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VII-2005: 07

New translation, the Magna Carta


K 'Y

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pessimism and optimism - yin and yan of our small planet

yin-yan at abelard.org This item has been moved to Land conservation and food production is one of a series of briefing documents on sustainable futures, within a grouping of documents on global concerns.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#yin_yang_070705

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mapping destruction

“The devastating impact of mankind on the planet is dramatically illustrated in pictures published Saturday showing explosive urban sprawl, major deforestation and the sucking dry of inland seas over less than three decades.”
[Above link includes small slideshow of images.]

satellite images of Las Vagas in 1973 and 2000. Image credit UNEP
satellite images of Las Vagas in 1973 and 2000 Image credit UNEP

marker at abelard.org

“Produced by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), One Planet Many People: Atlas of our Changing Environment compares and contrasts spectacular satellite images of the past few decades with contemporary ones, some of which have never been seen before.”

“The atlas [is] produced in collaboration with organizations including the United States Geological Survey and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) [...]” [Quoted from UNEP press release]

One Planet, Many People: Atlas of Our Changing Environment
published by UNEP, 2005, hbk, 9280725718
$150 (plus shipping outside the USA: + $20 Europe, +$30 rest of the world).

marker at abelard.org

For other photographs of global warming effects with many on-site links.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#mapping_060605

planet earth creaks under pressure to feed 6 billion and rising

“Global warming is shrinking glaciers on the Tibet side of Mount Everest faster than ever, putting world water supplies at risk, Xinhua news agency said on Tuesday.” [Quoted from planetark.com]

marker at abelard.org

“Spain has requested the transfer of 6-8 million tonnes of grain from European Union intervention stores to help it offset the impact of severe drought this year, an EU source said on Friday.” [Quoted from planetark.com]

Meanwhile, Bush babbles about obtaining meaningful fuel from biomass:

“Biodiesel is one of our nation's most promising alternative fuel sources. And by developing biodiesel, you're making this country less dependent on foreign sources of oil.” [Quoted from whitehouse.gov]

This is nonsense. At present, biofuels take around the same amount of energy to produce as to provide. Biofuels are mostly a foolish hidden subsidy to farming lobbies, and mostly just a waste of resources.

related material
energy economics and fossil fuels - how long do we have?

marker at abelard.org

“I have tried to avoid political questions, but at some point one should ask how it was possible for a poor agri-industrial technology to grow so explosively in the last four years? The only plausible answer lies in politics. The recent growth of ethanol production could occur only because of the massive transfer of money from the collective pocket of the U.S. taxpayers to the transnational agricultural cartel, represented most notably by Archer Daniel Midlands Co., Cargill Inc., Monsanto Co., and A. E. Stanley Manufacturing Co. This flow of billions of dollars from the pockets of the many to the pockets of the few was accomplished by federal subsidies of corn producers, and the federal and state tax subsidies of ethanol producers. It was spearheaded by many powerful, and I would like to think, thoroughly misinformed politicians.

“More ominously, as a country, we have diverted our collective attention from the most important issue of this century: energy conservation and increased reliance on the only renewable source of energy, the sun, and its weak derivative, the wind, see Appendix C. Instead, we have somewhat accelerated the rate of depletion of the precious natural gas and crude oil deposits, in exchange for the significantly more wide-spread pollution of water, soil and air over roughly 1/2 of the area of the United States, the incremental carbon dioxide emissions, the substandard ethanol fuel, and the continuous drain of taxpayers' money.” [Quoted from petroleum.berkeley.edu pdf file]

related material
corporate corruption

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#earth_creaks_200505

bush moving on conservation

“To help more Americans benefit from a new generation of diesel technology, I have proposed making owners of clean diesel vehicles eligible for the same tax credit as owners of hybrid vehicles. America leads the world in technology. We need to use that technology to lead the world in fuel efficiency.

“The third step toward making America less dependent on foreign oil is to ensure that other nations use technology to reduce their own demand for crude oil. It's in our interest -- it's in our economic interest and our national interest to help countries like India and China become more efficient users of oil, because that would help take the pressure off global oil supply, take the pressure off prices here at home. At the G8 meeting in July, I'm going to ask other world leaders to join America in helping developing countries find practical ways to use clean energy technology, to be more efficient about how they use energy. You see, when the global demand for oil is lower, Americans will be better off at the gas pump.”

“I don't know if you realize this, but here in Virginia, you get about a third of your electricity from nuclear energy. Yet America has not ordered a nuclear power plant since the 1970s. France, by contrast, has built 58 plants in the same period. And today, France gets more than 78 percent of its electricity from nuclear power. In order to make sure you get electricity at reasonable prices, and in order to make sure our air remains clean, it is time for us to start building some nuclear power plants in America. (Applause.)

“Technology has made it so I can say to you I am confident we can build safe nuclear power plants for you. Last month I directed the Department of Energy to work with Congress to reduce uncertainty in the nuclear power plant licensing process. We're also working to provide other incentives to encourage new plant construction, such as federal insurance to protect the builders of the first four new plants against lawsuits and bureaucratic obstacles and other delays beyond their control. A secure energy future for this country must include safe and clean nuclear power.”

The speech continues to be full of half-truths and good old American cornpone, but it is clear the administration is starting to take the real problems seriously, behind the usual horseshit.

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#bush_conservation_170505

reality is chasing pseudo-greens

population

“That's great news for environmentalists (or it will be when finally noticed), but they need to recognize what caused the turnaround. The world population growth rate actually peaked at 2 percent way back in 1968, the very year my old teacher Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb. The world's women didn't suddenly have fewer kids because of his book, though. They had fewer kids because they moved to town.

“Cities are population sinks-always have been. Although more children are an asset in the countryside, they're a liability in the city. A global tipping point in urbanization is what stopped the population explosion. As of this year, 50 percent of the world's population lives in cities, with 61 percent expected by 2030. In 1800 it was 3 percent; in 1900 it was 14 percent.”

gm.s

“ [...] What is its net effect on the environment? GM crops are more efficient, giving higher yield on less land with less use of pesticides and herbicides. That's why the Amish, the most technology-suspicious group in America (and the best farmers), have enthusiastically adopted GM crops.”

nuclear

“So everything must be done to increase energy efficiency and decarbonize energy production. Kyoto accords, radical conservation in energy transmission and use, wind energy, solar energy, passive solar, hydroelectric energy, biomass, the whole gamut. But add them all up and it's still only a fraction of enough. Massive carbon "sequestration" (extraction) from the atmosphere, perhaps via biotech, is a widely held hope, but it's just a hope. The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power.”

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#pseudo_greens_040505

domino effects from predator removal

“As floodwaters turned hilltops into islands, a key group of animals - predators such as jaguars, harpy eagles, and armadillos-disappeared from the islands. Some swam or flew away. Others drowned or starved to death.

“In the predator's absence, their prey - howler monkeys, iguanas, leaf-cutting ants - began multiplying. Soon these plant-eaters had devoured most of the once pristine forest.”

“When the dam's second phase was finished in 1986, the water level rose steadily over a year by another 164 feet (50 meters), and about a thousand hilltops became islands in a human-made lake.”

There are some cursory comments on fisheries.

releted material
critical predator species
wolves, the ecologists of yellowstone park - the interacting web

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#predators_020505

hotter than any time in 20,000 years - but don’t worry, it’s only “scaremongering”

“[...] The American Geophysical Union, one of the nation's largest and most respected scientific organizations, decided in 2003 that the matter had been settled. At the group's annual meeting that year, it issued a consensus statement declaring, "Natural influences cannot explain the rapid increase in global near-surface temperatures." As best as can be determined, the world is now warmer than it has been at any point in the last two millennia, and, if current trends continue, by the end of the century it will likely be hotter than at any point in the last two million years.”

Watching the ice fields shrinking:

“Not only is the albedo of the snow-covered ice high; it's the highest of anything we find on earth," he went on. "And not only is the albedo of water low; it's pretty much as low as anything you can find on earth. So what you're doing is you're replacing the best reflector with the worst reflector." The more open water that's exposed, the more solar energy goes into heating the ocean.”

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#warming_up_020505

giant iceberg disrupts antarctica [with image]

“An iceberg the size of Long Island has collided with the Drygalski ice tongue in Antarctica, breaking off a sizeable chunk of the glacial outflow. Maps of the continent will, they say, have to be re-drawn.”

“The huge chunk of ice has played merry hell with the normal ocean currents, stopping much of the sea ice from breaking up during the Antarctic summer. This meant Emperor penguins had a longer-than-usual trek to and from the sea to gather food for their chicks, and McMurdo researchers had difficulty reaching their base.”

related material
watching an ice crash from space - maybe
march 2005 update of the giant iceberg’s progress [with images)

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#iceburg_210405

human tradition of killing off the ancestors gathers pace

“ "If we do nothing ... as many as one-quarter of all today's primates [species] will be dead within 20 years," it says.

“Primates are "relentlessly hunted for their meat and fur, bodies broken for dubious medicines, shot for stealing crops in fields which were once their home".

“Of the four global regions inhabited by primates, their situation is worst in Madagascar, where loss of habitat to traditional slash-and-burn agriculture has left some lemur species, such as Perrier's sifaka, stranded in tiny areas of forest.”

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#ancestors_100405

breaking river floods using engineered log jams

claims for engineered logjams:

  • better ecologically
  • good stability
  • cheaper

“[...] Ten years ago, he designed a logjam to protect a stretch of private property along the Cowlitz River, which flows off the slopes of Washington state's Mt. Rainier. Riprapping to protect 427 meters of shoreline was estimated to cost $900,000, while the logjam design came in at $10,000. The structure was built from nearby trees, pushed over to save their root balls. The trees were then dug into the riverbed so that they would not be swept away. As the current pushes against each tree, the root ball acts like a plow, digging the tree even deeper into the soil sediment.

“Abbe expects these logjams to last just as long as any conventional structure such as a bridge, or maybe longer. "When the wood is waterlogged, it can last a long time," he says. "There are logjams that are hundreds of years old." ”

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#logjams_080405

25% of dust in the atmosphere is of biological origin
Scan recommended

“A global study has found that tiny fragments of biological detritus are a major component of the atmosphere, controlling the weather and forming a previously hidden microbial metropolis in the skies. Besides their climatic influence, they may even be spreading diseases across the globe.”

“ Some researchers believe that certain bacteria may have evolved to spend time in the air and create clouds and rain, as a Darwinian ploy [...]”

related material
global warming

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#bacteria_dust_020405

press release and new report on global ecosystems stress

“Although evidence remains incomplete, there is enough for the experts to warn that the ongoing degradation of 15 of the 24 ecosystem services examined is increasing the likelihood of potentially abrupt changes that will seriously affect human well-being. This includes the emergence of new diseases, sudden changes in water quality, creation of "dead zones" along the coasts, the collapse of fisheries, and shifts in regional climate.”

“The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) Synthesis Report is the first in a series of seven synthesis and summary reports and four technical volumes that assess the state of global ecosystems and their impact on human well-being. This report is being released together with a statement by the MA board of directors entitled "Living beyond Our Means: Natural Assets and Human Well-being." ”

An outline of the structure of the reports with links with some basic charts.

Detailed full eco-report released this day [219-page .pdf file with charts and diagrams]. Four GFoldenYak (tm) award

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#ecosystems_stress_300305

chinese car market becomes more difficult

“But car industry officials played down any concerns that their sales in a crucial market might be at risk. "China plans to introduce next summer tough environmental norms. Eighty percent of US-made cars would not fulfil these and 50 percent of European cars," Timo Makela, director of sustainable development and integration at the European Commission, told a seminar in Helsinki.

"For some reason, most of French cars would fulfil the demands," he said, adding his information came from industry sources.”

“ Car sales in China were up just 15 percent last year after nearly
doubling in 2003, hammered by government-ordered credit curbs to cool an economy in danger of overheating.”

[Note: Chinese enforcement often does not match pretensions.]

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#china_cars_230305

killer volcano - where and when? not if...
as humans become increasingly aware of their vunerablity before the dozing giant of the Earth.

“The effects, say the authors, "could be sufficiently severe to threaten the fabric of civilisation" - putting events such as the Asian tsunami into the shade.

“The fallout from a super-eruption could cause a "volcanic winter", devastating global agriculture and causing mass starvation.

“It would have a similar effect to a 1.5km-diameter space rock striking Earth, they claim.”

“The crater from the last super-eruption, 640,000 years ago, is large enough to fit Tokyo - the world's biggest city - inside it.”

“The report [from Bristol University] released by The Geological Society in the UK, identifies at least 31 sites where super-eruptions have occurred in the past. They include Lake Taupo in New Zealand and the Phlegrean Fields near Naples, Italy.”

meteor strikes

"Call it the mystery of the nonmelting meteorite: For decades scientists
have wondered how a meteorite powerful enough to have made Arizona's
Barringer Meteor Crater (pictured) could have left hardly any melted rock
in its wake. Now a report in this week's issue of Nature looks to have
closed the case."

related material
tsunamis: tsunamis travel fast but not at infinite speed
tectonics: tectonic plates – floating on the surface of a cauldron

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#killer_volcano_110305

sustainable forestry

Some recommended quick reading - a short article related to the work of the Forest Stewardship Council.

The FSC puts pressure on end-users of forest woods under threat, by persuading high profile furniture sales groups to put pressure on logging companies to run forests in a sustainable manner. You can also up such pressure by asking at your suppliers.

The reference to narrow tracks is concerns the known problems for wildlife crossing and surviving wide cut areas.

“The track which cuts through the lush forest to give Fouda's crew access to the trees they are felling looks broad, more than enough for at least one big truck.

“It would have been much wider before the firm, an Italian-owned company called SEFAC that has been criticised in the past by environmental groups, committed itself to sustainable forest management.

“Once workers have taken the most mature trees from this block, they should leave it to regenerate for 30 years.

“To achieve certification by an independent body such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), timber firms must also treat workers decently and work with local communities" [Quoted from PlanetArk]

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#sustainable_forestry_010305

the browning of australia

“The date for Genyornis's extinction does not match any period of severe climate change in Australia. This rules out one of the major theories for why large animals, or "megafauna," died out in Australia. Some scientists have blamed a changing climate due either to advancing or retreating ice ages. Others have cited a combination of changing climate and overhunting by humans. These scientists point to evidence that early people may have set huge fires, just as native people still do in Australia. The resulting decrease in scrub brush, Genyornis's main food, may have led to its extinction. In addition, changing the plant cover in a delicate ecosystem may have also reduced the soil's ability to absorb rainwater. The new data indicate that the extinctions swept across Australia nearly all at once, and at a time when the only major change seems to have been the arrival of humans on the continent.”

Also in same item:

“Slow-moving prey, such as tortoises and shellfish, are the easiest to catch. However, they also grow and reproduce slowly, so that when their numbers decrease by as little as 7%, their populations crash. The earliest human settlements, 100,000 to 50,000 years old, show a high percentage of bones from slow prey. Because the populations of slow prey are so sensitive to overhunting, Stiner and her crew inferred that the early human populations at these sites must have been small. If the human population had grown more quickly than the turtle and shellfish populations, humans would have had to switch to faster prey earlier than they did.”

“Rain Loss [Quoted from Radio Netherlands]
Dr Gifford Miller has a theory for why rainfall might have declined. He theorises that the many fires set by the first humans in Australia cleared the dry rainforest, which burns easily, and this in turn reduced recycling of water from the plants back into the atmosphere. "And that caused an increase in aridity across the continent," says Dr Miller, "from which it never recovered." ”

[Quoted from eurekalert.org]
“ The researchers used global climate model simulations to evaluate the atmospheric and meteorological conditions in Australia over time, as well as the sensitivity of the monsoon to different vegetation and soil types. A climate model simulating a forested Australia produced twice as much annual monsoon precipitation over the continental interior as the model simulating arid scrub conditions, he said.

“Systematic burning across the semiarid zone, where nutrients are the lowest of any continental region, may have been responsible for the rapid transformation of a drought-tolerant ecosystem high in broad-leaf species to the modern desert scrub," he said. "In the process, vegetation feedbacks promoting the penetration of monsoon moisture into the continental interior would have been disrupted." ”

“ Natural fires resulting from summer lightning strikes have played an integral part in the ecology of Australia's interior, and many plant species are adapted to regimes of frequent fires, he said. "But the systematic burning of the interior by the earliest colonizers differed enough from the natural fire cycle that key ecosystems may have been pushed past a threshold from which they could not recover.”

see also
is human deforestation responsible for australia’s dry centre

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#brown_australia_280205

cleaning soil contaminants with genetically modified plants

“Selenium contamination is a serious problem in California's Central Valley and other arid farmlands where irrigation water evaporates and leaves behind dissolved salts and other substances. In the Central Valley alone, decades of farming have left more than 100,000 cubic meters (m3) of soil with toxic levels of selenium and various salts. Removal and transportation of this sediment are estimated to cost $11:34 per m3, and experts say that phytoremediation is the only technology that is sufficiently cost-effective to clean up this contaminated farmland.

“[...] This GM [mustard] plant captured 4.3 times more selenium than the wild type. Another GM line produced excess glutamyl-cysteine synthetase, a small protein that binds and detoxifies the metal, helping the mustard snag 2.8 times more selenium than the wild mustard. The third line took up 2.3 times more selenium than wild type by producing excess glutathione synthetase, which allows the plant to tolerate adverse environmental conditions such as cold, drought, or high salinity.”

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#gm_cleaners_190205

prototype for largest commercial plane ever rolled out

“Airliners rate as one of the most polluting forms of transportation, with the world's 16,000 commercial jets producing over 600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, according to one estimate.

“The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that aviation causes 3.5 percent of man-made global warming, and that figure could rise to 15 percent by 2050.”

markre at abelard.org

“A trade struggle between the U.S. and Europe over aircraft more than likely would have damaged Boeing and Airbus far more than it would have helped them. Both companies rely heavily on foreign firms to supply parts for their planes. As a result, a trade clash would punish suppliers across the globe and potentially hurt countries that are potential aircraft buyers. The new 7E7, for example, may be comprised of as much as 70% foreign components, according to aerospace researcher Dr. David Pritchard. Japan is expected to be a major 7E7 supplier, but so is Italy, a European Union member. Meanwhile, as much as 40% of the new Airbus 380 is made in the U.S." [Quoted from fool.com]

The fossil media and politicians are cram jam packed with baloney. From where they gonna get the fuel to fly this lot?

And back in the real world:

“[...] any future cut in harmful emissions per aircraft would be meaningless if the number of planes in the sky was not reduced.

“He said: "The overall environmental impact is going to be massively increased. Aviation is now the fastest-growing source of climate change." ” [Quoted from scotsman.com]

related material
World oil resources (at the end of 2001)
replacing fossil fuels - the scale of the problem

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#a380_220105

hunting animals to extinction in africa [PDF file]

“[...] hunting of wild animals in Ghana had led to sharp declines in 41 species. They went on to suggest that the bushmeat trade had grown partly in response to the depletion of fish off West Africa by foreign and domestic industrial fleets; deprived of a traditional protein source, people turned to the forests for food. To curb the traffic in bushmeat, the researchers called for both limiting "the access of large and heavily subsidized foreign fleets to fish off West Africa" and "increasing the size, number and protection of wildlife reserves."

“In the Congo Basin - an area consisting of the Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, the Central African Republic (CAR), Gabon and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea - some researchers estimate that up to five million metric tons of bushmeat are traded each year, according to the Bushmeat Crisis Task Force, a Washington, D.C.-based conservation consortium.”

related material
eu destruction of african fisheries cited regarding extending bushmeat destruction

the web address for this article is
https://www.abelard.org/news/ecology2005.php#african_extinction_170105

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