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Jul 19, 2018, 01:33 PM
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 on: Today at 04:33 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Alarmed conservationists call for urgent action to fix 'America's wildlife crisis'

One-third of species are vulnerable to extinction, a crisis ravaging swaths of creatures, conservationists say in call to fund recovery plans

Oliver Milman in New York

An extinction crisis is rippling though America’s wildlife, with scores of species at risk of being wiped out unless recovery plans start to receive sufficient funding, conservationists have warned.

One-third of species in the US are vulnerable to extinction, a crisis that has ravaged swaths of creatures such as butterflies, amphibians, fish and bats, according to a report compiled by a coalition of conservation groups. A further one in five species face an even greater threat, with a severe risk of being eliminated amid a “serious decline” in US biodiversity, the report warns.

“America’s wildlife are in crisis,” said Collin O’Mara, chief executive of the National Wildlife Federation. “Fish, birds, mammals, reptiles and invertebrates are all losing ground. We owe it to our children and grandchildren to prevent these species from vanishing from the earth.”

More than 1,270 species found in the US are listed as at risk under the federal Endangered Species Act, an imperiled menagerie that includes the grizzly bear, California condor, leatherback sea turtle and rusty patched bumble bee. However, the actual number of threatened species is “far higher than what is formally listed”, states the report by the National Wildlife Federation, American Fisheries Society and the Wildlife Society.

Using data from NatureServe that assesses the health of entire groups of species on a sliding scale, rather than the case-by-case work done by the federal government, the analysis shows more than 150 US species have already become extinct while a further 500 species have not been seen in recent decades and have possibly also been snuffed out.

Whole classes of creatures have suffered precipitous drops, with 40% of freshwater fish species in the US now vulnerable or endangered, a third of bat species experiencing major declines in the past two decades and amphibians dwindling from their known ranges at a rate of about 4% a year. The true scale of the crisis is probably larger when species with sparse data, or those as yet unknown to science, are considered.

“This loss of wildlife has been sneaking up on us but is now like a big tsunami that is going to hit us,” said Thomas Lovejoy, a biologist at George Mason University. Lovejoy was consulted on the study and said it “captures the overall degradation of American nature over recent decades, rather than little snapshots”.

Species have been battered by the destruction of forests, prairie and wetlands to make way for mass agriculture, urbanization, roads and mining. The use of pesticides in farming is linked to the decline of key pollinators such as bees.

Meanwhile, improved transportation between states and from other countries has unleashed diseases such as fungal infections that have ravaged certain frogs and bats. Invasive species including feral hogs, nutria and emerald ash borers have torn apart wildlife habitats such as forests and riverbanks, often with little to slow them.

Climate change is a further blow, with rising temperatures, sea level rise and altered rainfall all having consequences for species as diverse as bears, which are finding certain foodstuffs hard to come by, and monarch butterflies, which have seen their numbers drop by about 90% in recent decades and which are considered acutely sensitive to changes in weather patterns.

“Species are living in smaller patches of habitat and not interacting with other members,” said Erle Ellis, a professor of geography and environmental systems at the University of Maryland. Ellis has co-authored research on how the world is moving toward its sixth great mass extinction event.

“Extinctions are ramping up, and if that continues it will be one for the history books for the whole planet. The world is getting very humanized and I’m very concerned about the cost to biodiversity. It’s a challenge that will face us throughout this century and beyond.”

The conservationists’ report calls for a major funding boost for recovery plans drawn up by states within the US. By “dramatically ramping up investments in proactive state-based conservation”, the US can stem and even reverse its species losses, the report states, pointing to success stories such as the reintroduction of Canada lynx to Colorado, wood bison to Alaska and the bolstering of trout populations across 17 states.

There are about 12,000 species with recovery strategies across various US states, although wildlife conservation has typically suffered from funding shortfalls at the state level. The federal Fish and Wildlife Service was initially targeted for a budget cut under the Trump administration, although Congress recently handed it a modest increase in funds.

“The states and counties are very uneven in their capacity so ideally you’d get some federal leadership,” said Lovejoy. “What’s quite promising is that there are civil society organizations who really care about this stuff. At some point the American public will wake up.

“When you look at the trends of extinctions, it’s easy to get discouraged. The good news is that living things like to make more of themselves. Give them a chance and they will recover. Thank God for sex.”

US Fish and Wildlife wouldn’t comment directly on the report. A spokeswoman for the agency said: “The ultimate goal of the Endangered Species Act is recovery. The greatest chance we have of achieving that goal is by working with diverse partners, including states and private and non-profit organizations, to leverage our cumulative knowledge and resources.”

 on: Today at 04:30 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Going on a bear hunt: the animal activists signing up to 'shoot' grizzlies

Activist group Shoot’em with a Camera seeks to infiltrate a bear hunt by acquiring licenses they don’t intend to use

Amanda Holpuch in New York
19 Jul 2018 18.05 BST

Jane Goodall, the renowned conservationist, and a group of wildlife activists are some of the unexpected entrants in a lottery to hunt up to 22 grizzly bears near Yellowstone national park.

Their goal is to infiltrate Wyoming state’s first grizzly bear hunt in 44 years by acquiring licenses they have no intention of using.

“We just thought it was a really proactive and specific way to get our voices heard,” Judy Hofflund, one of the organizers of the lottery protest, told the Guardian. “We wanted to protect the grizzlies and we would agree to pay for a tag, do everything legally, and shoot them with a camera and not with a gun.”

In June 2017, the US government delisted grizzly bears as an endangered species despite the pleas of conservationists. This allowed Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to plan limited bear hunts.

And in May, Wyoming’s Game and Fish commission voted 7-0 in favor of a grizzly bear hunt.

“The bears are still so vulnerable,” Hofflund said. “It’s crazy that seven people get to decide that these bears get to be hunted so soon. That feels pretty nutty to me.”

Hofflund said she and four other women gathered in her living room 10 days ago and brainstormed how they could save the grizzlies. They devised the plan to infiltrate the lottery and within hours had created a website and social media accounts for their movement, which they call “Shoot’em with a Camera, Not a Gun”. And they arranged to place five days of advertisements in the local newspaper, the Jackson Hole News and Guide, encouraging people to register for the lottery.

The group also raised more than $28,000 online to help fellow activists who might not be able to afford the cost of the license. Those who get a licenses must pay $602 if they are from Wyoming and $6,002 if they are from outside Wyoming.

Renny Mackay, the Wyoming game and fish department’s communications director, said roughly 7,000 applications were submitted before the lottery closed on Monday at midnight. “We view this as something the public of Wyoming asked for,” Mackay told the Guardian.

The hunt is split into two zones. For the suitable grizzly bear habitat where the animals live and are monitored, up to one female or 10 male bears can be hunted. For the area the department considers an unsuitable habitat because bears can cause conflict, up to 12 bears can be hunted.

The activists’ efforts could be impeded in the suitable habitat because one hunter will be allowed to hunt at a time until the quota is reached. “They have to prove they take it seriously, that they aren’t just entering it and then walking away,” Mackay said.

Mackay was not surprised by the effort to infiltrate the lottery because the plan to hunt has been subject to significant criticism since the Obama administration first raised delisting the bears as a threatened species in March 2016. More than 650,000 people weighed in during a public comment session that followed, including 125 Native American tribes that oppose hunting the bears.

Home to 700 bears

About 50,000 grizzly bears once covered North America, but their population plummeted in the 1850s with widespread hunting and trapping. There were only 136 of these bears in and near Yellowstone in 1975, when the Endangered Species Act was signed and introduced protections for the population in all continental US states except Alaska.

About 700 bears live there now and Mackay said that the population has recovered enough that limited hunting is safe for the population.

The hunt could be held up, however, because a federal judge is due to respond next month to a lawsuit against the government’s decision to remove grizzly bears from federal protection.

One of the hunt lottery activists, Ann Smith, has raised $82,000 in support of that lawsuit and for a year has been driving an antique truck with an enormous stuffed bear holding a “Grizzly Lives Matter” sign to bring attention to the cause in her home of Jackson Hole.

Shoot’em with a Camera has also found high-profile support from Jane Goodall, who entered the lottery with no intention of using the license. “The aim with her and many others’ participation is to preserve and protect grizzly bears by limiting the number of licenses that are used to actually hunt and kill the bears,” Shawn Sweeney, the director of communications at the Jane Goodall Institute, said in an email.

Hofflund, who said she has been visiting Yellowstone national park for 50 years, said she always loved grizzly bears but was especially enchanted by grizzly mother 399, one of the most famous bears in the world.

The at least 20-year-old bear became famous after being spotted frequently with her three cubs near roadways in Grand Teton park. This accessibility has lured visitors to the park and inspired the 2015 book, Grizzlies of Pilgrim Creek.

Hofflund said of her 10 to 12 grizzly sightings, she has seen 399 three times – including once when she saw a man in a crowd of people burst into tears because he was so happy to see 399 alive.

The crowds that gather to see the bears in their natural habitat are what inspire Hofflund to push for their protection.

“Those people are so excited,” Hofflund said. “I wanted those people’s voice to be heard. We all did.”

 on: Today at 04:27 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Endangered bandicoot 'should never have been brought to South Australia'

Researchers say the western barred bandicoot was actually five species and those ‘reintroduced’ would never have lived in SA

Lisa Cox
19 Jul 2018 01.43 BST

An endangered Australian bandicoot that was reintroduced to the Australian mainland is now believed to be one of five distinct species, and researchers say it may have been a mistake to introduce it to South Australia.

Scientists working for the Western Australian Museum have published research that concludes that what has been known as the western barred bandicoot is in fact five distinct species – four of which had become extinct by the 1940s as a result of agriculture and introduced predators. The species were closely related but occurred in different parts of Australia.

In the 2000s, western barred bandicoots that had survived on the arid Bernier and Dorre islands off Western Australia were reintroduced to the mainland, including to a predator-proof reserve in outback South Australia.

But the new study shows the surviving species that was translocated to that part of the country would never have occurred there previously.

Lead researcher Dr Kenny Travouillon made the findings after analysing skulls and DNA from tissue from specimens held in collections in Paris and London.

He said the research, which was published in Zootaxa, came to the conclusion that the western barred bandicoot was the only remaining species of the five.

The species that has been reintroduced around Australia would have originally occurred only in parts of Western Australia.

“On the mainland, that species should have only been in WA along the coast from Shark Bay to Onslow,” he said. “They should never have been brought to South Australia, but that decision was made from the old research.”

It creates a conundrum for threatened species programs that had been considering reintroducing more western barred bandicoots in other locations.

Dr Kath Tuft, the general manager of the Arid Recovery Reserve in South Australia, said there were now as many as 2,000 western barred bandicoots at the reserve.

She said what had been considered a reintroduction of the species was now technically an introduction.

But she said it was part of “the wider story of extinctions of Australian mammals, which is ongoing”.

“It’s sad but it’s also hopeful because we have had that one surviving species,” Tuft said. “It shows how much has changed in this country with our species mix. We have to redress it in whatever ways we can.”

She said the five species would still have to be formally assessed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and state and federal environment departments.

Travouillon said the key different characteristic of the species that originally occurred in South Australia was that it had better hearing to detect predators.

He said the larger story was about Australia’s mammal extinction record, which has been the worst in the world over the past 200 years.

“We have a much worse extinction record than we thought and we should really care for our species a lot better than we have the last 200 years,” he said.

 on: Today at 04:26 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Country diary: I looked into the eyes of Britain's most savage killer

Aigas, Highlands: The weasel may be tiny, but this fierce predator can dispatch and drag off a full-grown rabbit 25 times its size – and has a stare that even humans can find unnerving

John Lister-Kaye
19 Jul 2018 05.30 BST

If I asked you to name Britain’s most savage wildlife killer, you might say fox or peregrine or goshawk, or perhaps even the golden eagle or the Scottish wildcat if you knew about such exciting rarities. But I think you would be wrong. Savage and killers they all are, no question, but in my book none comes close to the smallest UK mustelid, the weasel, Mustela nivalis, so tiny that its skull can pass through a wedding ring.

A few days ago I watched one hunting. It vanished into a rockery and emerged a few seconds later with a vole dangling from its jaws. Voles, rats and mice, as well as small birds, are a weasel’s staple, but a male will take much larger prey such as a full-grown rabbit, up to 25 times its own weight, kill it, and, incredibly, drag it away into cover. No other British predator does that.

Weasels kill by crunching their tin-tack canines into the base of the prey’s skull and not letting go. I have seen a wood mouse, rigid with terror, give itself up at the sight of a weasel. A second later it was dead.

There is a dry-stone wall at the back of our wood. I call it a weasel cathedral. Its galleries and internal boulder halls are perfect weasel dens and, apparently, also irresistible to mice, which doesn’t say much for mouse intelligence – the sheep sheltering in the wolf’s den.

While repairing the wall in April last year I came across a beautiful nest the size of a cantaloupe melon, carefully lined with sheep’s wool, feathers and mouse fur. The unmistakable musky scent of weasel told me it was recently occupied – probably a bitch about to give birth. Desiccated shreds of mice littered the interstices of that wall in both directions. I carefully rebuilt the wall around it.

I once caught a weasel in a Longworth box trap. Expecting a field vole or a wood mouse, I got a shock when I emptied it into a polythene bag. As I released it, it fixed me with a stare I have never forgotten. I felt I was lucky to survive.

 on: Today at 04:23 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
This is the best photo of Neptune we have so far, and it looks amazing


The new image from the European Southern Observatory’s Very Large Telescope (ESO’s VLT) shows just how far our telescopes have come.

The new image was snapped using a new adaptive optics mode called laser tomography — a technique which has shown promise in astronomy as well as in medical research. The technology was made possible by the Multi Unit Spectroscopic Explorer (MUSE), which works with an adaptive optics unit and can correct for the effects of atmospheric turbulence up to one kilometer above the telescope. Using laser tomography, MUSE is able to compensate for almost all of the atmospheric turbulence above the telescope to create much sharper images, with the caveat that it does so over a smaller region of the sky.

With this approach, astronomers were able to bypass the biggest downside of Earth-based telescopes — dealing with the atmospheric disturbances and noise. This is the main reason why we have telescopes like Hubble in space, but if we can do that just as good (or almost just as good) from Earth, it could be a game changer for future observations.

The image of the planet Neptune on the left was obtained during the testing of the Narrow-Field adaptive optics mode of the MUSE instrument on ESO’s Very Large Telescope. The image on the right is a comparable image from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope. The two images were not taken at the same time so do not show identical surface features. Image Credits: ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP)/NASA, ESA, and M.H. Wong and J. Tollefson (UC Berkeley).

Compared to pictures taken from the same telescope without the adaptive optics technique, the difference is even more striking.

These images of the planet Neptune were obtained during the testing of the Narrow-Field adaptive optics mode. The image on the right is without the adaptive optics system in operation and the one on the left after the adaptive optics are switched on. Image Credits: ESO/P. Weilbacher (AIP).

The combination of exquisite image sharpness and the spectroscopic capabilities of MUSE will enable astronomers to study the properties of astronomical objects in much greater detail than was possible before. Of course, having sharp images of objects allows you to study them in better detail, and gives astronomers a better chance to understand what they look like and how they were formed.

    “It will enable astronomers to study in unprecedented detail fascinating objects such as supermassive black holes at the centers of distant galaxies, jets from young stars, globular clusters, supernovae, planets and their satellites in the solar system and much more,” says the ESO.

The ESO will continuously update with more photos as their instruments will get a better and better resolution. We can only imagine what these next images will look like, but for now, color me impressed.

 on: Today at 04:17 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Grassroots Fighters for the Arctic Refuge Take the Case to DC

By Rebekah Ashley

Even though our day-to-day existence may be far removed from Arctic Alaska, we must stand for the protection of the Arctic Refuge and ask our representatives to do the same.

Most Americans oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In fact, a majority of us "strongly oppose it." This broad public concern echoed through the halls of Congress during Alaska Wilderness League's Wilderness Week, when more than 25 people from around the country (as far as Alaska and as young as six months) convened in Washington, DC, in late May to advocate for the protection of the Arctic Refuge. Collectively, our group met with more than 60 offices in just three days.

The experience reaffirmed our role in the lower 48, where even though our day-to-day existence is far removed from Arctic Alaska, we must stand for the protection of the Arctic Refuge and ask our representatives to do the same.

"An assault on one community is an assault on all of us," said Adrienne Titus, an Inupiat and a community organizer at Native Movement. "An assault on one tribe is an assault on all of them."

Grassroots Support

Wilderness Week participants were given an overview of the past year in activism—that is, the grassroots support that has ramped up across the country since the Arctic Refuge was opened for drilling including rallies, district office meetings, community events, letters to the editor and the collection of hundreds of thousands of public comments on the issue.

We also learned about recently introduced legislation to undo the GOP mandate to lease the Arctic Refuge for drilling. This bill is a reminder that there are people in Congress who have and will continue to listen to public concerns for indigenous rights and environmental protection. It is crucial that our congressional representatives hear from us if they have not already signed onto this important bill.

Meeting Our Reps

To make sure that offices in both the House and Senate were hearing from constituents in the states they represent, Wilderness Week participants were divided up by geographic region. I was lucky to stand alongside my sister Elisabeth to represent New York, and we were joined by others from across the northeast. Lis and I built off our shared experiences in meetings with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand's office and our representative Elise Stefanik (who we were able to flag in the hall and speak to directly). We also met with neighboring districts in upstate New York including offices for Reps. Claudia Tenney and Tom Reed, and other nearby states including Maine, Delaware, New Jersey and Maryland.

"I cannot comprehend why something that would be looked at as inexcusable in one community could be put on another," Lis said as we wrapped up our meetings. And it's true, states in the lower 48 have opposed offshore drilling because of the irreversible effects drilling poses on communities, ecosystems and the already changing climate.

Public Forums and the Canadian Embassy

During our second day of meetings, Wilderness Week participants attended a forum by the Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee, led by Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-NM) and Jared Huffman (D-CA) focusing on the dangers of opening Alaska's Arctic Refuge to oil and gas drilling. Later on, we attended an event hosted by the Canadian Embassy highlighting Canada's ongoing support for the Arctic Refuge and protecting its coastal plain. Gwich'in villages stand throughout Alaska and Canada, and at the embassy Gwich'in representative Donetta Tritt spoke to the importance of the Porcupine Caribou Herd to the survival of the Gwich'in people, and Canadian leaders reaffirmed their commitment to stand in solidarity with the Gwich'in to protect the herd.

Representatives Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Raúl Grijalva (D-NM) and Niki Tsongas (D-MA) discuss the Arctic Refuge across from Donetta Tritt, Rebecca Goodstein, David Hayes and Jamie Rappaport Clark.

Wrapping Up

Whether you're calling your members of Congress or speaking to them in their congressional offices, these steps can seem small compared to the challenges we're up against. That's why Wilderness Week was an amazing chance to connect with people from the broader community who are also committed to protecting the Arctic Refuge. It was also an opportunity to learn about the issue from those who have experienced it firsthand. While we still have a long way to go, people like those I met at Wilderness Week make the journey worthwhile.

The BLM Public Hearing

Several weeks later, I traveled back to DC with folks from my local community, including more of my family, to attend the Bureau of Land Management's (BLM) only public hearing on Arctic Refuge leasing not being held in Alaska. This event allowed the broader public to share testimony and express their concerns about the leasing process for the Arctic Refuge directly to a panel representing BLM.

Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the Gwich'in Steering Committee, makes the case for protecting the coastal plain.

Outside of the hearing, a rally took place where hundreds of people lined the streets in opposition to BLM. Many of those who weren't fortunate enough to secure a spot testifying at the hearing shared their story at the rally instead. Wendy Hall from the Adirondack Wildlife Refuge shared her opposition for oil development in the Arctic Refuge because of the impacts it will have on global ecosystems and contribution to climate change.

My mother, Sandra Ashley, a teacher's aide at Lake Placid Middle School, gave testimony about the destructive message that drilling in the Arctic Refuge will send to her students and shared essays on their behalf that underscored the concerns that children feel for protecting wildlife.

Another friend of ours, Craig Stevens, a sixth generation land owner from Montrose, PA, held up a bottle of contaminated water from a sink in Pennsylvania during his testimony to remind the BLM how extractive industries can have an impact on our communities.

And Garett Reppenhagen of Vet Voice Foundation, a veteran of deployments in Kosovo and Iraq, shared his story about using outdoor therapy to help in the recovery process for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

By the time the hearing came to a close it was after dark. BLM had heard countless concerns for protecting wildlife and fragile ecosystems, mitigating climate change impacts, standing up for indigenous cultures, and more. It was a reminder that Americans overwhelmingly oppose oil development in the Arctic Refuge, and instead believe this area must be protected once and for all.

 on: Today at 04:15 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Protect Yourself From Disease-Carrying Ticks, Mosquitoes With EWG's 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents


A number of factors should come into play when you're choosing a bug repellent: what part of the country you live in, where you plan to travel, whether you're pregnant and whether you are planning to use the product on children. EWG's 2018 Guide to Bug Repellents can help you find the right product for yourself and your family.

No repellent works every place against every pest, so it is worth researching the diseases insects and ticks carry where you plan to spend time outside. The repellent you might choose for a backpacking trip in Colorado could be different from the one that might suffice for a picnic on an East Coast beach.

According to the available scientific literature, when you really need protection, your best bets are products made with active ingredients that have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When a company registers a bug repellent, it must provide the EPA with technical information that shows the chemical is effective against mosquitoes, ticks or both.

Based on testing data, EWG's top choices for repellents include those that contain the active ingredients picaridin, DEET and IR3535 for protection from a variety of biting insects and ticks. And all three have good safety profiles.

Many people are concerned about the possible drawbacks of common active ingredients like DEET. EWG researchers have analyzed the science in depth and found that, with proper application and precaution, our recommended active ingredients effectively reduce risk from life-altering diseases and have very low toxicity concerns.

But these strong chemicals should not be used on infants under 6 months old, and some should not be used on young children.

"Insects that bite and burrow into your skin are not just a nuisance—they can carry dangerous, even deadly, diseases," said EWG Research Analyst Carla Burns. "Educating yourself on what you can do to protect yourself and your family is important. EWG's guide helps consumers choose the right repellent for their circumstances and provides additional tips to reduce risks from insects."

EWG's guide breaks down advice on what bug repellents are best for children, adults and women who are pregnant. The guide also goes beyond repellents to offer a list of do's and don'ts for avoiding bug bites.

According to a new report from the CDC, tick- and insect-transmitted diseases, which can have serious health impacts and may even lead to death, are on the rise. While the agency has reported no cases of Zika virus transmission in the U.S. in 2018, it warns that pest-borne diseases are "a large and growing public health problem in the United States."

In the U.S., the number one mosquito-borne and tick-borne disease threats are West Nile virus and Lyme disease, respectively. But travelers to tropical regions and some other places could encounter Zika, malaria, dengue fever, yellow fever and other diseases. Diseases carried by ticks are rare, but can be severe. EWG recommends prudent tick prevention methods to anyone who spends time in tick-infested areas.

"Spending plenty of time outside, whether in your backyard, on the beach or on a family camping trip, is important," said EWG senior scientist David Andrews. "By taking a few simple steps, you can spend more time enjoying the outdoors and less time worrying about bug bites."

EWG scientists recommend people avoid a number of toxic and ineffective products, including clip-on repellents and repellent candles—both of which can present inhalation risks.

 on: Today at 04:13 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Sea Level Rise Could Sink Internet Infrastructure


Sea level rise may be coming for your Internet.

The first ever study to look at the impact of climate change on the Internet found that more than 4,000 miles of fiber optic cable in U.S. coastal regions will be underwater within 15 years and 1,000 traffic hubs will be surrounded, a University of Wisconsin (UW)—Madison press release reported.

"Most of the damage that's going to be done in the next 100 years will be done sooner than later," senior study author and UW–Madison professor of computer science Paul Barford said in the release. "That surprised us. The expectation was that we'd have 50 years to plan for it. We don't have 50 years."

The study, conducted by researchers at UW–Madison and the University of Oregon and presented for the first time Monday at the 2018 Applied Networking Research Workshop in Montreal, mapped National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) sea level rise projections over the Internet Atlas, which shows the location of the net's physical infrastructure. It found that the most vulnerable U.S. cities to sea level-based Internet disruption were Seattle, New York and Miami, but, since most data converges on fiber optic strands leading towards major population centers, the effects could ripple out across the country and around the world.

The study is one example of how public infrastructure must rapidly learn to adapt to climate change.

"We live in a world designed for an environment that no longer exists," climate risk modeling company Jupiter Intelligence co-founder Rich Sorkin told National Geographic in response to the study.

Buried cables were designed to be water resistant, but not entirely waterproof the way ocean-crossing cables are. They were also often laid alongside existing rights of way like highways or coasts.

"So much of the infrastructure that's been deployed is right next to the coast, so it doesn't take much more than a few inches or a foot of sea level rise for it to be underwater," Barford told National Geographic. "It was all was deployed 20-ish years ago, when no one was thinking about the fact that sea levels might come up."

One example is that the transoceanic cables that run between continents usually come ashore in major coastal population centers. Barford said in the press release those landing points would be underwater relatively soon.

The study did offer some suggestions for climate-proofing Internet infrastructure, from installing back-up lines to building protective layers around existing cables. The study also recommended having a protocol in place to give emergency workers priority access to working lines during disasters. But the researchers said these were temporary fixes; long-term solutions would require more innovation, Motherboard reported.

Some Internet service providers told NPR they already do take climate change and associated risks into account.

AT&T, for example, uses submarine cables in areas like beaches or subways expected to be frequently inundated.

Some actions were taken in response to extreme weather events that are expected to become more frequent as the planet warms. When Superstorm Sandy flooded some of its cables and disrupted service in New York City, Verizon worked to make more of its infrastructure flood proof.

"After Sandy, we started upgrading our network in earnest, and replacing our copper assets with fiber assets," Verizon spokeswoman Karen Schulz told NPR. "Copper is impacted by water, whereas fiber is not. We've switched significant amounts of our network from copper to fiber in the Northeast."
Schulz said most of the company's risk mitigation was designed around flooding generally, not sea level rise specifically, except when it came to the landing stations for transoceanic cables. "For cable landing stations that are very close to the oceans and that have undersea cables, we specifically assess sea level changes," Schulz told NPR.

 on: Today at 04:11 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

EPA fans struggling coal industry by rolling back pollution regulations

Acting administrator says easing of Obama-era rules, which pushes back deadline to close ash dumps, saves $30m annually

Associated Press
19 Jul 2018 22.35 BST

The Trump administration on Wednesday eased rules for handling toxic coal ash from more than 400 US coal-fired power plants after utilities pushed back against regulations adopted under Barack Obama.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, said the changes would save utilities roughly $30m annually.

The move represents the latest action by Donald Trump’s EPA to boost the struggling coal industry by rolling back environmental and public health protections enacted under his predecessor.

It pushes back the deadline to close problematic ash dumps and gives state regulators flexibility in how they deal with the vast waste piles that result from burning coal for electricity.

Environmentalists argued the administration was endangering the health of people living near power plants and ash storage sites, while industry representatives welcomed the announcement.

US coal plants produce about 100m tons annually of ash and other waste, much of which ends up in unlined disposal ponds prone to leak. Some have been in use for decades.

Data released by utilities in March under an EPA mandate showed widespread evidence of groundwater contamination at coal plants. Heightened levels of pollutants, including arsenic and radium in some cases, were documented at plants in numerous states, from Virginia to Alaska.

EPA documents show most savings for utilities from the new rules will come from extending by 18 months the deadline to close ash dumps that don’t meet water protection standards. The new deadline is 31 October 2020.

The utility industry said the change provided “regulatory certainty” for ash dump operators. That’s in part because it aligns the closure requirements with forthcoming guidelines limiting the levels of toxic metals in wastewater discharged from power plants.

The changes also give state regulators the power to suspend monitoring requirements for dumps that don’t meet water quality standards.

“It’s not like EPA has granted us a free pass here. It just gives us additional time to operate those facilities and better synch them up” with the coming wastewater guidelines, said James Roewer, executive director of the Utility Solid Waste Advisory Group, an industry organization that had pushed for the changes.

The original, Obama-era rule, adopted in 2015, came in response to a huge 2008 coal ash spill in Kingston, Tennessee. A containment dike burst at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant and released 5.4m cubic yards of ash.

The accident dumped waste into two nearby rivers, destroyed homes and brought national attention to the issue.

The attorney Larissa Liebmann, with the Waterkeeper Alliance, said the costs saved by utilities would not simply go away. Instead, she said, they would be borne by communities that are forced to deal with contaminated water.

“We think it’s fundamentally unfair,” Liebmann said. “The rules that were created in 2015 were already very much to the bare minimum.”

 on: Today at 04:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

The Guardian picture essay
'It's dire': farmers battle their worst drought in 100 years – photo essay

In central-western New South Wales some families on the land are facing ruin as the rain stays away

by Brook Mitchell and Lisa Cox
19 Jul 2018 19.00 BST

“It’s a pretty tough old time,” says Coonabarabran farmer Ambrose Doolan. “But if you’re working with your family and everyone is looking out for each other, you count your blessings.” In the central-west region of New South Wales, farmers continue to battle a crippling drought that many locals are calling the worst since 1902. In Warrumbungle shire, where sharp peaks fall away to once fertile farmland, the small town of Coonabarabran is running out of water. The town dam has fallen to 23% of its capacity and residents are living with level-six water restrictions. There are real fears the town will run dry.
An aerial view of the cattle feeding operation on the property Toorawandi owned by Coonabrabran farmer Ambrose Doolan and his wife Lisa. 

Doolan and his wife, Lisa, run 9,000 acres with Angus cattle outside of the town on their property, Toorawandi. Their son Mick has followed them into the farming business and has his own property, and their daughter Emily, a town planner, returned home this year to work on the family farm. “What a year to do it,” Doolan says. “My dad didn’t want me to be a farmer and I think this is why. We were a bit the same with our son, we didn’t want him to be a farmer. But you are what you are.”

    My dad didn’t want me to be a farmer and I think this is why.
    Ambrose Doolan

Last year the Doolans recorded their fourth-lowest average rainfall and it has been followed by even drier conditions. They have sold whatever stock they can and spend their entire days at the moment feeding the cattle that remains because the pastures have dried up.

Farmers in this part of NSW are importing almost all food for their livestock from as far away as South Australia as prices rise with demand. The continued cost of buying feed is causing many to question their future on the land. The NSW government recently approved an emergency drought relief package of $600m, at least $250m of which will cover low-interest loans to assist eligible farm businesses to recover. The package has been welcomed but, in the words of a local farmer, “it barely touches the sides”. With the prospect of a dry El Niño weather pattern hitting the state in spring, the longer-term outlook is dire.

Jess Taylor and her husband, Robert, are fourth-generation farmers, running a mixed sheep and cattle farm 25km north-west of Coonabarabran. They are raising four children, two not yet in school, while dealing with the stress of nearly two years without substantial rain. Bills from trucking in food for their sheep and cattle are running as high as $20,000 a month.

Robert left the property recently to take up shearing work to bring in much-needed cash, leaving Jess to manage the farm and care for their children on her own. “There’s just no income. Whatever the farm is making is going back into feed for whatever we have left,” she says. “It’s hard, it’s hard to know what to do.”

The family sold their healthier stock last year before the market “took a huge dive”, Jess says. The ewes on the property are abandoning their lambs because the dry pastures and lack of food have reduced their ability to produce enough milk. “We’ve got close to 30 orphan lambs that we’re hand-feeding,” Jess says. “We lost quite a few of them in the cold snap that just came through despite doing the best we could for them.”

Charities such as Buy a Bale, where people can purchase hay bales for local farmers, have been some assistance. The Taylors’ oldest son, Harry, asked for rain for his sixth birthday. While much of NSW experienced a wet start to winter, the dark skies over Coonabarabran have yet to deliver relief. The Taylors say they will not be taking up the government’s loan, as they are already struggling with considerable debt.

    Financially, we’re on our borderline now
    Greg Jerry

Coral Jerry, 80, is pictured on the family farm Maryborough, 40km outside Coonabarabran.

    Coral Jerry, 80, on the family farm

The Jerry family, also fourth-generation farmers, run sheep and cattle on their property Maryborough, 40km north-east of Coonabarabran. At the head of the family is Coral Jerry, 80, who lives on the farm alone after her husband of 55 years died in 2015. She is hand-feeding 40 orphaned lambs four to five times a day while her son Greg, his wife, Tanya, and their son Brett manage the farm.

Things have become so desperate the Jerrys are mixing expired baby formula with their imported cotton seed to add nutrition for their struggling animals. “It’s a never-ending story at the moment,” Greg says. “Every week there’s a chance of some sort of rain but when it happens it’s usually one or two mils, which does nothing ... We actually got 19 mils the other day, which was beautiful.”

    Greg Jerry on the farm. The load of wool pictured is the last income the family expects from the farm for another 12 months, sheep eating expired baby formula with imported cotton seed, sheep following the family truck, and Tanya Jerry cares for a sheep to weak to eat.

He says it would take 100mm of rain to deliver long-term improvement to a property that currently “looks a bit like the surface of the moon”. “Financially, we’re on our borderline now,” he says. “We destocked as much as possible early on as it got worse and worse. But what we’re left with now is pretty much unsaleable in the condition they’re in.”

Click here to see/ read the original article that has all the pictures: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jul/19/you-count-your-blessings-farm-families-battling-drought-photo-essay

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