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 41 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 05:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

On World Food Day, Pope Francis Says Link Between Climate Change and Hunger Is Undeniable

By Andrew McMaster
Ecowatch
10/17/2017

Speaking at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on World Food Day, Pope Francis addressed the need for governments around the world to acknowledge that climate change and migration were leading to increases in world hunger.

Francis received a standing ovation after a stirring speech in which he said all three issues were interrelated and require immediate attention.

"We are called to propose a change in lifestyle and the use of resources," Francis told the audience. "We cannot make do by saying 'someone else will do it.'"

The Catholic leader's words came on the heels of a recent UN report that showed an increase in people suffering from chronic hunger on account of climate change-related disasters and conflicts.

Global Citizen campaigns on the UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development, including zero hunger and climate action. You can take action on these issues here.

For the first time in over a century, the number of chronically hungry people increased, rising by 38 million people between 2015 and 2016. The UN report noted that 815 million people fit the definition for chronic hunger in 2016, comprising about 11 percent of the world's population.

At the heart of this rise are climate change and human conflict, both of which drive food insecurity in poverty-stricken communities around the globe.

The Pope called on leaders to take immediate and cooperative efforts to reduce resource consumption and waste creation.

Greed and negligence on a planet with limited resources was harming the world's poorest people, Francis said. He warned against understanding these problems through the lens of pity, noting that pity "is limited to emergency aid."

Instead, Francis proposed an integrative solution based on love, solidarity and fraternity. Love is a powerful tool for good Francis said, because it "inspires justice and is essential to bring about a just social order."

In a visceral reminder to world leaders on just how devastating the effects of climate change and conflict caused migration can be, Francis commemorated his visit to the FAO by unveiling a marble statue of three-year old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian-Kurdish migrant who was found dead on the shores of Greece in 2015.

The statue depicts an angel wailing above the boy's corpse. The Vatican said the piece represents represents the tragedy of human migration.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Global Citizen.

 42 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Groups Slam Zinke's 'Backroom Deals' to Build Road Through Alaskan Wildlife Refuge

Ecowatch
10/17/2017

Ryan Zinke's Interior Department is working behind the scenes to build a controversial and long-contested road through the heart of Alaska's Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, documents show.

The refuge was established more than 30 years ago to conserve wetlands and habitats for migrating birds, brown bears and salmon and other wildlife. 300,000 of its 315,000 acres has been designated as Wilderness in 1980 under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act.

The proposed 11-mile road would essentially bisect Izembek to connect the towns of King Cove, population 989, and Cold Bay. Proponents, including Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, say the road is needed for medical emergency evacuations, as King Cove's airport is inaccessible during inclement weather, forcing residents to use boats or helicopters.

But refuge advocates fear the road would disrupt critical wildlife habitat and set a precedent to open wildlife refuges, national monuments, wilderness areas and other public lands to economic development.

The Center for Biological Diversity, the National Wildlife Refuge Association, and other environmental organizations have also warned that the project is about "privatizing public lands for profit from a seafood venture."

The Obama administration shelved the King Cove road project years ago after then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell decided after a 2013 visit to the refuge that building a road would "cause irreversible damage not only to the Refuge itself, but to the wildlife that depend on it."

In June, however, Zinke's Interior department issued the state permission to survey a route for the road. Then in July, the House of Representatives voted along party lines to authorize a land swap between Alaska and the federal government to build the one-lane road. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R- Alaska), who has long fought for the road, introduced a Senate version of the bill that is still pending.

Now, a new report from the Washington Post suggests that the Trump administration is making the issue a top priority and has taken steps to hide discussions from the public.

According to the Post's report:

Those documents, primarily internal agency emails, reveal how much discussion is intentionally taking place out of public view as federal, state, local and tribal officials work to approve a land exchange. Were the targeted terrain owned by the King Cove Corporation, that would clear the way for construction through the refuge to join up roads on either side.

[...]

The documents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service make clear that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has elevated the issue to one of the agency's top priorities, and his appointees have taken deliberate steps to conceal the plan from the public.

At one point, a refuge official relayed his conversation with a department attorney about questions Zinke raised over public review of agency action related to Alaska's survey of a possible road through Izembek.

"He indicated the Secretary would like to see folks on the ground doing the survey in the next couple of days," the official emailed colleagues. "He did not seem to [sic] excited about the direction that it was going out for public comment."

The documents were obtained by Defenders of Wildlife under the Freedom of Information Act.

"These records expose yet another of Secretary Zinke's secretive, backroom deals to sell off and sell out our public lands and wildlife," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife. "We will not stand by and watch while some of the most important wildlife habitat on the planet is sacrificed for surreptitious commercial interests. If this proposal, which reflects a terrible abuse of power, is successful in Izembek, then none of our public lands, waters and wildlife will be safe."

The Wilderness Society also issued the following statement from Alaska Regional Director Nicole Whittington-Evans.

“This is an appalling move by the Trump administration to bypass the public process and cut a sneaky, backroom deal that not only would harm Izembek Refuge, but will threaten all of our nation's refuges, public lands, and many of our bedrock environmental laws," Whittington-Evans said. "This proposed road is an economic-development project for the community of King Cove, and taxpayers should be outraged at this secretive attempt to gut a globally important wildlife refuge—which belongs to all Americans—by transferring public lands to private ownership."

“The Izembek land exchange and road proposal have been considered many times—most recently through an exhaustive, scientific study by the U.S. Interior Department, which determined that the road should not be built and that it would harm the very species the refuge was established to protect," Whittington-Evans added.

“The Army Corps of Engineers in 2015 issued a report emphasizing that several alternatives to a road would effectively meet the emergency needs of King Cove residents. If this were about medical evacuations, as road proponents claim, the government should be talking about other options that would result in faster and more reliable transportation, instead of conspiring to strip protections from the Izembek refuge."

*************

Major East Coast Pipelines Approved by FERC Despite Strong Opposition

Ecowatch
10/17/2017

Federal regulators approved plans for two controversial new natural gas pipelines along the East Coast Friday.

In a divided 2-1 vote, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave the green light to the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipeline projects, which would carry shale gas through Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Commissioner Cheryl LaFleur, the only dissenting vote, expressed concerns in her written dissent on the redundancy of the collective 900 miles of pipeline, the potential environmental impacts and the relatively small accounted demand for the Mountain Valley project.

Both pipelines have been met with severe local opposition, and some activists expect backlash and increased fights against the projects following FERC's decision.

As reported by the Charlotte Business Journal:

"Greg Buppert, a senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, called the FERC order a long-anticipated 'rubber stamp' and said his organization intends to challenge the decision.

'The utilities involved in the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline claim utility customers will save money, when in fact this pipeline will drive up ratepayers' bills—and cause harm to national forests and to rivers and streams while threatening to commit our states to fossil fuels for decades to come," he says.'"

"This poorly-planned pipeline will hurt the local economy, pollute central Virginia's clean drinking water supply and scar the Appalachian National Scenic Trail," Ron Tipton, president and CEO of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy said in a statement.

"Central Virginia does not need another pipeline to fulfill America's energy needs, particularly one that violates local environmental laws and is strongly opposed by local elected officials and citizen groups."

**************

Rover Pipeline Spills Water Containing Gasoline Into Michigan Wetlands

Ecowatch
10/17/2017

Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) issued a violation notice to Energy Transfer Partners after its Rover pipeline project spilled water containing gasoline into wetlands near Pinckney.

The violation notice was issued after the department's Water Resources Division (WRD) staff received a complaint on Wednesday regarding a petroleum odor coming from water discharged from the pipeline project near the northern crossing of Dexter-Townhall Road in Washtenaw County.

Upon inspecting the site, WRD staff noted a petroleum odor and observed a sheen in the dewatering enclosure. Staff from the Remediation and Redevelopment Division inspected the site on Thursday and also noted the presence of a petroleum odor and determined a nearby former gas station was the likely source.

"Due to the observed odors and the close proximity to a former gas station, the source of the petroleum is likely to be contaminated groundwater from a release at the former gas station," the violation notice states. "The contaminated groundwater is being captured through the dewatering process, which is being employed for the pipeline installation and is being discharged to the wetland. Regardless of the potential source, the presence of odor and sheen indicates a discharge of petroleum-contaminated water from the dewatering activities being conducted on site."

Because of the petroleum contamination, the company must apply for a special permit and treat the water prior to discharging it, MDEQ said. Additionally, the water withdrawal system should be registered with the DEQ prior to operating because it has the capacity to pump more than 100,000 gallons a day.

"Finally, Rover's dewatering activities may be exacerbating the spread of contaminated groundwater," the notice states.

The company has until Oct. 18, to submit a written response confirming intents and summarizing actions to resolve the issues.

"While the department recognizes that Energy Transfer is taking immediate action to address the violations outlined in the notice, the DEQ's priority is protecting public health and protecting the environment," a MDEQ spokesperson told EcoWatch.

According to a press release from Michigan Residents Against the ET Rover Pipeline, local residents first noticed the spill at the pipeline's construction easement on Dexter Townhall Rd. where the right-of-way crosses a wetland.

The residents estimated that hundreds of gallons of water per minute had been spilling over a silt-fence reservoir meant to temporarily contain water moving from one wetland to another. The residents noticed that the water smelled strongly of gasoline.

An Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson told EcoWatch on Friday—before the violation notice was issued—that the water is coming from a dewatering well point system.

"The water is pumping through one of the silt fencing structures and due to the heavy rainfall we have had periodically the last few days, the well point system is bringing decomposing organic vegetation from underground up to the surface with the water," the spokesperson said. "The FERC monitor and the Michigan DEQ monitors have both been onsite and have stated that the work is going according to plan. We will continue to work with both agencies as a precautionary measure."

Once complete, the 713-mile Rover pipeline will carry fracked gas across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Michigan and Canada. Construction has been plagued by numerous environmental violations, including a 2 million gallon drilling fluid spill into an Ohio wetland in April.

 43 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
World petrol demand 'likely to peak by 2030 as electric car sales rise'

Wood Mackenzie predicts global oil growth will plateau about 2035 – earlier than some previous forecasts

Adam Vaughan
Guardian
17 October 2017 17.04 BST

World petrol demand will peak within 13 years thanks to the impact of electric cars and more efficient engines, energy experts have predicted.

UK-based Wood Mackenzie said it expected the take-up of electric vehicles to cut gasoline demand significantly, particularly beyond 2025 as the battery-powered cars go mainstream.

Combined with car manufacturers forced by regulations to produce models that run further on the same amount of oil, a new report by the analysts suggests global gasoline demand is likely to peak by 2030.

The UK and France have recently said they will phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. China, the world’s biggest car market, is mulling a similar move, which would have a significant impact on oil demand.

Of the 96m barrels of oil consumed globally each day, 60m are used for transport, which Wood Mackenzie predicts will stall by 2030.

Alan Gelder, a senior analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said the ripples of gasoline’s plateau would be felt much earlier, as oil companies put off investment in refineries and the number of petrol stations is reduced.

“We are becoming increasingly efficient as we use our energy. So as economies grow we are less reliant on oil, so the significance of oil in the global economy should decline over time,” said Gelder.

For countries that rely strongly on tax income from fuel duty, such as the £28bn the tax brings in for the UK each year, falling gasoline demand will pose a challenge for governments, he said.

In the short term, regulatory changes to fuel efficiency standards imposed by Barack Obama in the US, and by the EU and China, will be the biggest curb on gasoline demand. Battery-powered cars are expected to have a bigger impact later.

“Post-2025, that’s where electric car sales take off. The further you go into the future, the more it’s electric cars,” said Gelder, who foresees plug-in models taking 10% of global new car sales by 2030. If cities began banning cars with a combustion engine, that would rapidly accelerate the switch to electric vehicles, he added.

While gasoline will peak first, the analysts expect total oil demand to plateau about 2035, as growth is hit by climate change policies and developing world economies maturing.

Although the “market used to worry about peak oil supply”, Wood Mackenzie said, the industry’s chief concern now was a peak in demand.

“The prospect of peak oil demand is very real,” said the group. Its forecast of peak oil demand is relatively early compared with BP’s prediction of the mid-2040s and the International Energy Agency’s expectation of 2040.

However, some oil firms, such as Shell, believe the peak could come in the early 2030s or potentially even late 2020s due to growth in cars powered by biofuels and batteries. The Anglo-Dutch firm believes the impact on oil demand from more fuel-efficient cars will far outweigh the impact of electric vehicles.

The price of of oil stood at one of its highest levels this year on Thursday, at $58.24 (£43.83) a barrel, after reports of skirmishes between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in oil-producing areas, and concerns over sanctions against Iran.

• Toyota has announced it will test electric cars in Japan from 2020 equipped with artificial intelligence to help the cars better understand and adapt to their drivers. A driverless concept car, the Concept i-series, can also be driven manually.

The AI will gauge “emotion and level of alertness by reading the driver’s expressions, actions, and tone of voice”, the Japanese manufacturer said.

 44 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:49 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Raw sewage 'flowing into rivers across England and Wales'

WWF analysis reports that 40% of rivers are polluted with sewage that can harm wildlife and put human health at risk

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
17 October 2017 08.21 BST

Raw sewage is flowing into rivers at thousands of sites across England and Wales, a report has warned, harming wildlife and putting human health at risk.

The total amount of raw sewage intentionally being put into rivers is unknown, which is a “huge concern”, according to conservation group WWF, which produced the analysis. The available data suggests that more than half of overflow sites spill sewage into rivers at least once a month and 14% at least once a week.

WWF argued this is far more frequently than allowed under regulations that permit overflows only at times of unusually heavy rainfall, when treatment works cannot cope.

The report also said the number of reported sewage pollution incidents, including failures at sewage treatment plants, rose in 2016 for the first time since 2012. Furthermore, only 14% of rivers in England have “good” ecological status, which reflects both sewage and farm pollution and low water levels, compared with 27% in 2010.

Sewage pollution can cause algal blooms that starve rivers of oxygen and kill fish, as well as affecting the wildlife such as kingfishers and otters that depend on them. The pathogens in untreated sewage can also threaten people’s health, causing gastroenteritis and even septicaemia and hepatitis A.

“Britain’s bountiful rivers have forever provided the lifeblood of our nation – vital to our economy as well as our wildlife and our own wellbeing,” said Tanya Steele, the WWF chief executive. “The current situation is unacceptable. These findings demonstrate the urgent need to transform the way we treat our freshwater environment.” The government must force water companies to act, WWF says.

The analysis reports that 40% of the rivers in England and Wales are polluted with sewage, which comes from almost 18,000 sewage overflow sites operated by water companies and from treatment plant breakdowns. Thames Water had the highest proportion of rivers affected by sewage – 72% – followed by Southern and Anglian Water.

Until recently, there was little monitoring of how often and for how long the overflows spill sewage into rivers. But data from south-west Wales showed overflows there spilled for an average of 217 hours over a year, with 9% spilling for at least 730 hours a year, equivalent to flowing constantly for a whole month.

WWF warns that without action the situation is likely to get worse due to rising population, increasing urbanisation and climate change making intense rain more common. “It seems companies are relying on sewer overflows to compensate for under-capacity” at treatment plants, the report states. “Our research has revealed a sewerage system on the edge; one that is ill-equipped to protect people and nature as we face the tough challenges ahead.”

An Environment Agency spokeswoman said: “There have been dramatic improvements to water quality over the last two decades but there is more to do. We have set more stringent targets for the water sector, stated they must do more to reduce pollution incidents and in the most serious cases taken enforcement action leading to record fines.”

Since 2015, 4,000 of the sewage overflow sites have been fitted with monitoring equipment to record the frequency and duration of spills and by March 2020 about 11,500 will be monitored, the EA spokeswoman said.

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: “Our rivers are the cleanest they have been since industrial times and we’re working with the water industry to meet tougher targets and improve their planning and investment in wastewater infrastructure.”

A spokesman for Water UK, which represents water companies, said that in relation to pollution incidents WWF had failed to distinguish between the most serious, which increased from four to nine in 2016, and the vast majority which the EA classes as having “only a limited or localised effect on water quality”.

“There’s a genuine debate to be had about how we as a country are going to deal with sewage and drainage issues in future in a way which protects our environment, but WWF have muddied the waters with an inaccurate picture of what is going on,” he said. Wildlife such as salmon and otters have returned to some rivers, he added.

Coastal waters have seen a big reduction in sewage pollution in recent decades but action on rivers has lagged behind, WWF argues. “We know the water industry can clean up their act, if given the right push. They just have to get on and do it,” said Catherine Moncrieff, the freshwater policy manager at WWF.

****************

High-street outlets move to ditch plastic amid environmental concerns

Pret A Manger becomes the latest to act by offering free filtered water and selling empty glass bottles

Nicola Davis
17 October 2017 06.00 BST
Guardian

A growing number of outlets selling food and drink in the UK are taking action to ditch plastic amid deepening concern about its effect on the environment, with drinking straws and bottles among items being phased out.

Pret A Manger has become the latest to take action, announcing that it has installed taps dispensing free filtered water and started selling empty glass bottles in its three vegetarian stores. The scheme is due to be rolled out to branches in Manchester from the end of October.

The move follows a flurry of schemes introduced by businesses and charities, from pub chain Wetherspoons to the Zoological Society of London, to curb plastic waste amid rising concern over the vast tide of containers, bottles and other paraphernalia washing up around the world.

While plastic bottles of water will still be available at the Pret stores, the company says the goal is to explore whether customers will take up the plastic-free option.

“We’ve been really surprised and encouraged by the hugely positive response on social media – we’ve even sold quite a few glass bottles already,” said Caroline Cromar, the brand director of Pret. “We’ll be listening carefully to feedback from our customers and shop teams before we decide on the next stage.”

The move, according to Pret, comes from a growing desire to tackle the impact of plastic waste on the environment.

A Guardian investigation this year discovered that a million plastic bottles are bought worldwide every minute, while recent research has revealed that of the 6.3bn tons of plastic waste produced between 1950 and 2015, almost 80% has ended up in landfill or in the environment – including the oceans. Plastic contamination is now found in everything from tap water to sea salt.

Pret is not alone is attempting to wean consumers off plastic. Last month Wetherspoons announced that it would stop using plastic drinking straws from 2018, while Borough Market in London promised this summer that it would end sales of single-use plastic bottles and install public drinking fountains.

Meanwhile Selfridges, which announced in 2015 that it would stop selling single-use plastic water bottles, has now gone a step further. A spokesperson said that it, too, recently phased out the use of plastic straws in its eateries and restaurants, adding that a permanent water fountain will be installed in its London store in 2018.

It is not only high-street retailers that are taking action. The media company Sky recently revealed that it is removing disposable plastic – including bottles of water and cups – from its canteen.

UK visitor attractions are also tackling the issue. “Obviously as a conservation charity the subject of plastic in the ocean is very close to our hearts,” said Kathryn England, the head of commercial at ZSL, which runs London Zoo and Whipsnade Zoo in Bedfordshire.
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Since the summer of 2016 ZSL has no longer sold single-use plastic bottles of water at its London and Whipsnade sites, instead installing water fountains and embracing alternative packaging.

The move, said England, was not without difficulties. “There is not that much out there that isn’t plastic at the moment,” she said. “One of the big challenges that we have as a zoo is that we can’t have glass on site for safely reasons.”

In the end, ZSL opted for cardboard cartons of plain and flavoured water with polyethylene terephthalate (PET)-free caps, as well as resealable cans of both still and sparkling water.

The transition, England said, not only stacked up commercially, but has gone down well with the 2m visitors that visit the zoos every year. “We’ve not had a single element of pushback since we rolled [the scheme] out,” she said, adding that ZSL had taken steps to explain the reasoning behind the move to visitors.

With its mission accomplished, England says ZSL is now going further. “By the end of the year, our entire drinks range across our two zoos will be 100% single-use plastic bottle free,” she said, adding that finding healthy and non-carbonated drinks with plastic-free packaging was no mean feat.

But not everyone is following suit. A spokesperson for Costa Coffee responded to Pret’s move by pointing out that free water was already available in its stores. “Our baristas are more than happy to provide glasses of tap water to our customers on request,” they said.

However, while a recent survey found that 61% of people “wouldn’t pay for bottled water if tap water was available”, 37% said they would be embarrassed to ask for free tap water – even if they were buying items at the same time.

England said she welcomed the announcement from Pret, but added that manufacturers and those in the field of waste management needed to facilitate the use of plastic-free options, including compostable corn-starch containers.

“I think the more brands like this can come on board, the more pressure that puts on the big manufacturers to actually switch over and start creating and developing innovation that is going to come up with an alternative solution to plastic that will work for everybody,” she said.

 45 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Indigenous rights 'serious obstacle' to Kinder Morgan pipeline, report says

Pipeline company downplaying major legal and financial risks of crossing unceded First Nations territory in British Columbia

Martin Lukacs
17 October 2017 16.22 BST
Guardian

The controversial expansion of a pipeline that would carry tar sands crude from Alberta to British Columbia’s coast will be doomed by the rising power of Indigenous land rights.

That’s the message that Kanahus Manuel, an Indigenous activist from the Secwepemc Nation in central BC, plans to deliver to banks financing the project as she travels through Europe this week.

She’ll have in hand a report being released today by the Indigenous Network on Economies and Trade, which argues that Texas-based Kinder Morgan has misled financial backers about the risks of expanding its TransMountain pipeline, almost half of which runs across “unceded” Secwepemc territory.

The project, whose cost has ballooned from $5.4 to $7.4bn, would nearly triple capacity on an existing pipeline to ship 890,000 barrels a day to Asian markets, locking in expanded production of one of the world’s most carbon-intensive oils.

The report details “significant legal, financial and reputation risks” that amount to “serious obstacles” it says have been downplayed by Kinder Morgan in its dealings with Canadian and international banks.

The key risks, identified by economists and lawyers based on the pipeline’s history, Canadian legal precedents, and financial documents, include Kinder Morgan’s plans to build on lands whose ownership is hotly contested.

The pipeline crosses 518km of Secwepemc territory over which the First Nations assert Aboriginal title, a type of land rights that the supreme court of Canada has recognized were never ceded or relinquished through treaties.

The Secwepemc could not oppose the original Trans Mountain pipeline being built through their territory in 1951, because it was illegal at the time for Indigenous peoples to politically organize or hire lawyers to advocate on their behalf.

“Kinder Morgan either does not understand the diverse realities of Indigenous rights in Canada or they are wilfully ignoring the consequences of those rights for the project,” the report says. “Either way, it should be a major red flag for investors, lenders, and other financial backers.”

Kinder Morgan did not return a request for comment.

Banks are increasingly rethinking their investments in the tar sands – French bank BNP Paribas pledged last week to stop financing pipelines carrying tar sands oil, following similar moves by Dutch Bank ING and Sweden’s largest pension fund AP7.

The report also notes that the likelihood of increasing Indigenous protest has not been accounted for by the company.

Inspired by her time at the Standing Rock encampment, this fall Manuel and others finished constructing the first of several tiny houses – to be outfitted with solar-panels – that they will place in the path of the pipeline as an act of defiance.

“We will defend with all of our capacities our unceded lands and waters from this climate chaos-fuelling pipeline,” Manuel said from Europe. “The government has to follow the minimum standards laid out in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – that includes free, prior and informed consent, which they have not gotten from us for the project. Instead Kinder Morgan is hiding the risks and the costs their backers will face when this pipeline doesn’t get built.”

Kinder Morgan’s initially estimated the pipeline would be in operation by late 2017, but delays have pushed back the date to spring 2020.

Each month of delay costs the company $5.6m in expenses and $88m in lost revenue, according to an affidavit Kinder Morgan filed in court during a stand-off near Vancouver in 2014, when 100 Indigenous and non-Indigenous activists were arrested trying to block exploratory drilling by the company.

The pipeline project has the backing of the Alberta government and prime minister Justin Trudeau, whose natural resources minister has previously suggested the government could call in the Canadian military to deal with protests, evoking the prospect of what First Nations leaders have labelled a “Standing Rock of the North.”

The Trudeau government approved the pipeline in 2016, but the recently-elected NDP provincial government in BC has said it “would employ every tool available” to stop it. Both governments have committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The BC government joined as an intervenor in federal court of appeal hearings last week, supporting legal challenges against the pipeline launched by First Nations closer to the coast, municipalities, and environmental organizations.

The report comes on the heels of TransCanada withdrawing its application to build Energy East, the largest proposed tar sands pipeline that would have carried 1.1m barrels daily to the east coast.

It was hobbled by political protests, as well as the recent introduction of a “climate test” that would evaluate how the project might impact Canada’s overall carbon emissions.

Research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives has found that Canada cannot build new tar sands export pipelines and expand production and still hope to meet its Paris accord climate commitments.

 46 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Scientists use genetics to make corn more nutritious - helping millions of the world's poorest people

Millions of people around the world would benefit from the corn

By Aristos Georgiou
October 17, 2017 21:00 BST
IBF

Scientists have developed an efficient method to genetically boost the nutritional value of corn – the world's largest commodity crop – by inserting a gene that that causes it to produce a key nutrient.

The finding could potentially benefit millions of people in low-income countries who depend on corn as a staple, as well as significantly reducing worldwide corn animal feed costs, resulting in lower food prices.

The enhanced corn could go some way to addressing deficiencies in the diets of many in low-income countries ,who are priced out of eating nutritionally rich food.

"We improved the nutritional value of corn, the largest commodity crop grown on Earth," said Thomas Leustek, co-author of the study from Rutgers University. "Most corn is used for animal feed, but it lacks methionine – a key amino acid – and we found an effective way to add it."

The study detailing the finding is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The key ingredient methionine – which is found in meat – is one of the nine essential amino acids that humans get from food. It is responsible for tissue repair, improving skin tone, strengthening nails and the flexibility of the skin and hair.

In addition, sulphur – which is present in methionine – protects cells from pollutants, slows cell ageing and is required for the absorption of minerals such as selenium and zinc.

According to Joachim Messing, senior author of the study, several billion dollars-worth of synthetic methionine is added to field corn – which is used to feed animals – every year because it is not present naturally

"It is a costly, energy-consuming process," said Messing. "Methionine is added because animals won't grow without it. In many developing countries where corn is a staple, methionine is also important for people, especially children. It's vital nutrition, like a vitamin."

The scientists genetically modified the corn using an E. coli bacterial gene to boost the amount of methionine in the corn kernels by 57%.

 47 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Climate change clams: Baltic sea molluscs release as much greenhouse gas as 20,000 dairy cows

Oceans which contain clams and worms release 8 times more methane than those without.

By Aristos Georgiou
October 17, 2017 18:33 BST
IBF

New research suggests that ocean clams and worms are releasing a significant amount of potentially harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Scientists from Cardiff University and Stockholm University have shown that these ocean creatures are releasing huge amounts of the strongest greenhouse gases – methane and nitrous oxides – from the bacteria in their guts.

The methane gas – which has 28 times more warming potential than carbon dioxide – gets released into the water and makes its way into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

The analysis, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed that 10% of total methane emissions from the Baltic Sea could come from clams and worms. This is equivalent to the methane emitted by 20,000 dairy cows.

The identification of this neglected greenhouse gas source could have an impact on environmental policymakers. For example, it has been suggested that farming mussels, oysters and clams could be an effective solution against human pressures on the environment, such as eutrophication – when fertilisers are washed into natural water sources, damaging existing life.

The researchers say that the potential warming impacts should be considered before deciding whether to promote shellfish farming in large tracts of ocean.

"What is puzzling is that the Baltic Sea makes up only about 0.1% of Earth's oceans, implying that globally, apparently harmless bivalve animals at the bottom of the world's oceans may in fact be contributing ridiculous amounts of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere that is unaccounted for," said Ernest Chi Fru, co-author of the study from Cardiff University's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

Lead author of the study Stefano Bonaglia, from Stockholm University, said: "It sounds funny but small animals in the seafloor may act like cows in a stable, both groups being important contributors of methane due to the bacteria in their gut.

"These small yet very abundant animals may play an important, but so far neglected, role in regulating the emissions of greenhouse gases in the sea."

The results showed that sediments containing clams and worms increased methane production by a factor of eight, compared to completely bare sediments.

 48 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:35 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Secrets of bacterial antibiotic resistance unravelled, paving way for new life-saving drugs

76 new genes have been identified that could help scientists develop new drugs effective against multi-drug resistant bacteria.

By Aristos Georgiou
IBF
10/17/2017
   
Several previously unknown genes which make bacteria resistant to last-resort antibiotics have been identified by researchers from Chalmers University of Technology and the University of Gothenburg.

The new discovery could lead to the development of new drugs which can fight infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Just last, week the UK's chief medical officer warned that the growing threat of antibiotic resistance in bacteria could lead to a "post-antibiotic apocalypse" and the "end of modern medicine" as common medical treatments and transplants would become extremely risky.

The researchers discovered 76 genes while searching through large quantities of bacterial DNA taken from humans and various environments around the world. Some of the genes identified provide the bacteria with an ability to degrade carbapenems, our most-powerful type of antibiotic which is used to treat multi-drug resistant strains. Their results are published in the journal Microbiome.

"Our study shows that there are lots of unknown resistance genes. Knowledge about these genes makes it possible to more effectively find and hopefully tackle new forms of multi-resistant bacteria", said Erik Kristiansson, lead author of the study from Chalmers University of Technology.

"Resistance genes are often very rare, and a lot of DNA data needs to be examined before a new gene can be found", Kristiansson said.

Joakim Larsson, co-author of the study from the University of Gothenburg, added: "The more we know about how bacteria can defend themselves against antibiotics, the better are our odds for developing effective, new drugs".

Finding a resistance gene is a challenging task if it has never been encountered before, so the team developed new computational methods to search for patterns in DNA which are associated with antibiotic resistance.

"Our methods are very efficient and can search for the specific patterns of novel resistance genes in large volumes of DNA sequence data," said Fanny Berglund, a PhD student in the research group.

Looking forward, the team want to look for genes that provide resistance to other forms of antibiotic resistance.

"The novel genes we discovered are only the tip of the iceberg. There are still many unidentified antibiotic resistance genes that could become major global health problems in the future," Kristiansson said.

 49 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:34 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Penguins starving to death is a sign that something’s very wrong in the Antarctic

John Sauven
Guardian
17 October 2017 14.38 BST

The awful news that all but two penguin chicks have starved to death out of a colony of almost 40,000 birds is a grim illustration of the enormous pressure Antarctic wildlife is under. The causes of this devastating event are complex, from a changing climate to local sea-ice factors, but one thing penguins, whales and other marine life don’t need is additional strain on food supplies.

Over the next year we have the opportunity to create an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary – the largest protected area on Earth – which would put the waters off-limits to the industrial fishing vessels currently sucking up the tiny shrimp-like krill, on which all Antarctic life relies.

In 1990, the Voyager 1 space probe looked back at Earth from six billion kilometres away and took a historic selfie of our solar system. What it saw, according to renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan, was a “pale blue dot”.

“Our planet is a blue planet,” echoed David Attenborough, in his opening words to the BBC’s landmark Blue Planet series. With over 70% of our world covered by water, this is no exaggeration. Our oceans can be seen from across the solar system.

The majority of this water falls outside of national borders. In fact, almost half of our planet is a marine natural wonder outside the boundaries of flags, languages and national divisions. These vast areas cover 230 million square kilometres, and they belong to us all. To give a sense of scale, that’s the size of every single continent combined, with another Asia, Europe and Africa thrown in for good measure. The size of our oceans may seem overwhelming. Our collective responsibility to protect them, however, should not.

It wasn’t long ago that the oceans were thought to be too vast to be irrevocably impacted by human actions, but the effects of overfishing, oil drilling, deep sea mining, pollution and climate change have shown that humans are more than up to the task of imperilling the sea and the animals that live there.

All of us who live on this planet are the guardians of these environments, not only to protect the wildlife that lives in them, but because the health of our oceans sustains our planet and the livelihoods of billions of people.

Here’s the good news. The tide of history is turning. We on the blue planet are finally looking seriously at protecting the blue bits. Just a few months ago, in a stuffy room far from the sea, governments from around the world agreed to start a process to protect them: an ocean treaty.

This ocean treaty won’t be agreed until at least 2020, but in the meantime momentum is already building towards serious and binding ocean protection. Just last year a huge 1.5 million sq km area was protected in the Ross Sea in the Antarctic. In a turbulent political climate, it was a momentous demonstration of how international cooperation to protect our shared home can and does work.

Over the next two weeks, the governments responsible for the Antarctic are meeting to discuss the future of the continent and its waters. While limited proposals are on the table this year, when they reconvene in 12 months’ time they have a historic opportunity to create the largest ever protected area on Earth: an Antarctic Ocean sanctuary. Covering the Weddell Sea next to the Antarctic peninsula, it would be five times the size of Germany, the country proposing it.

The Antarctic is home to a great diversity of life: huge colonies of emperor and Adélie penguins, the incredible colossal squid with eyes the size of basketballs that allow it to see in the depths, and the largest animal on the planet, the blue whale, which has veins large enough for a person to swim down.
Antarctic sea ice levels hit record low, but experts are not sure why
Read more

The creeping expansion of industrial fishing is targeting the one species on which practically every animal in the Antarctic relies: krill. These tiny shrimp-like creatures are crucial for the survival of penguins, whales, seals and other wildlife. With a changing climate already placing wildlife populations in the Antarctic under pressure, an expanding krill industry is bad news for the health of the Antarctic Ocean. Even worse, the krill industry and the governments that back it are blocking attempts at environmental protection in the Antarctic.

Ocean sanctuaries provide relief for wildlife and ecosystems to recover, but it’s not just about protecting majestic blue whales and penguin colonies. The benefits are global. Recovering fish populations spread around the globe and only now are scientists beginning to fully understand the role that healthy oceans play in soaking up carbon dioxide and helping us to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Sanctuaries encourage vital biodiversity, provide food security for the billions of people that rely on our oceans, and are essential to tackling climate change. Our fate and the fate of our oceans are intimately connected.

Creating the world’s largest ever protected area, in the Antarctic Ocean, would be a signal that corporate lobbying and national interests are no match for a unified global call for our political leaders to protect what belongs to us all. The movement to protect over half our planet begins now, and it begins in the Antarctic.

• John Sauven is director of Greenpeace

Click to watch: <iframe src="https://embed.theguardian.com/embed/video/world/video/2016/oct/28/landmark-agreement-will-create-worlds-largest-marine-park-in-antarctica-video" width="560" height="315" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

 50 
 on: Oct 17, 2017, 04:29 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Wolf Puppies Are Adorable. Then Comes the Call of the Wild

By JAMES GORMAN
OCT. 17, 2017
NY Times

NICOLET, Quebec — I’m sitting in an outdoor pen with four puppies chewing my fingers, biting my hat and hair, peeing all over me in their excitement.

At eight weeks old, they are two feet from nose to tail and must weigh seven or eight pounds. They growl and snap over possession of a much-chewed piece of deer skin. They lick my face like I’m a long-lost friend, or a newfound toy. They are just like dogs, but not quite. They are wolves.

When they are full-grown at around 100 pounds, their jaws will be strong enough to crack moose bones. But because these wolves have been around humans since they were blind, deaf and unable to stand, they will still allow people to be near them, to do veterinary exams, to scratch them behind the ears — if all goes well.

Yet even the humans who raised them must take precautions. If one of the people who has bottle-fed and mothered the wolves practically since birth is injured or feels sick, she won’t enter their pen to prevent a predatory reaction. No one will run to make one of these wolves chase him for fun. No one will pretend to chase the wolf. Every experienced wolf caretaker will stay alert. Because if there’s one thing all wolf and dog specialists I’ve talked to over the years agree on, it is this: No matter how you raise a wolf, you can’t turn it into a dog.

As close as wolf and dog are — some scientists classify them as the same species — there are differences. Physically, wolves’ jaws are more powerful. They breed only once a year, not twice, as dogs do. And behaviorally, wolf handlers say, their predatory instincts are easily triggered compared to those of dogs. They are more independent and possessive of food or other items. Much research suggests they take more care of their young. And they never get close to that Labrador retriever “I-love-all-humans” level of friendliness. As much as popular dog trainers and pet food makers promote the inner wolf in our dogs, they are not the same.

The scientific consensus is that dogs evolved from some kind of extinct wolf 15,000 or more years ago. Most researchers now think that it wasn’t a case of snatching a pup from a den, but of some wolves spending more time around people to feed on the hunters’ leftovers. Gradually some of these wolves became less afraid of people, and they could get closer and eat more and have more puppies, which carried whatever DNA made the wolves less fearful. That repeated itself generation after generation until the wolves evolved to be, in nonscientific terms, friendly. Those were the first dogs.

People must spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for weeks on end with wolf puppies just to assure them that humans are tolerable. Dog puppies will quickly attach to any human within reach. Even street dogs that have had some contact with people at the right time may still be friendly.

Despite all the similarities, something is deeply different in dog genes, or in how and when those genes become active, and scientists are trying to determine exactly what it is.

There are clues.

Some recent research has suggested that dog friendliness may be the result of something similar to Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder in humans that causes hyper-sociability, among other symptoms. People with the syndrome seem friendly to everyone, without the usual limits.

Another idea being studied is whether a delay in development during a critical socializing period in a dog’s early life could make the difference. That delay might be discovered in the DNA, more likely in the sections that control when and how strongly genes become active, rather than in the genes themselves.

This is research at its very beginning, a long shot in some ways. But this past spring and summer, two scientists traveled to Quebec to monitor the development of six wolf pups, do behavior tests and take genetic samples. I followed them.

I visited other captive wolves as well, young and adult, to get a glimpse of how a research project begins — and, I confess, to get a chance to play with wolf puppies.

I wanted to have some firsthand experience of the animals I write about, to look wolves in the eye, so to speak. But only metaphorically. As I was emphatically told in a training session before going into an enclosure with adult wolves, the one thing you definitely do not do is look them in the eye.

Zoo Académie is a combination zoo and training facility here on the southern bank of the St. Lawrence River, about two hours from Montreal. Jacinthe Bouchard, the owner, has trained domestic and wild animals, including wolves, all over the world.

This past spring she bred two litters of wolf pups from two female wolves and one male she had already at the zoo. Both mothers gave birth in the same den around the same time at the beginning of June. Then unusually bad flooding of the St. Lawrence threatened the den, so Ms. Bouchard had to remove them at about seven days old instead of the usual two weeks.

Then began the arduous process of socializing the pups. Ms. Bouchard and her assistant stayed day and night with the animals for the first few weeks, gradually decreasing the time spent with them after that.

On June 30, Kathryn Lord and Elinor Karlsson showed up with several colleagues, including Diane Genereux, a research scientist in Dr. Karlsson’s lab who would do most of the hands-on genetics work.

Dr. Lord is part of Dr. Karlsson’s team, which splits time between the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester and the Broad Institute in Cambridge. Their work combines behavior and genetic studies of wolf and dog pups.

An evolutionary biologist, Dr. Lord is an old hand at wolf mothering. She has hand-raised five litters.

“You have to be with them 24/7. That means sleeping with them, feeding them every four hours on the bottle, ” Dr. Lord said.

Also, as Ms. Bouchard noted, “we don’t shower” in the early days, to let the pups get a clear sense of who they are smelling.

That’s very important, because both wolves and dogs go through a critical period as puppies when they explore the world and learn who their friends and family are.

With wolves, that time is thought to start at about two weeks, when the wolves are deaf and blind. Scent is everything.

In dogs, it starts at about four weeks, when they can see, smell and hear. Dr. Lord thinks this shift in development, allowing dogs to use all their senses, might be key to their greater ability to connect with human beings.

Perhaps with more senses in action, they are more able to generalize from tolerating individual humans with a specific scent to tolerating humans in general with a scent, sight and sound profile.

When the critical period ends, wolves, and to a lesser extent dogs, experience something like the onset of stranger anxiety in human babies, when people outside of the family suddenly become scary.

The odds of being able to pin down genetically the shift in this crucial stage are still long, but both Dr. Lord and Dr. Karlsson think the idea is worth pursuing, as did the Broad Institute. It provided a small grant from a program designed to support scientists who take leaps into the unknown — what you might call what-if research.

There are two questions the scientists want to explore. One, said Dr. Karlsson: ”How did a wolf that was living in the forest become a dog that was living in our homes?”

The other is whether fear and sociability in dogs are related to the same emotions and behaviors in humans. If so, learning about dogs could provide insights to some human conditions in which social interaction is affected, like autism, or Williams syndrome, or schizophrenia.

The pups at Zoo Académie were only three weeks old when the group of researchers arrived. I showed up the next morning and walked into a room strewn with mattresses, researchers and puppies.

The humans were still groggy from a night with little sleep. Pups at that age wake up every few hours to whine and paw any warm body within reach.

Wolf mothers prompt their pups to urinate and defecate by licking their abdomens. The human handlers massaged the pups for the same reason, but often the urination was unpredictable, so the main subject of conversation when I arrived was wolf pup pee. How much, on whom, from which puppy.

As soon as I walked in, I was handed a puppy to cradle and bottle-feed. The puppy was like a furry larva, persistent, single-minded, with an absolute intensity of purpose.

Even with fur, teeth and claws, the pups were still hungry and helpless, and I couldn’t help but remember holding my own children when they took a bottle. I suspect that tiger kittens and the young of wolverines are equally irresistible. It’s a mammal thing.

The first part of Dr. Lord’s testing was to confirm her observations that the critical period for wolves starts and ends earlier than that for dogs.

She set up a procedure for testing the pups by exposing them to something they could not possibly have encountered before — a jiggly buzzing contraption of bird-scare rods, a tripod and a baby’s mobile.

Each week she tested one pup, so that no pup got used to it. She would put the puppy in a small arena, with low barriers for walls and with the mobile turned on. She would hide, to avoid distracting the puppy. Video cameras recorded the action, showing how the pups stumbled and later walked around the strange object, or shied away from it, or went right up to sniff it.

At three weeks, the pups had been barely able to get around and were still sleeping almost every minute they weren’t nursing. By eight weeks, when I returned to have them gambol all over me, they were rambunctious and fully capable of exploration.

The researchers won’t publicize the results until observers who never saw the puppies view and analyze the videos. But Dr. Lord said that wolf experts considered eight-week-old wolf puppies past the critical period. They were so friendly to me and others because they had been successfully socialized already.

Before and after the test, she collected urine, to measure levels of a hormone called cortisol, which rises during times of stress. If the pup in the video would not approach the jiggly monster and cortisol levels were high, that would indicate that the pup had begun to experience a level of fear of new things that could stop exploration. That would confirm the timing of the critical period.

She and Dr. Karlsson and others from the lab also collected saliva for DNA testing. They planned to use a new technique called ATAC-seq that uses an enzyme to mark active genes. Then when the wolf DNA is fed into one of the advanced machines that map genomes, only the active genes would be on the map.

Dr. Genereux, who was isolating and then reading DNA, said she thought it was “a long shot” that they would find what they wanted. She and the other researchers plan to refine their techniques to ask the questions successfully.

When They Grow Up

And what are socialized wolves like when they grow up, once the mysterious genetic machinery of the dog and wolf direct them on their separate ways?

I also visited Wolf Park, in Battle Ground, Ind., a 65-acre zoo and research facility where Dana Drenzek, the manager, and Pat Goodmann, the senior animal curator, took me around and introduced me not only to puppies they were socializing, but to some adult wolves.

In the 1970s, Ms. Goodmann worked with Erich Klinghammer, the founder of Wolf Park, to develop the 24/7 model for socializing wolf puppies, exposing them to humans and then also to other wolves, so they could relate to their own kind but accept the presence and attentions of humans, even intrusive ones like veterinarians.

The sprawling outdoor baby pen was filled with cots and hammocks for the volunteers, since the wolves were now nine and 11 weeks old and living outdoors all the time. There were plastic and plywood hiding places for the wolves and plenty of toys. It looked like a toddlers’ playground, except for the remnants of their meals — the odd deer clavicle or shin bone, and other assorted ribs, legs and shoulder bones, sometimes with skin and meat still attached.

The puppies were extremely friendly with the volunteers they knew, and mildly friendly with me. The adult wolves I met were also courteous, but remote. Two older males, Wotan and Wolfgang, each licked me once and walked away. Timber, the mother of some of the pups, and tiny at 50 pounds, also investigated me and then retired to a platform nearby.

Only Renki, an older wolf who had suffered from bone cancer and now got around on three legs, let me scratch his head for a while. None was bothered by my presence. None was more than mildly interested. None seemed to realize or care about my own intense desire to see the wolves, be near them, learn about them, touch them.

I saw how powerfully a visit with wolves could affect how you feel about the animals. I wanted to come back and help raise pups, and keep visiting so that I could say an adult wolf knew me in some way.

But I also wondered whether it was right to keep wolves in this setting. In the wild, they travel large distances and kill their food. These wolves were all bred in captivity and that was never a possibility for them.

But was I simply indulging a fantasy of getting close to nature? Was this in the same category as wanting a selfie with a captive tiger? What was best for the wolves themselves?

I asked Ms. Goodmann about it. She said that park operated on the idea that getting to know the park’s wolves, which had never been deprived of an earlier life in the wild, would make visitors care more for wild wolves, for conservation, for preserving a life for wild carnivores that they could never be part of.

And she noted that Wolf Park operates as a combination zoo and research station. Students and others from around the world compete to work as interns, helping with everything from raising puppies to emptying the fly traps.

This is the rationale for all zoos, and it was a strong argument. Then she made it stronger. She pointed out that one of the interns, Doug Smith, worked on the reintroduction of wild wolves to Yellowstone National Park.

Dr. Smith has had a major role in the Wolf Restoration Project from the very beginning in 1995 and has been project leader since 1997. I reached him one morning at his office at park headquarters and asked him about his time as an intern at Wolf Park.

“I hand-reared four wolf pups, sleeping with them on a mattress for six weeks,” he said. “It had a profound effect. It was the first wolf job I ever got in my life. It turned into my career.”

From there he went on to study wild wolves on Isle Royale in Michigan, and then to work with L. David Mech, a pioneering wolf biologist who is senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey and an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota. Eventually, he went to Yellowstone to work on restoring wolves to the park.

He said ethical questions about keeping wild animals in captivity are difficult, even when every effort is made to enrich their lives. But places like Wolf Park provide great value, he said, if they can get people “to think about the plight of wolves across the world, and do something about it.”

In today’s environment, “with conservation on the run, nature on the run, you need them,” he added.

Then he said what all wolf specialists say: That even though wolf pups look like dogs, they are not, that keeping a wolf or a wolf-dog hybrid as a pet is a terrible idea.

“If you want a wolf,” he said, “get a dog.”

How Did Wolves Become Dogs? https://www.nytimes.com/video/science/100000005162472/wolves-puppies-become-dogs.html?action=click&contentCollection=science&module=lede&region=caption&pgtype=article

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