3. “Fixing” Climate Change

Oct-26-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: While dumping 100 tonnes of iron sulphate in the ocean to see what happens may be a bad thing, it’s worth remembering that  3 million tons of oil get dumped every year in the oceans. Meanwhile a very useful New York Times article points out why pesticides aren’t a way to make money at farming (aside from all the other reasons why we might want to avoid them). Here’s a quick question: what percentage of peer-reviewed science paper question that climate change is man-made? The answer is a fairly stunning zero per cent. All such papers are PR. There isn’t any debate about climate change: there’s a power struggle between those who want to make more money, and those who don’t.

* World’s Biggest Geoengineering Experiment ‘Violates’ UN Rules The Guardian

A controversial American businessman dumped around 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean as part of a geoengineering scheme off the west coast of Canada in July, a Guardian investigation can reveal.

Lawyers, environmentalists and civil society groups are calling it a “blatant violation” of two international moratoria and the news is likely to spark outrage at a United Nations environmental summit taking place in India this week.

Satellite images appear to confirm the claim by Californian Russ George that the iron has spawned an artificial plankton bloom as large as 10,000 square kilometres. The intention is for the plankton to absorb carbon dioxide and then sink to the ocean bed – a geoengineering technique known as ocean fertilization that he hopes will net lucrative carbon credits.

* A Simple Fix for Farming  New York Times

Conventional agriculture can shed much of its chemical use — if it wants to.

This was hammered home once again in what may be the most important agricultural study this year, although it has been largely ignored by the media, two of the leading science journals and even one of the study’s sponsors, the often hapless Department of Agriculture.

The study was done on land owned by Iowa State University called the Marsden Farm. On 22 acres of it, beginning in 2003, researchers set up three plots: one replicated the typical Midwestern cycle of planting corn one year and then soybeans the next, along with its routine mix of chemicals. On another, they planted a three-year cycle that included oats; the third plot added a four-year cycle and alfalfa. The longer rotations also integrated the raising of livestock, whose manure was used as fertilizer.

The results were stunning: The longer rotations produced better yields of both corn and soy, reduced the need for nitrogen fertilizer and herbicides by up to 88 percent, reduced the amounts of toxins in groundwater 200-fold and didn’t reduce profits by a single cent.

In short, there was only upside — and no downside at all — associated with the longer rotations. There was an increase in labor costs, but remember that profits were stable. So this is a matter of paying people for their knowledge and smart work instead of paying chemical companies for poisons. And it’s a high-stakes game; according to the Environmental Protection Agency, about five billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States.

* Right Wing Lies That There Is A Debate On Climate Change Daily Beast

Upton Sinclair once said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand a thing when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

It is a measured, observable fact that the Earth’s average temperature has been rising for the last several decades. Indeed, eleven of the twelve hottest years on record occurred between 2001 and 2011. This is not a theory about why this is happening; it is a measurable—and measured—fact that it is happening.

Yet disconcertingly large numbers of people on the right seem unable to accept it: the Pew study found that only 63 percent of moderate Republicans and 49 percent of conservative Republicans believe the climate is changing, while 93 percent of those who identify as liberals (and 90 percent of moderate Democrats) believe it. What is going on?

It’s no secret that for nearly as long as scientists have spoken about climate change, energy companies have been funding conservative think tanks—CTTs in Beltway-speak—to create the impression that there is no scientific consensus on the topic…. For example, according to a 2008 study, of the 141 books denying the seriousness of environmental problems that have been published since 1972, 130 were published by CTTs or written by authors affiliated with them.

By contrast, 928 peer-reviewed articles were published in scientific journals between 1998 and 2002 adducing evidence proving the existence of human-caused climate change, and zero—zero!—were published contradicting it.  If that’s not consensus, I don’t know what is.  Yet it matters not a whit to the industry’s PR campaign.



11. Third Eye Candy: Nature

Oct-26-2012 | Comments Off

Bird’s Eye: A full range, from idyllic beauty to red-in-tooth-and-claw to cute baby elephant to neo-abstract. Enjoy– both the pictures and the real thing.

* Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2012 - In Focus – The Atlantic

* A Trip to the Faroe Islands  In Focus – The Atlantic

NSFW warning: Photo #21 shows the slaughter of a pod of pilot whales

 * Kenyan Workers Rescue Baby Elephant Stuck In Hole (video) Thanks Dave!

* Jewel Caterpillar

 * Leopard Kill - YouTube

We nearly missed this leopard on our early morning game drive. We were watching her for about half an hour when something spooked the herd of impala on the opposite side of the road. The impala ran straight into the leopard.

* 15 Aerial Photos of Iceland That Look Like Abstract Paintings Twisted Sifter



12. Stat of the Week + Quote of the Week

Aug-24-2012 | Comments (1)

* “America uses more energy for air conditioning than Africa uses for everything.” The Economist

* “I imagine that one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, that they will be forced to deal with pain.” James Baldwin, “Notes of a Native Son”



July 13th, 2012 :: Year 9, Issue 26

Jul-13-2012 | Comments (1)

1. Canada vs. Stephen Harper

Bird’s Eye: McLuhan once said of Richard Nixon that he looked like “the railway lawyer who signs leases that are not in the best interests of the folks in the little town.” Stephen Harper has that look, and it’s being seen, both abroad and at home. Here are some current views of the Dear Leader, as he’s seen abroad.

* Canada’s International Reputation Slipping Under Stephen Harper Yahoo News

In 2010, Stephen Harper received accolades for persuading his G8 peers to embrace his initiative on maternal health and his government was lauded for its handling of the economy during the worldwide economic slowdown.

Two years later, the situation is distinctly different. At this week’s G20 summit in Mexico, Canada’s delegation — led by Harper and finance minister Jim Flaherty — is but a bit player with little or no influence.

Long-time Globe and Mail columnist Jeffery Simpson recently wrote about Canada’s diminishing international reputation.“Canada under this government failed to win a seat on the UN Security Council, a stinging rebuke. Canada’s once-sterling reputation for caring about Africa is over. Canada’s reputation in the Arab world is mud, because although ministers never criticize anything Israel does, they never miss a chance to lecture the Palestinians,” he wrote in a recent column titled ‘Canada is back on the world stage? Hardly.’

* Harper Assaults Environment The Guardian

But Canada’s pristine image — and more importantly its environment — is not likely to recover from what critics across the political spectrum say is an unprecedented assault by the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper on environmental regulation, oversight, and scientific research. Harper, who came to power in 2006 unapologetic for once describing the Kyoto climate accords as “essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations,” has steadily been weakening environmental enforcement, monitoring, and research, while at the same time boosting controversial tar sands development, backing major pipeline construction, and increasing energy industry subsidies.

Critics say that assault reached a crescendo in recent weeks with the passage in Parliament of an omnibus budget bill known as C-38, which guts or significantly weakens rules relating to fisheries protection, environmental assessment, endangered species, and national parks. Under this bill, the criteria that currently trigger environmental assessments, for example, have been eliminated, leaving such reviews more to the discretion of the Minister of the Environment and other political appointees. The Fisheries Act will no longer be focused on habitat protection; instead, it will restrict itself largely to the commercial aspects of resource harvesting. Ocean dumping rules will also be changed to allow the Minister of the Environment to make decisions on permitting. And Parks Canada will no longer have to conduct environmental audits or review management plans every ten years. In addition, budgets cuts will eliminate the jobs of hundreds of scientists working for various government departments that focus on the environment and wildlife.

* Canadian Politics: Time To Flip  The Economist (Thanks Murray)

This strategy of polarising the electorate, playing to core supporters and vilifying opponents has been effective. But there are signs that it may be wearing thin. In recent provincial elections in Alberta and Ontario parties linked to Mr Harper lost elections they expected to win.

There are also tentative signs that the opposition is becoming more credible. In last year’s election the centre-left New Democrats (NDP) displaced the Liberals as the official opposition, winning 103 seats including 59 of the 75 in Quebec. That unexpected success was mainly because of the appeal of Jack Layton, the NDP’s genial leader, who died months after the vote. His replacement, Thomas Mulcair, has started well, imposing party discipline, dropping leftist talk and moving towards the centre. He has called for a balanced approach to developing the tar sands, taking more note of environmental worries. He kept the party quiet during four months of student demonstrations against rises in tuition fees in Quebec—a silence that seemed to flummox the Conservative attack machine.

* “What do we want? SCIENCE! When do we want it? AFTER PEER REVIEW!” Guardian

The scientists of Canada are revolting. They marched through Ottawa in their thousands on Tuesday, a sea of white coats making its way up Parliament Hill, carrying tombstones and a coffin to symbolise the “death of evidence”, chanting “What do we want? SCIENCE! When do we want it? After peer review!”

Scientists seem to be forever complaining they’re marginalised so, it might be tempting to roll your eyes. When a group from the UK drove a coffin down Westminster last May they were described as “childish”. This recent Canadian action might look similar, but it was far from childish.

They weren’t simply sticking up for their pay cheques, they were sticking up for the right to ask difficult questions and provide uncomfortable knowledge, in particular when it comes to the Arctic. They were sticking up for the things they research as well as the right to keep doing their research. They were sticking up for the planet. The Canadian scientists who spoke to the Guardian were keen to stress this is less about research budgets versus the rest of the economy, and more simply evidence versus ideology.



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