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I-2006: 08 12 16 20 24 26 | III-2006: 14 17 21 22 24 30


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slowly ocean conservation gets underway

“A tiny island nation in the Pacific Ocean [Kiribati] has created the world's third-largest marine reserve, as global efforts to preserve biodiversity widen to include everything from insects to fish to forests.”

“Kiribati is located in the central Pacific between Hawaii and Fiji. It is the largest atoll nation in the world, with 33 islands stretching across several hundred miles.”

related material
destroying the ocean resources

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#ocean_conservation_300306


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are kashmir goats damaging mongolian prairies?

Cashmere goats in Mongolia. Image credit: Per-Andre Hoffmann
Cashmere goats in Mongolia.

Image with permission from Per-Andre Hoffmann
Per-Andre’s photography, to be seen on his web-site is well worth a look.
Unusually, Per-Andre knows how to use a camera.

“The Chinese Government began a programme of tree planting to hold the top soil and prevent sandstorms blowing into Bejiing from the Mongolian desert. But as fast as they planted, goats ate the saplings. “Cashmere goats are expert foragers,” explains Henry Lu, managing director of South Trading, the Hong Kong cashmere brokers. “They eat everything: needle grass, thorns, the roots of trees.” [Quoted from thetimesonline.co.uk: p.1]

“But opinion is now divided as to the dangers posed by the Kashmir goat. At a meeting last year, officials agreed that the steppe had been home to the goats for centuries without suffering undue damage and grazing by the animals was entirely natural.

Li Wancai, a cashmere trader in Hohhot in Inner Mongolia, said: “The saying that goats destroy the steppe is quite groundless. In fact, the climate is the biggest enemy of the environment.” The grassland suffers enormously from drought but barely at all from goats.

However, Luo Yonghong, an official of the Development and Reform Committee of the Inner Mongolia Farming Department, said that good animal husbandry was sufficient to preserve the grassland. “Returning farming land to forests and steppe benefits the land, but there is no clear verdict yet on this.” [Quoted from thetimesonline.co.uk: p.2]

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#cashmere_240306

“human damage is in the same destructive league as asteroid strikes, enormous flood basalts and ice ages”

“Species are going extinct at rates 1,000 times the background rates typical of Earth’s past. The direct causes of biodiversity loss—habitat change, overexploitation, the introduction of invasive alien species, nutrient loading and climate change—show no sign of abating.” [From Global Biodiversity Outlook 2, p. iv]

This major UN report [link just above] is, first of all, concerned with how reduction in biodiversity affects local human populations. The report is a 89-page .pdf [8Mb download] with numerous colour illustrations, both of various wildlife and of humans and their habitats.

The greatest pressures on biodiversity are from climate change and pollution. However, there is a further great pressure - that of feeding, watering and housing a burgeoning population - which is acknowledged only by (politically correct) implication.

what to do?

“While other factors are important, especially in coastal areas, the biggest driver of land-use change is agriculture. Expansion of agriculture is driven by increasing demand for food, which in turn is driven by increasing population and increases in per capita consumption associated with rising income, urbanization and changing food preferences.”

“Efforts under the Convention must therefore be focused on minimizing the impact of these changes on biodiversity. There are three broad elements to such an approach:
First, there is a need to limit the expansion of land under cultivation by improving the efficiency of food production.[...]
Second, effective landscape-level planning is required to ensure that any necessary expansion of agriculture, including for cash crops, plantations and aquaculture, occurs primarily on land that is already converted (including degraded lands) rather than in areas of high biodiversity value, or land otherwise important for the delivery of vital ecosystem goods and services.[...]
Third, efforts could be made to moderate increases in overall demand for food by reducing excessive consumption, especially of meat, by more affluent sectors of society. While increases in consumption are desirable for poorer, less well-nourished sectors of society (and are, in fact, necessary to reach the health and nutrition targets of the Millennium Development Goals), reduction in consumption among the better-off could have both health benefits and environmental benefits.” [From Global Biodiversity Outlook 2, pp. 66 -67]

Again there is no mention of how the “poorer, less well-nourished sectors of society” could positively contribute to reducing the demand for food. However, as the standard of living reaches a certain level, and people become better educated, so in the long run fewer mouths to feed are produced.

Meanwhile, foolish politicians suggest biofuels are a serious proposition in the face of the fossil fuel disaster.

related material
real mass usage alternatives to fossil fuels

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#biodiversity_report_220306

don’t worry - global warming is only pretending to happen

Build nuclear plants as fast as you can, or die - probably.

“NOAA said the average atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 reached 381 parts per million, an increase of 2.6 ppm since 2004. The annual increase, which has been recorded since the 1950s, has now exceeded 2 ppm for three of the past four years - an unprecedented rate. Half a century ago, the annual increase was less than 1 ppm.

“The increase is caused by manmade emissions from the burning of fossil fuels, which currently adds up to about 7 billion tonnes of carbon per year. But roughly half of those emissions are absorbed by vegetation and the oceans.

“Researchers believe the year-on-year variability in the build-up of the gas is caused largely by fluctuations in nature’s ability to absorb the emissions.”

“The finding follows reports that 2005 was probably the warmest year on record, slightly exceeding the previous record-holder, 1998. And scientists at the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, in Boulder, Colorado, reported that Arctic sea ice had failed to reform fully this winter following the record melting during last summer.”

From James Lovelock:

“ [...] This is why warm tropical waters are so clear and blue; they are the deserts of the ocean, and just now they occupy 80% of the world’s water surface. in the arctic and antarctic, the surface remains below 10°C and so are well mixed from bottom to surface and nutrients are available everywhere.” [p.29]

“ [...] The turning point, 500 ppm of carbon dioxide, would, according to the IPCC, represents a temperature rise of about 3°C. This is close to the temperature rise of 2.7°C predicted [...] as sufficient to start the irreversible melting of Greenland’s ice. [...] Those who monitor the oceans already report an acceleration of the carbon dioxide abundance and a decline in algae in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans [...] ” [p.33]

It gets worse and worse and worserer.

But don’t worry, it’s all an illusion. Every Pollyanna says so.

So what is the ‘war on terror’ really peally about?

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#global_warming_210306

victorian england on steroids in china

“Every year, 8.5 million Chinese peasants move into cities. Most of their destinations are mere specks on western maps, if they appear at all. But their populations put them on a par with some of the world's megalopolises. Britain has five urban centres of more than a million people; China has ninety [...]”

“ If today is typical, builders will lay 137,000 square metres of new floor space for residential blocks, shopping centres and factories. The economy will grow by 99 million yuan (£7m). There will be 568 deaths, 813 births and the arrival of 1,370 people from the countryside - each year, the city limits are pushed further outwards as the urban population grows by half a million, the equivalent of all the people in Luxembourg being added to the municipal register.”

“China's development is one of humanity's worst environmental disasters. Cheap coal and a doubling of car ownership every five years has made the country the second-biggest emitter of greenhouse gases. According to the World Bank, 16 of the planet's 20 dirtiest cities are in China, and Chongqing is one of the worst. Every year, the choking atmosphere is responsible for thousands of premature deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis. Last year, the air quality failed to reach level 2, the government health standard, one day in every four. Today's haze is so thick that I still haven't seen the sun.

“Chongqing is trying to clean up, but this is a low priority compared to economic growth. And it is hard to find a place for the ever-expanding waste. We head into the hills to see the biggest of the mega-city's rubbish mega-pits: the Changshengqiao landfill site. It is an awesome sight; a giant reservoir of garbage, more than 30 metres deep and stretching over 350,000 square metres.”

related material
world economy increasingly battering on the limits of sustainable viability

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#burgeoning_china_170306

and today's fossil fuel industry news...

“New federal regulations, which take effect in June, will reduce the amount of sulfur in diesel to less than 15 parts per million (ppm) from 500 ppm, cutting tailpipe emissions from trucks, buses and cars that use the distillate fuel.”

“ The law, which was passed in 1997 during the Clinton presidency and affirmed by the current Bush administration, is expected to prevent the premature deaths of 8,300 people per year, along with about 5,500 cases of chronic bronchitis and more than 360,000 asthma attacks, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates." [Quoted from planetark.org]

Most of this pollution is from heavy machinery, as diesel cars are less than 1% of the vehicle stock in the USA. Diesel is much more efficient than petrol, even challenging consumption figures for hybrids. [See Transportable fuels]

marker at abelard.org

“Alaska officials said on Friday that up to 267,000 gallons (6,357 barrels) of crude oil poured out of a pipeline at the Prudhoe Bay field, making it the largest oil spill ever recorded on the state's North Slope.”

“Officials suspect corrosion created a quarter-inch hole in the transit line and the ensuing leak, even though BP said the area of the breach was not registered as vulnerable as part of the company's corrosion-monitoring program.” [Quoted from planetark.org]

One wonders how many other “areas” in this considerable pipeline are also “not registered as vulnerable”.

Note that American reporting and standards tend to be the strictest in the world. In most places, you would not even hear of much of this stuff, let alone disasters that are much worse. [See Fossil fuel disasters]

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#fossil_fuels_140306

2006 environmental performance index now released

From the press release [2-page .pdf]:

“The EPI identifies targets for environmental performance and measures how close each country comes to these goals. It ranks 133 countries on 16 indicators tracked in six established policy categories:
• Environmental Health,
• Air Quality,
• Water Resources,
• Biodiversity and Habitat,
• Productive Natural Resources, and
• Sustainable Energy.
As a quantitative gauge of pollution control and natural resource management results, the Index provides a powerful tool for improving policymaking and shifting environmental decisionmaking onto firmer analytic foundations.”

“A country’s wealth emerges as a significant determinant of environmental outcomes. But at every level of development, some countries achieve environmental results that far exceed their peers, demonstrating that policy choices also affect performance.”

Some performance rankings/scores [.pdf]:
[calculated according to how the countries dealt with domestic and world problems and whether they met targets.]

Overall - top by EPI score Overall - bottom by EPI score
1 New Zealand 88.0 124 Sudan 44.0
2 Sweden 87.8 125 Bangladesh 43.5
3 Finland 87.0 126 Burkina Faso 43.2
4 Czech Republic 86.0 127 Pakistan 41.1
5 United Kingdom 85.6 128 Angola 39.3
28 United States 78.5  

Air quality Biodiversity and habitat Environmental health
1 Uganda 98.0 1 Benin 88.0 1 Sweden 99.4
2 Gabon 96.1 2 Venezuela 88.0 2 France 99.2
3 Rwanda 91.1 3 Jamaica 86.1 3 Australia 99.0
4 Burundi 90.9 4 Panama 83.1 4 United Kingdom 98.9
5 Ghana 87.3 5 Cambodia 82.6 5 Finland 98.8
42 United Kingdom 61.6 33 United States 66.8 13 United States 98.3
97 United States 44.7 52 United Kingdom 58.8  

Productive natural resources 5 Sustainable energy
1 Paraguay 100 1 Uganda 92.4
2 Armenia 100 2 Mali 92.1
3 Kazakhstan 100 3 Democratic Rep of Congo 90.1
4 Bolivia 100 4 Laos 89.8
5 Zimbabwe 100 5 Cambodia 89.1
  55 United Kingdom 77.8
  80 United States 69.7

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#epi_2006_260106

changing ecology and complexity in driving extinctions

On frogs and fungus and warming and cooling - frogs indicate environmental quality, as canaries would indicate bad air in coal mines.

“ [...] But as far as I know, no one predicted that it would be nighttime warming and daytime cooling that would make the fungus so deadly [...] ”

“ [...] Take Harlequin frogs (Atelopus). Scientists have described 110 species from Central and South America. But they can no longer find a single individual from 67% of those species [...] ”

“The study is also a vivid illustration of the fact that global warming can lead to lots of strange local climate change. At several research stations in the study, scientists have found that the maximum daytime temperature has actually gone down. At night, on the other hand, the minimum temperature has been going up. Clouds may be causing this pattern. Global warming causes more water to evaporate, creating more clouds in mountain forests. At night these clouds may trap heat, keeping the forests warm. But in the daytime, incoming sunlight may bounce off the clouds, leading to cooler days.”

marker at abelard.org

on pollen and pollinators and shrinking habitats

If plants cannot survive, nor can animals.
If pollinating animals cannot survive, neither can many plants.

“The pattern raises the alarm, however, that species in species-rich regions face two challenges that increase the risk of extinction: habitat destruction, which is occurring at alarming rates in the tropics, and reduced pollinator activity," said study co-author Susan Mazer, a biology professor at University of California in Santa Barbara.”

“The pollinators also face threats from habitat loss, as well as pesticide
use, invasive species and the extinction of vertebrates.”

related material
wolves, the ecologists of yellowstone park - the interacting web

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#mine_canary_frogs_240106

when the power fails - moscow

Good job they have all that gas to pump into Europe.

“Yesterday city authorities reduced power supplies to some businesses by up to 90 per cent to conserve energy for hospitals and other basic infrastructure. They said that private homes would not be affected. Nevertheless, the power cuts have rekindled anger at Anatoly Chubais, the oligarch who heads the electricity monopoly and who was widely blamed for a huge blackout in Moscow last summer. Mr Chubais threatened in November to reduce the power to non-essential points if it was below -25C for three days or more.”

Be happy, don’t worry. All you need is a few windmills and you’ll be fine.

“Record snowfalls in Japan, with 13ft drifts, killed 100 and injured at least 1,000

“An unusually cold winter has killed hundreds in India, Bangladesh and Nepal, with Delhi seeing 0.2C, its lowest temperature in 70 years.

“Sydney recorded its highest temperature since 1939 this month at 44.2C

“Freezing weather and lows of -12C meant much of Britain recorded its coldest December for a decade, while southern England had its driest year since 1921.”

related material
replacing fossil fuels: the scale of the problem

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#wild_winter_200106

highly informed piece by lovelock on planetary pressures

“Perhaps the saddest thing is that Gaia will lose as much or more than we do. Not only will wildlife and whole ecosystems go extinct, but in human civilisation the planet has a precious resource. We are not merely a disease; we are, through our intelligence and communication, the nervous system of the planet. Through us, Gaia has seen herself from space, and begins to know her place in the universe.

“We should be the heart and mind of the Earth, not its malady. So let us be brave and cease thinking of human needs and rights alone, and see that we have harmed the living Earth and need to make our peace with Gaia. We must do it while we are still strong enough to negotiate, and not a broken rabble led by brutal war lords. Most of all, we should remember that we are a part of it, and it is indeed our home.”

I regard this article by James Lovelock as essentially accurate. Lovelock is one of the few people who appears capable of holding the relevant data in his head, thereby having a sound grasp of the implications and drawing reasonable and realistic conclusions.If he over-eggs it here, it is not by much if you factor in human stupidity.

related material
lovelock comes out for nuclear power—calls greens ‘irrational’
lovelock talks straight on the menace from ignorant ‘greens’
albedo—Lovelock’s daisy planet
don’t worry - global warming is only pretending to happen

James Lovelock,The Revenge of Gaia published by Penguin on 2 February 2006

James Lovelock, The Revenge of Gaia

published by Allen Lane, 0713999144, 2006
approx. 160 pages of main text

amazon.co.uk: £10.19

Published 2006, this is an excellent basic primer in simple language. It is very useful for orienting yourself if you are coming new to the subject, or as part of reading background for the average 16 year-old or above. Some short quotes are included in is nuclear power really really dangerous?

If your main source so far is the fossil media, get this book and read it now. This book is particularly useful in that it treats ecology holistically and is not diverted or confused by vested interests or narrow focus. It covers a wide area but is easy to read.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#gaia_160106

world economy increasingly battering on the limits of sustainable viability

New Worldwatch release:

The stark message is that the present growth rates of China and India do not have a prayer of continuing without fundamental changes to world production methods and technology. The authors seem highly reluctant to spell out this clear reality.

First the press release:

“ "Rising demand for energy, food, and raw materials by 2.5 billion Chinese and Indians is already having ripple effects worldwide," says Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin. "Meanwhile, record-shattering consumption levels in the U.S. and Europe leave little room for this projected Asian growth." The resulting global resource squeeze is already evident in riots over rising oil prices in Indonesia, growing pressure on Brazil's forests and fisheries, and the loss of manufacturing jobs in Central America.”

  • “China has only 8 percent of the world's fresh water to meet the needs of 22 percent of the world's people. In India, urban water demand is expected to double - and industrial demand to triple - by 2025.

  • “India's use of oil has doubled since 1992, while China went from near self-sufficiency in the mid-1990s to the world's second largest oil importer in 2004. Chinese and Indian oil companies are now seeking oil in countries such as Sudan and Venezuela - and both have just started to build what are slated to be two of the largest automobile industries in the world.

  • “China and India have the only large coal-dominated energy systems in the world today - coal provides more than two-thirds of China's energy and half of India's. Both countries are therefore central to future efforts to slow global climate change: China is already the world's second largest emitter of climate-altering carbon dioxide, while India ranks fourth.

  • “ If Chinese per-capita grain consumption were to double to roughly European levels, China alone would require the equivalent of nearly 40 percent of today's global grain harvest. Already, China's growing imports of grain, soybeans, and wood products are placing great pressure on the biodiversity of South America and Southeast Asia.”

There is much more (often poorly contextualised) data on the page.

Main linking page
Several crude graphs can be accessed here. Typically, this approach exaggerates USA problems, where the population is much lower relative to inhabited area than China and India.

Chapter summaries access

Chapter 1
“The rise of China and India illustrates more clearly than any development in recent memory that the western, resource-intensive economic model is simply not capable of meeting the growing needs of more than 8 billion people in the twenty-first century. Major shifts in resource use, technologies, policies, and even basic values are needed. The political ambivalence toward today's development models that now characterizes China, India, the United States, and most other countries will need to give way to a full-fledged commitment to prosper within the limits imposed by nature.”
Chapter 9
“Over the past 20 years, China's economic explosion has created an ecological implosion. Environmental degradation is costing the country nearly 9 percent of its annual gross domestic product (GDP). Chinese urbanites are suffering from air pollution caused by the burning of coal and a growing army of cars. Overdevelopment and poor management of rivers, forests, grasslands, and land threaten the livelihood of rural residents as well as the nation's rich but fast disappearing animal and plant biodiversity. All this ecological destruction has been linked to the political dynamics behind China's recent successful - in GDP terms - economic reforms.”

marker at abelard.org

Meanwhile, Europe is under steadily increasing water stress

“France and Spain are ringing alarm bells over the climate, fearing a repeat of last year's drought that sparked deadly forest fires, costly crop failures and widespread water rationing in southern Europe.

“France's environment minister has said three dry years in a row have left the country facing possibly record water shortages this year.”

“ Spain's cereal crop was devastated by last year's drought, while hydroelectric power generation - one of the cheapest and cleanest ways of producing electricity - fell to its lowest in 48 years, according to grid data.”

related material
there is no global warming - population is no problem - please do not worry!
and still the pressure grows—population, desertification, water, oil
increasing pressures on food supply and arable land

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#world_economy_120106

eu greed and cowardice driving fish stocks to extinction

“The EU has just provided an example. Independent scientific advice recommended that "fishing pressure should be reduced considerably" for all deepwater species. But the European Commission recommended a cut in deepwater fishing effort of only 20%, and EU fisheries ministers meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in late December 2005 reduced that to just 10%.

“They did set quotas of zero for roundnose grenadier. But most of those are caught by accident alongside Greenland halibut - and the Greenland halibut quota was virtually unchanged.”

“ At least five species of deepwater exotic fish - only caught since the 1970s - are now on the critically endangered list, according to Canadian scientists. The researchers say many other species are likely to be similarly endangered and, worse, there seems little hope of saving them.”

related material
europe's politicians continue to destroy cod stocks for politics and profit

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology0601.php#eu_fishing_080106
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