Tuesday, August 18, 2009

As Arctic Ocean warms, megatonnes of methane bubble up

As the mother of two young boys, I began to think it a bit crazy that I attended to every bump and scrape on my children's little bodies and budding egos, but largely ignored the threat likely to put sizeable areas of the world, including parts of the coastal city where we live, underwater within their lifetime.
Lisa Bennett, Berkeley, California 2008

Dear fellow Earth citizens,

Here again are a couple of news stories I really hope will convince those that care about life on Earth that taking real and tangible action is urgently needed!

And that clearly starts with our on eco-footprint, a more sustainable lifestyle and support of Fair Trade and other social and economic justice issues - no matter, what the self-serving BS of the "everything is just so wonderful" (bingo - no need to take action!) and "sending out love and kindness is enough" (voilĂ  - no behavioral and lifestyle changes required!) faction may claim...

It also means to at least starting to think about what to do when (read: before) things get real dicey. And clearly, that can only mean teaming up with others because only a concerted effort on the part of many will make sure that some of us will be able to live instead of just surviving towards the end of this century!

1) As Arctic Ocean warms, megatonnes of methane bubble up - It's been predicted for years, and now it's happening. Deep in the Arctic Ocean, water warmed by climate change is forcing the release of methane from beneath the sea floor. Over 250 plumes of gas have been discovered bubbling up from the sea floor to the west of the Svalbard archipelago, which lies north of Norway. The bubbles are mostly methane, which is a greenhouse gas much more powerful than carbon dioxide.

None of the plumes the team saw reached the surface, so the methane was not escaping into the atmosphere and thus contributing to climate change – not in that area, at least. Bigger bubbles of methane make it all the way to the top, but smaller ones dissolve. Just because it fails to reach the surface doesn't mean the methane is harmless, though, as some of it gets converted to carbon dioxide. The CO2 then dissolves in seawater and makes the oceans more acidic.

If methane began escaping at similar rates throughout the Arctic, it would dramatically increase methane levels in the atmosphere.

Note: And all that methane released into the atmosphere puts us ever closer to irreversible tipping points....

Phytoplankton Threatened by Climate Change - Populations of Antarctic phytoplankton have dropped significantly due to global warming, threatening the entire chain of ocean life, according to a study conducted by researchers from Rutgers University and published in the journal Science.

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that form the bottom of the oceanic food chain; they are fed upon by krill, which are eaten by whales and small fish. Small fish are then eaten by larger animals all the way up the chain to Adelie penguins and other macro fauna.

Illegal logging - Illegal logging is depleting global forests at an alarming rate, in a smuggling operation that is “better than drug smuggling”. Trafficking some rain forest woods through cities such as Singapore can be just as profitable as trafficking cocaine or heroin without the severe penalties.

This is a multi-billion dollar black market industry that is taking place under the noses of government officials in more than 70 countries around the world, and has so far, been responsible for the destruction of more than 32 million acres of forest. That’s roughly the equivalent area of the state of New York.

Forests absorb some 20% of the earth’s carbon dioxide output, and when they are no longer there, decaying vegetation releases carbon dioxide directly into the atmosphere. In recent years, deforestation has been responsible for a greater amount of carbon dioxide emissions than all forms of transportation combined.

GMO Scandal: The Long Term Effects of Genetically Modified Food on Humans - An editorial in the respected American scientific monthly magazine, Scientific American, August 2009 reveals the shocking and alarming reality behind the proliferation of GMO products throughout the food chain of the planet since 1994. There are no independent scientific studies published in any reputed scientific journal in the world for one simple reason. It is impossible to independently verify that GMO crops such as Monsanto Roundup Ready Soybeans or MON8110 GMO maize perform as the company claims, or that, as the company also claims, that they have no harmful side effects because the GMO companies forbid such tests!

As a precondition to buy seeds, either to plant for crops or to use in research study, Monsanto and the gene giant companies must first sign an End User Agreement with the company. For the past decade, the period when the greatest proliferation of GMO seeds in agriculture has taken place, Monsanto, Pioneer (DuPont) and Syngenta require anyone buying their GMO seeds to sign an agreement that explicitly forbids that the seeds be used for any independent research. Scientists are prohibited from testing a seed to explore under what conditions it flourishes or even fails. They cannot compare any characteristics of the GMO seed with any other GMO or non-GMO seeds from another company. Most alarming, they are prohibited from examining whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended side-effects either in the environment or in animals or humans.

The only research which is permitted to be published in reputable scientific peer-reviewed journals are studies which have been pre-approved by Monsanto and the other industry GMO firms.

5) Book review:
Waste The True Cost of What the Global Food Industry Throws Away - The world has a 'food problem' - rapidly rising prices, shortages, 100 million people starving, environmental depredation - or it thinks it does. This book shows that farmers, manufacturers, supermarkets and consumers in North America and Europe discard between 30 and 50 per cent of their fresh produce - enough to feed the starving in the world six times over. Additionally, while affluent nations throw away food through neglect, up to 40 per cent of some crops in the developing world are wasted because farmers lack the basic infrastructure to process and store them before they rot.


Monday, August 10, 2009

Climate-Change - Why it's even worse than we feared.

Hi Phil,

Good to hear from you :)

Of course, there are still things that can be done (and I'm sure some will be done) but increasingly so for adaptation and preparation rather than avoidance. And the current (and very likely continued) inaction will make future action that much harder and more costly. I also don't think that truly decisive action will be taken in time to avoid worse to happen. For that I'm afraid its already years, if not decades, too late.

Recently for example it was discovered that the combined permafrost of Alaska and Siberia contains about 1.6 trillion (!) tons of greenhouse gases, three times more than previously estimated. And both the permafrost and the coastal methane clathrates have started to thaw.... In other words, it seems that if the current generation doesn't get their act together action-wise things will become very dicey indeed!

Yes, Van Jones does great and inspiring work (he recently was on KPFA, btw.) But very likely his ideas and those of other inspiring and progressive thinkers won't hit the mainstream until things have gotten so bad people will have to act to simply survive and stay alive (or very nearly so).

I'm absolutely convinced that some of humanity is going to survive and some of the survivors are going to be the part and founders of more enlightened societies (under very different circumstances and conditions than what today's activists are seeing, though).

Sorry about my less than optimistic views. But what I see in my neighborhood on a daily basis and what I hear in the news leaves me with no other conclusion. More to the point, there are tons and tons and tons of relatively easy and inexpensive things that we all can do to lower our collective eco-footprint, live more sustainably and support and further social and economic justice, all of which would make our lives that much better and have a huge impact if only more folks would agree to doing them.

So, why on God's Earth are people not doing them, let alone encouraging their neighbors to do likewise??? It's after all about living vs. mere survival a mere few decades away!

I'm trying my darndest to lower my personal eco-footprint and pass on "actionable tips and info". At best I get polite indifference, at worst I experience outright hostility. Not a lot of fun...

On that happy note.....

Take care,


I'm afraid you're right in that the 2 degree warmup is unavoidable. Our generation failed to avert the coming disaster, and now our kids and grandkids will pay the price. The skeptics have one for now, but it's only a matter of time before they are proven wrong.

But the next generation still has a chance to do something about it and hopefully avoid making things any worse than they already are. For a bit of optimism, read "The Green Collar Economy" by Van Jones. If we can get enough people behind this movement, maybe we'll still see some real change within our lifetimes.


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Climate-Change - Why it's even worse than we feared.

Dear fellow Earth citizens:

This just in from NHNE News: Climate-Change Calculus - Why it's even worse than we feared - (Excerpt) Jim Watson of the University of Sussex wrote that "a new breed of climate skeptic is becoming more common": someone who doubts not the science but the policy response. Given the pathetic (non)action on global warming at the G8 summit, and the fact that the energy/climate bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives is so full of holes and escape hatches that it has barely a prayer of averting dangerous climate change, skepticism that the world will get its act together seems appropriate. For instance, the G8, led by Europe, has vowed to take steps to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by reducing CO2 emissions. We're now at 0.8 degree. But the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is already enough to raise the mercury 2 degrees (Celsius, that is). The only reason it hasn't is that the atmosphere is full of crap (dust and aerosols that contribute to asthma, emphysema, and other diseases) that acts as a global coolant. As that pollution is reduced for health reasons, we're going to blast right through 2 degrees, which is enough to ex-acerbate droughts and storms, wreak havoc on agriculture, and produce a planet warmer than it's been in millions of years. The 2-degree promise is a mirage.

The test of whether the nations of the world care enough to act will come in December, when 192 countries meet in Copenhagen to hammer out a climate treaty. Carlson vows that IPY will finish its Arctic assessment in time for the meeting, and one conclusion is already clear. "A consensus has developed during IPY that the Greenland ice sheet will disappear," he says.

Since the Internet is chockfull with tips and ideas about how to lower one's eco and carbon footprint I won't add any - it seems a waste of time, anyway. More to the point, I only know one (1) person who's sincerely lowering his impact on our still beautiful planet, alerting others about the dangers ahead and who is working hard on getting more folks on board! Go figure...

Frustrated, worried and disgusted (by people's inaction and dumb excuses, even the more aware, educated, smart and financially better-off folks and... even those with kids),


Phytoplankton Threatened by Climate Change...
In addition to forming the base of the food chain, phytoplankton also...
absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and emit large quantities of oxygen.
Lower levels of plankton means more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and faster global warming...
leading to still lower plankton populations and successively more warming.
Rutgers University

Monday, July 27, 2009

Why Activism is More Important Now than Ever

Why Activism is More Important Now than Ever
What I want is to see people taking on the challenge of reversing our headlong rush towards extinction.
Sure this may mean some drastic downscaling in lifestyle for a few and a shift in worldview for many, but...
it's that or watch everything unravel for the next decade.
It may also mean some clashes with those who would maintain the current system.
The noose has been tightening over the past few years and I am feeling that we have reached the point where we need to fight or be asphyxiated.
Kyra, ActionSpark

Dear fellow Earth citizens,

Here again are a couple of stories I think you should know about and... where appropriate and possible hopefully even act on the info provided! :)

Environment and Global Warming
Report Gives Sobering View Of Warming’s Impact on U.S. - A new U.S. government report paints a disturbing picture of the current and future effects of climate change and offers a glimpse of what the nation’s climate will be like by century’s end. Witness these trends: In the northeastern U.S., winter temperatures have increased by 4 degrees F since 1970; in the Pacific Northwest, the depth of the Cascade Mountain snowpack on April 1 has declined by 25 percent over the last half century, while spring runoff from the Cascades now occurs nearly a month earlier than 50 years ago; and in Alaska, winter temperatures have increased a stunning 6.3 degrees F in the last 50 years.
Rainforest Destroying Palm Oil Hiding in Far More Products Than Previously Thought - A bit more than a year ago, Lloyd wrote about how palm oil is in everything and since then more and more voices have detailed just how environmentally devastating the Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil trade has become. What's more, according to The Independent palm oil may be in many common food items you buy, and you may not even know it. Writing about brands in the UK (many of which at multi-national brands, so it's probably not a stretch to at least roughly apply these numbers elsewhere), it had been assumed that about 1 in 10 products contained palm oil, often thrown in under the catchall term 'vegetable oil'.
Consulting With Clouds: A Clear Role in Climate Change: Study shows strong evidence that cloud changes may exacerbate global warming -In a study published in the July 24 issue of Science, researchers Amy Clement and Robert Burgman from the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and Joel Norris from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego begin to unravel this mystery. Using observational data collected over the last 50 years and complex climate models, the team has established that low-level stratiform clouds appear to dissipate as the ocean warms, indicating that changes in these clouds may enhance the warming of the planet.
How Many Gallons of Water Does it Take to Make . . . - A worldwide water crisis is a-comin'. Don't believe me? Violence over water rights is already breaking out in regions of the world where water is scarce. Along with political tensions--and maybe wars--we're going to see food production affected, and more people flat out hungry and thirsty. And it's all because we're simply using too much water. We use too much when we shower, when we do the dishes--but mostly, we use too much to produce all the stuff we buy. In fact, you'd be surprised how many gallons of water it takes to create the products that make our lives comfortable. Here's a rundown of some of the most shocking . . .
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate - This inexpensive detergent is commonly used in cosmetic cleansers, hair shampoos, bath and shower gels, bubble baths, etc. - It is probably the most dangerous ingredient used in skin and hair-care products. In the cleaning industry SLS is used in garage floor cleaners, engine degreasers, car-wash soaps, etc. It is very corrosive and readily attacks greasy surfaces.
"Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic: Bill Gates, Rockefeller and the GMO giants know something we don’t - The seed bank is being built inside a mountain on Spitsbergen Island near the small village of Longyearbyen. It’s almost ready for ‘business’ according to their releases. The bank will have dual blast-proof doors with motion sensors, two airlocks, and walls of steel-reinforced concrete one meter thick. It will contain up to three million different varieties of seeds from the entire world, ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future,’ according to the Norwegian government. Seeds will be specially wrapped to exclude moisture. There will be no full-time staff, but the vault's relative inaccessibility will facilitate monitoring any possible human activity. Did we miss something here? Their press release stated, ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future.’ What future do the seed bank’s sponsors foresee, that would threaten the global availability of current seeds, almost all of which are already well protected in designated seed banks around the world? Anytime Bill Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto and Syngenta get together on a common project, it’s worth digging a bit deeper behind the rocks on Spitsbergen. When we do we find some fascinating things...

Taking Action
Does Recycling Waste Precious Water? - It turns out that recycling actually saves water. This is because the extraction of virgin raw materials and manufacturing them into single use packaging uses quite a bit of water. Recycling reduces the need for materials from virgin sources and therefore reduces water use. Rinsing containers that held food not only reduces the amount of mess and stink that the people have to deal with in the sorting facility, but it also reduces the level of contamination. When materials are recycled they are first separated, oftentimes shredded, rinsed to remove labels, bugs, remaining food waste, etc., and then they are melted down (in the case of plastic, glass and metals). The melting process not only burns off any remaining glue, ink, and contaminants, but also any remaining food waste. If your idea of rinsing, however, is to blast the debris down the sink with hot tap water you have room for improvement. First begin by mechanically scraping food waste into your compost bucket (you have one, right?) or trash. Then save the container until you are done with the dishes and use your dirty dish water. This way you will be using water that would be going down the drain anyway. If you don't have any dishwater handy don't use hot water, cold will do just fine.
The simplicity and elegance of small scale solar power - The roof space in our towns and cities is so under-utilized; every roof should be collecting rain water and solar energy. Distributed power generation through massive uptake of residential and commercial grid connect solar power systems is also a good idea in terms of national security. And while coal powered stations won't be disappearing any time soon, they could increasingly be used just for base load... Large solar farms are becoming ever more massive - for example, the Castilla La Mancha solar farm in Spain occupies an area the size of seventy football pitches and will have 100,000 solar panels when fully operational; capable of generating 30 million kilowatts an hour. That's a lot of panels. That's a lot of land. Plus, there's increasing talk of turning our deserts into solar farms which sounds like a pretty good idea - except that deserts are habitats too; they aren't all just sand and nothing else. Another big challenge is something called line loss. This is the loss of electricity when it is transmitted along power lines. The lost energy is usually in the form of heat and the longer the distance between source and point of consumption, the more energy is lost.
Have a good week everybody,