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 61 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 06:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

First Ever Tagging of Amazon Dolphins to Boost Conservation Efforts

Ecowatch
12/14/2017

For the first time ever, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and research partners are now tracking river dolphins in the Amazon using satellite technology after scientists successfully tagged dolphins in Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia, attaching small transmitters that will provide new insights into the animals' movements and behavior and the growing threats they face.

As of Dec. 5, 11 dolphins, including both Amazonian and Bolivian river dolphins—two of the four species of freshwater dolphin found in the world's largest river system—have safely been tagged and researchers are already studying the incoming data.

Despite their iconic status, little is known about the populations, habits or key habitats of river dolphins in the Amazon. While there are estimated to be tens of thousands of river dolphins, the species are currently listed as Data Deficient on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The tags will enable WWF and its partners to study where the dolphins go, where they feed and how far they migrate.

Freshwater dolphin being cared for during first ever tagging process in the Amazon in Bolivia.
Jaime Rojo / WWF-UK

"Satellite tracking will help us better understand the lives of this iconic Amazonian species more than ever before, helping to transform our approach to protecting them and the entire ecosystem," said Marcelo Oliveira, WWF Conservation Specialist, who led the expedition in Brazil. "Tagging these dolphins is the start of a new era for our work because we will finally be able to map where they go when they disappear from sight."

The tracking data will also guide efforts to tackle some of the major threats facing river dolphins, including hundreds of planned dams that would fragment many of the Amazon's remaining free flowing rivers, worsening mercury contamination from small-scale gold mining, and illegal fishing.

"We who live in the Amazon know that our environment is facing growing and unprecedented threats and that our future is linked to the future of dolphins," said Fernando Trujillo from Fundación Omacha, a Colombian research partner.

"This tagging project is critical because it will generate information that will enable governments across the region to target resources to protect dolphins and their habitats, which so many other species and communities also depend on," added Trujillo.

The capture and tagging of the dolphins followed a rigid protocol that prioritizes the welfare of the animals. Having been caught in nets by teams of specialists, the dolphins were taken to shore for tagging in an operation lasting 15 minutes on average, before being released back into the water. None of the dolphins were injured during the operation and none displayed any ill effects after release.

Along with installing the transmitters, the scientists also took samples from the animals, which they will analyze for mercury levels and general health.

WWF and its partners will assess this historic tagging operation over the coming months and will look to scale it up and tag more dolphins if the technology continues to prove successful. The initiative is the latest step in WWF's long-term efforts to conserve river dolphins across the Amazon.

In addition to scientific research, WWF will continue to work with communities, advocate with authorities and promote the creation of new protected areas.

 62 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 06:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
The Sloth’s Busy Inner Life

By NICHOLAS WADE
12/14/2017
NY Times

Spare a minute from your frenetically busy day to consider the quite different life of the three-toed sloth.

It’s true that the sloth, which lives in the jungles of Central and South America, would barely prevail in a race with a snail. But it’s not a sluggard because it’s lazy. Rather, it has carved out a remarkably ingenious mode of life in the treetops, but one that imposes certain constraints on its speed and energy level.

The sloth is not so much an animal as a walking ecosystem. This tightly fitting assemblage consists of a) the sloth, b) a species of moth that lives nowhere but in the sloth’s fleece and c) a dedicated species of algae that grows in special channels in the sloth’s grooved hairs. Groom a three-toed sloth and more than a hundred moths may fly out. When the sloth grooms itself, its fingers move so slowly that the moths have no difficulty keeping ahead of them.

The probable interplay of these three components has now been worked out by a team of biologists led by Jonathan N. Pauli and M. Zachariah Peery at the University of Wisconsin. Their first step was to ponder a 35-year-old mystery about the behavior of the sloth.

Every week or so, the sloth descends from its favorite tree to defecate. It digs a hole, covers the dung with leaves and, if it’s lucky, climbs back up its tree. The sloth is highly vulnerable on the ground and an easy prey for jaguars in the forest and for coyotes and feral dogs in the chocolate-producing cacao tree plantations that it has learned to colonize. Half of all sloth deaths occur on the ground. The other serious hazard in its life is an aerial predator, the harpy eagle.

Why then does the sloth take such a risk every week? Researchers who first drew attention to this puzzle in 1978 suggested that the sloth was seeking to fertilize its favorite tree. Meanwhile, the algae that gave the sloth’s coat a greenish hue were assumed to provide camouflage.

Writing last week in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the Wisconsin researchers assembled all these pieces in a different way. They started by trying to understand what would compel the sloth to brave the dangers of a weekly visit to ground zero.

Its distant evolutionary cousin, the two-toed sloth, stays safely in the canopy, out of the jaguar’s view. The visit to the ground, the researchers concluded, could not be for the tree’s benefit, because the sloth’s dung would not make much difference to its nutrition. Rather, they assumed, it was to favor a critical component of the sloth’s ecosystem, the pyralid moth. The descent to the sloth’s midden affords the pregnant moths in its fleece a chance to lay eggs.

The moths’ caterpillars are coprophagous or, to put it more bluntly, consumers of excrement. They grow to maturity in the sloth’s dung pellets and, on hatching, flutter up to the trees to find a sloth host. Burrowing into its fur, they mostly shed their wings and live there happily for the rest of their days, mating and dying in a safe, protected environment.

After they die, their bodies are decomposed by the host of fungi and bacteria in the sloth’s fur. The metabolic products of this decay, especially nitrogen, are the feedstock for the specialist algae that grow in the sloth’s hair shafts. The researchers guessed that the sloths might be eating the algae from their own fur, and that this could be the purpose of the whole system.

Sloths, Moths and Algae

Researchers studying why three-toed sloths would risk their lives to defecate on the forest floor found that the activity helps support a complex and beneficial ecosystem in the sloth’s fur.

Green algae grows on the sloth’s hair, which has tiny cracks that store water. The sloths are thought to eat the nutrient-rich algae to supplement their limited diet of leaves.

Three-toed sloths spend most of their lives in the forest canopy. The sloth’s diet of leaves is hard to digest and low in nutrients, and sloths have the slowest digestion of any mammal.

The sloths descend to the forest floor once a week to defecate. The journey is risky, and uses about 8 percent of the sloth’s daily calories. (Two-toed sloths typically defecate from the canopy instead.)

Adult moths leave the dung pile and fly up to the canopy, in search of sloths and mates. Moths increase the amount of nitrogen in the sloth’s fur, which encourages algae to thrive.

A species of moth lives in the sloth’s fur. Pregnant moths lay eggs in the sloth’s dung pile, where moth larvae will live until they mature.

Leaves are poor sources of nutrition, and animals that depend on them, like gorillas, often require large guts to hold them all. The sloth, having to climb along thin branches, can’t afford a big gut. It moves slowly because every calorie counts, and it pays to slow down its metabolism. But the invention of giving over its fleece to algae farming would go a long way to solving its problem of limited nutrition.

Dr. Pauli and his colleagues guessed that the sloth might be overcoming the poverty of its leaf diet by eating the algae on its fleece, and that the moths were essential fertilizer for the algae. In their paper they report much evidence in support of their hypothesis. The greater the infestation of moths, the more nitrogen a three-toed sloth carries in its fleece and the greater the amount of algae. An analysis of stomach contents showed the sloths were indeed eating the algae.

Two-toed sloths, which defecate from the trees, also harbor moths though to lesser extent. Still, they seem to be taking advantage of the sloth-moth-algae mutualism without sharing any of the risk. What could be lower on the moral totem pole than a freeloading sloth?

Dr. Pauli said he and Dr. Peery started their sloth project in 2009 on a cacao tree plantation in Costa Rica, with the goal of seeing if the sloths could colonize the plantations when their native forest was destroyed. Studying a sloth’s movements might seem as exciting as watching paint dry but the researchers sidestepped this tedium, Dr. Pauli said, by tracking the sloths with electronic collars.

Genetic engineers sometimes dream of inserting chlorophyll molecules into human skin cells so that people could photosynthesize their own food. The sloth had the idea first, probably millions of years ago.

O.K., back to your harried, fast-paced schedules. But remember the sloth, which has solved all its problems by living in the slow lane.

 63 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:57 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Why did climate scientists emit 30,000 tonnes of C02 this last weekend?

Peter Kalmus

Around 25,000 of my colleagues flew to a conference, leaving a colossal carbon footprint in their wake. This makes our warnings less credible to the public

14 December 2017 08.00 GMT
Guardian

This last weekend, 25,000 Earth, Sun, and planetary scientists from across the US and abroad flew to New Orleans for the annual American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting. These scientists study the impact global warming is having on Earth. Unfortunately, their air travel to and from the meeting will contribute to that warming by emitting around 30,000 tonnes of CO2.

As an Earth scientist and AGU member myself, I know the importance of their work. Still, there’s something wrong with this picture. As scientists, our work informs us – with dreadful clarity and urgency – that burning fossil fuel is destroying the life support systems on our planet. There’s already more than enough science to know we need to stop. Yet most scientists burn more than the average American, simply because they fly more.

    I haven’t flown since 2012, nor have I wanted to

Few people know how harmful it is to fly in planes, including scientists. In 2010, I sat down and estimated my climate emissions. It turns out that, hour for hour, there’s no better way to warm the planet than to fly. I’d flown 50,000 miles during the year, mostly to scientific meetings. Those flights accounted for 3/4 of my annual emissions. Over the next two years, I gradually decreased my flying.

Eventually, there came a day when I was on the runway about to take off and felt an overwhelming desire not to be on the plane. I saw too clearly the harm it was doing to the world’s children, to all the beings on our planet. I haven’t flown since 2012, nor have I wanted to.

    Climate activists tend to fly a lot. This sends its own contradictory message

Today, while I know that my career could progress slightly faster if I flew, I find it hard to imagine a scenario that would make flying seem worthwhile to me. (If I really want to attend a conference in person, I take the train.) And I’ve realized that the main impact of reducing our emissions isn’t the emissions reduction itself: by modeling change, we tell a new story of what’s possible, shifting the culture and opening space for large-scale change.

In becoming scientists, we didn’t sign up to burn less fossil fuel or to be activists. But in the case of Earth science, we have front row seats to an unfolding catastrophe. Because of this, the public takes our temperature: if the experts don’t seem worried, how bad can it be?

When we make a conscious effort to contribute less to global warming, we can better communicate the urgency of the Earth system changes we’re seeing. As a citizen and a father, I know I feel a responsibility to sound the alarm. Not to do so, for me, would be a kind of denial.

I’m not alone. Over 400 academics have signed a petition at flyingless.org, and a few Earth scientists have joined me in telling their stories at noflyclimatesci.org. Together, we’re pushing for increased use of web-based and regional meetings, more remote support from the AGU, and more support from our academic institutions, which ostensibly exist to make the world a better place.

Like academics, climate activists also tend to fly a lot. This sends its own contradictory message: if the people urging us to burn less can’t even do it, then it must be impossible. But in reality, many of us could cut our emissions in half with little effort.

People who’ve gone even further than this report that their lives become more abundant and satisfying as a result, not less.

I’d love to see what would happen if prominent climate activists and outspoken celebrities would consciously, publicly, and radically reduce their own fossil fuel use. They could begin by flying less.

Burning fossil fuel causes real harm, and will become socially unacceptable sooner or later. Those of us who know the seriousness of global warming must do everything we can to stop it, and like it or not, AGU scientists play a key role. Once this shift gains momentum, policy and systems-level change will follow more quickly than we can imagine.

    Peter Kalmus is an atmospheric scientist at Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, but is writing in a personal capacity. He is the author of
    Being the Change: Live Well and Spark a Climate Revolution

 64 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:53 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Don’t Blame God or Nature. We’re the Culprits

Ecowatch
12/14/2017

Traditionally, we've labeled events over which we have no influence or control "acts of God" or "natural disasters." But what's "natural" about climate-induced disasters today? Scientists call the interval since the Industrial Revolution the "Anthropocene," a period when our species has become the major factor altering the biological, physical and chemical properties of the planet on a geological scale. Empowered by fossil fuel–driven technologies, a rapidly growing human population and an insatiable demand for constant growth in consumption and the global economy, our species is responsible for the calamitous consequences.

We now know that the weight of water behind large dams and injecting pressurized water into the Earth for fracking induce earthquakes. Clearing large swathes of forests, draining wetlands, depleting water for industrial agriculture, polluting marine and freshwater ecosystems with nitrogen, plastics and pesticides from farmland and cities, expanding urban areas and employing ecologically destructive fishing practices such as drift nets and trawling all combine to produce species extinction on a scale not seen since the mega-extinction of dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

But we use language to deflect blame from ourselves. Not long ago, wolves, seals and basking sharks were called "pests" or "vermin," regarded as nuisances to be killed for bounties. Insects are the most numerous, diverse and important group of animals in ecosystems, yet all are affected by insecticides applied to eliminate the handful that attack commercial crops. One egregious class of pesticide is neonicotinoids, nerve toxins to which bees—important pollinators—are especially sensitive. Ancient forests are called "wild" or "decadent" while plantations that replace them after clear cutting are termed "normal."

One of the rarest ecosystems on Earth is the temperate rainforest stretching between Alaska and northern California, pinched between the Pacific Ocean and coastal mountains. The huge trees there have been decimated in the U.S. Fewer than 10 percent remain. Yet environmentalists who called for the entire remnant to be protected from logging were branded as "greedy."

Former BC Premier Glen Clark famously labelled environmentalists like me "enemies of BC" Former federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver called us "foreign-funded radicals" while others said we were "eco-terrorists." The real enemies, radicals and eco-terrorists are those who rush to destroy forests, watersheds or the atmosphere without regard to ecological consequences.

Recently defeated BC Premier Christy Clark called opponents of pipelines or LNG plants "forces of no." We who want to protect what we all need to survive would more accurately be called "forces of know" who say "yes" to a future of clean, renewable energy and a rich environment.

We seem to have forgotten that the word economy, like ecology, is based on the Greek oikos, meaning "domain" or "household." Because of our ability to find ways to exploit our surroundings, humans are not confined to a specific habitat or ecosystem. We've found ways to live almost everywhere—in deserts, the Arctic, jungles, wetlands and mountains. Ecologists seek the principles, rules and laws that enable species to flourish sustainably. Economists are charged with "managing" our activity within the biosphere, our domain.

Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper decreed it was impossible to act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to avoid climate change because it would destroy the economy. To people like him, the economy is more important than the air that provides weather and climate and enables us to live. At the same time, many "fiscal conservatives" rail against an effective market solution to climate change—carbon pricing—ignoring the example of Sweden, which imposed a carbon tax of about $35 a tonne in 1991, grew its economy by 60 percent by 2012 while reducing emissions by 25 percent, then raised the tax to more than $160 in 2014.

We know climate change is caused primarily by human use of fossil fuels. It's influencing the frequency and intensity of such events as monstrous wildfires (Kelowna, Fort McMurray), floods (Calgary, Toronto), hurricanes (Katrina, Sandy), drought (California, Alberta), and loss of glaciers and ice sheets. There's no longer anything "natural" about them. We must acknowledge the human imprint. If we're the cause of the problems, then we must stop blaming "nature" or "God." We have to take responsibility and tackle them with the urgency they require.

 65 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:52 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja

Lawsuit Launched Against Trump EPA for Approving Fracking Waste Dumping Into Gulf of Mexico

Ecowatch
12/14/2017

The Center for Biological Diversity filed on Thursday a formal notice of intent to sue the Trump administration for allowing oil companies to dump waste from fracking and drilling into the Gulf of Mexico without evaluating the dangers to sea turtles, whales or other imperiled marine life.

In September the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a Clean Water Act permit for new and existing offshore oil and gas platforms operating in federal waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi. The permit allows oil companies to dump unlimited amounts of waste fluid, including chemicals involved in fracking, into the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Trump administration is letting the oil industry turn our oceans into toxic-waste dumps. The EPA's supposed to protect water quality, not help pollute the Gulf," said Kristen Monsell, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It's time for the courts to remind this agency that its mission is to safeguard the environment and public health."

Thursday's notice letter highlighted the fact that the agency's approval of the permit without studying risks to imperiled species in the Gulf of Mexico is a violation of the federal Endangered Species Act.

Fracking chemicals and other contaminants in produced water raise grave ecological concerns because the Gulf of Mexico provides important habitat for whales, sea turtles and fish—as well as being federally designated critical habitat for imperiled loggerhead sea turtles. Dolphins and other species in the Gulf are still suffering the lingering destructive effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Federal waters off Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi host the largest concentration of offshore oil and gas drilling activities in the country. Previous records requests revealed that oil companies dumped more than 75 billion gallons of wastewater into these waters in 2014 alone. Records also show that fracking has been on the rise in the Gulf of Mexico, and the EPA has failed to conduct any meaningful review of the environmental impacts of dumping fracking waste into the water.

In October the Trump administration announced plans to auction off more than 76 million acres of Gulf of Mexico waters to oil companies. That lease sale, which is scheduled for March 2018, will be the largest oil sale in U.S. history. It includes federal waters off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida and could vastly expand drilling and fracking in the Gulf.

"Only the courts can stop Trump's assault on our oceans," Monsell said. "Oil-industry pollution was already a problem in the Gulf, but this administration isn't even trying to protect wildlife from fracking chemicals. We need to fight back on behalf of marine wildlife."

At least 10 fracking chemicals routinely used in offshore fracking could kill or harm a broad variety of marine species, including marine mammals and fish, Center for Biological Diversity scientists have found. The California Council on Science and Technology has identified some common fracking chemicals to be among the most toxic in the world to marine animals.

Today's 60-day notice of intent to sue is required before a lawsuit can be filed to compel the federal government to comply with the Endangered Species Act.

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

'The Wrong Mine in the Wrong Place': Former Republican EPA Administrators Blast Alaska Mining Project

By Taryn Kiekow Heimer
Ecowatch
12/14/2017

An U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator under every Republican presidential administration since the EPA was created, except the Ford administration, whose administrator is deceased, have joined forces to make a statement in opposition to the Pebble Mine proposed in Bristol Bay, Alaska. Their statement appeared Tuesday as a full-page ad in the Washington Post.

The message is clear: "The Pebble Mine is the wrong mine in absolutely the wrong place."

The statement also decries EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt's backroom deal with the Pebble Partnership that simultaneously managed to breathe new life into the dying project and abandon years' worth of agency science and process.

The short but hard-hitting bipartisan statement is signed by former EPA Administrators William D. Ruckelshaus (Presidents Nixon and Reagan), William K. Reilly (President George H.W. Bush), and Christine Todd Whitman (President George W. Bush). The statement is also joined by former Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt (President William J. Clinton), whose former Chief of Staff Tom Collier is currently heading the Pebble Partnership.

The statement is featured on the back page of the Washington Post and is supported by Bristol Bay tribes, villages, commercial fishermen, sportsmen and conservationists.

United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Nunamta Aulukestai, Sustaining Bristol Bay Fisheries, Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay, Trout Unlimited, Salmon State, Trustees for Alaska, and the Natural Resources Defense Council all signed onto the ad.

Click here to show your solidarity with this statement and support for Bristol Bay. It's long-past time to stop the Pebble Mine!

https://act.nrdc.org/letter/stop-pebble-mine-170918

 66 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:47 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Meat tax ‘inevitable’ to beat climate and health crises, says report

‘Sin taxes’ to reverse the rapid global growth in meat eating are likely in five to 10 years, according to a report for investors managing over $4tn

Damian Carrington Environment editor
Guardian
14 December 2017 11.55 GMT

“Sin taxes” on meat to reduce its huge impact on climate change and human health look inevitable, according to analysts for investors managing more than $4tn of assets.

The global livestock industry causes 15% of all global greenhouse gas emissions and meat consumption is rising around the world, but dangerous climate change cannot be avoided unless this is radically curbed. Furthermore, many people already eat far too much meat, seriously damaging their health and incurring huge costs. Livestock also drive other problems, such as water pollution and antibiotic resistance.

A new analysis from the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative argues that meat is therefore now following the same path as tobacco, carbon emissions and sugar towards a sin tax, a levy on harmful products to cut consumption. Meat taxes have already been discussed in parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden, the analysis points out, and China’s government has cut its recommended maximum meat consumption by 45% in 2016.

“If policymakers are to cover the true cost of human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, and livestock epidemics like avian flu, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidisation to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable,” said Jeremy Coller, the founder of Fairr and the chief investment officer at the private equity firm Coller Capital. “Far-sighted investors should plan ahead for this day.”

Maria Lettini, director of Fairr, said: “As implementation of the Paris climate agreement progresses we’re highly likely to see government action to reduce the environmental impact of the global livestock sector. On the current pathway we may well see some form of meat tax emerge within five to 10 years.”

Nations begin to implement sin taxes as consensus forms over the harm caused by the product, the analysis notes, and today more than 180 jurisdictions tax tobacco, more than 60 tax carbon emissions, and at least 25 tax sugar.

The first global analysis of meat taxes done in 2016 found levies of 40% on beef, 20% on dairy products and 8.5% on chicken would save half a million lives a year and slash climate warming emissions. Proposals in Denmark suggested a tax of $2.70 per kilogram of meat.

Meat taxes are often seen as politically impossible but research by Chatham House in 2015 found they are far less unpalatable to consumers than governments think. It showed people expect governments to lead action on issues that are for the global good, but that awareness of the damage caused by the livestock industry is low. Using meat tax revenues to subsidise healthy foods is one idea touted to reduce opposition.

“It’s only a matter of time before agriculture becomes the focus of serious climate policy,” said Rob Bailey at Chatham House. “The public health case will likely strengthen government resolve, as we have seen with coal and diesel. It’s hard to imagine concerted action to tax meat today, but over the course of the next 10 to 20 years, I would expect to see meat taxes accumulate.”

Marco Springmann, at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at the University of Oxford, said: “Current levels of meat consumption are not healthy or sustainable. The costs associated with each of those impacts could approach the trillions in the future. Taxing meat could be a first and important step.”

The need for a high meat tax could be reduced if breakthrough technologies emerge to drastically cut the emissions from livestock, said Lettini, but none exist today. Another, more promising option is the nascent but fast-growing industry in plant-based meat alternatives, such as the meat-free Impossible burger. Bill Gates has invested, and major meat and dairy companies are now piling in with investments and acquisitions.

“There are huge opportunities in the market,” said Lettini. “If we can start replacing meat protein with plant-based protein that has the same look, taste and feel as meat, where real red-blooded meat eaters are happy to dig into a burger that is plant-based, we are changing the world.”

 67 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:45 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Mass starvation is humanity’s fate if we keep flogging the land to death

George Monbiot

The Earth cannot accommodate our need and greed for food. We must change our diet before it’s too late

Guardian
14 December 2017 06.00 GMT

Brexit; the crushing of democracy by billionaires; the next financial crash; a rogue US president: none of them keeps me awake at night. This is not because I don’t care – I care very much. It’s only because I have a bigger question on my mind. Where is all the food going to come from?

By the middle of this century there will be two or three billion more people on Earth. Any one of the issues I am about to list could help precipitate mass starvation. And this is before you consider how they might interact.

The trouble begins where everything begins: with soil. The UN’s famous projection that, at current rates of soil loss, the world has 60 years of harvests left, appears to be supported by a new set of figures. Partly as a result of soil degradation, yields are already declining on 20% of the world’s croplands.

Now consider water loss. In places such as the North China Plain, the central United States, California and north-western India – among the world’s critical growing regions – levels of the groundwater used to irrigate crops are already reaching crisis point. Water in the Upper Ganges aquifer, for example, is being withdrawn at 50 times its recharge rate. But, to keep pace with food demand, farmers in south Asia expect to use between 80 and 200% more water by the year 2050. Where will it come from?

The next constraint is temperature. One study suggests that, all else being equal, with each degree celsius of warming the global yield of rice drops by 3%, wheat by 6% and maize by 7%. These predictions could be optimistic. Research published in the journal Agricultural & Environmental Letters finds that 4C of warming in the US corn belt could reduce maize yields by between 84 and 100%.

    I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes

The reason is that high temperatures at night disrupt the pollination process. But this describes just one component of the likely pollination crisis. Insectageddon, caused by the global deployment of scarcely tested pesticides, will account for the rest. Already, in some parts of the world, workers are now pollinating plants by hand. But that’s viable only for the most expensive crops.

Then there are the structural factors. Because they tend to use more labour, grow a wider range of crops and work the land more carefully, small farmers, as a rule, grow more food per hectare than large ones. In the poorer regions of the world, people with fewer than five hectares own 30% of the farmland but produce 70% of the food. Since 2000, an area of fertile ground roughly twice the size of the UK has been seized by land grabbers and consolidated into large farms, generally growing crops for export rather than the food needed by the poor.

While these multiple disasters unfold on land, the seas are being sieved of everything but plastic. Despite a massive increase in effort (bigger boats, bigger engines, more gear), the worldwide fish catch is declining by roughly 1% a year, as populations collapse. The global land grab is mirrored by a global sea grab: small fishers are displaced by big corporations, exporting fish to those who need it less but pay more. About 3 billion people depend to a large extent on fish and shellfish protein. Where will it come from?

All this would be hard enough. But as people’s incomes increase, their diet tends to shift from plant protein to animal protein. World meat production has quadrupled in 50 years, but global average consumption is still only half that of the UK – where we eat roughly our bodyweight in meat every year – and just over a third of the US level. Because of the way we eat, the UK’s farmland footprint (the land required to meet our demand) is 2.4 times the size of its agricultural area. If everyone aspires to this diet, how exactly do we accommodate it?

The profligacy of livestock farming is astonishing. Already, 36% of the calories grown in the form of grain and pulses – and 53% of the protein – are used to feed farm animals. Two-thirds of this food is lost in conversion from plant to animal. A graph produced last week by Our World in Data suggests that, on average, you need 0.01m2 of land to produce a gram of protein from beans or peas, but 1m2 to produce it from beef cattle or sheep: a 100-fold difference.

It’s true that much of the grazing land occupied by cattle and sheep cannot be used to grow crops. But it would otherwise have sustained wildlife and ecosystems. Instead, marshes are drained, trees are felled and their seedlings grazed out, predators are exterminated, wild herbivores fenced out and other life forms gradually erased as grazing systems intensify. Astonishing places – such as the rainforests of Madagascar and Brazil – are laid waste to make room for yet more cattle.

Because there is not enough land to meet both need and greed, a global transition to eating animals means snatching food from the mouths of the poor. It also means the ecological cleansing of almost every corner of the planet.

The shift in diets would be impossible to sustain even if there were no growth in the human population. But the greater the number of people, the greater the hunger meat eating will cause. From a baseline of 2010, the UN expects meat consumption to rise by 70% by 2030 (this is three times the rate of human population growth). Partly as a result, the global demand for crops could double (from the 2005 baseline) by 2050. The land required to grow them does not exist.

When I say this keeps me up at night, I mean it. I am plagued by visions of starving people seeking to escape from grey wastes, being beaten back by armed police. I see the last rich ecosystems snuffed out, the last of the global megafauna – lions, elephants, whales and tuna – vanishing. And when I wake, I cannot assure myself that it was just a nightmare.

Other people have different dreams: the fantasy of a feeding frenzy that need never end, the fairytale of reconciling continued economic growth with a living world. If humankind spirals into societal collapse, these dreams will be the cause.

There are no easy answers, but the crucial change is a shift from an animal- to a plant-based diet. All else being equal, stopping both meat production and the use of farmland to grow biofuels could provide enough calories for another 4 billion people and double the protein available for human consumption. Artificial meat will help: one paper suggests it reduces water use by at least 82% and land use by 99%.

The next green revolution will not be like the last one. It will rely not on flogging the land to death, but on reconsidering how we use it and why. Can we do this, or do we – the richer people now consuming the living planet – find mass death easier to contemplate than changing our diet?

• George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

 68 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Here is why seeing Earth from space is the key to the future

International Business Times
14 Dec 2017 at 08:16 ET   

Nearly 50 years ago, an event occurred that fundamentally changed the way we see ourselves — an event that in spite of forever changing the course of human history, is one that has for the most part been forgotten.

The story begins on the winter morning of Dec. 21, 1968 at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Atop the tallest, heaviest and most powerful rocket ever brought to operational status, the Saturn V, sat Apollo 8 with its three-astronaut crew: Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell and Lunar Module Pilot Bill Anders.

The aim of the mission: to be the first crewed spacecraft to reach and orbit the Moon, and of course, return safely to Earth.

Three days later, on Christmas Eve in 1968 — when Apollo 8 came out from behind the Moon on its fourth orbit — the crew witnessed something never before seen by human eyes. Commander Borman was the first to see the amazing sight and called in excitement to the others, taking a black-and-white photo as he did. In the ensuing scramble, Anders took a more famous color photo that has come to be known as Earthrise.

"Earthrise" taken by Apollo 8 crew member Bill Anders on December 24, 1968. Photo: Bill Anders/NASA

The Earthrise photograph is arguably the most influential photograph ever taken.

This image revolutionized how we see the world — how we see ourselves — with its simple message: We are one people traveling on one planet toward one common future. Unfortunately, the significance and meaning of this image has, for the most part, been forgotten.
Experiencing the Orbital Perspective

Forty years after that first Earthrise, I was also able to view our home planet from space.

The digital clock in the center of Discovery’s control panel, right in front of me, counted down to within a minute. As it reached below ten seconds, I prepared for the main engines to light. Once the main engines spun up to full power and the solid rocket boosters fired, I felt as if the entire space shuttle had just been released from a giant slingshot.

On that first day in space, the most spectacular moment was when I looked out the window for the first time. When I was able to unstrap and get out of my seat — after my tasks were finished and I was able to really take a look at our planet — it was just absolutely breathtaking.

The first thing that struck me was how thin the atmosphere appeared. I realized in that moment that this paper-thin layer keeps every living thing on Earth alive.

You can’t help falling in love with the beauty of Earth. It’s a constant dance of light, colors and motion. And what's really amazing — and beautiful — is watching the colors change on the Earth; watching thunderstorms casting long shadows across the horizon; and watching the clouds turn to pink and red, and then grey and finally black.

I watched the Earth come alive as we passed into the dark side of the orbit and watched all the lights of the cities and towns — all the evidence of human activity — all of a sudden come to life, making the Earth appear as a living breathing, organism. I saw the paparazzi-like flashes of lightning storms and dancing curtains of auroras that felt so close I could reach out and touch them. It was really beautiful to see.
Our Fragile Oasis

What I experienced in space was an immense gratitude for the opportunity to see Earth from that vantage point as well as for the gift of the planet we’ve been given. And in some way that I can’t fully explain, being physically detached from Earth made me feel deeply interconnected with everyone on it.

This feeling of interconnectedness became real to me on my second mission to space, during which I spent half of 2011 aboard the International Space Station. It was a mission that started with a launch from Kazakhstan in a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

An astronaut is pictured working with Earth shown in the background. Photo: Ron Garan/NASA

The International Space Station is not only an amazing technical accomplishment — probably the most complex structure ever built — but also one of the most amazing examples of international cooperation.

Fifteen nations — some that have not always been the best of friends, some who were on opposite sides of the Cold War, and some who were on opposing sides of the space race — found a way to set aside their differences and achieve something amazing in space. I wondered what the world would be like if we could overcome our cultural barriers to collaboration. How many fewer problems we would all face if we could figure out how to have the same level of cooperation in our interactions on Earth’s surface.

I was born in the year that Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space, at the height of the Cold War. Fifty years later, almost to the day — and from the very same launch pad from which Gagarin launched — I too launched into space on a craft bearing his name as a fully integrated member of a Russian spacecraft crew with a couple of couple Russian military officers. As we stood at the base of the rocket that would take us to space on a cold April evening at a previously top-secret Soviet military installation, I looked up at the rocket and saw an American flag displayed side-by-side with a Russian flag.

You have to realize that for the first 15 years of my adult life, I trained to fight the Russians, who were America’s most threatening enemy at the time. I served as a Cold War fighter pilot stationed in West Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall. I also fought in combat in another part of the world and saw first-hand the horrors of war. Back then, I was operating with a two-dimensional mentality of us vs. them. Unfortunately, this is still the primary operating system of our planet.
Humanity Is at a Critical Point in History

The Earthrise image captured by the Apollo 8 astronauts shows that we are one people traveling through the universe together on one planet toward one shared destiny. From this perspective, you can’t see nation-states. All you see is the fragile oasis that is our home planet Earth.

But the way that we’re currently operating, our business decisions and political motives are based on a two-dimensional map. We live as though everything, including the very life support systems of our planet, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the global economy — but they’re not.

Earth from space. Photo: Mike Fossum/NASA

Instead, we must create and build a future that is based on the image of Earthrise.

The image itself embodies three key pillars: interdependence, long-term thinking and profound collaboration. All are wrapped in a blanket of empathy and compassion. We cannot continue as a species with a two-dimensional map as our model. Humanity is at a critical point in history.
The Time for Change Is Now

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Earthrise. We are bringing together a group of astronauts from all around the world who have seen the Earth from the Orbital Perspective to form the core of an international coalition called Constellation to reimagine the next 50 years.

Constellation is framing the story as a 100-year journey through space, one that started on Dec. 24, 1968, when we first saw the whole planet hanging in the blackness of space. It’s also a journey to 2068, the 100-year anniversary of Earthrise. We are asking people to co-imagine what the world should look like, what principles we as a society want to be governed by in 50 years. What’s the basic operating system of our planet in 2068? And what’s the roadmap to get to this positive visionary future?

Next September, we are going to bring the message of a possible Earthrise future to world leaders gathered at the U.N. General Assembly. We are also taking this message to people and organizations around the world. We are looking to make massive course corrections to the very trajectory of our society.

I want to offer readers a challenge: I ask you to look for solutions that embody the three key values of Earthrise: interdependence, long-term thinking and profound collaboration. Interdependence is the understanding that what happens on one side of our planet affects everywhere else. Long-term thinking moves away from a time horizon that considers only the next shareholder report or election cycle and starts to think multi-generationally. And one of the key requirements enabling profound collaboration is openness and transparency, as well as the willingness to share data.

With these principles in place, we can propel real solutions that will help create a better world in 2068. We have the capacity for so much when we work together on a visionary future that we can all believe in.

 69 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:39 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Chinese gang accused of selling poisoned darts to kill dogs for meat

Police say gang sold 200,000 syringes modified for use as darts, and warn of health risk from contaminated meat

Agence France-Presse in Shanghia
12/14/2017

Poisoned syringes that could be fired at dogs on the street to kill them instantly were sold by a gang in China, allowing pets to be snatched and sold for the dinner table, according to state media.
Dog meat dropped from two Carrefour supermarkets in China
Read more

Police in the eastern province of Anhui arrested eight people, alleging they sold 200,000 of the syringes across the country filled with a large dose of the muscle relaxant suxamethonium.

The buyers were mainly dog vendors who collect and sell the animals to restaurants for meat, Xinhua news agency said, citing police who warned that people who ate the meat were also in danger of being poisoned.

The needles were modified by the gang with a spring and tailfin so they could be shot from a distance.

After buying the needles, unscrupulous dog dealers would target pets, then abduct them.

Police were searching for more of the syringes, which contained enough suxamethonium to kill the animals immediately.

When police raided the gang’s lair in Enshi City, central Hubei province, in October, they found 4kg of chemical powder, 10,000 needles and 100,000 yuan (£11,200).

 70 
 on: Dec 14, 2017, 05:37 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Darja
Notorious shark-dragging video results in three Florida men facing animal cruelty charges

Miami Herald
14 Dec 2017 at 07:21 ET

MIAMI—Nearly four months after a video surfaced showing a shark being brutally dragged behind a boat on the West Coast of Florida, three men have been charged with felony animal cruelty.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Hillsborough County State Attorney's Office announced the charges late Tuesday following its lengthy investigation.

"As we've said since this video and other images came to light, these actions have no place in Florida, where we treasure and conserve our natural resources for everyone," said FWC Chairman Bo Rivard in a news release.

The three men charged are Michael Wenzel, 21, from Palmetto, Robert Lee Benac of Bradenton and Spencer Heintz of Palmetto. They could not immediately be reached for comment.

All three were charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty. Wenzel and Benac also face a misdemeanor count of using an illegal method to take a shark.

In July, the graphic video went viral and fueled outrage after the video was emailed it to Capt. Mark Quartiano, a well-known shark hunter who by his own account has killed thousands of sharks. Quartiano shared the video on Instagram, using the hashtags #sowrong #notcool. That's when law enforcement got involved.

While FWC never named anyone connected to the video, social media commenters and many news outlets identified the men seen in the video as west coast anglers, including Wenzel and Benac, whose mother is chairwoman of the Manatee County commission.

On Tuesday, the FWC said in a release that "investigators conducted exhaustive research into the suspects' social media activity, conducted numerous interviews and spoke with a number of subject matter experts on sharks," before filing charges.

"It is our hope these charges will send a clear message to others that this kind of behavior involving our fish and wildlife will not be tolerated," Rivard said in the release.

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

The original story ..

Video of Shark, Seemingly Bound and Dragged by a Boat, Under Investigation

By JACEY FORTIN
JULY 27, 2017
NY Times

The video is short but disturbing: In about 10 seconds, it seems to show a shark flipping chaotically across the water as it is dragged, on a rope, behind a speedboat. At least four people appear to be onboard, watching the spectacle.

The details are hard to make out because the creature is tumbling so quickly over the choppy waters in the boat’s wake. It seems to have a grayish body, a white belly and a dorsal fin.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is investigating the matter. A spokesman for its law enforcement division said it had identified the people in the video. Their names, and other details about the episode, are not being released while the investigation is underway. So it remains unclear exactly what the creature was, whether it was alive and where the video was taken.

Mark Quartiano — known as Mark the Shark because he leads shark-fishing expeditions — said he received the video on Monday from the men who recorded it via direct message on Instagram. He said the video appeared to show a blacktip shark being dragged by a rope tied around its tail, presumably after it had already been caught with a rod and reel.

“I couldn’t believe that someone would send me something like this,” he said on Tuesday. “I was horrified.”

Mr. Quartiano, who is based in Miami, shared the video via his own Instagram account the day he received it. That post has gained the video attention on social media — it’s been viewed more than 53,000 times — and from Florida officials.

“It is too early to speculate as to what, if any, violations took place in this incident,” the state’s wildlife commission said in an emailed statement.

It added: “The lack of respect shown in this video for our precious natural resources is disheartening and disturbing, and is not representative of conservation-minded anglers around the world.”

In Florida, shark fishing is legal, but regulated. Some species cannot be harvested at all; others must have reached a certain length before harvesting is allowed. (Blacktip sharks can be harvested at any length.) Shark fishers sometimes catch sharks only to tag and rerelease them so they can be tracked by scientists.

Mr. Quartiano — who said he has killed thousands of sharks in his decades of shark angling — insisted that the dragging video had “crossed a line.” He said sharks sometimes die while being fished from the water, but he could not tell whether the shark in the video was still alive at the time of the recording. He hoped that it was not.

The sharing of this video coincides with Shark Week, an annual event in which the Discovery Channel capitalizes on viewers’ love for — and fear of — the often big and sharp-toothed fishes that hunt in our salty waters.

Mr. Quartiano said he also received another file from the men: A photo apparently showing the shark after it had been dragged through the water, with its body torn apart.

“It’s just so heartbreaking to see, and everybody I show it to has the same sentiment: ‘Why would anybody do that, and then brag about it?’” he said.

Click to watch...warning...very graphic and sadistic by these evil 'humans': https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mul1CsTzwMM

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