Daily Archives: December 17, 2013

Considering Extinction: Are We Falling Off the Climate Precipice?

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/12/17-5
Published on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 by TomDispatch.com by Dahr Jamail

Jamail explores what climate scientists just beyond the mainstream are thinking about how climate change will affect life on this planet. What, in other words, is the worst that we could possibly face in the decades to come? The answer: a nightmare scenario.I grew up planning for my future, wondering which college I would attend, what to study, and later on, where to work, which articles to write, what my next book might be, how to pay a mortgage, and which mountaineering trip I might like to take next.

Now, I wonder about the future of our planet. During a recent visit with my eight-year-old niece and 10- and 12-year-old nephews, I stopped myself from asking them what they wanted to do when they grew up, or any of the future-oriented questions I used to ask myself. I did so because the reality of their generation may be that questions like where they will work could be replaced by: Where will they get their fresh water? What food will be available? And what parts of their country and the rest of the world will still be habitable?

“We’ve never been here as a species and the implications are truly dire and profound for our species and the rest of the living planet.” –Prof. Guy McPherson, University of Arizona

The reason, of course, is climate change — and just how bad it might be came home to me in the summer of 2010. I was climbing Mount Rainier in Washington State, taking the same route I had used in a 1994 ascent. Instead of experiencing the metal tips of the crampons attached to my boots crunching into the ice of a glacier, I was aware that, at high altitudes, they were still scraping against exposed volcanic rock. In the pre-dawn night, sparks shot from my steps.

The route had changed dramatically enough to stun me. I paused at one point to glance down the steep cliffs at a glacier bathed in soft moonlight 100 meters below. It took my breath away when I realized that I was looking at what was left of the enormous glacier I’d climbed in 1994, the one that — right at this spot

Secondhand smoke: Why East Coast cities are still choking on Midwest pollution | Grist

http://grist.org/climate-energy/secondhand-smoke-why-east-coast-cities-are-still-choking-on-midwestern-pollution/

Shutterstock

When pollution drifts by wind into other states, landing in people’s lungs and endangering their lives, it seems sensible to require the state where the pollution originated to put in controls so its industry stops harming its neighbors. It’s like a family of smokers in which a child has asthma: The onus is on the adults to limit their smoking so it doesn’t reach the crib or the playroom.

But what if the pollution is coming from several different states, and mixing in ways that it’s difficult to ascertain where each plume originates? Who determines how much pollution each state is responsible for? And who decides how best to control it? The states, the federal government, the courts?

The U.S. Supreme Court attempted to unravel this Gordian knot on Tuesday, hearing 90 minutes of oral argument for a case that will likely impact how hundreds of power plants and factories do business throughout the Midwest while helping clear the air in dozens of East Coast cities.

The case, EPA v. EME Homer City Generation, involves a 2011 Environmental Protection Agency rule, called the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule or the “Transport Rule,” designed under the Clean Air Act to help protect “downwind states” that suffer from ozone and particulate matter blown in from a total of 28 “upwind states.” According the downwinders’ court brief, pollution from upwind states accounts for more than three-quarters of local air pollution in many downwind areas.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Snowden wants to help Brazil fight NSA surveillance


RT America·

Published on Dec 17, 2013

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden wrote an open letter to the people of Brazil published in a Brazilian newspaper on Tuesday. In the letter, he said he would be willing to help the country investigate NSA spying on its soil in exchange for political asylum. Brazil, including President Dilma Rousseff, has been a major target of NSA spying and has complained vehemently in the international community. Snowden has temporary asylum in Russia. RT’s Ameera David talks to Kevin Gosztola, blogger at Firedoglake, about Snowden’s request of Brazil and other NSA-related news.

Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Happily ever NAFTA: New trade pact could boost corporations and harm environment | Grist

http://grist.org/politics/free-trades-just-another-word-for-secret-lawsuits-the-tpp-the-environment-and-you/

By Heather Smith

I grew up around the North American Free Trade Agreement. It was all grownups talked about in Detroit: the Sound of NAFTA. Although not much rhymed with that phrase, the hills were indeed alive with the sounds of grouchy tool and die workers, complaining that all of our jobs were going to Mexico.

As a kid, I found it hard to see what was so exciting about jobs. My dad worked in a tool and die shop with bad ventilation and no heat, and every winter he would come down with a case of bronchitis that was one order of magnitude worse than the last. But it didn’t matter what we thought, anyway. George Bush Sr. was for NAFTA, and Bill Clinton was for NAFTA, and the only guy who wasn’t was Ross Perot — which is always a sign your cause is in trouble.

Now, at nearly 20 years of age, NAFTA is almost old enough to drink responsibly. The number of people I knew who worked in tool and die shops went from everybody to nobody, and while on the whole the consensus has been this is Not Great, it’s also been years since my dad has had trouble breathing.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that NAFTA was not just about jobs. Chapter 11 of the agreement contained a provision that has had, and has continued to have, major effects on the environment and environmental regulations.

To understand why, look to the province of Quebec, which, two years ago, put a stop to fracking. At first the move didn’t seem like much. Quebec’s environment minister, Pierre Arcand, said that the province was just going to conduct an environmental review, and that “informative demonstrations” of hydraulic fracturing would still be allowed. But by April, 2012, there was a complete moratorium, the environmental review showed no signs of finishing, and there was talk of extending the ban five years into the future.

…(read more).

Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120
Food-Matters http://Food-Matters.TV

Dallas — yes, Dallas — bans fracking in most of the city

http://grist.org/news/dallas-yes-dallas-bans-fracking-in-most-of-the-city/

By John Upton

Shutterstock

The growing wave of local fracking bans is sweeping into Texas, where the state’s third largest city has put a near-total kibosh on the practice.

The Dallas City Council adopted new rules on Wednesday that bar hydraulic fracturing within 1,500 feet of a home, school, church, or well. Dallas is now the largest of five Texan cities and towns that have imposed local restrictions on fracking. The city, which sits at the edge of the gas-rich Barnett Shale area, had previously imposed a safety buffer of 300 feet and banned fracking in parks and flood plains.

Because Dallas contains more than a half million homes, the new rule effectively outlaws fracking through most of the city. “[W]e might as well save a lot of paper and write a one-line ordinance that says there will be no gas drilling in the city of Dallas,” quipped a council member who voted against the new rules. “That would be a much easier ordinance to have.”

A gas company representative agreed: “You just can’t drill under these conditions,” he said. Naturally, industry folks are warning that economic woe will ravage Dallas in the wake of the vote.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

Miami vise: Rising seas put the squeeze on a sun-drenched beach town

http://grist.org/cities/miami-vise-rising-seas-put-the-squeeze-on-a-sun-drenched-beach-town/

Underwater cities

13 Dec 2013 12:17 PM, By Greg Hanscom

siralbertus

It’s a balmy, mid-November morning in Miami Beach, Fla., and I’m sitting at one of the cafe tables in front of the local Whole Foods, sipping a cup of coffee, and watching the tide come up. Oh, you can’t see the ocean from here. The tide is gurgling up through the storm drains along the street.

It starts at about 8:00. A trickle of water from a nearby grate quickly becomes a stream which becomes a lake, spreading across the intersection of Alton Road and 10th Street. By 8:20, water pours off of the cars rolling into the parking lot. At 8:40, it reaches the axles of the Jeep parked on the corner. Pedestrians abandon the submerged sidewalks for high ground in the middle of the Alton Road, dodging rooster tails kicked up by passing vehicles. To get back across town, I’ll have to wade through murk that comes almost to my knees.

One of my sources here, a scientist studying the impacts of climate change and sea-level rise, tells me that if I stick my finger in that water and taste it, it will be salty. I look at the gunk burbling out of the gutters, swirling with oily rainbows and cigarette butts, and decide to take her word for it.

….(read more).

Global Climate Change http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre130
Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120

BBC News – EU says pesticides may harm human brains

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-25421199
17 December 2013 Last updated at 14:04 ET
By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

Several research papers have indicated that neonicotinoid chemicals have an adverse impact on bees
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Two neonicotinoid chemicals may affect the developing nervous system in humans, according to the EU.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) proposed that safe levels for exposure be lowered while further research is carried out.

They based their decision on studies that showed the chemicals had an impact on the brains of newborn rats.

One of the pesticides was banned in the EU last April amid concerns over its impact on bee populations.

Neonicotinoids are “systemic” pesticides that make every part of a plant toxic to predators.

They have become very popular across the world over the past two decades as they are considered less harmful to humans and the environment than older chemicals.

But a growing number of research papers have linked the use of these nicotine-like pesticides to a rapid fall in bee numbers.

New levels needed

In April, the European Union introduced a two year moratorium on the use of several types of these chemicals, despite opposition from the UK.

Now EFSA, in a statement, says that it has concerns that two types of neonicotinoids, imidacloprid and acetamiprid, may “affect the developing human nervous system”.

They have proposed that guidance levels for acceptable exposure be lowered while further research is carried out.

The decision has been based on a review of research carried out in rats.

In one study, young rodents exposed to imidacloprid suffered brain shrinkage, weight loss and reduced movement.

(read more).

Environmental Justice http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre145
Environment Ethics http://courses.dce.harvard.edu/~envre120
Food-Matters http://Food-Matters.TV