me if it’s “too late,” — or, as one did last year, “have we crossed a tipping point?” — I have to explain that the question doesn’t have a purely scientific answer.
It does seem clear that the most dangerous carbon-cycle feedback — the defrosting permafrost — hasn’t kicked in yet but is likely to with two decades (see “Carbon Time Bomb in the Arctic“)….
….Delay is very risky and expensive. In releasing its 2009 Energy Outloook, the International Energy Agency explained, “we need to act urgently and now. Every year of delay adds an extra USD 500 billion to the investment needed between 2010 and 2030 in the energy sector”. In releasing its 2011 Energy Outloook, the IEA said “On planned policies, rising fossil energy use will lead to irreversible and potentially catastrophic climate change” and “we are on an even more dangerous track to an increase of 6°C [11°F].” They concluded:
Delaying action is a false economy: for every $1 of investment in cleaner technology that is avoided in the power sector before 2020, an additional $4.30 would need to be spent after 2020 to compensate for the increased emissions.”
This is all by way of introduction to a holiday rerun repost. Four years ago I wrote about a NOAA led paper, which found:
…the climate change that is taking place because of increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop…. Among illustrative irreversible impacts that should be expected if atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations increase from current levels near 385 parts per million by volume (ppmv) to a peak of 450-600 ppmv over the coming century are irreversible dry-season rainfall reductions in several regions comparable to those of the “dust bowl” era and inexorable sea level rise.
And we know that large parts of the currently habited and arable land are at risk of turning into Dust Bowls, gravely threatening global food security.
We most certainly do not want to significantly exceed 450 ppm for any length of time, as Dust-Bowlification isn’t the only impact that is irreversible:
- New study of Greenland under “more realistic forcings” concludes “collapse of the ice-sheet was found to occur between 400 and 560 ppm” of CO2
- Science: CO2 levels haven’t been this high for 15 million years, when it was 5° to 10°F warmer and seas were 75 to 120 feet higher “” “We have shown that this dramatic rise in sea level is associated with an increase in CO2 levels of about 100 ppm.”
- Nature Geoscience study: Oceans are acidifying 10 times faster today than 55 million years ago when a mass extinction of marine species occurred
- 2009 Nature Geoscience study concludes ocean dead zones “devoid of fish and seafood” are poised to expand and “remain for thousands of years”
That said, RealClimate made a good point with the title of its 2009 post, “Irreversible Does Not Mean Unstoppable“:
…..Or, as RealClimate put it less poetically:
But you have to remember that the climate changes so far, both observed and committed to, are minor compared with the business-as-usual forecast for the end of the century. It’s further emissions we need to worry about. Climate change is like a ratchet, which we wind up by releasing CO2. Once we turn the crank, there’s no easy turning back to the natural climate. But we can still decide to stop turning the crank, and the sooner the better.
Indeed, we are only committed to about 2°C total warming so far, which is a probably manageable — and even more probably, if we did keep CO2 concentrations from peaking below 450 ppm, the small amount of CO2 we are likely to be able to remove from the atmosphere this century could well take us below the danger zone.
But if we don’t reverse emissions trends soon, we will probably triple that temperature rise, most likely negating any practical strategy to undo the impacts for hundreds of years:
- Hadley Center: Catastrophic 5-7°C warming by 2100 on current emissions path
- Our hellish future: Definitive NOAA-led report on U.S. climate impacts warns of scorching 9 to 11°F warming over most of inland U.S. by 2090 with Kansas above 90°F some 120 days a year — and that isn’t the worst case, it’s business as usual!”
- Royal Society special issue details ‘hellish vision’ of 7°F (4°C) world — which we may face in the 2060s!
- Science stunner — On our current emissions path, CO2 levels in 2100 will hit levels last seen when the Earth was 29°F (16°C) hotter.
Such is the climate change yet to come.
Seattle Mayor Calls For Divesting City Pension Funds From Fossil Fuels
Posted: 23 Dec 2012 06:23 AM PST
After a 21-city tour educating people on a new fossil fuel divestment campaign, climate activists are starting to see results. In the last month, groups on 192 university and college campuses have organized campaigns to pull their schools’ endowments out of the fossil fuel industry. One small school, Unity College, has already committed to divesting from coal, oil, and gas. At Harvard, a school with the country’s largest endowment, 72 percent of students voted in favor of divesting from fossil fuels. Although Harvard officials balked, a group of student activists has kept the pressure on.
There’s another big piece of news on the divestment front this week. Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn is now calling on his city to strip fossil fuels from its two main pension funds. According to the city’s finance director, Seattle has $17.6 million invested in Chevron and ExxonMobil, as well as smaller investments in other oil and gas companies. Mayor McGinn sent a letter to the city’s pension fund managers on Friday calling for them to move their money elsewhere…
New Hawaii senator pledges to tackle climate change
|The Hill (blog)||– December 27, 2012||
The replacement for late Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye (D) said Wednesday that climate change is at the top of his legislative agenda.
Kerry’s climate change credentials
|Los Angeles Times||– December 28, 2012||
Although many environmentalists see this as a defining decision in the fight against climate change, Kerry, presuming his nomination is approved, will arrive too late in that process to play much of a role.
AUSTRALIA: Climate change likely to involve species extinctions: CSIRO
APN Newsdesk 28th Dec 2012 6:00 AM
THE nation’s biggest scientific body, the CSIRO, has warned of “significant species extinctions” if the Federal Government does not start including climate change scenarios in Australia’s major environmental laws. The warning comes in a submission from the CSIRO to a Senate inquiry which is investigating whether the nation’s major environmental protection laws are adequate. While the Senate inquiry is looking specifically at the effectiveness of threatened species and ecological protections, the Federal Government has not yet deserted a plan to hand over those same laws to the state government.
That plan was put on hold at the final Council of Australian Governments meeting in December, but was likely to remain on the COAG agenda for 2013. In the CSIRO submission, officials wrote it was already likely to be significant losses of biodiversity in Australia as a result of climate change.
But the scientists went as far as to write that under current expectations, climate change was “likely to involve significant species extinctions”, overwhelming the nation’s environmental protection laws as they currently stand. “The increasing risk of species becoming threatened under climate change has important implications for how to invest resources for species recovery,” the submission reads. “The magnitude and widespread nature of ecological change suggests the policy processes based on analysis, listing and management of threatened species would be overwhelmed.”
But the CSIRO does offer some solutions, including recommending the government act now to include more climate change concerns in environmental protections, and giving the Federal Environment Department more resources to do its job.
The Senate committee is due to report its findings at the end of February next year.
Time to Confront Climate Change
NEW YORK TIMES Editorial Published: December 27, 2012 137 Comments
Four years ago, in sharp contrast to the torpor and denial of the George W. Bush years, President Obama described climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing challenges and pledged an all-out effort to pass a cap-and-trade bill limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Then came one roadblock after another. Congress did not pass a climate bill, cap-and-trade became a dirty word, and, with the 2012 elections approaching, climate change disappeared from the president’s vocabulary. He spoke about green jobs and clean energy but not about why these were necessary. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, he spoke only obliquely about the threat of rising seas and extreme weather events, both of which scientists have linked to a warming climate.
Since his re-election, Mr. Obama has agreed to foster a “conversation” on climate change and an “education process” about long-term steps to address it. He needs to do a good deal more than that. Intellectually, Mr. Obama grasps the problem as well as anyone. The question is whether he will bring the powers of the presidency to bear on the problem.
Enlisting market forces in the fight against global warming by putting a price on carbon — through cap-and-trade or a direct tax — seems out of the question for this Congress. But there are weapons at Mr. Obama’s disposal that do not require Congressional approval and could go a long way to reducing emissions and reasserting America’s global leadership. One imperative is to make sure that natural gas — which this nation has in abundance and which emits only half the carbon as coal — can be extracted without risk to drinking water or the atmosphere. This may require national legislation to replace the often porous state regulations. Another imperative is to invest not only in familiar alternative energy sources like wind and solar power, but also in basic research, next-generation nuclear plants and experimental technologies that could smooth the path to a low-carbon economy.
Mr. Obama’s most promising near-term strategy may be to invoke the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority under the Clean Air Act to limit emissions from stationary sources, chiefly power plants.
The agency has already taken a step in that direction by proposing strict emission standards for new power plants that virtually ensure that no new coal-fired plants will be built unless they capture their carbon emissions, which would require employing new technologies that have not been proved on a commercial scale. But that leaves the bigger problem of what to do with existing coal-fired power plants, which still generate roughly 40 percent of the nation’s power and obviously cannot be shut down quickly or by fiat.
The Natural Resources Defense Council recently proposed an innovative scheme that would set overall emissions targets but let the individual states — and the utilities that operate in them — figure out how to meet them by making their boilers more efficient, switching to cleaner fuels or by subsidizing energy efficiency and encouraging reduced consumption by individuals and businesses. Any such regulations are likely to be strongly opposed by industry and will require real persistence on the administration’s part. If Mr. Obama takes this approach, he will certainly need a determined leader at E.P.A. to devise and carry out the rules. Lisa Jackson, the E.P.A. administrator who on Thursday announced her resignation after four productive years in one of the federal government’s most thankless jobs, was just such a leader.
She suffered setbacks — most notably the White House’s regrettable decision to overrule her science-based proposal to update national health standards for ozone, or smog. But she accomplished much, including tougher standards for power plant emissions of mercury and other air toxics, new health standards for soot, and, most important, her agency’s finding that carbon dioxide and five other gases that contribute to global warming constituted a danger to public health and could thus be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
That ruling, known as the endangerment finding, made possible the administration’s historic new emissions standards for cars and light trucks. It also provided the basis for the first steps toward regulating emissions from new power plants, and, possibly, further steps requiring existing plants to reduce global warming pollution.
In 2009, at the climate summit meeting in Copenhagen, Mr. Obama pledged to reduce this country’s greenhouse gas emissions by 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. This seemed an impossible goal once Congress rejected the cap-and-trade bill. But the increased use of cheap natural gas, the new fuel standards, the mercury rules and other factors have already put this country on track for a 10 percent reduction by 2020. By some estimates, reaching the 17 percent goal is well within Mr. Obama’s grasp. He has the means at hand to seize it.
California: 2nd Annual Rangeland Science Symposium– January 24-25, 2013
SER2013: 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration– October 6-11, 2013
SER will hold its 5th World Conference on Ecological Restoration in Madison, Wisconsin, USA, on October 6-11, 2013. This event marks the 25th Anniversary of SER and will celebrate the conference theme of “Reflections on the Past, Directions for the Future.”
Environmental Music & Performance for Kids
(a favorite of our kids!)
Jeff Kagan & Paige Doughty
Environmental Music & Performances for Kids
IF you haven’t gone yet—go, bring everyone you know and see it on the big screen!!
Interview: ‘Chasing Ice’ Star James Balog Talks Art, Science, Rationality, And Climate Denial
By Stephen Lacey on Dec 11, 2012 at 4:00 pm
…..Watch Chasing Ice. Bring your family, bring your friends, watch it on the big screen if you can. It will fill you with awe for the beauty of ice, admiration for the tenacity of Balog and his crew, and terror at the scale of changes we’re creating on earth.
Photo: James BalogPhoto: James Balog
Electric cars, plug-in hybrids gain sales
David R. Baker Updated 4:14 pm, Thursday, December 20, 2012
In 2012, the electric car’s critics were ready to write its obituary. Sluggish sales made plug-in cars a favorite target of conservative commentators, a symbol of Big Government foisting pricey green technologies on an unwilling public. Critics rebranded the Chevy Volt as the “Obama car” and used its low sales figures to bash the federal bailout of General Motors. But even as plug-in cars came under attack, their sales slowly grew. The numbers are still small, making up a tiny slice of the automotive market. But they rose steadily in 2012 as automakers introduced more models of electric cars and advanced hybrids. “It’s definitely a strong showing by both all-electrics and plug-in hybrids this year,” said Jeremy Acevedo, supervisor of industry analysis with the Edmunds.com auto information website. “We’re seeing more cars for more people.” In 2011, Americans bought 9,754 electric cars and 7,671 plug-in hybrids, according to Edmunds. This year, sales of electrics reached 10,407 by the end of November, while plug-in hybrids hit 31,042. And those figures don’t count the new Tesla Motors Model S, which hit the market in June. Palo Alto’s Tesla, which reports sales figures only once each quarter, has taken 13,000 reservations for the all-electric Model S and expects to deliver 2,500 to 3,000 by the end of the year. The much-derided Volt, meanwhile, has emerged as the field’s leader. GM sold 7,671 Volts in 2011, the first full year of sales. This year, drivers bought 20,828 Volts through the end of November. At that pace, the car’s sales total for the year could hit 22,000…..
EU still subsidising coal industry despite climate change
|PublicServiceEurope.com||– December 26, 2012||
The European Investment Bank is greener than it used to be. It now lends half its annual energy pot to energy efficiency and renewables.
Hydro-Fracking: Fact Vs. Fiction
November 5, 2012 — In communities across the US, people are hearing more and more about a controversial oil and gas extraction technique called hydraulic fracturing – aka, hydro-fracking. Controversies pivot on … > full story
Hydraulic Fracturing Poses Substantial Water Pollution Risks, Analysts Say
August 6, 2012 — Researchers find multiple potential threats to water sources posed by hydraulic fracturing as the jobs-producing practice … > full story
Air Emissions Near Fracking Sites May Pose Health Risk, Study Shows; Sites Contain Hydrocarbons Including Benzene
March 19, 2012 — In a new study, researchers have shown that air pollution caused by hydraulic fracturing or fracking may contribute to acute and chronic health problems for those living near natural gas drilling … > full story
Slate Magazine - 2 days ago
Twelve years ago, the International Energy Agency
predicted increased U.S. imports of natural gas and oil. This year, it claimed the United States will soon be a net exporter of natural gas and oil. Why the change in outlook? The United States figured out how to tap its unconventional energy resources by blasting chemical-laced water into “hydrocarbon kitchens” deep underground—a process you probably know as fracking. But the United States has not figured out how to regulate this new era of fossil fuel extremism. Exemptions, trade secrets, and nondisclosures have allowed profit-making to proceed without adequate monitoring. At the state level, the same agency is often responsible for both regulating and promoting mineral development. The Texas Rail Road Commission’s first priority is to get minerals out of the ground. Commissioners survive on campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry and host Facebook pages that openly demonize the EPA. Texas’ inspectors are each responsible for more than 1,000 wells, and in 2010 nearly 140,000 out of 260,000 wells in the state went uninspected. With a vacuum of leadership from the top, cities and towns have sought to fill the void. But they face a thorny question: What rules could make fracking compatible with the health, safety, and welfare of those who live nearby? In the movie Promised Land, due out in theaters soon, a small town tears itself apart over this question. For more than two years, my home of Denton, Texas, has been acting out this script in real life as it rewrites its drilling ordinance. I have attended umpteen city council meetings in which I use my three-minute public comment to make wonkish analyses of the 54-page ordinance that is now in its fifth draft. I tend to say things like: “Section 35.22.5.A.2.p.i should have the phrase ‘if this is infeasible’ removed.” It’s really dry stuff. At these meetings, there are always Denton “fracktivists” demanding a ban. They have read aloud a short story featuring Denton citizens besieged by a greedy corporate Grinch. They have equated fracking with terrorism. One student donned a mask to personify death and thanked the city council for allowing fracking to claim more souls for the underworld. Say what you will, but that is not dry. This is the divided heart of the anti-fracking movement. Pragmatists working to reform the system, idealists to eliminate it. The former accused of being unprincipled, the latter impractical. This schism in American environmentalism is rooted in the broken friendship of Gifford Pinchot and John Muir. When Pinchot said in the early 1900s that damming the Hetch Hetchy Valley was its highest use, Muir shot back: “[N]o holier temple has ever been consecrated by the hearts of man.”….
OTHER NEWS OF INTEREST
2013 is Year Zero for Climate Change
Rebecca Solnit December 26, 2012 This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com
As this wild year comes to an end, we return to the season of gifts. Here’s the gift you’re not going to get soon: any conventional version of Paradise. You know, the place where nothing much happens and nothing is demanded of you. The gifts you’ve already been given in 2012 include a struggle over the fate of the Earth. This is probably not exactly what you asked for, and I wish it were otherwise—but to do good work, to be necessary, to have something to give: these are the true gifts. And at least there’s still a struggle ahead of us, not just doom and despair.
If we can learn one thing from Superstorm Sandy, it’s that we ignore climate change at our own peril. It’s time to ditch the political euphemisms, and start calling lies, theft and greed by their true name. Think of 2013 as the Year Zero in the battle over climate change, one in which we are going to have to win big, or lose bigger. This is a terrible thing to say, but not as terrible as the reality that you can see in footage of glaciers vanishing, images of the entire surface of the Greenland Ice Shield melting this summer, maps of Europe’s future in which just being in southern Europe when the heat hits will be catastrophic, let alone in more equatorial realms. For millions of years, this world has been a great gift to nearly everything living on it, a planet whose atmosphere, temperature, air, water, seasons, and weather were precisely calibrated to allow us—the big us, including forests and oceans, species large and small—to flourish. (Or rather, it was we who were calibrated to its generous, even bounteous, terms.) And that gift is now being destroyed for the benefit of a few members of a single species….
Global extinction: coming soon to a planet near you– a Jewish perspective….
by dan pine December 21, 2012 The J, Jewish Weekly
How green am I? I carpool to work and BART home. I run errands on foot. I keep the lights off, the showers short, the heat low, eat organic, and I am seriously considering buying a Chevy Volt.
Faith And Science: A Climate Scientist And Religious Organizer On The Urgency Of Climate Change
Posted: 23 Dec 2012 09:30 AM PST by Sally Steenland
The Rev. Canon Sally Bingham is president and founder of the Regeneration Project and Interfaith Power and Light, a national interfaith network of affiliates that work with congregations to promote energy conservation, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. She is also the lead author of Love God Heal Earth, published in 2009. In 2012 Sally was awarded the Audubon Society’s Rachel Carson Award for her environmental leadership.
Katharine Hayhoe is an atmospheric scientist who studies climate change. She is an expert reviewer for the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, as well as an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Together with her husband she is the co-author of A Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions. She recently appeared in Frontline’s “Climate of Doubt,” a PBS documentary exposing the individuals and groups behind efforts to attack science by undermining scientists who say they believe there is current climate change caused by human activity…..
from Landfill Harmonic
Plus 1 month ago
Landfill Harmonic is an upcoming feature-length documentary about a remarkable musical orchestra in Paraguay, where young musicians play instruments made from trash….
Eating asparagus may prevent a hangover, study suggests
(December 26, 2012) — With New Year’s Eve just around the corner, there is always plenty of good food and cheer. If you are drinking alcohol you may want to reach for some asparagus, according to a study that found asparagus may aid the body in accelerating the metabolism of alcohol. … > full story
Every Bird Counts, but Some Make the Heart Beat Faster
By EAMON C. CORBETT December 26, 2012 NY Times
Binoculars at the ready, a small group of birders fanned out through the field, searching for a brown-and-gray bird that was stubbornly refusing to show itself.
We were looking for a clay-colored sparrow, a rare visitor to the East Coast that had been spotted in this field at the Marshlands Conservancy in Rye, N.Y., over the last week. But while a few sweeps of the field turned up a variety of birds — including seven other species of sparrows — the clay-colored sparrow remained out of sight. As participants in the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, we were eager to add this unusual species (check out the video above, posted at YouTube by a professional photographer), to the local tally. But we couldn’t spend all day looking for it. We had to cover the area thoroughly and keep count of every individual bird we saw. In the Christmas Bird Count, every bird counts, no matter how rare or common. The annual count was begun in 1900 by the ornithologist Frank Chapman as a conservation-minded alternative to the Side Hunt, a Christmas tradition in which revelers competed to see who could shoot more birds and other animals. Now in its 113th year, the count is described by the Audubon Society as the longest-running citizen science project in the world. Last year, more than 63,000 volunteers participated across North and South America, with more than 2,000 local counts, each covering a circular territory 15 miles in diameter. ….
Merry Christmas and warm greetings from Israel for the year 2013! May the first joint pair of Barn Owls, which nested in a Kibbutz Maoz Haim in Beit Shean Valley (Israeli male and Jordanian female) and raised successfully 7 chicks, will bring peace to the region, as a symbol of regional cooperation.
Happy New Year,
Yossi Leshem, and the team of the International Center for the Study of Bird Migration, Laturn.
|The Israeli-Jordanian Pair
|The 7 Barn Owl chicks – “Half Jewish, half Muslim…”
(Photo: Dr. Motti Charter)
October 5th, 2012: A Lesser-spotted Eagle migrating
over Israel (Photo: Amir Ben Dov)
Figure 1. Cabs lie flooded on October 30, 2012, in Hoboken, NJ, in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. AP photo: Charles Sykes.
from Alex Zwissler, Chabot Space and Science Center